I’ve been listening to lots more college radio again these past few months and years, and it’s funny how little has changed since I worked in college radio myself. Following are several hints and rules we used to make back in the early 1980s interspersed with a few new ones of my own:
- Have some personality. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no FCC requirement that you go on the air sounding as if you’ve been mainlining heroin. Really, it’s OK to sound enthusiastic once in a while. Or at least conscious.
- Don’t back announce the last thirty-two songs you played. You should be announcing what you play; the point of college radio is to turn people on to music they probably wouldn’t hear anywhere else. But if you have to back announce more than a couple of songs (“before that we heard XXX, and before that, XXX, and before that…”), you’re not taking enough voice breaks. Plus, more frequent voice breaks means that you don’t have to babble on for half an hour every time you do take one.
- Don’t use jargon. No matter how it may seem, most of your audience has never worked for a college radio station and never will. Thus, they do not know what a “rotation show” is. They have no idea what “adds” are. Most of them could not tell you what “PSA” stands for if their lives depended on it. You’re wasting your breath and you may as well be speaking Phonecian or Babylonian when you use these terms on the air.*
- In fact, why would you even need to say “PSA”. Instead of saying “I’m going to play a PSA now,” just play it.
- Don’t assume your listeners are all fellow students. They’re not, even if your station is located in a college town. When you make references to events on campus, make it clear what campus they’re on and where. To a high school student listening in his car, “the library” is the one downtown or in the shopping center near his house, not that big, ugly 1970s building across from the student union. Remember that your station serves a larger community.
- In an era where people can get the weather forecast on their phones, there is no excuse for giving an outdated weather report on the air. If you can’t be bothered to be current, just skip it.
Further suggestions welcome in the comments.
*A “rotation show” is one where there is no real theme, just a DJ playing material from the current playlist items or “the rotation”. “Adds” are new items in “the rotation”. “PSA” is the acronym for “public service announcement.”