Thursday, 18 February 2010

Voicer samples

Strictly for business purposes, here's a voiceover showreel with samples of my work. 

If you like what you hear, email me directly or contact me through my website.

My Voice 123 page has more samples to play with, including Talking Books work.

My Selector Coloring book: Selector Tips 3

This topic mainly applies to Selector version 15 lovers. You can do a bit of color tweakage in Version 12 (that’s the old, ugly, but gorgeously stable and well thought out dos version), but it’s really the windows version of Selector that lets you play with looks, fonts and colors. There’s lots of configuration potential in GSelector, too, but that hasn’t fully rolled out worldwide, and I’m quite sure that these remarks will also apply just as much to other scheduling engines. Bottom line? Customise away, but you should avoid the explosion in the paint factory effect at all costs.

Why is it that contemporary software design is so…. uniform? There’s a very good reason. Computer screens can display a LOT of information. Color is a great help is highlighting areas of concern, and you can often set conditions in your software package – not just your scheduling engine – which will throw a focus on an area of interest, by using a specific color.

But if you make things too busy, your brain has to work a lot harder to take it all in. If the screen is just too busy, you tend to jump past all this information.

Now let’s consider the Editor screen. That’s the one that displays your schedule, or running order. You’ve got to review an entire day of output – that's at least 24 screens, maybe much more.  If the entire screen is a maze of color, you’re going to have a hard time concentrating as hard as you need to for your editing job… which means you might let something slip past… which means the output might sound lousy.

So that’s why I suggest you go easy on the color.  If you like to differentiate between different categories onscreen, that’s fine – but try using shades of the same color, rather than violently clashing and distinct colors. Leave the fireworks for the emergency conditions: schedule failures and the like. And think about whether you need to apply color to the entire page – you can restrict it to one or two fields if you prefer, leaving the rest of the window more uniform.

Above all, make it easy on yourself, so you can make those critical editorial decisions: getting the mix right is way more important than having a pretty screen display that your audience doesn’t know or care about.

If this has been useful, pass it on to friends and colleagues. It’s on me. If you'd like more on a 1 to 1 basis, reply to me through the blog, or email me via the website (link at left under Work-related)

Inheriting a Selector scheduling setup: Selector Tips 2

Most of us in Radio inherit a Selector rig when we join a station, or when the guy before us moves on. Nowadays, you very rarely build up a system, your way, from scratch. So you really need to work out how the guy before you went about his business, before changing things. If you don't, then you’re in for a world of pain working out why the rule settings don’t seem to work right anymore. If the guy before you was obsessive, you better be too. Sorry about that. The basic principles here don't just apply to Selector - they work in any system. I’ve got a how-to tip to help after the jump.

The devil is always in the detail.
A great way to zero in on any aspect of your library is to go to the Browse Window. Let’s say you want to make sure your Artist list is accurate. You really need this. Selector isn’t Word, and it won’t compensate for spelling errors.

Click on the Artist heading.
Work down the list of songs, starting from the top.
Some errors might be right at the very top – like songs with no artist.
Look for anomalies. Are songs suspiciously absent? Maybe they’re listed elsewhere under a mis-spelled artist name.

And don’t forget the famous text string issue – Selector normally sorts by the first letter of the last piece of text (known in geekland as a text string) in the field. So it would see Take That and Take_That as two different artists.

You can repeat this basic exercise for anything that is key in your scheduling rules, but of course there are some quite complex areas to make decisions on, above and beyond factual issues like getting the Artist names right. I'll post some tips in dealing with the more subjective areas soon.

Sorted? Good. Now make a note in Outlook to do this all over again in two months.

If this has been useful - pass it on. If you'd like more on a 1 to 1 basis, reply to me through the blog, or email me via the website (link at left under Work-related).

Friday, 12 February 2010

Pirate Radio Goes Mainstream: Politics, technology and demographics

I've just come back from giving a lecture in London, to a group of university students from the US. My brief was to cover the history of UK post-war popular music radio. I had a lot of fun putting the whole thing together. Learned quite a bit too.
The bottom line? It really doesn’t matter how brilliant your programming is, how cool and innovative your marketing strategy. You are always at the mercy of factors you can’t control.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Coast 106: I love a success story

And this is a success story. I’ve been working as a consultant with a lovely and thoroughly listenable radio station in Southampton. They’re called Coast 106, and I’ve been visiting them on and off since late 2008. In this quarter’s Rajar audience survey, they posted all time high figures. In fact it’s been a pretty solid story of growth from an admittedly low start point, when they took the franchise over from the previous owners.

It’s pretty hard to rebrand a station, and then relaunch it in the teeth of a howling recession at any time. Harder still to post consistent growth figures - doubling reach and nearly trebling market share over an 18 month period. So what’s their secret?.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

How do I know my Selector Mood Codes are right? Selector Tip 1

New feature. I’ve been a Selector wrangler for over half my career; it’s partly how I make my living.

I’m going to post a regular series of tips. Most of these cover editorial approach, which I think is an area that gets left behind. Some tips will apply to other scheduling systems. If you like what you see, or if you know someone who might, pass them on. If you really like what you see, get in touch by replying directly to this post (bottom of the post, below) or through the website link in the Work-Related pane at left.

Tip 1 is about finding your Centre Of Gravity - the midpoint of your Mood or Energy values.

The overall balance of station sound depends hugely on how you classify songs. Typically stations code their songs for Mood or Energy (occasionally both), on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 is catatonic, 5 is extremely in your face.

This is, naturally, a very subjective area. So it really helps to get a very clear idea of what the mid-ground Mood value is for your station. That’s what I mean by Centre of Gravity.

Here’s a recipe:
- Open up a list of all your active songs.
- If you have coded songs for Mood or Energy, sort them by this field.
- Now look in the middle area to find, say, three songs that are absolutely bang in the middle of the Mood range for your station. That's your benchmark.
- Work out from there. Work back up the list, and measure every song against your new standard.
- Then go down the list the other way. I guarantee you’ll find some surprises.
- If you have a big library, break it down into Categories first. This can be heavy going.
- If you haven’t set values at all - shame on you - the process is still the same. Find three benchmark songs, and work out from there.

- By the way, this is hard work. Fatigue can set in. You probably won't get it done in one session. Take your time to get it right.

After you've done that initial re-evaluation, do some analysis work to see if you’ve set the Mood or Energy rules up right for what you’ve actually got. That’s a tip for another day.