Re-think reviewing.

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Before I got into radio, I started writing for a music magazine called Substream. It was the first real music journalism that I got into, and I loved it. I still do! I’ve been writing for Substream for almost 3 years and I’ve had the privilege of interviewing some of my favorite musicians and bands, and reviewing some of my (now) favorite records.  As a music journalist, I like to try and stay on top of whats going on in my music scene, so on Twitter I follow a whole bunch of music news sites, writers, bloggers, interviewers, bands, musicians, and other people involved in the scene. You would think that all of these sources and people would be working together and would be in good company, right? I mean, they all help each other out. Bands create the music, music news sites promote them. It’s a cycle that could work very nicely, but of course, it doesn’t always go so smoothly.

I was recently talking with my friend, a fellow music journalist, about some comments we saw a musician making on Twitter. We’ve both seen countless other musicians make similar comments, which mostly boil down to not respecting music reviewers who give a band’s album a bad review. They don’t understand why a reviewer should be able to tear an album apart, and the band shouldn’t get upset about it. They don’t understand why they are supposed to just accept that the bad review is just the writers opinion.

The conversation with my friend really got me thinking, and I agree with these musicians. Why should they have to sit back while a person who is completely detached from their music, and has probably been listening to their new album for like a week, sits at a computer and posts a horrible review of this piece of work that took the band months and months to create? Well, they don’t have to sit back. Twitter and other social media give them the platform to fire back, and I don’t blame them for doing so. In fact, I’d almost be more displeased if they weren’t standing up for their work.

I think that some people are writers for the wrong reason. I think some writers like to have the ego and think that they are epically important. Well, you probably aren’t. Realistically, bands would exist without music news sources. But music news sources would not exist without bands. So why would you want to disrespect a band that gave you the opportunity to listen to and review their new album (which they worked tremendously hard on)? What gives you the right to do that? Are you really that knowledgable on music that you think your opinion of an album holds enough weight for you to give it a bad review if you don’t like it? I kind of highly, highly doubt it.

That is why I never give bad reviews. Ever. I can’t even count how many album or live concert reviews I’ve written over the last 3 years, but I know that they all put the artist in good light. But, I’ve also never lied when writing a review. All my reviews were my genuine and honest opinion, and that’s because I only review albums or shows of bands that I like. That might sound biased, but if you really think about it, it makes sense. Who is going to read my review? Most likely someone who already knows of that band. So instead of bashing a band’s album, I highlight how it’s different from their past work, I highlight what has gotten better or the growth that they show. I give an honest summary of what to expect from that album, and I always find good things to say.

I believe that music journalists, reviewers to be specific, should be using their privilege to promote bands, not tear them down. Reviews should inspire people to check that album out, not disregard an artists work before they’ve ever even given it a chance. I don’t review music because I want someone to read it and think that my opinion is so important that they should either listen or not listen to an album. My opinion is not that important. I review music because I want people to be intrigued and excited to check out new music.

As a music news source, you should want the best possible relationship you can have with bands and artists. I’ll stand by my statement that music news sources should exist to promote bands and music. You don’t want to alienate that relationship by giving a bad review to an album that you probably, in all honesty, didn’t even give enough listens to to justify your bad review. If you respect the musicians art, they will respect your art, too.

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Why you don’t want traditional radio to disappear.

I had a meeting with my professor yesterday and we were talking about a presentation that I have coming up. We were talking about radio and the points I wanted to get across, and she kept asking me how I’m going to make people care. What about my presentation is going to make people care about radio. That really got me thinking, why should people care about traditional radio? Let me tell you why.

