10 Questions with ... Richard Cason
December 2, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- 2005-present, host of the podcast "Low Profile w/Richard Cason"
- 1996-2014,Board Op/Morning News Co-Anchor at KWOC-A, Poplar Bluff, MO
- Production Director at Zimmer Radio Group, Poplar Bluff, MO
- Overnight and later evening host on KKLR, Poplar Bluff, MO
- Midday host on KJEZ, Poplar Bluff, MO
- Evening host on KGMO, Cape Girardeau, MO
- Midday host on WDDD-FM, Marion-Carbondale, IL
- Midday and later afternoon host on WQUL, Marion-Carbondale, IL
- Afternoon host on KDEX-AM/FM- Dexter, MO
- 1999- Missouri Broadcasters Association DJ of the Year
1) How are you occupying your time, besides looking for a job?
I'm always prepping for my podcast, "Low Profile w/Richard Cason," on podomatic.com, which is a hybrid of my own stand-up comedy, long-form comedy sketches, free-form FM radio, personal anecdotes, and social commentary. It's a small but loyal audience and I answer to no one but myself -- which is nice.
2) Some people get discouraged or enlightened with the business when they actually step out of it for awhile. Tell us your observations from the outside.
There are a lot of Pds, OM and GMs out there who are just plain lazy and you can tell by listening to their mediocre talent, dry imaging, automation problems and anything else that a radio station should not sound like. It's obvious to me that some PDs don't even listen to their stations after 5p, otherwise the automation/voicetracking mistakes that I hear wouldn't be happening. PDs are not talent coaches any more. Talent is not encouraged to even attempt to be entertaining, and the "talent" that is on the air is pretty lackluster. They don't entertain me, they don't make me laugh, they don't make me think; they simply exist to read voicetracked local announcements. That's why this is so frustrating because, honestly, few jocks will ever approach me in terms of being entertaining -- they just won't and the proof is on the air right now as we speak, yet somehow, they've smoothed their way onto the air and, I guess, kissed the right asses to stay there.
People don't need radio for their music anymore. They can get it anywhere they want, anytime, no commercials, no nothing ... which renders a lot of streaming stations impotent since they sound like all the rest. IF radio wants to survive, all you PDs, OMs, and GMs, read this and read it well: You must get back into the business of developing talent, period. It's entertaining and compelling local DJs that are the glue that keep a listener stuck to whatever station they like, hence the rise of satellite radio and personality-driven podcasts, which also renders "it can only be entertaining during drive-time" as utterly stupid.
When I was on KGMO, we streamed back in 2000. Even though I was only the night guy, I know for a fact that I was a personal favorite in certain parts of Providence, RI. How do I know this? They called me up and told me! After all, they could get Classic Rock in Providence ... why would they possibly listen to me out of Cape Girardeau, MO. Why? Because of me! Same music, where I was broadcasting from mattered not ... the deciding factor was me. I had listeners in Melbourne, Australia when I was at KGMO. They would call me from Australia, where I probably served as their morning show! Why? Surely to God in Australia they have enough AC/DC to choke on ... so why did some people listen to me there? It was because of me, because I'm an entertainer who just happens to be playing the part of a Classic Rock DJ. That's something else radio needs to understand: We're not in the radio business, we're in the entertainment business, and if we're not entertaining people, we have no business existing and it's that simple.
Take Marion-Carbondale, for example: They screwed themselves out of being a rated market. Granted, they were only #237, but now they're nothing. The big companies there decided to stop subscribing to any ratings service because, in their minds, talent doesn't matter, just music and commercials. That's wrong. You drive the talent you have to be bigger and better and if they can't cut it, you cut them. Drive them to be as big as any morning show, then take your morning shows and push them in an even more entertaining and creative direction ... and you sell more ads if it proves successful! That basic strategy is solid- finding the talent that can deliver is the challenge.
But any station's musical format is simply not enough to win the ratings game, if anyone is still serious about winning it at all. It's not your research, your strategically-placed music, or playing the right promo at the right time: It's about having quality, local, top-tier talent that listeners would take a bullet for that keeps an audience riveted. Jocks were practically worshipped as gods in their respective cities, regardless of daypart. Now they're just a lot of fluff.
3) What is the next job you'd like to obtain?
I used to shun responsibility and I didn't used to want to be an on-air PD, but these days, I think I do want to because I have the vision and the desire to win, and a fairly in-depth strategy on how to do it...if anybody would be interested.
