Thursday, April 30, 2009

Radio Killed the Radio Star

Imagine that you're on a ship that has taken on water and has begun to sink. That's ok, you think. I'll just get on a lifeboat and I'll be fine. They have lifeboat drills on cruise ships before you sail for just such an occasion. You gather only your most prized possessions and make your way to the lifeboat station. To your horror, you discover upon your arrival that the crew has begun cutting the lifeboats away and setting them adrift. "What the f**k are you doing?", you scream, incredulous about what you're seeing. "Relax", says the crew member. "The lifeboats are weighing us down so we're cutting them loose to lighten the load. We'll sink much slower then". You're now certain to die. It will only take a little longer and there's nothing you can do to escape certain death.

In other words, you're in radio.

600 more Clear Channel employees were fired this week. Since the beginning of the year, CC has fired 11 percent of its workforce. Has it improved performance? No. Increased revenue? No. Made them more respected as a radio leader? No. Made anyone with any sense want to go work for them in the future? Hell no. CC is more concerned with cutting expenses than creating revenue, so once again a lot of good radio people who have suffered through the whims of the company have, like useless lifeboats, been set adrift. Meanwhile, at least locally, upper management that has presided over recent periods of historically low ratings continue to get a free pass.

CCLV rolls out something this week called "Premium Choice". On the surface, it sounds like something that Cox Cable or Dish Network would offer, not a radio group. Listeners don't get to choose a jock that they want to hear. The station (KWNR) that has bathed itself in the motto "Vegas Country" will now be importing jocks from all over the country to fill in weekend time slots with taped shifts. All the while, someone perfectly capable of doing the same thing will be monitoring the board just in case (how could it?) something goes wrong. So far the only person I know of who'll be on KWNR this weekend (besides Country Chuck on Sunday morning, thank God) will be a guy who goes by the name Broadway, sent to us courtesy of that radio hotbed of - Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Man the lifeboats before they're gone, my friends

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Real Rib Tickler

I don't know anyone with the Swine Flu. I don't know anyone who knows anyone that has the Swine Flu. In fact, I don't even know anyone who's sick right now. Sure, I know a few who've been hit hard by allergies, but no one who's bedridden. I just heard there's a Swine Flu pandemic, so that should mean that I should panic. You can't spell "pandemic" without "panic". Okay, that's a reach.

Why am I so unconcerned? Maybe it's because I take above average care of myself. I just ingested a multi-vitamin, 1000mg of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), 360 mg of echinacea, and 80 mg of Ecotrin (the equivalent of taking a baby aspirin). I did it all with two glugs of skim milk. I can't remember the last time I was sick. I've taken two sick days in 21 years of employment. I've survived the previous swine flu, SARS, avian flu, and whatever other health "scares" that have been foisted upon us and have emerged unscathed and unscarred. I even had the gumption to make pork chops last night. On that subject.....

We had an extra chop so Pumpkin has taken it in for lunch today. I would love to be in their break room as she sits down to eat it and someone (a woman) will undoubtedly say, "aren't you afraid of getting swine flu?". It's guaranteed. (FOLLOW UP- Yes, it happened)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Anonymity Breeds Confusion

Strange night on Saturday. It was the day of the Kenny Chesney show at the Hard Rock and Coyote was broadcasting poolside. Nice gig, right? Well, sure, if not for the fact that my old employer happened to be doing the same thing directly across the way. Now if I was girl, this would have meant fleeing in tears and being coaxed back into the venue by co-workers confused as to why I was having a meltdown. But I'm a guy, damn it. I gut these things out.

I had a mix of feelings about the whole experience. I have no problem with not being on a morning show, with all the responsibilities that go along with that job. I don't need everyone looking to me for answers. Still, I want to feel like I'm a valuable part of the operation, something I didn't feel when I heard from a co-worker, "I didn't expect you to be here tonight". I was at a place where I felt like an outsider, and I guess maybe that's normal considering that I'm the new guy on staff. I wasn't important to the whole operation, something that I never felt at the old place. I don't want the responsibility, yet I miss the responsibility. Ah, there's the conundrum. 

