So you think you know everything about your favorite radio station, or disc jockey? Think again. I spent the entire 90's working in radio. Eight years of morning shows at 2 major radio stations in Providence, RI I learned the radio bizz inside and out. Here are the Top Five dirty and deceptive radio station secrets I've discovered.

1.) Your request will not be played. Ever.

Unless you're calling in an "all request" show, (and your choice is popular in the first place) your song is not going to be played. You'll usually get a patronizing "we'll try to get that on for you in a little while", but it will never appear. Jocks (who call themselves "air personalities", or simply "the talent") have very little slack when dealing with song playlists, put together by the station's music director or in some cases, the program director. Music at major radio stations are now programmed into computers and play automatically. Rarely will you see a jock toss a CD into a player anymore. Save your breath and don't bother calling. And no, they won't write it down, either.

2.) "Be Caller 97 to win right now!"

Do you really think someone is going to sit through 97 callers when giving away two free meal coupons to a pizza joint? Nope. It's not gonna happen. With 6 phone lines (and sometimes less) coming into the studio, no one in their right mind is going to sit there and answer phones. If you're not one of the first six, you're going to be buying your own pizza. Also, if you sound like <em>death warmed over</em> when the jock answers the telephone, you're not going to win. Radio stations want happy, upbeat listeners who sound great on the radio to win their contests. If you sound like you woke up in a morgue, you lost. Even if you are caller 97.

3.) If You're a Prize Whore, You Probably Have a Nickname

A prize whore is someone (male or female) who shows up at every radio-station sponsored event (such as furniture stores, auto dealerships and nightclubs), trying to snag free t-shirts, cds or other radio station freebees. Prize whores are not just loyal to one radio station, but whore themselves out to several. (Hence the name) The promotions department at one station I worked for had nicknames for their prize whores. "Dirty Sweater" was a woman who wore the same dirty sweater each time. "Pissy Shirt" was another who wore the same sweat stained radio station T-Shirt to EVERY appearance. There were several more, whose nicknames I can't recall. So remember, if you show up at EVERY radio station event, chances are you have a nickname-and it's never a good one.

4.) Prizewhores Don't Win Major Prizes

That trip for two to Vegas or that brand new Toyota isn't going to be won by prize whores. If it's a drawing, your entry will disappear. Don't let anyone tell you differently. I've seen it happen. If it's a phone contest, you are "the wrong caller". Every time.

5.) Your Jock is a Ghost

Computers and a method called voicetracking have made it possible for your DJ to record his show in advance, saving several hours (and several dollars) to the radio station. Your jock will pre-record the show, as if he/she were in the studio and the computer will play it back, plugging in the music. To the non-professional, it's difficult to tell which is a voice-tracked show and which is not

Rockin' Joe Hebert is a RI comedian, writer, musician and webmaster who spent the entire 1990s working mornings at 2 legendary Providence radio stations, PRO-FM and B-101 FM.


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Comments 18 comments

Jerry 9 years ago

I've worked in radio for 35 years and everything he is saying is true. However, radio is still a great form of entertainment. The &quot;good&quot; radio stations utilize the computers to save time and make their product better, eliminating embarrasing mistakes (except for the time the computer locked up and everyone was out of town for three days LOL). Local media is disappearing...enjoy it while you have it....even if you do hear the same 23 songs over and over and over and over and..............

Abayybayy! :] 9 years ago

hahhhahaa that's funny. BUT REALLY THEY WON'T PLAY UR REQUESTS?! But wait! What if, u just happen to ask for the song that there playing next?! OOOHH :]

AT 9 years ago

Of course, it's true. So what? A radio station is not a listener's personal jukebox or treasure trove.

kasparu profile image

kasparu 9 years ago

I have called in a lot of time and requested many not that famous songs, and mostly gets it played.

rockinjoe profile image

rockinjoe 9 years ago from Standing right behind you! Author

Thanks for the comment, kasparu. I probably should have considered radio station size when mentioning requests. Many smaller market radio stations without digitized music and real jocks may play requests for some callers. I was only going by my own experience at a major market station.

kasparu profile image

kasparu 9 years ago

Yeah, I see, but I'm talking about P3, problaly the biggest radio station in Denmark with about 1 million listener. But they get financed by the state, commercial free and so on, and they have to live up to a curtain standard in service. Maybe they just care for us loyal listeners.

rockinjoe profile image

rockinjoe 9 years ago from Standing right behind you! Author

I'm assuming there is a major difference between a US commercial radio station and a state assisted, commercial free station in Denmark. You probably wouldn't like commercial radio in the states. You've gotten spoiled with that kick ass station in Denmark.

kasparu profile image

kasparu 9 years ago

Probably have :p But have to live with 75% taxes too tho

tom z profile image

tom z 8 years ago from Danbury, CT USA

hey rockin' joe... i've been in radio and radio related businesses for over 40 years. you make it all sound so sinister. but in reality, there's nothing new. radio is just trying to build audiences. and there's nothin' wrong with voicetracking. in fact, a GREAT dj voicetracked will have a bigger audience than a LAME dj sitting there live with nothing to say. anyway, it's an excellent article from a unique angle. keep up the nice writing. tom z

rockinjoe profile image

rockinjoe 8 years ago from Standing right behind you! Author

Hi tom z, Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate it. Sorry if you took me as sounding sinister. Had I written "The TOP 5 NICE THINGS ABOUT RADIO" I'm sure I would have come across a bit more tame.

