Program directors of radio stations and voiceover artists who specialize in imaging are primarily the ones “in the know” when it comes to the question: “What is radio imaging anyways?” Radio listeners for every musical taste have heard radio imaging, they just didn’t know it was a thing. And in essence, that’s the beauty of the art form – it sets the tone, identifies the brand/image of the station and essentially becomes part of the overall sound. Radio imaging essentially gives flavor to a radio station and usually is a sound that target audiences will relate to and come to count on. There should always be a place for a radio DJ, they are the main spokesman for the station. However, as more music becomes accessible online and through streaming platforms, radio imaging has become the main lead for branding.
There are several types of imaging that comprise the full suite of tools the can be used:
This type of station ID or announcement serves as a bridge between songs. It establishes which radio station a listener has tuned into, plus it serves as a brand recognition to a loyal audience. If you hear for example, “You’re listening to back-to-back hits on 103.5 The Beat – Knoxville’s Top 40 Authority”, you’ve just heard a sweeper. A positive confirmation, sweeping you into the next song.
A liner is typically longer than a sweeper, and more casual. It often is used for comic relief. JACK FM has pretty much cornered the market on hilarious liners. They are often sarcastic, cheeky and irreverent. An example could be (read dripping with sarcasm): “Our station manager brought in his dusty records from the 70’s – while he works on growing that sweet ‘stache again, we’ll play you one of these gems.” And then the next song plays. In short, liners are a great way for a station to develop a personality and overall vibe.
A bumper is often used as a quick way to transition in and out of playing songs and into commercials or a special announcement. It makes for a smoother transition in between elements. It’s almost like someone telling you “I’ll be right back!” before leaving a room. It would be much more jarring for the listener if they’re jamming out to their favorite songs, and then abruptly followed by a commercial. However if you “bump” the next programing item with a station tag or quick liner, it makes for a smoother transition. A bumper also serves a way to “get back into” the music after a commercial break.
A stinger is often a quick station ID, accompanied with a sound effect or music segment. It’s another tool to help transition between programming, quickly and efficiently.
While often heard from your local DJ, a promo can also be announced via radio imaging. Often times the promo will be a concert promotion for a popular band in town, or a special contest to score front row tickets and backstage passes. A promo can also be a charity announcement or local food drive. Promos typically have enhanced production value, such as music interwoven between the message; sound bites from the band in concert and any number of sound effects to enhance the message.
So the next time you’ve tuned into your favorite station, keep an ear out for that voice that keeps everything in motion. You’ll know what you’re listening to and perhaps even grow to appreciate it.