(By Mike McVay) One of the really cool things about my job is being able to interview people that I normally would never have an opportunity to meet. That’s exactly what happened during the NAB/RAB radio show in Nashville, Tennessee late 2016. Jesse James Dupree, the lead singer from the band Jackyl, and Michael Brandvold, a well-known music expert and marketing specialist, joined me on stage for a discussion about radio and marketing. We focused on content, personalities, commercials, and Radio‘s relationship with music and the artists who make the music.
Michael is a freelance music industry consultant based in Northern California. Having launched Michael Brandvold Marketing to leverage his years of experience to provide direction to large and small clients in the areas of online & social marketing as well as e-commerce and customer acquisition and retention. He is a pioneer in using social media to develop brands.
Gene Simmons of KISS first tapped Michael’s skills as a pioneering online marketing strategist to launch and manage all aspects of Kissonline.com, which has grown into a multi-million-dollar enterprise, including their ground-breaking VIP ticket program. Michael has also managed the online efforts for Motley Crüe, Rod Stewart, Madonna, Ozzy Osbourne, Madonna and Britney Spears to name only a few.
Jesse, in addition to being the lead singer and driving force behind his band, is a businessman who has leveraged his celebrity to launch Jesse James America’s Outlaw Bourbon and a line of beers. He built and operates The Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis, billed as the World’s Biggest Biker Bar. He and his partner turned the Full Throttle Saloon into a reality TV show, too.
These two gentlemen are absolutely brilliant marketers in their own style and way. Michaels worked with many other artist and bands over the years and not only helping them develop new and additional ways to sell tickets, but how to turn the concert into an actual experience that far outlives the music that someone heard during the show. Michael lives in San Francisco, and living there certainly influenced his impressions of Radio. Jesse is a salesman, every step of the way.
During our discussion from the stage, we spoke about their experiences in marketing and where they saw the music industry and radio going. It was almost an afterthought when I said to both of them, as the session wound down, “if you were the Kings of Radio, what would you rule that Radio needs to do to survive today in this highly competitive world?” The response from the gentleman surprised me. not only in that their responses were unique, but that they responded so quickly with what they felt would be a curative to the ailments that radio suffers.
Brandvold offered that he still listens to the radio as he drives to and from work in his car. For him the connection with the radio wasn’t so much the music as it was the personalities, the information they’re going to share about what’s going on in the community, and particularly in the morning what he missed overnight, and on the ride home hearing what he missed during the day while he was at work. Michael’s feeling is that he can get music anywhere, without commercials, and can hear the specific songs he wants to hear when he wants to hear them. What he can only get on a radio, is a connection to his community. What’s happening in his world is important to him. I would echo that it’s important to many radio listeners.
Based on what he said, it really does shine a spotlight on the value of personalities and what they bring to music stations. The role personalities play on spoken word stations, be they news/talk or sports, is equally important. Connecting to the community is something that not only brings your radio station closer to the audience, it pulls the audience closer to the radio station. It’s an important way to fortify your station against the competition.
Jesse’s response to the same question was almost surreal, and yet was what I would say was brilliant, and is what radio should do. I want you to imagine Jesse James Dupree sitting on the stage with his long-hair, tattoos on his arms and neck, and a visual gruffness about him that screams “Biker.” He looked at the audience and asked “how many of you know who Paul Harvey is?” He continued by explaining how Paul Harvey did a 15-minute newscast every day, with the commercials read live, and embedded in the content.
Jesse reenacted how Mr. Harvey would complete a news story and then suddenly share about how he and his wife, Angel, had trouble sleeping at night. “I toss and turn wake her up, and then she tosses and turns and wakes me up. It goes on like that all night long. Until we both decided to get a new Sealy Posturepedic mattress.” Jesse made the point in sharing the story in that he believes announcers when they read a live commercial in a convincing fashion. He promoted that those advertisers, would benefit if more of the commercials were read live.
Dupree made it clear that if radio wants to “fix itself” it should air fewer commercials, with more of them being read live, and he’d charge a lot for those live reads. He added “I would tell my announcers that they have to be able to sell products when they talk on the air or they can’t work here.”
The other thing that he said with the same kind of certainty was in regard to the compelling nature that On-Air talent would have to possess to work for him. Jesse James Dupree said “I would hand an envelope to the afternoon air personality and say to him there’s $1000 in the envelope. You need to go on the air and describe the envelope, but you cannot describe what’s inside the envelope. Instead tease and encourage the audience to be outside at 5:00pm when one person will win what’s in the envelope. If that on-air personality can’t excite the audience to have 500 people outside when it’s time to give the envelope away … They are fired.”
Ignore for a moment the scenario that I just painted. Focus on the talent and skills of two marketing minds who are 100% invested in entertainment and the experience that’s created from amazing entertainment. Then add to that the filter that we radio people have whereby we worry about losing listeners, not having enough advertisers, and in-general a fear of failure. The message I get from these two gentlemen is that there is a lot that we can do to improve the listening experience. We can lower our spot load, and air more live commercials, that are sold at a premium. It should be a criterion for Air talent to be entertaining, compelling, possessing the ability to sell anything and to be able to motivate an audience.
If they can’t do that … In the words of Jesse James Dupree … they are fired!
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]