Saturday, August 09, 2008

definitions: radio sound jargon

SWEEPER - A 3-10 second "between the songs" attitude, positioning statement or station recall piece of audio that connects two songs. Sweepers are the MAJORITY of a station's imaging library. In commercial radio, there's a sweeper between every single aid listener recall of what they're listening to...with the ultimate goal being to remind them that they're on [INSERT RADIO STATION NAME] or whatever station it might be. It images the station brand in the midst of music flow.

STINGER - Not an element of imaging like a sweeper, but rather more of a raw audio "workpart". They are the building block audio IN a sweeper that is behind the voiceover. Stingers are quick and fast sound effects, in essence....for example, a basic stinger would be a "swoosh" sound. Intel's logo sound at the end of every commercial (the three little notes you associate with Intel) would be called a Stinger. It denotes a change in motion...and matches the brand.

BUMPER - Also called a "ramp" in some circles, Bumpers are the musical beds or sound effects that lead INTO something. Morning shows will usually come out of a commercial break with some type of music before they begin talking...a small intro bed...these are BUMPERS...they are the buffer between two contrasting types of content...and psychologically "bridge the gap" in a listener's mind. Without bumpers, radio shows would give a choppy vibe...Bumpers provide flow without losing forward motion.

- Fully produced elements that "tease" or give a "taste" of what's to come in a certain amount of time in the future. Some stations might put a TEASER before their first commercial in a break to the effect of..."Next, It's The Hollywood Minute!" followed by quick content teases. Then the last commercial in the break would be followed by the full content item. The teaser matches the full content item in production, image and purpose...and in radio, is a method by which we hope to give the listener a reason to stick through the commercials...almost like a treat on the other side. Holding listeners for as many continuous minutes as possible is the key to higher ratings...because it builds "TSL", or TIME SPENT LISTENING. TSL is one of the most determining factors in radio ratings formulas. High TSL=High stations use various methods to keep listeners through the programming areas (commercial breaks) that tend to cause listeners to leave the frequency.

PROMO - The high energy/completely branded and fully produced segment, almost like a commercial, but not to sell a product, but to sell the station. Promos can be based on a station giveaway occuring that day/week, they can be "montages" of the big hits on the station, etc. Promos are the BIG FAT GRANDADDY in radio imaging. Your station promos, literally, DEFINE the vibe of the station and are the most important and tightly constructed piece of the radio station, outside of the music. You can play great music, but unless your promos drive home the mindset of your station's goals/audience/target, it's proven listeners don't stay. Promos sell the brand. Radio isn't tangible..yet we still have to make people buy into it...but how do you make people buy into an IDEA rather than something they can TOUCH? That's the great imaging and radio formula in the sky that stations are focusing on every minute of the day.

ID's - There are legal ID's that are usually 3-5 seconds long and required by the FCC once an hour on commercial stations...this is probably the only time you hear the station's call letters...and it's usually buried within a commercial break at precise times. Of course, if the station's call letters ARE the station's name, the legal ID requirement is loosened. Some people in the old school of thought in radio still refer to SWEEPERS and ID's as one in the same. They both DO identify the station, but a SWEEPER is more branding-oriented, whereas a pure ID is merely there to identify rather than brand an image.

(source: Tyler, Imaging Director for B97 and BAYOU 105.3 (Entercom) in New Orleans)
(why feature this on ack/nak: because I'm hunting down great sources of production music like this for a podcast I'm working on)

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