Dead Segues

Doc, I work for a big company that views dead segues as a cardinal sin; a lost chance to promote the station.  I agree somewhat, but it sure is refreshing to simply hear nothing between two songs that blend well together.  Could you check with your programming friends and get their opinion?

 

I’ve noticed some cable channels go from one program to another (mainly movies) with no spots or ID.  It’s different and eye catching.  Seems like dead segues could be perceived as a positive also.  Thanks. - Anonymous

 

Anon:  I don’t have to check with my PD friends, and neither do you.  I have been through this discussion a few thousand times in the past 20+ years.

 

First, it’s always the best approach to give your ID as often as possible—even if it’s after every song.  There are several reasons for this, including, but not limited to: (1) You don’t know when your listeners tuned in and you need to tell them which radio station they’re listening to; (2) You don’t know how many listeners heard your last ID; and (3) Persuasion works best with repetition of the message; repeating station IDs or call letters is the best way to persuade.

 

Now, with that said….If there is no policy about an ID or call letters after every song, then there is nothing wrong with a dead segue (listeners think they’re OK).  What listeners don’t like is when a new song fades in over a previous song—the same as their opinion about talking over the music.  Listeners in all formats and all demographics say the same things: don’t talk over the music, and wait until one song ends before a new one begins.


Dead Segues - Response

Do you mean listeners don’t want any overlap at ALL, that they want up to a second of silence between all songs, or do you mean they simply don’t want jocks to cut off “their favorite part” of the song where the singer does something a little different deep into the fade?

 

I’m thinking, like your writer was likely thinking, of times where we’ve heard two songs masterfully blended together.  Such as on a “two-fer Tuesday” where as the crowd noise as the end of” Another Brick In The Wall Part 2” Pink Floyd is fading out, the ticking clocks at the beginning of “Time” by Pink Floyd is fading in.  I’m sure your readers can think of a million other examples.

 

When you say the new song “fades in” do you mean the jock fades up a song that starts at full volume, or do you actually mean a song that fades in?

 

Do listeners really want the music played like a jukebox with no art involved at all?  Or do they simply not want overly-tight segues that cut off important parts of the track or rough segues where two clashing beats are going at the same time or (the worst) one song ending in one key and a clashing chord starting the next song?

 

I’m not doubting your research.  I’m just trying to understand the mindset that says don’t talk over intros and don’t segue songs. Why don’t they just buy the CD?  I know, I know, don’t shoot the messenger.  Thanks for a great column. - Gene

 

Gene:  Whew!  Long response.  First, thanks for the comment about the column.  I’m glad you enjoy it.  Now, on to your response.

 

When it comes to knowing what listeners want, I am a complete moron.  Whenever I have thought that I knew what listeners wanted, I have been proved wrong.  Because of my superior ignorance in predicting what people like and don’t like, I learned a long time ago to ask them.  It makes no sense to me to try to predict what listeners want—asking them is the way to go.  When I ask the listeners what they want, I can’t be wrong (nor can you).

 

So that is an introduction to the following…

 

You say, “Do listeners really want the music played like a juke box with no art involved at all?”  Based on what I have learned from hundreds of thousands of listeners, I have to disagree that the art of radio relates to song segues.  The art of radio is based on producing a total product the listeners want.  Listeners may not always be able to specify exactly what they want, but the art of programming is figuring it out and producing a dynamic, interesting, and compelling radio station.

 

The art of radio is not segues.  The art of radio is created by the program director who synthesizes a massive amount of information (from research, experience, and talent) and creates a product that is pleasing to the target audience.  This is not an easy task.  And information from listeners about how to create this “work of art” does not include segues.

 

A typical radio show consists of several hundred small segments (music, talk, information, commercials, etc.)  When a radio station plays music, most listeners say, “Just play the music.”…They also say, “Don’t talk over the music,” and “Don’t start a new song on top of a song that is just finishing.”  (Those are their words, not mine.)

 

You can call this a jukebox, or you can ask, “Why don’t they just play CDs?”  Well, listeners don’t think that way.  They don’t perceive radio as a jukebox, and they don’t consider it to be an alternative for CDs.  Why?  Because most listeners like jocks, most listeners like talk that relates to them, and most listeners like to hear things beyond their favorite songs.

