To sleep, perchance to dream

Usually the dead air dream would wake me up, like the falling dream does. The psych boys say that dreams of falling mean you feel like your life is out of control. I have heard that if you hit bottom while having the falling dream that you never wake up.

I am not sure what the dead air dream means. But it usually woke me up in time to get going for the morning show.

Morning DJ’s live on about the same schedule as newborn infants. We get up sometime around 3:30am and go to bed around 8pm.

Some morning jocks I know claim that they can nap during the day and stay up later at night but I have never had too much success in doing so.

My internal alarm clock always wakes me before the bedside one does anyway. As far back as I can remember I can just tell myself what time I want to get up and unless I am dog tired or have had way too much to drink the night before I will wake up a minute or so before the alarm goes off.

The world is a very different place at that time of day. It’s quiet. Dark.

And in the dead of winter it’s freaking cold.

Time moves very fast in the wee hours. You get up at 3:30, shit shower and shave and drive to the radio station, sit down at your desk to read three or four newspapers and collect show prep from the online services and all of a sudden the overnight jock is buzzing you on the phone. “Are you ready? The last song is almost over”.

It seems like you just rolled out of the sack, but it’s 5:30 and time to start doing morning radio.

The morning show at a radio station is the most important daypart.

The saying is: “so goes your morning, so goes the rest of the station”. The idea is that if you start your day with listening in the morning you will keep the radio on the rest of the day. More listening means higher ratings which means the commercials can be sold at a higher rate.

Morning shows get a lot of attention at a radio station and usually the cream of the air staff is on in the early am.

A morning show, if it’s a good one, feels like it goes by in the blink of an eye.

Usually it’s two or more people working very hard to get a fast paced show on the air. Besides the music, which as we will find out in a later episode, is the least important thing to a morning show, the traffic reports must be aired, the news gathered and any audio cuts that add “ear candy” to the days show. Contests must be staged and there is constant interaction with the listener’s on the phone.

Most station control rooms are kept a little on the cool side both for the equipment’s sakes and for the DJ’s. A four hour morning show can feel like a marathon foot race. I have worked in places where the air conditioning was sub par and have left the control room with huge sweat stains under my arms. Its loads of work but the trick is to make it sound on the air like its fun and easy.

That sometimes takes some acting skills.

Usually two jocks will become the focus of a morning show. These two individuals, and for some reason it’s usually a guy and girl, will become closer than man and wife. They will spend the day in very close contact. Most control room set ups put the players within 2 or three feet of each other so they can maintain eye contact while talking on the air.

Then after the air shift is over there are hours spent on show prep for the next day in a tiny office or recording sessions in another smaller studio called a production room.

Trips to promotions are almost always on the schedule and usually the morning show will travel to these in the same station vehicle. You get to know each other very well and if you don’t get along it can be misery. I know one morning show where the two main players are married to each other. I can’t imagine it.

Radio execs often will search for an established morning team to avoid the stress of putting one together. The good morning shows can demand and often get a premium deal including big salaries, bonus programs and other perks. Sometimes the radio brains behind the scenes will pair up people who have never met. Sometimes this works, most of the time it doesn’t.

I have worked many morning shows in different roles in my career on the airwaves. Some were quite successful. Some were real bombs. The key is always chemistry between the two principle players.

You might think chemistry means the two get along. It’s not always the case. Sometimes a little friction can make a show sizzle.

Sometimes it can make it excruciating to listen to.

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About James Rising

A recovering radio addict wrestles with the written word.
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