What Do You Do?


June gloom has settled on Southern California, bringing with it a hint of summer, but only hint.  Just when the sun comes out and you think it’s time to break out the water skis, a cloud gathers on the horizon and rain seems imminent.  It reminds me of our business.

I took this past weekend to open my mind up to ideas other than the Network 40 Summer Games III in lake Tahoe June 24-26.  That topic can drive a man crazy.  Or in my case, crazier.

I read an article last Saturday that said teenagers spend more time on the Internet than watching television or listening to radio.  If you’re programming a radio station, this should get your attention.  If you’re a record company executive, it should make you sit up and take notice.  But it probably won’t.

Unfortunately, easier access on the Internet isn’t the only change that has occurred in the past decade.  There was a time when radio sported the best and the brightest.  A programmer was often the smartest person in the room.  A PD had to be brilliant because his competitor was cut from the same cloth.

Programming minds clicked constantly.  Jumbled thoughts were full of questions.  How can I get the attention of my audience?  What contest can I run this weekend that will create excitement? What kind of promotion will work for the summer?

Not only were programmers on the cutting edge…we often created the edge.  We were involved in the lives of our audience.  We lived their lives.  So, when social shifts and changes began, we were the mirror.  Sometimes, we shaped those changes ourselves, creating musical twists and turns on this long Magical Mystery Tour.

Now, it’s a whole new ball game.  And most of us aren’t playing.

Programming has, for the most part, been reduced to the lowest common denominator.  Instead of the cutting edge of excitement, we’re more often on the dull, dark side of the room.  The smartest of the gathering? Hardly. More than likely the most boring.

Programmers today spend too much time holding on to their jobs instead of doing their jobs.  Boys and girls, before you don’t have a job any longer, shouldn’t you sit down and have a “Come to Jesus” talk with yourself? Can I provide the first question?

What do you do?

Time was, a program director was responsible for everything the audience heard: commercials, IDs, promos, jocks and music.  The station was a direct reflection of the PD.  That’s still the case, which is the main reason so many stations sound boring.

When was the last time you had a meeting with the sales manager? I don’t mean about sales promotions, but about the quality and quantity of commercials that are aired? How many of your commercials run over 30 or 60 seconds? How many are produced poorly? Which are run first in a set? Jingles? Dry voice?

You don’t know because the traffic manager schedules them and you can’t be bothered. You have strict criteria about music, but no criteria about commercials.  What’s wrong with this picture?

ID’s and promos are most often cut by some disembodied voice far away from the center of your attention.  How can an announcer in another part of the country feel the vibe of your station? Are you so incompetent that you can’t hire jocks who can also cut your promos, thereby keeping the fabric of your sound consistent? And what about your jocks? Do you give them direction? They do daily airshifts. How often do you critique their shows? if they can do it daily, is it too much you to meet with them weekly?

When was the last time you came up with a promotion? How many original ideas have you put on the air in the last year?  It’s easier for you to run the birthday game or another promotion created by some outside entity.  All you do is buy it.  When was the last time you listened to music?  I don’t mean when the promotion people drop by, but the last time you took a stack of CD’s home and played them when nobody else was around? How can PD’s be expected to listen to music when music directors spend more time running selector than choosing records?

Programmers today are spending too much time doing things that don’t matter.  Why does your ego dictate that you personally get involved with the acts at your concert? Does a picture with this week’s superstar guarantee your entrance into the hall of fame?  You spend more time meeting with people in your office than with your audience.  You don’t listen to music anymore, you read computer printouts.

No wonder more people are cruising the Internet than are caught in the jam that is radio.  You’ve stopped listening.

Guess what?

So has your audience.

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