Thursday, November 3, 2011

Is It "Decision Time" For You?

I think it's safe to say the radio talent world was rocked last week by hundreds of 'R.I.F.' firings at the two biggest companies.  It's put a lot of you (even those still employed) in the position of having to soon ask yourself, "what's next for me?". 

Earlier this year, I found myself in a similar position and it can be...well, challenging.  You may decide to hang in or opt out and re-invent yourself, perhaps in a completely different profession.  A couple of colleagues suggested I re-post this blog so those of you not sure of your next move might see that you're not alone.  You'll hear a lot of noise in the near term, some affirming your love for your craft and others telling you it's the end of the road.  It can be terribly confusing and demoralizing and I feel your pain.  I hope this helps.

Why I'm Not Ready To "Give It Up!  Get Out Of Radio!"

If you've been on the world-famous radio 'beach' for a while, I'm guessing this will sound pretty familiar.  I can't tell you how many times, during my year-long job search, I've heard the following from colleagues, friends and even some family:
  • "Dude, get out of radio.  The business stinks-it's over"
  • "Radio isn't what it used to way I'd stay in this business"
  • "There are no jobs!  Why bother?"
  • "Hey, you had a great run- but it's time to go to work for a living"
  • "Radio sucks.  It's all corporate!  Why would you still want to do it?"
Sorry to disappoint but I honestly don't find myself ready to "give it up" or "get out now".  Why? It isn't a matter of me being stubborn, in denial or not realizing the reality that the business has changed so dramatically during the past dozen years.

I simply can't imagine abandoning radio because I really, truly, genuinely love what I do.  How many of us are so blessed we can say that about our jobs and really mean it?  I love my craft a great deal.  There is nothing like building a fun, exciting, compelling radio station, creating a hot buzz, getting those numbers in and knowing you have something unique and special going on. There's nothing quite like helping on-air talent grow into greatness.  Nothing like bringing a team together and being on a mission. Nothing like brainstorming an event idea and having it turn out way better than you envisioned.  Nothing quite matches the thrill of being part of a group of winners all doing something great.

I love being part of all the cool stuff we get to do. We were almost thrown in jail with the WSNX "Mystery Money Man" stunt.  We set a Guiness Book mark with the "World's Biggest Musical Chairs" and won a free MTV concert for Notre Dame with "Rock Alike" when we were in South Bend.  We debuted 98 Surf FM/ Pensacola-Ft Walton Beach #1 in about 100 days on-air.  Our facility at WOLL/West Palm Beach was a dive with bars on the windows in a crack neighborhood but we banded together and rocked the house (RadioInk's Eric Rhoads did a weekend shift for us and was shocked his car wasn't stolen).  

We got to do an Arrow station in Nashville and cranked it up to #2 for several years (no shame in being second to WSIX in those days) and were honored to have Peter Frampton play St. Nick at our "Breakfast With Santa" event. We had an all-star line-up in Orlando at Big 100 that was the only FM not to simulcast with a TV station during Hurricane Charlie and did a 50kwAM/100kwFM simulcast with our N/T station...their news folks with our seasoned pros (like Mike Harvey, Bob Berry and  Chris Rivers) that kept listeners informed and feeling safe during an amazing, destructive event. How fun it was to do an Adult Hits launch in Louisville (Louie FM) and have immediate success working with Atlanta legend J.J. Jackson and wonderful pros like Lori Bradley and Traci Taylor (one of the few in this format genre that was a big success).

This isn't reminiscing about 'back-in-the-day'. It's reveling in the ability to play a role in an industry that finds itself in a storm of redefinition.  And, save for a day or two here and there, I've loved every minute of it; despite all the changes and challenges, I wake up every day wanting to do it all over again.

Does this mean I don't get the occasional creeping negative thought? Of course not. Staying positive is the one of the biggest challenges when one is looking for work (as millions in America can attest, including many in my home state of Michigan whose families grew up in the auto industry).  It really is vital to have enough true faith so I view any opportunity that closes as a new one about to open right around the corner.

