While being nominally the next in my sound archive series, as it’s a recording from exactly 16 years ago today, this also made me think about programming decisions that are still being made today.
Special days that tend to stretch into weekends such as last weekends August Bank Holiday here in England or Labor day in the states are a challenge for radio stations. Many of their audience are talking a time out of their regular routine.
There’s countless examples of specials that radio stations have broadcast. This example is just such one. I recently rediscovered this clip while doing a bit of “housekeeping” of my many hard drives in a folder named “USA mini-disc dubs.” More background on the origin of these recordings later for those of an inquisitive nature, but for now let’s explain my “wow” moment.
It’s Labor Day 2001 we’re in the number one US radio market and tuned to the top rating CHR station Z100. On-air is the Top 25 summer songs of 2001, a variation on the tried and true special countdown format. So far so good. Take a listen…
The show is presented by the stations big personalities Elvis Duran from the morning show and afternoon drive host Paul “Cubby” Bryant plus contributions from many of the other on-air staff. In addition to the ‘top tunes’ there was well produced segments looking at films and showbiz news from the summer. Overall a well executed idea neatly wrapped up with a bit of Dave Foxx production magic.
The wow moment comes with the fact that this show was played over and over on repeat over the weekend.
At first I was surprised, one of the biggest radio stations in the US playing a show on repeat! Surely they had the budget to get some jocks in to cover the weekend and make something special!
However when I thought a little more I thought it might just be a stroke of genius. I’ve heard plenty of the ‘listener favourites’ or ‘all time greatest’ specials broadcast over such periods. But in reality how many of your listeners are going to hear that much of your mammoth broadcast? Sure a top 500, or even top 100 is a nice idea, unless you only catch numbers 357 to 350 and completely miss the number one. I’d imagine their research will show that people only listen for a relatively short period at a time. On a station such as Z100 which already has an heavy rotation of the top hits you’d probably be playing that number one in the chart every couple of hours anyway. As a bit of entertainment while you are driving to the shops or having a couple of drinks a slick well produced special that you’d probably still only catch bits of despite being played on loop would be superior to ‘Johnny swing jock’.
Finally a couple of background bits, specially for the technically minded (a.k.a. the geeks), the recording will sound a little ‘toppy’ as it was recorded from my European ‘walkman’ radio onto a portable mini-disc recorder, the American’s have a different pre-emphasis on their FM transmission standard. The picture at the top of this article is a still from a video I took from the observation deck at the empire state building, if you look carefully you may spot the antenna system from which Z100 is transmitted from. This was one of numerous off-air recordings I made during my summer 2001 trip around the North East states and also serves as an interesting snapshot in time as little did I know what was going to happen only a few days after I left New York City to come back home to the UK.Photo Credits: Empire State Building from viewing platform (still from video) by Phil Edmonds