(By Ronald Robinson) My continuous wail that commercial music-radio doth, truly, sucketh large is likely as welcome as a recurring toothache. I accept that many readers would aggressively disagree with the premise. Thing is, though, I have yet to find anyone in ownership or management who is willing or able to articulate a cogent, contradictory argument.
For consideration: When a couple of the bankrupted biggies demonstrate some success at gaming the system, other, even astute observers are relieved, and are dancing their version of The Yippee-Yahoo Boogie.
“Dodging a bullet is cause for celebration, certainly, but the hoopla of the party tends to take the considerations of what comes next right off the agenda. Radio, I suspect, is still more concerned (understandably) with its own survival and the continuation of executive compensation.
“At no time, has anybody with authority and credibility been able to articulate how radio’s basic services will be improved – certainly not to the degree where it can crawl out of the basement position it currently holds because of the ongoing deliverance of shoddy on-air and local, creative services. Radio’s ownership groups can be castigated for also having positions of Let ’em eat cake.’”
To the contrary, a number of commentators with credibility are digging in and insisting, essentially, that the way it was is the way it is because that’s how it needs to be. The sincerity of such assertions is staggering. Even some cults are a bit less strenuous.
In a world where fewer and fewer held-positions on so many assorted matters make less sense at all to us regular folks, radio has been able to stay as it has been, sticking itself with programming and spot-making strategies that have been demonstrated to be significantly less than effective. That’s an oldie – hardly a goodie.
Further, those of us involved in radio are surrounded by multiple other media and platforms. Since their inception, most have been continuously making improvements in their products and services. Some, gawd forbid, are even applying the “E” word. That’s right, experimentation! And who saw that one coming?
Radio, however, is like a duck sitting on a mud mound, guarding whatever turf it can still maintain while pecking away at whatever grains get blown through within the proximity of its bill. Radio’s apologists, meanwhile, continue to incessantly quack out all the attributes of its super-duper medium – of which, by the way, there aren’t that many. Those there are, might include a still semi-decent reach and an occasionally satisfying ROI for some advertiser or other.
What with the bones of cruelly dispatched copywriters lying bleached out in the desert, having been picked clean by carrion crows eons ago, larger chain owners continue to ruthlessly decimate whatever of the “live” presenters are still cowering in the hallways.
The writing for radio has been on the wall for an extremely prolonged period. Unfortunately, it seems to be written in Swahili, ‘cause, as the Bard of Stratford once proclaimed, “Forsooth! Ain’t nobody gettin’ the message.”
It could be argued that getting radio’s leadership to begin acquiring the pertinent knowledge and to start applying the information to the improvement of radio’s products and services would be more difficult than getting “Mitch” to bring a reasonable bill to the Senate floor. There might be some equivalencies, anyway.
Meanwhile, as podcasts are becoming more popular for certain segments of the audience, I wonder if radio’s leadership has realized that their audience is much more inclined to a more casual listening experience – one that doesn’t require full, dedicated attention over longer periods. Radio, at one time, always flourished best when it was fluctuating from just above or just below the conscious awareness of any given listener.
Radio has been the only medium where people can be doing other things while they were enjoying the broadcasts. Try that with any other medium and accidents and charges are likely to ensue. Still, the premise that whatever radio finds to be “normal” is utterly rejected by the management of all other media, stands. Indeed, Baba Ron has spoken.
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. Contact Ron at [email protected]