Happy Memorial Day Weekend!
Here’s a print ad by David Helton that appeared in the Plain Dealer and Scene magazine in the early eighties.
Memorial Day weekend is when we’d unleash our summer slogans (“the station that reaches the beaches…..”) and sweeps (“time to turn so you won’t burn”). We’d sprinkle in a number of timeless summertime oldies from the sixties and early seventies.
Most radio stations used Memorial Day weekend and other long holiday weekends to put their programming on automatic pilot. Some stations would do top 100 song countdowns while others would carry special syndicated programming. Rarely did a radio station put their full-time staff on during these weekends. Most radio stations didn’t sound like themselves – or their usual format – on holiday weekends.
We considered long weekends in a different way. In fact, we viewed our weekend programming – every weekend – to be as equally crucial and promotable as our weekdays. It’s why we saved our prime giveaways for the weekend. It’s why we always secured a “world premiere exclusive,” a major album that our competition didn’t have. We’d commence promoting our weekend programming and Sunday night specials starting on Wednesday.
We believed that the radio station “owning” Memorial Day weekend would be the most listened to radio station of the summer.
It’s true that radio stations generate far more revenue on weekdays than weekends – a reason why some stations measured weekend programming as less significant. We viewed WMMS as this living, breathing 24-hour entity where sleep was out of the question.
Our listeners were different and demanded a rock and roll soundtrack around the clock. Old Arbitron ratings showed WMMS to have over 60 percent of all people listening to the radio on Saturday night, for example. Day or night, weekday or weekend – if there was an audience obtainable – no matter how large or small – we wanted them listening to us.
For the long three-day summer weekends, we had integral contingency plans, which included the music we’d play, the ID’s and sweeps we’d use, and how we would stage and present the overall soundtrack for our listeners. We’d gauge whether our listeners were indoors or out, mobile or at home. It helped outline our music selection. Music for a rainy day, when most were stuck indoors would differ from a hot, sunny, summer day.
The print ads were done a week ahead of time to meet the papers’ early to mid-week deadlines. This particular weekend we were planning to spotlight some rare live Beatles and Rolling Stones live and studio recordings we’d manage to secure. We always tried to include music that was not accessible – or at least difficult-to-find in our programming. It was, to paraphrase Tom Waits, our way or providing our listeners “with a little something they can’t get at home.”
Here’s hoping for a flamethrowin’, hot rockin’, sunny summertime Memorial Day weekend.