by Howard Lapides
“Hello Honey, it's me. What did you think when you heard me back on the radio? I am the morning DJ, on W*O*L*D, playing all the hits for you, wherever you may be.”
Harry Chapin, "W*O*L*D"
Once, not long ago, radio, AM stations and FM, was special. Always entertaining, radio found new music and DJs told us about what the new. Always, radio made listeners wonder and it’s hard to accept how far radio has fallen.
Jerry Del Colliano knows the acme and the nadir of radio. He lived the height of radio success and watched its horrific descent into nothingness. When he says the end of radio is now, not tomorrow, you must believe him.
Knowing Jerry Del Colliano, as I do. Reading his blog, “Inside Music Media” and speaking, with him, I sense I’m sitting Shiva for an old, trusted and loyal friend – radio. Radio is not yet dead. Still, we’d be foolish to believe radio wasn't near the end.
I talk to men and women who love radio, but want to murder the messenger. They say Del Colliano sells doom. “Why doesn’t he focus on the answer to save radio,” they ask, “rather than focusing on failures?”
Del Colliano has answers. His answers speak to the future of radio, not its past. As any unknown or uncertain terrain, the future is sketchy and scary for most of us. Many try to stop his message.
Most important, Del Colliano inspires thought. Inspiring thought is his greatest gift. Converting thought into action is our job, not his.
Del Colliano is a polarizing figure. Many years ago, I learned not to pick a fight, with someone who buys ink by the barrel; that is, the media. By exposing the sins of media consolidators, Del Colliano takes aim at those who buy ink, figuratively, by the barrel.
“You haven't made it, in Hollywood, until somebody wants you dead,” is an old saying. Radio consolidators and corporate owners want Del Colliano silenced. He must be right.
I spoke with some of his harshest critics, recently. The irony is rich. Off the record, they speak with great respect, even admiration. For the record, they defile him.
Radio is on life-support, slipping into and out of a coma, unlikely to see the light again. Del Colliano beats this drum loudest, but he’s first to beat the drum, most loudly, for a new radio day. Radio, he says, is in the delivery business, using Model-Ts in an age of spaceships.
The big record labels, such as Warner Music Group or EMI, are along for the ride into a void. The labels cling to ways that didn’t work yesterday and won’t tomorrow. Is it a fluke, how radio and labels are crumbling together?
Del Colliano urges we look to the future, not to the past. Listen to the young, mimic what they do. Get a grip, he says, it’s not back to the future, but into the future.
Grub Street(GS) Two blogs, both published by a Jerry Del Colliano, populate the web. Do you publish “Home Theater Review” as well as “Inside Music Media”?
Jerry Del Colliano (JDC) My son publishes Home Theater Review.
GS How did your weekday blog, “Inside Music Media,” come about?
JDC Well, I was in a lawsuit with Clear Channel, the radio chain. Clear Channel sued me for $100 million dollars. It didn’t like what I wrote in a daily newsletter I published, called “Inside Radio.”
GS Not liking your content isn’t much of a reason to sue.
JDC Well, it’s easily understandable. In 2000, when Clear Channel sued, it was a company worth $38 billion, with more than eleven hundred radio stations. There was much for Clear Channel to protect.
GS Clear Channel Communications is a publicly traded global media and entertainment company. It claims, today, more than 110 million listeners hear its more than 800 radio stations, each week. Clear Channel also claims to specialize in mobile and on-demand entertainment.
Clear Channel claims to employ more than 20,000 men and women. There are too many “claims” and “more thans” in their official documents. It’s also interesting that Clear Channel doesn’t pay a dividend.
JDC Yes, that’s the company. Randy Michaels, who’s now with Tribune, in Chicago, ran Clear Channel, in 2000. He’s a tough competitor and plays rough, but has more hot air than a balloon-float in a Thanksgiving Day parade.
Michaels and I are hockey fans. I love the Philadelphia “Flyers,” a team that understands the need to poke an opponent, occasionally. I poked Clear Channel, hard and often.
GS What did you report that upset Clear Channel and Benjamin Homel, oh, I mean, “super jock” Randy Michaels?
JDC The truth is what I reported. Clear Channel allowed disc jockeys (DJs) and general managers (GMs), for example, to go on promotional junkets paid for by record labels. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates radio, discourages such gifts. Junkets cloud thinking about what records to play, never mind the other ethical implications of accepting gifts from suppliers, potential advertisers or collaborators in one-sided deals.
GS Do you have another example of something you wrote that Clear Channel found offensive.
JDC Yes, in San Diego, Clear Channel owned several radio stations. I affirmed, based on fact, it had deals with other stations, in that market. These deals allowed Clear Channel to act in a monopolistic way. This clearly, no pun intended, violated several laws and FCC rules.
GS There were many reasons for the actions of Clear Channel to have implications outside radio.
JDC Yes, Congress had much interest in what “Inside Radio” reported, and for good reason. I fed Congress all the information I found. There was more than radio at stake.
GS Clear Channel didn’t like what you were doing, that is, upholding the law.
JDC Randy Michaels claimed I was “using the pages of [‘Inside Radio’] to disrupt [Clear Channel] business and cause [its] employees to question the integrity of their company.” The lawsuit specifically claimed I engaged in a “vicious and concerted campaign of coercion, public vilification and harassment.”
GS Those are weighty complaints.
JDC Not once, at least before filing the lawsuit, did Clear Channel consider the truth of my reports. As a company, Clear Channel did not like me, much. Nor does Michaels care for me.
When Michaels was at Jacor Radio he tried to buy “Inside Radio.” He won’t admit it, today, but there was a $7 million offer for “Inside Radio.” I declined his offer.
The lawsuit, in November 2000, claimed I was trying to force Clear Channel to buy “Inside Radio.” Finding a way for Clear Channel to own “Inside Radio” was important; Clear Channel wanted control. If it owned my newsletter, the content would reflect Clear Channel interests, good or bad.
GS Rather uncouth, even vulgar, it seems. How did you respond?
JDC I counter sued, in July 2001, for $125 million. I was uncovering and reporting illegalities and feeding my information to Congress. Clear Channel wanted to destroy my business and stop its regulator, its country, from finding out what it was doing.
GS Clear Channel seems subversive.
JDC It’s right out of a bad spy novel. Clear Channel hired detectives to follow me around, to root out my life. What the detectives reported was that I was closer to Mother Theresa than I was to Madonna.
Clear Channel tried to insinuate my father had ties to gangsters, that he was a mobster. In fact, my father served with General Patton, in World War 2. After the war, he worked a government job.
GS Seems your biggest fault was starting a newsletter, which moved to the Internet, and reported the truth.
JDC Yes and it would have been satisfying to go public, with my facts. Clear Channel wisely settled, in August 2002, before we went to court. It bought “Inside Radio,” from me. Then Clear Channel integrated that publication into “M Street Journal,” which it owned and controlled.
I worked radio and television news, for years. I was a PD. I was on air. I ran “Inside Radio” for years. No one sued me for anything I said or did.
Clear Channel sued me for reporting the truth, but Clear Channel settles before we go to court. When I blog, I get my facts right. Truth is first for me, and the best defence against anyone who wants to play fancy and footloose, with my work.