 

Have you ever heard a person say that, “A jukebox is my friend.”  or “CDs are my friends.”  I haven’t.  But I have heard many, many people say that, “Radio is my friend.”  And it’s not because of the music.  It is because of all the other stuff radio offers that is missing from a jukebox or CD (or cassette).

 

Many corporate execs seem to think that jocks aren’t important in radio; that listeners only want to hear their favorite songs and that’s it.  Unfortunately, that’s not what listeners think.  They like all that “other stuff”—the audio canvas the programmer creates.  If they want to only hear music, they would slip in a CD.  But many don’t.  They want to hear the audio canvas of radio.

 

Continuing on the soapbox….

 

Your comments relate mainly to segues, so let’s address that for a moment.  You may think that cool and groovy (I’m old) segues make radio interesting, and I know many other programmer types probably think the same thing.  The problem is that segues—regardless of the type—don’t mean a rat’s tail to most listeners.  Sure, there are probably some listeners who might say something like, “That was neat the way they went from one Pink Floyd song to another,” but I guarantee you that most listeners prefer to hear one song end and the next song start—no “neat” segue.

 

As I said earlier, radio consists of numerous short programs.  Give me a break here for a moment and relate this to TV.  A song on the radio is like a 30-minute TV program.  TV stations and networks do not fade from one program to another.  One show ends and the next show starts.  If songs are “programs,” then it doesn’t make sense to blur (fade, step on) the beginnings and endings of these programs.  (It doesn’t make sense because that’s what I have heard listeners say for the past 20+ years.)

 

Allllrighttttyyyy then…..The comments you make in your response indicate to me that you are very passionate about radio.  Your probably eat, sleep, and breathe radio (too bad so many corporate execs no longer share this enthusiasm).  I suggest you ponder this for a moment….

 

The music canvas you and other programmers create (I assume you’re a PD), consists of selecting the right songs, placing the songs in the most logical order, playing the songs often enough to satisfy everyone, adding songs when you think they fit, dropping songs when they are burned, and on and on.  The art in creating the music canvas does not include, according to listeners, stepping on the music.  When you do that, your canvas becomes fuzzy.  And that don’t be right.

 

Off the soapbox, and thanks for the great response.  The industry needs more of your kind.


Dead Segues Again

Many good points in Gene’s response, and your response to him.  I love dead segues!  In my small city, there is only one station that doesn’t have a sweeper between every song, and that station stands out from all the others simply because of that reason (for me anyway.)  I run an Internet station and use this same technique.  I even have a couple of liners that don’t give any kind of ID at all (song—“here’s another deep album cut those other stations wish they could play”—song).  I think the subject can be filed with the “meaning of life” question,  no one knows the answer for sure! - Anonymous

 

Anon: Oh, I would imagine that this could fall into the category of “no answer,” but I think the category should be, “No universal answer.”  As I said in my previous answer, I am totally dumb when trying to predict what people want to hear on the radio.  That’s why I ask them.  When I have asked, most say that they don’t want their music stepped on.

 

However, that doesn’t mean that you should delete station IDs between songs.  Listeners think that’s OK and don’t consider it talk.


Dead Segues - Son of Dead Segues

Once again your great column makes me think.  Re: Dead segues.  Smooth Jazz and Classic Rock formats have always done this.  I always thought this is done because their audiences are more sophisticated and don’t want the music messed with.  Are the psychographic profiles of those folks different from those of pop music fans?

 

And thanks for the info on the Mal Sharpe album.  As ever - Jerry

 

Jerry:  I’m glad you enjoy the column.  Thanks.  And you’re welcome for the Mal Sharpe information.  On to your comment…

 

From all the research I have conducted and seen, Smooth Jazz and Classic Rock listeners don’t hold claim to this desire to “not mess with the music.”  The desire is consistent across all formats.


Dead Segues - Beating a Dead Segue

O.K., one more try...You talked about people calling radio a friend, which they wouldn’t say about a jukebox.  Yet, when people talk about the “friends” in their lives, I hear about WABC, WNBC, WLS, KHJ, and KFRC and so on.

