Posted on : 25-06-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Living in Philadelphia, Personal
Tags: Michael Jackson, Radio DJ, WBEN
Today was a sad day in music as Michael Jackson passed away at the age of 50. I, like many, have said my share of Michael Jackson jokes, but I must admit he really changed music in so many ways. Starting as a young boy through most of the 80′s his music redefined expectations. The music video for Thriller redefined how artists wrote songs, and the visuals chosen to represent the music. There will be so many tributes to Michael’s work in the days and weeks ahead, and it is not my area of expertise, so I will let others do that.
I have written a number of times how Customer Service needs to shift to be more personal and develop relationships, the same is true on the radio. In recent years the way we hear music on the radio has changed dramatically. You may not realize it, but many stations use computers to program and play music, and, on many stations, when there is a DJ, it is actually prerecorded voice tracks. Now that is personal! Today as I was driving back from Newark, NJ I was listening to a NJ station. Like many stations they were playing all Michael Jackson songs. It was reminiscent of when John Lennon passed away back in 1980. I was only 8 but I remember they kept playing The Beatles. The DJ popped on to explain what happened and provided personal insights in the career of a great musician. I was lucky, I was listening to a station with a live DJ and it was an excellent experience to hear live updates regarding Michael and hear there insight. I wish I remembered the station, but it was closer to NY so not a station I typically listen to.
A good friend of mine, Jason Lee, recently lost his job as the late morning/early afternoon host for Philadelphia’s Ben 95.7 FM (WBEN). They decided to go with only DJ’s for morning and afternoon drive. Well this started me thinking, how would stations handle this without a live DJ? So I started to scan the stations in North Jersey, New York and Philadelphia areas. What I found were a number of stations that did not have any different programming. I guess they were not able to change the computer settings??? Other stations did change the programming, but did not have anything (at least while I was listening) to explain why they were playing all Michael, all the time. That would cause me to switch stations just to find out what was going on. WBEN at least had their afternoon drive time host record a spot explaining why the were playing Michael. It was good to see that they recognized the moment and changed programming but I still missed personal interaction. Out of all the stations I listened to, I was so happy to hear the ones with live DJ’s making a personal connection. One station not only had a live DJ, but they also encouraged listeners to call in and share their own remembrance of Michael. I enjoyed the tributes. That was a great touch, and shows the flexibility of a live DJ.
In this tragic loss, I believe we may have seen an unlikely rebirth of the radio DJ. I think it is time that radio stations start to connect with their listeners, and this sad event showed the reason why it is so important. What did you hear on the radio today?