Table of Contents
Programmer's Manual: Working On-Air at CJSR
Welcome to the radio station that boldly goes where no radio station has gone before. We are CJSR FM88. As Edmonton's only campus-based community radio station, we appreciate your involvement as a Programmer, and we hope your time On Air is enjoyable and enlightening.
Seeing the bulk of this Programmer’s Manual you might be thinking: what is up with all this? You thought CJSR was a freewheeling, independent, non-corporate, anti-establishment, experimental, non-conformist, by-the-seat-of your-pants operation. Why do you need to read all of this stuff?
We don't want to enforce a set of heavy-handed rules on our Programmers, but there is a set of accepted rules that need to be followed in order to make good radio. There is also a set of rules which are prescribed by the Canadian Radio and Television (CRTC) that must be followed by all CJSR Programmers, and these are rules that we can't afford anyone to break. This Programmer's Guide is intended as a set of guidelines you can use to develop a fun, interesting and progressive radio program. We would like you to think of it not as a rule book, but as a map you should use to chart your journey through Radioland.
Finally, here is the most important rule for doing a show on CJSR:
Break the rules; just have a good reason for doing so.
Rock on, CJSR Programming Committee January 2010
Before We Begin…
Make sure you are familiar with the material in the CJSR Volunteer’s Guide. The Volunteer’s Guide provides all of the important ground rules that will apply to you as a Programmer as well as give you a better understanding of CJSR as an organization.
Your Responsibilities as a Programmer
In 25 words or less: don’t be a jerk. In 25 words or more…
- You cannot smoke within the station or SUB. And yes, this applies when it is -30°C outside.
- You cannot drink within the station or SUB. And yes, this applies when it is 2 AM and nobody is around.
- The outside doors to SUB cannot be propped open under any circumstances. This is a safety and security risk – the Student’s Union takes these matters very seriously and so do we. Incidents of doors being propped open in the past have put us at risk of being evicted from the building, and nobody wants that.
- Keep all drinks away from the On-Air board and any electronic equipment at the station. A single drink spilled on the board could take us off the air and cost thousands of dollars to fix. Everyone will remember that you did it.
- All CJSR property is to remain in the station unless you are allowed to remove it by a staff member. This includes CDs, records, headphones and microphones. Former volunteers have been convicted of theft of station property.
- Please clean up after yourself in On-Air, in the Music Library and in the station. Any garbage you might produce while at the station (pop cans, coffee cups, fast food containers, newspapers, etc.) must be properly disposed of. We must all endeavour to keep CJSR clean so that it’s a nice environment for everyone. Your mother does not volunteer here, and if she did, she would not give you dessert because you didn’t clean up after yourself.
- If you adjust any settings in the on-air booth (set the CD players to continuous play, adjust the pitch control on the turntables, set a cross fade in iTunes, etc.) please reset them after you are done. It is very frustrating for a DJ to expect equipment to work a certain way only to find that someone has changed it.
- File all your CDs and records from the CJSR Music Library immediately after doing your show. Leaving them behind creates headaches for our Music Librarian and other DJs who might want to play the same music. If they can’t find it, they can’t play it! When pulling CDs or records, leave the neighbouring album pulled out a little, so you can quickly and accurately re-file your music.
- Be considerate to your fellow volunteers and DJs when starting and ending your program. Don't arrive in the On-Air booth at the last minute in a panic to start your show. Try to arrive at the station at least 30 minutes before your show starts in order to prepare your music, check to see if all the equipment is working, review station announcements for the day, and generally get ready to do your thing. When leaving, don't greet the next DJ with piles of CDs or records all over the booth or your laptop still plugged into the board. Things like this can easily taint the mood of the next DJ if they are starting off their show annoyed at having to clean up a mess or have had to deal with otherwise rude behaviour. Start gathering your music together about 10 minutes before your show ends to make the transition easier. Play a long song at the end of your show to help the next DJ get settled. Remember: we’re all roommates in the tiny apartment that is the On Air booth.
- After office hours, don't be afraid to ask a person you don't recognize who they are and what they're doing at the station. A volunteer in good standing will be happy to explain themselves. If you encounter anyone suspicious, please ask them to leave immediately. You can also call University Campus Security (780-492-5050) to assist you. If someone buzzes at the front door, you are under no obligation to let them into the station. Volunteers in good standing will already have the door code.
- It is not a good idea to bring guests into the station. If you want to bring in a guest, get clearance from a staff member. You are only allowed one guest at a time, unless otherwise authorized. If and when you do bring guests into the station, please remember that you are responsible for them while they are inside. If someone causes trouble, damages equipment or steals something, it will be your responsibility.
- All promotional material (free CDs, posters and other swag) should go through the Music Librarian. Please do not represent yourself to music labels or promoters as being from CJSR unless you have cleared it with the Music Librarian. The reason for this is that CJSR works hard to foster good relationships with independent labels and local promoters. If and when volunteers ask for free CDs or promotional material as a CJSR DJ, CJSR might seem a little greedy in the eyes of the labels.
- Do not give anything away On-Air without the advertising coordinator’s permission.
- Be aware of any areas of conflict of interest you may enter into as a programmer at CJSR. You should avoid promoting an event on your show that you will be making money at. See a staff member if you have any questions.
- All programmers and their guests must sign in the logbook at the front desk when they are here after hours and on weekends.
- You are responsible for finding a suitable replacement when you cannot do your show. Any replacement DJ needs to be a trained CJSR volunteer. You have to inform the music librarian of your replacement. If it gets too late and you cannot find a replacement, or do not know who to ask to fill in for you, ask a staff member for assistance.
- Finally, always keep in mind that being a Programmer at CJSR means having the time, energy and commitment required to produce an interesting show. If you find yourself without the resources to produce a good show on a regular basis, then you should think about being a fill-in DJ instead or maybe even consider not being On-Air at all. If you are burnt out from doing a show over a long period of time, don't keep doing it because you think it is your duty. There are always ways to revitalize your program, try something new, or maybe step aside and let a new program take your place.
How Programs Are Chosen for CJSR
Here is a summary of how programs are chosen for broadcast on CJSR. As you do your show every week, ask yourself if you are continuing to fulfill this mandate.
- Is the potential audience for the program being served by any other local radio station?
- Is the type of music on the program not often heard on mainstream commercial radio? In the case of a news program, are most of the issues the program examines rarely examined in the mainstream media?
- Is the style and presentation of the program significantly different from mainstream commercial radio?
- Do the producers of the show regularly use alternative media sources for stories or do they rely on mainstream media sources for their research?
- How involved are the producers of the program at the station? Outside of producing content for the program, are the volunteers FACRA members in good standing? Do they work the required Extra Curricular Volunteer Involvement (EVIL), help out during Fundrive and other station activities?
All new show proposals go through CJSR’s Programming Committee, an appointed group of CJSR volunteers and a staff advisor led by an elected member of the FACRA board of directors. The Programming Committee meets monthly to evaluate new show proposals and other programming related issues. They can be contacted at email@example.com.
Music Library and Broadcast Regulations
The CJSR Music Library
All CJSR CDs (except compilations) are filed in alphabetical order, regardless of genre. However, each CD is labelled according to genre. These are:
- Blues (B)
- Classical (CL)
- Comedy (CO)
- Country (C)
- Electronic (E)
- Experimental (EX)
- Folk (F)
- French (FR)
- Jazz (J)
- Reggae (RE)
- Rock (R)
- Soul (S)
- Soundtracks (SD)
- Spoken Word (SW)
- World (W)
Individual albums have their own codes indicating what genre they are. For example:
R-MELV-5 tells you that the album is rock (R), that it’s by the Melvins (MELV) and that it’s the fifth release that the station has (5).
If the code following the music category is ANT that means it's an anthology/compilation. R-ANT-230 means the recording is in ROCK, filed under anthologies and is number 230. Compilations are numerically ordered according to when they arrive in the station.
