Saturday 03 Dec 2016

All Over the Road
Matt Seinberg

I was talking to radio sister, Robin Marshall, the other night just to catch up. I wondered how she and her family were doing in their new hometown. They recently moved Charlotte, North Carolina.

We had great chat. Robin made a comment to me that gave me an idea. I said to her that what she said would make a great column. A problem arose.

I didn't write down her idea. For the life of me, I can't remember what we were talking about; at 10:30 pm, I'm not calling her. This isn't the first time it's happened and it won't be the last. I should keep a big board near my computer and desk for times like that. A memory is a terrible thing to waste.

I got an email today from my friend, Kim Diamond. She lives in Biloxi, Mississippi. Her name may have a familiar ring because she worked many great radio stations, including FARCE-FM, in San Francisco.

It was a blog by "Cory Cory," lamenting the slow death of the disc jockey (DJ). The blog is available on several social media sites. After reading the blog, I wondered, "Where has Cory been for the past few years?"

Only now, he recognizes a decade long trend: the demise of radio. I wondered if he listened to radio over past ten years. He seems surprised at the demise of radio, its formats and DJs.

I've discussed this topic, endless. I'm tired of it. How many times can I tell someone what the bean counters, vampires and the program directors (PD) are doing to radio stations? How their tactics destroyed radio. They are going in the wrong direction. Instead of getting rid of live announcers, hire more of them and stop the automation.

Let the radio business help stimulate the economy by hiring more DJs. Women and men, with jobs, , rent or buy homes and apartments, furnish them, buy food, and occasionally go out to eat; maybe to the movies. Working people spend money in their local communities and all of that trickles into the entire economy.

The Labor Day weekend is one of the times of the year when utter chaos can reign in the radio business. Stations will have special countdown weekends, have contests with good prizes and even flip formats. This is the time when limited imaginations, working in radio, run wild.

That just happened to WSJT-FM, in Tampa, Florida. For many years, WSJT-FM was at 94.1, on the FM band. In 2009, the station moved to the less powerful 98.7 FM spot on the dial.

As do many smooth jazz stations around the country, WSJT-FM ratings were dropping. Many stations tried to tweak the format to include easy pop songs, say, by Michael Jackson, Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs and others. It didn't help.

So on 31 August 2010 at 3 PM, Play 98.7 FM launched. It is an Adult Contemporary Hits Radio (CHR) format. The slogan is "Today's Best Hit's without the Rap." Does that sound familiar? Years ago, WPLJ-FM, New York City used almost the same slogan, claiming not to air rap or sleepy elevator music. Today, WPLJ-FM is also CHR, with a focus on suburban soccer moms.

I listened to the new Play 98.7 and enjoyed it, even though I'm sure I'm out of their audience demographic. How long will it take them to repeat the same 40 songs? How long will it take PD, Orlando Davis, to put together an on-air staff? How many shifts will feature a live, local DJ? How much automation will Play 98.7 FM programme?

Now I'm begging for any radio executive to be brave. Hire me and let me PD your radio station for one year. Let me assemble a killer air staff that is on 24/7, and will be so involved in the community that everyone, in town, knows the station because we will be among them all the time.

Give me a dedicated promotions department that has a realistic budget to spend on TV ads, billboards and lot's of great prizes. Let me have a sales manager that understands what the programming department does, and will work hand in hand with it. Recruit college students to toil as unpaid interns, and let them learn the craft of radio, from being on the air, to selling ads and then writing them. Send them out on the streets with bumper and window stickers, and other little promo items to give the station exposure.

Don't ask what formal training I have. That's not relevant right now. Part of being a good manager is hiring the right people. I know plenty of them that would work with me in a New York minute. It's been a longtime dream of mine to program a radio station, and in this environment, I know it won't happen. That's why someone with chutzpah must come forward, and give me a chance. I promise you won't be sorry.

When I sat down to write this, I had no idea where I was traveling. I truly went all over the road. This time I didn't have my kids to tell me to put on Debbie, the GPS, so I wouldn't get lost. I hope you enjoyed our little trip together.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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