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Steve Kamer: Getting to Know a Familiar Voice

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After losing his gig as overnight personality at now-defunct radio station Mix 105 in New York, Steve Kamer knew his best route to a lucrative life in broadcasting was going full throttle into a voice-over career.

“The choice was not mine, but the decision was easy to make,” Kamer told BNM.

He was able to parlay 17 years as a “terrible jock” into his on-air reinventing for himself.

By the time Kamer was “transitioning” as air personality, he was already the announcer for NBC’s Today show.

Over the next three decades, Kamer has established himself as a leading sound for many media companies.

Familiar Voice

Despite decades of high-profile voice-over work, with an upbeat and energetic style, there is no resting on any laurels for Kamer, 58, who is still working with coaches to hone and refine his style.

“It’s how you stay at the top of your game and not become a flash in the pan,” Kamer said. “Even though I’m working at what some would consider ‘the peak,’ there’s the next peak.”

He just concluded work for the Olympics on NBC. For two weeks you heard him primarily announcing sponsor billboards. His voice-over work in the sports division goes back to the early 1990s. But under the new management his vocal responsibilities are only needed every two years.

Kamer is also the voice of CBS Radio’s Top of the Hour network newscasts. However, since Entercom took over (and since changed to Audacy), he isn’t allowed to air on the affiliates.

He is the local and network branding voice for Saga Communications’ cluster of news/talk stations.

“In their case, Scott Chase, who’s the group PD, likes the idea of having the network voice doing the local promos,” Kamer said.

Along with the news entities, Kamer “found his voice” in daytime talk shows. His promo list could be part of a Paley Center exhibit. He estimates being heard on 20 programs over the years—Montel Williams, Geraldo, Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael, Jerry Springer, Ananda Lewis among them and currently Tamron Hall.

Others are familiar with Kamer for joining the final season of Judge Judy after original announcer Jerry Bishop died.

Style aside, Kamer says he separates himself with customer service.

“If somebody commits to you as their announcer, you’re expected to be available when they need you,” Kamer said.

That means if he’s on vacation, Kamer is still expected to produce as necessary for his clients.

“I have a portable travel studio that I set up in the hotel room,” Kamer said.

Early in his voice-over career, he decided to create a home studio and be more accessible to his clients, while also saving himself from the commuting headaches.

“The bad news is everybody who has a home studio can compete for the same work,” he said.

The technical set-up doesn’t feature many bells and whistles. He uses all Apple products, including a Mac mini. But there is no separate announcer booth for Kamer.

“The whole room is padded and the sound is great,” he said.

In 2018, Kamer left the studio to surprise Steve Harvey, who never met his announcer, as he was interviewed from the audience about being single and taking care of his 92-year-old mother.

Beginnings

For Kamer, who hails from South Jersey, it started in radio at just 14 years old. His upbringing helped align the stars for his microphone mentality. At an early age, Kamer would sample stations from New York City and Philadelphia during the day and other markets at night.

“I always was intrigued by listening to voices on radio, and ultimately on television.” Kamer said.

The broadcasting bug bit as a youngster as his parents took him to several game show tapings in Manhattan and he was mesmerized by the announcers, especially watching the legendary Don Pardo do the audience warm-up for the original Jeopardy! on NBC.

The love for the industry was there and so was the voice.

“Even at a young age, I had a voice that stood out,” he said. “It didn’t have a New Jersey accent, which I think was probably a plus.”

During the Olympics, Kamer had to block out time each morning to record the latest scripts for producers in Stamford, CT. There was overall a lead time of two days from producing the audio to airing.   

“They want to call or page, and have you immediately drop what you’re doing, get on the microphone and record with them,” Kamer said. “I always put my best voice forward.”

Breaking news could also force Kamer to quickly rerecord a new promo for shows like Tamron Hall even just hours before airtime.

Many weekdays Kamer can get in his recording booth at 8 a.m. and not finish until midnight.

To New York area sports fans, Kamer is the voice of the YES Network with his famous “Only on YES!” delivery. He’s been with the Yankees’ broadcast home since its inception in 2002.

“TV pays the bills, but radio is very exciting,” Kamer said. “There’s just no way around it. It’s immediate. I like to record something, hear it on the air and know that I’m a part of the overall station.”

