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Craig Miller And The Musers Are Still Chasing The Same Thing

“All of us genuinely like each other and I think when you have a good locker room and everyone gets along and enjoys spending time with each other, good things happen.”

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Craig Miller

There’s an argument to be made that bits in sports radio are somewhat of a lost art. But if anyone is keeping the spirit alive it’s certainly The Ticket in Dallas, most notably, its morning drive show The Musers. 

Whether it’s fake Jerry Jones, fake Stephen Jones or a fake Tiger Woods, the trio of Craig Miller, George Dunham and Gordon Keith have perfected the art in sports radio. 

Musers Never Leaving The Ticket – RAMP – Radio and Music Pros

“I would say the great majority of sports radio talk shows don’t do bits,” said Miller. “The bits were done by the wacky FM music morning shows or the late night crazy talk shows. That was one thing unique about The Ticket as we were probably the first all sports station to be funny and focus on comedy, have bits and crazy characters. I know The Fan in New York wasn’t doing that and a few other all sports stations, as well. I think that helped make The Ticket unique. George and Gordon have much more voice talent than I do, in terms of impersonating people and changing their voices. You have to have guys like that on your staff.”

You would think the logistics behind creating a bit so funny and entertaining would be a difficult and time consuming process. But that’s really not the case with The Musers. Credit their ability to be naturally funny without a whole lot of prep, but most bits are done just a few minutes before the segment. 

“Some of the characters are done on the mic in the studio,” said Miller. “Gordon does most of them, George does a few and I do a handful. They’re all pretty much, not completely on the fly, but I would say each morning around 8:10 in that commercial break we say, OK, what are we going to do for 8:40? Some mornings, like a Monday after a Cowboys game, we know we’re going to do fake Jerry Jones. We know the morning after The Masters we’re going to do fake Tiger Woods. But for the most part we have about 30 minutes where we decide what character it’s going to be and during the commercial break, we’re trying to write or help Gordo write it if he’s the one doing the character that day. It’s slapped together pretty quickly and that’s a strength of Gordo’s. He operates really well under a deadline. If you told him a day before ‘Hey, let’s do fake Nolan Ryan’, he would say, ‘OK’, but he wouldn’t start writing it till 8:15 that morning. He can’t work a day out but he works extremely well 20 minutes beforehand. It’s very much done in the spur of the moment.”

Funny character voices aren’t the extent of the bits done with The Musers. You’ll often hear them make fun of themselves, especially when it comes to the comparison of the show being the Susan Lucci of sports talk radio. The Musers have been nominated over a handful of times for Major Market Personality of The Year at the Marconi Awards but have never won it. But in their true ability to relate to the listener, they use that as content for the show. 

“The Ticket has won three,” said Miller. “They were great and it meant a lot to all of us. Our show, the three of us specifically, have been nominated for Major Market Personality of the Year like six or seven times, but we’ve never won. We’ve almost embraced not winning, like we’re the Susan Lucci of sports talk radio. If we actually did win, which would be great, but if we did win it would kind of spoil that bit and I don’t think any of the three of us really care about winning that much, not to give you coach speak, but it’s almost funnier if we keep losing. I think it’s better for the show if we keep losing because it’s something to make fun of (laughs).”

7 Things Any Radio Station Can Do To Win A Marconi Award

Regardless if The Musers even win a Marconi it’s pretty well understood few morning shows across the country can compete with their success over the years. In an industry that’s routinely swapping shows and hosts to find the right combination, Miller, Dunham and Keith are the longest-running show in the Dallas market and have been a top rated show since 1995. That’s unheard of, especially with all the changes and trends that sports radio has seen during that time frame. 

“I really think it starts with me, George, Gordon, we all genuinely love each other and love working with one other,” Miller said. “We get along really well. That’s kind of rare in radio, at least my experiences and stories I’ve heard. Not just from our market, but others as well. A lot of people have trouble checking their ego when it comes to radio, and I think that’s what’s been unique about not only our show, but also our station. I think when you have a good locker room and everyone gets along and enjoys spending time together, good things happen. I hope that comes across to the listener, because I think it’s been our secret at The Ticket.”

Miller is one of the originals at The Ticket, starting at the station all the way back in 1994. His story on finding a love for sports radio isn’t unique from most hosts across the country. But before sports, it was all about the weather. To this day it still fascinates him. At an early age he wanted to be a weatherman on television. His fascination with local radio and TV led him to watching and listening to numerous newscasts from his Oklahoma City home. But then in 8th grade, he figured out sports was the passion he wanted to pursue. 

While at an Oklahoma City 89ers game, a minor league baseball team now called the Oklahoma City Dodgers, Miller and his dad arrived early at All Sports Stadium. He noticed a couple of TV reporters in the dugout talking to players. That’s when it struck him. 

“I thought, what a great job,” Miller said. “You get to go out in the field, into the dugout, and I love sports anyways, so that’s kind of when I shifted from weather to sports. I’ve had that in my mind ever since.”

The Ticket has seen a ton of success and recognition since it took the airwaves in 1994. One of the biggest changes over that time is the growing number of competitors the station has seen since its inception. Miller has been in the middle of all of it and has seen just how different the station is today from the first time he sat behind the mic in Dalas. 

“When we started in 1994 none of us had personal computers,” Miller said. “We were going to the studio every day and bringing the sports page as well as a NBA, NFL or Major-League Baseball almanac, if we needed to look something up. That has changed because of the computer age. The competitive landscape, obviously, is a lot different. Back then we had a couple of other stations but there were no other all sports stations. We had some stations that did a sports talk show, one in the morning and one in the evening, but by 2000, we had three all sports stations in Dallas.

“Now we have not just other sports stations to compete against, but podcasts and you can stream any other radio station around the country or the world if you want to. When we started, we didn’t have one specific competitor, now we have hundreds of them.”

The Musers aren’t going anywhere. That’s more of a fact, than an opinion, seeing as the show inked a long-term deal with The Ticket in November of 2019 to remain in morning drive. Miller loves working with his two co-hosts and sees exceptional talent in both.

In Keith, Miller sees an amazing comedic talent with a quick brain and incredible voice talent. With Dunham, he sees a great football mind with a unique voice and perspective. Plus, a rapport that’s irreplaceable and exists all the way back to their college days. 

But what exactly are The Musers still chasing? They’ve been the best in Dallas for so long. They know they can probably be in morning drive at the a top station in the market for as long as they want. What’s going to keep the show at its best?

“I think we’re chasing the same thing we’ve been chasing forever now, which is to be a little different and a little better every single day,” Miller said. “Not to give you coach speak again, but we don’t want to fall into a rut. I’m trying to change it up so the listener hears something a little different. If you give them a different perspective, a different opinion, a different joke, or a different character and try to change it up a little each day, that’s the challenge we’re chasing.”

BSM Writers

Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content

Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.

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USA Today

When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.

“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.

Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:

1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”

2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.

The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.

I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.

Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”

There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.

First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.

The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.

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BSM Writers

The Client Just Said YES, Now What?

We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.

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One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!

We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.

When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.

They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.

A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 74

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This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.

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