  • Many radio stations are still live and local. The people talking to you on the airwaves are right there in your community, they know what’s going on, and they care. They support local businesses, organizations, and charities on air.
  • Most other places you can find music don’t have a personality aspect at all. If you’re listening to Pandora on your morning commute, I can guarantee it’s not going to make you crack up laughing to yourself like morning show personalities can on your local station. (This particular aspect is something I strive really hard for. I always want to make those sleepy commuters feel ridiculous for laughing by themselves. Laughter is great any time of the day though!)
  • Even if the station you typically tune into isn’t live or local (unfortunately a lot of radio is syndicated or recorded, a sad fact indeed. It happens because huge companies can afford to buy out small stations) it’s still FREE. It costs you nothing to tune into the radio. If that disappeared, all those free or trial services would have nothing to compete with and could jack up their prices. Think about it.
  • Whether you like it or not, you still find new music on radio. People like to complain that the same music gets played over and over on radio, but radio still makes the hits. They still debut songs and make them popular. You just think that the radio station is playing a certain song a lot because you heard it there first, and then started hearing it EVERYWHERE else after that, so it feels like every time you tune in you hear it.
  • From an advertising standpoint, traditional radio is one of the most targeted and effective mediums you can use. The variety of radio stations offers you a chance to pick and choose what demographics you want to hear your ad.

These are only a few points about why traditional radio matters, and will continue to matter, but they are points that I think are often looked over. Sometimes we take certain media for granted, yet if it ceased to exist, we would definitely notice its absence. The effects of it would be more widespread than you think!

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A poster of a benefit concert my station threw for Food For Lane County

Stay humble, but “own your sh*t”.

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I’m going to tell you right from the get-go that this post is inspired by Drake getting a little upset with Rolling Stone (didn’t want you to be thrown off guard by my title, but it just fit so perfectly with what I want to discuss). Let me give you the lowdown: Drake was slated to have the cover of Rolling Stone along with an interview/article in the last issue, but then Philip Seymour Hoffman tragically passed away. Rolling Stone bumped Drake from the cover and replaced it with one in memorium of Hoffman, which is totally understandable. Drake had a few choice words to say about it though, which he tweeted and then got rightfully criticized for. You can read all of that here, if you’d like. His comments were pretty disrespectful to the deceased and he then had to apologize and say that he didnt mean what he said. 

We can all learn a lesson from Drake in this situation. His ego got the best of him and he easily could’ve avoided all the drama if he had just not posted a bunch of stupid comments on Twitter. No matter how big you are, you can never let your ego takeover and make you think that you deserve things that were a privilege to you in the first place. Drake thought he had a RIGHT to that Rolling Stone cover, when really he should’ve been grateful a large magazine like that wanted to feature him at all. Entitlement is something that can easily take over your personality, because as soon as you adopt that quality, it skews the rest of your character. Whether you are Drake, any other celebrity, or anyone who is seeing success in their given field, you have to stay humble.

Staying humble is important, but unfortunately it still will not deflect people from criticizing your every move. Sometimes society expects the huge ego from people who are doing well and they see humbleness as being fake. Taylor Swift is one example. She is genuinely surprised and excited when she is up for awards against artists she’s admired her whole life and then wins, and yet somehow people still think her look of awe and amazement is insincere. A lot of society doesn’t understand being humble when you are successful, because we are so used to seeing the huge egos of the Drakes of the world. But it is still better to stay humble, because then you wont risk disrespecting someone who just died.

While Drake’s ego did shine through in the majority of the Rolling Stone article, he did make at least one good point. He was discussing the the Grammys and how Macklemore instagrammed a screenshot of a text he sent Kendrick Lamar, saying he “robbed” Kendrick of an award. A lot of people have accused Macklemore of having less than pure intentions for posting the screenshot, and Drake wasn’t too keen on it either. He said this: “I was like, ‘You won. Why are you posting your text message? Just chill. Take your W, and if you feel you didn’t deserve it, go get better — make better music. It felt cheap. It didn’t feel genuine. Why do that? Why feel guilt? You think those guys would pay homage to you if they won?”

I had read a handful of other articles that criticized Macklemore over this situation, but I hadn’t read any that point out WHY he shouldn’t have posted the text as well as Drake did. He laid it out perfectly. Why shut yourself down to give praise to someone else? You don’t have to brag about winning, but you also don’t have to diminish what you’ve just accomplished. He won 4 Grammys that night!! He killed it!! To make the focus about someone else NOT winning an award seems less than helpful to your own brand. Why not just be grateful for what you were awarded with? Or at least, if you really feel the need to apologize to another nominee, don’t post it for the world to see. Keep it private.