The New-Wax section of the library contains all the new releases CJSR receives. These are mostly CDs, but we also get some vinyl and even some cassettes. The New-Wax releases are located just outside the On-Air booth. Everything that comes our way first goes into New-Wax and stays there for 3 months (if it is Canadian, 4 months).
Use the New-Wax section as an introduction to new styles and performers and as a way of expanding your musical knowledge. Maybe the album that will change your life is waiting there for you to discover! Sometimes labels will suggest certain tracks to play on a new release; you don’t always have to follow those suggestions, but its something to keep in mind.
You should always audition New-Wax before playing it.
All eclectic shows are required to have at least four New-Wax cuts played per hour. For specialty shows, we encourage you to play a few New-Wax selections on every show. You can certainly play new music that is from your own collection.
Occasionally, albums may contain cuts that have been previously released and as such do not count as New-Wax.
One final note on New-Wax: always be sure to file it back in the New-Wax section, not the main library.
7” Records, LPs and Cassettes
These are also found in the CJSR library. Some artists release their latest single on 7“ and vinyl has made a real comeback in the fast few years, so you could overlook some interesting music if you ignore these formats.
Cassettes are dinosaurs. They are not as easy to play as CDs or vinyl due to difficulty in cueing and knowing the length of the songs. However, lately some indie bands have started to release albums on cassette, so they are not completely extinct.
Canadian Content is commonly known as “Can-Con”. This refers to a Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulation that applies to all radio and TV stations in Canada. The CRTC mandates that we must play at least 35% Canadian music every week. To meet this requirement, eclectic, roots, and news shows that contain music must be 30% Can-Con. Specialty shows are expected to play 12% Can-Con, and ethnic shows are expected to play 7% Can-Con even if the music they feature is predominantly non-Canadian.
Canadian releases in the CJSR Music Library have yellow tape on the spine. Local albums will be marked with a piece of red tape on the spine as well. Releases that count as Can-Con may also have a MAPL logo on the album. MAPL stands for music, artist, producer, and lyrics. If two or more sections of the MAPL logo are blackened out then the album qualifies as Can-Con.
For the complete lowdown on CRTC Can-Con requirements, please see the CRTC website: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/Eng/cancon/r_cdn.htm
The same artist or album should not be played more than once every 6 hours. This is not a CRTC policy, but a station rule to guard against shows sounding the same. Check the log sheets from shows before you to ensure no duplication.
The Broadcast Act
Some songs may be so abusive or profane that they contravene the Broadcast Act. The Broadcast Act states we cannot air abusive material, and the material we air cannot promote hatred towards an identifiable group, so don't play sexist, racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic or ageist material. Songs that contain lesser amounts of profanity may be played, but you must be very careful. You should justify on air why you are playing the song within the context of you show. You have to explain in detail what the piece is about. For more on profanity go to Dirty Words in this manual.
On The Air
Handle With Care
Please remember that any music and equipment in the On Air booth and the Music Library are a shared resource – they belong to everyone.
When finished with any CD or record, please return it to its sleeve right away and return it to the proper section of the Music Library. Do not leave any CDs or records lying around the On Air booth or Music Library.
Do not tamper with any equipment without talking to the station Engineer or someone else on staff. DJs that use the turntables and alter the settings for beat matching or scratching should always reset them afterwards.
Like Driving a Car
Being On-Air is a lot like driving a car. You need to see the road ahead clearly, signal when you’re changing lanes, observe the speed limit, don’t brake too suddenly and adjust the air conditioning. Likewise, when you’re behind the control board, you need to “steer” your show in a certain direction, monitor equipment, know how to use the equipment and keep cool when something goes wrong. Everyone has their own style when it comes to being in On-Air, but there are some general practices that everyone should follow.
First of all, keep the booth, board and turntables free of clutter. There’s not a lot of room in there to begin with, and so piles of CDs, a laptop, this week’s issue of Vue Weekly can cramp your style pretty quickly. Less clutter means it’s less likely that you’ll knock over something or press the wrong button. Also, you’ll need to gather up everything in a timely manner when the next DJ arrives to do their show.
After awhile, you will get completely comfortable with the On-Air equipment and everything will become second nature to you. It takes at least three or four months of experience to become completely confident in the On-Air booth, but even programmers who have been here for years hesitate and make mistakes once in awhile. The most important thing to keep in mind is to think before you do anything. More often than not, a few seconds of analysis can solve any problem that you’re encountering. Never use force on the equipment – if something doesn't work the first time, then chances are you're doing something wrong or the equipment itself is in need of repair. Keep cool, and figure out if you can quickly fix the problem or need to switch to Plan B.
If you still have problems with the equipment, fill out an Equipment Trouble Report and pass it on to the Station Engineer. Equipment Trouble Reports are posted on the door of Engineering down the hall. If there are no more trouble report forms, just write the problem on a piece of paper and put it in the Engineer’s mailbox near the entrance of the station. Include your name and the time that you had the problem. It’s very important to fill out an Equipment Trouble Report and submit it in a timely manner when something isn’t working. Do not just tell the next DJ “hey, CD player number two is wonky” or leave a note in On-Air. Our Engineer needs to know about equipment trouble ASAP so that he can repair it ASAP.
If you plan on using your laptop or iPod to do your show, make sure that those connections (and your technology) are in good working order. Be prepared to switch over to CDs if you’re having problems.
The On Air Booth Is Like a Phone Booth
Please respect the “On-Air” light located above the door. When it's on, the DJ is speaking on air, and any background noise will be heard on the microphone. Sometimes this can be a good thing, but more often than not, silence is golden. If you’re outside the booth chatting with someone and the On-Air light comes on, keep your voice down or, better yet, take your conversation around the corner. Avoid walking into the On-Air booth when the light is on. This can sometimes surprise the DJ and break his/her train of thought.
Talking On-Air and Doing a Show
Before we look at how to do a show, remember this: the station wants you to push the limits of what listeners expect from radio and so we want you to be as creative as possible. However, that doesn't mean you can do whatever you want to do. Like any creative expression, some things work and some don't. The following presentation suggestions are guidelines to help you consider what usually works and what doesn't. Don't think, for example, that you should never talk to someone who is off mic. If a guest you've been expecting walks into the On-Air booth while you're talking, you might stop what you were saying to say: ”…Corb Lund has just walked into the On-Air booth…. welcome! While you're getting comfortable Corby, did you know that your show is sold out tonight?“ As Corb is moving towards his mic he would start talking. It creates an accurate image of Corb Lund walking in and sitting down.
The Microphone Is Your Friend
Before we talk more about announcing your show and coming up with witty and sparkling commentary, a quick look at one of the most common mic mistakes. It's called hot potting. When you wait until a song is completely finished and then turn the mic on with the fader up, you are guilty of hot potting. Hot potting creates a sudden and distracting shift from no sound to a humming. This humming is the sound of the electrical equipment in the On-Air booth. To avoid this, bring the mic up under the music as a song is ending, or bring up the fader slowly when you are ready to talk.
Talking Over Music
Background music can be a great idea for a show. A certain piece of music can add mood and flavour to your show. However, you need to choose background music carefully. Instrumentals are a better choice than a song that has vocals (your words will have to compete with the vocals of a song). Bring the music fader way down before you talk over the music – many DJs do not bring the music volume down enough when they try to talk over music and can be difficult to understand if the background music occupies too much of the foreground.
What's That Noise?
Be aware of noises you make with your mouth – not just the talking. Common ones include sighing, saying “um”, lip smacking, throat clearing and slurring. Coughing or sneezing also annoys listeners, so turn your mic level down before letting one fly (for hygienic reasons, also direct sneezes away from the mic).
Moods carry across a microphone very well. Your audience can hear the mood in your voice. Try and put aside any negative personal feelings you might have and be enthusiastic about your show. Don't complain about how tired or sick you are. If you're not interested in being behind the mic, how can you expect listeners to be interested in what you say?
