Radio's Last Contest - Radio's Last Employee

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Radio's Last Contest - Radio's Last Employee

Post by gbarn » Fri Nov 25, 2011 12:09 pm

It was the celebration of a New Year, Dec 31, 2013, full of tradition, and many sought new hope, dreams, and resolutions while others reaffirmed a continued commitment to their life's purpose and work. The writing was on the wall and many sensed the drama playing out in corporate board rooms across America would soon reverberate throughout radio culminating in radio workers' Armageddon. This in military terms equates to the modern day Massacre of My Lai proportions where well over 500 unsuspecting, unarmed civilians were slaughtered.

The "smartest gamers in every room" again prove (though only to themselves) that living, breathing radio staff are finally obsolete, and will continue to be sent pink slips across America by officious HR directors. We're told radio no longer requires people for its existence, certainly not on the scale once considered essential to quality radio. Trade publications are full of celebratory headlines marking some elusive success despite the growth needle showing zero to moderate forecasts as far as the eye can see. A complicit cabal continues to paint a rosier picture than exists in fact. "We don't really need people, they simply get in the way of our visionary mission," seems to be the message of their reality.

Of course, everybody's in agreement we need more radio executives in more corporate jets! Thus, strings are now being pulled minute by minute by executives whose feet seem never to touch terra firma while continuing to enjoy their mile high cocktails and authorize the crash and burn of careers and livelihoods while circling the globe. From this vantage point they can fire those little electronic pulses to keep the ships on course. I encourage beaten down unemployed radio personnel to enroll for training at the Helen Keller Flight School to jockey one of those Bad Boy Boeing's. I suggest they all simply give in to feeling their way through this farcical Magical Mystery Tour.

Yepper, midnight, December 31, 2013 marked the final year of service for multitudes in the radio industry ; undoubtedly those who survived last year's routing wonder if December 31, 2013 marks the final year for those remaining radio drones. The next massacre of course will hit the headlines for a day or two, this will be followed by hastily assembled therapy sessions, job fairs, free classifieds, webinars and a plethora of useless articles written by vapid corporate tools on subjects including "how to get a job...... in an industry where there are no jobs." This phase is followed by an endless parade of editorials and PR pieces designed to soften the harsh poker faced, cold handed, hard hearted, lofty executives.

Now I'm feeling nostalgic, sentimental, in a moment or the blink of the eyes and I still find myself back to when radio was King. I always hear great radio in my head, even today, though I seldom find it on the dial. Nostalgic radio sounds sweep through my mind then bring a momentary and uncontrollable smile across my face. I still hear the great voices of very talented radio announcers booming on air while others expound in surrounding conference rooms. In my mind's eye, the great teachers urgently inculcated the culture of radio to new recruits, to people who they believed were qualified to excel in this unique and challenging business. "We're always looking to improve the breed," were the words of encouragement shared by my first General Manager as he welcomed me to the club.

We learned quickly about the perennial responsibility we accepted upon committing to this profession: committing to battle competitors in order to win and keep the 'mantle' as best public servants in our community, and this recognition was a high prize indeed as nothing was more important to any broadcaster than community. Listeners, we were drilled, were to be kept on a high pedestal, they decided our popularity which in turn determined how much advertising we'd attract to our stations and we all recognized this was the lifeblood of our business. Who knew?

What about news, you ask? Anything in our community making an unusual sound, move or impact was diligently reported by radio, again, in service to the community. Radio was truly a mirror held up to our town, then reflected back to the community on the air. We launched incredible, inventive contests and promotions, listeners were engaged and they expected challenging and exciting contests to outdo our last - we proudly maintained our ranking of the community favorite for listeners. Audiences grew up with us, then passed the baton onto the next generation as they moved onward and on again as happens with all great institutions and traditions...has this circle been broken? The announcer, or DJ as they came to be known, was a big deal.

