SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – Greetings once again. Hopefully you were able to check out the first part of this throwback blog from 2008 I wrote about my beefs with the radio business. No need for long intros, especially if you read Part I. Part II. which gets a little angrier than Part I, dropped two days later on 2/8/2008. Let’s get down to business.
♣ This Is No Longer Just “Business”, It’s Personal ♣
“Every clique is a refuge for incompetence. It fosters corruption and disloyalty, it begets cowardice, and consequently is a burden upon and a drawback to the progress of the country. Its instincts and actions are those of the pack.”
— Chiang Kai-Shek
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Ok, Now That You Guys Have Had a Couple of Days (hours) to Digest the First installment of “10 Things I Hate About Radio”. There is a myriad of things in this business that makes radio suck, so it was kinda difficult for me to shave it to 10. Here’s What I Laid Out From 10 down to 5:
10: The Crappy Commercials.
9: Lazy Sales Executives.
8: Too Much Syndication.
7: The Demise of The “Specialty Show”.
6: The Lack of Talent Creativity.
5: The Increasing Obsession With “Image”.
Now it’s time to lay out the Final Four! The Worst of The Worst. No. 6 and No. 5 are an issue that has been brought about by Number 4:
4: The Distinct Lack of New and Trained Air Talent. This has become much more common in the last 5 years. In the slow death of the local Specialty Show, Local Morning Show, and anything else not syndicated, a lot of it was brought about by the lack of good, new, fresh voices on the air. There’s a reason why 9 out of 10 Urban Jocks sounds exactly the damn same, and it’s because they are conditioned to be that way by Program Directors and by hearing other talent in a vicious cycle of suck. The words “Show Prep” might as well be friggin Mandarin Chinese to a lot of young cats. When I was in Specs Howard, the instructors there used to preach the words Show Prep to us ad nauseum. When I did SNL, I would start prepping that show on Wednesday afternoon, so by the time I got to Saturday, I was already 5 steps ahead of the game. (For my non-Radiophiles, Show Prep is exactly what it sounds like. Getting together stuff to talk about on your show, as well a outlining how you’re going to handle such things as bits, giveaways, etc.).
I have already alluded to the poor grammar, inflection, and straight-up ignorance that I tend to hear on many urban stations. It’s almost like they had a contest, plucked a couple of dudes off the street with no real training and gave them an airshift…wait, I think there was a station in Detroit (102.7) that actually did that last year! Never Mind! A lot of times stations would much rather do that then bring in an experienced talent who may actually cost a little more! You have too many small town no-name talents who have over-inflated egos and zero professionalism. I’ve worked on morning shows that started at 6:00am…where the so-called host didn’t even show up until 6:15! I have noticed a lot of these new talents that think they are absolute superstars, but can’t even run a board correctly, talk up to a post (Meaning the DJ’s last word would be followed by the song’s first), or even get through a break without stumbling or moments of dead air. Shitty New Talent, leads to low ratings, leading to…dun, dun, dun…SYNDICATION!!!!
3: Program Directors. I bet a lot of you thought that this was gonna be Number 1 or at least the Silver Medalist, didn’t you!? The only thing keeping these Emmy-Award Winners from the coveted top two is that there are plenty of good ones out there. The problem is that for every good one, there are 15 arrogant, obnoxious, egotistical, insecure, corrupt, overpaid, underqualified, slack-jawed a-holes running radio stations right into the friggin ground. The PD is, in theory, supposed to be the pacesetter who’s job is predicated on improvement and success. They make the calls on the talent, are there to assist in the needs of the air staff, able to objectively critique the air staff and help them get better on air, preach professionalism, and put the overall best product out there to the listeners. Unfortunately, 80% of PDs think that the world revolves around them and are nothing more than selfish pricks willing to let a station sound like ass as long as their show is a hit. I’m speaking from the experience of having dealt with a couple of asshole PDs who were nothing more than trained chimps behind a desk in a small broom closet of an office.
Program Directors often (but not always) have their own show. They set “rules” of what the talent at the station can do and say on air, yet most don’t abide by any of them! They stretch boundaries on their show while deriding others on the staff for following their lead. That’s like if Flip Saunders were both the Pistons Head Coach and a Player. Next thing you know, in a close game the ball suddenly would be in Flip’s hands instead of Chauncey’s. Many times, PDs are the most insecure people on the staff. Playing favorites toward certain talent, constantly worrying that the next young talent is coming for their job, and quick to flex what little authority they have. Some even go out of their way to handicap talent that they don’t personally like, even if it is to the detriment of the station.
While I was doing Middays on 96.5, every day I had to hear the PD’s mouth about something else he supposedly didn’t like me doing (mind you, I barely talked more than 7 minutes per hour). Some days, it was fairly evident he was just pulling a lot of it out of his ass. He was always good for telling me some bullshit such as “You Aren’t saying ‘Power’ Correctly” (We actually had a 30 minute meeting of this clown trying to get me to say the word “Power” correctly) or him text messaging me (during a mic break) “The people in Lansing don’t wanna hear (insert topic here)” or my personal favorite from January 2007: “Jason, your voice is too filled with bass and too hip-hoppish for women’s fragile ears. I read a study that says that women’s eardrums are very sensitive to bass, so therefore you need to speak softer when you’re on the Mic.” Because we all know women like a man with a soft, falsetto voice! Fucking Idiot! It’s not uncommon these days for a lot of these PDs to try to stress that whole “Image” thing, at times even telling intelligent jocks to dumb themselves down so they can relate to the listeners, instead of developing their own distinct personalities.
