Commercial radio airtime is always filled with sound. Not a single gap of silence between music cuts and jingles and commercials and other program elements is allowed. If even a second of silence happens, it is called “dead air”. One of the first things I learned about my old business is that I must always make sure there is something on the air. I must avoid dead air at all costs. So I did.
The only dead air on my shifts occurred on account of mechanical and later computer malfunctions. One of the cardinal sins of commercial radio is dead air. Every single second costs money. Outlays must be allowed for studio and air talent expenses. Then there is the enormous cost of running the transmitter. The electric bills are staggering. There is also upkeep and maintenance that is utterly necessary. Hence, you must never, never have dead air.
Practical considerations aside, dead air just sounds unprofessional and sloppy. It’s a point of pride for a DJ to run a tight shift. Any sloppiness is going to be instantly apparent to the listeners. That sloppiness cannot be taken back. Listeners do not want to put up with sloppy product and will soon tune away to another station if given an excuse to do so. To keep listeners tuned in, never have any dead air between elements of programming.
Now that I’m away from the studios, avoidance of dead air is no longer important to me. In fact, I look forward to enjoying as much dead air as possible. A peaceful walk around the neighborhood without the need for constant music is calming to the mind. To stroll through the countryside on a path or trail without dragging along an iPod or small radio gives me a sense of freedom and joy.
There seems to be a radio station culture inside of our heads, though. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that your mind is always blabbing about some topic or worry or scheme of some sort. On and on and on with no dead air at all. The default mode of our minds is constant programming. To get any dead air inside of your head takes deliberate planning and practice. Even so, when you think you have some quiet, your mind might be commenting and congratulating itself that it’s not talking to itself. Then you realize you haven’t actually had any dead air at all.
Just calmly paying attention to your inner talk radio program and letting it go is a good first step. You may then slowly graduate to simply looking at a candle flame indoors or a cloud or the stars or the moon when outdoors to make room for some spontaneous dead air. But you can’t force it. You must allow for the dead air to happen on its own.
In real life, dead air is not a cardinal sin. Dead air is just something to appreciate.
The Blue Jay of Happiness keeps hoping that dead air will soon break into the Top Ten most listened to hits.