Our daughter is 12. She’s in Grade 6, just started dating and in her own words was “born to sing”. She knows the lyrics to songs, start to finish, after hearing a track once or twice. But she battles to tell the time and spends hours learning school work, only to present a blank and panicked look when you ask her any questions about the work she has slaved over for hours. So why can she sing Selena Gomez ft. Kygo’s ‘It Ain’t Me’ after hearing it just once, or drop the lyrics to Vanilla Ice’s ‘Ice Ice Baby’ when they do a dance in a development class at school?
This was my opportunity to stop, collaborate and listen.
People who suffer from ADHD describe the condition like being a railway station with trains, people, baggage and staff coming and going non-stop, and not being able to focus on one single element at any one time. They are in a mental state of hyper stimulation. This strikes me as being very similar to the modern-day media consumer who is more than ever being exposed to mobile devices, out of home messaging, radio, TV and on-line messaging. Like my daughter, less and less is sticking in their minds as we throw more and more at them. So why can she remember the music, which is often far more complex and delivered, much quicker than the academic work?
To me the answer is simple. Songs are words dancing to the accompanying music. The words make a story, the music is a soundtrack, and the result is a musical story. It is storytelling. Songs are well structured, they are often repetitive, they use tone, pace, inclination and vocal variance. They have a logical flow and they take us on a journey.
Songs are short-form stories. They stimulate a part of the brain that helps slow the train station down so that information can be committed to memory; the music is the trigger to recall the information.
Programmers are faced with increasing challenges in retaining audiences: Increasing commercial loads, more and more varied attention-grabbing platforms and content offerings, and talent who can’t tell stories, short ones or long ones.
We sit with talent who string words and sentences together, but don’t create real meaning or value with the limited vocal time they have. The hashtag has created deeper meaning for visual images or short form ideas; it almost sums up the mood and emotion. The hashtag is not as effective on radio. Well-crafted words that are well delivered create the mood and the emotion.
We need to assist on-air teams to learn to express themselves, use colourful, yet simple language, and understand the value of emphasis, repetition and timing. We need to deliver stories, short and long, to create memorable moments. We need to employ the technique and psychology of song-writing into our content delivery.
When we take charge of what we say, and how we say it, our programming – in the words of U2 – will start to “sing, sing a new song”.