Dave Ryan, Off-Mic – Part 3

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Dave Ryan shares his planning schedule, and how the show gets away with playing very little music on a Top 40 radio station.


Randy: The KDWB Top 40 audience is an 18-34 female target. You’re obviously not trying to pretend that you’re a millennial. I noticed that you even have a picture of you and your grown son, Carson, flying. So the audience knows that Dave Ryan is not 27.

DR: Exactly. I’m more plugged into pop culture, and probably a little funnier than their parents, but I don’t pretend to be 27. Being real is more important that trying to act like I’m a part of the target audience.

As a matter of fact, the number one Billboard song of summer was “One Dance” by Drake. Instead of saying, “Yeah man! That song is great!” I admitted that I don’t know the song. I think that speaks to being real, and it speaks to all those people who have also never heard it.

We forget that most of our listeners aren’t very hip. They have jobs; they have kids, and they have bills to pay. They don’t have time to know all the hip stuff. They can relate to someone like me who doesn’t know Margot Robbie.

Randy: Conventional PPM wisdom says that you have to play a lot of music in the morning. Your show out-performs KDWB in ratings, and you’re on a Top 40 music station. I just checked, and it looks like you play 1-3 songs an hour. Would you say that’s accurate?

DR: Yes, that’s pretty accurate.

Randy: What’s your take on the so-called wisdom that suggest you have to play music in the morning to score in PPM?

DR:  We respect the music; I think that’s a big key. You have to be a fan, and you can’t push the music in the background. One thing I’ve learned, as I get older, is that I might not like the new G-Eazy song, but if I learn a little about G-Eazy, people realize that the music is part of the show, too. For instance,“G-Eazy? His real name is Gerald, and he came from California and went to school in New Orleans.”

People do love the music, but you can still get away with playing fewer songs if your show has really good content, you’re knowledgeable, and you sound like a fan of the music.

Randy: The last time we talked your show was out-pacing KDWB by a very high percentage, something like 20-30%. You must be getting listeners from other music formats that come to hear your show.

In that situation, Top 40 music can actually cause you to lose time-spent-listening with those people who are coming over from a Country or Rock format.

DR: I think that’s true, and that’s one of the problems we face. Say you have a 52-year-old woman who loves to listen to our show, but who normally listens to the Hot AC station. If you play a little too much Top 40 music, she might not be there for too long.

I met a guy at a casino in his 50’s and he says, “Your name is Dave, isn’t it?” He knew everything about our show. I’m thinking, “He’s not listening because we’re playing the new Demi Lovato song. He’s there because he can probably really relate to the stories that people tell on the show.“

Randy: Take us through your planning process. What happens when you guys get off the air at 10 AM?

DR: At 10 we scatter for a few minutes to grab something to eat, make a phone call, etc. Then we’re back in the studio. We’ll brainstorm for about an hour, sometimes two. Then we’re done for the day. I encourage everyone to go have a life. If you just go home, watch TV and take a nap every day, well, you don’t really have a life to talk about.

We finalize the show sheet at about 8 PM using Sales Force Chatter. It’s like Facebook for morning shows and probably one of the strongest tools for morning radio. You can do it on your phone. If you’re not using it, check into it, because it’s made for morning radio.

Randy: Do you get together before the show in the morning to cover what’s trending or to cover something that happened overnight?

DR: We don’t. I know some shows like Bobby Bones get up super early and start scouring the internet for content. That works for them, and that’s great. I think one of the most underrated show prep practices for a great show is a good night’s sleep. A lot of jocks pride themselves on only getting a few hours of sleep, but you’re not going to be as sharp.

We come in about 5 minutes before the show starts. We’re ready, and we’re ready for any wild card that might have happened over night. If something happened over night, we will find out quickly, and we’ll plug it into the show. Don’t underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep as show prep!

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