 

These were stations in the 60s that talked up and down intros and exits, segued as soon as the verse started to repeat at the end of the record, and even sped up the records at times!  (Check out http://www.reelradio.com for an archive of these DJs “destroying” the music.)

 

How do you reconcile what people say they want with what they really listened to and what they say they remember with fond memories?

 

Weeping over my PAMS jingles. - Gene

 

Gene:  I have two responses to your comments:

 

Response One

You may know what a syllogism is, but for those who don’t, it’s a form of argument that follows a 3-step scenario:

 

Major Premise

Minor Premise

Conclusion

 

The classic syllogism example is:

 

All men are mortal

Socrates is a man

Therefore, Socrates is mortal

 

The problem with syllogisms is that they aren’t always logical—many are false.  For example, consider this syllogism:

 

God is Love

Love is blind

Therefore, Stevie Wonder is God

 

See what I mean?  The term non sequitur is used to describe an argument where the conclusion is drawn from premises that are not logically connected with it.  And that, my friend, is the nature of your argument.  Some people also refer to this form of fallacy as, Post Hoc, Ergo Prompter Hoc, a Latin phrase that means, “After this, therefore because of this.”

 

OK…do you see your argument?

 

People who listened to radio in the 60s refer to radio as their friend

DJs jumped all over the music in the 60s

Therefore, people in the 60s liked DJs to jump all over the music

 

Whoa!  Quantum leap there!  In inductive reasoning, which you used here, it is important to consider all of the available evidence before coming to a conclusion.  You didn’t.  You made the quantum leap from “radio as a friend” to listeners liking the practice of jumping all over the music.  That don’t be right.

 

Response Two

Let’s say that you are correct—that listeners in the 60s considered radio their friend because the DJs “destroyed” the music.

 

Although I’m only a sample of one, I can tell you that my enjoyment of listening to WLS-AM in the 1960s did not rest on the fact that the DJs “destroyed” the music.  In fact, although it’s hearsay evidence, I can recall many people complaining in the 60s about DJs talking over the music and songs being “blended” together.  The only problem is that I can’t prove it from research conducted at that time because legitimate research in radio research didn’t get started until (maybe) the late 1970s, but for sure in the early 1980s.

 

Regardless of proof, the main point is that was then and this is now.  There is no evidence of research from the 1960s indicating that listeners wanted DJs to talk over the music and have one song step on another, so anything anyone says about the 1960s in reference to “destroying” music is only speculation.  However, we do know that many of today’s listeners don’t like it.  And that is what is important.

 

Success in any business follows a 3-step process:

 

Find out what the listeners (consumers) want

Give it to them

Tell them that you gave it to them

 

It doesn’t make sense to find out what listeners (consumers) want and then give them what you think they want or need.

 

You or anyone else can “beat the dead segue” discussion all you want.  That’s fine with me.  However, I’m a person who follows the tenets of scientific research, and among the tenets are “objectivity” and “let the chips fall where they may.”  In the case of “destroying” music, I have to go with what the listeners say, not what I think is creative, right, a good flow, or anything else.

 

Summary

The argument about segues relates to the other “major controversy” in radio of telling the artists and titles of songs.  PDs and jocks for many years didn’t think it was necessary to give this information because “everybody knows the artists and titles.”  After about 10 years of finding the same answer in hundreds or thousands of research projects, PDs and jocks (not all of them) realized that telling artists and titles was something listeners want and the information increased their enjoyment of radio.  How do we know that?  The listeners said so, and continue to say so.

 

The Method of Tenacity as a form of learning (It’s right because it has always been that way), is not a good approach to follow.


Death of the On-air Personality

I am new to radio, yet I've been obsessed with it for as long as I can remember. I am merely a part-timer working my butt off (and loving it) with hopes of moving up (I'm 23/F). I have recently seen our station, as well as our sister stations, dump the evening jock to pump in a voice from some other place leaving listeners high and dry if they want to ask a question or make a request. Is this type of personality faking something that we should get use to? Is listener interaction and local talent that unimportant? As a listener who knows "the truth," I feel cheated. Am I in the minority?