GS Any regrets about the fiasco, with Clear Channel.
JDC It’s all good. Radio is great. The late 1990s and early 2000s, was a stressful time for me. Recently married, my father passed away and I was caring for my mother, who lived with me.
Still, radio never disappointed me. Despite Randy Michaels and Lowry Mays, who sold out his radio family, I loved and love radio. Nothing spoils radio for me.
GS Why is Lowry Mays evil?
JDC Mays and B. J. “Red” McComb started Clear Channel, in 1972, when they bought what is now KJ97-FM (KEEZ-FM), in San Antonio, Texas. Lowry Mays retired and his sons run Clear Channel. Mark is CEO and Randall is Vice-chair.
Mays led the consolidation, of radio, which murdered the medium: he got the money together to buy all the good radio stations. Lowry Mays is not a major market radio person or a major radio person, at all: he’s a money person.
When Lowry Mays led Clear Channel, its nickname was “Cheap Channel.” Cut costs to the barest minimum. Fire the staff. He did whatever he could to up his profit, despite community and listener needs.
This was before Clear Channel became a consolidator. When the fusion, of radio into large ownership chains, began, Clear Channel became the evil empire. It had hundreds of lawsuits going at the same time; it threatened everyone, up and down; look what it did when I wrote the truth about it. Clear Channel was and is a bully.
Most women and men, working radio, can’t afford to contest a lawsuit against a behemoth, such as Clear Channel. I spent a fortune, my own money, battling Clear Channel. My Italian mother told me, “Save for a rainy day,” and did it rain on me.
GS I think John Rook spent a fortune fighting Clear Channel, too.
JDC That he did and my friend, John Rook, is a good man. He went needlessly through a lawsuit, with Clear Channel. My lawsuits happened about the same time. Rook was one of the many Clear Channel victims. You know, it’s like when people say, “If you survive cancer, you can survive anything.”
Clear Channel is a cancer on radio. I honestly feel that way. I feel like I’ve been to the other side. I saw the white light. I came back.
GS Didn’t your settlement, with Clear Channel, keep you away from radio and media, for many years?
JDC Yes, the settlement included a four-year no-compete clause. The no-compete condition kept me away from all media work for four years. I couldn’t rear my head.
Yet, I couldn’t sit around; that’s not me. I took an offer from University of Southern California (USC), in Los Angeles. Teaching, for four years, at USC, was great.
Almost the day after the end of the no-compete term, Inside Music Media” was publishing. Women and men in and around radio and music liked my blog. “Inside Music Media” is fair, combative and populist, as am I.
I don’t care much for media owners or management. Yes, there are many good men and women running radio stations and other media, but fewer every day. Radio no longer attracts good, competent men and women, as it once did.
The traditional radio and music trade press feeds off the owners, the consolidators. Trade magazines or newsletters depend on advertising. Life may be easier if you keep advertisers happy, never mind the truth or fact.
GS Karl Marx is smiling from his grave. Roughly, what’s the readership of “Inside Music Media”?
JDC About 200,000 women and men read “Inside Music Media,” each month. It’s more than any radio trade publication, to my knowledge.
GS You write every weekday.
JDC Yes and about 75%, of “Inside Music Media” readers, have it delivered directly to their e-mail boxes. “Inside Music Media” readers are loyal. I think this is a compliment.
I never take readers or their compliments lightly. Many women and men, working in radio and music, want to read what I write. They rely on it.
GS Yes, that’s a compliment. Do many “Inside Music Media” stories come from your readers?
JDC Overtime, a third of the stories come from readers. That means 66% of the stories come out of my head. I’m a little more out there, I think, but I don’t specifically research stories for “Inside Music Media.”
“Inside Music Media” covers various topics. Readers get pieces on motivation, for example. Radio and the labels are frequent topics. I don’t care much for how radio owners treat those who work for them; one per cent commission for the sales team or making cold calls on personal time are worthy targets of my ire.
GS I understand you’re about to start charging a fee for “Inside Music Media.”
JDC The popularity of “Inside Music Media” led to a decision to begin charging $99 a year for access to it. I know I may lose 90% of my readers. If I hold 10% and that’s a lot, maybe a thousand a day, “Inside Music Media” is a good business.
GS You’re a populist. You favour the worker, the radio worker, so much.
JDC I do that.
GS You are for the working stiff. “Inside Music Media” often details the exploitation and harm done to radio workers by radio owners; lives shatters and careers severed. Your empathy is commendable, but charging $99, a year for “Inside Music Media” seems inconsistent with your populist ideals.
JDC Yes, but we’ll start charging a subscription fee sometime this summer. At this point, the annual fee is $99, but that may change. We continue to work on a plan for taking “Inside Music Media” to subscription.
GS “Inside Music Media” seems most helpful and important to radio or record label workers. An annual fee, of $99, seems steep for those working for low pay or out of a job. Yet, these are exactly the women and men who get the most out of “Inside Music Media.”
JDC We may lose 90% of our readers, once we start charging for “Inside Music Media.” Only one per cent may be able or willing to pay the fee. I don’t know.
What I do know is the worth, of “Inside Music Media,” is what readers are willing to pay. As long there’s no charge, we don’t know the honest worth of “Inside Music Media.” If one hundred men and women will pay $99 a year, each, the publication is worth $9,900; if 1000 subscribe, we’re worth $99,000.
Our worth speaks to our authority. Right now, as a freely available blog, “Inside Music Media” is easy to dismiss, much as a neighbourhood tabloid or circular. When we’re subscription based, our subscribers give us clot.
GS It’s about autonomy, in a way, isn’t it.
JDC It is and if I get 2,000 or 3,000, I’m going to write for 3,000 people. It is the way of the future. It’s what I believe. I can’t be out here spouting something that I’m not willing to do.
Although $99 a year seems where we’re going, I expect some choices. Perhaps, we’ll give away the first five paragraphs of the daily story. If that’s enough for a reader, then there’s no charge for “Inside Music Media.”
If a reader wants the complete story, we may charge $9.99 and include a one-month subscription. This choice lets a reader find out if “Inside Music Media” is for them; they can continue resubscribing, monthly, until they want to stop, or go on and off the subscription, as they wish.
Another choice, we’re thinking about, is 99 cents for the story published today, only. After reading a few stories, in full, someone may move up to the monthly rate. After a few months, he or she may move to the annual fee.
GS Who was your favourite DJ, from the days when radio was radio?
JDC I’d have to say Dan Ingram.
GS Ingram is a fine choice.
JDC He was so good! He was funny. His production was good, his tempo always on mark. Ingram was a great role model.
GS When I told Dick Summer about this interview, he thought you’d be one of those kids who hid a transistor radio under the pillow at night. One of those kids listening to the heartbeat of the big 50,000 watt, clear channel monsters out of Boston and New York, Cleveland and Chicago. On a good night, even Los Angeles. Were you one of these kids?
JDC Not exactly, I had a transistor radio in my back pocket, when I used to mow lawns. One day, one of my regular customers noticed the earplug I used to listen to radio. The customer says to my father, “I didn’t know Jerry was deaf. When did he lose his hearing?”
