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A New Years Definite, Maybe

1-4-2012
Ronald T. Robinson

For the last 20 years or so, Music Radio owners and management, along with and thanks to dangerously toxic doses of Research and equally unhealthy contributions from Consultants have rendered that portion of the mediums programming choices irrelevant. Not only have they thrown out the bath water and the babies, they have tossed the tubs and ripped up the toilets. This has left Music Radio with, shall we say, no place to go.

While, possibly, just a tad of a stretch, Im still going to submit the following: A lot of people just cant stand working with or directing other people - even worse when those they are directing are Show People. And theyre not. The reciprocated contempt between the parties can be palpable and resulting tensions so unbearable as to leave any shared goals or aspirations a fragmented memory andunattainable. I cannot pick a date that Music Radio stopped being Show Business. But, based on the memories of my own experiences and awareness of the biz, Im going to speculate the late-80s. There were prior rumors and speculation, to be sure.

I have some degree of sympathy for those PDs who have to straddle the line between the two combatant factions in contemporary Radio. But, its a disciplined sympathy, as I wouldnt want to seem overly maudlin. Plus, over the years, as PDs have had less and less Talent to D, its no wonder their job descriptions can include an air-shift, changing toilet paper rolls and other duties requiring mops, pails and website tidy-ups.

Even today, while stations managers continue to panic and throw their Talent into the lye pits, the stark future of Music Radio, to some, is becoming more apparent and grim. But here, as the Newfoundland seal hunters say, is where the wickets get sticky. Going back to the days of contemporary Radio where the largest percentage of Talent were no more than format-blithering robots who (only occasionally) got the green light to attempt something witty or clever is no answer to the woes confronting modern Music Radio. Then there were the stoner FMers who had more time to say stuff, but had very little to say and what they did say, they, like, didnt say so good, neither. Really, the only difference between then and now lies in that there are fewer Jocks on the air and those that remain or have come along in the last decade or so are speaking less. No exceptional differences either in that they, too, don talk so good. Allowing for the many noteworthy exceptions, I suggest, does little to assist the overall, general health of the presentation of Music Radio.

Perhaps thats just as well as the greatest majority of on-air folks sound like, repeat: sound like they have the depth of the disembodied order-takers at a drive thru, fast food outlet. Now, they may, very well, be clever, intelligent folks in real life. But the moment the mic-switch gets hit, the station/industry supplied lobotomies kick in. Confronting any audience with more of that more often would only increase the overhead and provide an even greater number of tune-out factors. Im thinking: Poor Strategy. Any outside individual who is even mildly interested in hearing examples of presentations that are poorly constructed, pandering, innocuous, patronizing, sophomoric, non-challenging, disjointed, dull - and all delivered in the light, tight and bright, but still amateurish style consistent with grade school cheerleaders, is invited to tune in to any Music Radio outlet. Indeed, banality has found a retirement home at Music Radio. If these folks were racehorses, theyd still have the needles sticking out of them. And theyd be pulling flower wagons full of brussel sprouts.
 
These are hardly the most encouraging of words when one considers how the components of Music Radio that will reinvigorate this business (whats left of them and it) are holed-up in The Jock Lounge a place where one would find a sullen, contemptuous group wondering if theyll still have a gig next week. No one could call them paranoid, either.  People are, indeed, out to get them!

And yet, there they are the last of their clan and the possible role models for a next generation of broadcast communicators. That many of those remaining are also those who were willing to do the dipping-dog-on the-dashboard-bit and say, Yessir. Yessir. Three bags full. in order to keep their jobs hardly bodes well for an exciting, new, Talent gene pool.

Now, of course I accept any accusations of over-presenting the case. After all, could Music Radio really be heading for the rocks? Listeners are still listening and advertisers are still advertising. Politicos are preparing to soon drop wadds of dough for the purpose of spitting out anti-competition rhetoric and mewling fortune cookie platitudes.

Yet and even so, that the future of Music Radio is going to be dependant on the skills and intelligence of the Performers cannot be over emphasized. Station appeal and station loyalty will be the exclusive domain of The Talent. The Tunes are no more than a generic demo and psycho-graphic targeting device. Plus, The Tunes and their appeal become less and less of a factor each day the alternatives get picked up by audiences.

The new breed of incoming Talent is going to have to be trained. Veterans will have to be re-trained. Creative staff will have to undergo the same process. PDs will have to be taught to be skilled enough to apply - not only the ongoing training processes themselves, but the motivating and supportive procedures, as well. Management will have to go further than approving these processes they will be obliged to become aware of, acknowledge, encourage and reward their successful applications!

Obviously, none of this will be easy or particularly cheap. After all, cheap & easy have been the watchwords for the last 20 years and more. Thats the strategy for building Ladas. And it worked until the engines, drive trains and suspensions fell out. And lets fess up here, shall we? If our stations staffs were to be compared to any local automotive dealers service department for levels of knowledge and skills, we would be thrown out on our ears.

Besides, it truly is about time for the concepts of R & D to be applied to Radio along with the necessary, budgetary allowances. That is, unless the likely and debilitating alternatives to improvement and development are acceptable.

I believe I am taking no great risk in predicting the greater majority of owners will be disregarding these issues altogether. But, for those who can consider and appreciate the implications, I predict wider, open roads of happier motoring and/or clearer, downwind sailing will be their rewards.

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian Radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach and has trained and certified as a personal counsellor. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to Talent and Creative, have yet to be addressed. Check out his website www.voicetalentguy.com




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