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The Pros and Cons of Radio Voice-tracking
This is not exactly a "Good" or "Evil" issue
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: An Historical Perspective
• Part 2: The Pros and Cons
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In the last few years, a lot has been said - mostly negative - about a method of Radio presentation called "voice-tracking". I have been on both sides and feel it's time to bring a bit of clarity to this issue.

Voicetracking is when a DJ either pre-records his part of an air-shift for the local station he/she works for or for a station out of the immediate market. Sometimes, one DJ will record - on a daily basis - several air-shifts for several different Radio stations in several different markets in several different formats!

So, the question arises: Is voice-tracking good or bad? Well, the initial problem with this issue is the question itself because it only allows for a "Yes" or "No" response. There is much more going on here to just settle for such a simplistic answer.

First, don't confuse voice-tracking with automation. Although it is true automation is the way by which voice-tracking is implemented, Voicetracking is no more automated than the syndicated voices of DJs and programming that has been available from Satellite networks for decades to thousands of Radio stations. Voice-tracking is a method of creating content. Automation is a procedure for implementing it.

Syndicated programming services have been serving up both music and voice content to local stations via satellite for years - way before the current voice-tracking controversy emerged. Before that, syndicated programming was fed to affiliated stations through special phone lines, analog tape, and even vinyl recordings. If anything, this older form of voice-tracking was far more generic than the voice-tracking available today. Oddly, few raised their voices in protest.

Cuurent syndicated programs, like the various "countdown" shows heard on weekends are another example of programming that really includes voice-tracking. The talent walks into a studio and reads a script. Then an engineer pieces it together and the program is either beamed by satellite or delivered to stations on CDs where it is aired. Nobody seems to complain yet, it's voice-tracked.

So, why are some people in-and-out of the Radio industry so up-in-arms about voice-tracking?

The way today's voice-tracking is being done, DJs are able to customize their presentation for the audience and market they are providing the service for. So, to accuse voice-tracking of depriving a market of its "localism" is just not accurate. Voice-tracking is no longer simply a disembodied voice speaking generically. The DJs who are employed to voice-track are most successful when they learn about the city they are performing for and cater to its needs.

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