Radio Still Effin' Rules And Here's Why
August 21, 2015
"Radio is still a great gig, because we get to work with emotional plutonium: music that moves, talents that connect, and voices and hands that made their local communities a better place." -- Phil Hunt (President, Hunt Media)
Let's say you work in radio. At an actual radio station, even!
Do you still get just a little excited walking into a studio, seeing all that gear? Do you remember the first time you ever saw the inside of a real radio station studio and felt that rush, realizing all that stuff was responsible for the hours of magical entertainment pouring from the speakers?
Man, I hope so.
"Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I've been blessed with such a great opportunity" -- Ashley Figueroa, Co-Host, "America's Morning Show"
I mean, even the on-air booth is called a "Control Room." Geez, I just love that. For some of us, that term was always so powerful; wonderfully adjacent to the term "mission control," evoking images and memories of NASA -- the space program, moon landings, shuttle missions, Mars and Pluto probes, and all things interstellar.
Why the sudden urge to wax-poetic? Because Thursday, August 20th was National Radio Day, which reminded me how proud I'd been to be directly involved in that business for three decades and remain close to it now. I have great esteem for my friends in radio, many of who are overworked, under-appreciated, uber-talented, and relentlessly dedicated -- driven -- to making great radio, day-in and day-out.
"There's no better feeling than truly being there for someone when they need you. Radio does that -- in emergencies -- and every day as a companion." -- Beverlee Brannigan, Scripps VP/Programming & Wichita Market VP/GM.
And I respect those who have stuck it out, "from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health." Because those who hang in there with radio are to be admired just as much as anybody working through a marriage. Somebody once said, "The most difficult year of marriage is the one you're in." Ditto radio, right?
"Radio is worth staying in, because of the fun we can have and how we help people. There are few feelings that are better, and LOCAL radio gives us so many opportunities to do just that!" -- Eric Michaels, PD/Afternoons, WTHI/Terre Haute, IN
During my time in it, I can honestly say there wasn't a single day when I didn't appreciate radio. At some point, I'd inevitably look around and think, "Holy crap -- I effin' WORK here! Do they (my bosses) know what they're doing, leaving me in charge? Are they nuts? How did I fool these otherwise intelligent people?" I believe that was called "The imposter syndrome," and I had it my entire career. Yes, there were days -- for you still toiling away at it, there undoubtedly still are -- where we all wanted to just quit and peddle shoes, drive an airport shuttle, sell life insurance, or -- God forbid -- go back to college like we promised mom and dad. But then we came to our senses, thinking, "Naaaah!"
And you know why? Because, as I've said before many times and I still believe: If you're at a social gathering, among non-radio peeps (those sad unfortunate souls we in the biz refer to as "civilians"), tell that group you're in radio and yes -- even today -- you automatically have the coolest job in the room; one guaranteed to generate the most conversation. The only possible exceptions would be, in no particular order: NFL Referee, Pixar animator, astronaut, or maybe even fortune cookie writer. But radio still trumps all of those gigs, because who among them has ever experienced the thrill of giving somebody front row seats, a thousand dollars, a new car, or maybe even a house?
"It's never the same. Every single day is different. Who else gets to say that? Well maybe doctors, but I decided to not finish college and do this instead." -- KKBQ/Houston APD/Middays Christi Brooks
We all know radio takes a lot of shit for a number of reasons -- some well-deserved -- and could really use an image makeover and /or a helleuva crisis PR specialist. And yet, here we are, still standing, a greater reach than ever, with an ability to inform -- to mobilize disaster relief, charitable efforts, purchasing power and to make stars out of ambitious artists, just to name a few of its many attributes. What else keeps working so well, humming right along after more than a hundred years, using basically the same technological concept -- other than … I dunno, maybe the wheel?
An excellent article in Forbes magazine last month reminded readers to never take radio for granted, citing the following statistics:
- 93% of adults listen to the radio each week as compared to 87% who watch TV.
- 243 million people over the age of 12 are listening to AM/FM radio every week.
- Of those exposed to radio ads, 52% made a purchase, compared with 48% of people who saw ads online and 39% who saw TV ads.
"We reach more ears, and -- when done right -- hearts than any other media. We have the opportunity to touch people from all walks of life on a variety of levels." -- Bob Glasco, Glasco Media
I realize I'm preaching to the choir here when it comes to radio and the crazy, stupid love it cultivates among those in it. It really does get "in your blood," as many of us were told early in our careers, and I don't know of any 12-step recovery program that can rid some of us of our insatiable need for it.
Unfortunately, we're in a time when so many of those who still love radio, have that unquenchable desire and would kill to stay in it, are on the outside looking in, due to downsizing, layoffs and an ever-changing business model. I feel for them, and that's one reason a celebration of Radio Day can seem bittersweet. I hope they are back in the game soon
As you can see the choir has been preaching here too and their comments here should give all of us hope, inspiration and reassurance.
"Radio is full of creative, fun people that make coming to work an absolute pleasure." -- Beverlee Brannigan
"It's fun!" -- Bob Glasco
"Damn, it's fun!" -- Fletcher Keyes, WWQM/Madison PD
Ah yes, it keeps popping up. The three-letter F-word so common in the hallways and so critical to a station's success. A Country Radio Hall of Fame inductee said so, just two months ago. During his acceptance speech in June, Sammy George reminded all of us, "whomever has the most fun wins" and "always chase the laughter." And years ago, when I worked for Shamrock Broadcasting, company President Bill Clark told us at a programmers meeting during the NAB convention, "If you're not having fun, do something else."
In closing, though this might get to you a tad late, in honor of National Radio Day 2015: Here's to everyone working in this still magical, powerful -- and effective -- medium. The people I know in radio are still dedicated and passionate about the business, in spite of how challenging and frustrating in can sometimes be -- Thanks for making great stuff come out of the speakers every day!