CUTTING GOLF BALLS ON A BAND SAW

Grunge … and I don’t mean the rock style from Seattle!

I’ve spent all of my adult life trying to get folks to listen longer to radio stations.

That involves lots of things.  Improving music scheduling, morning shows, promotions, jingles, liners, commercials, the name of the station, the images of the station and more.

There is one thing I want to pontificate about because lots of radio stations do such a poor job with audio.

Lots of our general managers came from sales.  So, they are often at a big loss when the chief engineer comes into his or her office.  When that engineer says anything from “b minus voltage supply” to “lossless 16 bit stereo” they hear “ooga-booga”

Back in the 70’s when we actually played phonograph records on the air our audio was pretty good. That’s what we call “analog” audio.

The first quality automation systems used mp2 technology for the audio.  It is a digital method of storing and playback of audio. It’s also known as a “lossy” format.  Some of the information is lost when creating the playback audio.

Along the way other parts of the audio chain in radio stations have become digital.  Who wouldn’t want a digital stl (studio to transmitter link) to improve the audio?

Here’s the problem. If the entire pipeline of that audio isn’t the same digital scheme the audio gets changed in some very bad ways.

I heard lots of analogies from engineers to explain this.  I’ve heard meat grinders, train wrecks and buildings after earthquakes used to describe the resulting audio.

My favorite was from an engineer who explained it this way. Imagine two pitchers where one is empty and one is full of water.

Pour that water back and forth all day.  There are losses but that’s analog.  Now imagine those same two pitchers but this time one is full of golf balls. When you use the same digital compression scheme all the way thru its like pouring golf balls back and forth. It’s a perfect transfer.

However, many radio stations have a mix of mp2, uncompressed wav files, and some mp3s!  Now imagine taking those golf balls and cutting them on a band saw.  Then dump all of those pieces on the floor.  Now try to glue those pieces back together to be whole golf balls again.  There is loss because of the sawing of the band saw.  There are odd cuts.  Golf balls are reassembled haphazardly and very few are even close to perfect.

The resulting audio is gritty, grungy, edgy, and quite frankly unpleasant.

Yes, lots of listening takes place on small speakers on low quality radios but that’s not an excuse to make that audio even worse!

When our value is based on how many quarter hours of listening we get anything that degrades that is a serious mistake.  The audio on your station is a twenty four hour a day issue!

God forbid you need a new heart value.  You want a faulty one?  It’s cheaper!

You go for the correct and more expensive fix because your heart is a 24/7 thing that your life depends on.  Treat your radio stations audio the same way!

I hear lots of radio stations that have gone digital on some portion of their audio chain.  Then I hear a song that is truly grungy. Often I can tell it’s an mp3.

Years ago there was a reason to have those mp2s.  Hard drives were expensive back when we put those mp2s on the air.

Now those hard drives are very inexpensive.

Step one is to make sure every song is an uncompressed wav file.  Make sure every step in that audio chain is the same bit rate. Your audio will be wonderfully clean and your time spent listening will instantly go up.

Ask your PD and Chief Engineer to check every song!

Then make sure you have great music scheduling that tricks folks into listening even longer!

Optimize time spent listening.  Your ratings will be higher.  The same advertising schedules will reach more folks with even more impressions.  Your advertisers will get better results and higher ROI.  Advertisers will re-buy. You can drive your rates!

Uh…  More Demand = Higher Rates!

This isn’t a problem limited to small markets.  I’ve heard the worst audio in top 15 markets.  In fact there’s even one very poorly named country station in a Top 15 market I specifically make fun of and give my “worst audio in a major market award.”

Want help with better audio?  Better Music Scheduling?

Do you need better time spent listening or average time spent exposed?

Call someone who can fix it!

Keith Hill 252-453-8888       

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