In secular mainstream AC in the 90’s, we began seeing stations boiling down the human race to the ONE person most likely to listen to that format, so it was decided that SHE was a young mother, with 2-3 kids, and that she drove a MINI VAN, taking this child to ballet and this child to soccer, so on a never ending taxi ride where, once at the destination, there would be no fare paid, and mom would just have to suck it up.
When I was blessed enough to join KFSH, the Fish in Los Angeles in PM Drive in 2013, I was shocked to begin hearing of that same template, but the Mini Van was traded in for an SUV, which was a relief, because that Mini Van would be old enough now to be on the side of the road waiting for AAA.
So, how did we get here? We got to the ‘mother of three’ template through a series of questions attempting to find common denominators among the people who would most likely listen to our stations, but even secular AC missed something so important in their defining of that template, that instead of defining a human being, we defined the shell of a human being.
And even in the mainstream, people aren’t listening to radio to be PACIFIED during their ride from Soccer to Dance Class, but the truth is, that in ALL listening experiences, PEOPLE are seeking to find something worthwhile, to make NOT just their ride better, but their entire life.
PASSIVE PROGRAMMING WILL NEVER CREATE LIFE CHANGING RADIO
The problem that AC radio faces is that for those seeking an answer to life, they’ll have to be satisfied to find it in the three year old lyrics of the Alessia Cara song; yep, the same one their kids were loving years earlier, the same one they were hoping had all the answers for them as they attempted to embrace their adolescence.
So, when CCM adopted this model, on the surface it would work, and it did. A model of this type could easily focus a scattered radio station into getting better. When you’re used to the fruit of what a bad radio station gets you, in terms of donor dollars, or income through commercial inventory, then when the station is fixed with a template and you’re now an average radio station, you think you just hit the motherlode, because you’ve never seen fruit like you’re seeing right now.
This is what causes the “fear in programming” that permeates our format and Industry, the fear that introducing something new, or change in general will pull the rug out from under us and take away all this new fruit we’ve recently become accustomed to because we’re pretty good, or average.
So, the template gets us to the middle line, but is there more?
Of course, there is.
THERE’S GOT TO BE MORE TO LIFE
How many times have we seen one of these radio stations who has a lot of listening in a market, yet their programming is average (not knowing they’re average), and then they get competition, and all of a sudden, they lose 50% of the audience they used to have? It happens many times when EMF shows up in a market for the first time, and because their programming is quite sound, they often continue growth, while that once average station, struggles to reclaim the middle line they once thought was the pinnacle.
Here’s where it all went wrong. Becky cannot be defined by her vehicle, or the activities that her children have been enrolled in, because those attributes do not define WHO Becky is, but only scratches the surface of WHAT she is, a busy mom.
And since most radio stations, Christian or secular, don’t do a great job with the part that will take MEDIUM stations to GREAT radio stations, which is the part that deals with WHO the listener is, most of us have not experienced the NEXT LEVEL, at all.
The Christian formats continue to try to attract the listeners of the world, when we have missed that one person most likely to listen to us, who has yet to do so. In churches every Sunday, everywhere around our nation, the pews get packed, and that person hears another word of encouragement, or a teaching of Jesus, and in our minds, they get in their cars and tune us in and that’s their life.
MORE LIKELY TO EAT CHURCH’s CHICKEN THAN LISTEN TO YOU
But they don’t tune us in, as a whole. In fact, if they tune into radio at all on their way home, it is more often than our station, a pop, rock or mainstream AC, and that is proof of how broken our model of Becky is.
The person most likely to listen to our radio station for the first time is not someone in the world, but someone already in the church. If we could convince 10% of the people who go to church in our towns to be listening to our radio stations, we would be sitting on the most listened to radio stations anywhere.
But they get in their cars or homes and don’t choose us, and this is why.
We’ve been treating our listeners like a woman named Becky, but not who she is, but what she is, and in life, when we choose friends, our closest ones are not the ones who pacify us, but the ones who hear us, respond to us, and make us better. And that is what the person scanning the dial, accidently landing on our frequency is hoping for too; something deeper.
Becky is not a frantic mom on a road trip, but a woman, who woke up this morning unsatisfied, because she doesn’t feel whole. She is a mom, and she is deeply in love with her children. Often she’s not as deeply in love with her husband, and that is most likely because, he too, tends to focus on WHAT she is, and not WHO she is, and a radio station that could help her LOVE him more, would win big, because she wants to love him more.
BECKY IS ONE MINUTE AWAY FROM LOSING IT ALL
Becky has secrets, and not the gossip kind, but the kinds that reveal WHO she is, through the choices she has made in her life, whether that choice was to not follow a pregnancy through to completion, because she wasn’t married and she was scared, and when she made that choice, how quickly her own being screamed at her that she had just done something more devastating than the pamphlet explained.
And that’s where we come in. When we play a song from Jonny Diaz, that tells the frantic mom to “just breathe,” and then we follow it up with consistent messages of FORGIVENESS, HOPE, RESTORATION, and how God can make a way when there seems to be no way, because HE already made that way for a wretch like me, who has done some of the most wicked things known to man, then, that’s when Becky will perch forward and now, for the first time, hear your radio station as an active listener and not a passive one.
You’ll invite her to join the station for a marriage encounter weekend, and she’ll come, because she’s engaged in your content and music, and her husband, who doesn’t listen to your station will hear for the first time how much of a heel he has been, even though he thought he was perfect, and Becky will call you with their story of redemption, and their story will penetrate Julie’s life who happens to be listening, and she will be next and the fruit will be obvious, because God says, “You Will Know MY People By Their Fruit,” and so it is with radio stations too.
Since 1991, Rob Wagman has been known first by his faith, and then by his skills in the secular side of this Industry, and now is known by his versatility, having succeeded in both radio and records in multiple formats from Christian Contemporary, Rock, Alternative, Top 40, Rhythm, Urban and Hot AC, in various roles from On Air to Programming to Marketing and Promotions.
Wagman has worked in all of the Top 3 markets, LA, NYC and Chicago, and returned to LA in 2012 as his entry way into CCM, in PM Drive at KFSH, 95.9 The Fish before becoming the Network PD for WAY-FM.
In 2013, Wagman launched Straight Path Media + Entertainment, a consulting firm which hyper focuses on talent and each station’s greatest need for growth, supplying a la cart programming services for branding, from music strategies, promotional and marketing think tank brain storming, promo and imaging creative, talent coaching and airchecking. Wagman presently coaches 27 air talents, consults 13 stations plus 4 clusters.
Contact Rob Wagman at StraightPathMandE@gmail.com