Glenn A. Goldstein
April 3, 2012
It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to see the similarities in the business outlook of CD manufacturing plants and Glenn A. Goldstein, in that the latest technological innovations - the advent of online retail and voicetracking/syndication - have cut down on the sheer number of CDs sold and air personalities to represent, Yet in Goldstein's case, the business is still very much alive for quality air personalities who can move the needle. Goldstein has been representing his share of them for 25 years now. Here's how he sees the current challenging environment for air talent.
What were you doing before you went into talent management?
When I graduated from law school in 1979, I was hired directly to work for AFTRA and the Screen Actors Guild in Philly; I became Executive Director/Counsel within a year and ran both unions for eight years. While I was there, people started asking me to represent them individually, which led to my current occupation.
After I left the unions in 1987, I spent 15 years in Philadelphia with my entertainment law practice - and have now completed the last 10 years based in Los Angeles with Goldstein Management Group. We manage and guide careers and help people reach their potential economically, as well as keep their careers growing.
What made you decide to work with radio talent ...and isn't the environment for radio talent less than ideal considering we're in a voicetrack/syndication age?
Radio talent is what we primarily do. While I represent a few people in TV, the emphasis, going back to the '80s, was to represent radio personalities around the country.
Yes, it is more difficult for radio talent because there are far fewer opportunities than in the past. We estimate there are as few as half as many jobs in radio as there were 10 years ago. At the same time, the opportunities for well-performing talent are excellent and in some cases, for truly key talent, the sky can still be the limit. It's always a challenge to keep up with any industry as it evolves, but we pride ourselves on our ability to represent our clients to the utmost in the challenging environment that exists in broadcasting today. We have to keep them aware of industry trends and make sure they're as well positioned to handle the changes as possible.
Is one significant change the advent of social media?
Everyone knows that they have to be active in social media with a strong web presence. We represent Preston & Steve at WMMR/Philadelphia where much of their show, as it unfolds, is constantly linked to their website. There are people working on the show who continuously post fresh material that pertains to the morning show, so listeners can simultaneously listen and also go to the website and engage with the show in real time, as well as making online comments.
Then, after the show, there might be more reasons for the listeners to engage with the website, be it some audio they missed during the show or some fresh video. Today, the audience wants more than what's coming through the speakers. At the same time, if the content coming through those speakers is not compelling, nobody is going to bother with the social media -- no matter how good or innovative it is.
When you evaluate a prospective air talent, what characteristics do you look for?
You always want to hear the show to see what the personalities are doing and to make sure the show's appealing, but at the same time since taste is subjective ... something that can be very successful may not appeal to my personal taste, so whether I find the show particularly funny may not matter.
What we really look for is the same thing a programmer looks for: Work ethic is critical. Guys such as Preston & Steve or Rico at KYLD work relentlessly; they're always show prepping. Their lives are an endless cascade of show prep. When you have talented people who have paid their dues, work very hard, who are consistently in touch with the audience and aware of what's relevant and funny - and can bring it to the airwaves in an entertaining fashion, they're invariably going to succeed.
When I got into this business, jocks had a great lifestyle. They did a four-hour shift then hit the door and headed to the next party. You don't see much of that today.
What do you advise your clients when it comes to them pushing the envelope? After what has happened to morning shows in the past, and what just happened to Rush Limbaugh, is this something you constantly monitor?
Every show is different. You wouldn't push the envelope on a show geared for "soccer moms." One of our clients, AJ, at Star/San Diego, for example, is primarily talking to women 25-54, so he's not looking for controversial content.
Also, you have to adhere to the station ownership's standards - and that line definitely moved. After "Nipplegate," the FCC reacted by increasing fines dramatically, and all the companies tightened up because the consequences have increased dramatically - and more importantly, you could put their license in jeopardy.
As imperative as it is for talent to remain relevant, which at times could mean pushing the envelope, you need to have checks and balances. You're working under a personal services contract and the company will monitor what you do carefully.
How do you counsel your air talent who considers or actually ventures into syndication?
There are definite dangers. A show that loses its local focus can start losing its base. If you're on in a major market, that's where you'll make the bulk of the money for a long time to come -- unless you're actually syndicating to a large number of stations. You have to remember to continue to do whatever you do that makes your show successful, because in a move to a more national format, you have to understand what you lose in localism and how that will affect the show. The people I work with are keenly aware of that.
