Joel Raab

Consultant Joel Raab shares his thoughts with Country Insider on coaching air talent.

Coaching air talent is a lot like parenting. You’ll never be perfect, but, by God, you need to do it! I’ve seen so many program directors/brand managers resist what is arguably their most important task (in addition to music management): to work with and improve the sound of their air staff (I realize some PD’s don’t have an air staff, but you might in the future.)

Here are 10 tips for coaching air talent:

  1. Set a weekly appointment. Your talent needs to know that that’s their one-on-one time with you. Stick to it. Adjust the time as needed.
  2. Put the phone down. Turn off the computer screen, set your phone to “Do Not Disturb” and give your talent your full attention, with eye contact. You can do more damage to the relationship with constant interruptions, which tell the talent they’re not as important as other things.
  3. Coach with airchecks. Pardon the sports analogy, but I view audio airchecks as “game film.” Together, you can hear what’s working and what’s not working.
  4. Listen to the aircheck ahead of the session. Don’t have time? Make time. Take notes, so you can tailor your comments to the specific talent. Determine the order of the clips you want to play. Some talent are fine receiving tough love (and want it), while others may need a more gentle approach.
  5. How to start a session: This is critical because it sets the tone. Before starting the aircheck, I like to try to put the talent at ease initially by giving a brief overview, pointing out what I liked about the aircheck. By showing genuine appreciation upfront for something you really liked, your session will go more smoothly.
  6. Let talent point out their own mistakes. Usually, they will do so. You don’t need to pile on criticism if an obvious mistake has been made. To err is human, and you need to show that you understand.
  7. Give talent specific ideas to make their shows better. Ask the talent what they think is working or not working. If a bit is tired, make suggestions tailored to that show. Make it clear that these are suggestions and not commands. If you force a bit on a show, it will never work.
  8. Advocate for talent. The best way to have a good relationship with your morning show, especially, is to show that you’re helping your talent to get what they need. You’d be surprised at how many points you’ll gain by simply getting something fixed in the studio that they’ve been asking about for a year.
  9. Follow through. There’s nothing worse than telling talent you’ll get that show-prep service they’ve wanted, then dropping the ball. If you can’t get it, that’s OK. Just tell them. They’ll appreciate the effort.
  10. Finally, make it clear that your only agenda is to help. Ask them, “How can I help?” Hopefully, they will tell you. Then follow through.

— Joel Raab (, 215-750-6868) for Country Insider