Radio = Pizza For Everyone!

That may be the most cryptic/click bait blog title of all time.  I promise however that it will make sense if you keep reading.  Can you feel the suspense?!!  Me too.  So let’s dive in. 

Mark Ramsey once said at a CMB Gold Member event that our format does more good for people than any other format, and frankly it’s not even close.  I couldn’t agree more.  The music we play doesn’t merely entertain (although it SHOULD be entertaining).  Our music packages lyrics and melodies that connect people to the only real hope and peace.  It provides them with the answer to all of the ills in America and around the world.  Of course, that answer is Jesus.

I’m guessing you agree with Mark, which is why you do what you do.  The problem is, if we are being honest, our format has always been about 10 years behind the mainstream.  Some people are OK with that.  Some might even say it’s that way by design, because if they hated Jesus they will hate us too.  Some may refer to the Bible’s categorization of believers as Aliens & Strangers, others may note that the Bible says we are to be in the world but not of it.  And it’s possible that people may see some form of one of these things to mean that it doesn’t matter what happens in secular society.  We’re Christian radio.  We do what we do; they do what they do.  To that, I would say: Radio is Pizza for everyone! 

I would love to see the puzzled look on your face, because that obviously doesn’t make any sense yet.  Stay with me.  I’m a man of my word.  

Before we get into pizza though let’s talk about song rotations, specifically Currents.  One of the big deviations from the mainstream that I’ve seen in Christian Radio is the idea that you can’t play more than one current at a time by the same artist.  I’ve talked to a number of people who have said, “We’ll add the new (insert artist) song once we send their current song to recurrent or rest.”  This approach is not said or done in mainstream radio.  As I look real time at the giant iHeart pop station, WNCI in Columbus, OH, they have not one –not two –but THREE songs by or featuring Lil Naz in their top 11 spun songs (ranging from 51 to 104 spins per week).  There’s also two songs by or featuring Justin Bieber in their top 9 spun songs.  Now before you say, “well that’s pop radio for you” let’s take a look at Country.  At present, I’m seeing multiple songs by or featuring Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean in the top 30.  It’s not pop, but it’s also not Christian AC which has seen this as an absolutely never kind of thing. 

I think this conversation is emerging in our format at this critical time because we’re seeing an increase in “artist features”.  We’re also seeing our artists create more music, and at a much faster pace than in years past.  We can talk about how DSP’s are driving this and how radio is different, but to our mission, it matters greatly how relevant we are.  And guess what, we need to be more relevant.

Why does it matter how relevant our format is?  We bring something to our listeners that no one else does.  Now before you think I’m advocating for making our artists more famous, let me be clear:  I WANT TO MAKE GOD MORE FAMOUS.  That may sound odd.  I’ll rephrase: want more people to hear about, know about, and come to truly KNOW God?  The more relevant our format is, the more people listen. More people listening = more people impacted.  Relevance matters.

 So what do song rotations have to do with making God more famous?  And what in the WORLD does this have to do with Pizza??  Several years ago I read an article Brant Hansen wrote where he said something to the effect of: 

Our music isn’t high art, it’s just what people want. Or better yet it’s what they need.  

Brant if you’re reading this…first of all YAY…and secondly sorry if I butchered that.  This stuck with me though because I’m a music lover (that’s putting it lightly).  I process LIFE through song lyrics and melodies.  For most of our format’s tenure I agree that our music has been…simpler, let’s say.  That’s not AT ALL a knock on our artists.  It’s just a smaller pool, and artists have been silently judged based on how many JPM’s (Jesus per minute) are in a song. There has always been a box, and most songs have sounded like they fit inside that box.  As my friend Bone Hampton would say, “It is what it is”.  

What I’m seeing now though is a real renaissance.  I think we’re seeing the best art we’ve ever seen, and the message isn’t being compromised.  In 2021 we saw a 19 year old female (Anne Wilson), an unsigned artist (Andrew Ripp), and a guy with a Hispanic rap (Evan Craft) all go #1.  How cool is that??  As we watch all this happen, however, we must be inspired to re-think how we play music.  If an artist is featured on another artist’s song while they themselves have a current single, is that a problem?  Or better yet, if an artist drops a new single while their own current single is still testing well (GASP!) is that a problem? 

These are questions you have to answer.  Despite what a consultant might have told you, or what you heard passed down from your first radio boss, YOU are in the position you’re in for a reason.  YOU have been called by God for times such as these.  Maybe it’s time to shake things up.  I did just that 4 years ago, and it was kind of terrifying because, who am I?  What if my station president thinks I’m crazy and loses confidence in me?  Thankfully that didn’t happen.  He trusted me.  We shook things up…and it WORKED. 

