In a recent release, media man Mark Ramsey made a number of astute observations about radio — observations that deserve greater dissemination and, even more, serious consideration. As regular readers know, this space has been dedicated to providing alternates for radio’s continued and tragic refusal to make any progress whatsoever in a field (communications) that is, otherwise, overrun by innovations and experimentations.
Some of Mark’s comments (www.markramseymedia.com) are re-produced here:
“Fundamentally,” says Mark, “radio personalities and the folks who hire you need to recognize that your job is not to spin tunes. You are not an organic iPod, a playlist with a heart. No, no.
Here is why you exist:
- To be in the moment, “live” with us
- To tell us things we didn’t know, but are glad we do now
- To lift our mood
- To be a spokesperson for the culture that you share with us
- To tell stories that fascinate or move us
- To be a friend when we need one
- To be that mirror that our best friends are
- To anchor an experience we all share together
- To help make our lives better in tangible ways
- To make us laugh or cry or spend precious extra minutes in our driveway
- To inform, educate, and entertain us
- To be the part of our family that never lets us down
- To share your musical enthusiasm with us, if the brand is built on music enthusiasts
- To share your memories with us, if the brand is built on music with a history
- To reveal your soul to us and show us your humanity
- To know what we care about and care back.”
While absolutely the case, what Mark proposes also requires individuals who are:
a.) aware they are not yet, but who are willing, to be trained
b.) socially cognizant beyond their own peer group
c.) holders of an already, well-developed sense of humor
d.) educated and practiced enough to throw together at least two cogent sentences back-to-back
e.) versed in the intricacies of vocal timing, tempo, and tonalities
f.) being engaged by an organization that will support their progress as communicators, through what, in other enterprises, is called “the R&D budget”
g.) specifically educated enough to know the linguistic distinctions appropriate for electronic broadcasts, compared to those of other, analogue presentations
h.) a willingness to take on a Gulliverian lifestyle while toiling for management who never read the Emancipation Proclamation — all for minimal wages — and whatever else can be collected along the off-ramps.
My response to Mark included the comments: “…but, if you’re ready to get this project off the skids…so am I. Gawd knows the stations are in no position, nor are they motivated, to address these issues.”
While Mark’s comments are bang-on accurate, they do allude to the premise that all that need be done is for management to turn the green light on. If only. The hole we have dug for ourselves is a lot wider and deeper than a few heaping shovels of “personality” and a dash of “creativity” will ever cure.
While Mark doesn’t say so directly, it is no stretch to point out that it is the responsibility of every radio station owner to put in place the systems and strategies that will guarantee the results to which Mark alludes. This is not going to happen – not soon and not in any general, industry-wide context.
Now, I’m not saying the following is an issue for radio that is pervasive and invariant. What I am saying is that it is everywhere and a constant. I submit that, of the points I have suggested (above), the greatest among possible equals is g.) educated enough to know the linguistic distinctions appropriate for electronic broadcasts compared to those of other, analogue presentations. This is the matter of “Clarity and Precision in Communications” that was addressed in my last piece.
Until these communicative factors are mastered and applied, any other creative efforts run the risk of being rendered failed and inadequate attempts. Great “creative” — on-air or commercial — can be instantly ruined by failing to communicate effectively in the body of any given broadcast content.
While radio has had, pretty much, a free run of the place for decades, the encroachment by so-called interlopers, tourists, marauding corporate predators, and squatters will continue to ravage the territory that was once the exclusive domain of terra radio. It don’ matter a whit that we mosey across the range with our Colts-45s slung low in the holster an’ declarin’, “We don’t cotton to sheepherders in these here parts!” The shepherds have already overrun the territory; they’re pointin’ an’ laughin’ at us, and they are better armed.
Further, they continue their onslaught, secure in their conclusions that radio will not be launching a retaliatory campaign anytime soon. They are also safe in concluding that most radio management will continue to be frozen in their inactivity.
Even so, many radio keeners and apologists will smugly reiterate the (accepted) reality that radio still enjoys impressive market penetration. Fine. Like an old and now-useless trophy, it looks great on the mantle and is a gentle reminder of better days. No more.