SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – Greetings people. Yes, after no blogs for two months, and just three since September, I’m back with my second in less than 36 hours. In yesterday’s episode, in the midst of writing my blog, I included an excerpt from a rather controversial, yet very well-received, blog from 2008 that I wrote about my beefs with the radio business, and more specifically black radio. This would be that blog. Now, per usual, I must make a few notes about this one. First, I wasn’t bent or high when I wrote this. This blog had been brewing for a while. In fact, a random moment on WJLB yesterday is a prime example of #7. Bushman, a dude who has gotta be north of 40, said about Mary J. Blige “She be gettin’ it in!” Ugh…#grammarFAIL! Secondly, this was written two years ago, thus explaining some of the Pistons references to Chauncey Billups and Flip Saunders. Thirdly, I have edited some of the gratuitous name-drops of people I worked with to only when they are necessary (not for fear of reprisal, but they’re gonna have to pay to get any more free mentions). So without further ado, from 2/6/2008, it’s time to take radio behind the woodshed again, because truthfully, things have only gotten worse since I originally wrote this.
♦ This Is No Longer Just “Business”, It’s Personal ♦
“The radio makes hideous sounds.”
— Bob Dylan
EAST LANSING, Mich. — On a very cold, very snowy day in Lansing, MI. I was driving along a back stretch of roads headed toward the rather modest home of WQHH-FM for an interview with the station’s erstwhile program director. I ended up being hired that particular day, and about a week later, I was officially apart of the staff. Thus began this three year odyssey I have had on the inside of the monster known as radio. Since 1/5/2005, I have worked for three companies in two cities, done some form of on-air work for four stations, produced and/or voiced commercials for five stations, and been apart of one really dope show. It has been a hell of a trip.
Growing up in Detroit, I loved listening to the radio. WJLB, WJR, and WWJ were my favorite stations as a kid. WJLB, because I liked the music. WJR and WWJ because they were the radio homes of Tigers (WJR), Pistons (WWJ), and Lions (WWJ) at the time. I enjoyed the personalities involved with Radio. Anyone from the D in my age range, 25-32, can tell you off rip what song Mason used to play at 6:00am every morning when he started his show on WJLB (If You Don’t Know, dammit, I’m not telling you!). I loved the shows, I loved the variety of what was played, I loved the energy. When I got into radio, as opposed to Television and Print media (which many at MSU and Specs Howard felt I should’ve pursued), that’s what I wanted to be apart of and bring to the people. I know a lot of you guys who read these blogs don’t have a clue of what it’s like to really work in a radio station. Don’t get me wrong, I have had a lot of great times and great moments behind a mic, in a studio, and in a production room. I have met a boatload of really cool people in radio too. But the negatives, have REALLY begun to outweight the positives. So, my friends, here’s a breakdown of the 10 Things I HATE About Radio.
#10: The Crappy Commercials. Ok, as a guy who has produced a lot of commercials I know good ones when I hear them. And truthfully, there’s nothing more fun than doing a local spot because you get to be creative while doing it. The operative word is CREATIVE!!! Too many spots sound exactly the same, which isn’t bad if it’s for the same company, but when I can’t tell one spot from another, then whoever produced it needs to get their shit together!
#9: Lazy Sales Executives. While I was at 96.5, I had the pleasure of working with a sales executive named Carlos Sims. I reference him because he was a beast as a sales guy! He was one of the hardest working cats I had ever seen. The man was rarely in the office during the day because that’s how hard he was grinding. When we would do appearances, he had everything together, down to an itenerary of how everything was supposed to go. If there was a commercial or promo he needed done, it wouldn’t end up in my hands until he had everything together first! He was very professional, and didn’t wait until the last minute to get things done. The problem is, Carlos is generally the exception to the rule!
#8: Too Much Syndication. Now many of you Radiophiles will probably wonder why this is just at #8 instead of much higher, but my reasoning for this is going to be explained as we go along. I’m not shittin’ on Russ Parr, Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey, Michael Baisden, Keith Sweat, (and since this was written, Rickey Smiley) or the rest of the Radio Heavyweights. I’m talking about trash like “Smashtime Radio” (WTF is That!?) and every other no-name slappy getting a syndicated show. Syndication is meant for the best of the best, not just any dude with a mixtape.