Never talk on-air about the technical aspects of radio, technical problems or mistakes. Listeners aren't usually interested about the problems we face with bad headphones or uncooperative turntables, so we avoid talking about technical problems. Briefly apologize for problems without getting into details. If something goes wrong, just say something short and sweet like “let's try that again” and leave it at that. If you had trouble in the middle of a set, it usually isn't necessary to mention any thing about the problem. Unless it was something major, the problem is over and forgotten, unless you remind everyone about it.
Let's Be Careful Out There
Be careful of what you say and why you're saying it. In-jokes about the station, your friends and music scene people are self-indulgent, generally not very funny, and out of bounds. Also, avoid too many dedications to friends and family. Sometimes people will call in to make a request and want to dedicate it to someone. While we want to serve the community, we’re not a dating service – use your best judgement when it comes to mentioning people’s names on air. Negative on-air comments about other departments, the station, commercials, program promos, people, etc are completely unacceptable.
You should not play any profanity between 6 am and 10 pm. If you want to play a song with profanity you must have a very good reason for it. Always give a warning before you play anything with profanity, no matter what time of the day it is. There is a standard listener warning in the ads directory in iTunes. It’s named Warning. Play this before you play a song with profanity or warn your listeners in your own words. In order to avoid being criticized for playing a song with profanity for the sake of shocking people, you should explain why you think it’s important to play the song. Something like, “this next tune gets pretty obscene, but the artist feels very strongly about this subject and that’s reflected in the lyrics.” Put the profanity in context.
Things You Definitely Cannot Say
As a Programmer, you have a responsibility to represent CJSR to all of our listeners. Negative remarks and personal politics have no place on the airwaves.
- talk about referenda or elections on the day before or the day of an election
- express your support for any political party during an election
- make defamatory or abusive remarks towards any person or group
- make derogatory remarks about any religious holidays of any faith
Be politically correct and erect. Be informed before you spew opinions and if you feel strongly about voicing an opinion during your show, be very clear that your opinions are yours and not necessarily those of the station, the FACRA Board of Directors or any of CJSR's advertisers.
Don’t make any negative on air comments about internal station affairs. If you have an axe to grind regarding station affairs or policy talk off air with the person directly involved. Negative comments about the station will make you look immature and will make the station look like there are no basic guidelines or standards for what volunteers can say (which is what this Manual is all about!). We have a duty to provide listeners with good radio and talking about internal station affairs is not good radio and is not why people listen to CJSR.
The More the Merrier? Co-Hosting a Show
If the chemistry is right, a co-hosted show can be twice as interesting as a good show hosted by one person. But it also means a co-hosted show can be twice as bad as a show hosted by one person!
What can happen with an unformatted, unscripted and unplanned co-hosted program is the conversation can easily turn into a discussion between two people who forget that others are listening. The talk goes off in awkward tangents and makes for bad radio. One of the most common criticisms of CJSR is that the DJs ramble. This is especially true of co-hosted shows.
To avoid the dreaded co-hostus rambulus (this affliction can affect all programs for that matter) programmers need to have a plan, a regular segment, a script, an interview, a focus, a pre-produced segment, theme music – something to anchor your show. A good co-hosted program takes more energy than arriving 5 minutes before your show and grabbing a handful of your favourite songs. Generally speaking, co-hosted shows do not work unless you are really committed to spending the necessary time planning out your program and decide well before you turn the mic on what you're going to say.
If you don't like having a script, consider even a rough outline written down in front of you or just verbally agree what kind of focus your show will have. Unless you have some sort of guidelines, you and your guest or co-host can end up on pointless tangents and your listeners will quickly be screaming for you to shut up and play more music. Do not bring your friends to the station so you can do a show together. A Staff member must clear everyone who talks On-Air. Your program is for you to produce, not you and your friend.
Please keep in mind that any regular co-host on your program must be a volunteer in good standing with CJSR. If programs are produced and hosted by a variety of people, all of them must be volunteers in good standing with CJSR or you run the risk of losing your program. If programs are hosted by more than one person on a regular basis, one person should step forward as the head producer of the program and be prepared to take responsibility for all other hosts.
Special or regular guests on your show can make your show more dynamic. In order for all listeners to understand the context and purpose of your guest you have to make it very clear why you have a guest on your show.
Before you bring a guest on your show ask yourself if you are bringing them on because they are your friend or because they are the best person for the job. Don’t just ask your friends to be guests, search as far as possible for the best person to talk about the issue or subject you want to examine. You’re limiting your options too much if you only rely on friends as guests.
You are responsible for anything a guest does at the station or says while on air, so choose your guests wisely. And remember that all guests have to be approved by a staff member. Failure to do so can result in your show being suspended or cancelled.
Back To Front
When letting your listeners know what you just played, it’s known as back announcing. This is because you’re announcing the set backwards, starting off with the last song you played in a set and ending with the first. This might seem odd, but radio is linear – the song people have just heard is going to be fresher in their mind than the one they heard three songs ago. If you announce the first song in the set first while the last song in the set has just finished, you are asking listeners to reject the natural way we listen to radio. If you’re going to provide some detailed commentary about a song in your set because it’s important or special, try to make it either the first or last song in your set. That way, you can provide the commentary before the song plays or right after it finishes. There’s no sense in proving details about a song that you’re not going to play for five minutes, or one that was playing 10 minutes ago.
Behind the Cue Ball: Cueing and Previewing Music
In order to monitor what you are playing at all times, you have to listen to the monitors in On-Air even when you are quickly previewing and/or cueing up your next cut. When you hit the “cue” buttons at the top of each fader (located at the top of the column for whatever device you're using), the On-Air speakers will cut off. Don't panic! The music is still being broadcast, it has just been muted so you can hear what you’re cueing or previewing. Make sure you have plenty of time to preview or cue a song – watch the remaining time on the CD player or check the record you're playing. If you lose track of the music you are playing On-Air when you are previewing or cueing, you run the risk of letting a track finish when you haven’t got your next song ready to play.
If you find you're previewing more than a couple of tracks while you're doing your show, you might want to think about previewing more of your music before your show starts. That way, you can concentrate on your entire show rather than being distracted by previewing and selecting tracks all the time.
We hate to discriminate, but avoid playing cassettes. You don't know how long the tracks are, cueing them can be time consuming and our cassette deck does not start directly from the board. Also, you could mistakenly play the wrong side of the cassette.
It might seem straightforward, but there are some important things to remember about playing CDs. It’s easy to forget which album is in which cd player, so it’s good to get into the habit of laying out your sets a certain way or putting the cd case above the cd player where the cd is cued up.
The cd players should show time remaining in the track – if this is not in the display, adjust the display mode on the cd player.
The cd players can be started from the board – you’ll learn how to do this during your on-air training.
How to Cue a Vinyl Record
1. Put the record on your turntable of choice, cleaning off any dust or fluff with a record brush.
2. Press the “cue” button on the On-Air board (located at the top of the column for the turntable controls).
3. Turn the turntable on manually. The start/stop switch is on the lower left-hand corner. Make sure you have it on the right speed! Also make sure that the pitch adjustment (the slider on the right hand side) is in the middle, or it will play faster/slower than 33 or 45 RPM.
4. Place the needle at the beginning of the piece you want to play and keep it playing until you hear the first bit of music. As soon as you hear something, hit stop. The record will moan to a halt, but this is fine.
5. Turn the platter counter-clockwise (ie: backwards – you will hear everything moaning in reverse, but that’s okay too) until you don’t hear the music. Then keep on turning about 1/3 of a full turn. This is to allow for the one second that the turntable will need to get up to the proper speed. The record is now cued. If you're not used to vinyl, it's sometimes a good idea to double check that you have enough start up time – hit the start button again; the music should start playing almost immediately. If not, repeat steps 4 and 5 and turn it backwards a bit less.