To my friends and colleagues who, out of love and caring, suggest "give it up, dude", sorry but this is what I was gifted to do, the fire still burns within me and I intend to keep doing it until some fat lady insists on singing directly to me.  

Yes, I know...I'm nuts.  But, as you well know, I'm just not the quitting type.

Thanks and KEEP ROCKIN'!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

5 Things You Can Do Right Away (If You Were 'Budgeted Out')

Wow, is it getting crowded out here.  Another round of 'reduction-in-force' going on a the biggest radio groups has hundreds of pros on the well-populated radio beach.  If this has happened to you, I'm truly sorry you're having to go through all of this.  Been there and done that and I hope you'll allow me to share some things you might want to consider in the short term.

THE BIG CHILL... Take a couple of days or a week (or a month) to clear your head before you reboot.  It's a good opportunity to recharge your batteries, enjoy some family time, maybe (to quote Bob Seger) get out of Denver for several days.  It's a lot easier to re-energize once you've let the emotion and the noise of these events die down.  It may even be a case of evaluating whether you want to stay in radio at all...many have said 'adios' and some stubborn goofs Iike me (as evidenced on my first blog post) after I found myself in your position.  It may be time to seriously consider professionally re-inventing yourself.

HOW IS YOUR PACKAGE LOOKING?  When is the last time you updated your resume?  Is it simple black & white text or is it different, something that will set you apart from the crowd?  It's a pain for some to send aircheck files in email, so why not create a personal YouTube page and post your audio there vs. clogging the inboxes of those who hire?  Think whether your presentation looks like most others or stands out.  Your package represents YOU...make it cook, sizzle and rock the house.  And, be persistent...a squeaky wheel. 

NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK...  Reach out to everyone you know and let them know you're available, especially your mentors. It may sound silly to ask, but are you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Googie+?  It might make sense to create a separate 'fan page' for you, the radio guy who's looking, and there are ways to dress them up (and for free, as with Pagemodo or Wildfire) so you can be more than average or ordinary.  An even better question might be, "are you on any social network(s)"?  If you aren't today, you might want to get going so you're not irelevant tomorrow.  There are tons of websites that can help (like Mashable or the Facebook page Social Networking For Radio Stations).  Remember back in the day, when we had to record airchecks on cassette, UPS or FedEx them, etc. and please keep in mind that social networking involves one cost:  your time.  Use these great (and mostly free) tools to spread the word and present yourself and, most importantly, to build and cultivate relationships.  You always hear about engaging with your audience; engage with your network, as well.  Avoid posting just shill about you looking for a gig and focus on sharing thought-provoking items. Those doing the hiring are there- are you?

STAY MOTIVATED BY STAYING PLUGGED-IN... Keep in touch with what's going on in our industry.  Sign-up for the daily emails on important websites like, Jacobs Media,, and (among others).  To widen your perspective, subscribe to free blogs or Twitter feeds from thinking people like Mark Ramsey Media, Chris Brogan, Eric Rhoads, Social Media Insider, Brand Channel, Triton Digital and more. You'll be asked about a lot of the things they discuss and present on these pages and now that you have some extra time, take advantage of it.

KEEP BUSY... Take up a new hobby, get more involved in your church, take some college classes, use this time to do more with your family, start a new workout routine or volunteer your time (because giving your time to others will help keep you positive).  Knock out some of those home projects you've been putting off.  Think about having a yard sale (in case you end up moving, plus the dough will come in handy). Feeling sorry for yourself day after day will get you nowhere.  You actually should grieve some- losing a job is one of the most stressful things you'll ever go through but please don't drown in your grief. Until you land your next job, you'll have good days and you will have bad days.  You'll go days and maybe weeks without getting any action... that's just the way it is these days. 

One think I know for sure is I don't have all the answers but maybe something in this piece will serve as some decent thought starter sor you..

If you still love being in radio, keep the faith, hang in and please remember these words from the late Jim Valvano:  don't give up, never give up.

Thanks and, more than ever...KEEP ROCKIN'!
502.222.3600, 502.310.9474

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

'Men Of A Certain Age' Still ROCK.