My father tells him I’m listening to radio, while I mow. That’s how novel transistor radios were, in those days. Ear buds were from outer space.
GS Whom did you listen to as you mowed?
JDC Jean Shepherd, on WOR-AM, in New York City, was among my favourites. I listened to Dan Ingram, of course, and Carleton Fredericks, who did shows about alternative medicine, long before we understood its importance.
GS It’s unbelievable, such exceptional radio talent. Did you listen to Dick Summer?
JDC I did. He’s great; his voice is exceptional. Today, Dick is doing great podcasts.
GS I’m listening to you talk and telling myself, “You’re not talking with Dick Summer.” You sound like Dick, so much.
JDC That’s a great compliment. He’s smooth and intelligent. I like the comparison. I doubt that I’m that smooth, but I’ll tell you he’s smooth. I hear his podcasts and think, “Wow, this guy gets it.”
GS Yeah, Dick Summer is a wonderful, intelligent, warm man. He likes what you do, saying “Del Colliano gets past the nuts and bolts of the machinery of the radio business. He often gets into the colours that radio paints in the big picture of our lives. The bitterness that he feels for the assassins, who strangled the magicians that lived in the box, comes through loud and clear, in almost every blog. He's my kind of radio person.”
JDC Dick Summer has a zest for life and a zest for radio. His zests are contagious, I think. Radio people, today, should share his zests. Dick Summer is an infection we need.
GS I read that “Inside Radio,” which led to the Clear Channel lawsuits, started in your bedroom, when you were 18 years old.
JDC No, I wasn’t 18 and it was in a room over a garage. I wish it were the garage. If I had known the garage was a source of ingenuity, I gladly would have frozen my butt off in the garage. Then I could say I was like Steve Jobs.
I was above the garage, on a bad streak, when I started “Inside Radio.” I was out of work, fired from a job I did well. I made a pile of money for a less than stellar radio station.
GS What station was that?
JDC It was WIBG-AM, in Philadelphia. Desperate for a job, with few decent prospects, brought me to a point where I said, I’m going to start something. I know about the radio industry. I was a PD. I’m thoughtful. I have a degree in journalism. Why not do it? I created “Inside Radio,” a newsletter for PDs
For the first couple of months “Inside Radio” didn’t go anywhere. I was rehashing the same content as everybody else. Then I began to write the newsletter the same way I talked, with friends, on the phone. “Inside Radio” took off.
GS When did you start “Inside Radio”?
JDC That was in 1975. ‘Inside Radio” printed on yellow paper. Some people said, “Well that’s yellow journalism,” but I took it as a compliment. “Inside Radio” did shake the world and took many, many different forms.
“Inside Radio,” for example, was the first such newsletter to go daily. It delivered by fax, when fax machines mostly sent junk. It had advertisers.
GS It was thriving in the 1970s, for sure.
JDC Oh my, it was a great time for a great industry with great people. I loved to go to work, put my feet up on the desk and talk, all day long, with one interesting person after another. The radio industry was thriving and most everyone was happy.
GS Where did you start working in radio?
JDC My first radio job was at a Jerry Lee station. Jerry Lee hired me at what is now B101, WBEB-FM, in Philadelphia. A great station to start my career and Lee was the best.
GS What were the call letters, when you start at the station?
JDC It was WDVR-FM, “Delaware Valley Radio,” which is now a non-profit station licenced to Penn-Jersey Educational Radio.
FM was new when I started with Jerry Lee. We only had four commercials an hour and mostly uninterrupted elevator music. Imagine four spots an hour, today.
GS A typical commercial break, on radio, today, is six minutes long, with may be a dozen spots crammed together near the bottom and top of the hour.
JDC I was a young man, when I worked WDVR-FM. I had all I could do. I fell asleep, one night, in the middle of my shift. “Ebb Tide” was playing.
If you recall, “Ebb Tide” is a long, dreary instrumental. Worse, yet, another instrumental followed “Ebb Tide.” Something by the Mantovani Strings, I think.
How could a teenager, going to school, during the day, and working the late shift at WDVR-FM, not fall asleep to such music? About ten seconds into “Ebb Tide,” I nodded off. When I woke up, the Mantovani album was tracking through.
Marlon Taylor was the PD, of WDVR-FM, at the time. He fired me, which I deserved. Today, Taylor and I are great friends; he’s a top radio talent.
I wanted to kiss Taylor, on the lips, for firing me. My next job was in television, at channel six, WPVI-TV, in Philadelphia. The station was and is an ABC affiliate.
GS That’s a good start.
JDC I was fortunate, not yet 20-years old, working major market radio, then television for three years, all on camera. Before I was 25-years old, was a PD, in Philadelphia, with little radio experience. I worked for some great radio names, some great companies, too. I like to think I learned much.
I don’t want to return to those salad days. Those were good days, mostly because that’s yesterday. Time sweetens some memories.
I’m sure radio won’t survive using those old ways. Yet, I feel fortunate I was a part of those glory days, of radio. It was my luck, mentored by the best and working alongside great radio DJs, PDs and GMs.
A few weeks ago, I held a Media Solution Lab. Dick Carr attended. What a thrill.
Carr hired me, for WIP-AM, the MetroMedia station in Philadelphia. I was barely old enough to shave. It was a miracle to work on that station, when it was number one in the market.
GS Yes, WIP-AM was a powerhouse.
JDC Dick Carr and Marlon Taylor let me make many mistakes. What they wanted was for me to learn from my mistakes. That style of mentoring served me well, but doesn’t exist in radio, today.
GS About the Media Solutions Lab offered through “Inside Music Media.” I talked to a few participants. Each one raved about the Lab. What was the purpose of the Lab?
JDC Well, the Media Solution Lab idea is different as I’m different. I wanted with create an entertaining and informative workshop. The atmosphere was accepting and approving; no one, who attended, had to agree with my ideas or me.
The goal was a free exchange of ideas. Too often, seminars focus on the ideas of the moderator; me, in this case. I kept the Lab going, so everyone stayed active, but I tried to help more than lead.
The success, of the Lab, lay in challenging ideas, old and new. Participants learned from one another. We worked through ideas and wondered what ideas could take us into future. (See “Inside Music Media” for 3 February 2010.)
At the end, of the Lab, we had a question and answer session, which I led. It ran over, a long-time. I like to think the Media Solutions Lab got participants curious and that’s why the endless stream of questions, at the end of the day-long session.
The idea behind the Lab was to draw ideas from the participants. I wanted to help organize their ideas and challenge their long-standing ideas. I tried to keep the focus on the future, not the past or present.
GS Did you like the outcome, of the Media Solutions Lab.
JDC My sense is the Lab worked, well. If we missed some goals, that’s all right; we realized most goals. More than 94%, of participants, reported they’d return next year, for another Media Solutions Lab. I’m happy.
GS You often write, in “Inside Music Media, that we’ve reached the end of radio, as we knew it. What destroyed radio? It wasn’t, as predicted, video.
JDC Consolidation, not video, destroyed radio and it’s about that simple. A few companies, such as Clear Channel and Cumulus, buy hundreds of radio stations. Then cut costs to the barest minimum, usually by firing the staff and reducing the pay for workers who keep their jobs.
