Cacophonous Symphony



“I can’t hear you.”


That’s today’s operative phrase in the record and radio industry. A lot of people are talking…but nobody’s listening.


What a sad state of affairs, especially when you consider why most of us got into this business. We were great listeners.


Can you still remember when you first felt a desire to be a part of the music industry? What stimulated you? Was it reading about a great deal someone had pulled off? Was it hearing about an egomaniacal record company executive berating employees? Was it someone bragging about how an act was stolen from another label?




You were listening to music. It touched something deep within your soul and you wanted to be a part of it. You really didn’t know what “it” was…but you wanted to be there.


You were a great listener. Maybe you listened to the lyrics of a particular song and got hooked. Maybe it was the production. Maybe it was the whole package.


Those drawn into the music business might be ambiguous about the defining moment that shaped the course of their future, but rest assured it had something to do with “listening” to music.


It more exact with radio freaks. You remember growing up, listening to your favorite station. Maybe it was a particular jock…or one great break that made you decide you wanted to be a part of radio. You knew you could be just as cool as the guy on the air. You wanted to say hip things, be the life of the party and play your favorite songs.


That was the key. What cool job. You’re paid for “listening” to music.


So we get into the business because we’re great listeners. Those who succeed continue to listen. Remember when you first started, how you were a sponge? You couldn’t soak up enough knowledge. If someone wasn’t talking, you asked questions so you could “hear” the answers. You listened.


A funny thing happened on the way to the top. We stopped listening.


It’s easy in our business to stop doing the one thing that makes us successful. Too easy.


Record promotion people are paid to promote…paid to talk. The information available today about specific records is gargantuan. If it was chocolate, we would all be fat and pimpled. Promotion people have more useless information than ever before to bore even the most open-minded programmer.


So what do we do? We talk. And talk. And talk some more.


As easy as it is for promotion people to stop listening, it doesn’t compare to the opportunities afforded programmers. As deejays, we’re paid to talk. Hey, what a great gig! Does that mean the more I talk, the more I get paid? No, but many go on as if compensated by the word.


The difference between promotion people and programmers can’t be measured in tonnage. Both talk. But with promotion people, the subject changes with the record releases.


No so most programmers. The one topic many seem suck on is “I.” That’s sad.


I was privileged enough to spend a week the other night with a young music director who had all the answers. Not that he was answering any questions. Nobody could get a word in edgewise. Here is a person whose career is like a balloon. It can go up or down…depending on hot air.


Not only was this person not listening to anybody else…he wasn’t even listening to himself! Had he stopped and listened to his own words, he would have been embarrassed by his lack of knowledge, ashamed of his unabashed ego and afraid that he was losing his mind.


The babblings of a fool will make you question your sanity…especially when you’re the fool who’s babbling.


So what does the industry do with these two insensitive groups…promoters and PDs? We insist they work together.


How crazy are we?


Promotion people don’t listen. They’re too busy talking about their records. It is sweet irony that the people they’re paid to talk with aren’t listening either. Programmers don’t want to “listen” to what a promotion person is saying. A PD will barely listen to a record, much less the rhetoric about it.


Programmers want to talk about themselves. There is no “I” in programmer or promoter, but there is in “idiot,” which is what you are when you stop listening.


Who do you think you are? You have the audacity to believe your opinion is the only one that matters? Are you so stupid to believe that if you’re talking, it must mean something? Are you insane enough to think no one else might have a better idea than you?


If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you’re guilty. You’re also an idiot and an asshole.


Our industry has become a cacophonous symphony…filled with pontification for ego’s sake. Forget cocaine, heroin or crack, record and radio execs are hooked on extemporaneous bullshit…the drug of the 90s.


What’s really sad is the ones who are the most susceptible to diarrhea of the mouth won’t believe this Editorial is about them. They can probably talk a good 15 minutest on how it’s not about them. They’re too busy talking to stop and think.


You got where you are today by listening. The question is: Where do you want to be tomorrow?


If you listen, you might find out.

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