November 25, 2015

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03/21/05 Would You Recommend Radio To Your Children?
Some questions have a way of cutting right to your soul. Last week, a dear friend asked, “Would you recommend radio as a career for your children?”

For some reason, this hit me like a ton of bricks. Since age 14, my life has been consumed by the radio broadcasting industry in one form or another: on air; in programming, sales, management and ownership; as a vendor and now industry publisher. But radio in 1969 was a lot different from radio in 2005. Would I still do it? Is there anything I would rather have done? Would I want my kids doing it?

If you ask people a question and they hesitate, it indicates that their answer is something they had not thought about, or perhaps they were not firm on their position. I hesitated. My buddy caught it and asked why I hesitated.

My initial response was, “Yes, I would encourage my kids to follow my path into radio.” My hesitation came from considering all the industry changes - not IF they should go in radio, but WHERE they should go in radio. I was trying to determine the biggest and brightest future. Should they stick with local radio, national radio, radio sales, management or on-air? Should they follow new technologies such as satellite radio, Podcasting, Internet radio or wireless LAN radio? Where would I go today if I had a choice?

My challenges to radio, and changes that should be made, entered my mind. After all, I am always trying to get radio people to sit up, take notice, improve or reinvent. Is this really a business worthy of valuable lives such as those of my children?

Though I told my friend “yes” and moved on to the next subject, his question haunted me for hours. Radio is not the business it had been when I devoted my career to it. Radio no longer has the kind of stations and talent it had when I was a kid. That led to my own questioning: What excited me about radio, why did I get in to it, and would I do it today?

Though I initially struggled with this question, my conclusion was positive. I got into radio because I had a chance to touch people's lives. I had a chance to mold the direction of radio stations. I had the chance to entertain and inform. I had the chance to invent new ideas and directions, new formats, new research, new approaches. I was able to transform mom-and-pop business into major local, then regional and eventually national chains because I knew how to convince people of the value of radio and knew how to make radio work. I watched poor, struggling businesspeople put everything on the line to do radio; and when listeners poured into their retail locations, I saw those businesspeople move from modest homes into mansions - all because of radio.

Would I do it again? Would I put my kids into radio? Is there a future, even though it has changed? You bet. This is an awesome place to spend a career, because anyone in this business can touch and change lives. My friend's question led to deep internal examination, and as a result, not only do I recommend it to others - including my kids - I'm reinvigorated about radio. This is an awesome business!

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