He’s recently got a three-year renewal to remain as the voice of WGN Radio in Chicago.

“People commit for long periods of time because they don’t want you to go somewhere else in the market,” he said.

So, the value of voice affords him “some sense of stability in a job that’s considered a freelance job.”

Even more so than traditional broadcasting, the voice-over business is highly competitive.

“There are a lot of great voice-over announcers, but there’s one Steve Kamer,” he said proudly. “That’s the mantel I claim. I play in my own sandbox.”

The next generation of voice-over artists ask him often how they can also become successful. He said a good voice isn’t enough. It can’t be a hobby; you need a coach and demo tape that stands out and shows your strongest assets.

“You can’t come across as desperate,” he said.

While every gig is important and treated with the same care by Kamer, he delineates the work, for example: “When I’m doing a radio station in Atlantic City, Des Moines, or Nashville, I put on a voice that’s reflective of wearing a pair of jeans or khakis,” Kamer said. “When I’m doing the Olympics, I put on my tuxedo voice.”

Typically, he works independently without direction, a process he considers “more efficient.”

“You might listen after a while and say, ‘They all sound the same.’ And maybe they do. But I try to give each one a little bit of its own uniqueness.”

Kamer has to “own the copy” by fact-checking and, obviously, confirming any confusing pronunciations.

CNN viewers were likely hearing him on promos in the run up to the cable network’s airing of the NYC Homecoming Concert on August 21.

Always Growing

However, his popularity has not translated into commercial work. 

“[They] have not been an area that I’ve had a lot of success in,” Kamer admitted.

Another part of voice-overs that eludes Kamer are movie trailers and network prime-time promos.

“That’s a hard one. That really borders on being a good actor,” Kamer said. “Although the jobs that I do require some acting, those movie trailers and network promos require all acting.”

Those artists are storytellers and “the minute I put on the headphones and read a script, I’m not as good a storyteller as many of the people who are currently booking them,” he confessed.  “I haven’t given up on those things, but those don’t come as easily for me. I would say that a lot of the people who do movie trailers and network promos can’t easily transition to what I do.”

He was able to separate himself from those high-profile movie announcers who missed out on work for months during the pandemic. Kamer, though, has been busy throughout for his radio and TV gigs, including Inside Edition.

“The style changed in many cases. I couldn’t be as hard hitting and abrasive in some reads. I had to pull it back and reflect what’s going on in the world, even in subtle differences,” Kamer said.  

You’ll also find him doing narration work for the Smithsonian Channel, but “you really have to stay committed and interested in the subject matter.”

Despite his many assignments over the years, few people outside of the industry connect the dots to Kamer’s work.

“My voice is a celebrity. I’m not. Only my voice is famous.” Kamer said. “It’s exciting to be out and hear my voice on the TV or radio somewhere. But I like the anonymity of being in a room and not being known as the announcer guy.”

That cache as a voice on marquee projects has helped bring more big-name jobs.

Kamer is not worrying about spreading his voice too thin.

“If someone recognizes the voice, that’s fine,” he said. “But we want the voice to sort of be in the background and the message to be in the foreground.”

Sometimes his voice literally is spread too thin with a cold, or worse, laryngitis. Instead of it being a deal breaker, Kamer has been able to use the huskiness to his advantage.

“I’ve booked the job and then I can’t duplicate it when my voice gets better,” Kamer laughed.  

Upon a visit to Atlantic City you might hear Kamer welcoming guests to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, where “they blast my voice with announcements constantly.”

Plus, using his fondness for transportation and his Jersey roots, he “greets” PATH train riders with next stop alert and the famous “please stand clear of the closing doors.”

He also enjoys being heard on a handful of New Jersey radio stations.

“It’s just really cool to be on local stations that you grew up listening to,” Kamer said.

When it comes to picking projects, Kamer needs to feel passionate about the topic.

“It’s not driven by money,” he admitted.

Despite that, Kamer was intrigued by the chance to earn his annual radio salary in a month of voice-over work.

That said, his rates are based on various factors, including market size and amount of copy per month.

“A local radio station isn’t going to pay the same as NBC Sports. That would be ridiculous,” Kamer said. 

