A Bone To Pick With Bobby
February 6, 2014
Okay, Bobby Bones, you've got me right where you want me.
Riveted. Curious. Conflicted. I respect what you do, partly because I never know quite what to expect from you. That makes for compelling radio and who among us doesn't believe we need more of that? I don't know of anyone in any format generating a bigger conversation right now. I know you have critics but I'll say it here: You're also a game-changer.
Living in Nashville, I listen to you on WSIX every morning. Not ALL morning, I confess. I have a 35-minute drive, give or take five minutes and I also sample Country competitors WKDF, WSM-FM and NPR, among others. When I get to the office I'll sometimes stream you, those other guys or somebody totally out of the market.
And your show?
It entertains me and yeah, it makes me laugh. I think Lunchbox is hilarious and a great dude. He's the same on and off the air from what I can tell. I wanna have a beer with that dude. Amy is great, too. A voice of reason; great sense of humor and doesn't take herself seriously. What I like about the show is the strong, defined character development of your ensemble cast.
You frustrate me a lot, too.
As a former PD, I hear blocking and tackling issues that make me squirm. Breaks don't always have a clear beginning, middle and end. And you sometimes stack different topics on top of each other in a single break. There is a sense that all roads ultimately lead back to Bobby, as if you're constantly saying, "Enough about me - what do YOU think about me?"
As a onetime label rep, your artist interviews always have me on edge. Clearly, you love this music and you "get" artists. But I sometimes think you are trying to conjure up conflict or controversy where there really isn't any, in a format where artists and radio enjoy a generally friendly relationship. And by the way, that doesn't mean they're your friends.
Case in point: the Kacey Musgraves CMA remote interview tete a tete.
Bobby: Love you, love your show, but there was no "there" there. I grant you, Kacey wasn't what we'd call effervescent at the outset of your interview, but dang, she wasn't rude, either. Nonetheless, you took a small clip and turned it into a soundbyte for the sake of a bit -- a bit that sounded like she done you wrong. Then you spun it into a Twitter and e-mail war ... and those are the worst kind because as you correctly pointed out in one response, many of us are at our best while at a keyboard rather than in person (trust me, I know). You and Kacey one-upping each other with words. The rest of us, helplessly standing by, witnesses to the online carnage that eventually just fizzled out, seemingly unresolved.
Ditto last week's 24-hour TV-offer vigil. Just what was THAT all about? A lot of people get fabulous, lucrative once-in-a-lifetime offers, but they don't post them on Twitter. And the video announcing you'll stay in radio? Yes, you looked wiped out from what must have been an excruciating decision-making process. But dude, don't expect my sympathy. You were flown to Los Angeles, put up in a five-star hotel with money and God knows what else was dangled in front of you. Being the food stamp kid from Arkansas you are, surely you remain grounded in reality. Right?
Now there are billboards up in Nashville urging you to go away. If it's a stunt, perpetrated by you, my hats off. Brilliant. Manufacture sympathy. Awesome.
But you swear it's not, so what kind of out-and-out meanie would put up such a hateful, nasty billboard? No, Bobby Bones, don't go away! Stay! Please stay!
Bobby, the caveat to all of the above here is that while both entertaining and frustrating to me -- and in that order -- I know I'm not your target audience. You're an 18-34 cup of tea and that ship for me sailed a long time ago. You're in the demo and are surrounded by some of the smartest people in the business. From what I know about that group, there are a lot of them, which must be a blessing and a curse. But that collective brainpower surely knows more about your target and what the ever-expanding Country audience's threshold is for your unorthodox, unconventional approach to building a coalition of fans.
Meanwhile, I've been out of radio for a few years now; there's plenty I don't understand and information I'm not privy to. But radio never escapes the blood of those in it, so I DO get you. I also know that everything you're doing has everybody talking about the show, whether they love it or hate it. In fact I'll venture to say there's not one person I know who does NOT have an opinion about your show.
And damnit, I like you. When we've met in person, you couldn't be a nicer guy.
So I can't decide if all this drama is intended or not, real or contrived. The PD in me sees behind the curtain and assumes it is all part of a masterful, brilliant strategy I simply fail to comprehend. The radio listener in me is laughing, cursing and confused, all at the same time.
See what I mean, Bobby? Right where you want me.