(By Ronald Robinson) The group was summoned – made up of a number of astute, experienced, and credible radio professionals. A dozen of these folks were invited to a virtual meeting to discuss a number of challenges that radio has been experiencing for some time. (I would say “plight,” but then, that’s me.)
I have to say these folks seemed candid in their comments, demonstrated sincerity and were well aware of radio’s stultifying realities. None of them were happy with, or accepting of, the status quo. Some were outright critical. From what I was reading, however, all of the participants were overwhelmed. I speculate they were overwhelmed less by the issues they were addressing than by the lack of useful alternate fixes available that would dynamically turn the industry around.
The last 25 years, in my view and to use an analogy, have seen radio taken from being similar to a competitive form of professional motor racing and diminished it to a series of country bumpkin, demolition derbies. Snort. Crunch. Whatever.
Yes, there remains that (relatively) impressive radio “reach” thingie. Attentive broadcasters will, however, still be required to admit that this lucky happenstance is more about the innate nature of the medium and less about any programming or marketing magic delivered by insider management or staffers.
Allow me, meanwhile, to address some of the material coming out of the meeting.
On finding new, on-air talent:
- Have somebody (who lost the bet) jump into the car and cruise smaller and medium, out-of-market stations to look for talented diamonds in the rough.
- Ascertain how much extra training and coaching these individuals will require before they can crack a microphone at “The Mighty Spaniel, 96.5 – Dog Butt’s Best Music.”
- Determine who, specifically, will be doing the coaching, directing, and grooming, and with what specific materials the new hire will be indoctrinated.
- Be sure the candidate is experiencing a combination of gullibility, credulity, and/or enough star-struck passion to accept paltry wages and the responsibility to become immediately competent at a bevy of other platforms. The newbie will also have to tolerate more unspecified, but to-be-determined, extra station responsibilities.
- Interview and hire people working in other sectors. Anybody who can demonstrate an outgoing personality, tell a joke, and has a pulse would qualify. They would also have to be willing to play a game of “Trust or Risk” with the station management. In addition, they will have to prepare themselves to hear, “We have decided to take another direction.”
Other comments coming out of the meeting included:
- The requirement to get away from voice-tracking as far as possible and as soon as possible.
- “Talent needs to be curious, good with people, visible in the community, and connected to the business from a sales perspective, as well.” What the individual didn’t say was, “…and have access to mild amphetamines, ‘cause they won’t be getting much sleep.”
- Talent will have to be skilled enough to go on the air and deliver that lauded “one-to-one” experience — that is an example of “parrot-talk.” This is one of the most toxic, delusional premises that continues to rip out much of the credible potential of radio to which it still does have access.
- Even at stations that are running more “live & local” programming, the talent is so suppressed and gets so little airtime, they are still relegated to the ranks of the “robo jock.”
- Edgy and dangerous stations, while impressive, will still not be tolerated, much less encouraged.
- More air-checking of talent is required. Nobody was able to explain how that exercise alone would develop better performances – if they can be called that.
- Audiences have come to accept really rotten radio as “normal.”
- Stations need to better know their audiences – whatever the hell that means. Ever tried it?
- Too many commercial phusterclucks. Ya think?
- “Talent” can’t be taught. (Yes, it can.)
The majority of the comments could have been offered 10 years ago, and the list could have been longer. There were no references to improving the effectiveness of locally produced spots. There were no recommendations to address the fundamental, language distinctions that are required to generate more effective on-air deliveries. But, thanks anyway for comin’ out.
Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian radio since the ’60s as a performer, writer and coach, and has trained and certified as a personal counselor. E-mail Ron at [email protected]