Hello—and welcome again to my continuing series on The Magic of Radio!
In my first post in this series, I offered to answer your burning questions about radio in future columns, and today, I’ll address a query posted by BWL (Beloved Wolf Listener) Greg Adams, who says: “I want to know how many hours you guys really work. On the air for four, but I think you’re there at least that many before.”
Well, Greg, that depends on your definition of the word “work”. If by “work” you mean hanging out in the production room listening to sound effects of various bodily functions, making happy hour plans with record company executives, seeing how loud you can play the new Big & Rich song before the sales manager comes screaming down the hallway, and looking up your old high school boyfriend on Facebook, then DJs are among the hardest working people on the planet.
However if by “work” you mean expressly performing functions related to our employment, well, then we rank right up there with Kim Kardashian in terms of productivity.
The sad thing is that if we radio people really did do all the stuff we’re supposed to do, it would result in our boss having a stroke. Since we like him, we rarely engage in the following tasks as a matter of his life and death:
--Listening to new music and deciding which songs are howl-worthy. Radio stations typically get anywhere from ten to twenty CDs of new music per week, many of which are now being used as coasters and Christmas ornaments.
--Scheduling music. Every song you hear on The Wolf—or any other music radio station—is scheduled hour by hour on computer software that makes sure we don’t play the same artist, song, or tempo back-to-back. The only exception to these rules is Taylor Swift, who now legally controls Nashville, radio, all computers, and will write a nasty song about us if we don’t play her all the time.
--Writing and recording commercials. This is actually a creative process that requires quite a bit of work and recreational drinking, so DJs usually fight over who gets to do this.
--Personal appearances. It is mandated that all Wolf DJs shower and put on clean clothes before we do any remotes or public events, which is why Savannah Jones does most of them.
--Doing show prep. This involves coming up with things to talk about, and putting together all the little music beds, sound effects, and edited phone calls you hear during a DJ’s radio show. It’s such a big job that Mike & Amy have their own producer—a nice guy named Dan Clark who they’ve duct-taped to chair in a studio all by himself, with only the voices of Tom Shane and George W. Bush for company.
--Coming up with contests and prizes. This is lots of work at The Wolf because we give away more stuff than any station anywhere. It is a FACT that our boss strictly limits the number of concert tickets and backstage passes the staff can have so that we give almost all of them away to listeners.
Which come to think of it, makes that stroke I mentioned before not such a bad idea.
When you work on the radio, it’s impossible to go to dinner parties or barbeques or baby showers without getting asked a bunch of questions about the business. I imagine it’s a lot like being a doctor or a lawyer, with people wanting free help with the weird pain in their posterior or how to rid themselves of that pain once they discover it’s their spouse. The difference is that doctors and lawyers can actually help by virtue of the fact that they’re educated and occasionally sober—two things that set them apart from the average radio disc jockey.*
Therefore, as a public service to you, our Beloved Wolf Listener (BWL), I will embark on a series of posts explaining how radio works and answering your questions about the business—giving you a peek behind the curtain, so to speak. And I will be honest. This will likely result in my eventual termination, but since I’m just two firings away from earning my Unemployment Badge (yay!) it’ll put me one step closer to my dream career in residential dog-poop removal.
Along with answering your questions, I’ll also post helpful visual aids in the form of pictures and videos to clarify the subject matter and embarrass my co-workers. For this first post, I thought I’d take you on a quick tour of the “control room” where the “magic”actually happens, and where DJs do the important work of napping, lining up dates on the request lines, and surfing CraigsList:
I hope you, BWL, find this series educational and informative. Please feel free to comment and ask questions below. You can also e-mail me directly or via Facebook….then look for your question next time on The Magic of Radio!
*Amy Faust excepted, because she is not only educated, but rarely drinks to excess unless there’s a staff meeting.