Tom Kent Takes Issue With McVay Column


On Monday Radio Ink published a column from long-time respected radio consultant and former Cumulus executive Mike McVay. The column It’s Time For a Softer, Gentler Touch On The Air, detailed how hosts should look for positive news, rather than focus on the doom and gloom news of the day. That approach didn’t sit well with syndicated host Tom Kent.

Kent, who posted several comments on the McVay column, sent us the following letter about what McVay wrote…

“Recently an article was published in a trade publication by a well known consultant regarding “Speaking Softly” when it comes to music radio personalities engaging with their audiences. The idea was that we don’t want to do anything that would create controversy or God forbid ruffle someone’s feathers. Let’s bake some cookies, have some tea and play another song! PLEASE! This is nothing but sheer boredom and will not keep an audience engaged and thus build average quarter hour! This kind of thinking has systematically killed personality radio! I take great exception to this because if anything music radio should be passionately engaging with it’s audience and beating the drum louder rather than softer.

“We as an industry are getting our clocks collectively cleaned by the digital world aka podcasts, internet streaming, satellite radio and the rest. Your only rule as far as being a music personality is to stay away from politics because you’re not living in that space. If you’re an adult station and you just want to be “safe for the whole family” then by all means. get ready to be wall paper for the masses. Music personalities need to create forced listening. In other words, you’re so engaging and provocative, you’re audience will stay with you because of your unique content, creativity and ability to continue to paint the canvas quarter hour by quarter hour.

“Many music programmed stations have eliminated personalities between the hours of 6p to 6a. Radio is literally on it’s back just trying to survive and they want to pull the plug on the one thing that can bond the audience to the station. Come on get real! This isn’t rocket science. I know margins are tight but there are so many other options better than just being a jukebox! I could name some right in front of you but I fear that it might come off being self serving.

“We as an industry are losing the battle to digital and if you don’t see that you’re blind. Don’t just raise the white flag and give up for God’s sake. Stay in the game. Create forced listening with creative, engaging personalities and if you don’t have the budget for that….HIRE ME! It’ll cost you nothing! We have a cache’ of great 24/7 music personalities that can be customized to your music and your market. If it’s not me and our great staff of entertainers then by all means find something better either locally or through syndication but the latter is your best option in the budget squeeze category.

Know one thing. Stations that consistently win the Nielsen game almost always make the personality people connection that bonds their audience with their stations.”


  1. Listening to Tom Kent currently in Salt Lake now on Rewind 100.7 and it seems like the main point of the show is hitting the post. It sounds extremely canned…and even hear the automation cutting off WORDS here in market 30, or so. Most of the market is fairly uneventful here, anyway. This is just another plug they should pull and let the water run through. Not hearing any fun on the radio, don’t really care about who got their feelings hurt or what was said…JUST HIT THE POST! And you know, Tom doesn’t sound like the major day parts, that should sound at least as good. AND…Who can stand out as a personality when you are segging records? Tom, quit saying LOVING LIFE on the air when you aren’t. It is a crutch like Glenn Beck saying UHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Radio. It’s red hot.

    • …Says the person who apparently does a lot of radio listening, in order to pick up on all of these perceived wrongs in the medium.

      Some whiners are better just seen than heard…if even that…

  2. I love how Pat Holiday just used a Podcast as a prime example of entertainment to defend radio! LOL! That’s the point, Pat. Radio can’t do what Rogan does because Rogan is unscripted, violates FCC laws, ignores the stupid “One thought per break” and interviews people who are either insane, intelligent or both.
    Imagine McVay coaching Joe Rogan? HA! “Hey, Joe… I think Ben Shapiro isn’t what the world needs right now… maybe you could just do the weather and read a story about a firefighter who saved a cat… but make sure you throw the call letters in there too, Joe.” The edge is where we are and where the attention (money) is going. Just because you can’t coach talent on the edge, or are uncomfortable with the competitive creativity that’s needed, please stop holding back the rest of the industry.

  3. Tom’s point is what used to work no longer works so well. Be a brand of interest. Otherwise, you will be ignored.

  4. I had to go back and read McVay’s note one more time. I didn’t see anywhere where he was saying shut up and play the music, or don’t do personality, or don’t stick out, or don’t entertain. He was simply saying think carefully about how much you’re going to spend out on the edges, the fringes, the far left or far right of politics and conversations that go into those areas. Sort of like back down the old grunge sound from 50% on your rock station to maybe 5%. Or, pull down the wimpy stuff or really hard stuff on your A/C to some palatable number so people will listen more. That’s what I got out of it.