I don't miss the old station, but I miss hanging out with those people. My friends. The new batch are merely co-workers. I never once thought about wandering over to their tent. I saw the person who fired me (and still holds down a job in spite of bringing that station to its nadir, ratings-wise) and thought it was best to stay at my post as opposed to holding his head under water until he stopped breathing. I sent a couple of text messages instead, and considered floating an offer out to go grab a beer when our respective duties were done. Instead, I went home and watched "Zack and Miri Make A Porno". It was a good choice. Absurdity is best viewed from my recliner.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wistful Thinking

Just getting back from walking the dog. It's the first time in months that I didn't need to wear a jacket at this time of day. It's the type of day where you wish the temperature would just hold right where it is, but the sting of the sun on your face tells you otherwise. Gonna got hot. 95 degrees hot, and there's nothing we can do to stop it. For whatever reason, the conditions of the day reminded me of not having a job. Today's the type of day I most associate with being unemployed. A beautiful morning that leads to a hot afternoon. A day of endless possibilities and a feeling of confidence that masks full-scale panic

If there's any other proof needed about the dangers of nostalgia, it's that I sometimes miss being unemployed. Maybe I'm feeling like that because it's Wednesday, the day where $336 would be deposited into my unemployment account, like clockwork. I miss the freedom of not knowing what I'm going to do that day. Nothing was out of the question. I could watch movies with the dog, gamble a little bit, have a cocktail and watch the world go by, sit on my patio and read, meet Pumpkin for lunch, blog...and do it all again tomorrow. Mind you, all of this was done to keep me from thinking that I might not find another radio gig and be forced to leave town. Still, those weren't bad times.

There's uncertainty in staying employed these days, just as there was being unemployed. It's just not as much fun.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I Give Up

I don't laugh easily. My sense of humor is on the dry side, so don't expect a hearty guffaw from a spritz of seltzer to the face, a golf ball into the nads, or a "kick me" sign delicately placed on the back of some poor sap's shirt. That said, I howled with laughter over a new initiative from my former radio employer. Read it here. Ok, if you don't want to read their release, let me boil it down for you. What's the hottest thing that radio has going for it  now? Localism! Yep, my old company is now directing its stations to be more local to better serve the community. This means more local public service announcements and programming. This mean airing of music from local bands. In all, it boils down to going back to what always made radio successful and unique in the first place. 

What's funny (in a most tragic sense) is that the very same company that is pushing the initiative for localism is the one that blazed the trial for voicetracking in shows from other markets. KWNR's new slogan- "Vegas Country". Gee, I wonder if they'll be playing "Vegas Country" sweepers during the night-time show...that's taped in Phoenix. CCLV also possess a machine which allows them to grab voicetracked shows from anywhere in the land and simply plop them into one of the dayparts, a machine they could put into action today, if the order came down.  The very company that was instrumental in killing live and local radio now has this brilliant idea that localism is the way to go. Ain't that a hoot?

In the meantime, CC station managers have gathered down in Texas, and the rumor is that the result of these meetings will be dismissals of on-air talent, many with years of goodwill accumulated in their respective markets, all in the name of cost-cutting. If none of this confuses you, you may have a very bright future in radio.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Death of Me

The social networking site Facebook has taken lately to offering little games like "What State Should You Live In", or "Five Greatest Rock Frontmen". There seems to be a new one every day. Most of it is fun, all of it innocuous. It kills a few minutes during some slow periods at work. I recently noticed this one- "What Is The Most Likely Way That You Will Die?". I passed on finding out. I already have a hunch on what the front-runners may be. The one person I saw had the result of "electrocution". I don't think mine will be nearly as glamorous. My picks are

1) Heart attack


2) Skin Cancer

My family has a history of heart disease, and I have far too many moles for one not to be cancerous. I occasionally think that I'll get snuffed out driving to work. That someone will run a red light, or I'll get rear-ended and pushed into the flow of traffic. Maybe it'll be while I'm eating at a restaurant. I always try to sit near the exit and am constantly scanning who comes in the door. Maybe a plane will drop onto my house. Those three have a remote chance at best of happening, I realize. Maybe a disgruntled listener will smash their way into the station, guns a' blazin'. I don't know. For thousands of people who'll die today, death will truly be the last thing from their mind. 

