This post came to me in a dream. Let’s see how it works out.
There was a time when the announcer, or DJ, was one of the major components that drew listeners to a music radio station. Sure, the music itself was a part of that, but the DJ, the human element, the person who told you about the music you heard, was glue that held everything together. This was something that Casey Kasem figured out long ago. He knew that he was playing many of the same songs every week on American Top 40, but it was the stories about the songs he told that kept listeners coming back. Fans of Musicradio 77 WABC remember the many witticisms of Dan Ingram. So what if the station played Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” 1 for the umpteenth time, Dan would say something good in a minute or so. This was all well and good for the 1960s and 1970s.
At the beginning of the 1980s, many held Scott Shannon in the same regard as Dan Ingram. Shannon was a forerunner to the “morning zoo” format, a feature that would be copied across the country that same decade. As a “zookeeper, ” he surrounded himself with entertaining characters that kept the morning show moving along, in and out of the music playlist. 2 This kind of entertaining talk was restricted to mornings, leaving the rest of the day for more music and less chatter. Fast forward a few decades to today 2014, and we still hear this “more music” mantra.
Earlier this month, Scott Shannon retired from WPLJ. By no means is he retiring from radio, as he has indicated that he will return to radio in some capacity in the near future. It could be satellite, could be terrestrial, and he will continue to handle his duties on his True Oldies Channel… but where will tomorrow’s human voices come from? If anywhere? And who will talk about them over the 21st century equivalent of the water cooler?
Shannon was one of the last big personalities from the 1980s. Since that time, station programmers have been going by this more music plus less talk formula, but where has the human element gone? Will someone step up become the future Scott Shannon? Or has that future been written off?
Do we really want a computerized display, a la Spotify or Pandora, flashing facts about the song currently playing? Or would we rather hear someone telling us stories, and make a real connection with the human audience? I know which one I would want.
1. A song I continue to despise to this day.
2. Shannon’s morning zoo sounded very similar to what Don Imus was doing at the time, at least to me, so I didn’t find Shannon’s show much of a draw.