6. To get a smooth transition into the record, make sure you start the fader low and move it up quickly when you turn on the channel.
iPods and Laptops
ipods and laptops can be run through the external input cable (which plugs into the headphone jack) and corresponding fader on the board. Ensure that you cue these to check levels before broadcasting them over the air, as you now have more levels to worry about – the volume on your device and the fader will both affect the output levels. Keep in mind that all of the sounds that come out of your device will be broadcast (i.e. error message beeps, phone ringer if using a cell phone/mp3 player combo).
BBC World Service
The feed for our BBC comes through the channel marked BBC. It is always on.
- To hear the BBC, press the cue button for that channel.
- Listen for your cue of “This is London” and the theme music playing. There will then be a quick series of tones counting down to the hour. Turn the channel on and move the fader to an appropriate level during the sustained tone.
- Play until you hear the out cue at the six minute mark: “BBC news”.
Keep Your Chin and Your Faders Up Sometimes a DJ will announce the first song in a set and suddenly realize they cannot remember what CD player the song is in (“Oh man, was it #1 or #2?”) To help you avoid this confusion, try these handy tips. 1. As you finish the last song in a set, make sure all of your music faders are down. Then, quickly bring up the fader of the CD that you're going to play at the start of your next set. That way, when you look down at the board you'll see clearly what CD player is ready to go, because it is the only fader that is up. 2. Place the case/sleeve of the CD that you’re playing on top of the CD player. That way, you can quickly glance over and see what CD is in what player.
In Case Of Emergency As mentioned earlier, it's never a good idea to elaborate on technical difficulties or mistakes that might happen. In emergencies, the station IDs on itunes makes a good space filler.
If, for example, a CD starts skipping, and you don't have another CD cued up, then start the station ID to cover the dead air. Try to remember to cue up something other than what you've just played i.e.: if you just played an ad for See magazine and then 5 minutes later need something to cover an emergency, have a promo or station ID cued up rather than play the See ad again. On news shows, it's a good idea to cue up a CD or record that can be used in emergencies.
Under Attack by Aliens? At the top of the On-Air booth is a gadget that has some switches and flood lamps. Every once in awhile, this gadget starts to buzz and flash and you might think that all hell is breaking loose. Don’t worry, it’s just a test. If there was ever a power failure at the station, this device would power up and light the room. You can make it stop by pressing the small black button labelled reset at the very top.
When the white light in the On-Air booth flashes it means you have a call. If the white light flashes while you're talking avoid announcing that the caller should hang up until you're done talking. The caller could be calling on another line or they may have entered the wrong extension.
You have to ask a staff member before you put callers On-Air. The phone hybrid in the on-air booth allows you to do this, and requires a short training session from a staff member or experienced programmer before you attempt to go live.
What a VU Perhaps the most important technical element of producing your program is the audio levels, as monitored by the VU meters. Most programmers run their levels too loud, or “too hot”, as we say in the radio biz. If you're “too hot” you need to “cool down” and reduce the levels. Likewise, if you're “too cold”, you need to turn the “heat” up. Can you dig it? You should be shooting for about -3 on the meters and peaking at approximately -10. “Just nudge the red” is a good rule of thumb.
To do this, the CD faders on the board should be set at around the 0 mark (the thicker solid line). Some CDs are mastered at a higher or lower level than others, so this will fluctuate. Check your meters regularly, especially when you go from one source to another and adjust accordingly. Keeping an eye on your meters should become a habit like checking your rear view mirror when you drive. After a while you'll instinctively check your meters once every minute or so.
Likewise, remember that you’ll need to have the levels on your mic more or less matched with the music you’re playing. Sometimes DJs play their music at a decent level and then when they start talking, their levels are not hot enough and its hard to hear what they’re saying. Keep the mic levels up and speak with enough volume to keep things consistent. Make sure any co-hosts or guests follow these rules as well. It’s much better for someone’s voice to be too loud and cool down the levels rather than trying to compensate for a softer voice by cranking up the levels.
The Log Sheet
Once your show has started you have to juggle many balls. You have to organize what you’re going to say on air, run the board, cue up ads and music, follow the commercial log and fill out the log sheet.
Log sheets are very important for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s obvious that you will need to keep track of what you are playing so that you can back announce your sets to your listeners. Beyond that, the log sheet provides information on how much Can-Con and New Wax is being played, how much spoken word content there is in your program and what genres of music you are playing. And then beyond that, log sheets are important so that the Music Director can compile our charts by checking to see which albums are getting the most airplay. And yes, Big Brother is watching you: we also periodically check log sheets to ensure that DJs are playing enough Can-Con and logging their shows properly.
If you have enough time, you can make your show a bit less stressful by taking a few minutes to fill out your log sheet before your show. It’s not necessary to have the entire sheet filled out before your show, but at least fill out the music that you’re going to play. Leave blank lines between your sets and fill those out with ads/promos/spoken word details as your show progresses. You can also fill out the times as your show rolls along. The more organized you are before your show, the easier the log sheet will be to maintain and the more confident you’ll sound on air. Please see the correctly filled out log sheet below and in the on air booth.
How to Record Can Con on the Log Sheet
Canadian cuts should be indicated in the CC column as a fraction of songs played: the top number of the fraction indicates the total number of Can Con songs and the bottom number of the fraction indicates the total number of songs played. So, for example, if you have played 3 Can-Con cuts in a 12-song period, the CC column on the 12th song would indicate 3/12. Using a fraction makes it easy to see at a glance if you are on target to meet your Can Con requirement or 35% (eclectic and roots programming) or 10% (specialty programming).
Station New-Wax can be recorded with just a check mark in the New Wax column. If you play a piece of new music from your personal collection, it can be recorded in the PER column. To qualify as New-Wax, the material has to have been released within the last eight weeks or 12 weeks for Can-Con. It is station policy for all eclectic music shows to play at least 4 New-Wax tracks (a combination of station New Wax or personal new music) per hour. Part of CJSR’S license agreement with the CRTC is to play new music, so all shows, even specialty shows, should play as much new music as possible.
You don’t have to record the start and stop time of everything you play on your show. The only times you have to record on the log sheet are the approximate times you start and stop talking. There are two main reasons you have to record your spoken word. We have to track the amount of spoken word for CRTC purposes because we are committed to broadcasting a certain amount of spoken word programming, including the spoken word in music shows. The second reason you need to record your spoken word times is since most ads are played during spoken word segments, this time line also makes it easy for staff to tell clients the approximate time their ads ran.
See the attached sample log sheet to see how it should be filled out.
There are a lot of elements that make it into CJSR’s broadcasting day: commentary, station IDs, news and discussion of current affairs, show promos, public service announcements and – of course – all kinds of music. The CRTC has created a variety of categories that cover pretty much everything that is broadcast at one time or another on the radio. With regards to your log sheet, an entry must be made for everything you play or say, trying to be as accurate as possible.
The categories for everything you will do On-Air are as follows:
Category 1 - Spoken Word
This category includes the following two subcategories:
Subcategory 11: News
The recounting and reporting of local, regional, national and international events of the day or recent days, with particular emphasis on the topicality of the events or situations selected. This excludes weather, traffic and sports and entertainment reports.
Subcategory 12: Spoken Word & Other
All spoken word programming (talk, commentary, poetry) with the exception of material falling under subcategory 11 (News) and categories 2, 3, 4 and 5 (Popular Music, Special Interest Music, Musical Production and Advertising).
Category 2 - Popular Music
This encompasses musical selections in the genres or groups of genres set out below:
Subcategory 21: Pop, Rock and Dance
This refers to music from the entire pop, rock and dance music spectrum. Examples include all types of rock music, including hard rock, classic rock, heavy metal, modern rock and alternative rock. It also includes pop, rock & roll, rhythm & blues from the 1950s and 60s, soul, dance, techno, rap, hip hop, urban, and contemporary rhythm & blues.