    You might want to take a look at a Joe Rogan podcast. He go up the middle, the show flirts and bounces off the edges but the conversations are all fun, and fair, and level headed, and irreverent at times, and completely civilized. They cover a lot of ground but they basically stay mostly in the friendly middle lane overall compared to the slanted alternatives of FOX or CNN or CNBC etc.

    And….they’ll talk to ANYBODY who’s interesting. Sanders (while running for Pres) for 2.5 hours straight, Jaimie Fox and Robert Downey Jr for a couple hours (when does Downey talk to anyone?). Etc Etc. Why do they stay so long? They’re having fun, and it’s entertaining to those 3-4 MILLION viewers each episode. Lets repeat that… 3 – 4 MILLION+ each episode for a podcast.

    The WSJ no less just called Rogan the new mainstream TV. He’s that big now. It’s not the networks anymore which LEAN one way or the other. It’s Rogan who goes up the middle. Mainly because HE’s up the middle. So there’s no continual ‘lean’ that’s so incredibly boring. And when you watch, you’ll see it is ENTERTAINING big time as he does it. You would never say it’s milk toast. Never.

    Viewpoints and opinions are great, everybody has them. Many times they’re right. But facts and hard numbers are nice too. They point out pretty clearly, which road to take is lit up the brightest.

  5. Great work, Tom! Mike is walking the PC “make my clients happy line”. He’s not the only one. The same cast of outdated consultants that have played for their jobs instead of pushing for content that really matters are the problem. Stop listening to the same voices, saying the same thing only with different buzz-words. Start using the pandemic to flush the pipeline of boring, predictable and safe advice. It doesn’t work.

    • Amen!

      And, for those who have forgotten, McVay left his in-house consulting work with Cumulus last year…yeah, that Cumulus. Admittedly, the Dickeys were the ones who really left Cumulus in its bankrupt wreckage, before McVay came along…but, I don’t see that McVay did much of anything to turn around the mess. I think I’ll look elsewhere for my music programming expertise…

  6. So, where are the corporate managers, GMs, GSMs and PDs in this conversation? I’m no defender of Sales over Programming, but who is championing the cause for creative content to the powers that pay? Back in my green-behind-the-ears years, I asked my colleague John “Cap’n Jack” Chapman what the purpose of a radio station was: to break new music or play the same ol’ stuff over ‘n’ over. Without skipping a beat, he tells me “The purpose of a radio station is to make money”. How do you get the message you’re preachin’ Tom to the paycheck writers?

  7. I think most owners/corporations agree with McVay, and most air personalities agree with (Truckin’!) Tom… and there’s the problem. Just read a great article on the always socially aware Ben & Jerry in the NYT. You may piss off a few people along the way, but remember, you don’t need a 100-share to win. If the phone’s not ringing and/or you’re not getting complaint letters & emails, you ain’t tryin’ hard enough. When my grandkids ask “what did you do during the Great Pandemic?”, I don’t want to say: “played Air Supply records”.

    • Thanks for making my point for me! You’re right. Most owners would agree with your boring pablum for the masses approach. However most real true air personalities would not. They’ve been systematically shut up and or driven out of our industry. That’s why there’s virtually half the universal aqh as there was at this time 10 years ago. N a personal note, you made a snarky reference to my exciting top 40 past and a name I haven’t used since 1977 so as to somehow try to discredit me. You have no credibility because you won’t even give your name on this post!

      • Maybe I’m just reading ‘Drake’s’ comments wrong, but I think he’s actually agreeing with you, Tom…especially as I read the last couple sentences.

        Perhaps Drake760 would be willing to come back on here and clarify or amplify on his narrative.

        • You’re right Robert. I just read that and I totally misunderstood that comment while multitasking doing 50 things at once so I apologize to Drake 760 whoever that is.

          • Yeah, you read it wrong, Tom. I agree with you. And the Truckin’ was not meant to be snarky, but rather an homage — to one of the best Cookin’ jocks of them all. If you didn’t listen to WIXY 1260 at night, you were out of the loop the next day at school.
            If I stirred it up a bit; well, then… my work here is done.

  8. I agree! Thankyou for speaking out Tom. For too long, Industry leaders have been lamenting about the lack of Air Talent on one hand, while censoring or eliminating talent on the other. And please, someone grow a pair and relegate political correctness to the trash bin where it belongs, along with “here’s comes another 12 songs in a row”!

  9. Can I get an “A-men”?
    How about a “Hell, yeah!”
    Mike has gone all milquetoast on this one.
    Glad he’s not MY PD. If he was, I would be back at the shoe factory – all apologetic and with hat in hand.


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