Emerson Dameron teaches the new batch of college radio DJs to fish. A slightly different version of this article appears in Airwaves, the alumni magazine for WUOG-FM, the University of Georgia's student-run station.
Be a College Radio Messiah
Act like you belong on the air, and people will generally accept your presence.
Your base station assigned you a license and an airshift because it believes in you. If you behave as though you donít deserve this trust, you imply that youíre smarter than your station. Arrogant, yes?
Youíll make mistakes, as everyone does. Just donít make the mistake of hacking up simpering apologies on the air. Nine out of ten listeners donít catch your little fuckups, and the other one doesnít care. Breathe deeply between breaks. Act as though you have everything under your thumb, and it shall be thus. If you canít purge an irritating peccadillo from your makeup, turn it into an amusing quirk.
Donít cop an obnoxious Ďtude born of transparent, juvenile fear. Be classy. If you accidentally let a few swears slip through the filter, say nothing. If someone out there takes offense, that personís indignation will cool in time, while other listeners will forever admire your unintentional subversion.
If you accidentally eject a CD halfway through a track, put the machine in cue and use manual fast-forward to pick up the tune about thirty seconds after the point where you dropped it. People will assume they lost the signal and blame the cruel fates for that momentary disconnection. During the silence, they will long to take refuge from the cold chaos, and you wonít keep them hanging.
Thereís no such thing as ďdead air.Ē When thereís no signal, thereís static. In order for genuine silence to hit the waves, someone has to broadcast it. Thatís your own version of composer John Cageís silent symphony, and itís what the Master Pimp calls ďsweet torture.Ē Leave your listeners alone with their clattering thoughts, and theyíll return more eager than ever for the salvation you provide.
Contrary to what youíve been led to believe, radio has not been displaced by television, and barring the apocalypse, it ainít gonna happen soon. Audio media retain some distinct advantages. Through radio, you can plant your disembodied voice right into a distant strangerís brain. Theyíll take you at your word and never see the pubes and poppy seeds caught between your teeth.
Don't like rotation? If you insist on circumventing rotation entirely, it's a good bet that a lot of your listeners find you obnoxious. More than you realize. If you check the music snob ego, you might discover some good new shit from spinning rotation - and play a better, more balanced show - but if you need some space, play all your rotation right away and keep the rest of the shift for yourself.
Program music that imprints your worldview. Donít beat the listeners over their tender liíl heads with didactic anthems, but weave songs together to reflect a pattern of thinking. How you do this is up to you, and experimentation is the only good teacher.
When you back-announce, speak in a clear, confident manner that indicates you mean what you say. Donít forget: You merit attention. You have a message. What is that message? Radioland wants to know!
Donít whine. Donít ramble. Keep it subtle. Say a lot in a few words. Put on the next song and let your ideas sink in. Language is a virus, and if you play it right, you can infect the surrounding area before its skepticism bails it out.
Blitz your listeners with Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and you can get whatever you need or want from college radio. This is your big chance, kid. You can move on to a depressing existence behind a cash register, scrawling the names of free-jazz and musique concrete giants on dollar bills in vain hope of saving your peers from overrated old-person drivel like Wilco. Or, you can graduate with an army of acolytes at your command.
Plato says that those who play a nationís ballads need not concern themselves with who writes its laws. Make those two hours memorable.
By Emerson Dameron