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Engage With Listeners Stuck at Home

Here are ideas to help jumpstart your creativity

The band MLEMON
The duo MLEMON

Lots of folks sing in the shower. I happen not to — even the water would boo — but I bring it up because that’s where I do a lot of creative thinking.

There’s something about the steam and sound that allows my mind to drift. Wherever your happy place, plan on spending some quality time there because it seems that this pandemic isn’t leaving anytime soon.

To retain and even grow your audience during this time when lifestyle patterns and priorities are in flux, you’ve got to be in a good frame of mind.

I’d like to lay out what I believe to be a path toward engaging your audience. While I can’t solve this specifically for you, I’m hopeful that these thoughts will jumpstart your creativity during that proverbial time in the shower.

1 — What are musicians doing these days?

Many are writing, producing and recording, recording, recording.

A local duo that I follow in DC called MLEMON has done four full albums since last March. They are not alone in their creative output. There are artists in your back yard doing the same.

While the barrier to releasing new materials has never been lower, the ability to reach a big audience is especially challenging with shuttered venues everywhere. Radio to the rescue!

As a role model for this potential promotion, take a peek at NPR’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts. Instead of performing on-site at the Tiny Desk, the norm for over a decade, musicians are recording at home.

NPR also conducted its annual Tiny Desk Contest this pandemic year, capturing over 6,000 entries. You can read the rules for yourself, but I’d like to point out that one fun requirement is that every video include a desk. There’s even a sponsor, State Farm.

Linda Diaz, shown on NPR’s YouTube channel, was the winner of the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest.
Linda Diaz on NPR’s YouTube channel.

Leading up to the winner, NPR featured many of the entries on-air and then followed up by making their winner a featured guest on “All Things Considered.”

Could you pull this off? Yes! This can be done locally and during the pandemic. It has the potential to create huge buzz in your social media, your local press, and TV newscasts.

2 — Next stop: Fashion.

We may be stuck at home, but most of us still gotta get dressed.

This headline from inStyle caught my eye: “How Will Kim Kardashian Dress Without Kanye West Controlling Her Closet?”

No matter what your format — it could even be talk or news — there are many listeners who are interested in or at least curious about this subject.

Also, fashion is something that can be done from home. Create a fashion contest with best-of categories, some of which could be pandemic-specific: masks, lightweight gloves, indoor shoes.

And where would we be in 2021 without Best Unmatched Top and Bottom for Zoom Calls?

Post pictures and videos on your social channels and/or website. Have judges and a Listeners’ Choice award. Could you find a local clothing store as a sponsor? Of course you can.

3 — It seems that animals are endemic to the pandemic.

If you’re not on a lot of Zoom calls, let me share that nearly every call I’m on features a pet’s enthusiastic greeting. While it’s usually dogs and cats, I have also met a talking bird named Buddy and the occasional fish or reptile. Do they distract on the calls? Yes, they do, and man, do people love that distraction.

Adopting or fostering shelter dogs and cats are a huge thing right now as people need companionship and many are isolated. You can easily become part of promoting pet adoption through this process already in place in your community.

You could bring back David Letterman’s timeless “Stupid Pet Tricks.” Of course, you could also do contesting around this one with winners for the best bark or mellowest meow. You could have awards for the prettiest and, yes, the ugliest. Ugly pets can most certainly be adorable just because they’re so strange-looking.

4 — Couples therapy!

What happens when those in committed relationships can’t escape each other because they’re trapped in the same apartment or house, month after month? The time has never been better for a late night call-in therapist who specializes in Just A Little Too Much Togetherness.

This has all the elements that make for compelling radio: comedy, tears, marriage, divorce and more. Don’t have a host? Hold live on-air auditions with therapists in your city and then have listeners vote on the winning host. Of course, they will be doing their show from home. It may even help the show if their spouse, kids or pets would interrupt the live broadcast once in a while!

Mark Lapidus is a veteran media and marketing executive. Email him at [email protected].