Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hi-Viz and getting down to broadcasting basics

Strange time of year; strange days. In between Christmas and New Year, loads of people on holiday, loads of people mildly or very drunk, loads of people hungover, shopping, dreaming, playing with new Santa delievered toys.

The Tom Morton Show has always gone for live as opposed to pre-recorded when it comes to the festive season, basically due to a recognition by all concerned,I think, that I'm really, really crap at pre-records. Unless we're talking highly structured, carefully written mega productions like the recent alcohol endeavours. I sometimes think I've developed such a tolerance to adrenalin after the years of live broadcasting that without the mild threat of disaster a live show brings, the tamped-down rush, there isn't the concentration or energy to produce the requisite performance.

So I really don't mind the two hours of live TMS each day, while other presenters are at home or engaged in apres-ski at their Alpine chalets. No, that's not resentment. I hate ski-ing. One agonising weekend in Aviemore was enough.

I suppose this live broadcasting lark is a bit like exercise. Once you're running or cycling or Pilates-ing daily, missing a session leaves you feeling...naggingly incomplete. Two hours of inconsequential nattering between records, waiting for either wit or witlessness to come out of your own mouth, gets to be a habit.

Of course, you can (and regularly should) get over this. That's called a holiday, when you can go through adrenalin detox and the Powers That Produce can try out potential replacement presenters. And there's loads of them about. I used to worry about this - after all, that's the path into Radio Scotland I trod myself - but what's the point? If the worst comes to the worst I can always get on eBay and start flogging all those free CDs I've accrued over the years (only joking! These days, compliance rules mean that surplus CDs aren't even given to charity shops; they're landfilled).

Actually, what I wanted to write about today was Hi-Viz jackets, and the way that, during these strange half-lit, snow-filled days, everything is reduced to the absolute essentials of existence: Get up, check the (cold) weather. Breakfast, do news and web checks, dogs out, dogs in, dress. No-one cares what I look like. Radio Shetland's shut, there's nobody there but the occasional painter. And me in the self-op studio. The only people I'll be speaking to, save family, are listening to the radio. So it's the uber-practical approach. And in Shetland, potentially lifesaving: Old jeans, thick socks, Raichle hiking boots, t-shirt, jumper (hoodie for prime comfort) hat, British Army tank commander gloves, padded Hi-Viz jacket, 20 quid from North Eastern Farmers. Warm and in darkest daylight Shetland, the only thing that prevents a pedestrian being pulped.

Transport? Not the classic Merc, which is rubbish anyway and still in the garage. Not the newish Citroen, which is hopeless in the snow. Got to be the crude-as-a-brick Isuzu pick-up truck, noisier than a cement mixer and almost as fast. Old, rusty but with everything in it working perfectly. That'll do. Overnight bag in case I get really stuck. Food, shovel, de-icer. Into town, 35 miles. Broadcast. Come back.

Broadcast: how does that function? A producer and an engineer are in Aberdeen, connected to the Big Aerial in Glasgow. I have a list of songs, all stored on the mainframe computer, somewhere deep below Wick. A playlist for daytime broadcasting is compiled weekly in Glasgow, although me and the producers can mess with it, to an extent. I'm checking and listening all day for stuff that I can talk about, and more importantly, that the listener might be interested in. Being connected is the thing. All media, old, nearly new: papers, radio, telly, internet. Family stuff, local news, dog behaviour. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it just works. Facebook and Twitter have changed the relationship with the audience over the past year. There are regular listeners, erudite, clever folk with funny tales and suggestions for topics we could discuss. Interactivity? You got it. We need it.

So there we are. Broadcasting a two hour live music show, stripped down to basics. I still love it, of course. In a curious way, especially at this strange time of year.


Anonymous said...

These days, compliance rules mean that surplus CDs aren't even given to charity shops; they're landfilled

Well, that's admirably transparent, but quite stupidly wasteful. All hail the pettifogging bureaucrats!

Alistair said...

Spent a couple of days in Aviemore too with bad skiing. It was August mind you....
....and I was 'working'.

Thanks for all the blogging.

Happy New Year to you and yours..


Anonymous said...

I do not know if I got it: do you select all of the songs or just some of them? How do you actually do that? Do you listen to a lot of music also in your free time?
The good thing with the music you play in your show is that there are songs I would put on my wish list IF I could think of them.

Happy new year from Maria in Stockholm. Me and my husband listen to your show as often as we can - not live - but via the web a day or two after.