(By Mike McVay) Last weekend, because of a charity that I’m involved with, I was part of a group invited to attend WWE’s Summer Slam in Nashville at Nissan Stadium. To be honest, I have been to wrestling matches before, but not like this. This was a most special night. I met with and had a chance to speak to Stephanie McMahon, albeit briefly. She’ the Chairwoman and Co-Chief Executive Officer of the WWE. I found her to be totally engaging and engaged in our conversation. Wrestling isn’t a “thing.” It’s the “only thing.”
Wrestling isn’t new to me but seeing it up close was. Some air-talent that I’ve worked with have served as ring announcers. I was involved in consulting a radio show that was connected, through family, with “Mean” Gene Okerlund. I’m a casual friend with a wrestler in the NWA. The purpose of me sharing my (albeit limited) wrestling resume is to say that, despite all of that, I had no idea that the WWE was the entertainment conglomerate that it is. Their leadership team is all about entertainment and performance to a high level. They are all about giving their fans an unforgettable experience. They did that and more.
The build-up to every match was enhanced with video. The wrestlers entered the outdoor stadium with spotlights on them, wearing costumes that belied the character of who they are, and they performed as they walked the long-elevated walkway to the ring in the middle of the stadium. Walk-up music blaring. Fans screaming and cheering. It is best compared to what it must have been like when gladiators walked into the coliseum to fight to the moment of “thumbs up or thumbs down.”
The WWE is over the top in creating and presenting Show Biz. If you’re like me, and I expect that most of you reading this are, almost everything you see comes back to radio. You see something amazing, and you ponder its’ correlation to radio or, if you prefer, audio.
What brought it home to me is the admission that, in many cases, most of what’s “out there” today lacks show biz. We’ve largely forgotten that we’re in show business. Not forgotten from everyone. Not missing everywhere, but what was once common is now viewed as unique and special. This in no way is meant to impugn the talent of the highly successful personalities that are on the radio today, but rather to note that total entertainers are rarer every year.
There’s a certain belief that “Showbiz” means glitz and glamour, rockets swooshing through imaging messages, and listeners screaming on the air as they win prizes. When I use the word “Showbiz” it’s none of those things that are manufactured. No audio glitz. It’s the way Elvis Duran works the phones and manages a room full of voices while making the audience a part of the show. It’s Matt Pinfield telling a never heard before story about someone or something that changed the face of music.
It’s how Kellie Raspberry and Big Al interact with one another. It’s when Ellen K gets choked up talking to a listener who lost their home in a fire. DJ Envy, Angela Yee and Charlamagne Tha God cornering Kamala Harris, and it’s Bert Weiss sharing the story of how he muffed his marriage proposal by not having the ring with him.
Showbiz is Mark Levin holding an audience for an hour while doing a monologue. It’s Dan Patrick arguing the severity of the penalty for QB Deshaun Watson. Glenn Beck using a dynamic vocabulary to paint a verbal visual that could be a movie. Doug Stephan describing a day in his life that mirrors something from Lake Woebegone. John Tesh providing Intelligence for Your Life, trapping a listener in their car, because they want to know why French women are considered to be the most beautiful women in the world.
Showbiz isn’t measured by how much you talk. It’s measured by what you say, how you say it, and how it resonates with the audience. It isn’t how long it takes to say it. I can show you talent who can tell a compelling story over a ten-second song intro. Talent who communicate and connect when they turn on the microphone. Personalities that are always in show prep mode. Whatever they see, whatever they do, they’re evaluating its worth to their audience and making a decision as to whether it makes onto their show or not. That’s what’s at the foundation of creating showbiz.
Bring the showbiz back to your station. Bring it to your show. Think differently. It’s not an air-shift. It’s a show.
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]