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Independent music is a staple at many community radio stations.

These locally produced programs are inexpensive for stations, are popular and can generate revenue during fund drives. But community radio producers rarely get insight on what makes an effective break between music.

What makes an effective break for a community radio broadcaster? The following tutorial explains five tips for any community radio producer to improve her/his breaks. Although these tips are aimed at community radio music programming, the principles herein can be applied to news and public affairs programs.

When preparing for a break, community radio producers should note the following:

  1. Mind the basics. Music breaks should be no more than three minutes. Do not say “you’ve just listened to” or “up next” because people already know that. Mix up your styles; avoid ruts; change up your presentation of names and songs. Do not just recite the song and artist and instead give listeners something extra – a story or a fact that demonstrates your value as a programmer.
  2. Do not be a radio announcer, be a communicator. You are presenting content that transforms people. Don’t read your material or sound like it – speak it. Personalize your language. Say something important by asking questions. Say ‘you’ and connect with your listeners. Think to yourself as you listen to a break, “Are you talking to me?” If you cannot honestly say that break is one in which you are connecting personally with someone, tweak until you get there.
  3. Do airchecks regularly. In radio terminology, airchecks are generally recordings of a particular program aimed at highlighting the host. Record your program regularly and listen to yourself. Take your ego out of airchecks by listening 24 hours after the recording is done and critiquing yourself then. Better still, listen while distracted and pretend you’re a radio audience. Are you connected to your content? Are you sharing yourself with listeners? Do you seem interested in what you’re saying? Does it have variety?
  4. Be entertaining. Have fun on the air, and realize people listen to the radio to be entertained. If they didn’t, why wouldn’t they just buy CDs?
  5. Watch your technical aspects. Is your pitch monotone? Are you utilizing your highs and lows? What about rhythm and pace yourself or do you run everything together? Good modulation means you have consistent breaths at consistent times. Finally, recognize a lot of your voice is in the body, not your mouth. Good posture is critical.

Even the newest community radio programmer can do an effective break with a little practice. Prospective programmers should apply these principles regularly.

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