4) How are you finding the "courtesy level" at places you've applied? (Callbacks, e-mails, rejection letters, etc.)
Oddly enough, it's only markets in the Top 100 that I've applied to that have ever sent a courtesy "We're taking a pass" letter, e-mail, etc. Locally, it's so obvious to me that fear and insecurity is what drives management in their hiring process and it's just pathetic. They absolutely will not hire talent who is infinitely more qualified than what is currently on-staff, so they settle for lesser talent that doesn't "sound as good as them" if said manager is also on the air. Meanwhile, the lesser talent they already have is kept on because, by comparison, their on-air supervisors "sound better"-- thus making them "the stars." That's so sad to me that people are that petty when the right attitude should be, "Hey, we're all stars and everyone here is some listeners' favorite." That attitude is non-existent these days.
5) With consolidation there are definitely fewer jobs. How do you separate yourself from the pack?
Point blank: If you want a liner-reader who's just happy to be there, I'm not your guy. However, if you're looking for someone who is a little more well-read than the average jock, who isn't some puker with a big stupid voice and nothing else, who isn't afraid to express him or herself, who isn't afraid to go for the laugh, who isn't afraid to create comedy/entertainment out of virtually nothing, who actually has entertainment experience to go with their broadcasting experience, who knows what an audience will tolerate and what it won't, and will still squeeze in 10-12 songs an hour, plus has solid creative ideas off the air, then we should probably be talking when you're done reading this interview.
6) What has been your biggest career accomplishment?
Besides being #1 in every daypart I ever worked in, I would have to say winning Small Market DJ of the Year in Missouri back in 1999, after only being in the business barely three years. Since Kent Crider won for Medium Market and Steve and D.C. won for Large Market, I felt like I was in some pretty good company.
7) What do you miss most about radio? The least?
I miss doing the show, entertaining, and interacting with listeners the most ... reading those ratings numbers. What I miss the least are conflicts with management who simply don't get it, who will not have your back, and do everything they can to undermine you because ... well, they're just that small and hate their home lives.
8) Having been through all you have dealt with in this biz, what advice would you give people trying to break in?
Learn everything, absorb everything: Programming, sales, engineering, traffic ... soak it all in. Understanding the synergy of all those departments is essential. Listen to those who came before you but never be afraid to go bold or to experiment. Once you're on the air, aircheck yourself every-single-day ... I repeat: Every-single-day. Find someone in the business you trust to listen to your shows and help you get better; if it's actually your program director, that's a nice bonus. And finally, know when you've gone as far as you're going to go in any one market and don't be afraid to try to move on.
9) How will this experience change you when you get back to work?
Well, I don't know. It depends on management, really. If they can follow through on their promises and will have confidence in me and understand that I'm not another "shock jock" but just a really entertaining professional, things should be fine. My attitude is always great starting out, but it's the lying, the politics, the broken promises, and all the needless and unnecessary horseshit that always sours me, and that's something that, at age 36 with almost 19 years under my belt, I simply will not tolerate anymore.
10) Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?
Honestly, part of me wants to say "to hell with it" and hang it up entirely because a business that I've given my entire adult life to has more or less disowned me.
When I was 18, I saw myself at age 36 doing my on-air show during the day, doing comedy at night, and working the road a couple of weekends a month. I didn't imagine myself with a broke down car, walking across town to fill out an application to work as a Laundromat attendant because every station in town is fearful of those with talent or their last impression of me was as a 22-year-old insane person, and not the seasoned, no-nonsense professional approaching 40 that I am now. I still have that basic, original goal in mind, if I could ever just get back on a station that mattered to people. So, who knows what the future holds? I do know that if I just had one more shot, undisturbed, to show what I can really do, on-air and off, I really think I could attract a lot of heat, not just for myself but for radio, in general. I feel that strongly about it, but someone's gonna have to take a chance on me and be willing to give me a little bit of control over my product, and hopefully, I can inspire others to push harder and to be more than they knew they were capable of.
I don't care what anyone says, this business is committing slow suicide, but I still have that one little ember, still glowing, that wants to continue the push, to try to help the business be relevant again ... but that requires someone in the business to recognize its own current irrelevance, to finally concede that it's in a very deep rut and say, "Man, we need some help. Who will help us?" If I get that call, and if we can come to terms, maybe in five or ten years, I may just be the guy that saved radio ... maybe.
Any books you can recommend to people who need something inspirational to read?
The Late Shift - Bill Carter.