Help Not Wanted

Thanks to voicetracking, radio stations need fewer DJs than ever before.

O'Connor feels that people like Turnbeaugh and Knight can't help but upgrade the quality of many signals, especially ones in smaller markets. "The depth of talent available to radio has always been shallow," he says. "One out of every ten jocks has that superstar status, and the rest just play tunes. Those types of jocks can be valuable, but they're not unique or indispensable. With voicetracking, though, you can bring one of those superstar jocks to a station that never could have afforded it otherwise, instead of hiring just another jock."

In O'Connor's view, Stone should be included in the top 10 percent of DJs, and he's correct. The prototype of a good, hard-rock jock, Stone is rebellious and politically incorrect enough to appeal to the younger end of the head-pounding demographic without insulting the intelligence of folks with a touch of gray who still appreciate a good power chord. No wonder his ratings during the afternoon drive are among the highest garnered by anyone at KBPI.

In short, Stone is just the type of host that other stations would love to employ -- and now, thanks to voicetracking, they can. He continues to put together his KBPI block the old-fashioned way: Monday through Friday, he actually plays songs, gabs with callers and cracks jokes live alongside his faithful producer, Lynne Ryan. But prior to (and sometimes after) entertaining Denverites stuck in I-25 gridlock, he also assembles shows for five additional Clear Channel stations: KMOM, "the mother of all rock stations," in Colorado Springs; KZRR, also known as "94 Rock," in Albuquerque; classic-rocking KRZZ in Wichita, Kansas; XEPR, dubbed "The Bandit," which is physically located in Mexico but serves El Paso; and, most impressive, KLOL, a classic rocker that's among the most-listened-to rock stations in Houston, the country's ninth-largest radio market. (Denver-Boulder comes in at number 22.)

For Stone, learning how to do long-distance radio was a challenge, especially given his devotion to localism. Too many of his colleagues pay no attention to the area music scene, but he's an active supporter of homegrown sounds, energetically touting groups like Rogue, Rocket Ajax, Sick and ThroCult, and even leading an act of his own, A Band Called Horse. He also peppers his shows with references to area events -- a habit that gets complicated when such happenings aren't in his back yard. Then again, putting together six radio shows a day is tricky under any circumstances.

"I get here between ten and eleven and go through e-mails and voice mail," Stone says. "Then I get together with Lynne and we look at national stories: stories we can use in every market, including Denver, and also music information like notable days -- Jimi Hendrix's death, Randy Rhoads's death. A lot of death. Then we go through stories for individual stations, looking for something that stands out -- and in some of these markets, nothing fucking happens. You're lucky if once or twice a week, shit happens that you'd want to talk to the rock audience about. But I do the best I can. Then I compile all my stories and write everything down for each market, laying out my plan. It's like a map that shows how many breaks I do an hour at what station, and I figure out what bits I can plug in where.

"After that, I do the national breaks," he goes on. "I used to do each of them six times, but my voice couldn't take it. Now I do them once and take out the call letters for whatever station it was from the beginning so we can put other call letters in on the other side. Then I record all my other bits and start inserting them for each of my stations. I do Albuquerque in about 45 minutes -- done. Another 45 minutes for El Paso -- done. And so on until everything's done."

Mass production on this scale can lead to awfully generic radio, and Stone says he knows of some voicetrackers who "just assembly-line it." But because he takes pride in generating good ratings in each of his markets ("It would bother me personally if I wasn't top three everywhere I'm at"), he does his damnedest to give everything he's got: "You have to say those call letters with passion, and you have to put a hundred percent of you into every bit you record, every time."

He's gotten so good at doing so at his six current stations that he thinks he might even be able to keep a couple more balls in the air. "If I hired somebody to help out," he says, "I could probably handle doing eight."

With other voicetrackers working just as hard to expand their reach, fledgling DJs are finding it awfully hard to get a shot on the air unless it's through the side door. "The new and upcoming teams of radio's future are generally working in the promotions department setting up banners, parking the van on the street, doing remotes from car dealerships," says Clear Channel exec O'Connor. "They break in, and a number of them get to do part-time weekend voicetracking shows."

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1 comments
ncaagoalie
ncaagoalie

I goal tended vs Stock back in the day and he was awesome!  Unfortunately I got a chance to get to know him later in life and he was the biggest pussy and in love with himself guy I have ever met.  The dude had never been in a fight in his life and he was just a coke and alcohol addict masquerading as something he was not.  (a tough guy)  At least I respected him as a soccer player, but as a person he was a drug addicted loser who wasn't interested in having friends, just having stooges around him to sooth his massive insecurity and feel like the coolest and best looking dude in the room.  Sam was intimidated by others who were better looking, tougher, smarter or better than himself and did not want those people around him.  He surrounded himself by losers to boost his shameless ego.  It is one thing to burn out as a rock star, but to burn out as a wanna be, talentless, punker hack is hilarious!  Quit glorifying drug addicts!  They are losers.

 
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