Thinking: about how I do radio

Again I dip into the wisdom of the English music magazines (I plan to do a head-to-head comparison of my two favourites - The Word and Uncut - sometime soon). I wish there was an Oz equivalent but alas, I'm yet to find it. Rolling Stone has its moments but there is something just not quite there about it for me. (Although I do note that they say that leaked tracks from the new Guns and Roses album Chinese Democracy "suck")

Annnnyyywaaaays, I came across this competition where a Word reader can guest programme an hour on a digital radio station over there called The Arrow. I've sometimes thought it would be cool to get 2XXfm listeners to guest programme - the Pussycat had a bit of a go for her birthday which worked pretty well. We could potentially even get people to come in and do a bit of announcing if they were so inclined, telling stories about their selections.

I see that Rage has just closed entries to a similar scheme called Invade Rage, celebrating their 20th birthday.

I'll give this a little more thought once the 2XXfm website is up and running.

One of the things I found particularly interesting in the Word competition was that they spoke to one of the station DJs who offered some tips on putting a good selection together and other things to consider.

  • Putting a selection together is known as "building a clock"

  • People might tune in at any time so don't put everything in blocks

  • Forward sell the music that is coming up - listeners might be more likely to wait through an average song if they know one they like is next

  • "Hammocking" is placing unfamiliar music between more familiar tracks

  • Unfamiliar music should be less that 50% of the show

  • Open with something that gives you a lift and brings out your enthusiasm

  • Intrigue, inform and entertain with your chat - experiences tied up with songs can be good stories

Now I'm bearing in mind that this is a more commercially oriented type of station but a lot of these points ring true. The most common feedback I get (not that there is a lot of it but it's always nice when there is) is about songs that I have played that are old favourites that people haven't heard for years.

One of the things that gets me excited about radio is hearing the stuff that I've never heard before. Listening to community radio (or public radio as it was known back then) in Melbourne with iconic stations like RRR and PBS brought me out of my musically malnourished adolescence and I've never looked back.

I think though that the point about people liking a healthy dose of the familiar is probably quite right - you only have to look at the way mainstream radio endlessly cycles through the same limited playlist to see that. The question is though, do people grow to love songs because they are good songs or because they are trained to?

To simply claim it's all the latter is probably a little arrogant and doesn't give people credit for knowing their own minds but then again, you see repetition over and over in commercial media and they spend millions analysing the psychology of the audience so it's bound to be a bit of both.

I think in part it's about the difference between whether people enjoy (or want to be) thinking about what they are listening to (which you have to do when it's something new) or just want to be relaxed and comfortable.

I tried this new approach, using a number of more familiar tunes (in a 2XX/less-mainstream sense) on last Mondays show (4 - 6pm 2XXfm 98.3) and I have to say, it did feel a little more balanced, while maintaining the esoteric nature I like.

I also got some fantastic feedback which doesn't always come up and maybe I'll share it so you don't think it's just me that thinks I'm fantastic :)

I listened to part of your sunset show last night: loved the bits I heard, especially the Dolly Parton/Motorhead/Flaming Lips/ Breakfast Club tunes. Brilliant, funny, unexpected and great music.

You can check out the playlists for the programme on the (slightly neglected) Monday Sunset blog here.