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Over The Cliff


There are some who respond to my comments on the potentials of what I believe are the necessary developments of Music Radio as if I didnt have a grasp on the realities of the business. Those who know me can attest that, while I may rant, I do not roar. Nor, as a hockey player, did I spear, slash, cross check or go into the corners with any guy named Moose or Rabies. In fact, my lifetime in radio has been more the blood-sport.

The phrase I get the most is Thats the way it is! - spoken as if: 1.) We werent the very ones to have made it so and, 2.) There are no reasonable alternatives to it being and remaining so. With more detail, a comment I received recently was the following: It (Music Radio) isn't going to change any time soon. The economics of the industry preclude it. We've gotten 5-10% of the revenue pie for so long that it seems like a law of physics. And there are so many stations in most markets that nobody can realistically project massive ratings. Thus the kind of radio you want costs too much to provide a decent return on capital. In fact, in the case of many stations, I'd already be better off putting the money in Treasuries. My job as a manager is to provide ROI.

Now, I have no snide or smarmy retorts to startle or insult whoever provided those remarks as they do represent the pervasive and accepted position of most of the management in the business. The Talent, meanwhile, who have already laid their swords and shields down are among those who, albeit reluctantly and with great bitterness, have been either dispatched or rendered impotent and have also come to accept the premises. I get it. I live across an imaginary line on a map. Not in a hermetically sealed bubble. I do get it!

My position on Corporate Music Radio can be articulated quite easily: A significant portion of it is already doomed. An alarming number of Music Radio outlets can be compared to the anorexic who is unable to recognize their condition; refuses any sustenance or regurgitates that which they do take in and cannot accept that their internal organs are being used, not to do the work for which they are meant, but as the last, possible source of life-sustaining nutrients. Plus, since Music Radio has been stripped of its gatekeeper status so far as being a formidable resource for music, there are even fewer folks who even care if we survive at all.

As such and without the highly unlikely but necessary interventions, long-term suffering and the inevitable, tragic and prolonged endings are for so many - imminent. For me, its like being a dissociated nature photographer watching the lemmings from a distance - struggling up the hill and heading for the cliff. Only in our case and to trample the analogy a little harder the difference is: our lemmings carry banners and have promos and billboards exclaiming dominance and righteousness. And its true: many people can be distracted by a parade even when the cause is suspect and theres no post-parade party.

Still, given the circumstantial evidence and the corroboration and cooperation of many who are eager to cop a plea, the charges that Music Radio has decimated the services we render as they apply to audience (Talent) and advertisers (commercial production) is not even an argument its a statement of fact. When that information leaks to the attention of more of those concerned, the faint hope of any acquittal can be abandoned.

In the occasional melancholy moment, I confess I wonder if I might have been better off continuing on as a still complacent, but competitive sardonic, wise cracking, satirical, smart-ass Afternoon Drive-guy and avoided furthering my education on communications; developing some and borrowing other techniques and strategies-of-communication; testing them under the unsuspecting noses of managers and PDs and reaping the extraordinary results that came about for years and years. As managers started throwing Talent overboard, I suppose I could have sucked up and hung on and crippled my emotional well-being in the process. But Im relieved to say those moments pass - as has this one. I prefer competency to complacency.

Indeed, I consider myself fortunate to be in a position to assist broadcasters that have the intention of breaking out of the chains of their own making. There are many more adventures to be experienced, advances to be made, advertisers and audiences to astound and money to be made.

Is it not quite past time to stop doing the Swamp Dance up past our knees in rotting, nauseating goop; getting sucked in deeper with every erratic step; flailing about while fending off bugs; watching out for poisonous snakes and constantly expecting the approach of pre-programmed, murderous, unethical and unforgiving gators?

As I mentioned earlier, I have no expectation that Corporate Music Radio, as an Industry, has much of a future. I certainly am not projecting a future that would be exciting, profitable and full of challenges and marvelous potentials. There are remaining, however, the possibilities that maybe a couple of organizations will pre-empt their own demise and begin considering the alternatives.

As a broad generalization, Corporate Music Radio is currently in the business of delivering substandard widgets to a market that is still willing to accept them around 5% as the story goes. The first, obvious alternative would be to: earn a greater portion of what is already available in the market. The five percent number is, practically, irrelevant.

In recalling the quote of the (above) commentator, any chat about an ROI is a moot conversation until the advantages of making the investments in the first place are well and truly appreciated. Another quote from the same (above) comment: and there are so many stations in most markets that nobody can realistically project massive ratings.

To be sure, that would be the case were no station or cluster to take steps to dominate their market. That position exists, by the way, because the folks are stymied as to what to do next!  Sincere assertions of the validity of the status quo just make up more innocuous muzak - to which one can still do The Swamp Dance.

Further, Im reluctant to take up the banner of the zealot, either. I have already noted how the likes of Joan of Arc and others got on their horses and, in (alleged) divinely-inspired frenzies, charged into the heretic hordes. That these holy heroes were later betrayed by the jealousies of their own comrades and fed to the flames anyway should be caution enough. (In Joans case, she was found guilty on a charge of cross-dressing a burning offense.) I take more the position of Joans boyfriend, Murray. You go save France, Joanie. If you find youre in a jam, give me a holler. Love ya!

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

(10/26/2013 2:33:02 AM)
a3L42p A round of applause for your post. Really Great.

- NY
(10/23/2013 12:28:10 PM)
ZsokZg Thanks-a-mundo for the article. Really Great.

- NY
(3/31/2012 4:43:10 PM)
That's the mission, Steve - helping the executive branch to get a grip. But only a good, solid, advantageous grip will do.

- Ronald T. Robinson
(3/31/2012 1:21:20 PM)
The problem as I see it, being a long ago participant in that twilight zone of show biz we call radio, is that it's viewed as an Industry, with a capital "I," rather than an art form.

The moment that the marketroids and the bean counters got hold of the levers was the moment that all was lost.

The Internet's now where the creativity happens. At least until the marketroids and bean counters get that fully in their grasp.

- Steve
(3/29/2012 3:23:21 PM)
What, I wonder, is so "magic" about an eight-fold return on investment...? Tried mutuals, real estate or lotteries lately?
Still, I believe this is an achievable and even reasonable number.
My owners always did a lot better than that on me. And it got better year after year. Plus, as pointed out: the alternative doth truly suck heavily.
(Swamp Dance music estab and up...)

- Ronald T. Robinson

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