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RADIO PROGRAMMING: Empty Seats On The Clue Train

This past weekend, the oldies station in the city where I live had their “Great Guitar Lick Weekend…Songs featuring famous guitar licks.”

As themes go, that’s a pretty weak one. But at least it was an attempt to present familiar music in a fresh context.

Here, for example, is a famous guitar lick:

Here’s another:

And here’s one more famous guitar lick:

So, you get the idea, right?

The commercial breaks concluded with the recorded promo, reminding people that they were listening to the station’s “Great Guitar Lick Weekend,” and then they’d play a song.

Basic Principle:

When your station has a musical theme as its special context


You’ve just played a bunch of commercials


Following the commercials you’ve just played a promo that feigns excitement over the special theme…

…The song that immediately follows the promo should deliver on the promise that promo makes.

Make sense?

So if you’re heavily promoting your Polka Party weekend, the next song should be…? Right, a polka.

I happened to hear a total of two songs that immediately followed that recorded promo.

The first song was “Marakesh Express” — which is musically propelled by the sound of an organ. (There is some debate over whether it’s an organ or a synthesizer, but it’s an “organ sound.”)

The recording features organ riffs but no guitar riffs. Here’s the song’s beginning, which features its signature sound…the organ.


The second time, I tuned in just before the commercial break. The jock reminded us that this was their Great Guitar Lick Weekend and that “coming up” (i.e., after the commercials) was a Great Guitar Lick song by the Beatles.

The commercials played.

The “Great Guitar Lick Weekend” promo played.

The song that immediately followed that promo was the Beatles’ version of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music.” That’s a piano driven song. The piano is front & center:

In fact, the explicitly states that it’s all about the piano:

(Sigh) I guess the Clue Train don’t stop there no more.

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  • Don May March 24, 2009, 12:42 am

    lol…I have nothing to add to this blog except to laugh with you, Dan. Truly sad.

  • Ron Grant March 24, 2009, 12:44 am

    Dan…I am in Lubbock, TX, market #178? The clue train needs to choo-choo through here too. I fully believe that we, as an industry, need to get back to entertaining the audience…the economy sucks anyway; most stations are on shoe string staffs anyway…so my theory is this: get back to entertaining the audience and then watch the revenue follow. I know there are two or three or even more fundamental problems with my theory, but there has to be a way to make it work.

  • Paul Rusling March 24, 2009, 2:03 am

    One of the big gest problems in the UK and certainly Holland & Germany too, is that so many of the the music programmers
    (a) dont actually dig the music they are selecting, so dont know it well, and
    (b) the reason for this is that they are too young to remember it first time around and in its proper context.

    The 'too young' problem also means they are often out of touch with their target demographic.

    One more thing i do note about younger programmers is that their own music tastes are very very narrow and gthey care nothing for any other music genres but their favourites. They rarely go and see live music (other than tribute bands or huge 'big name' artistes) so what chance do they stand to develop their own tastes?

    Paul Rusling, in East Yorkshire, England.

  • Thomas March 24, 2009, 6:07 am

    Hmmmmmmm. An amusing point. I liked the idea, but this is more of a discussion piece for a morning show. The hosts might solicit listeners to call in, or text in, with their favorite riffs, PLAY the riffs, and PLAY the best (OK, best format specific) songs that come up in the conversation. …but there’s not enough here for a weekend, especially if you’re not going to staff it with live jocks, or take requests, or even take the time to plug in featured music.

  • Bobby March 24, 2009, 7:03 am

    Yeah, that’s a pet peeve of mine too, Dan, calling something that which it is not. Another favorite example is when the announcer tries for a summarizing analogy prefacing his statement with the familiar, “in a word,” and then follows that with a phrase consisting of more than one word. In a word, clueless.

  • Dan O’Day March 24, 2009, 8:58 am

    @Bobby: I agree. When people do that I find it to be, in a word, really annoying.

  • Lee Ann Taylor March 24, 2009, 9:18 am

    I hear that a lot on radio. They heavily promote a music theme and then bury it. The only exception in my mind is WDAS in Philly. If they say it's a Motown greats weekend, for example, they play a Motown hit at every important spot. But then again, the PD & MD at "DAS are fearless and are icons in Philly radio.

  • Lenny Cichewicz March 24, 2009, 9:21 am

    maybe we shouild update the vehicle of the clue? perhaps radio should climb into the clue hybrid? getting a clue while goin green is good, right? maybe i need more espresso. way to represent in Lubbock Ron!!!

  • Shawn Reed March 24, 2009, 9:22 am

    I must say that I agree with Ron. One because he is from my home town and that we do need to entertain. I work in market number 258, yup Panama City Florida. Where radio sometimes comes to die. Yet for one exception, Bob Fm. This shows what our listeners want. Music! Which is a ageless form of entertainment. This goes in line with the idea that we are to entertain and inform with out being bland. Radio does have a great future. But the clue train sometimes moves on and we forget to get our ticket to ride.

  • Joe Kelly March 24, 2009, 9:22 am

    Great stuff as usual Dan……..Always great to read

  • Jym Dingler March 24, 2009, 9:23 am

    Here’s the management-perspective summary of my CBS departure: “You know that part of your show where you attempt to reveal and illuminate the human condition with storytelling and wit? We’re replacing that with more commercials.”

  • Adam Garey March 24, 2009, 10:33 am

    “Great Drum Lick week” a week Before Thanksgiving ?hmmm

  • Dantone Kwanutsu Kwarobo March 24, 2009, 11:51 pm

    Dan this is Great!

  • John March 25, 2009, 6:14 am

    To be perfectly fair about Rock N Roll music, the opening 9 notes are a guitar. But calling that a great guitar lick is like calling the opening 8 notes of Beethovan’s 5th Symphony a “great cello lick”.

    And I’m posting this, knowing full well that there are many PDs who won’t know that reference 🙂

  • Brad March 29, 2009, 12:25 pm


    The instrument played at the beginning of Marakesh Express
    is an electric Sitar.

    That may work for the “All Ravi Shankar Weekend”, but you’re right, not a guitar!

    Love the emails!


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