GS There’s a good reason we call such companies chains.
JDC Consolidation revamped, in a negative way, the radio industry. It wasn’t the Internet or text messaging, nor the iPod or the on-line sharing of music. Consolidation killed the radio industry.
Corporate owners, such as Citadel, bought top stations, beachfront property, if you will. These corporations borrowed, at low rates, from a seemingly infinite pool of cash offered by equity investors. The consolidators then overpaid for stations; the offers tempted most owners.
The consolidators found a foothold; markets bought and owners, who wouldn’t sell, forced into bankruptcy. A great many hard-working, well-intentioned owners and entrepreneurs cashed out. Their choices were two: something or nothing.
The FCC relaxed ownership rules, too. Before long, a corporation might own five or six stations in one market; the old rule limited ownership to two, one AM station and one FM. Consolidated stations shared offices, studios and a sales staff. Only one GM needed, not six.
GS Some of the cost-cutting is severe and foolish.
JDC recently reported, in “Inside Music Media,” about a Market Manager promoted from General Sales Manager (GSM) to Market Manager. He had to take a pay cut, to keep his job. The consolidator fired his Sales Manager, but said he couldn’t hire a replacement (19 March 2010).
I’m not making this up. Today, this Market Manager also handles all the major agency accounts for his stations; runs promotions, does sales training or at least what the company tries to pass off as sales training. He produces local commercials, with no production department. The lunacy goes on.
GSAny wonder he’s having a nervous breakdown.
JDC It gets worse. In Houston, Texas, Clear Channel recently let “Lex and Terry” go from its main station, but kept them on to voice track as many as thirty other stations. At those thirty local stations, Clear Channel let local DJs go and with them links to the community. This move was purely to save money, as I wrote in “Inside Media Music” for 2 February 2010.
GS It’s widely known that on 15 January 2009 and 20 January 2009, Inauguration Day, Clear Channel fired almost 2000 employees.
JDC Yes, and a reader, of “Inside Music Media,” told me that on 20 January 2010, many of the remaining Clear Channel employees wore black, to commemorate the mass firing, a year earlier. Next year, I understand, expect a bigger, better and improved protest.
GS Yes, if Clear Channel has any employees left.
JDC Still, the evil empire, Clear Channel, continues to move purposefully, slicing local payrolls and saying how great it is for radio. Its conclusions, about the benefits for radio, are counter-intuitive. If radio is in financial trouble, building the local audience will increase revenue and ease, if not solve, the problem. Keeping local DJs, the one advantage radio has left, and using less voice tracking are good moves for radio.
GS How does voice tracking fit.
JDC Voice tracking, recording one announcer for use on several stations, cut costs further. Digital technology made voice tracking easier. Today, it’s possible to supply content to several hundred stations from a central studio or a laptop computer.
Clear Channel uses Ryan Seacrest for much of its voice tracking. Citadel, as reported in “Inside Music Media,” for 3 February 2010, hired consultant Mike McVay. In turn, McVay hired Donny Osmond to voice track Citadel stations.
As I reported, in “Inside Music Media” for 3 March 2010, Clear Channel now demands DJs voice track, without extra pay. It’s an add-on to their normal on-air jobs. One victim e-mailed me, “My letter of intent said, ‘Voice tracking one additional market with no additional compensation.”
Seemingly, these extra duties apply to union and non-union DJs. No-charge voice tracking seems the wink and nod that lets a DJ keep or get his or her job. Today, a pay cheque, in radio, is a claim or so it seems.
GS Voice tracking removes a huge advantage for radio, the local DJ, and is self-destructive.
JDC Consolidation undermined radio content. Existing listeners, in some way, stuck with radio, but new listeners heard little of interest. This is how radio, in the USA, lost as many as 80 million potential listeners.
The Internet, e-mail, smart phones and iPods are widespread. In the last few years, text messaging has grown exponentially. Everyone, potentially, connected to everybody, 24/7, is a fact.
In the swirl of consolidation and technology, radio lost out. The newest generation, those under 30-years-of-age, say, have no loyalty to radio. The lack of loyalty is their response to negative experiences when using radio.
When the under 30s, Gen-Y, tested radio, they found little or nothing of interest. Familiar and useful choices were available for music, the iPod, and for news, texting, e-mail or web sites. Radio, stuffed with annoying commercials, offered nothing to Gen-Y.
DJs, once trend makers, vanished, replaced by saccharin voice tracking. Radio, once the place to discover new music, dropped the ball. The consolidators, focused on assets and cash flow, ignored content.
I believe the radio industry could have marshalled the 80 million Gen-Y consumers on to new delivery platforms, but didn’t. This failure changed radio, forever. That’s why, when I blog, people say, “Well, you know, there’s too much bad news when I read you.” I know, but I report, I didn’t create the bad news.
If I were doing radio, I’d do it differently. I tell you, lose 80 million listeners, in one generation and your business is history. There’s no way around it.
GS Is there no possibility of reclamation.
JDC There’s no recovering from such a blow; not a chance.
JDC Radio lost that audience. The body cremated. The ashes spread. There’s no changing their minds, the Gen-Y. Radio wants them back, but it’s too late.
GS There’s no way to lure them back. This is interesting. Everyone I talk with has an idea or ten about how to reclaim the Gen-Y audience. You’re about the only one convinced they’re not reclaimable.
JDC Radio lost that audience, it’s gone, not to return. In fact, the way for the radio industry to survive is don’t do radio. This is where people get mad at me. Radio as we knew it is over and done, please accept the facts.
Think about it. A Martian lands, in America, and winds up on “Larry King.” A caller says, “Tell us what you think.” The Martian says, “I don’t think you need 24/7 radio. You have other ways to get information. Hey Larry, my iPhone vibrated, telling me the Associated Press has a news bulletin. If I want weather, I can go to my iPhone, my laptop or look out the window. There are too many choices and radio isn’t a good one.”
Meanwhile, radio station owners cut DJs, personalities. The DJ is the one facet radio does that no other media yet do. Why dispense with your sole advantage?
After alienating 80 million listeners, falling farther behind when it comes to technology and tossing its one ace card, how can radio come back? It can’t. The new media, smart phones, for example, offer what users want, when they want it and how they want it; radio can’t compete, any more.
GS It’s time to get into a new business.
JDC Here’s what we have, today: radio as a commodity. Those who borrowed money to buy stations couldn’t make radio work. Now, the consolidators are letting the equity investors, those who lent the consolidators money to gobble up stations, assume control of radio stations.
In 2006, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital Partners, both private equity investment firms, bought Clear Channel for $18.7 billion. At the time, of the sale, to Lee and Bain, Clear Channel owned 1,150 radios. Lee and Bain, and other equity investors, bankrolled consolidation, take a more direct, almost day-to-day role, now the consolidators can’t adequately service the debt.
Lee and Bain said all 56 Clear Channel television stations and 448, of its radio stations, located outside the top 100 markets, were for sale, immediately. Providence Equity Partners, a private company, bought all the Clear Channel television stations, in 2007. The asking price for the television stations was $1.2 billion. (See Mark Basch, in the “Florida Times-Unions” for 10 November 2007.)