A lot of other controversaries surrounded the Macklemore wins, and I wont get into that now, but I want to end this post with one last Drake quote from that article which really highlights the mindset Macklemore should’ve left the Grammys with: “This is how the world works: He made a brand of music that appealed to more people than me, Hov, Kanye and Kendrick. Whether people wanna say it’s racial, or whether it’s just the fact that he tapped into something we can’t tap into. That’s just how the cards fall. Own your shit.

Own your shit. It’s not an extremely delicate way of putting it, but it’s straight forward ,and I respect it and I like it. Across the board, when you are putting your work out there for the world to see, be proud of it, and be humble about it. You don’t have to advertise your huge ego, but you also don’t have to talk yourself down. All you have to do is produce the best work you can, accept praise when you get it, and work harder when you aren’t where you wanna be. Own your shit. You’re the only one who can make it better, or worse.

Infographic survival guide

Amanda Burd #3 Infographic

These past few weeks in J452 we have been working on infographics and, if I’m being honest, it’s been less than fun. On the surface, making an infographic doesn’t sound too horrible: You put purposeful information onto a sheet in a visual way that easy for people to follow. But once you get into it, you run into many roadblocks. You have too much information, or not enough. The information you do have doesn’t fit together or tell a story. You can’t find visuals that represent the data. You can’t word the data in a concise way. You’re banging your head on the wall trying to think of how to put it all together. Ya know, problems like that.

But eventually, things will fall together and you will finish it. Once I finished mine it was a huge relief, and I want to help others get to that point when making an infographic, so here are a few of my favorite tips to help you skip all the roadblocks and get to the finish line.

  • Organize information on the infographic in a way that follows a person’s typical eye movement (top left corner is the first place people tend to look)
  • Additionally, make the first thing you want people to see the biggest font/image on the infographic
  • Have a color theme that works. It’ll be very overwhelming to your reader if it looks like a rainbow threw up on your graphic.
  • Make the info relatable. You are likely going to be trying to educate someone or convince someone of something with your infographic, but if they cant relate or connect with it in some way, they wont remember it.
  • Make it convincing. Have a call to action that leaves people persuaded by your message.

To compliment all those tips, you can check a bunch of really awesome infographics and get some inspiration. 

A Voice for Radio

radio-micI don’t think there are very many people out there who hear recordings of their voice and go “oh my gosh yes, that is beautiful!” For some reason, we just don’t like the sound of our own voice. This a big reason why a lot of people think they have to change their voice for radio. There is a misconception that radio personalities have to “put on” their voice, like it’s a hat or a pair of socks that they can put on or take off as they please. But in reality, there is no “radio voice”. This is a lesson I learned on my very first day on air, after I heard a recording of myself and I sounded like a robot cheerleader who had drank wayyyy too much coffee. I over-pronounced words, I sounded overly excited and peppy, plus I was yelling as if I was talking to someone hard of hearing. My bosses purposely recorded me so I could hear it back, and I never put that voice on again.

Radio personalities are going for authenticity. The more authentic and honest you are on air, the better people will connect with you. So, the best way to have a radio voice is to just be yourself. Although, smiling also doesn’t hurt (you can read my whole post about smiling more). Radio personalities might change their tone or infliction on words, but for the most part, what you’re hearing is the way they would sound off-air or in any normal setting. This is why I’ve had random people at my other jobs/school/the grocery store stare at me with a confused expression until it clicks that they recognize my voice and they go “Are you on KDUK??” and I blush and nod (I’ll never get used to that happening). I don’t particularly like my voice, but it’s distinctive. Something about the way I talk is distinguishable from other people. I don’t think anyone likes the sound of their own voice, but people will connect with the real you far better than they ever would with some overcaffinated robo-cheerleader, promise you that.

Embrace the selfie.

Smart brands pay close attention to the cultural landscape and they find ways to apply what’s popular to their brand. “Selfie” was Oxford’s 2013 Word of the Year. 57 million Instagram photos were tagged #selfie in 2013, and that doesnt even cover them all considering not everyone tags their photos. So obviously, people are pretty into taking photos of themselves these days. As a brand, why not encourage that trend by creating a contest or conversation around it? Some brands have already caught on, like Warby Parker Eyewear and Dunkin Donuts.