With a great career that shows no sign of slowing, Kamer occasionally wonders “what if”? 

“Had radio continued to embrace me as a jock, I might still be doing it today,” he said.

BNM Writers

Stop Caring About Personal Lives of Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes

Relationships are relationships, they don’t always come about to suit everyone’s ideals.

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To begin with, I don’t care. As in, it does not concern me and it’s pretty much none of my business. If I was somebody watching — and I’m not — I still wouldn’t care. As in, it would not impact me or change how I view the show or the performance of the aforementioned hosts or anchors. Yes, it’s been a couple of hours since the last rag dispatch, so let’s look at the case of Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes.

These are two people with jobs. Careers, actually.

Two people whose activities and pursuits outside of their duties assigned by their employers seem to have caught the eye of a great deal of people. Probably as many or more people than watch them on the program they appear on.

Why? Why has this suddenly become a Jennifer Lopez-Ben Affleck story?

I am not even going to waste time recounting or examining what brought everybody here.

Also, I cannot and will not keep up on the sightings of them together, the clandestine pictures of the estranged couples doing the dog exchange (been there) or the latest comments from the ex or soon-to-be ex-partners.

I don’t know anybody involved and it is incredibly not anything I’m entitled to know.

But let me say this much: I’ve seen real-life couples paired to host shows before, we all have. Regis and Joy, Joe and Mika, George and Gracie, Lucy and Ricky.

These pairings have often resulted in great popularity, interest and even devotion by a loyal audience of viewers. But, it looks like in this case nobody is going to get the chance to find out.

Why address it if I’m saying I don’t care?

Consider it another instance of if it’s happening to others it could happen to you. Also, on its face, it just doesn’t appear to be right.

The legal issues here, if any exist, are for the lawyers to decide. The controversies concerning behavior and appearance are for whomever decides they themselves, are above board and immune to scrutiny.

Were these two people producers, writers, directors, or any off-air type, would the same attention be paid, would the same approach (notice I did not say rule) apply?

Relationships are relationships, they don’t always come about to suit everyone’s ideals.

How many couples met or began relationships at work under any kind of circumstances?

People meet on the job. Take a random survey not only of the news media but of most professions, it happens. A lot. And it’s not always a Cinderella story. But life still goes on and work still gets done.

I guess this is different because the paparazzi and the Disney people decided to get nosy and perhaps become judgmental.

An audience can learn things about the people they follow and then find themselves falling into any number of categories. They can be outraged and appalled or unconcerned and dispassionate. Or they can be somewhere in the middle enough for it to have virtually no impact on loyalty or influence.

So, why not allow the audience to decide for themselves instead of the media giants choosing to decide for them?

It looks to me like somebody isn’t giving their customers the credit they deserve.

Nothing new.

Who looks bad? Well, everyone I guess.

What I find of considerable interest is that the network and the rest of the TV overlords seem hellbent on damaging their own product in favor of casting the first and last stones of disapproval. Of course, at this point we really only know what we’re being fed but I think it’s like shooting oneself in the foot while trying to appear chaste.

The parent company here appears to wearing a Moral Majority hat and while Mickey and Minnie’s parents are known for maintaining an even strain most of the time, I’m thinking this may turn out not to be their finest hour.

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BNM Writers

Market Still Finding 2023 Footing

After some rigorous data analysis, the thoughtful, numbers-based host was able to formulate some potential conclusions.

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While it’s hard to imagine 2023 being as painful for investors as 2022, experts still cannot say for certain we are destined for blue skies ahead. Many in the media are starting the year by sifting through the stock market tea leaves; trying to figure out what historical data can tell us about probabilities and expectations for the next twelve months.

Some think the United States is poised for a market rebound, while others remain quite bearish, feeling that negative policy implications have yet to be fully realized.

Peter Tuchman of Trademas Inc. joined Neil Cavuto on his Fox News program Friday, to offer his thoughts about where the American stock market might be headed in light of the newly-divided United States Congress.

“Markets have a sort of a gut of their own,” Cavuto opened. “Today’s a good example. We’re up 300 points, ended up down 112 points. What’s going on?”