Like I said, there are many PDs out there who do their job, and do it very well. It also is no surprise that a lot of the ones who do actually uplift their talent, throw a variety of different shows out there, and most of all, STAY THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY, have consistently posted great ratings and often times has the best overall station to listen to. Should it be a surprise to anyone that 96.5 hasn’t exactly been a ratings machine? Hell, around there, 4th Place is a reason for the PD to Celebrate. Way To Aim High! So If That’s The Bronze Medalist, then the Silver Has To Be Even Worse…Right?
2: Payola. Maybe the single dirtiest word in the Music Industry. A Word where if it associated with an artist or record label, their credibility heads out the damn window. If it is attached to a Radio Station, it could be the death knell of the career of anyone caught participating in it. Have you ever wondered why it is certain songs get played repeatedly over and over and over again on your favorite station? It’s not always because it was requested by some annoying 14-year-old. It’s because quite often (and this is nothing new), these record labels are so deep into the pockets of these DJs and these Programmers at these stations that they are greasing the tracks for those shitty songs to keep spinning. I won’t speak on what I have seen right now, but they know what’s up. This has been going on since radio first began in the early 20th Century. Some smarmy record executive comes up in the station and promises a car or some cash, or some give away prizes, or whatever in exchange for a little extra help promoting their no-name slap-dick of an artist. If it means spinning them into the ground during prime listening hours, then so be it. It’s been radio’s dirty little not-so-secret and it has long since ruined music on the radio. Just remember, when you hear some lame-ass song getting spun so much that you are forced to like it, remember that’s likely because your favorite rapper’s record label is paying for spins! And your favorite station’s PD is likely taking their little early Christmas gifts and force feeding you garbage. That’s Why The Music Sucks!
This Brings us to The Biggest Thing I Hate About Radio. After a Lot of deliberation, I realized that there could only be one thing topping the list:
1. Corporate Ownership. It’s no secret that radio is run by big time companies. Clear Channel, Emmis, Radio One, CBS, ABC, and Cumulus are just some of the names attached to your favorite radio stations. The problem with certain companies is that they micromanage the hell out of stations. Often times they make extremely questionable talent decisions that further handicap the stations they own. Case in point. A Lot of times you’ll hear of your favorite DJ getting fired out of no where. Not because of poor ratings. Not Because He said/did something stupid on air. Not because he got locked up. Simply because the stations thought it would be cheaper to get rid of them and replace his ass with someone with less experience, or with SYNDICATION!!!! These companies care more about the bottom line, than putting out a good product on air. If they just so happen to post a #1, then they’ll take it. And there have been many instances of coming in first, and people still get fired or formats suddenly get flipped.
The only thing worse than Big Companies are Smaller ones. I look back at when MacDonald Broadcasting bought 96.5. It might have been one of the worst things to happen to that station overall. From the moment we got there, it became blatantly apparent that they cared nothing about the listeners or the community as a whole. The owner himself was as meddlesome as they came, feeling the need to micromanage everything into the ground, and undermine the Program Director (who, of course, was nothing but a spineless “yes” man anyway). The Owner was arrogant enough to say repeatedly that “We’re the Home for Hip-Hop and R&B. We’re all they have!” The instituional arrogance around there is George W. Bush-like. Yet they wonder why is it people are willing to purchase a subscription to Sirius or XM, or an iPod, go to internet radio. My stance on Corporate Ownership has always been for them to focus on making their money and let the stations work themselves out. MacDonald will never get anything other than mediocrity from 96.5 and 101.7 because they can’t stay the fuck out of the way. Radio One in Detroit is only gonna be able to do so much with what they have until they actually develop a strategy and stick to it. Corporate greed has substantially watered down radio and made it very difficult to listen to as a whole and it SUCKS!
Truth be told, Mainstream radio was not much fun for me any more, and that’s why I’m getting the hell out of Mainstream Urban and Top 40 Radio. I want to work in News and Sports broadcasting. I have essentially been a Sports Guy trapped in Top 40 Radio for three years. My message to anyone who works in radio, or aspires to do so, is to keep your head on a swivel and continue to work on your craft. Don’t let some insecure shithead PD or Owner or jealous jock keep you from whatever your goal is. Never sacrifice your personality, and for God’s Sake, Never DUMB YOURSELF DOWN for anyone! Thanks For Reading And Hopefully I Opened a Few Eyes.
(Back to 2010). Thanks again for your Time People! Feedback and Hate Mail can start now…Let It Rip!
Until Next Time, That’s The Way It Is. Friday, January 8, 2010.
The 47th day since the Detroit Lions’ Last Victory, and the 27th day since the Detroit Pistons’ Last Victory.
Take Care, God Bless, Always Dare to Be Different, and G.O.M.A.B. Σ