#7: The Demise of The “Specialty Show”. In Radio, shows such as Old School Sundays, What’s Next on The Menu, Sunday Morning Gospel Shows, and The Quiet Storm are called “Specialty Shows”. My original show on 96.5, Saturday Night Live, was a considered “Specialty Show” because it deviated from the same old crap that got played in regular rotation. Well, the “Specialty Show” is slowly becoming a lost art, especially in smaller markets. The Powers-That-Be at 96.5 HATED Specialty Shows, Especially SNL! They would rather not let the talent that hosts the show have anything to do with the production or programming of it, hamstringing the Talent, essentially ruining the show, and thus leading to low ratings, and…dun, dun, dun…the show being replaced by SYNDICATION!
#6: The Lack of Talent Creativity. This is what really bothers me about Urban Radio in particular. Go to damn near any major city in this country, as well as numerous smaller ones, and turn on your favorite Urban Station. It usually will claim that it’s “The People’s Station” or “#1 for Hip-Hop & R&B” (aside, from in a lot of cases it being the ONLY urban station in the market). If you listen to these stations for one whole day, you will begin to notice patterns. The pattern being that damn near every MFer on these stations tends to sound exactly the SAME! No deviation from the usual “script”. Every Station seems to Have a “Midday Mami” or a “Drivetime Diva”. There’s always some cat saying “Holla At Ya Boy!!” or “What It Do“. Hell, even I was guilty of that. You hear people who are loud, obnoxious, and ghetto as all hell, making it really difficult to listen to the station. Trust me, I’ve heard these things said many times by listeners of various stations. A fair amount of the time, and of course there are exceptions, a lot of the talent sounds like they have the vocabulary of Riley Freeman (the aforementioned Bushman example from yesterday). It’s difficult for me to call a lot of you guys “Radio Talent” when truthfully, a lot of you don’t have much of it. Radio, especially Urban Radio, has gotten much too one-dimensional. What makes this even worse are that Program Director’s often Encourage this garbage. One-Dimensional Talent, leads to predictability, which leads to boredom, which leads to apathy, which leads to low ratings, which leads to…dun, dun, dun…the show being replaced by SYNDICATION!
#5: The Increasing Obsession With “Image”. Now, I mentioned earlier that I contemplated going into Television instead of Radio. Television is a visual medium, therefore, it’s not as much of a shock when you see TV networks look for the more aesthetically appealing (good looking) people to put on camera. Radio, on the other hand, is not a Visual Medium. However, we are in the age of radio stations having websites and radio “talents” crossing over into TV. Radio, in turn, is starting to make the same mistakes TV makes. I have seen a few occassions of inexperienced women geting radio gigs over their more experienced Male and Female counterparts strictly based on how they looked. And then the station is shocked when they have to fire her talent-less ass two months later.
This also applies to the entire “dumbing down” of Urban Radio. I can say for a fact that the reason I know I will likely never get a sniff of a job at a major market Urban station is because I don’t sound “Black” enough. There’s this ridiculous idea that Black people won’t feel you if you sound like you have something more than a 6th Grade education. The PD at 96.5 was known to tell people when I first started doing SNL, that he just knew I wouldn’t last long because of my delivery and “white boy style” (he was fired not too long after this blog was written). Well, my “White Boy” style-having ass did pretty well for myself! This notion of fitting a pre-conceived “Image” leads to being one-dimensional. One-Dimensional Talent, leads to predictability, which leads to boredom, which leads to apathy, which leads to low ratings, which leads to…dun, dun, dun…the show being replaced by SYNDICATION! Are You Starting To Notice A Pattern Developing Here!?
That is Just 10 through 5. I am reserving the next Blog for the Final 4 of the 10 Things I Hate About Radio, and Trust Me, They are Pretty Damn Big Things! I Still Have To Talk About Corporate Ownership, Payola, Untrained Talent, and Program Directors.
(Back to 2010) This is Part I. I’ll give you a couple hours to digest that, before I drop part 2 later tonight. If You are a Radiophile, or just a broadcasting/journalism geek like me, or just someone who wants to know about the inside of the monster, stay tuned.
Thank You for Your Time. Take Care, God Bless, Always Dare To Be Different…and G.O.M.A.B.
Until Later Tonight…I’m Still A Radio Freq! Σ