Polishing and editing live radio: Cridland keeps the conversation going | radioinfo

Polishing and editing live radio: Cridland keeps the conversation going

Monday 16 April, 2018
Image: Shutterstock

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece called “Live radio is lazy radio”.

In it, I made the point that if we pre-record audio, we can edit it, polish it, and make it sound great. I proposed that when we don’t bother editing or polishing, and just produce mediocre live radio, that’s lazy.

This, of course, goes against the common wisdom that great radio is “live and local”. It needn’t be. I’ve argued in the past that instead of the two Ls, “live and local”, we should be focusing on the two Rs, “real and relevant”.

Naturally, the comments - both on the piece itself, and on social media where it was shared, were quite hot.

People argued that radio should be live because it’s more exciting for the presenters; or that radio should be live because the audience like hearing mistakes. I find those arguments are either a little self-serving, or a bit self-indulgent.

However, some commenters had actually read the article, rather than the headline.

I was pointed towards a great video from Tim Lee, an Australian radio presenter, on how he uses automation to make tighter and better segues. Instead of lazily waiting for one song to fade and then starting another - perhaps mashing a sweeper over the top - Tim spends time in his automation software to edit and polish, so it sounds better. Much better. Spending time to edit segues properly makes a pretty good difference, it turns out.

It’s hard to argue that live segues are ever going to be better than properly edited, polished ones. They’re certainly less work.

Tommy Ferraz pointed me to an article he’d written in 2015. In it, he argues why radio “needs to break linearity” - a wonderfully precise phrase that does a much better job of saying what I mean. He says:

“Radio should be turning the fact that content doesn’t need to be subordinated to live broadcast anymore, into a great opportunity to produce premium content for a more engaging radio: the sound production can be better finished, the editing can be clean and precise, the pace can be better adjusted, the guests better prepped, the hosts more effectively coached. The entire show could be even tested. Why are radio professionals still creating great content primarily for live radio?”

I enjoyed Tommy’s piece. It’s also certainly true that pre-producing audio in chunks has benefits for multiplatform use, too; both in terms of personalisation and shareability.

Meanwhile, Peter Saxon says that an element of pre-production can be helpful with a useful kitchen analogy:

No chef starts cooking everything from scratch when an order comes into the kitchen. Every ingredient for each dish on the menu that can be prepared in advance, is so that it can be quickly blended with the rest of the meal, thrown in the pan and served “fresh, live and local.”

Finally, I wasn’t specifically talking about voice-tracking; though some commenters assumed that I was. In particular, a number of people mailed to say that their contracts force them to do some voicetracked shows on out-of-area stations for no additional money. That’s cynical from radio station management, and communicates that voicetracked shows are worthless. No wonder, then, that many voicetracked shows sound like lazy nonsense. Of course I’m not arguing for those.

Live radio is still great. But pre-producing radio - segues, individual components, or even whole shows - isn’t cheating. Our audiences have access to so many great, and beautifully-produced, pieces of audio. Polishing and editing our audio can do no harm.

Or, we could just be lazy and not bother.

About The Author

James Cridland, the radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website media.info and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes podnews.net, a daily briefing on podcasting and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at james.crid.land.

Contact James at james@crid.land or @jamescridland




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