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Thread: commercial breaks

  1. #21

    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Houston, Texas
    Posts
    1,169
    21 minutes an hour was no big deal in one small market I worked. We were on the Mexican border. The Peso had been tanking and leveled off somewhat before becoming 1 old Peso being equal to 1 new Peso. The #1 station across the river (La Rancherita del Aire then at 580 only with a huge signal and following) was charging about $1 US per spot. One station was selling 1,000 a spots a month for $5. Most stations across the border were charging about 15 to 25 cents US per thirty. The bottom of the barrel station had about 24 to 36 spots an hour at about 15 cents a pop. As a result, we were lucky to get our $2 a spot with a free play after 6pm for every one you bought. A typical package was $400. These were thirties. We had lots of 60 second agency spots mostly for soft drinks and beers and maybe a McDonalds or such. I'd say the average was around 24 minutes an hour based on a 24 hour day...about 48 to 52 units an hour during the day.

    We averaged about 7 to 8 songs an hour. We had 5 minutes of network news hourly. Generally we ran 6 spots between everything, usually 3.5 to 4 minutes per break (ie: 1 or 2 at 60 seconds and 4 or 5 at 30 seconds). To fit it all in we had to run a break going in to network news or coming out, sometimes both. I literally threw the hot clock out the window and went all requests. One day, an election day locally, I started the 8 am hour with a song. After that first song, I played constant commercials until :53 after the hour breaking every 3 spots for a Time and temperature, quick weather forecast or a live PSA to break it up. Our log, then typed on legal pages, was single spaced and 2 pages per hour (back when the FCC required such). By about 11 pm we could go with 2 in a row most of the time. I recall I had 42 currents and about 126-128 recent gold (recurrents and up to 5 years old) in the studio. Some were dayparted only for after 6 pm.

    Our saving grace was we were the only English language station on the dial and the stations in Mexico, of which one was American Contemporary Hits, all ran more spots between songs...as many as 15 between a song by my count but mostly in the 8 to 10 range.

    After a 6 hour shift you were mentally fried trying to separate competitors, answering phones and back timing to network news and such. That's not to mention only one of our 3 cart machines would actually cue up and we had so many spots sometimes a 30 was on a 2.5 or 3.5 minute cart because we had run out of 40 and 70 second carts. If the cart was upside down on top of the cart, it meant it still had to be cued up in the good cart machine (we had a single play robbed from an automation system, an old level engage cart machine and one only about a year old). We played records then.

    You'd think nobody would listen but you'd hear us everywhere and we likely got about 70 to 200 calls an hour (the 200 pretty much in the evening). At night, lots of kids would stop by to request songs as they cruised town.

    Actually for a small market station it was not as horrible as you might think. We had a Tanner CHR jingle package with a couple of the ever popular (at that time) shotgun jingles and a meteorologist doing our forecasts (Pat Pagano). We had a fulltime news director too. This was the early 1980s. For our lack of experience, we sounded pretty good since we all came from large cities that influenced us and we had a heck of a lot of fun with lots of interaction with listeners. For example, I let people jock a song (intro it by phone) then let the audience vote a winner each day. All the week's daily winners went for a final vote on Friday, then got to go on the air with me Saturday night for an hour and even pick the songs, saying hello to anyone they wanted.

    By the way, on the road a couple of weeks ago, I was passing through Pecos, Texas and listened to the AM there. They started the 9 am hour with a solid 20 minutes of commercials. I couldn't believe it. The oil field traffic made it seem more like driving in Houston and I understand Pecos is the 2nd fastest growing small city in the USA. Granted most of the spots were aimed at the oil field worker with quite a few spots detailing employment opportunities.

  2. #22

    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Edmonds, Washington
    Posts
    2,078
    Wow your stories from when you worked in radio are quite interesting. I've only ever looked at playlists from this early a couple times, but to me it seems like no matter when you listen, whether it's 3 A.M. on the slowest day of the week or 5 P.M. on the busiest, the breaks don't change much.

  3. #23

    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Houston, Texas
    Posts
    1,169
    It was great fun. Single, broke and doing what you loved without a boss breathing down your neck all the time (literally that they could count on you covering your shift, not being late and playing all the commercials were the big priorities). We got to do lots of experimenting since we were the only English station.

    From a competitive point, I had worked in a record store and was pretty good at predicting hits...about 60-65% right...so to compete with the Mexican Top 40 that bought records from a US retail record shop and the fact KTSA from San Antonio came in well at night, my goal, thanks to a staff member that had key stations he watched across the station, we had an objective of playing the hits first and burn them out before KTSA went on it or the Mexican Top 40 could get their hands on it. Most of the stuff, by the time it hit the top 20 was already a recurrent for us as we had been on the songs for weeks. Back then there was a 'coolness' factor in being the first to play. We messed up too. I had decided "In The Heart of the Night" and "Crazy Love" would be the singles from the latest Poco album. I predicted "In The Heart of the Night" would be the first single instead of Crazy Love. Also, quite a few AOR stations played the singles weeks ahead of the top 40 stations, so we watched those stations too.

    We started moving that direction by 1979 by playing the hits first and it actually worked fairly well since we had pretty much a captive audience. I witnessed many times when folks would not like a song, after suffering through another long commercial break, to find the competitor playing what was to the listener an old song and clicking back to us. In all honesty, my ability to predict the hits was eclipsed by the jock that followed a few stations and what they went on out of the box. I admit a friend that worked in a record distributing company offered some really good tips and a few record reps from the old record store days got me a few songs a few weeks before they were released officially. Even at 40% or more commercials, the county annual ratings were purchased by my boss, I think, in 1983 and we had a 43 point something share. There was no huge breakdown or big sampling but judging by going in to businesses and folks I knew and met there, I'd believed that number.

    With all those commercials, we felt we had to do something to try to keep the listeners.

  4. #24
    Yep... Definitely the good life, if not exactly the term today's programmers would call it! :-)

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