[To Read Part 1, Go HERE]
(By Ronald Robinson) As the virtual meeting of “the twelve” continued and the participants got on a roll, more pronouncements and/or recommendations were provided. Among these were the following:
“Find creative people and turn them loose.”
As a concept, that actually sounds exciting and even slightly encouraging. So far as the odds of taking those kinds of risks, this one is right up there with chugging a cup of gasoline and then deciding to light up a smoke. The resulting event could be described as “Guts everywhere – no glory.” And “creativity” gets moved to the janitorial staff. But, coffee breaks become far more entertaining.
As to “live and local”: When owners find talent that recognizes and calls bulls*** when it is offered, find somebody else – anybody else. The girl at the dry cleaners down the street seems pretty snappy. Maybe she can be tricked. What the proponents of irresponsible gang-hiring for this ill-fated “live & local” exercise fail to appreciate are the components required from an effective on-air communicator.
These include a measure of creativity, to be sure. Radio already has more than enough soft-headed parrot-people on the air to wreck an entire industry. They may be bright, but their on-air presentations do not support the proposition. A semblance of social awareness and secure appreciation of social norms would be useful.
Exceptional imagination and self-discipline are required of every competent presenter – a powerful element that comes only from on-air experience. To be more effective, management will also have to increase the airtime of the presenters. Promo-spewing robo-jocks who, like prairie dogs, stick their heads out of their holes three or four times an hour for a very brief look-see do nothing to increase that individual’s or the station’s appeal.
One of the participating members of the group said, “We encourage creativity from the individual. I don’t expect any talent to sound like the others. Anyone who has ever cracked a mic didn’t get into the business to read liner cards. Let the thoroughbreds run!” While a commendable position, most of the talent is pulled out of $3000 claiming races. The rest are brought to the track in an ambulance. The bettors put their money down on the horses that have a needle sticking out of them.
Another astute participant reinforced what is obvious only to the few. He said, “Just taking away things you believe the audience will push back from will make you bland and boring.” Indeed, the multi-decade long practice of eliminating perceived “tune out factors” has resulted in audiences being offered no more than forms of lukewarm radio gruel.
While most of the people in this gathering seemed to be recognizing the value of, even the necessity for, competent talent, I pick up a sense they would rather handle a basket full of diamondback rattlesnakes than engage with talent in any intimate or meaningful ways. Most would rather take a blowtorch to them all and to hell with the environment.
As far back as the mid-‘60s and continuing on through the ‘70s and beyond, “Top 40” stations were breaking bones to out-slam and out-slick each other. Younger demographics were enjoying it – right up until “Underground FM” radio slithered in and started eating all those unsuspecting, snarling, rock-jock bunnies.
It should be noted that during those frantic days of Top 40 mayhem, the Adult (MOR) and Adult Contemporary (A/C) stations were the ones raking in the large coin. MOR stations, while having strong audiences, struck me as a maudlin bunch. So, I only worked for A/C outfits. This was great for me because I could switch from “talkin’ dirty and rammin’ the hits” to stopping down and weaving a little more complex radio magic. Still, the priority of strong talent has disappeared.
Meanwhile, the group’s individuals are now of the Hopa-Hopa clan. Their rituals include dancing around the fire pit and stomping on cold coals. What they do not realize is the intensity of training required in the available body of broadcast communications — knowledge to which both new and veteran presenters must be heavily engaged and with which they must become competent. While the group’s (expressed) fixes are unlikely to be applied with necessary skills or enthusiasm, they would still be extremely ineffective.
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. Email Ron at [email protected]