Being in the business for over 40 years, Tom, I'm sure you can appreciate the changes (most not so nice) in radio over the past 20 years. As far as voicetracking, it is progress, but it's cut down on the human element. The lame disc jockey with nothing to say is the fault of the programmer. (Why is the lame guy there?) I think we both know that VT was a cost cutting move and nothing more. Another pretty horrid move (especially for local programming) was syndication. In my case, our entire morning show (in a major market) was wiped out to make way for Imus. It wasn't a question of numbers. It was money. Imus didn't call in sick, didn't ask for raises, raid the fridge in the breakroom and require health care. All Imus needed was a $7 per hour board op. That being said, I had a blast in radio. Thanks again for writing.

The Old Firm profile image

The Old Firm 8 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

Hey look Joe, a comment after nine months.

It's interesting to see how it's done in the real world. I spent three years as a voluntary DJ on a local tiny community radio. Tapes, Cd's and even a wizzem around and put the needle on player, but mostly the computer song-list, so we could call up requests when our one phone line made ringy noises. I think I had six listeners - two fans and four other announcers looking for excuses to snipe (Most of them on pensions!) Well, maybe three fans...

Great hub. You wrote it about the time I got fed up and walked away. Personal integrity an all that rot, but mostly I had a ball!



rockinjoe profile image

rockinjoe 8 years ago from Standing right behind you! Author

You hit the nail on the head, TOF. Having a ball is a given in radio. Whether you had 6 listeners or 6 million. I got hired for radio by a morning guy who saw my nightclub comedy act. Next thing I knew I was on the biggest show in the region. It was quite a rush. Getting fired is never fun, but it's common in radio-and my years spent behind a radio mic were my most fun.

The Old Firm profile image

The Old Firm 8 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

Well, I didn't get fired as it happened, just pissed off, so that's what I did. I'm told that the slot's still open for me if I want to go back, but can't see it happening. Old pass-times gone sour, like old girlfriends, are best left buried.

rockinjoe profile image

rockinjoe 8 years ago from Standing right behind you! Author

Well, your choice, of course, but if I was offered the shot to go back, I think I'd be tempted. Old girlfriend, or not, radio is one chick I wouldn't mind digging up again-provided the conditions were amicable for all those involved.

The Old Firm profile image

The Old Firm 8 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

That last line is the one that sticks. When little incompetents try to dictate my content, not because it's against policy, but because my humour doesn't gel with their ideas, (And as volunteers they have no more rights than I do) I can either fight or walk away. The station was about to loose it's frequency, (which they since have, and are operating day to day on charity and fuzzy dreams) there was/is no business plan, and the organisation is a shambles, it was more charitable to leave them to self destruct in their own time than to precipitate it with an internal war, - and to shoot myself in the foot for future radio work (which could even be PAID)

Right now I'm getting enough fun kicking ass on the hub.

theguru-reports profile image

theguru-reports 7 years ago from Montana

Joe, I've fired guys for contest fraud, which is exactly as you describe it. Defrauding the public can cost a station its license. I've heard of it happening. I've suspected it happening. And I've caught it and blown up the person who did it.

You cry about the jock and having to take 97 callers as if its a strain. You get paid for sitting on your butt and doing little enough as it is. Answer the damn phone!

You are spot on about request shows. With one exception. TV is rarely live. We know Leno or whatever comdey show we watch is probably taped in advance. So why is in an issue when radio is taped in advance, as Tom Z (good to see you my friend) suggested.

I deplore voice tracking. Radio's only salvation in the digital future is to be extremely local. Syndication sucks and is just bad. While I wouldn't want to see the FCC back regulating content again, I wouldn't mind a regulation that required stations to serve their communities. If they got the frequency, do local radio

Alex 6 years ago

I think it's all well and good for business but it hurts the independent artist. You submit something in hopes that it'll get a fair shot by the public to be requested and played. I'd rather be told upfront "do not request because we are only gonna play what's scheduled and request hour doesn't exist." Then radio can't say "there was no demand for the song" when the phone rings excessively and email requests are sent directly to a trash bin.

Billrrrr profile image

Billrrrr 4 years ago from Cape Cod

Too bad Joe. You were born too late. I came along at the end of the Golden Days of radio. The network radio shows were still on when I started but local radio was king. We played real records and had real time interaction with our listeners. In the 1970s things began to go downhill. A pal of mine worked at WMEX in Boston. The crazy Richmond Brothers owned it and it was number one in Beantown - despite them. It was a T n T station. You gave the time after one record and the temperature after the next. One day my buddy was called into the owner's office and fired without notice. When he asked why, he was told, "Because after you played a record and then you gave both the time and the temperature."

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