While I’d love to share the specifics on all that (and will at another time), all I’m asking you to do now is keep it really simple: When you were growing up and you bought the cassette or CD of your favorite artist, did you pop it in only to listen to current radio single?  Did you then change CDs to another artist only to listen to their current radio single?  None of us hears two songs on the radio by our favorite artist and thinks “man that one song really takes away from the other.”  You wouldn’t hear the first one and think, “Wow this song kind of makes me like the other song that I heard an hour ago a little less.”  Of course you wouldn’t, because nobody listens to music that way. 

Our job is to play the BEST music; the right song at the right time.  If an artist drops a single while their current single is still testing well, the new song isn’t going to take away from the current song.  So why are you waiting to give your audience another song from their favorite artist?  At The River, our top testing song at present is For King & Country Relate.  It’s a 4.4 average rating.  We’re spinning it close to 70 times per week and it still has a 45% Play it MORE.  And guess what?  We just added For God is With Us, and we’re going to be out of the box on a song they are featured on by Rebecca St. James, Kingdom Come.  Why?  Because people LOVE For King & Country.  For God is With Us already has around 3.5 million streams on Spotify.  Our listeners want to hear it.  They also still want to hear Relate.  So why wouldn’t we play them both?  What benefit is there to wait on adding a smash song? 

But Todd, what about artist separation? I’d have to change the rules in my music software or the songs won’t lay down well.  Yeah, then change the rules.  Give your listeners the best songs.  If they hear Tauren Wells When We Pray, and then 30 minutes later hear him featured on David Crowder’s All My Hope they aren’t turning the station.  Why?  Because they love Tauren Wells, and nobody listens to music that way.  You don’t do that when you listen to music, and they won’t either.

This isn’t zero sum radio.  We shouldn’t look at it like, “if I give you a slice of my pizza that takes a slice away from me”.  You know why?  Because you can have more than one pizza.  In fact every song we play is its own separate pizza.  One doesn’t take away from another.  That’s what I love about radio.  It’s pizza for everyone!

And now I’m hungry.

 

Todd Amlin
Chief Creative Officer | Music Director
104.9 The River, WCVO

Related posts

As if serving one community isn’t a privilege, BOOST RADIO served six in 2021. In January, BOOST reintroduced themselves to St. Louis when they moved from a translator to a full-power signal. BOOST hit the cold streets with weekly “Sweet Stops;” the first 95 listeners to show up got free treats. BOOST team members served as the official DJs for two different Polar Plunges with the Special Olympics in February; nearly $200,000 was raised from hundreds of brave swimmers. March was when BOOST grew into Chicago! To celebrate, the station delivered deep dish pizza to listeners in St Louis and Chicago. BOOST RADIO renamed April 1 to April Fuel’s Day and had DJs pop up at random gas stations in both markets to buy gas for strangers. Spring & Summer brought BOOST to Minneapolis, Portland, OR, Pittsburgh, and Fayetteville, NC. The station brought their new friends Pop Up Parties for their backyard BBQ’s and open houses. BOOST supplied food, party favors, and custom mixes for dozens of winners nationwide. During the late summer and early fall, the station partnered with Out of the Darkness for suicide prevention walks. Across all BOOST markets, nearly 10,000 walked together. During the holidays, the station teamed up with rapper Thi’sl & the Salvation Army for the Full Ride Toy Drive. BOOST listeners filled a storage locker & U Haul full of gifts for children in need. 2021 was a year BOOST hit the streets and empowered its audience to bless others in their communities.

×

At Hope Media Group, the passion for Christ and the city of Houston shine in its efforts to mobilize the community to do good works so that more people can experience God’s love. After Hurricane Ida, generous KSBJ and NGEN listeners raised over $276,000 with God’s Pit Crew, sending 684 KSBJ Team Help Crews to Louisiana and sponsoring the distribution of 2,711 Blessing Buckets. KSBJ listeners also provided 20,000 bottles of water for fellow Houstonians after the winter freeze, and over 2,450 KSBJ and NGEN listeners participated in our annual Blood Drive with Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center saving more than 7,000 lives. A ministry committed to prayer, KSBJ formed the Greater Houston Prayer Council (GHPC), unifying 48 prayer groups across the city with an interdenominational, multi-ethnic, and multi-generational focus. KSBJ was also a beacon of joy to the community serving 3,000 cups of Blue Bell ice cream last summer and handing out 4,175 Easter Crosses for listeners to display as a reminder that “He is Risen.” During the holiday season, 91.7 Vida Unida blessed 100 families with Thanksgiving meals, and KSBJ listeners fulfilled the Christmas wishes of 9,315 children under the care of Houston CPS in partnership with Be A Resource. Beyond loving their neighbor, caring KSBJ and NGEN listeners sponsored 1,233 Kenyan children through Compassion International. In a year of unforeseen challenges along with the enduring effects of COVID-19, Hope Media Group listeners served as the hands and feet of Jesus like never before.

