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Road Rage

By Ronald T. Robinson.

There's nothing like a road trip to clear the mind, calm the senses, and allow for a period of uninterrupted time to muse on the possibilities. My most recent road trip, however, had none of those attractive qualities. If there is a Radio Hell prepared for guys like me, I believe I spent a few moments on the lip of just such a broiling, flaming pit. Even with his forked tail, horns, and cloven hooves, Mephistopheles reminded me of someone. I recognized a compilation of any number of my former PDs. Horrible as it was, I drove right into it.

I had booked a V/O gig for a large American firm that paid large American dollars. The agency and the studio, however, were located about 80 miles southwest of Toronto. Highway 401 is a 500-mile stretch that starts at the Ontario/Quebec border and runs across the top of Toronto and on into where the heavily armed, twitchy, and ill-humored border guards are lined up at Detroit. Its a highway that carries more traffic than any other road in North America and can be anything from a 12-lane super speed trap to a one-lane prison sentence -- depending on weather, congestion, wrecks, and dog-sled or moose-herd crossings.

Between Toronto and my destination there are a half dozen standalone radio markets servicing cities with populations of between 150,000 and 300,000. My intention was to monitor a number of these (corporately owned) local outfits. While the Toronto signals get out, these locals don't get in, and this would be a nice opportunity to get a refresher from outside of Hogtown.

Now, there was no surprise in finding the usual suspects, in terms of cookie-cutter formats, in play. I wouldnt have expected anything else. As I was flipping around -- and to no readers surprise -- I had to wait for the music sweeps to wrap up and hope there might be another "live" human being at the end. What was I thinking!? Nevertheless, I kept searching and landed on an Oldies station. There was a time-and-temp reference -- a clue that somebody was actually working middays live. I will give the MD some credit, as they were playing some extremely groovy tunes without the paranoia of dayparting -- even at this late date.

The jock went through the obligatory claims of "playing [City's] best and greatest music,"  then fired off a series of (locally produced) spots where each of the advertisers were delivering the "greatest and best service, selection, and guaranteed lowest prices." This was followed by a slurpy, syrupy promo from "Donny," who was threatening to show up later in the day to stir up even more apathy. That's when the jock came back on and stumbled through an intro of a tune that -- and I have no reason to lie about this -- was "comin' right atcha."

Had I not been penned in by a pair of 18-wheelers and squinting through a squall that featured snowflakes the size of garbage pail lids, I would have pulled off the road, slid down to the floorboards, and, in an infantile frenzy, thrashed around like a boated carp. Instead, I started seething, and commenced to speaking in tongues. "How did we ever come to this!?" I asked myself -- rhetorically, to be sure.

If we, as radio folks, were to form a committee for the purpose of finding out how we could do a better job of insulting, alienating, and otherwise blowing off audience, we could do no better than what we are doing right now. "Mission accomplished!"

I'm also sadly aware there is no point to playing the "shame card" here, either. The strategies and psychology of corporate music radio attest to the idea that these executives have no more care about the processes of broadcasting and the consequences than do the cobras that are killing 20,000 Indian citizens every year. They just kill them. They don't eat them. "It's the natural order," corporate executives can claim.

It's well past time to put this situation right. I wonder who is ready to get to work. We can still save a good portion of this tainted enterprise. What it's going to take is: training the PDs to train the on-air and creative staff to be effective broadcast communicators. Im willing and able to deliver the expertise and the experience -- for those who are willing to make the effort.

As to ownership: I also wonder what they want and what they want to avoid. This is not because they dont know -- although some may actually not know, at least not beyond "mo' dough" -- but because they won't articulate. It seems like they want to take the "Three Monkeys" approach. I, for one, am as completely unwilling to see, hear, or speak no evil as I am to sing along with the lyrics of "Home on the Range" where seldom is heard a discouraging word. By rights, what we should be hearing are numerous, loud, and sincere cries for "Help!"

My V/O gig, meanwhile, went really well, as I was working with pros who were willing to bend some of the copy and re-address the vocal approach. During the drive home, I did the only reasonable and safe things possible under the circumstances: I left the radio off and spent the time. clearing my mind and musing on the possibilities.

Read more articlde from Ron HERE

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

(9/13/2013 2:59:48 PM)
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(9/7/2013 12:11:05 AM)
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(3/23/2012 4:40:44 PM)
As a further response to Bill, not "Bob": The kind of Music Radio I want is the kind that dominates markets and makes the ordering up of more cash-pails a prudent exercise.
Any use of the "we're too poor to innovate or develop"-excuse is like accepting a pro athlete's lament that they have a cat tied to their rump and, therefore, can't perform.
Solution: Release the kitty!

- Ronald T. Robinson
(3/22/2012 12:23:28 PM)
Thanks, Bob, for the input. As I'm sure you would agree, you have articulated the pervasive attitude which, in practice, freezes everything and everybody. This is the position that leaves management to mutter, "Aw, rats!"

In all my pieces for Radio Ink, I have been alluding to a significant number of techniques - all making up a "methodology" that has had extraordinary impacts on the stations to which they were applied. Anything else and I would be guilty of bleating just more philosophical noise.

Meanwhile, Bob, and while I agree the costs would be prohibitive for a stand-alone or small group of stations, the matter of ROI is very much a factor.
So, what, in your view, would be a reasonable, desirable ROI for undertaking such developments and improvements?

- Ronald T. Robinson

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