Everybody remembers that iconic film “9 to 5” starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Dabney Coleman. So many working people could relate to it with the common workday. Well, if you were not a broadcaster, that is.
I am glad to say that almost all of my on air time was outside normal work hours. Right now, you must be thinking that I am nuts. Who wants to work outside the normal work day? Your local radio DJ for one wants to work outside the 9 to 5 hours. The reason why we did is that most of our audiences listened when they were not at work. Even with most radio stations streaming on the internet, the majority of listeners enjoy radio outside of work hours.
“Prime Time” for radio is the hours next to 9 to 5. The most coveted slot is the morning drive time from 6 till 9 AM. The second is afternoon drive, from 4 – 7 PM. This is when the audience is commuting and listening on their car radios. If you listen closely to your favorite radio station, you will likely pick up that these are the times when the DJ is live. The rest of the time most stations are usually automated. The good news is that the audiences are huge compared to the other day parts, the bad news is that individual listeners are there for usually for only a half hour or so. With today’s music block programming, that meant that the announcer is heard only two or three times during each listening session.
The third most popular shift for DJs was the evening shift. Unless you worked for a clear channel powerhouse, then it was the most desired shift. That is when the Super Jocks; “Cousin Brucie” Morrow at WABC in New York, Dick Biondi at WLS in Chicago and Wolfman Jack in several places across the country plied their trade. For the jocks working at smaller stations, the evening shift was also a prime shift. Your total audience was smaller than the drive time shifts, but they stayed with you for hours instead of minutes. This allowed you to build a relationship with them. They sent in their requests via phone or through the back door of the studio if you were lucky enough to be working a “permanent” remote at a local hot spot.
The all night shift was pretty cool too. Many stations went off the air at midnight or 1 am so you had less completion for the audience, and your audience was more diverse than the other shifts. If you were fortunate enough to be working at the only 24 / 7 station in the market, that was the sweet spot. You would get more requests for country crossovers and that sweet Rhythm and Blues than the other guys. The top 40 playlists contained more musical genre’s than they do today. I don’t know about you, but I loved that!
Something else about that all night shift; you got to be that disembodied friend to the teenage girl who just had her heart broken or that boy who didn’t make the football team. They would call you with a request for a certain song, and then an hour later, they would be back with another. If I realized that was happening, I would often ask if everything was OK. Out would come the sad story and then it was time to respond with telling them that what happened was terrible, but that in the long run it would be all right, and, by the way here is a song to prove my point. Shortly they would gently hang up the phone, turn off the flashlight they had on under the covers and drift off to sleep to the tinny sound of feel good music coming from that cheap transistor radio that they got for a present on their last birthday. I have to tell you that if you were a DJ and didn’t treat your audience this way, you missed a great opportunity! I have audience friends who still listen today because I showed them a little respect and that I cared.
I also liked midday weekend shifts. They had big active audiences and I didn’t have to get up at 0 dark 30 to go to work. You could go along on drives out to the lake, to the beach or even over to Grandma’s house. Everybody was in a good mood, out with their family or friends, the sun was shining and the good old rock and roll was booming from the speakers. I hear lots of complaints about the “boom cars” of today, but everybody forgets that booming bass line of the “Funk Brothers” or “The Wrecking Crew” could wreak havoc on the ear drums of our parents and grandparents. What goes around comes around!
The most hated shift back in the day was the midday shift. There were lots of reasons; the office staff was always interrupting the flow of the show with last minute spot additions, or needing to clean the studio right then and there. All you had for an audience was the stay at home moms, little kids and the occasional sick high schooler. That shift had a different vibe; the music was muted and tended to swing more to what we would call soft rock today. No James Brown, Rolling Stones or Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. Lord Ham Mercy! You might wake up the baby! The worst part was that you were cut off completely from your audience. The office staff answered the phone. There was no way for someone to bring you a request. Aside from the instant requests, you had to guess that you were playing the songs they wanted to hear.
“But wait!” you say! “Isn’t your Oldies FM Show today a midday shift?” Yes, it is but with a big twist. Most of my audience works in a place that allows radios or listening to the station’s internet stream, some in different time zones. Some of my audience is retired and still rocking at home or in their cars as they run around town when traffic is lighter. And of course the coolest thing ever, the request line rings directly into the studio. I am getting written requests again in the form of messages or Timeline posts on Facebook! So I have that audience connection that I enjoyed out at Doug Broome’s or during the “All Night Satellite”. The best part of all is that I don’t have to get up early or stay up late at night. So, the next time I say call the request line or Facebook me your favorite song, BRING IT! Oh MY!