Tuesday, May 17, 2005

How do you get to be a radio host? Variety in programming at WHFR (long post, folks)

Andrea asked some good questions in the comments, so I'm answering them in a post instead of in the comments area:
"I read and understand the mission, but I'm wondering if students come up with their own shows based on genres they want to play? As long as there is variety?"
LOL!!!To answer your questions...yes and sort of.

We have to play a certain percentage of uncharted artists to fulfill our mission statement. There are some hosts who have been there for years...the host I am covering for tomorrow night, hosts an indie rock/comedy show he has been doing there for 17 years. So we are "students" but a few of us really stretch the semantics of the word.

When we take the training class, we are asked what our favorite format is. Not surprisingly, rock, jazz and blues are the top three. So the bulk of the programming is in those formats, and because some of those hosts are local "celebs", having been on the air so long, if they have to stop doing their show for an extended time period, the station tries to find someone in training who has a similar format so it doesn't jolt the listeners too much.

The downside to being a trainee is that when you first go on the air, you usually get the midnight-2AM time slot. Not for the person who holds down a day job. Most time slots are 2 hours, a few are 1 hour, and a very few - myself and a very popular hip-hop show on Sat night (Hi Zone guys!!) are 3 hours.

Ok, I'm rambling a bit, but back to the questions. so yes, we pick our own format, but if you have a format that is overexposed (indie rock, jazz/blues) in the current programming, you may wait a long time to get a show. And because the majority of people who enroll in the training are very young, often just out of high school, there is a lot of attrition in their ranks, so shows have a lot of turnover.

The bonus to our station really IS the variety factor. The video game show has one of the better hosts at the station, also the aforementioned "Lounge Act" on Wednesday nights, the Zone guys with hip-hop on Sat., we have bigband jazz, talk radio, and some very good syndicated programming, such as Harry Shearer's "Le Show" and the folk show "Mountain Stage".

Your second question touches on classical indirectly. I have mentioned here before that the Metro Detroit area lost its only 24-hour 7-day a week classical program more than 15 years ago. I am the only live host of a classical program in the area. One other station programs classical as well, for 4 hours a week.

The station manager realized that a large void was left unfilled and brought in satellite programming of classical through PRI (Public Radio International) for 60 hours a week. I have my show, and another show also plays some VERY avant-garde new classical that is a little too esoteris for my more traditional audience. At first the station tried to have current students host, but it didn't go over well. The languages you need to be able to announce in are fairly daunting - Italian, French and German are the basics. Spanish, Latin, Czech, and Russian are also regular staples, and with the large number of Asian recording artists, being able to announce names in any Asian languages helps. At that time, the student body didn't have anyone who was multi-lingual until I joined the staff.

I have to practice what I am announcing over and over, and still, sometimes...it falls flat. Or fun things like losing the internet connection JUST AS I WAS EXPLAING THE SYNOPSIS OF TODAYS OPERA. Yikes. More about that later.

Um, hey...did that answer your question? Sorry for the long, rambling post. :)


Blogger Andrea said...

Yes! It more than answered it, and thanks for devoting an entire post to my question :)

I actually worked as a DJ for a semester at my college when I was a student there (and got a credit for it, woohoo!), which is part of the reason I asked the main question, how each show's format is chosen. Since I was new, but about ready to graduate, I only got to play stuff from the playlist (of which I think there were only three different two-hour rotations, no exaggeration, BORING), with an occasional DJ's choice thrown in (maybe one or two an hour). If I'd had more experience, I might have been able to do my own show, but I don't think it would have been anything as interesting as the ones on WHFR!

6:20 PM  
Blogger Squirl said...

I've considered being a DJ. My voice is not as deep as Bucky's, but you certainly wouldn't mistake me for Minnie Mouse. I mostly came here to say Thanks! for the Beethoven sonatas.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Opera Gal said...

C'mon out to the station - both of you would be so welcome!! Now what's funny about the board is that it compresses your voice, so you automatically sound like you have a deeper voice than you do. BFE would end sounding like James Earl Jones or something!!
Beethoven = good. You can't go wrong with him or Mozart.

7:57 AM  

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