With convention season upon us, The Network Forty provides you with a primer for attending…or several good reasons to stay home.
Rule #1: Make note of the people who are most important: record company executives who pay for all of it; major market program directors and those on the way up; and small market program directors who add at least seven records a week and aren’t claimed by an independent.
Rule #2: Your status is in direct proportion to your method of payment. If you have a small amount of cash, you’re immediately identified as a fringe player at best and are shut out of the best seats and places TBS (to be seen). A personal American Express account will upgrade your seats and TBS level while the company Gold Card provides all access and highest status: TBSW (to be seen with). Editor’s note: Companies trying to limit expenses should consult Charlie Minor on how to stretch those convention dollars by sticking others with the tab.
Rule #3: If you have a good job in a major market and you’re considering going to a convention, you have to ask yourself one question: Why? The only answers: You’re chairing a panel and want to show everyone how smart you are; you’re about to be fired; you’re looking for a better job; you need an excuse for a few nights away from home; you’re being paid to attend. (Throw out the last one. It doesn’t happen.) One reminder: Don’t forget how you felt when you were a baby program director. Take time to talk with those who seek your guidance. Try to avoid the “holier than thou” attitude. After all, it’s not you they’re impressed with. It’s the job you hold. When in doubt, hum the old Blood Sweat And Tears’ anthem: “What Goes Up, Must Come Down.”
Rule #4: If you’re in a smaller market looking to move up, conventions are the place for you. In one long weekend, you can meet and impress those who might remember you for a future opening. You can certainly cement your relationship with various record executives. Just don’t let them see you sweat. Before you make the trip, determine your objectives. Seek out those in both industries who can help your career. Ask questions and state your case as briefly as possible. Remember, you’re one of hundreds seeking an audience. At the convention, keep a log of the people you see and what you talked about. One week later, follow up with a short letter. If it’s someone from radio, send them an air check. If they are in the record business, be persistent. If they don’t answer your first calls, try freezing the play list. That will always get a call back. If you aren’t employed, don’t call anyone in the record industry.
Rule #5: Never talk bad about someone without first checking to make sure he’s not right behind you. If this happens to someone you know, the key word is “Jaybow.” When you hear that word, immediately stop your conversation and check your surroundings.
Rule #6: When shaking hands with people, never look them in the eye. Always stare over their shoulder to see if you can spot someone more important.
Rule #7: Never glance at their name tags. It’s the amateur’s way out. If you don’t know who they are, slap them on the shoulder and tell them how good they look or tell them not to move, you’ll be right back. Another good ploy is to take along a date who isn’t in the business. Have her introduce herself to people whose name you can’t recall. Cover yourself by saying, “I’m sorry. I thought you guys knew each other.”
Rule #8: Don’t drink to excess. Throwing up in the lobby went out of style right after Randal Strasson blew chunks in the lat Rick Sklar’s lap at the Billboard convention in 1972.
Rule #9: Don’t take every dare issued by the guys at the bar. Only Jim Davenport can streak a hotel lobby with a lighted string of toilet paper between his butt cheeks and still be classy about it.
Rule #10: Do not remove articles of clothing in the hotel lobby. This act was officially banned after the 1975 Bobby Poe convention when several naked bodies descended on the escalator.
Rule# 11: Don’t approach women in the halls and ask them, “How much?” They could be a record company president of a VP’s wife. If it’s hookers you’re looking for, try and make the next Tailhook convention.
Rule #12: Always return with some promotional idea that you can use immediately. This way, you can justify the cost to your boss.
Rule #13: Don’t bother kissing Joel’s ring. It’s not politically correct anymore. (Reference: Blood Sweat And Tears’ “What goes up…must come down.”)
And the most important rule of all: Just have fun. Remember, it’s not the conventions that are a waste of time, but the people you choose to hang with.