One of the things I miss about radio is the immediate feedback, people calling in to tell you they appreciate the song you just played, to make a request or sometimes just to chat.
I don’t get that in my current radio gig, though there is the occasional email contact with listeners, if the customer service department passes those on. An email just doesn’t seem the same as hearing the listener’s voice.
You can develop friendships of a sort with your regular listeners, if you have the time. Overnight radio works best for that I think. The audience is smaller and there are less demands on the announcer’s time.
I remember a time when I was doing an all-night show, 2-7 a.m. once a week. The overnight crew at one of the local McDonald’s franchises used to call me often with music requests. At that hour of morning most announcers are open to suggestions and I was no different. Especially since the requests were for songs and artists I liked. As well there was a bit of sentient involved: my first job was at McDonald’s and I know how hard those people work. Always nice to show appreciation.
After a few months of those regular requests I joked that they really should be sending me a Big Mac in exchange for the music. I didn’t think I would be taken seriously, but later that week I received several Big Macs in the mail. Coupons for free ones anyway; there is probably a law about mailing hamburgers. It seems there are laws about most things.
The biggest compliment I ever received about the music I was playing came from a caller on a Sunday morning in the early 1980s. I was hosting a three-hour contemporary Christian music program on CKCU-FM. The show would start mellow and end metallic as I tried to cover the entire spectrum of Christian music.
Back then radio stations were required to have a certain amount of spoken word programming as a condition of their licence. Sunday morning was the place they chose to hide that programming (along with the paid preaching programs that were big revenue generators). If you wanted contemporary sounding music I was the only one playing it.
On this particular Sunday morning a caller asked if I was taking requests. “Sure, if it fits.” “Can I hear some Led Zeppelin?” “I don’t think that will fit right now.” “How about some Rolling Stones then?” “No, that really doesn’t fit either.”
My answer confused him. He could hear crunchy rock and roll coming from his radio. How could I say that Zep and the Stones weren’t appropriate?
I explained that the program’s format was Christian, that all the artists being played had made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. No-one from Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones had done that (and sadly, as far as I know, still hasn’t).
The caller understood immediately.
“Holy Bleep! You mean this bleepity bleeping bleep is bleeping Jesus music? That is bleepity awesome!”
Actually he didn’t use the word bleepity, but rather some common Anglo-Saxon words and their variations words associated with copulation and excrement. I could use them here, though they are not polite – but neither are they blasphemous. However I have too much radio broadcaster ingrained in me. Can’t say them on radio, won’t use them here.
It was though I think the nicest tribute of my radio career. Or, maybe not the nicest but the one I remember best.