[JPL] Special Programming
rwsfin at hotmail.com
Sat Sep 2 22:53:10 EDT 2006
Programming platforms come and go; theres nothing immutable about records,
radio, tape, satellites or the Internet itself. To me all platforms are
just venues from which to disseminate music. As a provider of music in an
era when access to music is increasingly ubiquitous, shouldnt you think
about how to provide programming thats not easily replicated by a
competitor? It appears to me that providing programming that is easily
copied is a strategy with a diminishing future, even when it is, as is
sometimes the case, successful. Providing original, one-off programming
that is not easily duplicated is a strategy that is an option for those who
are up to the task. Why continue getting creamed by talk radio plus having
your remaining audience for music steadily bled by iPods, broadband, etc.?
In an era in which unlimited access to music is increasingly commonplace,
people who wish to do so can and do easily construct their own music
streams. To survive as a music content provider, it will become
increasingly necessary to provide presentations that are unique and valued
by enough people to allow you to compete with the streams they are building
for themselves. In any music genre, is there still a role for stations just
programming current releases and a mix of older material? Of course, but
perhaps it is an increasingly limited one.
In order to most effectively provide original, not easily duplicable
programming, it will be necessary to radically rethink the role of program
management, which will become more akin to talent management, because it
will be necessary to hire air talent capable of operating much more
autonomously than is now the case, people making relentlessly idiosyncratic
presentations based on their personal encounter with improvised and/or
vernacular music. The prime directives of each program would be that the
program hosts curiosities and interests determine the content of the
program and that it be a damn good show.
The primary directive of program management would be to hire and nurture the
air talent and expect each program host to consistently deliver great,
original programming that contributes a compelling and unique element to the
stations programming mosaic. It would be understandable, but simplistic
and misleading, if you think of that as personality radio except in the
sense that the program host controls the programming. It would be more
useful to think of it as a process of raising the bar for air talent.
To be sure, operating a music-based radio station built upon a more
expansive programming philosophy is considerably more complex than is
managing a staff built upon the top-down, centralized control mechanisms
that stations commonly employ. More difficult, but absolutely inevitable as
a viable option for those organizations capable of executing it well.
Ed Trefzger, in referring to Chris Andersons book, The Long Tail, recently
asserted that, for all of the wonders of niche marketing that are now
possible, radio remains a platform best suited to broadcasting rather than
niche marketing. I dont disagree with that but neither do I think it an
either/or proposition. When you devise a music format strategy arent you
seeking to carve out a niche within the listening audience? When all jazz
stations sound alike, the musicians, the audience and the stations are very
poorly served. And thats a shame because it doesnt have to be that way.
I dont want WBGO to sound like WWOZ or vice-versa, nor do I want my station
to sound like either of them or like any other station in existence.
For a variety of reason, I do not believe that most music programming
organizations, particularly radio stations, are capable of successfully
executing a radically more expansive approach to music programming. But it
doesnt bother me that so many music stations are struggling to attract and
retain an audience. Music is abundant and there is less and less reason to
spend time with content providers on any platform unless they are doing
something that you find very compelling. Its the get hot or go home
principle in action. Whats so bad about that?
Certainly there are plenty of music stations that are happy with what
theyre doing and how its working for them. But for the rest, it is
reasonable to expect that some organizations will decide that failing to
take a chance when you really need one is the biggest risk of all.
This is a great time to be around. Finally, theres no credible body of
music programming truths to disprove, no tired mantras to ridicule, no
music programming establishment to overthrow. I find that very liberating.
2816 Barmettler Street
Raleigh, NC 27607
WSHA - www.wshafm.org
Bouille & Rogers Consultants
email: rwsfin at hotmail.com
phone: (919) 413-4126
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