×

KCBI shares Jesus’ love and transforming power in Dallas-Fort Worth, inviting listeners to join the station in serving the community. KCBI Outreaches blessed nearly 67,000 individuals in 2021. In February, KCBI listeners provided 25,000 bottles of water to people in DFW whose water supply had been contaminated after an unprecedented winter storm disrupted power for several days. Later that month, nearly 1,300 women gathered for KCBI’s HeartStrong Faith Conference in Dallas to worship, pray and grow. Speakers included bestselling author Margaret Feinberg, podcaster Tara-Leigh Cobble, and theologian Nika Spaulding. Through KCBI’s Summer of Service, listeners donated over 13,000 meals, along with 9,000 Bibles, to community members still struggling with the COVID pandemic. Another 350 KCBI volunteers served at local ministries on our Summer of Service Day. They assembled 1,000 Love Boxes for women facing unplanned pregnancies; prepped backpacks, sorted clothing and distributed food to those in need; and prepped nearly 2,000 shoes for kids whose parents otherwise couldn’t afford them. Thanks to listeners’ generosity, KCBI distributed more than 32,000 Bibles to Texas prisons, human trafficking ministries and humanitarian ministries in 2021. Listeners purchased sonograms for pregnancy centers, which helped save more than 5,500 babies from abortion. They provided 38,000 bottles of water, along with 500 Bibles, to victims of the devastating tornadoes that swept through Kentucky in December. And throughout 2021, listeners offered more than 21,300 prayers for requests through KCBI’s Online Prayer Center. KCBI is grateful to God for the opportunity to impact DFW and beyond with Jesus’ love and transforming power.

×

Life 102.5 has a heart for Madison! For the 4th year in a row, during Valentine’s season, Life 102.5 invited listeners to share the love of Jesus with children and families receiving care at the Children’s Hospital. Listeners generously provided 2,234 Lego kits for the children. Afternoon host Summer Shepherd interviewed Dr. Melissa Mork on her award-winning podcast, “No Seriously, How Do I Do This?” Their conversation inspired the station’s “Embrace Play” giveaway, supporting families’ mental health during the pandemic. Life 102.5 provided a week’s worth of experiences for listeners, including art classes, game nights, and more. Morning Show host Dave Conour joined Team World Vision and rang two full marathons to bring attention to World Vision’s efforts of providing clean water to children and families around the world, Dave’s many miles provided 260 families with clean water for life! Life 102.5’s 21st annual Shoebox Gifts for Kids drive collected more than 1500 Christmas boxes of school supplies, hygiene items, toys, and winter clothing for children in Dane County. It was the station’s largest year yet. Amanda Brooks, Morning Show co-host and host of the weekly program “Faith & Life Today” focused on giving voice to women’s health, family and children’s issues in Madison including, education, marriage and divorce, immigration, and social justice. Life 102.5 had a wonderful year of reaching families, through children, with the love of Jesus. That’s why in 2022, Life 102.5’s outreach goal is focused on helping the most vulnerable children and their families in Madison and Southern Wisconsin.

×

Spirit 92.9 continued its commitment of blessing the central Minnesota community through intentional service projects. As the pandemic affected another year, station listeners rose to the challenge of uplifting and encouraging those feeling loss, loneliness, or burnout. Thanks to the help of generous listeners and business partners, Spirit 92.9 raised more than $8,000 in an online tip jar that blessed the staff at 19 local restaurants returning to work full time with huge tips during the Big Tip promotion. The restaurant workers were grateful for the visibility and appreciation. Numerous area teachers nominated by their students and families received special honor at the end of the school year with flowers and $500 VISA gift cards as part of “Thank A Teacher” organized by Spirit 92.9. In the fall, Spirit 92.9 partnered with two local ministries and provided free holiday meals to the community. During the ‘More Than A Meal’ event, the station worked with community members who donated enough to provide 6,000 meals and give help to people in need. Station team members also prepared and served meals together at the local homeless mission. At Christmastime, 11 community members wrote Spirit 92.9 and shared the story of someone they believed deserved some extra joy due to personal hardships. The individuals received $1000 to bless that person during Spirit 92.9’s Share The Joy promotion. Phone calls were made to hundreds of listeners to offer prayer and encouragement. Prayer support and a personal response is offered all year long.

