It’s been 60 days since Jay Stevens left radio — after decades of programming success — to take a break and recharge. When he hit the beach he had been the Senior Vice President of Programming at Radio One for over a decade. Is he getting the itch to come back? Is the golf scene getting old? We bugged Stevens day and night until he answered our questions about why he left the business. He gave in this week. Here’s what he had to day…
Radio Ink: You’ve been away from radio for a few months now, what do you miss the most?
Jay Stevens: I miss the action and the creative energy. This break has made me realize how much I love this business.
Radio Ink: What have you been doing?
Jay Stevens: I am staying immersed, but from an objective point of view. I am playing golf, traveling, doing some things around the house I never had time for and really having good quality family time. I am not going to lie, it is nice to wake up, make a latte, sit on the deck, and make my daily plans with no pressure. And I am still listening to a lot of radio, and following personalities and stations on social — can’t help myself.
Radio Ink: Why did you really leave? Did you burn out on radio?
Jay Stevens: The real reason I left was to take a break and recharge. I needed to assess whether I was burned out, or whether I really had enough. And I have found that I still love this crazy business, it’s one of the reasons I was put on this earth. Sounds heavy, but that’s real. So this time off has really energized me, I am in a great place!
Radio Ink: What would you say is your biggest accomplishment so far?
Jay Stevens: In radio I have had too many to just pinpoint one. I have been blessed to work with great people and I have been fortunate to have had some big wins. And there will be more!
Radio Ink: Explain how you’ve seen radio evolve: the good, the bad, the ugly. As an expert at content, is radio putting out high quality content today?
Jay Stevens: We need to be more innovative and create stronger, compelling content. Music and videos are everywhere — how do we stand out? What does radio stand for? It isn’t (fill in the DJ) saying, “Coming up in six minutes, tickets to the Monster Jam.” Or morning show promos with silly laughing and teasing the trivia game tomorrow morning at 7. That is another reason listeners are leaving, it is corny. The standards are higher, the competition is better, and there are too many choices. Compelling talent with something to say that connects, imaging that is creative, and award-winning and shorter commercial stopsets is a good start. Radio also is free, ubiquitous, urgent, and LOCAL. The streaming services would die for those attributes. And we need to market and brag about these qualities. In the era of shrinking revenue, marketing and promotional dollars have been reduced, this isn’t the time to do that, in my opinion. And how about having FUN? We need to get back to being edgy and fun. Several years ago, there was a Christian-formatted station in California that flipped to Pop. To create attention they stunted for a weekend and called the station “The Pole” and played all stripper music all weekend. Imagine the talk and buzz it created…and the outcry from the former Christian music listeners. And this was before social media. It put the new station on the map and was FUN. Maybe not so for everyone.
Radio Ink: As you listen to radio stations now, what are your thoughts as a listener?
Jay Stevens: It is really interesting to listen as a “listener.” I find myself talking to the radio and my wife calms me down. Outdated promos, DJs talking too much about nothing…missed details, drives me crazy. But I get it, PDs today are running multiple stations and don’t have the time to listen, be creative, and focus on those details. If we could only get back to having a programmer focused on one station, radio would be in a different place.
Radio Ink: Is radio playing too many commercials?
Jay Stevens: Imagine if all of the radio heads got together and held rates — or better yet, raised the rates. Put a premium on radio advertising. I am not a lawyer, but I think that could be collusion. But just think about that for a moment: revenue would be up, spot loads could drop, and the industry might be in a different place. And at the same time, create better commercials. Commercials that get attention and engage. Wow, what a thought! What a great dream!
Jay can be reached at [email protected], although he might be on the golf course, mowing his lawn, or yelling at your station for playing too many commercials.