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  • “Padding” the numbers/stats

    August 23, 2022 | 0 comments

    When you volunteer to be an online DJ, show host or “presenter”, listener counts are a valid motivation. After all, if you’re sitting at home dedicating the time to put together a show, make announcements or follow some station criteria – ads, news, etc – you would like to know it isn’t just for your benefit, right?

    Listener counts also matter when attracting potential advertisers because, like you, they *may* not want to spend the money to have their ad played for the DJ only. The whole reason a business would pay for advertising is to get the word out about the company, what they offer, specials/deals.

    What can an online station do to curb this doubt, both for the DJ and potential advertiser? Pad the numbers. Do all stations do it? Probably not, but it is fairly common. With the proliferation of online stations out there, the listener base diminishes drastically. The older stations may already have a loyal fanbase and followers, so why would they jump ship to an unknown station? So, you start your station and discover the costs are astronomical thanks to laws that were set many years ago regarding licensing and royalties. Of course, commercial stations have always paid royalties. But, when online stations became a “thing”, the commercial stations started seeing their listener base drop. As a former commercial FM listener, why continue to listen to the same 10-song playlist ever hour, interrupted by 10-20 minutes of the same commercials? Why call the “listener line” to make a request only to hear a busy signal for hours? As commercial radio stations disconnected themselves from their listeners, online stations were mixing up the music, taking requests and doing a better job of providing a service. As the interest online grew, the National Association of Broadcasters, and other entities, decided to make it almost financially impossible for small online groups to broadcast online. The laws created were, and still are, very strict and any violation would result in major fines, upwards of $10,000+. Online stations now had to attract businesses to help offset these royalty and licensing fees. Special niche stations would seek businesses that were in the same niche market, which makes perfect sense. You each share a common audience but for a business to help support the station financially, how many listeners are in that audience? The same thing happens in commercial radio – a #1 rated station can charge more for advertising space than a #20 station in the same market. Similarly, a number 1 show on the radio can charge more for advertising than the midnight show that may have half of the overall listeners at any time. Ego plays an important role in this as well for both commercial and online stations and personalities.

    Start your online station, ask businesses to help fund your expenses. How many listeners do you have? Checking the stream logs, you can show there are 3 to 5 listeners per hour. Sorry, that is not enough to pay for an advertisement. Check back in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, the station operator or one of his/her co-partners, learns that if you open the online station player multiple times, your listeners numbers go up as well. If I open 20 players on my desktop and my co-partner opens 20 players, our listenership is now 43 to 45!! As a DJ/presenter in an already overly crowded broadcast space (online), that is impressive and, since most station operators do not give access to the actual streaming logs, the DJ will never know there are really only 3 to 5 listeners – the operator and co-partner are probably not even tuned in but the apps are still running. Another method to fake listener numbers is to simply add a number prior to the actual count. What is displayed or shown on a spreadsheet can be manipulated easily enough, similar to “padding” numbers on website visitor counts.

    One way to gauge this is through listener interaction. Is there a chat function or “listener” call-in number? If there is (never) any interaction with listeners, it could be because there are none. Try bringing this up with the station operator – “it’s that time of year again” or “just because they aren’t chatting or calling, they are still out there listening”. The latter could be true but doubtful.

    I’ve been an online presenter, DJ, announcer and podcaster for many years. I have seen the tricks, the deception and egos. Most online stations are voluntary except for your time so do you value your time? At some point, you have to be asking yourself, “am I sitting here for 2-4 hours doing this for myself?”. I invest in the DJ software, a couple of DJ pools for music, as well as my own collection, my internet and of course the time to do it…it is worth something. If you’re not receiving any feedback other than excuses. but your numbers appear to be really good, or the station operator tells you they are really good, you might want to reconsider. Unless you are only doing this for yourself.

  • “Now Playing” for VirtualDJ

    April 24, 2022 | 0 comments

    During my shows, I use VirtualDJ Pro and Jingle Palette. One of the (major) things lacking in VirtualDJ is the export of artist and song title of the song playing, aka “Now Playing”. Many 3rd party audio streaming packages can read a “Now Playing” file and send the contents to the server, thus, enabling you to see what artist and song is being played. It is also a legal requirement and the song info is used for license royalties, tracking what is played and whether it is within the legal guidelines (DCMA has rules).

    VirtualDJ can stream audio to a server within itself – to ONE server. But, I use a soft-mixer (VoiceMeeter Potato), Jingle Palette (for sound effects/ID’s, etc) and I stream to multiple servers at once.