Consolidation, force reduction, budget cuts, contraction.  Call it what you like but the talent squeeze has been on for years in radio and one group seems to be fading faster than any:  over-50 Programmers and Personalities.  Two years ago at the NAB in Philadelphia, Edison Media's Larry Rosin, who has piloted their "30 Under 30" talent search, observed, "we are fast becoming an industry of old men".


There's no doubt that quite a few in the Over-50 Club are being left behind.  Some of it can be justified:  the vets who cling helplessly to 'back-in-the-day', wishing all radio was still live in the studio, answering the hitline for four or five hours a shift.  Refusal to embrace voicetracking, multi-tasking (no more 'four-and-hit-the-door') and social media.  I can't argue with some of that, having seen it first-hand.  Technology is moving at a continually rapid pace and, for some, keeping up just isn't in the cards.

Yet, even Larry Rosin believes, as I, that this fraternity still has a lot to offer our industry. There are many highly experienced radio veterans who are focused on where radio and media are headed vs. the obsession with where we've been. They understand great content comes on a variety of delivery platforms and are eager to be part of it.  We've all heard something like, "fifty is the new forty" and, for those who are forward-looking and embracing the cutting edge, I believe there's some truth to it, especially with entertainers (radio Programmers and Personalities).

If you're in this Over-50 Club, you know far too well how difficult it's been to get noticed and hired the past several years.  Common perceptions range from, "they'll want too much money" to "they're over-the-hill" and "we have to have youthful energy".  Some of these stereotypes are not only inaccurate but terribly short-sighted and unfair for a great many of the most seasoned in our industry.  Here are a few reasons you (doing the hiring) can actually help yourselves by giving serious consideration to passionate, engaged, forward-thinking members of that Over-50 Club:

CRITICAL THINKING/PROBLEM SOLVING:  If you've been in the business for 25-30+ years, there's little you haven't seen and had to deal with.  Great decision-making skills and discernment cannot be underestimated.  Successful radio vets understand teamwork, professional conduct and how to turn potential disasters around with positive solutions.  They know how to handle themselves in critical situations, how to protect the license and how to develop relationships with sellers and clients.  They are pros. 

IDEA MACHINE:  It's been said there are no new ideas, just new twists on old ideas and that often rings true.  Accomplished industry veterans have not only done just about every crazy, successful promotion and contest ever created, many understand how great today's digital tools are at making them even more effective and enthusiastically embrace all the advantages at our disposal (that didn't exist just 10-15 years ago).

MENTOR/TALENT DEVELOPMENT: I can't tell you how often I've heard something like, "wow, the talent pool in radio is worse than ever!" and I just don't buy that.  I do believe some who had the blessing of being taught by great mentors and leaders have failed to 'pay it forward' to recent and current generations of talent but many have and they understand the privilege and the obligation to groom up-and-coming talent as they were so fortunate to have in their formative days of broadcasting.

BEEN THERE-DONE THAT:  Seasoned, successful radio pros know how to take care of business, how to get things done, to cut through the to make things happen.  Few are Rhodes Scholars but most are incredibly skilled when it comes to the nuts & bolts of making great radio (delivery platform notwithstanding).  They understand what makes relevant, compelling and entertaining content.  They know how to interact with their audience (and, now, embrace social media to be more effective than ever).  They come from a period (because most began at smaller or mid-market stations) where relationships were everything.  They get it.

Please don't view this post as me shilling for on-the-beach buddies and long-time radio guys who can't seem to find work in our continually-evolving industry...some are indeed 'over it', ready to move on and they probably should find something new to get excited about.  It's not exactly like ownership has been making all the right decisions or has great vision about where things are headed, so some of their skepticism is valid.  But, there are still owners, operators and market managers who can make their jobs one helluva lot easier and a ton more successful by at least giving serious consideration to those in this Over-50 Club.  You might be surprised at the passion and quality you can add to your

As always, we'd all love to hear your thoughts and perspectives in the Comments section below.

Thanks & KEEP ROCKIN'!
502.222.3600, 502.310.9474

Monday, October 3, 2011


My last several weeks' worth of blog postings have addressed the repetitive noise in radio; air talent using the same phrasing and verbiage every time, the generic nature of assembly-line voicetracking and shows just cranked out instead of crafted with care and relevance.