I've never been one of these "live life to the fullest every day" types of people because that phrase has different meaning to different folks. To some it means scale mountains, jump out of airplanes, travel the world (funny that this version of "LLTTF" is more likely to shorten your life, but I digress). To others it means spend time with family, eat what you want, play with the dog. I'm spending a beautiful Thursday morning writing about death while eating a Fiber One pop tart, and I really don't know at this exact time what I'd rather be doing.

Smoking causes cancer. Fatty foods cause obesity. Living causes dying. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Female Friendly

Heard it again yesterday. In order for (insert station here) to be successful, they have to be more "female friendly". I fought the urge with all of my might to ask the simple question, "what does 'female friendly' mean?" Really, I don't know, but that's been the buzz phrase for the past couple of years for what it takes to make a radio station successful. 

The three women I know the best- Pumpkin, my mom, and my sister- are all drastically different. They all get along, but they don't share common interests. Shannon hates kids and is a fan of the NHL. She doesn't watch "Dancing With The Stars". She watches "Rescue Me". My mom drinks gin every afternoon (for her health). My sister changes by the day...and that's the key here.

Radio's listenership and revenues have taken a dive ever since the goal of "female friendly" radio was first established. It's an indisputable fact that women are harder to figure out than men. Men are simple, women are complicated. So why does radio chase "female friendly" when a woman's mind changes by the hour? It's much easier to make the fellas happy than it is the gals, but that whole section of the audience is being sacrificed to reach the impossible dream- to make radio the equivalent what's on TV between 9a-3p. God help us.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Gigs III

Before I list the top 5, I should say that none of my 10 radio gigs have been bad. I've enjoyed each of them. It's like a pizza. Even then worst pizza I've had (Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee) wasn't all that bad. I learned from each gig and was influenced to a positive degree by each of the show partners I've worked with. Anyway, Top Five time

5) KDWN Traffic Guy 1/5- present

Positives: I'm pretty much left alone. It's not an easy job, so the fact that I don't have to have a meeting with the boss every week is a big positive. It helps to realize that those above have confidence enough in what you're doing to leave you alone. 

Negatives: The uncertainty of the job market, and of radio as a whole. There have been two purges of employees since January, and there's no guarantee that another won't happen, like, today. That's not a slam on the job itself, but it certainly makes it less fun knowing your number could be up because you "only" do two jobs

4) KWNR Mornings with Mark and Brooks (2006)

This was kind of an awkward time and the first time I had ever worked a morning show with three people. It always felt like Brooks was being shoved out the door, which is what eventually happened. I've laughed more with Mark than all my other hosts combined, though, maybe I should swap this with the Mark and Mitch portion of the show. Two is always a better number for morning shows anyway. Once three get in, everyone's fighting to be heard, stress and strain build, and the end product isn't as good as it could be. 

3) KWNR Mornings with Glennboy (June '97- Oct '00)

My first legitimate morning show shot. I was perfectly comfortable being the sidekick, since I still had no idea what it took to make a morning show good. I learned from Glenny that you really needed to work at it, not just show up. Not everything the GB did worked, but when it didn't, I was there to pick up the pieces. Negatives: Glennboy constantly battling with the boss, who was never a fan. That put me in the middle of quite a few spats, and led to Glenn's eventual departure

2) KWNR Mornings with Brooks (and Stunt Runt) 

Six years of success when I really felt like I was at the top of my game. When Brooks became the boss, it almost became easier. There were never personality conflicts between us. Stunt Runt was in a groove and really made some great radio, stuff people will always remember. I really thought we could write our own ticket, but management had other ideas. The ratings never recovered after Brooks was moved out of that show (and from what I hear, it wasn't her choice). I didn't like what happened to Brooks but she works in San Diego now, so my sympathy has been tempered.