Subcategory 22: Country and Country-Oriented
This includes country & western, country music recorded since the 1950s, new country, alternative country and other country-oriented styles.
Subcategory 23: Acoustic
This refers to music performed in an acoustic style that draws largely from Subcategory 21 genres.
Subcategory 24: Easy listening
Easy listening includes easy listening instrumentals and adult standards.
Category 3 - Special Interest Music
This encompasses musical selections in the genres or groups of genres set out below:
Subcategory 31: Classical and Concert
Concert music includes the whole spectrum of the classical music traditions, including opera and operetta. It also includes extended dramatic excerpts of popular musical theatre when performed in a full-cast version. It does not include orchestrations of pop music in classical form.
Subcategory 32: Folk and Folk-Oriented
This genre includes authentic, traditional folk music, as well as contemporary folk and folk-oriented music. It includes vintage country music recorded before the 1950s, and traditional bluegrass.
Subcategory 33: World Beat and International
This genre includes traditional music styles of countries throughout the world, including reggae, African music and World Beat music, which combines traditional forms of international music with western pop, rock or dance music. It includes any music sung in languages other than English and French.
Subcategory 34: Jazz and Blues
This includes both historic and contemporary music in the jazz and blues traditions. Examples of music in the jazz tradition include ragtime, “golden age” swing, modern swing, bebop, modern, avant-garde, Latin-oriented jazz, jazz-funk, and other contemporary and emerging jazz styles. Examples of music in the blues tradition include classic blues, delta blues, Chicago blues, and contemporary blues music.
Subcategory 35: Non-Classical Religious
This refers to music of religious faiths. It also includes gospel music, hymns, and contemporary Christian music.
Category 4 - Musical Production
This category is for music and broadcasting by a station to identify itself or any of the components of its programming (station call letters, station IDs and show promos). For greater particularity, this category includes the following five subcategories:
Subcategory 41: Musical Themes, Bridges and Stingers
Musical selections used to identify particular program segments or to extend programming segments to the end of their allotted time (eg: opening and closing themes). To accurately fit into this category, selections should be less than one minute in duration.
Subcategory 42: Technical Tests
Broadcast matter intended to be used for the purposes of technical tests by the station or its listeners.
Subcategory 43: Musical Station Identification
Short musical selections designed to identify the station by call letters or frequency.
Subcategory 44: Musical Identification of Announcers and Programs
Musical material identifying and accompanying specific announcers, programs or programming elements (i.e.: station IDs).
Subcategory 45: Musical Promotion of Announcers and Programs
Musical material promoting increased listening to specific announcers, programs or programming elements (i.e.: show promos).
Category 5 - Advertising
Material intended to promote services or products offered to the public by businesses or individuals. For greater particularity, this category includes the following three subcategories:
Subcategory 51: Commercial Announcement
A commercial announcement for a business, product or service, presented in return for consideration.
Subcategory 52: Sponsor Identification
Identification of the sponsor of a program or program segment other than under subcategories 51 and 53.
Subcategory 53: Promotion with Sponsor Mention
Verbal or musical material promoting increased listening to the station or to specific announcers, programs or programming elements, when accompanied by the identification of a sponsor.
Preparation and Philosophy
Doing a good radio show involves preparation, research, organization, and thought. Yes, there is something to “flying by the seat of your pants” when it comes to radio, but this method can only go so far. Likewise, planning every last detail of your show can make it somewhat dull and lacking in character. A mix of preparation and spontaneity usually results in the best radio. Think of it like cooking: you follow a recipe but can add an extra dash of spice here and there.
Besides selecting the music you’re going to play, doing a good show also means planning your commentary and perhaps scripting some of it. If you do a speciality show, at some point you will probably want to do a special on a certain artist or showcase the music from a certain record label or produce a show with a definite focus.
If you plan on doing a show for any period of time, you will find yourself tiring of the same music and commentary quite rapidly. There's a lot of music at CJSR you haven't heard, and you should try to seek it out. If you are doing an eclectic show, you should be listening to different types of music from the New-Wax section, and always searching for new artists to play. A bit of thought and experimentation will go a long way towards making your show well rounded and interesting.
If you are doing an eclectic show, the musical content should contain no more than 50% of any one music category. You must mix in other types of music; don't just play an arbitrary jazz, folk or world beat song because you have to. It’s not that difficult to choose a song from another genre and make it part of your set: if you’re playing a somewhat mellow alternative rock tune, a folk or country tune should work nicely as your next song. Changing genres drastically (like playing some metal and then switching to jazz) usually doesn’t work, but if you bridge two songs from very different genres with a station ID, that “neutral” moment provided by the ID can make the transition work a bit better.
Roots shows should be eclectic as well, encompassing more than “western” folk, but blues, country, world beat, first nations, etc. The key is to experiment. Don’t be afraid to play something that you’ve never heard before!
In regards to background information to provide listeners with more details about what and who you’re playing, the internet is a great source of information. Details about artists, record labels and genres of music are usually just a quick Google search away. Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org), the All Music Guide (www.allmusic.com) and Discogs (www.discogs.com) are usually helpful.
More Rock, Less Talk?
People listen to the radio for a combination of reasons; they want information, entertainment, company, and music. It should be said that listeners who really want more rock and less talk shouldn't be listening to the radio; they should listen to their iPod. Listeners may say they want less talk, but radio is a rather intimate medium. Even though there may be thousands of other people listening, people can often feel that the music they’re hearing is just for them. This may not be the case on commercial radio, but certainly CJSR is the type of station that people tune into because of the personality of the station and its individual DJs. So don't be too quick to “be quick”. Feel free to talk and provide background commentary on the music you’re playing, just don’t overdo it. Like most things, a combination approach is the best solution.
There are two groups of listeners in terms of background information and commentary: those who like the music to have context and those who just want more music and less talk. I think the easiest way to please both groups is divide your links – the times that you talk between sets – in half. Half your links should have background information about one song in the set. For the other half of your links keep it short and sweet with no additional background information. A good rhythm could be: use one link to background one or two songs in the set, and then do the next link without background and so on through your show.
How Long Must This Go On? Set Lengths
Once you have your music and spoken word material planned, you will want to organize it into a show. Sets are generally put together with 3 or 4 songs (depending on the lengths of the cuts) or into sets that are 12 - 15 minutes in length. If you are trying to create a certain mood by stringing together a long set of songs, remember the chances of a listener remembering what song number five was are remote. Listeners can call in to find out what the name of a particular song is, but not everyone knows what the request line number is and most people are relying on the DJ to back announce songs in a timely manner.
Avoid S.M.S. (The Shapeless Mass Syndrome)
Many programmers at campus radio stations don't give program structure a second thought. They figure the great music they're playing and their insightful personalities are enough to carry the show, so “who cares when I play an ad or how I back-announce a set of music or how long my sets are?” But the realities of listening to radio cannot be changed and have to be considered by all programmers.
When to play an ad, promo or read a PSA? Radio is linear, so you cannot expect people to go back and forth with you as you go back and forth through your show.
Take a look at this less-than-ideal On-Air format:
1. Last song in a set of music 2. Play ad, play promo, read a PSA 3. Back announce set of music 4. First song of next set
This format puts a block of information (the ads and promos) between you and the music, which isn’t good. You want to keep the music alive and vital and your best opportunity to do so is right after a set of music is finished. As soon as the last song of set is done, back announce immediately. So, it should go like this:
1. Last song in a set of music 2. Back announce set of music 3. Play ad, play promo 4. Back on-air, announce next song 5. First song of next set
Would You Buy a Used Car from this DJ? Playing Ads
Before some DJs play an ad they'll say something like: “I'll be back right after this word from one of our sponsors” or 'I'll be back right after we pay a few bills” or – even worse – “I have to play an ad now.” Although we don't play a lot of ads on CJSR, they are a part of our programming. To announce them or treat them like some kind of intruder that we have to apologize for playing isn't a good idea. When an ad is scheduled on your show, just play it with little or no explanation.