“Markets don’t like unknowns, and markets need confidence. The investing community needs confidence,” Tuchman said. “And I think it’s going to take a lot of work to rebuild that. And as we saw the other night with what went on in the House, it feels like people should get busy governing as opposed to all this posturing.”

Six months ago, Tuchman didn’t have a solid feel for the direction of the market. And just two trading weeks into the year, he still doesn’t believe any real trend has been established.

“The market has yet to find its ground. It’s yet to find its footing,” Tuchman told Cavuto. “And still, even coming into 2023, the first week of trading we have not found our footing. We have come in on a couple of economic notes that were a little bit positive. We opened up with a little bit of irrational enthusiasm. By the end of the days we were trading down.”

Meanwhile, some financial outlets, such as CNBC, have dug into the data showing what a market rise during the year’s first week – such as what we experienced this year – potentially means for the rest of 2023. They published a story last week with the headline, Simple ‘first five days’ stock market indicator is poised to send a good omen for 2023“.

On an episode of his popular YouTube program late last week, James from Invest Answers dug into 73 years of stock market data, to test that theory and see if the first five days of yearly stock market performance are an indicator of what the market might do over the full year.

“Some analysts pay attention to this, the first five trading day performance, can it be an indicator of a good year or a bad year,” James began last week, “I wanted to dig into all of that and get the answer for myself. Because some people think yes. Some people swear blind by it. Some people think it’s a myth or an old wive’s tale. Some people think it’s a great omen.”

After some rigorous data analysis, the thoughtful, numbers-based host was able to formulate some potential conclusions.

Based on James’ analysis…

If the gains from the first five market days of the year are negative, the market rises 86 percent of the time over the full year, with an average gain of 6%.

If the first five days are positive, the market increases 92% of the time, with an average yearly gain of 16%.

Most importantly, in this year’s scenario, where the first five days saw a jump of more than 1%, the market traditionally ends positive for the year 95 percent of the time. Those years see an average yearly gain of 18%.

“Is it a good omen, does it look bullish?” James asked. “Well, yes, based on history. But remember, there are factors like inflation, interest rates, geopolitical turmoil, supply chains, slowing economy. All that stuff is in play. But history also says that the market bounces bounces back before the market even realizes it’s in a recession. That’s an important thing to know.”

On his Your World program, Cavuto wondered if the recent House speaker voting drama has added to the uncertainty facing markets.

“Historically, Wall Street definitely is a bit more friendly to a Republican administration,” Tuchman said. “We’re in new ground, there’s no playbook, Neil. And I went over it with you the last time. There’s no playbook for coming out of a pandemic. No playbook for what’s gone on over the last two and a half years. Let’s think about it. March 2020, the market sold off so radically. We had a rally of 20 percent in 2020. 28 percent in 2021, in the eyes of a global economic shutdown due to the Federal Reserve’s posturing and whatnot.

“And now we’re trying to unwind that position. In tech, and in possible recession, and inflation and supply chain issues. So, there’s no way historically to make a judgment on what the future looks like in that realm, let alone what’s going on in the dis-functionality of what’s happening in Washington. I would like to disengage what’s going on in Washington and try and rebuild the confidence in the market coming into 2023.” 

So while the data might indicate a strong year ahead, the fact is that many analysts still won’t make that definitive call amidst such economic turmoil gripping the country. 

Along with U.S. markets, they remain steadfast in their search for solid footing.

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BNM Writers

Does Radio Need A Video Star?

If there’s revenue attached, the debate is over. If there isn’t a deal on the table, and there aren’t already orders to monetize a video stream, it’s likely coming soon.

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Last week numerous stories about using video with broadcasting or audio podcasting became a hot topic of discussion.

A Morning Consult poll found that 32% of Americans prefer podcasts with video, compared with 26% who like just audio better. Among podcast listeners, 46% said they favor them with video, compared with 42% who said they would rather listen without video. It’s worth noting that these are podcast listeners, not radio listeners.

Video has become the latest trend in audio. Almost everybody is trying to do some form of video. Many shows already stream online. A few others simulcast on a television or cable channel. It seems nobody believes in pure audio anymore. It’s a wonder everybody didn’t go into television instead of radio.

Before everybody else starts adding webcams in the studio, it’s worth weighing the reasons to move ahead versus slowing down.