Lee and Bain sold 161 radio stations to various interests, for $331 million. (See “Business Week” for 25 March 2010.) These stations were the less desirable properties, outside the top 100 markets. The selling price, of these stations, was likely less than Lee and Bain paid.
The questions that go begging, in the mumo jumbo of equity deals are two. What do the new equity owners know about radio? What do they care about radio?
GS I think the answer to both is not much.
JDC Investors, such as these, like a simple approach. Rarely are they successful turning around a reclaimed company. Rarely do they care, as I reported in “Inside Music Media” for 11 February 2010.
Equity owners view radio as a commodity, much the same as apartment buildings or strip malls. They apply the same business plan to every investment. Cut costs to barest minimum, find a rewarding cash flow point and look to sell at top dollar.
For radio, this means firing the local staff and keeping the transmitter and tower in top shape. Run the station for pennies on the sales dollar. Don’t offer permanent jobs or worker benefits.
In “Inside Music Media,” for 7 March 2010, I wrote about “perma-lancers.” These are the media workers, of the future. David Westin, head of the News division at ABC, leads the way to perma-lancers in the media.
ABC News is now hiring freelancers for top jobs. The pay is good, for perma-lancers, but there are no benefits. Each perma-lancer is a contract worker, around as long as need, but not more and never off contract status.
Perma-lancers are the employees of the future and not only in radio. There are no benefits, no job security and no employer commitment beyond an early buy-out clause. This is not good.
GS The destiny of these workers is to slave every day until they pass away, as they have no benefits. I wager that when their pay grows too large, they lose their contracts or take a hefty pay cut.
JDC Yes, but back to equity owners managing radio stations. When Wal-Mart or Home Depot knocks on the radio station door, offering to buy tons of advertising, at a huge discount, equity owners accept. When expenses are next to nil, all revenue is attractive. If the equity owners have hundreds of radio stations, under such conditions, profit is certain.
GS The community goes wanting, in this view, no jobs, no content, only advertising and voice-tracked music.
JDC Yes and here’s where the Portable People Meter (PPM) comes into play. Wal-Mart or Home Depot only wants to know a station has some listeners, at some point in the day. These advertisers don’t care about listening, only hearing: will women and men hear their commercials.
The PPM doesn’t signal honest listening. Its data reflects hearing a station, not listening. For that reason, radio loves PPMs. As you walk in a mall, the PPM picks up stations playing in the stores you pass.
You hear these stations. You are not listening. What the big box-store advertisers need, to succeed, is for you to hear their spot. If you hear enough spots, enough times and you’ll react intended.
A radio spot heard makes Wal-Mart successful. The equity owners, in a way, run a string of transmitters and towers. Their business is billboards for the ears.
GS How did the equity owners get hold of radio?
JDC Equity owners, investors, lent money to radio consolidators. The interest rate was low, for the day; if something seems too good to be true, it usually is too good to be true. When the time came to service the debt, the consolidators defaulted.
After years of failing to service their debt, the consolidators are giving radio stations back to the equity owners. Equity owners will take radio down further, into the depths of nothingness. They’ll sell stations as they can and for less than they paid.
Equity investors find ways to create fees on each transaction; equity is about fees. Fees will make up for reduced recovery of debt. In the end, radio destroyed, equity owners get their fees and move on.
GS You mentioned, in the 11 March 2010 issue of “Inside Music Media,” that Joey Reynolds was a victim of commodity radio.
JDC Yes, Reynolds honestly entertains listeners and has for almost fifty years. He gets better all the time. Starting 2 April 2010, he’s gone from WOR-AM, in New York City, where he’s done the all-night show for years.
Rick Buckley owns WOR-AM. Good radio is in his genes, he’s a remnant of the mom and pop days of radio. I worked for him in Philadelphia.
Citadel dropped “Coast-to-Coast” from WABC-AM, in New York City. The show, which George Noory hosts, syndicates through Premiere Radio, owned by Clear Channel. “Coast-to-Coast” needs a New York City anchor to attract national advertisers.
Charlie Rahilly, CEO of Premiere Radio Networks, knew where to look, when WABC-AM dumped “Coast-to-Coast.” WOR-AM was available and vulnerable. Joey Reynolds takes a fall.
WOR-AM replaces Reynolds with Noory. Its costs shrink by a small fortune. “Coast-to-Coast” production costs spread over more than 500 radio stations; it’s an inexpensive way to fill time, overnight, between commercials. Servicing listeners is not a consideration.
GS WOR-AM was likely wise enough to buy out Reynolds, in some way. What about lower profile radio employees?
JDC Many lower profile radio employees find themselves out in the cold. In “Inside Music Media,” for 21 February 2010, I reported on Brian Mass, who worked sales for Cumulus in San Francisco. Fired and denied unemployment benefits, Mass filed a Class Action suit against Cumulus.
I believe such lawsuits hasten the end for radio consolidators. Debt servicing lags far behind and advertising revenues are wobbling. Now, lawsuits promise to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
GS Historically, all media find a lasting niche. Maybe the telegraph didn’t find a lasting niche, but print, radio, television and film did. Smart phones, iPods and other new technologies will join the list of media choices. This is the history of the past 100 years. Yet, you seem convinced radio will vanish, not simply languish, having lost its way in the maelstrom, never able to return.
JDC It’s an interesting point. What no medium did, except radio, was ignore and turn away a generation of users. Radio turned off, no pun intended, 80 million women and men.
This is the Achilles heel, of radio. That’s its problem. Owners were busy reaping the short-term benefits of consolidation and ignoring content development.
GS Penny wise and pound-foolish, I’d think.
JDC Radio ignored the Internet, declining to grow into and with it, missing many opportunities. Now, at the dawn or later of the mobile Internet revolution, radio is a decade behind. It has no idea how to catch up, if catching up is possible.
The lesson is you can’t ignore a generation of listeners. Radio did, as owners counted their new-found booty, and its ashes spread as we talk, today. All bets are off, for radio; it can’t bring the Gen-Y generation back. The sunset isn’t on the horizon; it’s in the studio.
Sell the AM and FM bands. Cell phone and other mobile technologies can make good use of these bands; there may be military uses, too, and uses we’re unaware of, today. As radio ignored a generation, it lost its place on the dial.
As I reported, in “Inside Music Media” for 24 March 2010, the FCC might raise $20 billion selling some or all the AM and FM bands to broadband-hungry companies. Consumers covet their cell phones and the Internet. Radio owners think listeners can’t live without radio. What consumers can’t live without are their mobile technologies.
On demand is the growth industry of the near future. Radio owners stick, stubbornly, to the fantasy that 24/7 radio is essential. Yet, fewer and fewer stations are live and local, 24/7.
I don’t understand how radio chains, such as Clear Channel or Cumulus, can claim, with a straight face, that radio is a community lifeline. These companies change local stations into repeaters as fast as possible. Local content vanishes to cut costs and communities go wanting.
GS How do you see the end of old radio and the new radio era?
JDC For a PD, 7:20 am may be his or her peak audience for the day. She or he may use the moment to announce contest winners, each getting a new BMW. Maybe the moment devotes to a promotional spot aimed at recycling listeners later in the day.
