Pitching Is Live Radio

Recently Alex Epstein blogged about the value of pitching your story out loud. Read it. It’s great.

Strangely enough it reminded me of something I learned while hosting radio shows for Belgium’s market leader in the 90’s.

by Karel Segers

The freedom we had as radio makers back in the early nineties was astounding. I was a newbie to the medium, yet was left entirely to my own devices in terms of how I prepared for my shows, even when they had an audience of over one million listeners.

That freedom was also intimidating.

Retro.I would prepare my playlists and link texts in the safety of my office back at home, listening to newly released records and pairing them with my favorite tunes. In the process of doing this, I took risks.

I sometimes pushed the boundaries of what would normally be played on this station, which was generally pretty mainstream soft pop.

At the time I was really into funk a la Chaka Khan, Scritti Politti and Miles Davis. Not really the type of stuff the listeners of this station were into.

I was the equivalent of the arthouse filmmaker – but for radio.

Each week I performed the balancing act of considering which tracks I would get away with and which would get me a call from the channel head. It was long before the days when marketing and numbers started to rule music rotation at this channel.

KQED Radio - Michael Krasny's studio

So why wouldn’t I play my favorites? Not only did I like them; they would sound pretty cool in the ears of my peers…

Then came the time to broadcast this playlist live on air, out to the sometimes 1 million homes tuned in to our show. Over two million listeners in total.

And suddenly some things seemed to change.

L1070293The same songs didn’t sound right anymore. They sounded harder, stranger and … longer. Right there, sitting in the radio studio, listening to the exact same songs in the exact same order I programmed them back home everything sounded different.

I could feel the response of the listeners back home.

I could feel it in my stomach.

What I believed I could get away with, I now felt I didn’t. Yet nobody had told me, nor did I see or hear anyone’s response. My body was telling me.

The exact same thing happened when I pitched my film projects fifteen years later.

Telling the story to a live listener is so different that you don’t even need to see or hear their feedback. You can already feel deep inside yourself what you do get away with and what you don’t.

– Karel Segers

Karel Segers is a producer and script consultant who started in movies as a rights buyer for Europe’s largest pay TV group Canal+. Back then it was handy to speak 5 languages. Less so today in Australia. Karel teaches, consults and lectures on screenwriting and the principles of storytelling to his 5-year old son Baxter and anyone who listens. He is also the boss of this blog.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Nite_OwlAlan Kleinasridgway

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