It’s Got A Great Beat, And I Can Dance To It …

by Erik K. Johnson

It’s got a great beat, and I can dance to it. I’d give it a 57. Don’t let it happen to your podcast.

It was a common joke back in the day as a reference to the “Rate a Record” feature on American Bandstand hosted by Dick Clark. Sadly, we lost Mr. Clark this week. The broadcasting world lost a great one.

All of the tributes to Dick Clark this week brought American Bandstand back to my mind. Each week, a couple of teens would rate some new song Dick was featuring on the show. He would play the song and the kids would dance. Afterward, the two selected teens would be asked to rate the song on a 1-to-100 scale.

Often, the kids would say, “It’s got a great beat, and I can dance to it.” I would think they really liked the song. Then, they would give it a 57. It confused me. They just said it had a great beat. They can dance to it. What’s not to like? 57? Really? I didn’t get it.

Much later in life, after coaching on-air radio talent for years, it hit me. The beat and “dancability” of a song means very little. To cut through and be meaningful, the song needs to connect on an emotional level. Songs that fail to make that connection receive a 57 and fade into oblivion.

Some of the greatest pop songs of all time make wonderful, emotional connections. The angst of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. Paul McCartney’s tender words to John Lennon’s son Julian in “Hey Jude”. The pride and power of “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. The plea for peace in “What’s Goin’ On” by Marvin Gaye. The frustration in “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. Fantastic emotion can be found in each and every one of them.

Now, relate that to your podcast. Are you just filling your time with generic content? Is your material simply a “great beat”? Or, are you really stirring strong emotions in your listener? You need that emotion for great audience engagement.  It could be the desire for love or fame. It could be thoughts of wealth. It could be anger at the government.

Find the emotion. Stir it up. You will probably discover that emotion in the very reason you created your show in the first place. That’s a good place to start.

If you’re not filling your podcast with emotion, you’re not connecting with your audience. You’ll have a great beat. They might even be able to dance to it. But, you’ll still get a 57.