| 23 Jul 2024
The "sound of a station"!

A couple of months back, I had the privilege of riding a Harley Davidson.

I heard the inimitable sound of the Harley potato…potato…potato...! The moment I heard that sound, I knew the potato prices would go up and they did, but that had nothing to do with me riding the Harley. Just like how the RAM ratings have nothing to do with the sound of a station. And yet the best way perhaps to judge the greatness of a radio station is going by the sound of the station... rather than the RAM ratings.

The other interesting fact about a Harley Davidson and how to judge a radio station can be found on the Harley Davidson's official website. Do you know that the engineers at the Harley Factory have a listening room. A bike is kept on something like a treadmill surrounded by hajaar... mikes and the sound is heard through headphones processed through a computer in a listening station  What if radio stations were to employ college students to be listeners in their listening stations? 24 hours round the clock these listeners could tell them or maintain diaries to tell them how the radio station sounds (instead of relying on suspect SHAM ratings which swing every month for no apparent reason)  Or the other option would be to just listen to their listeners rather than listen to the Sales Head, the CEO and the Technical Head who more often than not is clueless when you ask him why the station is off air. 98.6% chances are he'll tell you he'll get back to  you in a day or two. By which time he probably visits the Sidhi Vinayak temple and prays for things to be ok!

Coming back to where we started, the sound of a station..., it's almost like listening to the pulse of a patient or the heartbeat – like what a doctor would do. If your pulse rate has fallen or your heart skips a beat, you're unwell. Having grown up in Shivaji Park where rasta cricket and maidan cricket are a part and parcel of daily life, the one sound that I've grown up listening to (other than the sound of my radio) was the sound of the cricket ball middling the bat. It's a big crack! CRACK!!! Or if the batsman misses - AILA rey! Now, whenever a radio station's jock middles his bat on air too you can hear a similar sound…it's a distinctive crack. You can virtually visualize the batsman taking up his position…song's outro playing. The ball swings in… the Radio Jockey (batsman in this case) swings the bat and either hits the ball or misses. Option a: He misses it completely and the CEO calls.

Aila Rey moment happens. Option b: He  hits the ball and a few thousand listeners call up on his Telos telephone line and the lights start blinking. He picks up a few calls puts them on air, while playing songs and he's on a roll. He's hitting sixes, fours and taking singles too. He doesn't bother that an ad break is coming up – he tells you to stay tuned and hold on he's going to be right back after the break and you do exactly that, you hold on! One such RJ whom I love listening too and keeps me hooked is S-I-D-H-U naam hai Sidhu... on Fever 104 - Mumbai. Never misses a chance to score.

Next in line, the little blood clots in the system - the radio promos, stings and sweepers. The radio station cannot be held responsible for the bad radio advertising that is created and put up in the ad-break even if a lot of the cacophony has been produced by bad radio producers themselves. But, these bad radio producers who produce bad show promos for their own radio stations are the ones who need to be stood up in a row and shot at with rubber pellets that explode like mosquitoes when you squish them the first thing in the morning after they've feasted on your blood!  Perhaps, I am being too harsh on these producers but believe me, a good show promo, sweeper or a sting is supposed to boost the ego of a Radio Jockey. All these are like Viagra pills and Steroids to boost the power of a jock and eventually the radio station. But, if the production values are so bad that you can actually figure out that the jock is reading from a script/text for his own  promo – you wonder what is this guy doing on air. Why isn't he just a voice over reading TV channel menus at Rs.500 per menu? And some of the promos especially for double jocks sound like radio plays that go on and on about things that the jocks are doing as if the City wouldn't be what it is if it weren't for those jocks!

I especially hate those jocks who act surprised at a city phenomenon that happened decades ago. Example - Did you know that Muchchad Panwala – has a website!... Or Did you know that Ashaji and Lataji live on the same floor of the same building.... Hello, I feel like creating a list of what facts you missed by being born after 1980... and should not talk about on air. Ok, now you'll aks me what is wrong with an RJ who's wet behind the ears, is a prime time jock and what has that got to do with the sound of the station. Aks no… aks man. Think of it like this. You see Sachin come in to bat at no.1 because he intimidates the opening bowler, whacks a new ball harder (a good morning jock is wide awake at 7 in the morning) and when he says Aila rey... it sounds cool.

Would you send Harbhajan Singh to open the attack just because he's pissed with the Australians or that he can give chaste gaalis in Punjabi! Then don't send your mid-morning jock or afternoon jock or night-time jock to bat first thing in the morning even on a rainy day when your regular morning jock is down with fever 104! Harbhajan Singh will only make your station sound like a lemon. Can you hear the sound SQUISH..., the sound that needs to happen first thing in the morning and right through the day and night on a 24 hour radio station from the crack of dawn is CRACK... not SQUISH...… Sataak... is better!

(The above opinions are the biased and extremely opinionated opinions of Ravi I Yaar – freelance radio consultant and producer. Catch more of him at