Q It Up: Tell Us a Story! - The Liner

The Liner

From Buzz Calhoun [buzzcalhoun[at]clearchannel.com], Clear Channel, Bryan, Texas

This will be a brief one, and is not meant in a malicious way whatsoever. Mainly because I understand the pressures of small market Radio to simply make a buck in any way you can, and I also realize that many operations in those small markets are not necessarily interested in Programming quality, but rather have a skewed vision comparative to their PD. So naturally, sometimes you sacrifice quality to compensate for money to the bottom line.

One such instance was a small two station outfit I worked for as Operations Manager, for lack of a better term. We had a Country FM and a Beautiful Music meets News/Talk AM. The Sales Manager and I often found ourselves in a “billy goat headlock” over certain aspects of what they desired to have happen on the air versus what we needed to do to gain and keep listeners. The specific issue was over a local Krystal franchise that had just opened up and bought a modest schedule. The “added benefit” -- a phrase that always sent shockwaves through me as a PD -- was that this particular ingenious Sales Manager sold 7:05am to the Krystal franchise. Now bear with me, let me see if I can explain the logic to you here. Some days earlier, said Sales Manager comes into my office asking very ambiguous questions about my show, and finally gets around to asking… “do you do anything special or particular at 7:05am each morning?” I ponder this for a moment realizing that an IED has just been discovered on the road ahead and our vehicle is unable to maneuver around it so I brace for impact. “No,” I reply much to my chagrin that the realization of shrapnel will soon be rocketing towards me with various projectiles of death and destruction.

Flash back to the present, it’s a Wednesday morning and fast approaching 7:05am on my Country Morning Show. It should be noted here that this operation utilized one of the 24 hour formats for programming outside of Mornings, so I was bound and determined to not only sound as smooth and keep the transition from my show to the dish as seamless as possible, but I even went to great lengths to try and keep the illusion alive that our staff was actually in town and lived there. Oh what we used to do when radio was young. But I digress. I notice the prominent blue index card which has now been permanently affixed to my console, as if this particular station element should far and away exceed anything else we are doing in a 24 hour period. The card read… “7:05am EXACTLY….Liner: (Good Morning, its 7:05 in the morning brought to you by Krystal, the little square burger with the big round taste.)”

The premise was that over time we would eventually modify the liner to remind people about lunch later that day or the breakfast options they were furiously trying to get set to debut at their location. For the first two or three days, ironically I was at a two song segue right at 7:05am during a two song sweep, so the Liner was always at 7:05. Those of you who have been in the business before 1999 KNOW what is coming next, don’t you? On this particular brisk and cool morning, I had two guests during the 6am hour and even a contest, so naturally I am running a bit behind. Go figure. 7:05 comes and goes. I realize I am going to be ONE MINUTE LATE. I figure no big deal, silly me. As I am waiting for my song to end, my studio door FLIES open with a red faced Sales Manager huffing and puffing ready to blow my house down. I remove one ear of my headphones to begin to hear and enjoy the childish and immature tirade that follows of how we will lose money if we don’t get this Liner RIGHT AT 7:05! He insists that I stop the song and read the liner right this second. As I begin to try and explain the effect this will have on the Programming tactic of a Morning Show and Radio Broadcasting 101, our General Manager sweeps into the room to echo the demand. Time stands still, I see myself as a spry and eager 16 year old kid going to every Radio Station in Augusta Georgia looking for work, I remember my first moment on the air and see all the subsequent positions I had held up to that point, the Swap N Shops, the Obituaries at Noon, and the endless array of absolutely clueless people who took Radio way too serious and wondered why they had to sell commercials under 10 bucks a pop, with clocks filled with over 40 minutes of commercials and maybe, just maybe squeak about 4 or 5 songs, most of them at the end of the hour. It was in this instance that I reached over, pressed the pause button on the CD player, recited the Liner as happily and naturally as I could, and then pressed play to continue my song. Since the Sales Manager was sleeping with our General Manager, I decided that it was high time to find a company or organization that put Programming first. After all, you can’t sell a car until it’s built, and far too many times I found myself in a studio of some owner who lived and breathed the ads over Programming and wondered why they never won. You got to love this business or you’ll shoot yourself trying.

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