Who in the hell do we think we are?
Most of us know the answer to this question, but to often, particularly on the radio side of our business, some get confused.
Let’s face it. With the constant hype we get, it’s sometimes easy to think that we are the be-all and end-all of our industry. With record promoters telling us how great we are on a daily basis, it’s not hard to believe what they are saying is true. Trust me. None of us are that good.
It’s a sad fact in our business that many confuse what they do with who they are.
If it hasn’t happened to you, don’t let it. If it has, try and stop it. Although if it has happened to you, even as you read this Editorial, you won’t believe I’m writing about you. It’s the other guys with the problems.
As a program director or music director, your importance has the lifespan of a butterfly. And your professional life is similar. Just as a butterfly begins as a glorified worm, so did most of us who are now in this business. We found radio as an easy place to hide away from the personality traits that made us less accepted in the real world. Behind a microphone, it was easy to be something we really weren’t. We could please the people; be hip and cute; be wanted by members of the opposite sex. In short, we could be everything we couldn’t be.
In most cases, this business brought us out of our shells and allowed us to grow through and rise above the traits that hindered us before. In other cases, monsters were created.
Are we really that important? The answer is easy. Reprise VP Promotion Mark Ratner has an interesting way of summing this up. He says, “Most of us, when we decided to go into radio or records, didn’t have a hard choice to make. It wasn’t like, do I do radio or take that full scholarship to Harvard Medical School?” WE got into the business because we love it…or because we didn’t have another choice. Now, because we program an important station, does that mean we’re better than everyone else?
Sadly, many do believe that. Egos unchecked grow quickly out of control. However, when they burst, the flame-out is total.
Don’t buy the hype or you are destined to fail. Arrogance is fine. You must believe that you are good. But when you think that nobody can do it better, that you are the difference, then you’re in trouble.
I see it all too often in our business. Radio programmers and music directors who have a good book or tow or win a car suddenly become geniuses. They stop doing the things that made them good in the first place and become content with the strokes they’re getting from those who are paid to stroke. They become cocky because they are successful.
Successful at what? Programming a radio station? Please. It ain’t that big a deal. But we begin to think it is.
I got lucky. It happened to me early in my career. I was the youngest program director in KHJ Los Angeles history; the youngest programmer in the famed RKO chain. I was the best. I know, because every record promoter told me. On a daily basis. And they wouldn’t lie. Not to me. They told me constantly, depending on how many records I added the last week.
One company even put my name on a billboard on Sunset Strip. Promoting a record that was rising up the charts, the printed, “Thanks To Gerry Cagle” where everyone could see. I got fired from KHJ on a Monday. Tuesday morning, my name was off the billboard.
Welcome to the world of entertainment. The butterfly was dead, pinned to the pages of a book entitled, “I Am A Genius. I Can Never Fail.”
It could…it will happen to you. Hopefully, in a less humiliating scenario.
Nowhere else is the saying, “The King is dead…long live the King,” more prevalent than in our business. Someone can always do it better.
I took WRKO Boston to its highest ratings. No one could do it better. I left and Harry Nelson took them even higher.
Scott Shannon was the best program director in history. He took Z100 to the top of the market. No one could do it better. He left and Steve Kingston took the ratings even higher.
Jerry DeFrancesco was the best programmer in history. He took KIIS Los Angeles to the top. No one could do it better. He left and Steve Rivers took them even higher.
The list is never ending.
Don’t get confused. It’s who you are, not what you do. Your position can and will be replaced. And in most cases, the results will be the same.
But many in our business see themselves as the important element in the mix. They act too proud, talk too loud and become ugly…with no reason. They are too important to listen. Why should they? They have all the answers. And they buy into the hype.
Who are these people? These people who get front row concert tickets and get to meet superstars backstage? These people who eat at the finest restaurants and never pick up the tab? These people who have dinners thrown in the honor? These people who are flown across the country, kept in luxurious hotels, get free tickets to the Grammys and other award shows?
It’s not who they are…it’s what position they hold…for the moment.
No programmer is as good as the music industry tells them they are. Lose your job and you’ll find out…the hard way.
Drop the cockiness. It’s unbecoming. Do a good job. Be proud of your accomplishments. Enjoy the spoils of the business. But don’t for a minute believe it’s because you’re the greatest. Humble pie tastes like shit. Don’t be forced to eat it.
Michael Spears was the greatest program director in KFRC history. No one could do it better. He left and Les Garland came in and took the cume even higher. He was the best. No one could do it better. I followed Garland. And the cume went even higher. And I was the best there ever was. I left and Walt Sabo took over. Okay, bad example. KFRC went into the toilet.
But you get the drift, don’t you? Or are you the best there ever was?