This One Really Phased Me
July 1, 2015
My head is still spinning on this one ... the news about Clay Hunnicutt leaving radio ... LEAVING RADIO ... to get into the record business. The RECORD business!
I'm way deep in denial, the first of grief's five phases with four more yet to come. And when I say denial, I'm talking the magnitude of an Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston sudden death. Inconceivable! Or, like when I heard about Lyle Lovett marrying Julia Roberts and Kenny Chesney eloping with Rene Zellweger. Did these people even know each other beforehand? WTF?
Soon, phase two will arrive: Anger. I'll be mad at Clay. Bad Clay Hunnicutt! How could you, a radio lifer, betray us? You were the American dream, starting as an unpaid intern at WUSY/Chattanooga, eventually - but rapidly - rising to becoming EVP/GM of National Programming Platforms - whatever the hell that means - at the industry's behemoth, iHeartMedia.
You were our future, our hope for ratings success, and all the good radio does for mankind and womankind. You were the voice of reason, the industry's evangelist, a programmer's programmer. Now we're just screwed. I mean, what happens to On The Verge? Will Cam even have a career now? Or Chris Janson? Are these two talented, promising artists simply orphaned, left to their own devices? Hell yeah, I'm angry!
But, I guess I'll get over all that. Of course I will. Because, you'll be back, right? Sure you will! Yes, phase three of grief - bargaining - will convince me that, after a few wildly successful years of making Big Loud Records bigger and louder and more kick-ass than anyone else on the block, you'll feel as though the record biz was simply another mountain to conquer, like those brave, yet crazy, way-too-wealthy guys who decide for some reason, they have to climb the world's seven summits.
Once you've conquered your own summits, having redefined, reshaped and revitalized the music business, you'll triumphantly return to radio - to help save it - as it will largely have gone to hell in a handbasket during your absence. Yes, you'll be back ... right?
And yet, even knowing it's all gonna be just fine and eventually awesome, I've already segued to phase four. I'm depressed. I get really sad when talented radio programmers and executives leave our business. Who will fill Clay's shoes, the talented stable of programmers ready and waiting at iHeartMedia, notwithstanding? There's so much concern about getting young millennials interested and passionate about radio and now, the established radio guys - the ones we were counting on to properly train millennials - are bailing.
Who will convince these young and potentially talented - yet irritatingly self-entitled - industry professionals the right way to do radio? Sure, they're just fresh out of college but by Gosh, any one of those brash, opportunistic smarter-than-all-of-us 25-year olds who refuse to make copies could someday become EVP/GM/National Programming Platforms with a year or so of mentorship from guys like Clay, who - on a serious note - has focused on mentoring so many younger programmers during his time at iHeart.
Let me repeat: Now we're just screwed. I think I'll stay home, lay on my couch, eat a bag of Cheetos and sleep 14 hours a day for the next three years, or until Clay comes back to radio. Whichever comes first.
All that said, change does happen, and I accept that. Phase five. And if I can somehow come to terms with a world where Clay Hunnicutt is not only NOT in radio, but in the record business (the RECORD business!), anything is possible. We should congratulate and embrace - though not inappropriately - guys like Clay, who have been successful at everything they've ever done in this business and who seek new challenges.
And it should be a lesson to all of us that we must always expect the unexpected. I mean, Clay's news was shocking - the stunner of the week and maybe all of 2015, no question. But the year ain't over yet, and plenty of head-scratching, eye-popping career moves are surely yet to come. Maybe even be bigger than Clay's.
Heck, I even thought of some, and I'll leave you with 10 theoretical industry paradigm shifts that may help put this week into perspective for all of us:
- Mike Dungan steps down at UMG Nashville to become Sarah Palin's Chief Of Staff.
- George Strait dumps longtime wife Norma, shacks up with Ke$ha; together, they record extended dance mix versions of his greatest hits, featuring Pitbull.
- Scott Borchetta retires - becomes a yoga master - donates entire fortune to the "Human Fund," and travels the country car-camping in a Chrysler Town & Country minivan.
- CMA announces 2019 Music Fest will move to Whittier, CA.
- CMT makes startling announcement: "We will now play actual Country music videos."
- John Dickey leaves Cumulus to become road manager for Katie Armiger.
- John Rich triumphantly returns to Lonestar;the band Plans NFL stadium tour.
- John Esposito leaves Chairman slot at WMN Nashville to become day manager of Losers Bar & Grill off Music Row.
- Luke Bryan announces retirement from music business to become PETA spokesperson.
- Bobby Bones becomes humble.