I remember insightful things people tell me. As I get older, I think my brain may be getting full though. At least that’s what I tell me wife when she’s babbling and telling me something I don’t really need to know. So it’s best I start writing these things down.
- A number of years ago Michael Walter – known as “Dolphin” – then program director of 96Rock in Cincinnati said something interesting to me. We were at a 700WLW promotion where The Big One was giving away a new Camaro. As conversations between people in the same profession normally do, he said something about radio.
“We already know how the story ends. It’s just that the final chapter hasn’t been written yet.”
Well we’re on the verge of finding out this story’s final chapter. Two of the largest consolidators, iHeart Media and Cumulus, are bankrupt. Will more bankers be taking over radio? Will broadcasters? Will there be a flood of stations for sale? How many jobs will be gained or lost in radio?
- One summer I was vacationing in Lake Placid, NY. New York’s Adirondack’s are a beautiful place. Before heading out to dinner, my wife and I stopped for a beer at a little bar on Mirror Lake. I sat down next to a fellow and he struck up a conversation asking me what I did. It was obvious he knew something about radio. He ended the conversation with something profound.
“Well, once you start getting a paycheck it’s almost impossible to do what’s right. Have a great evening.”
– Never got his name
He then quickly got up and left. His comments have always stuck with me and should stick with you, whether you work in radio or do something else.
- After voicing frustrations to him, Chuck Fredrick, the then iHeart Media Market Manager revealed to me the managerial truth of a consolidated radio industry.
“We’re no longer managers. We’re facilitators.”
– Chuck Fredrick
What an incredibly powerful statement by an astute man, who probably was as frustrated as I was.
Looking back, that was the day I should have packed up my stuff and run, not walked, to the front door, but there was that “paycheck” thing.
- Terry Miller, then comptroller for the Clear Channel Cincinnati market, revealed to me he wasn’t the heartless bastard everyone perceived him to be. After we laid off a few dozen people between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Terry finally spoke up.
“What the was the purpose of that?”
– Terry Miller
I think he may have dropped the “f word” too. He obviously knew how much money the Cincinnati stations were throwing off at the time and it was a lot. But as “facilitators” do, we “facilitated.”
- Immediately after a college sports season one spring, we were paying the final expenses for each team. The deals with Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati were part rights fees and revenue sharing. The rights fees were listed in the budget, but the revenue sharing was missing for one of the teams. It was a $70,000 mistake that may have happened in the front office as budgets were finalized a few months before. The sales managers for 700WLW, Joe Fredrick and Tom Horan, our director of sports programming Dave Armbruster and I sat in my office with the door closed to figure out how we were going to tell our boss Mike Kenny, a tough and buttoned up with a budget market manager. I vaguely remember someone curled up in the fetal position on the office couch. Joe put the issue into perspective.
“Paco is gonna fucking kill us.”
– Joe Fredrick
“Paco” was Mike’s nickname and Joe was right. We were dead. Figuring it was a smarter move to call him than to walk down to his office and face him, we put him on the speakerphone. After telling him, and a silence that seemed to last forever, with an annoyed sigh he gave us his response.
– Mike Kenney
He hung up.
I learned we were managers that day and allowed to “manage,” cutting other expenses and increasing other revenues to make the budget right at year’s end.
- When I took over 700WLW as program director, the then Clear Channel corporate PD Marc Chase gave me his professional advice.
“Dude. Don’t fuck it up.”
– Marc Chase
Sage thoughts that, honestly, I’ve used with others. Hey. You can’t be any more concise than don’t fuck it up, right?
- And one final insightful thought. The first time I met radio legend Randy Michaels was in New Orleans. I know this may surprise you, and as shocking as this may be, we were in a bar on Bourbon Street. I made a comment about loving a radio station. He jumped up. Grabbed me, hugged me and shouted at me what every radio person should believe in their soul and never forget.
“It’s OK to love a radio station. Do you hear me? It’s OK to love a radio station.”
– Randy Michaels
I know the radio stations I still love today and would do anything for. Do you?
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As we can see today radio would have lost its appeal even without the great consolidators and the homoginization that brought about, but its legacy are many great quotes and stories like this
Brilliant insight, and heartbreaking at the same time
I have lived everything you’ve talked about in today’s blog Darryl.
I always told my students, it’s easy to sit here in class and tell me you will do the right thing. Get back to me when you’ve got a mortgage, car loans, kids and credit card debt.
Leader to manager to facilitator in fives years with CC.
“Such a business.” -Bob Cudmore, former 81-WGY host and one of my radio mentors
So is it your thought most stations will go dark? Can’t anyone make money in radio? How do you see the last radio chapter playing out?
“So is it your thought most stations will go dark? ” Hard telling. Our stupid government will probably bail them out so they can continue to pollute the airwaves with their garbage.
“Can’t anyone make money in radio?” YES, but not the way these corporate morons do it. I know of many radio stations, owned and operated live, with real radio people at the helm, and they’re doing well, even on AM! But not iHate or Cu’s version of AM, you know, that laptop in the supply closet that drops to dead air every half hour?
My HOPE is that they have to sell off to local owners and maybe we’ll have radio worth listening to again that doesn’t require putting up a 60′ tower and antenna to hear. These two companies should have invested in Dollar stores instead of radio stations.
It’s WAY okay to LOVE a radio station….
There are already plenty of people today who have the job of being entirely dispassionate…
🙂 Yes it is, Tom. Yes it is.