Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Art of Back Timing

An interesting discussion is going on over at the Kansas City Radio Board about the art of "back timing". It seems my old station 99.7KY goes into network programming every night at 7pm and the person responsible for the transition isn't even live in the studio. So, at 3 minutes to 7, they started an 8 minute song and just cut it off. Lazy and inexcusable.

One of the very first jobs I ever had was when I worked the overnight shift at KSTT in downtown Davenport. KSTT was at 1170 on the AM dial and was broadcasting out of an old rat infested building down by the Mississippi right next to The Hostess bakery where Twinkies are made. Spike Odell was the morning guy and he had a running bit by saying he was broadcasting from "Twinkie Boulevard". Every hour on the hour the network news would come on. Once you had your clocks set by the network, it was up to you to hit that mark with the end of your song. I considered it cheating to play an instrumental.
For example, if you know that you have 7.5 minutes left till the top of the hour, you had better have two songs, both averaging 3:45 in length. If you are going to talk for 15 seconds, then you need to deduct that time from your two songs. It was one of the things that made the job challenging and fun. Being the perfectionist that I am, the tighter the better. Only jocks can realate to this: my favorite moment was at 4am one day. I had the hour timed out perfectly. I ended the hour with "Magic Man" by Heart. If you remember the song, it ended very cold with a drum part and the end. At the exact moment the song ended, the next sound was "I'm so and so ABC news.." Spike heard it and complimented me on the great job of backtiming. It is an art that no one cares about anymore and that is reason number 45367 why I am out of the business.


Brian Holland said...

And I'll give you three guesses who instigated that little discussion on the K.C. Radio free-for-all board too! Just another example of declining standards on big-time radio stations. I may not have been the greatest jock in the world, but I made damn sure I hit the news at the top of the hour on the nose every time. I had lots of practice at it beforehand because I used to make cassette tapes of my favorite bands (back in the days before CD burning), and I packed my tapes to the gills, thus I would back-time them so I would know how long of a song to insert at the end without running out of tape. Radio stations have let computers take everything over now--I'd take a live jock who knows what they're doing over them any day...

Dave Morris said...

I MISS the art of back-timing. The most fun is when you have a song with a COLD ending, into a :09 recorded ID, into the top of the house ABC news theme. When you pull that off to perfection, it gives you a high you can enjoy for the entire hour.

I also miss the art of segging turntables. It was always a fun challenge to go from a cold extro into a :00 intro between turntables, especially the ones you had to backcue 1/2 turn. You had to hit it about 1.1 seconds before the song ended. Usually a good seg would be followed by a quick glance into the PD's office to see if he was listening.

Then, when we got new turntables installed with 1/8 backcue capability, it was like HEAVEN.

I miss those good times... it was the little things that made it fun, and the big things that made it rewarding.

Bryan Bauermeister said...

A great segue was part of the magic of radio...and it's largely gone now.

Ridiculous station liners like "this massive twopack of consecutive kickass songs lasts longer than sex..." between every song led me to XM.

99.7KY is almost unlistenable now. Randy, you, Skid Roadie, Fredrocks, Vaughn Mack and the Saturday morning guy Steve Garrett were the ones that ignited my passion for radio and inspired me to get in the biz. (I guess you can tell I came of age in the early 80s)

I got out 10 years ago and have been a sleazy sales slug since. More money, better hours...you'll get used to it.

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