Our latest topic is sure to endear me to production directors and copywriters all over America:  'blah' commercial copy.  I'll beg advance mercy because I'm keenly aware of the pressure production departments are experiencing these days.  As with jocks voice-tracking, however, I'm not sure it excuses us from the trap of overusing already over-used radio-speak terms and crutch phrases seemingly straight out of the RAB style book from 1975 (if our goal is to connect with listeners and speak their language).

Here are some faves (and, please forgive a bit of the 'Andy Rooney irony' in some of my comments):

  • SUCCULENT:  why does only seafood get the 'succulent' description in commercials?  It's really unfair for beef, pork and chicken.  A better question might be, "do real people ever use the term 'succulent' to describe their meats?
  • CONVENIENTLY LOCATED:  just once, I'd love to hear a commercial say, "we're not very conveniently located but we have a really great service!".
  • DOUBLE-U DOUBLE-U DOUBLE-U (or, dubya dubya dubya, depending on your locale):  it's been at least the mid-90s since using "www" was needed to use in browsers.  If you say, "find us at", I'm pretty sure they'll know it's on the world wide web thingy.
  • PURCHASE/RECEIVE:  the last time I heard somebody say, "I'm going to the store to purchase some groceries"?  Never, ever.  "Purchase xxx and you will receive..." is in countless commercials.  Most of my friends and colleagues would say 'buy' and 'get'.  
  • YOU'LL BE GLAD YOU DID:  who are they, Ms. Cleo, knowing I'll be glad in advance?  I'm guessing if I'll be glad I did, it won't because that line was in their commercial.
  • IT'LL CHANGE YOUR LIFE:  a cure for cancer or eliminating poverty are life-changing.  Calling your 800 number for new catheters won't.  
  • LOCATED (AT):  one of my top pet-peeve/totally useless phrases.  When you give the address, you're implying location.  Not to mention 'located at' is in seemingly half of the radio commercials out there.
  • PLAY-ACTING SPOTS:  you know, the two supposedly 'real' people having a conversation about a product or service and we just happened to sneak a mic into the room to record them for 59 seconds (nod nod, wink wink).  They're either two uber-familiar production voices (in other words, wallpaper) or a couple of untrained, bogus sounding interns.  I mean, really...these are supposed to be believable?  Unless it's a brilliantly-written, very funny concept, these are just noise and, Mr. Advertiser/Mr. Copywriter, nobody's buying it.
  • BEST SELECTION/LOWEST PRICES:  since most car dealer ads make this claim, can there be one ounce of truth in it?  In the age of being real, genuine and engaging, biggest/best/most just isn't believable.  If yours really is the best selection, please tell me why, don't just make an empty claim.
  • HEY GATOR FANS, HEY BUCKEYE FANS, HEY SALUKIS FANS:  I guess I missed the memo that said every commercial on sports stations (and, this is especially true during game broadcasts) have to begin with the "hey, whatever fans!".  If they're listening, they already know they're fans of their favorite team- we don't need to club them upside the head with non-stop reminders.
There are more and I'd be grateful if you'd share some of the fingernails-on-the-chalkboard crutch phrases that drive you nuts.  We could also get into infomercials ("but, wait!") but that's an entirely new topic.  

The take-away here is that just a little more time and a tiny bit of thought would go miles in our radio commercials not being like every other and would speak to our audience in their terms.  Taking stock copy and replacing the business and tag-line every time is cheating your clients, boring your listeners and turning your commercials into wallpaper.  Banging it all out assembly-line style is just as bad writing and producing spots as it is doing your radio show like that. 

Ordinary is out, fresh, different and authentic are in.

Thanks and KEEP ROCKIN'!
502.222.3600, 502.310.9474

Monday, September 26, 2011

You Have A Soul- 'Denise' Does Not (Pt. 2)

As some of you know, I'm on a campaign to keep 'artificial intelligence' DJ software like Denise irrelevant.  I addressed this topic recently, released a follow-up on "How To Keep Denise Out Of Your Life" last week and started this based on hearing from so many of you, "I keep reading how I need to engage but nobody's telling us how".  I'm blessed to have worked with so many talented personalities and learned a ton from them. Thus, my postings to help get you thinking about what you do, how you can do it and help keep radio relevant.

