There was a time when being a dee jay was one of the coolest things you could be. My early years were defined by a meeting with WNOE New Orleans dee jay Jim Stewart. When he walked into a dance party appearance wearing a washed out blonde with big boobs, he typified cool. All I wanted to be was a radio star.
Today, the term “washed out” is more apt to be used as a description of jocks themselves.
Next to commercials and music repetition, dee jays are the number one tune out for radio listeners. And is it any wonder? With a few notable morning exceptions, when is the last time you learned anything of value from a dee jay?
Radio listeners once listened to their favorite dee jays to get the latest music and artist information, as well as local notes of interest. Now, the brightest thing heard from the mic is, “Now that you’ve won those tickets, darlin’, tell us what your favorite radio station is…”
When I was programming, I required every dee jay to read certain material before their air shift. The daily newspaper was a must, plus music and teen magazines that were marked for importance by others. The public affairs department also compiled a daily information sheet of required reading. Every jock was required to work this information into that day’s shift. I mention this not to pat myself on the back for requiring an air staff to be up to date, but as a comparison. Today, there is much more important daily information available, yet I don’t hear jocks using any of it. Where we had to search for pertinent information, it’s now a click away on the Internet, yet it could be as far away as Mars to most.
If the music is the same, what makes you different? It is what you can add between the music that will make you stand out from the crowd. But instead of seeking the spotlight, most dee jays seem to shrink from it.
Of course, it isn’t all the dee jays fault. Most programmers put a premium on silence. But I don’t know one programmer would wouldn’t allow more room for a dee jay to speak if the information was something that could be deemed a positive.
What do programmers require of air personalities today? What are they challenged to do on a daily basis? How are they stimulated to stimulate the audience?
Radio is losing audience almost daily because there are no surprises…no reasons to listen. Unfortunately, part of the problem is unexciting, unprepared air personalities. There was a time when the audience listened to what the dee jay had to say. Because it was important. Because it was informative. Because it was cool.
Today, it’s mostly clutter.