No Excuses


(Mike McVay) One of my radio friends sent me a text the other night, as he left a concert, sharing his disappointment in what he heard, but didn’t see. The performance by the artist satisfied him. The poor performance by the radio station who was involved as the presenting station was at the root of his disappointment. The air talent who came on stage to thank the audience for attending the show, and showing their support, barely said anything about the radio station. No invitation to listen. No mention of anything involving the station on-air or regarding contests & promotions, and no connection to any of the artists music on the station.

My friend is a well-known high profile major market personality. He’s been on stage at such events. He knows how to motivate an audience. At worst, he knows how to pique their curiosity, and some in the audience will try the radio station on their way home. He also shared that on the way home, he popped on the radio station, and heard nothing from the artist that would tie the station and the concert together. A different station that I’m very familiar with, in another market, notes the music on the set list as it is played, and then plays back those songs that are available in the exact order of performance.

It was also mentioned that there were no signs for the radio station in the arena. To be fair, it is difficult to get approval or permission from most concert promoters to post signage in the performance or seating area. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have a station vehicle near the venue. If you have a station vehicle, it should be on the road, and not in your parking lot. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have station logo’s T-shirts to give out to ticket winners, or hand out as people arrive, and it doesn’t mean that you cannot use social media to promote your stations connection to an artist and their music.

There is no excuse for accepting how things are as immovable objects that are blocking your path. Don’t turn back. Go around. Go over. Spend time ideating (what we used to call brainstorming) and come up with ways that you can involve a sponsor as an underwriter for those things you should be doing, but have no budget to do. The ability to “find a way” is a rare trait, but most highly successful stations have someone or some people, who find a way to market, promote, reward and build an audience.

There are many things that have been said these past few years that are excuses wrapped in explanation. The pandemic has been a blanket excuse for many challenges that were seemingly too big to overcome, one that no one wanted to overcome, or one that was used as an excuse to accomplish other goals and objectives.

There is absolutely no doubt that the pandemic was a catastrophic financial event for most businesses worldwide. Media was hit badly with some businesses around the industry seeing a 40% loss in revenue. It has changed how we do business. It has changed where we do business. It has driven many out of the business. The fact remains that using the pandemic as a blanket long-lasting excuse is unfair.

“Our ratings are down because of the pandemic.” Someone is still number one. Yes, the audience is smaller, but someone is still number one. The rankings are relative. We’re months past the end of 2020. The pandemic is a factor. Don’t make it an excuse. Resist the temptation to find blame. Find solutions.

“We can’t be out on the street because we don’t have a street team.” That doesn’t keep you from being everywhere and being seen everywhere. Air talent are local celebrities. Use them appropriately and take advantage of the investment in time and energy that you’ve made to create their stardom.

“We have no budget for promotion.” Become a streetfighter. Visit clients who have marquis outside their businesses and ask them if you can put a message on their signs. I’ve done that in the past. No money for billboards? We found people who have giant signs at their business locations and put tune-in messaging on them.

There are no personalities out there who are within our budget. I know a lot talent recoil at the proper noun “Voice-Tracker” … unless they are one. Like anything in life, there are good ones and bad ones. I can point to some VT talent who sound better than local talent in their market. That’s because they put the effort in to be local sounding, connected to the community, and entertaining. If you can’t afford a local on-air personality, why not consider a Voice-Tracker? No excuse.

There is a common misperception that there are no young people available to “come up” through the minor leagues of the performance side of the business. I get that, but it is an excuse. There are few weekend personalities and even fewer overnight talent. You have to look elsewhere. I’m often honored to speak at broadcast schools, the Broadcast (Radio) class at universities, and have talked to high school students who were blessed with a radio curriculum. That’s a starting point.

When many of us started in radio, it was sitting in our parents’ basement or attic pretending to be on the radio. That was akin to throwing a football through a tire ten-thousand times. Today you’ll find performers on TikTok, YouTube, social media, Clubhouse and places like AMP from Amazon. You have to look, but there are plenty of examples of youthful on-air talent who started elsewhere.

There are no excuses. There are causes. Maybe even real limitations. No excuses. Look for a way HOW and use the word NO when there are truly no other options. No excuses.


Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Our radio station had a zero budget for promotions, but we were creative. There was one time we traded out money with a local bank believe it or not. You can’t believe the number of time that bank got mentioned on the air they loved it.

    The most successful promotion we ever had was called The Sign Up Contest. We traded out a full page ad in the local newspaper. The ad said, WE LISTEN TO WKWK RADIO” We told the listeners to get that newspaper (that was where the trade came in) Then put the ad in a window where it could e seen from the street. The listeners could also make a sign and put it somewhere it could be seen from the street. Then the listeners could win hundreds of prizes.

    Within a week the signs were everywhere. Everywhere you looked.The home made signs were the best. Some of them looked like billboards. Next we traded out a car with a local car dealer and had had the engineer fix up a two way radio. (No cell phones back then)

    We filled the trunk of the car with all kind of prizes (traded out of course)
    The jocks would take turns riding around in the car the area looking for the signs. Needless to say they were easy to find. It was like having thousands of billboards everywhere. Even people who never listened to the station saw all those signs and tuned in to see what was going on.
    It worked like this… the jock in the car would contact the station. The on air jock would put him on the air. Then the guy in the car would says something like this: I’m sitting in front of a house at 215 Main street with WKWK SIGN UP sign. If someone in the house comes out to the car in the next three minutes they will be a winner in the WKWK Sign Up contest !!!

    If someone came out they won a prize right there on the spot. You could even put them on the air live.
    The the people at the other radio stations had to feel pretty defeated seeing the hundreds of signs going to work.

    Of course you couldn’t do this kind of thing these days. Most stations don’t have more than one jock, the morning man! And there is no way that your “VOICE TRACKER could participate.

  2. What a great line: “Drive-by Shirting”. Love that. And for the article. Mike’s dead on. Radio in public tends to be weak to awful. Is it money? Not caring? Not thinking? Not being allowed? Or a bit of all 4. Sad.

  3. Just wondering if this had anything to do with recent Grand Ole Opry inductee Jamey Johnson after he went off onstage about a country station’s air personalities being involved as part of his show, and he voiced his displeasure over it (he did not want them there as they were accused of not playing his music, and therefore they should not have had any part in his show. Makes me wonder if concert promoters are having to review what the local air talent’s role might be vis-a-vis the artist’s wishes.

  4. When I was at the original Q 104.3 in NYC, we got blocked by Z100 for a co-presents at Roseland for an Offspring show. The band was hotter than hot and we were the first to play them in the market. So, since we didn’t get the co-presents, I had promotions get about a hundred t-shirts made up with the Pure Rock Q 104.3 on the front, and the Offspring’s logo on the back with the date and venue for the show. We hinted all day long on the air to look for the Q 104.3 van outside Roseland. We showed up while the fans were lining up to get in, opened the van doors and threw the t-shirts out to the crowd. We called it a “Drive-By Shirting.” So, the crowd was full of fans wearing our t-shirt, not Z100’s.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here