REIDSVILLE, N.C. — Rick Freeman never sleeps. Tune into Carolina Classic Hits and chances are you'll hear him on the air. He's a presenter on that station 24 hours a day, and has been since 2012.
The station, of course, is an extreme example of clever automation. A complex set of rules and careful thought when the station was set up helps keep the station fresh — quite a challenge for an oldies-based radio station.
"Carolina Classic Hits is a combination of all of the great stations I listened to growing up, the stations where I worked and programmed during my career, and most elements of the format can be attributed to all of the great talent that I've had the privilege of working with," said Freeman.
The station follows the "crunch and roll" format familiar to many listeners of tightly-formatted radio. When a song is added, explained Freeman to me by email, he records at least three intros, and usually around six. The system automatically rotates and schedules those intros alongside the songs in specific dayparts; and additionally generic messages are also scheduled into the output.
With over 5,000 songs in the system (and over 1,800 songs on the station in a typical month), the station was clearly complex to set up. There are categories for intro length; four different music libraries to ensure independent rotation; specially-themed hours and programs, complex seasonal song categories and specific instructions for every day of the year. The benefit, however, means that additional features can be set up relatively quickly: and can be re-used again and again.
"As I make adjustments and additions to the station, I always look to make those changes to be fluid and evergreen," said Freeman. "Jan. 8 is Elvis's birthday and this year during my prime hours, I played an Elvis song along with produced intro and outro stagers. It was a one day thing but it was programmed into the seasonal sequences, meaning that I did a bit of work on Jan. 6, 2017, to put this quick little memory and birthday recognition together but it will play every Jan. 8 from now on." Christmas music is automatically built-in to the music scheduling, and NORAD Santa tracking reports are an automatic part of the sequence on Christmas Eve.
Rick Freeman is a busy voiceover talent and producer, and Carolina Classic Hits can be left alone for several months if need be. "For me, that is particularly fun because I actually become a listener with no foreknowledge of what is coming up and what I'm going to be listening to at any given time. Many of the voice tracks were recorded as long ago as three years and sometimes I'm even surprised by what I hear myself saying."
Based in Reidsville, N.C., the station runs on StationPlaylist software — on two refurbished computers running Windows 10 Pro (one running as a backup for the other). In the event of a broadband outage, the streaming can be achieved via a hotspot on an iPad.
Advertising — near the top of the hour — is inserted separately, allowing switchover for maintenance periods if required.
"The backup machine also has an option to go live on the mic — though I see no need to do that," he adds. He does, of course, already have over 25,000 intros already recorded: so perhaps a live microphone is unlikely to be required any time soon.