There will always be companies that will continue to look for ways to utilize talent as broadly as possible and our job is, again, to help the talent that we represent to maximize their earnings potential and rise to new challenges.
Do you agree with the sentiment that the increase of syndication and voicetracking has hindered the development of new and future radio air talent stars?
The problem of a lack of talent development in radio is nothing new. Ten years ago, someone came up with the observation that the talent pool had become a talent puddle. We may have laughed at that 10-12 years ago, but few are laughing now. Radio, by ending weekend and overnight shifts, is not providing a training ground. With all the voicetracking deals and stuff, there's a lack of opportunities for people to hone their craft - and it's proving to be very detrimental to the medium.
This is something I talked about at last year's Worldwide Radio Summit. Many of us remember a time when the best and brightest would flock to radio. Today, they'd probably rather be in some kind of digital space. I am as bullish about radio as everyone else; I've read the same stats - with over 90% of Americans using radio. But when you don't reinvest in your product, it could cost you in the long run. Most industries need to invest in their product; no one ever cut their way to #1.
When fewer people are even looking into becoming air personalities, does that impact the opportunities for you to find and represent new air talent?
It's not that hard to find talent to represent. They call us up all the time. What is hard is to find the right talent and help to match them with meaningful job opportunities - especially in the cities they want to be in, with compensation that meets their needs. Ultimately, large corporations and ownerships set an agenda; the job of any talent representative is to find a way to assist our talent to flourish within that and help clients navigate the system as best as they can.
Do you recommend that all your talent branch out into other media, such as TV, commercials, the web, etc.?
It pays to be visible. One of my clients, Geena The Latina at Channel 93.3 San Diego, goes on TV every week. She shows up on the local news, where her appearances are co-promoted with the radio station. This is in addition to her active social media presence. Jay Towers in Detroit is on the Fox affiliate every weekend, which is a fantastic cross-promotion for his radio show. Dr. Jenn Berman is a radio shrink who also hosts "Couples Therapy" for VH1. Each activity helps to feed the other.
Some people don't want to do TV because it's not their talent; as the old saying goes, "they have a face for radio." But all the people we work with interact with their audience in a variety of ways. Simply showing up and doing your show doesn't cut it anymore -- and the radio companies make that clear as well.
Earlier you mentioned the end of the era where a jock finished his or her shift, hit the door and went out to party. In a larger sense, is the business of radio as much fun for you now as it was back then?
I'm not sure radio is as much fun as it was, but that's not really the point. There are plenty of people having a good time -- even as the industry keeps cutting and consolidating. But where is the optimism? We all remember the good times when jocks would wear a free T- shirt every day, but those days are gone. Labels don't have that kind of money to throw around, so it's less about fun than it is about optimism. There will always be great talent in awesome situations, but the bulk of the people who work in radio are wondering when the contraction and consolidation will end ... and when does talent stop being devalued. Sumner Redstone once said "Content is King," but how many are living up to those words?
Do you find yourself being something of a cheerleader to clients who may not have an optimistic outlook on their career?
I'm not worried about them being pessimistic. If anything, they may be a little paranoid - but that's to be expected. You have to be wide awake as to what's going on here. Any air personality who feels this industry is benign and is aggressively embracing new talent would be a little delusional. All of our talent is aware of the tough economy and the recession; they know about the radio ad dollars going to digital platforms and away from radio, newspapers and magazines. We make sure our artists are aware of the business side so they know just what it takes to stay viable. They're all well aware and plugged in to what's going on and what may happen.
So what of your future? Are you bullish on what will happen to radio and your business?
I don't think anyone could have predicted where we are today. I'm not a futurist but what Mr. Redstone once said will always remain true. The audience wants something entertaining and compelling. They can still get it through radio; some will get it from Pandora as its makes its way to the dashboard. But to cut through and effectively combat that, you need engaging personalities, people who essentially become members of the listeners' extended family.
It's important for the talent to also make philanthropic efforts - and weave the talent and the station into the fabric of the community. That's hugely important because you can't do that with Pandora or syndicated talent. The one place radio can continue to win is to use local personalities to deliver what no one else can deliver. Being "consistently consistent" is the hallmark of all great broadcasters - today and tomorrow, week after week. That's how you engage your listeners and earn their trust. The audience knows what to expect because you are delivering to their expectations and they will reward you for that with many quarter-hours of listening.