(TALENT) “Live” Is A Beast
Our son was a tyke when we sold the ‘Vette, loaded up the woody-wagon, and headed from Calgary to Toronto for grandparent introductions. Dropping into Montana, we drove through the States, and crossed the border at Detroit. My dad, an outstanding, working trumpet player, had prepared a tiny t-shirt for our little guy that read: “LIVE Music Is Best!”
Many in music radio would be tempted to borrow that position as a terrific call for the business, particularly the ex-talent that have been whacked over the years. Still, I accept the argument that it will take a stellar jock to mop floors with any other “live,” voice-tracked, or syndicated programming offered down the street.
Current owners and management are facing somewhat different challenges. Radio has created for itself a ridiculous dilemma. On one hand, it now depends on syndication, voice-tracking, and a bare minimum of severely suppressed “live” on-air presenters. On the other hand, when radio does go to the well to dredge up “live” talent that can compete with or defeat the competition, they find either the well is dry, or that they had poisoned the waters as part of a “scorched earth” policy during the panicked retreats of years ago.
Let us be very clear about “live and local.” The injection of local references and having a station get more involved in local activities is a non-starter as a dynamic strategy for substantial improvement. It can be injected into programming tomorrow morning – at no expense. But, it will exhaust the staff. Any station up and down the dial could do likewise – if only as a defensive move. Chances of that strategy (”local”) having a significant impact on the market are nil.
A station arbitrarily going more “live” is like releasing a t-rex into the neighborhood – nobody will care who brought it, and it is likely to eat or destroy everybody and everything within pouncing and gouging distance. Most new talent hires, unlike Rin Tin Tin, will not have the knowledge, skills, or discipline to affect rescues in the nick o’ time. But, they will have the potential to tear a station apart.
The situation, though, is even more dangerous than that. Talent that is incapable of delivering content in an interesting, clever, witty, or otherwise appealing fashion will still get thumped by just about any syndicated show, a clean voice-track, or slightly better talent down the street.
Too many PDs, I suspect, hear their presenters blundering and blithering through another anemic stop-set and mutter to themselves, “Well, at least I won’t have to listen to more of that crap until the 10-tune sweep is over.” The shame of all this is these PDs go to their drawers – supposedly full of nifty edicts to cure a jock’s communicative issues – and come up with empty sacks. The most many can do is replicate another robo-jock and discipline them with formatic manacles, threats, and a cattle prod.
Meanwhile, if a manager is considering taking the “live” train, let me remind them of a.) the additional expenses and b.) the companion responsibilities. I submit: For any “live” presenter to have a chance of impacting favorably on their target audiences, they will have to, skillfully, get on-the-air at intervals no longer than the length of one song or a two-minute spot-set. That bears repeating. For any “live” presenter to have a chance of impacting favorably on their target audiences, they will have to, skillfully, get on-the-air at intervals no longer than the length of one song or a two-minute spot-set! Hark! Is that the sound of cavalry just one valley beyond? No. T-rex has buddies, and they’re on their way!
During my tenure here, I have consistently claimed that radio-people (managers, talent, writers, and reps) have yet to figure out the distinctions that a broadcast communicator must learn and apply in order to better be in sync with, and successfully exploit, this medium. Without this knowledge and the application of explicit, new skills and methodologies, any attempt at going “live” is as doomed as anyone up a river in a punctured Zodiac would be, while bull sharks circle patiently. All efforts are expended on baling. Any predetermined, rosy destination becomes a vague and rapidly fading memory.
Blessings be upon the radio personality who hath both great shtick and chops, and who is appealing on those levels. But, alas, they are among the few. Even so, in an anxiety-ridden environment that makes up so much of modern, music-radio, these fine performers still find themselves glancing over their shoulders. Nevertheless, they, their stations and their advertisers would benefit greatly by them drastically improving their knowledge and skills in what is a very unique, electronic medium. One could (carefully) ask any of them – as talented and personable as they may be – what, specifically, have they learned over the last few years about their deliveries that has substantially improved their performances and results. Responses will be harsh…and discouraging. Meanwhile, pundits are enthusiastically coming out for the “talent.” Management questions still remain: “Which talent? Where? When? How?" and, "What’s this gonna cost me?”
I am prepared and eager to deliver the intensive weeklong trainer-training, “Advanced Communications For Broadcast Professionals,” to an organization lead by an imaginative individual who also has the juice to require implementation of the programs. The overall impact on music radio would be inconsequential. But, for the organization that increases the affect of its talent by multiples – hoo boy! (Salespeople might even provide presents.)
However, with all these diverse dynamics in play, the safer, short-term position for any manager considering going “live” is to stay home, continue with what they have been doing, and keep baling. Meatasaurs and Zambezi sharks are pitiless beasts. Yes, talents can be trained, disciplined, and motivated. But, they must also be released – to get on-the-air and bring back what they kill.
(11/4/2013 7:23:22 PM) |
I imagine the authors of drive-by slanderings are completely unaware of how much credibility is gained by cowardly anonymous internet trolls.
Meanwhile, I'm not here to wiggle my butt, flash my boobs or to suck up to the majority of owners and managers who are still trapped in their shared delusions (read: realities).
Of course, my comments would not be interesting, enjoyable or acceptable to almost everybody. It is the remaining interested and imaginative few whose interest I wish to pique.
I have, however, always noticed how nobody ever comes back with contradictory evidence. Improvement of a kind, I guess.
|- Ronald T. Robinson|
(11/4/2013 4:49:35 PM) |
I imagine by now that most RI readers are getting really sick of all your comments!
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