    Mixxx, which is a very popular FREE mixing software can stream to multiple servers. I tried this package during a show a couple of weeks ago after spending a few hours setting it up, testing and importing 33,000+ song tracks into it. I found it limiting with my Pioneer DJ controller compared to VirtualDJ. After the show, I ditched Mixxx. Sorry Mixxx fans.

    VirtualDJ does have a utility called Play2Text which I used for about a year. It reads VirtualDJ’s track info and saves it to a file of your choosing. But, for me at least, it proved to be buggy – sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

    With my growing knowledge of Excel and VBA, I decided to write some code and an Excel form that would do the trick. After a bit of testing, I submitted it to VirtualDJ and it was eventually approved as a app. But I needed something else, something stand alone. I grabbed Microsoft’s Visual Studio package and went to work. After some trial and error, countless Google searches, and tests, this morning I used my first-made Windows application – “Virtual DJ Now Playing v1”. It worked flawless! I decided to send it to VirtualDJ and am awaiting their approval. It may look archaic, but it does what is needed.

    Main screen of my Virtual DJ Now Playing application

    After this, I realized I’m on a roll! I started creating a soundboard After adding a couple of sound bytes and having successful results, I decided Jingle Palette does the trick, for now. lol If you haven’t looked at Jingle Palette, it is quite a useful program.

  • When to try and when to stop – lessons learned

    April 2, 2022 | 0 comments

    When you start with a new online station, the support can be overwhelming. This isn’t limited to how one station does it. I’ve ‘worked’ at a few over the past 15+ years and learned a few lessons. “Hooray! You’re here!”. “Welcome to the team!”. “Great show!” Management and others are there with encouragement. They may, or may not, post about your upcoming show on their own social media, “I’m listening to [insert your show name here] everybody tune in!” It is a great gesture that can last for awhile until it fizzes out like a stale carbonated beverage that is left open. Most of the stations are like this. For whatever reason, the enthusiasm, support and camaraderie fades. The next newcomer is boosted while you get shoved further and further into the back of the truck. For the newcomer, the above is repeated. Is that how to run a station of “volunteers”?

    Since I just mentioned the word, “volunteers”, these are unpaid gigs and everyone who is “hired” knows this in advance. What the management fails to understand sometimes is that, while this isn’t paid, there is time involved. DJ/Presenters maintain their own playlists and tracks. I have over 10,000 mp3’s. I also subscribe to two (2) “DJ Pools”, the larger one has a library of millions of music tracks. DJ pools cost but are well-worth it to have an almost unlimited selection of music at your fingertips. And, since they seamlessly interface with the DJ mixing software (in my case, Virtual DJ), it is like having a giant storage case of everything you could want sitting next to you. Well, maybe not everything but close. The stations are usually the responsible party for paying the music royalties. The DJ/presenters are still donating their time for preparation, producing promos/ads, and in some cases, paying for equipment, music & more.

    I’m always interested in do more within this crowded industry. When a station advertised for an HR Assistant, I applied. After a structured interview, I was accepted! Basic tasks include processing new applications and interviewing applicants. I have done this in the past, so it seemed like a good fit. Training for this role was non-existent. “Visit the website to learn more about it.” Another system was activated to supposedly assist with employee processing. No training for this either. I reached out to the “team” for assistance. As with starting out as a DJ/Presenter, there was some communication and support from management but that quickly faded. After a successful interview, I would hand-off the new applicant to upper management for final interview and processing. At first, applicants were processed by management in a timely manner, sometimes within a few days. Soon, that stopped as well. I would Email management about an applicant or an issue elsewhere and….nothing. One applicant waited for over a month. Then, after someone finally responded, they waited again for training. I inquired about becoming a trainer – I have experience, by the way – that was ignored. A few weeks later, “anyone interested in becoming a trainer can go to [website] for information.” They could not even address the person inquiring about it?

    Another applicant passed my interview criteria and was passed on to, and ignored by, management. I was seeing a trend here. I decided it was best to resign from the HR position. I saw no point in wasting my time and an applicant’s time only to have us both ignored. This lack of communication says more about management than anything. At first, “if you have any questions just contact us” seemed great but quickly turned to a sense of “I blocked you so don’t bother”.

    Some of this special treatment can extend to listeners as well. Blocked, kicked or “silenced” for something that may be petty or allowed activity coming from other listeners. Just so you know…

    Not all management have a chip on their shoulder, a superiority complex or autocratic behavior but when you experience this, it is time to stop trying. Lesson learned.