In fact, there’s no 7:20 am audience, any more. At 7:20 am, stuck in traffic, I’m texting or on my cell. At 7:20 am, I get real-time traffic updates on my in-car entertainment console, not my radio.
Suddenly, a PD, somewhere, realizes, the station has no audience. The only listeners each won a beamer. The time has come to adapt, but most likely it’s too late, the ship has sailed for radio.
The station runs a 24/7 cycle. Maybe it should run on 20-minute content. Maybe the station needs to download chunks, of music or information, to mobile technologies or stream in a shorter form. Maybe the station needs to stop airing commercials. Most spots are ineffective, as people hear radio, these days, but seldom listen.
GS How does radio pay the bills, if no commercials?
JDC New ways to deliver new content call for new ways to develop cash flow. Podcasts, with commercials, won’t work. Radio can’t pay its cartage the old way.
Old radio sent a sales team into the field. The team knocked on doors or, maybe, cold called from the station, with in-person follow-ups. This does not work any more.
The extent to which this approach no longer works is obvious in new sales practices. On 29 January 2010, a reader, of “Inside Music Media,” reported, “I am an ex [sales person] at Cumulus. My last cheque [was] $211.09 on almost $20,000 sales.” Many other stations expect the sales team to cold call on their own time, that is, after normal working hours, without specific compensation.
GS What alternative do you foresee?
JDC More sensible, these days, is to charge micropayments for content. Send a tone to cell phones, for example, signalling a local news bulletin is available. If the person clicks to hear the bulletin, a small charge comes out of their account or applies to a credit card.
GS I understand how micro payments add up to macro revenue.
JDC Each radio station builds a network, of listeners, in a sense. Once, radio got content from a network. Now each station must sell content to listeners in a network.
The new listener goes to the station web site, which is easy to navigate. He or she registers. She or he signs on for notices about new music, news, local events or whatever.
The listener also opens an account, which she or he pays monthly. He or she might provide a credit card for direct billing. There are many payment processor choices.
Then the “listener” receives a text message, “New ‘White Stripes’ record now available.” He or she taps the number-one key, on a smart phone, for example, and instantly hears the new record. Automatically, a small fee goes against her or his account.
Radio can do the same for news, sports, traffic or weather reports. For someone stuck in the 1990s, this strategy seems sketchy, wreaked with hazards, but isn’t. Many web sites offer such services, now, more are starting to do it every day.
GS How does this work, if radio survives, in the least?
JDC Discovery is the key. “If you like, ‘Lady Antebellum,’” says a DJ, “you’ll love ‘Lady Post War.’ We discovered her in Compton, a few weeks back. Her first song is ‘We Own the Future.’”
Maybe interview her or take calls. Do whatever works. The content is 20 minutes long and delivered to a smart phone, for example, or through a web site. The point is no commercials; the listener chooses content, listens when he or she wants and pays for it, directly.
To create revenue, I run events, which the 20-minute show promotes. There’s an admission charge, for the event. I sell tee shirts and other products. One or another company will sponsor the event.
GS The possibilities are limitless.
JDC I earn a huge profit based on giving away unique 20-minute content, featuring an act I took the time to find and nurture. As well, I might charge few cents for the content. I text my network, letting everybody know the new music is available, and each member decides to listen or not.
The future is about offering content and making money in tiny packets, such as 29 cents. Create revenue from ancillaries, such as events, tee shirts and so forth.
Radio owners want to exchange music for commercials. This no longer works. A six-minute commercial block drives the most interested listeners to their mobile technologies.
Increasingly, radio commercials are ineffective. Way in the background is radio, today; few listen, many hear. For advertisers, such as Wal-Mart, which succeeds when potential buyers merely hear its sports, radio works; it works less effectively every day and not for much longer.
GS A future for radio is thus possible, if radio owners make it dubious.
JDC Yes, but the future is not the past, as many want to believe, yesterday is gone. We need to create a new path to the future. Old radio ways are over. New radio days may exist.
We need to stop trying to save old radio ways. We need to stop trying to save the record companies. The sad part, I guess, is radio and the record labels might have walked the new path, together, into the future.
GS Radio and the labels should have created the new path.
JDC Yes and the “app,” that is, a small, dedicated applications for mobile technologies, iPods or computers, seems the key. I recently heard that iPod apps passed the one billion dollar mark. That figure is startling, since many good apps come at no cost.
I also heard about 1-in-3 of those who download an app, paid or free, use it more than once. Some radio stations sell or give away apps, which instantly connects a user to news or local event information. My point is this is where every radio stations could be and should be, today, in 2010; instead, radio relives 1990.
GS Can we talk about the music industry. You’re on record saying record labels are not and have never been marketers.
JDC Yes and consider when a new artist records a song, how does a label sell the artist and the song? How do they make sales?
GS Traditionally, the label would find a way to get radio stations to air the song.
JDC Yes, the same radio stations they want to tax, for playing music, promoting their product. The same stations, the same music directors (MDs), that made hit after hit for the label. It’s moronic.
GS Morons are everywhere.
JDC Labels are not marketers. When I was a PD, in Philadelphia, the record promoters, who darkened my door, had little, if any, awareness of radio or music. Most often he, it was mostly men, in those days, was a generic salesperson. Most record promoters were all right, not all as bad as some believe, and always colourful.
In the 1970s, a promoter walked into my office and opened his chequebook. He’d say, “What is it going to take to get so-and-so on your station?” My first offer, from a label, was, “How much money do you want.” If that didn’t work, there was more. “How about a trip to Las Vegas, hookers included.” “How about drugs, a new car; you name it.” It’s payola, not marketing.
GS That’s marketing for record labels.
JDC Yes, this is how record labels marketed. It’s not a surprise to me, today, to learn that without the way radio was once, labels have and are nothing. Maybe it was too easy, all those years ago, and there was little incentive to grow as marketers.
GS They don’t know how to make something when they don’t have it.
JDC No, they can’t get their arms around this fact, if you give the music away they will come. If you give it away, on radio, listeners buy because they heard your music and liked it. You give it away and they buy; same idea, no different, for the web or mobile, but label executives can’t wrap their arms around it.
GS An acquaintance, who’s about 21-years old, told me he used radio, for a while, to find new music, but no longer. Now, he relies on word-of-mouth or good luck to find new music he likes. He says it’s getting harder to find news music.
JDC There are many ways and many new opportunities for labels to market music. Radio must have what listeners want when they want it, especially young people. Record labels want to use the model they understand, which has been wrong since the year 2000. As radio declined farther, the record industry declined: is it a coincidence.
GS You often mention Edgar “Efer” Bronfman, junior, CEO of Warner Music Group (WMG), in “Inside Music Media.”
JDC I write much about Bronfman. He and others like him have ruined the music business. As in radio, WMG, EMI and other record companies want to continue the old ways and ignore the future.
Bronfman talks about units sold, inventory. This is old thinking, which might still work in the business of distilling liquor, I don’t know. Bronfman and those of his sort don’t think the way they must think for a successful future. Their ideas stem from the days when record companies made vinyl or CDs.