Please refrain from commenting on an ad, either positively or negatively. The reason for no negative comments is obvious: our advertisers have paid money for their ads, so they don't want to hear someone making any negative or snarky comments about it. Positive comments imply that one ad is “better” than the others, and that's not what we want our advertisers to think. If the ad is for an upcoming show and you are excited about it because it’s your favourite band, it's perfectly acceptable for you to say so. But if it’s an ad for a restaurant and you make a comment that it's your favourite place for breakfast, what about the other restaurants that might be advertising on CJSR?
Some of the shows on the station have sponsors and that means before or after you play their ads, you also mention that they are the sponsors of the show. The Advertising Coordinator will let you know if this applies to you.
All ads are logged in the commercial log in the On-Air booth. Do not play any ads that are not logged on your show. A time will be given (24-hour clock) with one or two ads scheduled, and you must play the ad(s) during the given 15-minute span. If an ad isn't available, please tell the Advertising Coordinator.
A live ad is like a regular ad except you read it live on your show. Here is an example of how a live ad will be logged on the daily commercial log sheet:
If (*JAZZ) is logged on your show you'll read the JAZZ ad in the white binder like a PSA or news highlight. But remember, it isn't like reading a random PSA or news highlight: live ads are more specific, so only read the live ad(s) that are logged on your program.
If you need something on-air and you don't have the time to produce it, let us know and maybe we can do a live ad for you.
Live ads will be in the LIVE ADS section of the white binder.
Tag, you’re It: Live Tags
A live tag is an additional bit for information about a commercial. For instance, if a magazine has a standard ad that plays throughout the year, a Live Tag can let people know what’s coming up in the current issue. If you have LIVE TAG written beside an ad logged on your show, read the live tag after you have played the ad.
If the live tag isn't in the On-Air binder or is expired, don't go on air and announce that you don't know what's coming up at the venue being advertised or you don't know what's in the current issue of the magazine. Listeners want to hear what you know, not what you don't know! If there isn't a live tag or it's expired, play the ad and when it's done just move on. Please let the Advertising Coordinator know if there isn't a live tag (not your listeners) and we'll do what we can to get a new one ASAP.
Public Service Announcements
As a community station, CJSR often provides listeners with information about non-profit events, rallies for a good cause, etc. These Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are located in the On-Air binder and are sometimes logged on your show. If you have a PSA logged on your show, choose one that looks interesting or relevant and read it on your show. Be sure to read the PSA a couple of times before you actually read it On-Air: they sometimes have typos or difficult words and names to pronounce.
Perhaps the single most common mistake that Programmers make is to say something like “now I'll read a PSA for you” or “I have a PSA to read”. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. First of all, you don't need to tell your listeners that you're going to read a PSA – just read it. Also, your listeners might not know what PSA stands for, so why confuse them?
As with ads, do not make any additional comments – positive or negative – about the content in PSAs. It reflects badly on the station if you make jokes or read the PSA in an overly dramatic manner; always read PSAs in a “matter of fact” tone.
If you have a giveaway logged on your show you may or may not have an ad to play first. Here is an example of how a giveaway with an ad is logged on the commercial log sheet:
Here is an example of how a giveaway without an ad is logged on the commercial log sheet:
If you have a giveaway logged on your show go to the GIVEAWAY section of the On-Air binder with the news highlights, PSAs and live tags. Find the giveaway sheet for the item that is logged on your show and follow the instructions. To keep the giveaway current and to get as much listener response as possible, announce the giveaway, ask listeners to call and then very quickly introduce the first song or just go straight to the music. Avoid doing a giveaway right before you play ads/promos etc. You'll need a couple of minutes to take down the winner’s name and phone number and answer any questions they might have, so you might not have enough time with the ads that are playing. Also, to avoid “blocking” the giveaway don't announce a giveaway, tell listeners to call and then proceed to talk for two or three minutes afterwards. Be prepared to answer phones immediately after you've announced the giveaway.
“Call After the Music Starts”: The Pitfall to Avoid
Some programmers will emphatically instruct listeners to call in for a giveaway after the music starts. You're thinking to yourself “I can't answer the phone until I'm finished talking, so stop calling me!” But what you're thinking about (answering the phone, playing an ad, reading a PSA, etc…) doesn't mean anything to your listeners. It is unimportant to listeners that you can't answer the phone while you're talking – all they are concerned about is getting that giveaway. So if the phone rings while you're still talking, just ignore it and answer it as soon as you can once you have some music playing. And if someone calls while you're talking do not tell them to hang up, that’s just rude! Listeners call in before you're done talking because they're excited to win; let’s keep them excited and happy.
Promos are short commercials for programs on CJSR. It’s always beneficial to promote other programs at CJSR and of course you’ll want to create a promo so that others can promote your show. Be sure to choose a promo for a program that’s coming up later that day or in the next couple of days; avoid playing promos for shows that have already been broadcast that day or the day before, since people will have to wait until next week to tune in. Mix up the promos you play from week to week; don’t play the same promo on every show. One or two promos per show is a good guideline. And, of course, don’t play your own promo during your show.
Stir the Pot: Announcing Your Sets
Be interesting with your back announcing. Don't just say “that was band X, from their album Y and the song we heard was Z.” You will sound dull if you do that all the time. Think of how sports announcers talk about game scores: beat, clobbered, trounced, defeated, it was X over Y, the A's blanked the B's, etc. Be creative; think of some synonyms for “played” or other ways to convey the information. Here are some ideas for how to announce songs:
“One of my favourites, the Sonics…” “Did you like that? That was Sufjan Stevens from his 2005 release…” “Edmonton's/Vancouver's/New York's finest, that was…” “You were just grooving/rocking/air guitaring to…”
Avoid reading sleeve notes other than short passages, because all too often it sounds like you're reading sleeve notes; not very interesting for your listeners. It's much better to check out the sleeve notes before your show, then drop a few highlights into your announcement: “From the 1994 album…” or “Recorded in Toronto… ” or “Produced by the guy from Band X… ”
Do not deconstruct your show so much that you say something like, ”…and then I played this song and then I played an ad“ or ”…and now I'm going to play an ad“. This quickly sounds ridiculous and unprofessional. Also, avoid using terms like “PSA” (“And now I'm going to read a PSA”), since most listeners don't generally understand radio jargon. Before you play an ad in the middle of your announcing, just finish what you have to say with a concluding tone and play the ad. Likewise, when you read a PSA, just read it without any preface.
PSAs, live tags and news highlights sometimes have typos and difficult words to pronounce. Always rehearse out loud anything you're going to read On-Air: it might save you some embarrassment later. Reading it to yourself isn't as helpful as reading it out loud. It might seem a bit silly, but you'll thank yourself when you get through a PSA or live tag smooth as silk instead of fumbling over a word or phone number.
Go With the Flow: Planning Sets
When you are putting together sets of music, find pieces that flow together: don't go from one extreme to another i.e.: a classical piece into a metal/hardcore piece, followed by a traditional Irish jig followed by a jazz tune. It is too jarring for many listeners. Playing two drastically different genres back-to-back might sound very eclectic “on paper” and gives the impression that you like all types of music, but it is also not very creative.
Instead, find the time to listen to the beginning and end of as many songs as possible and organize your music according to how one song ends and the next one begins. For example, imagine a metal tune that ends with a cello solo and then mixing that with a classical music piece that starts with a violin and then playing a folk song that starts with fiddle. Work with what sounds best together, and plan for smooth transitions from one song to another.
Try to bridge songs that sound very different from one another by playing a short station ID between the songs. The “neutral” station ID clears the slate for another musical genre.
Also, think of the board as a musical instrument. Remember, it's a MIXING board, so mix whenever you can. For example, try playing a voice only station ID mixed over the instrumental tail of a song.
