What's In A Name?
November 26, 2013
We all know the best medium for getting real-time information, the hippest music, the right tone on the day, a reliable and hysterical EBS test: radio. But who delivers that? The one who the jingle singers are getting all up in your face about. A person!
I know that if I didn't have my "name jingle" cart dusted off, labeled (with gold lame) and cued up minutes in advance for every use at KIIS-FM back in the '80s, I simply didn't feel that I was providing my audience with a proper and personal DJ experience. Who was bringing them the hot hits? Who was telling them where to go, what to wear? Who was reflecting and dictating at the same time? I was a mirror, a friend AND a know-it-all. I was that dude on the radio!
No, it's not a rant on me, although it sure looks like it as I read back that "know-it-all" part, but the point is that as radio goes down a dark, sad road competing with Pandora and iWhatever, we run the risk of losing who we are: the person who Terry "The Toad" went to see in American Graffiti (God bless the Wolfman); the satin-jacketed smart alecks behind the curtain at Carlos 'n Charlies who the girls in spandex pants and teal tops lie in waiting for, ready to tear at their KIIS logos; the guy now suffering in his lonely bedroom while his kids wait to be with him for something other than a long-distance dedication (get well, Casey!). It's the jocks, man.
And there they are now, the front men/ladies for the station thrown to the side of the road still holding pizza from the last jock meeting, their cans from their last shift, their hands still musty from radio grime on the carts -- sorry, I'm dating myself -- their mouses. It's like taking down Joe DiMaggio and replacing him with a chatty Mr. Coffee machine. Or worse, a coffee machine that doesn't talk. Do we want a speechless coffee machine? NO. That's why we go to Starbucks, where we're asked with the import of breaking news, "Do you want foam with that?"
For years, banks around the country had long lines of frustrated customers (don't worry, I'll swing this around!) and suddenly ATMs hit the side of their buildings and we drifted over to the no-chat money dispensers. Well, guess what happened? Walk into any Wells Fargo today and you're bombarded with, "How's your day? Can I get you a cookie? Want a water for the road?"
If I were a kid, I'd run back the car telling mommy how strangers in that stark place with glass doors and bad furniture were offering me candy. But the point is that people want people around. They want to talk, and to be talked to, and in a way that they talk, about things they came to you for, like the song title, where the artist is performing, what's up next, and most important, what's he doing with a Kardashian?
So what's a jock thrown to the side of the road replaced by a faraway voice from Hollywood, or worse, NO voice, to do? Go back, dammit, and ask for a job that brings listeners to the table. Propose a promotion to make their re-debut on the air count. Use the evil Internet to show them your fan base. Ask them if Ryan or JoJo or anyone from out of town knows where the Piggly Wiggly is and how to find the corner of Fountain and Main where they can hang with other listeners at the only music store in town, where they can buy, hands on, the songs you're playing and win something from the station handed to them by the guy on the radio. Tell them a story of how they saved some guy's day by playing his favorite song just when he needed it. Many of us have saved someone from jumping off a bridge. Who did they call in their most desperate moment? It wasn't the CFO of Pandora. Every jock has these stories, and they'll never forget them. Neither will the listeners.
And this concept isn't exclusive to local jocks. Syndicators like me have recognized the need for making friends with local audiences, using local cut-ins, mentions of local happenings, good and bad. How awful to turn on the radio and hear a radio program running on about health care websites when your town was just ripped apart by a category 4 tornado.
Jocks have value, relevance and a touch that will not be replaced by an automated anything. The expense of a person is little compared the loss of a friend.