Voice-Tracking: Radio’s Devil in Disguise

December 6th, 2012 by Don Tanner

Wikipedia describes voice-tracking as follows: Voice-tracking, also called cyber jocking and referred to sometimes colloquially as a robojock, is a technique employed by some radio stations in radio broadcasting to produce the illusion of a live disc jockey or announcer sitting in the radio studios of the station when one is not actually present. Sounds almost dishonest, doesn’t it? I would argue that it will be radio’s death knell if it continues to be employed by commercial stations.

Decades ago, some music stations in small towns across the country utilized satellite feeds where they either did not have access to adequate on-air talent or otherwise could not afford them. Again, these were tiny markets where, next to a local AM station for news and weather, it perhaps made sense to bring in a feed from a satellite music network with professional jock talent (long before the days of the more diverse and sophisticated Sirius/XM). Major markets, on the other hand, offered listeners in their respective cities top live, local talent. Promoted and touted, many became virtual rockstars and ratings cash cows. All of that continues to be turned on its ear from coast-to-coast.

This afternoon, Clear Channel radio announced that longtime Detroit talent Frankie Darcell has been let go from “Old School Jams” WMXD (92.3 FM) with more talent extractions to be announced at other local properties. Darcell was not just any radio announcer. She was the station’s longtime afternoon drive host and known as one of the industry’s finest. People listened to hear her as much as the music she played. The explanation from the radio group: “[We] will be taking advantage of the latest cutting-edge technology and organizational structure so we can continue to operate as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

What does that mean exactly? Voice-tracking where someone in another market will be pre-recording their show for this market. And what of live and local with a personality (such as Darcell) who lived, breathed and understood the fabric of Metro Detroit? Evidently it is not as important as the bottom line. Yet, as we’ve said many times before (and, it evidently bears repeating again), what, then, becomes of the value proposition for someone to listen to a particular station and not an iPod or commercial-less satellite offerings?  Your guess is as good as mine.

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