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The radio show before your show – does it matter?

We’ve been discussing the challenge of transitioning from one music show to the next at community and college radio stations. Kevin Vance deejays at two public radio stations in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has a response to my post “Does the college/community show before yours influence your program?”

Kevin Vance at KALW

Kevin Vance at KALW

I’m reminded of a story about a community radio station with a diverse format somewhere in America. A folk music program precedes a show of black gospel music, two different demographics, older liberal educated white hippie folk, and African Americans who go to church. One day the gospel programmer was late and the folkie filled in. All he had in his musical possession, that he believed would satisfy his new audience, was Sweet Honey In The Rock, the wonderful group of women a capella singers. Regular listeners called and complained about “that slave music”.

Moral: it’s tough to make a good transition from one very different type of programming to another.

I have three programs I host on a somewhat regular basis on two different radio stations. The layout of programs on before and after are all different and call for different strategies.

On Saturday afternoons, I host a folk music show on KALW in San Francisco, that follows another folk music show and precedes a bluegrass show. I can always research what the program before mine is playing, and I can either play off that, that is to say, find something that is consistent with was was on before. The other thing I do is just play whatever I planned to play. Because our two shows are so similiar, I don’t think there’s a problem. Usually the transistion can involve the previous programmer to outro the show, fade up a little instrumental theme, and play a promo. Then I play my intro theme, introduce my show and go my first song. Interestingly, listeners aren’t as riveted to the radio as we think they are. I get calls that are about the previous hour, that it’s all the same program, no matter how “hard the door is slammed” between shows. Because my show is just before a bluegrass program, I will play one or two bluegrass-old time country-rootsy tunes at the end.

Thursday mornings in the middle of the night on another station, KPFA in Berkeley, I follow rotating hosts each playing different genres. One week is smooth R&B, the second week is Latin music, the third week is Blues, and the 4th & 5th weeks are contemporary R&B and Hip-hop. My music show is already a mixed bag, so I have no problem starting my program playing something not unlike what’s on before, sometimes for 2-3 songs, before I start going off on my own musical tangents, such as playing folk, world, jazz and classical back-to-back. I don’t want to slam the door on the previous programmer’s audience, but after awhile it will be clear that I’m not the same person as the hour before. Some stay, some tune out. That’s show biz.

The third transition I want to talk about is following a popular Sunday morning talk show, with an equally popular music program that plays topical music. On occasion I’m the substitute host Robbie Osman’s Across The Great Divide on KPFA. I may have already planned to play a bunch of music, but something being discussed on the talk show before I go on may inspire me to think of and find something in my library that might be relevant. One morning the subject of the talk program was Russia, the former Soviet Union. I just happened to have some music by Vladimir Vysotsky, the gruff sounding singer-bard from who died in 1980. The host and a few listeners were impressed with the sense of continuity. Then there are times when I just go with what’s planned, and I don’t try to ‘continue the discussion’ musically.

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