Bronfman and others of his sort can’t grasp the digital era. All they know is mergers and takeovers. Bronfman wants to buy EMI, for example.
Artists are flocking away from EMI. “Pink Floyd” recently sued EMI, successfully, for trying to sell individual cuts from its “concept albums”; the “Rolling Stones” and “Radiohead” fled EMI years ago. EMI has deep financial and artist difficulties; still, Bronfman wants to buy it.
Many record label CEOs know financials, but not technology or music. They don’t understand discovery. Find new artists or new music; build your company around the new.
GS Labels, through the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the lobby group, are suing teenagers for sharing music. Are the suits a dodge from honesty? Are these lawsuits how the labels justify misunderstanding the recording industry.
JDC Suing customers is not good business. Let consumers hear a cut or two from an album and they’ll buy. Radio airplay was nothing more than a form of sampling. Giving away music through radio stations, which gave it away to listeners, sold billions of records.
Here’s how absurd the lawsuits, by the labels, against the consumer base, can get. On 31 July 2009, a court ordered Joel Tenenbaum, a graduate student in Physics, at Boston University, to pay four record labels $675,000. His sin was downloading thirty songs, from the web, and sharing his downloads with friends.
The Boston judge awarded the labels $22,500 for each downloaded and shared song. Tenenbaum thinks he’s lucky, as the maximum payout, allowed by law, is $150,000 for each song downloaded or shared. The Tenenbaum case is only the second such lawsuit to go to court. (See the New York “Daily News,” 31 July 2009, for more details.)
Tenenbaum is smart. He offers to pay 99-cents a download, the going price on iTunes, to settle the case. As I reported, in “Inside Music Media” for 23 February 2010, I’m inclined to award Tenenbaum damages for all the publicity he provided the labels.
The most recent outrage involves Whitney Harper, of San Antonio, Texas. As I reported, in “Inside Music Media” for 18 March 2010, a court ordered her to pay five record labels $27,750. Her sin was downloading 37 songs from Kazaa.
As her lawyers argued, Harper starts adult life bankrupt. She can’t find a job because of the publicity. The digital strategy, of suing teenagers, who download or share music files, is not the way to enrich or grow the recording business.
[On 9 July 2010, the penalty imposed on Joel Tenenbaum, $675,000, was found "unconstitutionally excessive" and reduced 90% to $67,500. That's $2250 for each of the thirty songs he downloaded. Though pleased with the lesser amount, Tenenbaum told the "Boston Globe," the penalty is "equally unpayable." The RIAA indicated an appeal is forthcoming. In 2007, Tenenbaum could have settled and ended the case for $4000.]
GS What’s the path forward for the labels?
JDC New music, discovery, is the strategy labels ignore. In the salad days of radio, the only way you heard new music was on a radio. A PD, like me, could say, “I’m only adding two new records a week.” That’s what I said.
Now I realize adding two new records a week isn’t music discovery. Nor was it good radio. Whatever two new records the PD at the top station, in the market, added, the competition also added. Limited and repeated discovery isn’t effective, any more, if ever.
Listeners once looked to radio for new music, but no longer. PDs, today, want to air the same records, repeatedly, between the same commercials. Sirius XM, satellite radio, offers a choice, of sorts, but listeners soon tire of “Lady Antebellum” and new technologies may cut the audience for satellite radio.
Not bothering to discover and nurture talent and music works, for a time. The music industry needs to get into music discovery; local bands, local artists. There are many ways to highlight talent and use the viral to create an advantage.
GS This is especially for the Gen-Y music buyers.
JDC Yes, Gen-Yers find what they want, their own way. Word-of-mouth is the best way to find new music, today, not radio. Future label giants will discover and develop talent, spreading the word virally, using word-of-mouth.
Look back a generation for the best example of how discovery works. Who discovered Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and others?
GS It was Sam Phillips at Sun Records.
JDC Where is the Sam Phillips of today? Where is the new Sun Records? Who is discovering what, when and where?
GS Efer Bronfman and WMG don’t, that’s for sure.
JDC If I ran a label, I’d ask, “What do I have that people want?” The answer is simple: nothing. I can’t do anything. I can’t even sell well-known artists. Ostensibly, that’s where WMG and other labels are now.
If I wanted to build a stable, profitable label, with a future, discovery is the only route. I’d collect talent. I’d develop talent. I’d own a piece of the talent.
GS Will the push for 360 deals save the big labels.
JDC WMG and other big labels want 360 deals. These companies want to share in all the cash streams an artist creates. This includes recordings, however sold; concerts, tee shirts; endorsements, ring tones and much, much more. Yet, labels don’t want to pay big money to sign an act. (See more details in “Inside Music Media” for 17 February 2010.)
The big labels promise more promotion, over a longer time span, for talent that signs a 360 deal. Looking at the accomplishments of the big labels, talent must be wary. These labels don’t know what it takes to fulfil a 360 deal.
My imaginary label, Hoboken Records, knows how to work a 360 deal. We’re going to discover new talent and music. We’re going to develop what we discover. We’re going to get our discoveries seen and heard. We’re going to tour our talent and go with them. We're going to sell tee shirts and key chains, and provide a service for fans and the talent. We’re going to make money.
GS I find it interesting that Bronfman, for all the complaints levelled against him, bought WMG and paid off the debt in three years.
JDC You can never argue with paying off debt and WMG does sell more digital music than any other label.
GS Is that right.
JDC Yes, but Bronfman has no clue about the industry, where it is or where it’s going, later today or tomorrow. Digital is as good as found money to the big labels. It’s sad.
Tomorrow’s the problem. The big labels want each act to sign a 360 deal, which is wonderful, but the truth is no label knows how to make such deals work. In the future, you must go out and find music; create new styles and help artists develop. The labels don’t know how to succeed in such a varied way. They make plastic and can’t image or manage careers.
GS The big labels, as radio, have no way out.
JDC Yes, soon there won’t be any need for record labels. New ways to deliver music, such as iPods, smart phones or other mobile technologies, open the door for those who stress creativity and marketing. The next successful generation of label executives will discover new music or talent and know how to make a 360-deal work.
GS Is there a role model, for the labels or radio.
JDC Yes, Steven Paul Jobs, CEO of Apple, is most fitting here. Steve Jobs is a baby boomer. He loves music and hates multitasking. He creates technology in line with his loves and hates.
Steve Jobs is a unique man, who listens mostly to his own beat. Yet, he understands his market; he is his market. He satisfies his own needs and, in doing so, satisfies the needs of millions of women and men.
The labels need a Steve Jobs. He understands how important design and aesthetics are for success. He creates products that work, successfully, and are elegant: the iPod, for example.
Early adopters, of the iPod, were young. The product worked its way up to older generations. Today, the iPod is almost a need and the iPad will surely follow the same path to success.
This is another reason for the FCC to auction off the AM and FM bandwidths. The iPad and its soon-to-market competitors gobble up much bandwidth. The AM and FM bands are ready fodder for broadband-hungry companies.
Labels and radio, in the end, need to embrace new ways of delivering content, music, news or weather, to listeners. Steve Jobs did. He now gets thirty cents a download, recently passed the 10-billion-download mark and is smart enough not to start a label.