The first person to realize they could use video of their show may have been Howard Stern. In June 1994, Stern started a daily half-hour show on E! network, featuring video highlights from his radio show. Stern added slick production values and faster pacing on the E! show.

Don Imus started simulcasting on cable during the same month. It’s possible others that I’m not aware of started earlier.

Stern’s E! show made sense. It answered the most common questions people asked about the show, in addition to what’s he really like; the first questions people usually asked were: 1) Are the women really as good-looking as he says? 2) Do they really take their clothes off? The E! show answered those questions. In addition, it gave a backstage glimpse of the show.

The same month Stern’s E! Show began, Imus began simulcasting his show on cable networks. I would have feared losing ratings. In fact, Imus’ program director did!

I spoke to my long-time friend and colleague Mark Chernoff (Current Managing Director of Mark Chernoff Talent and on-air talent 107.1 The Boss on the NJ Shore, Former Senior VP WFAN and CBS Sports Radio, VP Sports Programming CBS Radio) about the impact simulcasting Imus’ show had on WFAN. Chernoff may have the broadest range of experiences with simulcasting radio programs with video. 

Imus began on CSPAN but shortly afterward moved to MSNBC. Chernoff told me: “When we started simulcasting Imus, I suggested we’d lose about 15% of our radio audience to TV, which we did.” Chernoff added that there was a significant revenue contribution and that the company was content with the trade-off.

WFAN had a different experience simulcasting Mike and the Mad Dog on YES in 2002. “In this case, TV was helpful, and we increased listenership,” said Chernoff. WFAN also benefited financially from this simulcast.

Imus was on in morning drive while Mike & the Mad Dog were on in the afternoon. Keep the era in mind, too. Before smartphones and high-speed streaming, it was not uncommon for people to have televisions in the bed or bathrooms and have the tv on instead of the radio as they got ready for their day. In the afternoon, fewer people would have had video access in that era.

Ratings measurement moved to Portable People Meter (PPM) by the time WFAN started streaming middays on its website. Chernoff reported streaming had no ratings or revenue impact – positive or negative – on middays. However, the company did provide an additional dedicated person to produce the video stream.

The early forays into video by pioneers such as Stern, Imus, and Mike & the Mad Dog are instructive.

There are good reasons to video stream shows. Revenue is a good reason.

If there’s revenue attached, the debate is over. If there isn’t a deal on the table, and there aren’t already orders to monetize a video stream, it’s likely coming soon.

Another good reason is if the video can answer questions about the show, as the E! show did for Howard Stern.

On the other hand, audio companies are going to throw a lot of money at video, based on the notion that it’s what they “should” do because:

  • It’s the latest trend. Being late on this trend is different from missing the Internet or Podcasting. Industries already revolve around video; television and film come to mind.
  • Podcast listeners like it (by a slight plurality).

Before turning on webcams, see what viewers will see. The studios at many stations I’ve worked at were better not seen. Considerations include; the set, lighting, wardrobe, visuals, and a plan.

Too many video streams of studios feature the fire extinguisher prominently in the shot or the air personalities milling about during terminally long breaks.

Before going live, watch the video with no audio. Is it interesting? Compelling? Does the video draw you in, or is it dull?

With program directors now spread so thin handling multiple stations, a dedicated person to oversee streaming should be a requirement for stations streaming shows.

Other considerations:

  • How could this help us, and how could it hurt us?
  • How does the video enhance the show?
  • Will personalities do their radio show or perform for the cameras?
  • What production values are you able to add to the video?
  • What happens during those seven- eight-minute breaks if it’s a live radio show (vs. a podcast)? What will people streaming video see and hear? Does everybody on the show get along?

Do you have revenue attached? What do you expect will happen to the ratings?

WFAN earned significant revenue for two. Therefore, the company wasn’t concerned when the ratings took a hit for the first one and were surprised when they helped the second one. They didn’t see any impact on ratings or revenue the third time.

After all the budget cuts and workforce reductions over the past decade-plus, before audio companies invest in video, shouldn’t we get: people, marketing, promotion, or research monies back first?

Most of us decided to get into radio (or podcasting) instead of television or film. There’s a reason they said, “video killed the radio star.”

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