×

2022 Membership Exclusives

January – 2022 Calendar
February – Social Series for Holy Week
March – Virtual Radio Station Field Trip
April – Book
May – Mediabase Webinar
June – Surprise at Momentum
July – Exclusive Momentum Content
August – Virtual Peer Networking Gathering
September – Fall Fun Box
October – Techsurvey Webinar
November – Noisemaker Promotions Vol 2 Book
December – Christmas Surprise 

*subject to change

×

Jim Campbell, Founder & Network President of Radio Training Network, Inc. began his radio career in commercial radio in Tennessee in 1964.  In 1966 he moved his family to Lakeland, Florida to attend college, and upon graduation he joined the staff at First Assembly of God Church where he and the church launched in the mid 1970s the first Contemporary Christian Radio Station in the nation, WCIE-FM. The station grew in both market impression and influence not just in Lakeland, but around the country inspiring others to follow Jim’s lead. In 1989 Jim left the church and founded Radio Training Network, Inc. (RTN) and over the next 30+ years, he oversaw the acquisition and development of 40+ stations plus translators. With 130 team members, RTN stations serve the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and Missouri. These stations are well recognized in their respective markets thanks to the servant leadership of the staff, aggressive marketing, and a commitment to a strong emphasis on Jesus first. At present RTN has some two million listeners each week on air and approximately the same number online.

×

Andrea Kleid is a 24-year veteran of radio and records. She began her career working in Christian radio at WNLT in Cincinnati, and then moved onto WAY-FM in West Palm Beach working in programming and promotions. Her next stop took her to JOY-FM in Tampa where she served as the Promotions Director. In 2004, Andrea moved to Nashville to begin her music industry career in radio promotion under Grant Hubbard at Capitol CMG. In 2008, Andrea became the Vice President of Promotion at Word Label Group where she led one of the most successful and influential radio promotion teams in the Christian music industry. Through her signature brand of honesty, passion for Christian music, and focus on relationships, Andrea developed a reputation for successfully launching new artists’ careers including for KING and COUNTRY, NEEDTOBREATHE and Francesca Battistelli. This year, Andrea celebrates her fifth year as the President of her own company, Boxer Poet. An advocate for both radio and artists, Andrea continues to zealously host conversations around further representation for women and people of color on Christian radio.

×

Jason Sharp has a rich history with CCM radio and leadership. His early years at WONU/Chicagoland and The Bridge/Delaware gave flight to his passion for great programming and innovative promotions. As Program Director of WCQR/Johnson City and eventually the network PD for Positive Alternative Radio, Jason’s influence grew across the industry. In 2007, Jason joined the team at Northwestern Media as Program Director and then Station Manager of KTIS, Minneapolis/St Paul. In 2015, Jason furthered his formal education and earned his master’s degree in organizational leadership. Applying his leadership knowledge and skills to work, he now serves as Senior Vice President of Broadcasting at Northwestern Media’s 23 stations in 14 markets across ten states that service 1.5 million listeners each week. Jason also served Christian Music Broadcasters, first as a charter member and eventually as the lead of CMB’s educational track at Momentum for more than ten years. He then served as the organization’s board chairman from 2017-2020. Jason continues to inspire others within Christian media toward excellence and compassion through a Christ-centered attitude, education, and practical application.

×

In 1972, while serving in the U.S. Air Force in Orlando, Johnny Stone dreamt of a second kind of “air force,” that of radio. He took an overnight position at WDIZ-FM, the station where Z88.3 now stands. In the past 50 years of his career, Johnny’s work and personality raised the bar for other programmers in markets ranging from New York City, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Diego, Tampa, Atlanta, Tucson, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. During his stint as Program Director and Morning Show host at Star 99.1 New York, his team won the NAB Crystal Radio Award and CMB Station of the Year. Presently, Johnny serves as afternoon host with his wife, Stacey, at 91.9 WGTS in Washington D.C. winner of the 2021 NAB Marconi Award for Religious Station of the Year. Owner of StoneStudios, LLC. and as a 22-year veteran in Christian media, Johnny mentored several on-air talents. Today, along with his on-air role at WGTS, he mentors college students at CMBU, teaching and modeling the belief that “you have to win in the hallways to win on the airwaves.”

×

Lisa Williams was called to Christian radio while praying in 1990. She walked into KCVO in Camdenton, Missouri and started on the air that same week. Over the past 32 years, Lisa served in various roles in on-air, programming, fundraising, and station management at radio stations and networks including K-LOVE, Z88.3, Star 99.1, KCVO, and KCWN. As an on-air personality, Lisa earned several number one ratings in several markets and was the recipient of three industry awards. Lisa now serves as the Network Talent Coach for Northwestern Media, owner of 23 stations in 14 markets across ten states that service 1.5 million listeners each week. While at Northwestern, Lisa hosted the nationally syndicated show Life with Lisa Williams from 2016-2021. She stepped away from the show to focus on coaching more than 90 on-air talents, encouraging and nurturing them to shine the light of Christ through excellent radio. When she’s not coaching talent, Lisa helps stations raise money for their operations. She also hosts a Facebook group for women on-air in Christian radio called GodsRadioGirls and helps facilitate their annual retreat.

×