GS I want to ask you about some people. This is a Barbara Walters question. Let’s start with John Rook.
JDC Well, John Rook is the Chairperson of the Radio Board, to borrow a moniker used by William B. Williams. He earned the right to be an icon and he carries the mantle well. John Rook cares about radio and its listeners. He nurtures talent. I like him a lot.
You know the interesting fact about Rook is here’s a man who can do what he wants. He’s earned that right. Yet, he’s always moving forward, in every way. That’s what entertainers do, that’s what entrepreneurs do, they keep moving forward, looking for the next audience. John Rook is among the best.
GS Let’s talk a bit about Paul Drew, the PD.
JDC Drew is a big influence in my life. Today, 10 March, is his birthday. That I remember this fact shows how important he is in my life.
I was young and in college, when I worked for Drew. I never saw anyone else who came close to Drew. He was so efficient and taught me so many lessons.
Paul Drew wasn’t all human relations, although he’s wonderful. He is a competent person. Still, he scared me to death, figuratively.
When Drew got angry, when he called you during your on-air shift, it was not pleasant. He’d rip you in all ways. He’d say, “What am I doing listening to you right now. I can’t I go to sleep, with you on the air.” Still, he was a huge influence on me.
GS Mike Joseph is another A-list radio PD and consultant.
JDC Again, this is how fortunate I am. In Philadelphia, I got a job at WFIL-AM, six weeks before it was going to become a Top 40 station. That was the summer of 1966.
I saw Joseph walking around the station. He always wore a black suit and black glasses ala Woody Allen. He morphed WFIL-AM into a non-Drake version of “Boss Radio,” on Sunday, 18 September 1966.
Mike Joseph was different from others in radio. He was happy finding the hole in a radio market and filling it, creatively. He didn’t care what others thought.
Joseph had a gift; his instinct, intuition and intellect naturally took to radio. I liked him. I think he was a brilliant man. He had a particular gift for knowing what works, in radio. He used to say, in a pinched nasal voice, “What everyone else is doing, Jerry, I will do a different sound.” He used to call it a sound. “I will do a different sound.”
His contract usually called for payment over a year or so, although he typically stayed in a market for, maybe, four to six months. Once Joseph left a station, the new PD would change what he created and the ratings would plummet, but that’s radio. Mike Joseph was stellar at finding the hole in a radio market and hiring the best talent.
He did his job. He got his money. He left town. He was the top radio gunfighter.
GS Claude Hall comes to mind, too.
JDC Well, there’s a great name. Claude Hall is a populist. Claude loves DJs. He wrote a famous column about radio, “Vox Jox,” for “Billboard” magazine. He loved DJs.
Claude loved to hang around DJs. He knew how to stroke the DJ ego. Every DJ loved and loves him, in return.
Claude Hall made radio a fun business. When I read what Claude wrote about DJs, in “Billboard,” I said, “Wow, he has the greatest job in the world to know all of these talented people on that basis.”
GS Yes and he’s loved to this day, a great, wonderful man, Claude Hall. Another radio name is “The Real Don Steele.”
JDC Well, I did not know Steele, personally. All I can say, from an on-the-air view and working the Drake format, at one point, is that you must admire Don Steele. His talent fit the Drake format, as did no one else. It’s difficult for Steele not to impress.
GS Did you know Bill Drake?
JDC I met him several times. I wonder if anyone knew him, well. Drake was a recluse, of sorts.
The Drake format is a beautiful format. I love it. It’s how I’d do radio in heaven. I talked with the long-time companion, of Bill Drake, shortly after he passed away, in 2008. I said, “When I have to go, I’m going up there and seeing if he’s got anything for me to [PD] because I’m sure he’s getting rid of the clutter.”
Drake focused on listener needs and wants. In his format, he numbered every part of a DJ show. If you could do everything, on the format sheet, you entertained, as did Don Steele. The Drake Format was good for listeners and radio.
GS I always ask about “Wolfman Jack.”
JDC I didn’t know him, personally. “Wolfman Jack” epitomizes, in my view, the crazy radio business, which allowed different kinds of talent to succeed. You can have a Don Steele. You can have a Robert W. Morgan. You can have a DJ, a total lunatic, on air, but he makes you say this is good radio, only in a different way. You can like vanilla ice cream, but you can like mint chocolate chip, too.
GS Can you talk about Clive Davis, who’s now Chief Creative Officer at Sony Entertainment Worldwide?
JDC Clive Davis is old school. Still, let’s not take anything away from Davis. Davis is a standard for the radio and music industries, a non-performing member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and maker of much money for those who employed him.
I’m not going to say that, today, Davis knows the future. I don’t want to be critical, in that way. Still, I sincerely believe he doesn’t understand the future any more than does Edgar Bronfman.
I don’t know if Davis has nor had a golden ear. Does anyone have a golden ear for music? Can anyone honestly predict trends? Is it luck? These questions need asking, on a regular basis. In his time, Davis has found top artists, knew how to develop those artists and make money, making music.
The music world, today, is not the golden day of Clive Davis. As long as the music industry sticks to older, less successful ways of doing business, he thrives, I guess. I do believe the old ways are slowly, for now, giving way to new ways. When the speed of change increases, and it will, eventually, Clive Davis and others of his sort will need to find something else to fill their time.
GS The next name is Bob Hamilton, publisher of radio-related newsletters and such.
JDC He published, “Bob Hamilton & Friends Radio Report.” He’s an interesting character. When he published “Bob Hamilton & Friends,” he did like a little magazine. I liked it. I felt it was cosmic, reading it. I couldn’t wait to rip open the envelope and see the gloss; it made me proud to work radio.
This is why I loved the radio industry. So many unusual and creative men and women worked radio. Hamilton had his own world: a world that took DJs and PDs and made them stars. Hamilton wrote and talked about PDs as if they were stars, which was rare.
GS The last name I’ll throw at you is Bob Lefsetz.
JDC I don’t know Lefsetz, but I read him. I like it the best when he stirs the music industry pot. He writes about many other topics, about his life, skiing and so forth, but loops everything back to the music industry.
When Lefsetz writes about the music industry, I agree more than I disagree with him. Sometimes, Lefsetz mires in the way the music industry was, once. Mostly, he’s right on the money with the digital future.
Lefsetz calls record labels what they are, dinosaurs, and he’s direct, in what he writes. You either accept it or you don’t. He has a great many readers and rightfully so.
GS Thanks, Jerry.
For more on the Clear Channel settlement, of its lawsuit against Jerry Del Colliano, see David Hinckley, New York “Daily News” posted at 7:18 am on Tuesday, 6 August 2002.
Clear Channels spent $819,000, from 1 October 2009 to 31 December 2009, for lobbyists who got it what it wanted, with knowing anything about radio. (See “Business Week” for 25 March 2010.) What Clear Channel wanted was to make gobs of money selling its assets, without much scrutiny.
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Interview edited and condensed for publication.
dr george pollard is a Sociometrician and Social Psychologist at Carleton University, in Ottawa, where he currently conducts research and seminars on "Media and Truth," Social Psychology of Pop Culture and Entertainment as well as umbrella repair.
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