TALK TO YOUR LISTENERS-NOT ABOUT THEM:  Like you (unlike 'Denise'), your listeners are breathing, thinking, active human beings.  Listening to a lot of radio, you'd think they were ornaments on an end table as many refer to them as 'people' (i.e.:  "wow, we had a lot of people at our event Saturday" or "thanks to all the people calling in").  That's what I mean by talking about your listeners, as if they're not actually part of the conversation.  How about, "hey, great to see you at the..." or "lots of you calling in...".   Think "you/we/us" vs. "they/them/that".  A lot of us were trained to put a photo of a target listener in front of us and talk to them- that's actually not a bad visual.  The way you connect and engage is to bring them into your show and not keep them at arm's length.  Just this morning, as I was about to publish this, I saw a video of Valerie Geller, author of "Beyond Powerful Radio", talking about this very thing with Mark Ramsey and it's absolutely worth taking ten minutes to check it out.

TELL STORIES vs. READING COPY:  I've no doubt driven many jocks batty by reminding them to "stop reading the forecast- just tell 'em the weather".  You're thinking, "the weather- really?  Not very big-picture"  but, it's a good example of typical, generic radio-speak to which many of us can relate.

Almost every station does the weather and most of the time it's, "partly cloudy/mostly sunny/30% chance of", right?  National Weather Service meteorological terminology.  Can you imagine getting up in the morning and asking your spouse "what's it gonna be like today?" and hearing "well, dear- it'll be partly to mostly sunny with a 40% chance of rain and a high in the low to mid 70s".  They'd probably say, "looks like it could rain but it'll be 75".  A cool example of this was on a spring break, my friend Bruce Peckover and I drove to South Florida...we're on the beach, all sun, Y100 rockin' on the radio, and Don Cox comes on over this six second intro and says, "Y100 Weather...great today, better tomorrow.  It's 84 at Y100".  No NWS phrasing, no attempt to sound official.  He told the story and, if you were listening, you got it.  This applies to any content- promos, music info, contests...engage them by turning somebody else's (liner writer) words into something they can conceptualize and understand.

Anybody can open a mic and read words-use your special gifts and personality to develop your on-air character and tell the story.

GET PERSONAL:  Quite often, we hear "hi to Sue, listening to us at work today" and if we're being totally honest, about 95% of the time, it's made up...right?  Why not  keep a copy of your station's loyal listener database in your studio and, a couple of times an hour, do actual personal shout-outs BUT say their first name, last name and where they work/where they're from.  Yes, saying an actual listeners whole name and workplace!  Why?  There thousands of "Sues" listening but only one "Sue Daniels working at PNC Bank".  If you're voicetracking, it doesn't matter if they're actually listening the precise time you do it- it's the fact you're confirming that other real listeners are tuning in (making the same great choice as your other listeners) and you're truly grateful that they listen.  And, on the off chance that somebody who knows them hears it, that's an added bonus when they say, "hey, Sue- they said HI to you on XXXX!".  This is great social proof, further cementing the bond with your audience.

Admittedly, this is pretty fundamental and basic (as was Part One) but if we Programmers aren't teaching our talent more than what to do but how to do it, we won't really hear it come out of the speakers.  When CBS Radio's Dan Mason announced his thoughts on the music recently, I shared some ways on how to actually do it effectively so you'd have some direction and so your audience would hear it and appreciate you for connecting the dots for them.

Radio is the most intimate form of show business...does your show live up to that?  Are you ordinary or engaging, entertaining and memorable every day?  Do your listeners think, "he/she is like me" when they tune in or is it all the same old noise to them?   Please don't allow a 'Denise' to replace you because she can say what you say, just cheaper.

Please feel free to add your comments or suggestions- we're all in this together.

Thanks and KEEP ROCKIN'!

502.222.3600, 502.310.9474