Radio in America — well, and throughout the world now because of American radio consultants — spends an enormous amount of time on liners.
These are supposed to focus the attention of listeners on our branding, defining how our station is different from all those other stations.
That might once have been a good idea, though I tend to doubt it. I think it’s always been about laziness, expense, and control.
It’s easier for PDs and consultants to manage liners than air talent. It’s a lot less expensive to write a few pages of liners every quarter than to hire and motivate an actual talent, a person who actually has something interesting, informative, compelling, to say instead. And it’s so much easier to control liners. They’re recorded. They’re brief. No one’s going to complain about them (mainly because they don’t hear them any more).
But liners now, in 2019, are absurd.
Every station in every city in every country I visit says pretty much the same things: We play the best music. We play the most music. We play better music. We have the most variety. We play the most songs in a row. We play the most music without interruption. We’re giving away so much money.
Am I missing anything?
Instead of parroting the same unbelievable (to the listener) inane BS, why not spend a little time giving your listeners a story about you and your station that’s easy to tell to others, and that’s also believable — because they hear it played out every day.
Why not play that phoner of a listener breaking down as she tells you why she’s asking for that particular song? (Yes, this means you have to answer your phones instead of voice-tracking for your other stations while you’re on the air)
How about the bit that leaves everyone in the studio laughing so hard they can’t talk? 30 or 60 or 88 seconds of unrestrained laughter and mirth? Something that fits the station’s personality, that’s part of the entertainment?
For that matter, why not play a listener complaining about something they don’t like. At least that sounds real and authentic, and that alone may make it noticeable.
You’ve got to cut through the mental barriers listeners have erected because 99% of what we say on the air means absolutely nothing to them. It doesn’t make them feel anything because they haven’t even heard it.
Why is your station on the air?
I mean, why should listeners care that your station is on the air?
What do you do, what do you offer, that they cannot get anywhere else?
If you can’t answer that pretty quickly, like instantly, you’re got a problem.
Think of it this way: when you need to buy gasoline for your car, do you search for miles hoping for one specific brand of gas? Not likely.
We’ve made Radio like gasoline. It’s a commodity, indistinguishable from every other brand.
Every station plays the most music. Every station has the best variety. Every station has long music blocks.
Why should any listener go out of his or her way to listen to your’s?
Hint: it will never again be music. They can find the same music you play in a million places and with fewer ads.
We have got to start creating stories about who we are and why we’re doing what we do, stories emotional enough to be compelling, compelling enough to be worth sharing, simple and authentic enough to be shared easily and often.
What story does your listener tell about you? How are you helping flesh that story out every break?
Please, stop with the liners already. No one hears them. No one cares. You know that in your heart, so just stop.
Force yourself to do what’s harder: to actually entertain and challenge and move the heart of that listener right now, in a way s/he won’t forget.
DO YOUR JOB.