This is CJSR: Station IDs
We are required by law to do a station ID on the hour and half-hour. The station ID can be a pre-produced one or a spoken one and must consist of these three things:
1. Our call letters: CJSR-FM 2. Our frequency: 88.5 FM 3. Our location: Edmonton
Other material like the weather, date and temperature can be mentioned a few times a show. Of course, these things should be spread out over your entire show. If you try and fulfill all your requirements at the very beginning, your show will sound unbalanced.
What’s it Like Outside? Announcing the Weather
For the most part, it’s only morning shows that really need to announce the weather, since this part of a morning routine for most people. If there is severe weather happening, it’s a nice public service to provide small updates during the day. You can get a detailed forecast from Environment Canada at 468-4940 or the Environment Canada website (bookmarked on the On-Air computer). Avoid announcing too many details, such as the barometer reading, what the humidity percentage is, etc. Just the temperature, the conditions (sunny, cloudy, raining) and a quick forecast should suffice.
In and Out: Starting and Ending a Show
The start of your show is where you are going to either lose listeners or keep listeners listening. In order to keep them listening you have to announce what you have planned for your program and want kind of show you’re doing. Playing a song at the very start of your show doesn’t do that. Instead, right after the last song has ended on the program before you, play a station id to draw a line between the end of one show and the start of your show and then right after the id go on mic to introduce your show.
The start of your show is the best time to announce the mandate of your show, the name of your program, your name and how long your show is. You give your name and the show name but there should be more.
In order for our unruly masses and our program scheduled to have some semblance of continuity, thank the DJ before you for doing their show. At the start of your show you should also mention a few bands you’re going to be playing, that way you might whet listeners’ appetites to keep listening.
Here is and example of how to start your show:
“Thanks to Paul for the last hour of music, he’ll be back next week from 10 to 11am. Hi I’m Heather and welcome to Music From a Small Planet, an hour of music from around the world. Coming up music from Zap Mama, Arto Lindsay and music from Ethiopia plus much more international music. Let’s start with music from Turkey, this is Mevoan Dede”.
The best place to do all of this is at the very beginning of your show. That way you are right out of the gate with all the information listeners are going to need to understand what they can expect to hear. So try starting your show like this:
Last song in the show before you ends
Play a station ID
Play first song
Something else to consider is how you follow up the shows before and after you. There should be a certain continuity between shows so that audiences are kept on, rather than changed every 2 hours. If the format allows, don't start or finish your show with radically different music than the one preceding or following.
Also, be considerate when starting or ending a show. Don't come into the booth at the last minute and throw the On-Air DJ off. Arrive at the station at least 30 minutes before your show starts in order to prepare your music, check to see if any equipment is troublesome, check station announcements for the day, and generally get ready to do your thing. When leaving, don't greet the next DJ with piles of CDs or records all over the booth or your laptop still plugged into the board. Start gathering your music together about 10 minutes before your show ends to make the transition easier. Play a long song at the end of your show to help the next DJ get settled.
Taking requests is a great way to endear listeners to CJSR. Since our play lists are not pre-programmed, we have flexibility in what we play, and when people hear the song that they want, they love it. You do not have to play requests (which is why they are called “requests” and not “demands”). However, if a request fits into your show and doesn't meet any of the following criteria, then you should think about playing it (even if it isn't your favourite band). Stay away from requests if:
they contravene our radio restrictions the song does not fit into your show the caller is not courteous
If the request is for one of the golden oldies of alternative radio or an overplayed recent release, then you might consider playing a different cut by the same artist. Above all, be courteous. Always say that you will see what you can do, no matter how vague, badgering, or insulting the caller may be. As a final note, if you don't want requests, don't ask for them.
Remember most listeners do not know the names of station staff and volunteers. So when you say, “Jimmy James told me that this next CD just arrived in our library”, most of our listeners won't know that Jimmy James is the station's music director. If you are going to mention the name of a volunteer or staff member by name, say who they are, what they do or what show they host, and why they are relevant to the issue at hand.
What Kind of Music Should I Play?
There is an ongoing debate at the station about what music is appropriate for CJSR. To help you understand what works and what doesn’t here are the answers to questions from a CJSR DJ:
What type of music can I play on CJSR? It's always productive to get into a reasonable debate about what music is and what music isn't appropriate for CJSR. It keeps all of us thinking about what the mandate of the station is and how the radio we produce fits our mandate.
The mandate of the station is to constantly challenge the status quo. So what is the status quo? We would all agree that Lady GaGa is an example of the status quo, but there is a gray area that is harder to pin down. I think most of the music you've picked falls into the gray area. Your music certainly isn't Lady GaGa.
But songs I want to play are gems by talented artists . . . Right on! And in their early days when what they were doing was fresh and inspired we played them. Their music was challenging the status quo, but by definition once a band is popular they're not challenging the status quo anymore, no matter how good or creative they are. At the risk of splitting hairs, just because they are talented artist doesn’t mean we play them. Lady GaGa is a talented artist, but her talent is not the kind of talent that is going to fit the mandate of CJSR.
What about songs that never got any airtime? Just because the songs never got any airtime does not mean we can play them on CJSR. I know lots of music from talented artists that have produced songs that never got any mainstream airtime, but because the music doesn't challenge the status quo they should not get much attention on CJSR. Also, most bands that draw thousands of fans to shows and sell tens of thousands of cds don't belong on CJSR because they don't challenge the status quo anymore.
Sure play the Pixies, the Breeders and Bad Religion once in a blue moon, but bands like that should not be the bread and butter of a program on CJSR and in your case they are. Death Cab for Cutie, Kings of Leon, and Tegan and Sara is too much alternative lite for one program. One of them maybe, but not all three especially when you're also playing Radiohead, Bjork etc… in the same program. Again, I’m not saying don’t play them, just play them much, much less often so we can make room for new bands and artists that are looking for a break like Bjork was 20 years ago.
Another important element of the station's mandate is for DJs to find new undiscovered music to share with our listeners. In order for the station to fulfill it’s mandate to support new music, most of the music you play on an eclectic show should be new to you and your listeners What songs and performers are you playing on your program that are new to you? There was a time when Radiohead and Bjork were new and undiscovered. They are not new or undiscovered anymore.
If CJSR and other stations that focus on obscure music don't continue to focus on undiscovered music then most of the bands you're playing would never had a chance in the first place to gain some popularity. Once a band has made it, our job is pretty much done and it's time to look for another group that’s under the radar that needs our help.
As legendary British DJ John Peel once said:
“Play music that is a balance between things that you know people will like and things that you think people will like.”
The CJSR Web site and a CJSR.com e-mail
Did you know that you can have a mini Web site on the CJSR on line program schedule? When listeners click on Programs on the CJSR schedule a pop up window appears that displays show details including links, contact information and a show description. When you have a pop up you can announce to listeners tuned into your show to click on your show on the program schedule if they want to contact you or need more details about your program. Ask a staff member or an experienced volunteer how to set up your online show info.
The 3 AM To 6 AM Timeslot
Hooray for you! You are one of the lucky programmers who gets to do the 3-6 AM slot as a regular slot or as training for a daytime show. There are a number of activities you must do to ensure the smooth running of CJSR.
1. Know how to get into the station after hours. See a staff member during daylight hours so they can show you how to get into the building after hours.
2. All guests of programmers have to be cleared with a staff member, and remember, you are generally only allowed one guest on your show and you are totally responsible for this person while they are at CJSR.
Conflict of Interest
You could be suspended from the station if you announce an event that you have a financial interest in. It could be a conflict of interest if you are a club DJ, promoter or musician and announce an event you are involved in.
