Airchecks are the lifeblood of radio. They are the literature of the medium: aural chronicles for an aural industry.
Whereas established professions have their so-called learned and/or professional journals, radio has its airchecks. The objective of both is on-going intra-industry communication. The modus operandi is also similar: current trends, philosophies and methods of getting the job done are generally based upon previously known, used and possibly published data. In other words, the future is built on the past.
This accumulation of knowledge approach is akin to the research axiom: stealing from one is plagiarism; stealing from many is independent research. For instance, an announcer with major market AM Drive as his objective will get airchecks of the jocks currently in the slots he’s after. He’ll also make every effort to aircheck the big names in AM Drive: Tuna, de Suez, Van Dyke, Imus, Gambling, Phillips, et al. He’ll like something from this guy, a bit from that one, a phrase from another one, all the while being careful not to copy any one jock too closely. The product of such eclecticism is, of course, an individual, personal style.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Motivation for intra-industry communication in the established professions is a collective one. In radio, it’s an individual one. There are no associations of jocks or programmers to amass and disseminate airchecks. This means airchecks are generally hard to come-by and expensive.
“Twenty or thirty dollars per hours is typical – a bit cheaper on cassette,” says aircheck collector John Curtis of CKOY (Ottawa). “What’s more, you can never be sure of the quality you’re paying for
“This keeps a lot of radio people, especially in the smaller markets, from exposure to the necessary influences which will help make their careers (more) successful,” adds Curtis.
Tom Konard’s Aircheck Factory, Box 156, Franklin Park, Ill 60131, has, in large part, solved this problem.
Aircheck Factory has two monthly services. First, Around the Dial, which provides a minimum of 60 minutes of scoped airchecks from around the world. Around the Dial number 10, for instance, featured delicious samplings of CKO (Ottawa); WXTR (Flint, Michigan); Jackson, Mississippi’s WWUN’ Pasadena (CA) rocker, KRLA and 40 minutes more. The cost? About 62 cents a week based on a year’s subscription.
Second is Monthly Profiles. The current profile features the Chicago Talkers. Past issues have spotlight Dick Biondi’s career, Montreal Montage, The Birth of KTNQ – 100 (Los Angeles); AM Drive in the Big Apple (New York) and Los Angeles Morning Radio. An upcoming Profile will features AM Drive in Canada. Again, the cost is negligible. About 81 cents a week based on a year’s subscription.
The quality of the Aircheck Factory’s product is superb. “Tom Konard’s the original quality freak,” says John Curtis. According to Konard, “I like tapes off-the-line and, preferably, unscoped … have you every heard an unmodulated aircheck on a cassette? Especially of an AMer. Ouch!!! And scoping isn’t the forte of a lot of jocks … all too often they just want to hear their own dulcet tones and forget about pacing and so on.”
Has quality-seeking affected his getting worthy material for the Profiles and Around the Dial? “Not really. Stations realize the value of Aircheck Factory as a clearing house of innovations in jocking, programming, contests, etc. You might even get a job because of Aircheck Factory exposure! Generally, most stations and jocks are happy supply quality tapes … they want to sound good, you know.”
Konard’s a life-long collector of airchecks. “Since I got my first recorder in grammar school and recorded Dick Biondi at WLS c1962.” An up-to-date list of his airchecks runs 26 single spaced pages.
“I’ve always been into radio – especially production,” says Konard. “While at WLS (Chicago) in the early seventies, I set up a small studio in my home, just for fun. I put together a few documentaries. Buddy Blake of the now defunct Programmer’s Digest ran my “Pirates, the era of swashbuckling radio.”
The aircheck service, the Profiles and Around the Dial, were a natural outgrowth of this hobby. “Here I was, putting these documentaries together for my own amusement. Everybody who heard about them wanted copies. So I started Aircheck Facts, a free monthly which lets you know what’s on Around the Dial and Profiles. Anyone who wants on the mailing list just has to write and ask.
“About the same time,” continued Konard, “a lot of jocks I’d met, especially those in smaller markets, would ask me to make copies of their air checks or even edit ‘in context’ hours and prepare resumes. Before long I had enough scoping-resume business to keep me going 30 hours a day. From this, Superjock Marc Elliot came up with the name Aircheck Factory.”
How does the scoping-resume-mailing service work? “All any jock has to do is send his best hour, unscoped, to Aircheck Factory. I’ll do the rest. I’ll scope it in keeping with format pace, equalize and compress it … once the client okays the scoped version I’ll run the necessary copies, prepare resumes and pics and mail the package out for him.”
And the cost? “That of course depends on quantity. But suppose you wanted full service for 10 stations. It would run around $5.00 per station. Plus, you’d get 40 extra copies of your resume. Each part of the service is also available separately. I’ve a reasonable price list … and confidentiality is assured.”
“In a business as tightly competitive as radio,” says John Curtis, “where getting ahead – even staying even – really depends upon the quantity and quality of influences one is exposed to, Tom Konard’s Aircheck Factory is a necessity.”
Click here for a list of all Grub Street Interviews
Interview edited and condensed for publication.
dr george pollard is a Sociometrician and Social Psychologist at Carleton University, in Ottawa, where he currently conducts research and seminars on "Media and Truth," Social Psychology of Pop Culture and Entertainment as well as umbrella repair.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.