One day while I was in my radio world, I was contemplating new ways we could connect with listeners and I got the idea to make a station Snapchat account. We put it the user name our on our social media pages and in an hour we had hundreds of Snapchat friends. My co-hosts and I started sending random photos and videos out and the listeners were responding back with their own. Almost all of them were selfies. It was mutually really cool for both us and the listeners because they got a glimpse into the antics that go on behind the scenes of the radio show they listen to in the mornings, and we got to see some of the people who listen. We got to take the connection we already have with our listeners and bring it to a whole new level. Building onto connections like that is what will keep customers loyal to your brand.

Selfie campaigns are genius, because you’re telling your customers “Hey! We know you’re out there and we want to see you!!” There is this weird stigma that selfies have now, like taking photos of your self is a egotistical thing, but all anyone wants when they post a selfie is to feel a little confidence boost. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Taking a selfie that you think you look good in, posting it, and having people affirm that you do in fact look good is a great feeling. By a brand ASKING people to do this, they are affirming that you’re beautiful before you even post the photo! Which makes you want to participate that much more and interact with the brand.

At the station we started doing a Snapchat contest. Every once in a while we will send out a snap of a selfie of us with a prize you could win and we ask listeners to snap us back and we will pick a snap to win the prize. We have gotten some really hilarious snaps back, and the listeners are always beyond stoked when their response wins. People screencap the snap we send them saying they won. They share with their friends that a selfie got them a prize and that they were snapping with their favorite radio station.

Relationship building, one selfie at a time.

Here’s a Snapchat selfie I sent our listeners before a big work event last week, encouraging people to come find me and say hello.

I’ll try anything at least once.

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A few weeks ago I started following a radio DJ from Indiana on Facebook. I found his page through a mutual radio friend we have. His page had over 13k likes. I immediately assumed he worked for some huge station, possibly the biggest in his state, but when I looked up his station I found out that it only had 6k likes. The only possible explanation for this is that this dude is crazy good at branding himself and getting people to connect with him. I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know how he did it. So I sent him a message and a few minutes later he told me to call the studio he worked at so we could chat.

We talked for about an hour and he gave me some great advice. I could tell that he had insane charisma and is really funny, which I knew had to be part of why people loved him so much. He looked over my social media pages and gave me advice on what to change to increase my reach and my popularity. The number one thing he told me I needed to do was to start vlogging. I have never ever vlogged before in my life and the idea of videoing myself talking about random things seemed like something I would not be good at, be assured me that it was easy and it’d be fun. So tuesday night, during my late night show at KWVA, I made my first vlog.

I just went for it. Thats the approach I tend to take when I’m about to do something for the first time. You can’t syke yourself out or you won’t do it at all. So I made some random video, showing the studio, showing me to a talk break, and just generally doing random things. By the end of my show that night, that video had become the most “liked” post I’ve ever made on my radio page.

I started thinking about it and I realized that vlogging really isn’t that much different than being on radio. You just talk about things, show your personality, make it interesting, and try to get people to connect with you. The only difference is that with a vlog, they can also see you! Which is awesome because it just lets people connect with you on that much higher of a level. After that, I understood why the DJ I talked to was so jazzed on vlogging, and why he was exactly right about it working to broaden my reach.

I decided to start posting vlogs twice a week, once on Tuesdays during my show at KWVA, and once on Friday mornings while I’m on the morning show at KDUK. Consistency is key when vlogging, because you need to keep people interested. You should post frequently enough that people stay interested, but not so often that they get annoyed or overwhelmed with all the videos.

People like to see the quirky side of other people. We all have a desire to connect with other people and see that they are similar to us. I was really hesitant to try vlogging at first but now I am really stoked to keep making them because I realized they will help me showcase to people what I’m really passionate about and why. I have a passion for connecting with people, telling stories, making people laugh, and just being the goofball that I am.

If you want to follow me on Facebook and keep up with my vlogs, you can click this incredibly long link.