In order to avoid a conflict of interest situation avoid talking about the gigs you have a stake in. DJs have to be very careful about promoting events on their show that they have a financial or promotional stake in. We don't want DJs going on air advertising their own gigs or gigs they are involved in because we sell ad time at the station for that kind of thing. If a listener called up and wanted you to announce that they had a car for sale would you mention it on air? Hopefully not. If you had a car for sale would you mention it on your show? Hopefully not. If a listener called up and wanted you to advertise a gig they were DJ-ing at would you mention it? Maybe, but you have to ask yourself what the station is going to get in return. Would you mention on your show a gig you were DJ-ing at? To be fair, it has to be the same answer to the caller who wants you to mention their gig on the radio–you have to ask yourself what the station is going to get in return. A banner at the gig, our logo on posters, a feature interview about the event or cash for advertising? What does the station get? It's actually against station policy to casually mention on air gigs/events etc., that DJs have a stake in. There are some exceptions. The best way to avoid getting into a serious conflict of interest situation is to do one event listing and mention your event once like all the other events. If you would like to advertise your event on CJSR please talk to the station's ad coordinator.
Talk with the Advertising Coordinator before you mention gigs you are involved in.
Interviewing Made Easy
When you're preparing for an interview, write down your questions on paper, in the order you want to ask them. Just lay the questions in front of you while you're interviewing. If you want to, you can always abandon them, but it's important to have a line of questioning worked out. That way you can keep the interview on track. And, if the interview goes badly, you have a security blanket. You're not going to be left flustered and flailing.
Don't be afraid to admit you don't know something in an interview. Sometimes an “Oh, what's that?” will elicit a wonderful answer. Let your interviewee tell you the story… you’re not doing an interview to prove how much you know, you're trying to get the information from the horse’s mouth.
When you're interviewing make sure you ask questions. This sounds obvious, but if you say to artist X: “You've got a record coming out in May, don't you?” She could respond with just a simple “yes.” That makes for boring listening. If you say: “What's your new record like?” or “How is your new record different from what you've recorded in the past?” her answer will offer a lot more insight into her work.
Take your time when doing an interview. If a guest takes a few seconds to come up with an answer to a question, that's fine. Count to five before you jump in. They'll probably come up with a great answer. If you jump in to fill the air, we might never hear it.
Avoid saying “yeah” or “of course” during an interview. Ask the question, and then keep quiet while they answer.
Remember that your listeners don't know as much about the guest as you. They haven't done any research, in fact they may not even know who artist X is. So if your guest starts using acronyms, or slang, or mentions something like “post-colonial neo-classicist ergonomic and epistemological perpendicularities” ask them to clarify. Say something like “Maybe let our listeners know exactly what you mean by that…” Your listeners will thank you.
Try to make sure that your guest is a good talker. If they aren't able to speak in a compelling, intelligent way, they might as well not be on the radio. If you find out that someone is a bad talker, or you get the feeling they'll clam up, you're probably right. Sometimes finding someone else is the best option. If you can do it tactfully, do it.
Helpful Reminders For Doing Your Best Show
Please consider these reminders whenever you do your program.
If you have asked for requests but cannot find the request, do not harp on the fact you can't find the request. Maybe mention it once (and please don't say it was stolen out of the library, as it was probably just misfiled!) and leave it at that.
Do not touch the mic arms or mics when the mics are on. It makes too much noise.
Bring your own headphones. Even little walkman style headphones work just fine with a mini to 1/8-inch adapter. Station headphones have a habit of breaking regularly and sometimes go missing.
One of the best ways to evaluate your performance is by listening to your program. Some of the station's best DJs record and listen to every show they produce. You could be surprised to hear what your show sounds like when you're sitting at home without the pressure of producing your show. Record your show on a cassette or talk with a staff member to find out how you can get a copy of your program. You'll hear your program from a listener's perspective, instead of from a producer's perspective.
If you would like your program evaluated by a CJSR listener or fellow DJ contact the programming committee. This is an invaluable way to learn how to improve your show.
If someone walks into the On-Air booth while you are talking and tries to start up a conversation with you, you can either: a) ignore them or b) get the guest mic nice and close, and turn it on. If you are going to converse with someone On-Air, make sure our listeners can hear it!
Top 10 Tips for DJs
1) Play underground, independent music that other radio stations don’t play and music from bands that other radio stations don’t usually play.
2) Keep a strong connection between you and the music. Start your back announce immediately after a set of music ends. Play most ads, promos etc. between your spoken word. Don’t play ads, promos etc, right after a set of music.
3) Keep your sets a manageable length. Music sets should be either 15 minutes long or 3 songs long, whichever comes first.
4) Introduce your show with a short greeting/intro and then play your first piece of music. Don’t start your show with a piece of music. Thank the DJ who just finished the show before you.
5) Talk about the music and keep the talk about your personal life to a minimum unless you tie it into what you’re playing on your show.
6) Fill out your log sheet before you do your show.
7) Make your sets flow. Play short station ids between songs that sound very different from one another. Play songs that have an end and beginning that sound similar.
8) Remind listeners what station they’re tuned to. Mention CJSR at least once during every back announce.
9) Keep listeners in the loop. Remind listeners at least once every 30 minutes what kind of show you’re doing.
10) Break all these rules, but have a good reason to do so.
Some Final Thoughts
When you're on air by yourself, be conversational. Pretend you're talking to someone you're comfortable with. Some people tape photos of their friends or their enemies or their dog to the mic stand. It might sound silly, but it works. What you do depends on what tone you’re trying to achieve.
When you're talking On-Air, keep your sentences short. Your listeners can't go back to check what you said last. It's easier to follow if there's one thought per sentence. Be sure that your ideas follow one another. If you're working from a script, a good way to make sure everything is going to make sense is reading it out loud. You'll probably find a lot of places where you want to breathe. Put periods there. If you do that, you'll sound more natural On-Air. Also, writing the script to make it sound like you're live–rather than reading from a formal script–is a good idea. It will also get you speaking more slowly and clearly.
Try to use verbs as actively as you can. You don't have to say you were walking quickly down the street. You can say you were trundling down the street instead. Same idea, more descriptive. It's an economical way to paint a picture for your listeners.
It's a great relief to those of us who hate to dress up fancy that radio has no visual component. But that leaves us with an added responsibility. We need to create pictures for our listeners. Sound is one way you can create an image in your listener's mind. If you're interviewing, you want to get your guest to paint the picture. When interviewing a band that uses lot of visual gags in their show, you might want to ask “Of all the sight gags you've worked out, what's your favourite?” Hey, presto, they'll describe the scene.
In order to keep listeners tuned into the other great programming we have at CJSR avoid saying something like, “There is only 10 minutes left in my show, so I better get back to the music.” It's better to say, “Stay tuned to FM88 because in 10 minutes Betty is here with her program Blow by Blow, a show featuring two hours of post modern flute music.”
Don't be afraid to remove a recent tongue piercing before you go on the radio and please take the gum out. Trust me, we can hear it!
Don't forget that even though people can't see you, your facial expressions are audible. They come across in your voice. Smile, frown, laugh, stand up, shake your fist. It will give your show a lot of life.
Don't be afraid to have an opinion on the radio, but you need to be able to back it up.
People listen to CJSR to hear good music, inspired programmers and well-produced news programs. Listeners don't listen to the station to find out what kind of day you're having. So please don't tell us how tired, sick, or hung over you are. Listeners want to hear a good program and if you tell them you're not in a position to provide a good program why would they continue listening? If you are tired, sick or hung over keep the talking to a bare minimum and play more music.
Show some enthusiasm. After all, you're playing great music on a cool radio station with thousands of people listening. Is that exciting, or what?
And finally: Break the rules, just have a good reason to do so!
Last version: January 2010
The CJSR Programmer’s Guide was authored and annotated by Christine Chomiak, Michelle Dawson, Carrie Nugent, Meagan Perry, Samantha Power, Daryl Richel, Mick Sleeper, Tammy Sluzar, Grant Stovel, Mike Brennan, and Richard Thornley.