Too Many Chiefs
September 27, 2011
There's a saying on Madison Avenue: "The more hands that touch an advertisement, the worse it becomes."
This is definitely true when it comes to programming radio stations and painting masterpieces.
As consolidation brought new layers of programming management and involvement, content hasn't gotten better anywhere, but it's gotten a lot worse almost everywhere.
And why wouldn't it?
Have you ever seen a masterpiece of art created by committee?
Do you think the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was the result of focus groups and Sr. VPs of Painting?
Great radio stations are inevitably the result of what one person hears in his or her head.
Every song is measured against what that person hears -- every bit, every promotion, every commercial, every voice. The station is a work of art ... painted by one person.
And when too many other "programmers" get involved in tweaking that sound, that painting, the result is inevitably a product that is less than what it could be if left alone.
Look, my business depends on me giving programming advice, so why am I saying something that may hurt my own business?
Because it's true!
And any success I've enjoyed consulting some of the best radio stations in the world over the past 20 years has been because I only work with strong programmers. It's not because I'm so good; it's because they're so good.
The best programmers are strong enough to take input from someone not caught up in the politics or rivalries within their company, but not let that input change the sound they hear in their head, unless the change fits and makes the whole sound better.
If your PD does everything your consultant asks him or her to do, the consultant is the PD, whether you acknowledge that or not.
And the problem consolidated radio now faces is that the person giving your PD the advice outranks him on the corporate scale, and has every reason in the world to blame the PD if that advice doesn't work.
IMHO, everyone in programming above the rank of station PD should do everything they can to stay away from the frontline programmers. Your job should be to remove obstacles that block success, to reassure corporate higher-ups who know nothing about programming, to deflect pressure from your programmers, and to fight for the tools they need to win.
That means resources for better talent, for website content, for music and perceptual research, for contesting and promotion that is worth the air time ... and for marketing.
If you're a VP/Programming and one of your stations sounds terrible, find out why. If you need to replace a PD, do it. There are lots of great programmers sitting on the sidelines these days, victims of company politics and rampant insecurity that makes The Peter Principle look like a training manual. I can give you 10 names if you call me right now -- every one of them capable of producing a great radio station.
But resist the impulse to dip your paint brush too often into the paint and leave your mark on their Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Hire an artist and let him, or her, do their work.
Your masterpiece depends upon it.