August 21, 2018

Preparing Your Radio Station for U2

Tuesdays With Coleman

On Friday, October 2, 2009, I was programming 96rock in Raleigh, NC and preparing the station for a major live broadcast the next day. U2 was set to play nearby Carter-Finley Stadium as part of its 360 Tour, and there were a number of last-minute logistics to run through. That’s when the phone rang.

U2 360 Tour Raleigh

It was the regional rep for Interscope, U2’s record label.

“Jay, I have a few questions for you.”

I was intensely focused on what I was doing, but, “Sure, what’s up?”

Interscope rep: “How long does it take to get from the venue to your radio station?”

Me: “15 minutes.”

Interscope rep: “How long does it take to get from the airport to your radio station?”

Me: “25 minutes.”

Interscope rep: “How long does it take to get from the airport to the venue?”

Me: “10 minutes.”

Interscope rep: “Ok, thanks.”

Click.

My mind started racing and I was freaking out, and here’s why:

I knew on the day before U2 kicked off the North American leg of their 360 Tour in Chicago, they had conducted radio station interviews and visits at several stations, including 93.1XRT and Q101, and had donated a VIP concert experience to 101.9 The Mix for its fundraiser.

A week later, the band popped into the studios of 102.1 The Edge in Toronto with just a few hours’ notice.

U2 The Edge CFNY Toronto

Now, my Interscope rep had left me a cryptic message and I’m certain U2 is going to come by the studio for a visit.

That overwhelmingly thrilling concept led to this thought:

“Oh no, what if U2 comes by the studio for a visit.”

Was the studio in an acceptable condition to host U2?

Could we mobilize a security infrastructure fast enough once the word got out?

Did we have the right people in place to handle everything that comes with a visit like this? Could we turn around production pieces immediately? Would we be able to maximize the PR opportunity? Would we be ready to utilize our digital assets right away? Could we come up with some memorable questions they hadn’t heard before?

And so, we mobilized like U2 was coming to visit. Fortunately, I do believe we were prepared for the special moment if, in fact, the band decided to grace us with their presence at the last minute.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.

On the other hand, it was a great opportunity to ensure we had all our ducks in a row.

In many ways, we work in the preparation business.

Among many other things, perceptual research can identify the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities both for your station and for the radio market as a whole.

Stations we work with often evaluate various potential scenarios and determine which actions to take based on the insights.

Although you can’t predict every scenario, you can prepare.

So, prepare like U2’s going to drop by this afternoon.

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