Monday, June 13, 2011

A Trachman Treasure

Jay Trachman continues to influence many personalities around the world through his writings, which were a regular, weekly guide and mentor to many of the best among us for more than three decades. Recently, someone asked me if any of his books ("The Art Of Personality Radio") are still in print. Sadly, I don't think so, but if you know where they might be available, please let me know. Meanwhile, it happens that I am a pack rat who was one of his first subscribers and format editor/contributors and this kept a lot of Jay's articles. Occasionally, I plan to reprint his evergreens as an ongoing tribute to my friend Jay. This one was distributed on January 20, 2003.

"The Really, Truly Basics"
--by Jay Trachman

To my understanding, people turn on the radio for two primary reasons: 1. to provide some stimulus to brains which are not totally occupied with what they're doing, and 2. to sense some kind of connection.

Let's look at each of these a little deeper...

When people choose a music station for their "stimulus," it means (among other things) they don't want to be constantly involved. Talk radio is much more demanding; you have to pay attention to get any satisfaction out of it.

With music, your attention can be anywhere from oblivious to totally focused and singing along.

For most people, it wanders between these extremes, depending on what's going on in their lives (when the phone rings, the radio recedes into mental background), and the particular music on the radio.

Presumably, most will pay more attention to a song they know and love, than to one they don't care for, especially if it's unfamiliar.

We offer other stimuli, from informational features like news, weather and traffic, to DJ raps, contests, right down to the commercials.

How effective are they? It varies, of course; sometimes we invite our listeners to pay total attention; at others we bore them or offend them so much that they tune out -- mentally or physically. Naturally, we should be looking for ways to maximize the former while minimizing the latter.

I'll leave it to you to figure out which is what...

The area of connection fascinates me.

There are two main divisions: first, connecting people to the world-at-large. Much of this occurs by implication: if a 9-11 happens again, or worse, listeners know we won't keep playing music
and commercials, doing business as usual. When the clock radio comes on in the morning and they hear a song playing, or a coupla' zany jocks bantering, one knows the world is still solid. Most adult listeners want some real information too -- traffic, weather, news -- but it can wait a few minutes.

The other aspect of connection is -- not with the world, but -- to an individual. I hear it again and again: "There are a lot of lonely people out there..." John Naisbitt said it in "Megatrends": the growth of "high tech" generates the need for "high touch." And this is, in my opinion, our most important function.

We are the companion; the connection to another human; the thing that keeps the listener from feeling alone... Provided we take the trouble to achieve it. Our mere presence isn't enough. People aren't likely to feel connected to someone who mainly spews liners cards. It's the Sharing of our lives, our responses to events such as the music and happenings of the day, that make us sound "real," and it's the intimacy generated when *we* believe we're talking to one person, that enables us to play on people's emotions; to help them feel less alone, cared for, secure.

It's an illusion, to be sure. But it's one which works when we offer it, because it's satisfying to the listener. In the theater, they call it "the willing suspension of disbelief"; that is, if the listener takes the trouble to think about it rationally, he or she knows you can't possibly be talking only to him or her, just as the movie goer knows the actors aren't being blown up or rocketing into space. We buy into the illusion *because it's satisfying to us*. Because that's how we can lose ourselves in what's being offered.

That's what entertainment is -- making others *feel* something... In our case, that something is primarily "being with a friend."

It doesn't come from liner cards; it doesn't come from slogans or promos. Those may be necessary, but I hope that we can put things in perspective: in a universe where everybody is playing the "right music" and plenty of it, where listeners keep telling us that radio is boring, where new technologies keep siphoning off our listeners, where average time spent listening continues to slide... it would seem that what's really important is not the jingles, not the positioning statements, not the promos, but the actual human contact you make with another individual.

It's time to start devoting our energies to it, to making sure that this One to One contact with our listeners is the most effective it can be.

1 comment:

Tom Benson said...

Thanks for the article. It reminds me just how influential Jay was during my baby-deejay years. He is certainly deserving of our applause.