The art of radio: more than a velvet voice

The art of radio: more than a velvet voice

I studied journalism to do radio. Since a kid, the simple idea of being in front of the microphone and connecting with thousands of people in real time was beyond mind-blowing.  I lived the dream for eight years in three radio stations from Mexico City and learned some lessons I want to share with you. These learnings go beyond journalism: they are concepts that I continue applying in my daily life.

Your voice is the microphone of the voiceless

To understand this, it’s necessary to listen before talking. It doesn't matter if your show is about music, politics, or culture: you need to be aware of the social context it's happening in the streets of those who listen to you.

When talking about radio, the first idea that comes to mind is a smooth velvet voice presenting the latest romantic hit on the charts, but this is far from reality. Nowadays, people are not expecting to listen to a song that reminds them of their loved ones: they already have streaming services to do that. Instead, they want a voice that understands and shares their likes and concerns.

Being in front of the microphone carries a social responsibility. Radio should serve to talk about those subjects that have an impact on the life of your audience. When a show opens the dialogue and identifies who has something valuable to share, its audience will never forget.

Improvise is easy when you are informed

It's easy to recognize when someone sounds like a pro, but it's easier to realize when it sounds like a fool. The art of doing radio is intimately related to curiosity. Walking the streets with all the senses awake should be a mantra for anyone with intentions of being on air.

The anxiety of being in front of the microphone will never disappear, but it can be controlled if you are committed to the information. There are no shortcuts to this: it's necessary to explore the world of the arts, question the way political and economic groups make decisions, inquire into the career of your guests and walk in the shoes of your fanbase.

Be honest. You can't lie to your audience

Every radio station around the world is searching for the same goals: increase the rating,  grow their finances, have the top leaders of the industry in their shows, and connect with the audience through social media. There's nothing wrong with this. The problem begins when the strategy to reach the goal betrays your fans.

You can fool a new listener but not your fanbase. On the radio, you can make a new family who will remember your philosophy, musical preferences, political posture, and —most important— the tone of your voice. Don't say something you are not convinced of, try to avoid having guests that go against the values of your show, and please, don't try to persuade your audience of something you know is untrue. Many voices in the frequency are waiting for your mistakes to seduce your public.

"I prefer radio to TV because the pictures are better."
-Alistair Cooke

I like to compare the art of doing radio to a flight: you will discover beautiful landscapes and sunsets; exist the possibility of finding turbulence, and most important: you need to remind that the landing is just as important as the takeoff. In the end, the most important thing is to be on air.

I wrote this text while listening to Music for 18 musicians by Steve Reich.