1) KAAA/KZZZ, Kingman (1993-'94)

 Maybe nostalgia is getting the better of me, but I have more fond memories of my first real gig, so that tops the list. Everything was new. This was me taking a huge chance, moving halfway across the country to live in a town of 11,000 and make $4.50 an hour. It was "before" everything. Before consolidation, before automation, (mostly) before consultancies. It was before I knew what a horrible business radio could be. It didn't matter that it was market 500. It was radio, baby, and it was cool to be a part of. And we were good. The board ops knew what they were doing. The jocks knew the music. Everyone was loose and everyone was real. Simpler times, and deserving of a whole blog entry some time

It's funny, but I think if you ask any radio guy what their best gig was, they'll never say the one that they're doing right now.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Gigs II

Not that really anyone but me cares about this list, but here are my gigs, from worst to best

(NOTE: I'm just going to keep this a Top Ten list by substituting the Mitch and Mark show for the Mitch and Roy show. Ok, on with it)

10) Mitch, Mark and natalie, KWNR Mornings, (late 2007)

It made no sense for KWNR to bring in a producer for the show, especially one that had no experience producing. Trying to include natalie in the show led to awkward breaks and tense exchanges. Of course, it never helped to think that they had brought in a girl to eventually replace one of the boys- namely, me. No good came out of it for anyone involved, and that includes the KWNR as a whole.

9) KWNR part-time on-air/production/runner/ etc etc (9/95-2/97)

My first job with KWNR was working on air on Saturdays from 7pm-12a and Sundays from, 2p-6p. This was back in the day when all radio was live and local. I had just moved up from Kingman to follow my girlfriend and it was a) nice to be in a big city again, b) incredible to actually be living in Las Vegas, of all places, and c) great to be on the radio in a big city like Las Vegas. Living next door to the station made a difference for me in that I was available at (almost literally) a moment's notice. KWNR was a giant back then, and to be part of that team was special. Plus, in Mark Stevens, Bob Bishop and Stunt Runt, I made lifelong pals. Not bad

8) KGMN, Kingman AZ, morning guy (8/94-8/95)

A job where I was truly out of my league. In fact, as I type, I can't even remember why I was offered the job. KGMN was a family owned station with a very small staff. My job was simply to helm the morning show from 6-10 every day. I had no idea what it took to do a morning show, and if I had any tapes from that era, I'm sure you'd be able to tell. If I discover any old tapes, I'll never tell. I dated a girl who was a meth addict, but that's a whole other entry or two.

7) KDWN Part-Time news reporter/anchor 

After a brief stint as the KDWN Super Commuter, I was offered a job in the news department to take the place of a reporter/ anchor who was leaving. I wasn't crazy about the job that was offered, but these days you have to show your versatility, so I took it. It led to such things as sitting in the jury box as OJ was sentenced, being on scene for a murder suicide on Thanksgiving morning, and being one of the first in the nation to report on the kidnapping of a local boy by a Mexican drug gang, a story that soon after went all the way to "America's Most Wanted". There were some cool moments to the job, but I always knew I wasn't a reporter type. I'll still wear the reporter blazer on occasion when one of them is away, but it's just not me.

6) KWNR Mornings with Mark and Mitch
I'm sure I laughed more than ever during this gig, but there was also almost an equal amount of stress and negativity. Yet, I'd work with the Big Fella again in a heartbeat. I think. Still, I felt more reactive than proactive during this phase, and after 8 years in the morning didn't feel like I should be standing on the sidelines watching. natalie was brought in next and it was the shove that followed the push. 

Ok, Top Five gigs next time. Cantcha just hardly wait????