Despite It All
March 2, 2012
Why do you do this? Radio, I mean. What makes you want to be in this business, anyway?
Okay, so I'm in a bad mood this week. But there were several moments when I found myself sort of despairing about the state of the industry and where things are going. There's the continued elimination of jobs as companies kill off local shows and fire local talent and then tell us that it'll improve programming. There's having jocks voicetrack several stations without adequate compensation, with the ever-present threat that if you don't do it, someone else will. There's the lurch into streaming and apps without a clear idea of where it's going, how it'll be monetized, and how (and if) talent will be compensated for that. And there's the failure to really back up talent when pressure groups come calling. I look at that stuff and the continued paucity of really creative and exciting new programming (and the resistance to change) and I wonder why anyone would WANT to work in radio now.
Yet, people do. For a significant number of folks, there remains an allure to being on the radio -- on broadcast radio, on FM or AM, not a podcast or a stream -- that makes them eager to get themselves on a station, any station, anywhere. Certainly, I hear from enough people looking for on-air jobs (and there are, sadly, a lot of seekers for a relative few openings). Are they just overlooking the troubles? Are they not seeing how talent isn't always getting its due? Are they avoiding the issues of dwindling jobs and more-work-for-less-pay?
Maybe it's one or more of these:
1. It's fun. You don't find too many jobs where you get paid for saying stuff. Compare it to most other jobs and it looks pretty good, even if the pay is neither what you want it to be nor fair.
2. It's great for the ego. You say something and tens of thousands -- maybe hundreds of thousands -- of people hear it right away. You can motivate those people to call in, to buy something, to vote for someone. It's power. SOMEDAY, THEY WILL ALL BEND TO MY WILL! Bwa-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-ha-ha-ha... ha... heh.
3. It fulfills a need. You NEED to say something and have people listen. You could do it on a blog, too, but you crave the immediacy of radio.
4. It's all you know how to do. After doing it for a long time, you may thnk you're unqualified for anything else. You're probably wrong, but it's how you feel.
5. Daddy owns the station. Well, la di da.
6. It's still the biggest stage. Streaming goes worldwide and podcasts are unlimited, but the audience is still bigger on radio. That may change someday, and on a sales level there's something to be said for podcasts and streaming delivering more targeted audiences, but radio's still the big show.
7. Pay. Even if the compensation's not what it should be, the checks clear.
8. You love radio. Sometimes, it's as simple as that. You grew up listening to the Top 40 legends, or maybe you listened to Stern or Rush and thought yeah, that's what I want to do with my life. You're a radio geek. You always have been. You can't stop now. And, deep down, you believe that even though the world has changed and radio doesn't have that new-car smell anymore and anyone can stream or podcast, there's something special about the voices coming through on your FM or AM dial. You look at the people in charge of the industry and think that they and their cost-cutting and penuriousness will someday go away and we'll be back to being run by broadcasters instead of Wall Street. You still have that romance going for you.
You're probably wrong about the industry's cost-cutting. That isn't going away; the ship's sailed, the horses are out of the barn, whatever other cliche you want to deploy. But the other elements are why some of you persist in the business. That, and the fact that when you're on the air -- when it's just you and the mic and your audience and you're just nailing it and your topic is firing on all cylinders and the lines are jammed and you know that there are people in their cars and at their office desks and in their stores and kitchens and workshops all listening to your every word -- there's nothing quite like it. You're willing to put up with a lot -- too much, actually -- to get to that moment. You could call it an addiction. And, for any of those reasons, you're not ready to take the first step away from it. Join the club.
After last weekend's absence, Talk Topics, the show prep column at All Access News-Talk-Sports, is back and pumping out the hits, with hundreds of topic ideas and news stories and kicker items at your disposal simply by clicking here, and all the topics are also linked on Twitter at @talktopics. This week, you'll also find "10 Questions With..." KKOB-KTBL-KNML/Albuquerque OM/PD Pat Frisch, who's the man in charge of a station that's been number one in the ratings for a long, long, long time, and, as always, you'll find the radio industry's first-best-most complete coverage at Net News, with the top stories tweeted at @allaccess.
Oh, one more thing. For the last couple of years, I've been easing up on soliciting donations for my annual walk to raise money to fight women's cancer, because I know how tight things have been in this economy. But I'm walking again this year with Fran in the Revlon Run/Ralk for Women here in L.A. on May 12th, and I'm gonna hit you up for donations. I haven't really started the major effort yet, but the fundraising page is active at do.eifoundation.org/goto/pmsimon2012. It's a great cause and all donations are gratefully accepted and greatly appreciated. So if you wanna get in early, that's how you do it. We'll talk about it a little more as the date approaches. In the meantime, thank you.