 

This practice also concerns me because it takes away openings for new on-air talent. What's your opinion, is that the way it's going to be, and if so how does someone like me compete? – Anonymous

 

Anon: As you may know, the main reason for "personality faking" as you call it (I do like your term) is to save money. That's it. No other reason. None. The emphasis in many companies and radio stations is on voice tracking, syndicated programs, and satellite delivery from a remote site. The emphasis is not on local content, just content.

 

This new emphasis was instigated by the FCC's decision to allow for radio consolidation, and the consolidation in turn fueled the need to cut expenses because many of the radio companies are now publicly owned. Most managers of public companies and their shareholders don't care too much about what is on the radio stations they own, but they do care a lot about how much money their radio stations earn.

 

Now…there are two ways to earn more money—increase sales and/or cut expenses. With that in mind, it's logical for the top people to do whatever they can to save money. One major expense for any company is personnel, so it makes sense (to many people) to trim the number of workers, whether it's an on-air personality, a PD, a GM, or an administrative assistant. When it comes to programming expenses, if the managers can program more than one radio station for the cost of programming only one radio station, they will do it. If one salaried on-air personality can be used on several radio stations, there is no need to hire additional talent. Got it?

 

Do the fake personalities have an affect on listeners and how much they listen to and enjoy a radio station? Sorry, but this is a very complicated question. The affects vary by market, format, and daypart. Evening or nighttime slots are the first to go to fake personalities because audience size is lowest at night. The basic thinking is, "Not many people listen at night anyway, so why should we spend the money for personalities? We can save by voice-tracking or some other approach. We'll only need to hire a babysitter for the board."

 

Currently, it doesn't matter much if listeners don't like fake personalities because that's what they're going to get. Fake personalities will disappear when enough listeners protest and turn to other sources of entertainment, producing lower Arbitron numbers, producing lower advertising sales, producing lower profits, producing shareholder reaction. Do you see the process?

 

How do you compete? You're going to have to look for radio stations that don't use fake personalities. I know that's a "silly" answer, but it's the only one I know. You can't walk into a radio station that has only one real on-air personality (the others are "fakes") and say, "I'm here! Hire me."

 

My last comment to you, since you're new is this: Hang in there. Radio is a cyclical business. Talented on-air personalities were once a significant part of radio…and they will be again when top managers are forced to face the listeners' interests. What will happen is one radio station somewhere will do something unique that increases audience numbers via heavy local personality involvement—then the other radio stations will jump on the "new" personality bandwagon.


Deer in Headlights

Hey Doc:  It has been 3 1/2 years since I have lived in the middle of nowhere (born and raised in a MUCH larger city) and it finally happened — I hit a deer the other day on my way in to work.  I would really like to know why deer get "caught" in the headlights, or any light for that matter.

 

On a related note, why is it that dogs like to chase cars?  It's not like they could drive it! There is a dog down the road that will get himself ready as he sees a car coming and lunge at the side of it (never hitting the cars, but most likely looking to give the driver a mild heart attack).  This information would really help me sleep better at night!  Thanks for everything doc! - Anonymous

 

Anon: I wanted to answer your questions immediately because I want you to be able to sleep.

 

Deer in Headlights:  All of the information I have read suggests that fear is the reason why deer "freeze" when they encounter headlights (or any light), similar to the way most humans freeze when they encounter a frightening situation.

 

Now, that's the human interpretation of what an animal is doing or "thinking."  Since animals can't talk, there (obviously) is no way for us to determine exactly why animals do anything, including freezing in their tracks when they encounter headlights from a vehicle.  For all we know, the deer might freeze in its tracks because he/she/it "thinks" he/she/it must look cool in the bright lights.  Who knows?  But the fear explanation sounds logical, so that's the information everyone passes on.

 

Dogs and Cars:  Once again, the information I have read suggests that herding instinct is the reason why many dogs chase cars — 12 if something (car, ball, stick, etc.) moves, it's a dog's "responsibility" to chase it.  Once again, that's our interpretation.  The dog may chase cars because he/she/it wants to try to take a leak on a moving vehicle.


 

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