The Christian Radio Homepage

column archive








Sterling Tarrant
KSBJ Houston / Production Director

Poor Rudolph




I see the debate about Christmas music rages on.  By now, you’ve either started it full time, or you’re sprinkling it in, but the question that stirs up the most debate is this:


Rudolph or no Rudolph?


I’m going to come right out and say that I’m pro-Rudolph, however it’s not because of the classic position: That playing a Christmas song like that will bring in new listeners.


My position is this:  I believe that you can draw people closer to God through “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”


Rudolph is a story of acceptance through our differences, of a curse becoming a blessing,  of how everyone has a talent they can contribute.  It is a story of how the most lowly can rise to the most high.


Do you not see spiritual principles through all of that?  Mephibosheth, Ruth, Zacchaeus, Joseph, even Jesus - they all have aspects to their stories that can relate to Rudolph.  I bet you know of people who exemplify Rudolph, too.


What happens is we’re too busy to really think about the words of the songs we play when we prepare a show.  We’ll take a look at the news, what station promotions we have, what live cards need to be read, what personal stories have happened in our lives, and we’ll put all of those wonderful things in...but we never take a look at the songs.  They are the reason people come to your station, and we never take a look at them!


It results in radio that’s a little disconnected.  Play a song.  Talk the talk.  Don’t flow between the two with anything interesting to say.  In listening to Christian radio across the country it seems like jocks don’t get into the songs they play beyond surface information about the artist.  I think radio is more compelling when we identify and “feel” our songs along with the listeners.


Getting into the songs makes us be talent that’s not just a shiny nose flashing like a tower light, it helps us become talent that  “glows.”  Air talent that listeners are drawn to.


If your first thought is “I can’t start sermonizing to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” I agree with you.  But you can relate your normal life to Rudolph and draw people closer to God, in 30 seconds or less.  I know because all my life I’ve done that.  Radio spots have allowed me to create thousands of instances where in 30 seconds I had to get into people’s hearts and get a reaction.


Here’s the scoop:  I’m now going to do that for our songs.  I’ve written a bunch of creative thought starters/show prep bits for Christmas songs.  Bits that air talent can use to remember instances in their lives that relate to the songs and to the listeners.  I’ll send these to you free.  Just send me an e-mail to  Throughout the Christmas season I’ll be adding more songs and sending you updates.


I do have an ulterior motive:  Over the past year I’ve been developing and beta testing a song based show prep service.  It’s going live after the first of the year as a paid subscription.  Folks all over the country have been trying it out and the reviews have come back very favorable.  Folks like Chuck Finney, and Doug Hannah, along with Jon Hull, Susan O’Donnell, and the rest of my KSBJ family, have all told me that this is a great new way to be real and connect on the air spiritually.  John Frost has said that this is a tool to help the creative process of linking spiritual concepts to the day to day realities of listeners’ lives.


Why do this?  It’s because every time I turn around I hear us talking about getting our talent to say more than just “That was Chris Tomlin, here’s Francesca Battestelli....” but we never say how we’re going to do that.  This is a way how.  It gives experienced jocks fresh ideas, and it helps show new talent ways to develop interesting bits. 


So, are you serious about getting your jocks to say more than just the basic frontsell and backsell?  Are you serious about getting them to connect to your audience in creative ways? Are you serious about wanting a fresh approach to radio that will endear your talent to your listeners? 


Do you hear comment after comment about how your songs change people? Do you think that if a talent could make a natural off-the-cuff remark about the benefits of a song’s message, that it would pique the listener’s curiosity about the song?  Ultimately to keep them listening through the tune - uncovering for themselves the great insight the talent said?  Don’t you love jocks that do that?  So do listeners. 


When it’s all said and done, have you just been playing reindeer games when it comes to drawing listeners into a deeper relationship with your music and your station?  Well, here’s a chance to soar and shine the light.  Send me an e-mail.


Sterling Tarrant is the Production Director and part of the mentoring and on-air staffs at KSBJ, Houston. He specializes in effective and memorable messaging for his station and his freelance clients.  He has produced thousands of radio productions in his 34-year radio career.  Reach him at and hear examples of his work at