It Wasn’t Video That Killed The Radio Star

I was told by a friend to start doing this, if for no other reason than it will be good for my soul.

Not wanting to deprive my soul of my greatness here goes nothing.

The funny thing is, since 1980 writing has not been the go to medium. I’ve been in radio broadcasting since August of ’80, so there’s been a microphone in my face all this time and the only writing I did were notes about show topics and the smart ass remarks that go with them. (Too bad I didn’t keep all of those they’d be worth hundreds today)

Radio was always something that made me smile when I was young and when I saw Wolfman Jack in American Graffiti I knew I wanted to get in on the fun. You go into a room, play great music, say some funny things and at the end of the week they give you money, how cool is that!

The whole business stayed cool for a very long time, until a couple of things that happened in the 90’s. One was computers were everywhere and taking jobs in many parts of everywhere and the other was big business was given the green light to buy almost all of the radio stations and begin running them and the industry into the ground.

I already know what you’re saying, “Mike, you sound like a disgruntled former employee, so of course you’re going to say that”

Disgruntled? Yeah, I am a little. Wouldn’t you be?

An industry that you love and help build, promote and give countless hours to (everything you see, think, hear about or dream is potentially show prep, so you are always “on the clock”) suddenly says to you, “We have a computer that can do that” or “Your position has been eliminated” because there’s some fat old man in Florida, another guy in LA who was lucky enough to host a TV show that took off (not because of his talent because he has none), an arrogant schmendrick in New York or someone else with a syndicated show that is given to local radio stations for free.

What’s wrong with that Mike, sounds like a good business decision, cut costs and use that money for promoting the station and bigger prizes for the listeners! Besides Mike, if you were any good at being an air personality you’d still be doing it, so there!

I’ve already argued the other side and yes it is a smart business decision to cut costs, if your selling dish detergent or automobile parts. Broadcasting is selling relationships.

That’s your friend coming through the speaker or your TV. You watch and listen because you like your friend.

Everybody likes having friends…I said friends…plural…not just one friend for the whole damn country. You need at least 2 in case 1 is passed out next to you when you need the other one to drive everyone home.

Don’t get me wrong. There are still some great local personalities out there. You noticed I said local. They’re great because they are local, they are part of the community and a friend to it. They talk to you, let me say that again, they talk to you! Not just play endless music marathons because they are a computer programmed to do that and in between say something like “Playing the best/hottest/classic music you remember/grew up with/soundtrack of your life or just freakin want to hear right now” Actually you don’t but your stuck with it because it’s all we’re going to play.

Plus, I love these stations with first names like Bob, Frank, Jack and Jill. What about names with some backbone? Where’s ChiChi 101, where music comes in pairs. Nachos 104 junk food for your ears! Hell 95, you know you’re going might as well enjoy the ride! And since they have Sunny why not, Paxil 98 for those rainy days.

When it’s just a computer acting like a human it feels like a politician searching for that one word or phrase that will make you feel, even if only for a moment, that everything is going to be the absolute best it will ever be and…wait a second, no politician ever pulled off that miracle, so I guess the computer acting like a human sucks as bad as John Wayne playing Genghis Khan, yes that John Wayne and that Genghis Khan.

Speaking of a computer, can’t you just download all that music onto your phone, why do I need anyone reading really bad liner cards while I wait for a song I haven’t heard in almost 2 days?

Radio personalities made the industry because they had talent and they got that talent because they were allowed to develop it on the overnight shift. They made you smile and inspired others to do the same. Plus, when there are others doing the same, there’s competition and better and more diverse content and opinions.

Not just one person giving their opinion again and again (sometimes because it is their opinion and other times just to keep you angry and listening). You hear that opinion so often that soon it is accepted as fact by some and also repeated as fact by others.

There’s another reason to have competition because you end up with everyone’s point of view. We used to call it an Editorial Voice and big business was only allowed to own 2 in each community. Don’t worry though, I’m sure after cutting costs we are still getting everyone’s point of view…before they decide which one to keep repeating.

One more thing, if the changes in the 90’s were for the better of the industry and the public, how come more and more people are listening to their phones instead of the radio and cars have a place to plug your phones in.

There are many great podcasts out there with many different subjects and opinions. Do yourself a favor and do a little internet searching for the one you like or better yet start your own.

All you need is passion.

Think I still have any?

I know my soul feels better.

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  1. You routinely hear how great computers are and what tremendous advances have been made as a result of the computer technology. That is hard to debate but for all the cost savings, technology advancements and instant communications computers have enabled, they have also cost jobs, craftsmanship, and personal contact. Yes today it is not always about passion, its just about 1’s and 0’s on some computer program.

  2. I started in the business as a TV cameraman in 1959, and until the 90s I was led to believe that we broadcast in the public interest. Your blog is so spot on I plan to share it on FB with other friend from broadcasting. Thank you, thank, thank you, And I hope your soul really does feel better.

  3. Thank You So Much Buzz! I operated a camera for a short time during live news casts and I now have a huge amount of respect for camera operators. There is an art to doing it right and the viewer benefits from that connection as well. Too many places going to auto cameras including the one I worked for in Las Vegas.

  4. Thanks for the very well written article. I left my full time radio job, shortly after I was moved from KVEG to the FM side, so I could complete my degree at UNLV. I anticipated the demise of radio, as we knew it then (in the 80s) to complete college because I didn’t want to clerk in a convenience store or some other menial job because I only had an 8th grade education. In my opinion the eighties were some of the best years of country radio. At least in Las Vegas and for me.

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