When we listen to the radio, it’s easy to imagine the host chatting into the microphone and doing … something … on a computer to keep it all moving. However, it takes a whole crowd (working from home, of course; crowds are dangerous!) of knowledgeable, creative people (and some pretty fancy technology) to create each second you hear.
During the month of May we want to reveal all the human effort that goes into an hour of CKUA programming. Your donations throughout our Spring Fundraiser help support so many different things you may not even know about!
Let’s check out a day in the CKUA life of Arianne Smith-Piquette, Library Technician:
I’m Arianne Smith-Piquette and I’ve been the Library Technician at CKUA since 2011. I make sure the announcers have all the music they need, take care of our audio archives, help make sure our playlists get on the air at the right time, handle the chart, and am proud to be our union (IBEW 2228) shop steward. Each day is a little different, but this is a snapshot of what a day looks like for me in 2021!
8:30am: Start my day with a cup of black coffee and the melodic yowling of two cats (Astrid and Gary) that want to go outside, despite having just been outside. Soon my dog, Frieda, will come and chase them out and all three will nap until lunchtime.
First thing to do is go over the playlists from the weekend and make sure everything that was supposed to air did in fact air. Next, pull a report of every song that aired from 6am – 11:59pm Sunday to Saturday of the previous week, to start to compile the chart. The report comes together fast, and I upload it to our tracking database – this automates the work of counting how many times an album was played.
Next is to do a quick data clean up: were there any singles that were replaced by full albums in the last week? Any playlists that maybe spelled Allison Russell as Alison Russell? Yes? Edit that! Make sure everything is accurate because this database also calculates the year-end Top 100 – consistency now means less errors to correct later.
Creating a chart is more about formatting and data than the glory you may be imagining, dear reader, and I’m going to skip over a lot of the details. The extremely succinct version can be described as doing a sort, removing the items played multiple times that haven’t been added to the library in the last three months (a.k.a. a “new release”), going through the sort until I’ve reviewed all albums played at least twice that week, then creating a Top 30 list based on spin count.
Then I format all that info into a list with links to our internal music database for hosts, a Mailchimp template to be sent to internal senders, and a Mailchimp email to send out to subscribers and music promo folks. And blammo! It’s noon!
12pm: Water break, realize I should stretch more, think about going for a bike ride but remember the album that we don’t have charted because the host was interviewed by Terry David Mulligan on Saturday. Grab some delicious leftovers from the fridge, eat while figuring out who to email about asking for a digital download, then send a request. Realize my spare SodaStream canister is empty and the current one is getting low – disaster is imminent. Add to the list.
Oh, a super-fast email reply WITH LINKS TO DOWNLOAD, huzzah! Start the download, convert those files, and upload to the digital database. Add this link to the announcer chart email and send it off.
12:30pm: Check in with Scott, our NAIT broadcasting practicum student, to make sure he’s got a handle on this week’s tasks. He’s already reported last week’s charts, is working on a story for Elliott, and can handle some uploads later in the week. Perfect!
On to the music inbox – currently about 4,000 unread emails, heavy sigh. Do a quick scan and get back to where I left off on Friday. Inbox triage time – look for familiar names first off, regular weekly updates from promo friends that I count on, anything marked Canadian or Albertan, start opening tabs with links sent in.
Thus begins the complete computer overload of 50 tabs, cross checking with the music database, auditioning tunes, scanning one-page biographies, and correctly labeling downloads so I don’t lose track of anything. Gently curse the five downloaded folders all titled “MP3s” and myself for once again not naming them as soon as I downloaded the first one, why why why? Upload new music to the database, create artist biographies associated with each album, include information about upcoming releases to the singles.
2:00pm: Check in with teammates about the Sharepoint migration, feel a deep sense of imposter syndrome knowing how many times I have to triple-check my file names on a daily basis while still being a “quality contributor” to how the metadata tagging will be done. Gary-the-cat joins the meeting; almost every digital meeting I have turns into a pet meeting. My working theory is when the music stops and the talking begins, they know the timing is prime-o for getting pats.
2:30pm: All the pets are awake and would all like individual attention. Possibly a ploy to go outside. Realization I should stretch, at minimum. Make some tea while listening to the news, take a sweet 15-minute break to sit in the back yard until Gary breaks for the front when he thinks I’m not looking. Frieda tries to herd him when I shuffle over to grab him, chaos ensues. EVERYBODY-BACK-IN-THE-HOUSE TIME.
2:45-ishpm: Catch up on regular emails – production team emails, check in with a volunteer who has been off since the pandemic began, question about the collective agreement (I’m the shop steward for our union, too). Reminder of something weird that happened last week that needs to be added to the agenda for the weekly production meeting, which I should definitely start working on! Why not now, when I’m thinking of it? Audition music sent in while working on the agenda, then realize that I need to call Senior Producer Elliott Garnier to talk about who is going to fill in on production double checks when Mark (Community Engagement Coordinator/Production Everyman Superhero) is filling in for Sharon Cross (Traffic Coordinator) on the traffic desk.
3:30pm: My day for double checks! All the programs that are prerecorded must be loaded along with their accompanying playlists. This is done by our Technical Producers, Duke Paetz and Brendan Cross. Since they don’t work the same shifts we have a system of double checks; each day someone checks that the show is where it’s supposed to be, with the correct playlist, to air at the right time.
We have a list of each show that’s due that day, and the person loading initials for the playlist, the show being loaded, and to verify the correct time of the segments loaded.
I open the OMT production software, playlist folder, and start going through, listening to each show and promo for that evening, overnight, and some a few days in advance.
Check that the audio sounds correct and matches the playlist. This task usually means being in contact with the tech producer on the desk that day – has he talked to Baba? Oh, there’s a technical issue on Baba’s end but the show is coming – GREAT! Occasionally this means I have to leave to get my kiddo from daycare, come back home and log back in to finish things up – but not today!
4:25pm: Last-minute call asking for a report: a list of all the Albertan artists who appeared in the top 10 of each chart in the last six months. Can I have it done in the next 24 hours, yes or no? Possibly!
4:30pm: Realize I haven’t actually brushed my teeth yet today and have to once again leave the house. Working remotely has many, many benefits but has truly illustrated the shameful depths of where I go without a hard routine. Brush teeth. Vow to do better tomorrow.
4:35pm: Bike over to pick my kiddo up from daycare.
5:20pm: Get home, check email. I will check my email at least three more times before going to bed