Three beginning golfers were playing a round with the head pro. The first golfer hit his drive. It went straight up in the air ad fell to the ground about 50 yards down the fairway. He turned to the pro and asked, “What was wrong with that shot?”
The pro shrugged and said, “Loft.”
The radio and record industries are a wonderful world of dress-up, play-acting and make-believe. I know of no other profession that rewards its employees as much as ours. Don’t get me wrong. There are many other professions that provide an opportunity to make more money…or at least as much. Wall Street, investment banking and the medical and legal professions are just a few that provide an opportunity for extravagant prosperity. These professions, and others like them, are filled with successful people who studied and worked hard to reach the realm of fame and fortune. Let’s face it. To succeed in most businesses, one has to have a great deal of knowledge. By and large, this knowledge comes from extensive college education and training.
The radio and record business? It’s not a part of the educational curriculum. How many of us attended college? How many actually graduated? With Honors?
There is no real blueprint for achieving success in our business. Although some colleges offer classes in radio, it’s mostly spinning records on the campus station before an audience of six. Has anyone actually failed a radio class in college? As far as classes on the music business are concerned, they are mainly limited to a seminar or two, lead by whatever star power the college can guilt into speaking for an hour.
Most of us get into this business because of short-term goals. If you’re working for a record company, you probably loved music, but couldn’t sing or play an instrument. If you’re in radio, you were probably looking to get laid.
The second golfer hit his shot. It didn’t get airborne, but rolled down the fairway about 50 yards. The golfer turned to the pro and asked, “What was wrong with that shot?”
Again the pro shrugged. “Loft,” he answered.
This is not to say that we’re any less intelligent than our peers in other industries. It just means that we don’t have exact training for this exacting job we’re asked to do. We have nothing to fall back on when things aren’t operating smoothly.
Instead, we tend to overemphasize our success and failures. Since we don’t know exactly what makes a record a hit or a radio station pop up a couple of points in the ratings, we accept that what happens is a direct result of our ability and work.
And boy are we quick to boast. We’ll take all the credit and none of the blame. It’s almost a motto.
If a program director fails to move the ratings in a book, it certainly has nothing to do with his or her ability. That would be blasphemy. The other station has a bigger promotion budget. The competition spends more for talent. The sales manager was to blame for putting too many sales promotions on the air. The general manager was at fault for allowing too many commercials to be programmed. It’s absolutely, positively ABM…anybody but me.
The third golfer took his place on the tee. He squared away, stared at the ball and gave a mighty swing. His follow-through was full and magnificent. Unfortunately, he missed the ball,
“What was wrong with that?” the golfer whined.
The pro began waling down the fairway. “Loft,” he muttered.
What about the promotion executive who can’t bring the record home? It certainly isn’t his or her fault. The programmers are to blame. They won’t take calls. They don’t listen to music. They don’t get it. Neither do the music directors. The research is skewed. The sales department didn’t get product in the stores. The company didn’t allocate enough money for independents. It’s absolutely, positively EBMF…everything but my fault.
Many of the things students learn in college are important. The most important? Learning to accept blame. We’re all going to make mistakes. It’s how we react to those mistakes that makes the difference between winners and losers. When programmers are asked about a recent down trend, they have a myriad of excuses. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I just screwed up.”
When records don’t make it to the top of the charts, do presidents or promotion executives ever say, “I blew it.”
Nope. Do you know why? Because we’re perfect. In this dog-eat-dog business of ours, we’re all about how great we are. We’re seldom looking to learn. We are too busy p-and-b-ing…patting ourselves on the back and blaming others. We might not know why it isn’t right, but we can rest assured it isn’t our fault because we’re all geniuses.
Do you want to know why we often fail? Can you accept the truth?
One of the golfers caught up with the pro. “Three of us just hit different tee shots, all of which were bad. When we asked what was wrong, you told us it was loft. How can loft be the cause of three, totally different shots?”
“Loft is the reason,” the pro said, never breaking stride. “lack of fucking talent.”