Why are local DJ's becoming extinct? This is crazy, like making a bride redundant at her wedding??? Anyone can attest to the fact that DJ's embodied the soul of each station, they found memorable ways to compliment the soundtrack of our lives. Live, local radio today is seen as some nostalgic, groovy relic of Americana, nonessential.

Real radio was fueled by visionaries, people of great imagination and passion. Radio historically owned the "theater of the mind" landscape. I remember a radio giant once quip, "If TV had come first, radio would certainly have been the primary mass medium because it unleashes imagination, it's engaging, and invites listeners to fill in the blanks - unlike the boob tube, which leaves nothing to the imagination."

Radio's been a critical part of my daily life for as long as I can remember. Radio was our town's pulse when I was growing up. I truly believe from my time on into the late 1990's represented the high water mark for modern radio - correspondingly the same period of greatest community attachment to and love for radio. Mother always had a table top radio on her kitchen counter for music in the morning leading up to "town topics" at noon which reported everything from delivery room news to funeral home news and things in between. My uncle was a farmer and he'd rush in from the fields to catch the farm report. The day my little brother was born, my mother listened to my little league baseball game on the radio by her hospital bed because I told her I was going to hit 2 homeruns that day, one for her and one for my new brother. Like great radio during this period, I didn't disappoint.

My older sister battled to live every day of her short 13 years on earth, which consumed most of my parents' waking attention. During times my Grandmother knew that mother and daddy needed some quiet time, she and I would go for long drives in the country in her old 4-door Plymouth listening to the radio and singing along out loud. I particularly enjoyed the rides on Saturday nights because that was Grand Ole Opry Night. I would stuff myself in the window cavity behind the back seat, stretch out on my back, and look out the window at the stars while listening to Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Faron Young, Jim Reeves, Grandpa Jones, and so on. WSM was delivered to me compliments of, I believe, Martha White Flour. Radio was magical, indelible, and left enduring memories.

At the age of 14 on Christmas eve I decided to visit my favorite radio station. It was impulsive, I'd never been inside a radio station, my friend and I were wandering around town, he was Jewish, therefore not celebrating Christmas just as we weren't celebrating in our home since my sister's passing. Well, we slipped into the radio station that night, we watched the DJ weave his magic then after his show he took us both out for a Christmas hamburger. I got a job at that station in Atlanta 4 months later and I proudly went to work at my radio station every night while still attending school every day. I stayed with radio for the next 45 years until finally leaving it 6 years ago.

Throughout my career I've had the pleasure of working with the best, I've hired the best, and unfortunately also sometimes had to fire some people too. This unhappy task seems to have accelerated as the years progressed culminating with my final tenure in Wall Street Radio. Coincidentally, we fired more people during this final period than I ever had cause to during the sum over my decades preceding it. I was battle weary like the field commander who resigns the military unexpectedly one day having decided he no longer wants any part of the process which delivers young bodies home to their families in boxes. He instinctively knew during his service that military command changed and the chance of survival for his troops was now guided from a remote command post in the US by men in suits who had never handled a Bee Bee gun to report as any practical experience. In short, there were no experienced grunts making decisions here, no hardened veterans, just poll trawling politicians.

"Tell me, when is the war won, when is the war lost?" Wars are won and lost before they ever start. They are won with proper strategy, boots on the ground, on the seas, or by the young air warriors; however they're invariably lost by remote tacticians and strategists. We should get out of the war business if we choose to engage and but have not chosen winning as our end game.

Similarly, we should get out of radio and finally stop fooling ourselves that high-tech radio wars can be expertly won with consultants serving their many masters (the devil hath but one). The voice of radio is awash with PR to investors and trade publications, however, not with radio's historic key asset - the voice of live people. Perhaps the secret objective is not to win the war at all but rather to hold steady while the lifeblood of its people bleeds out in some vain hope that someone will eventually come up with the right formula. C'est La Vie, radio's never been shy about seizing, monetizing, then salivating over the latest shiny thing offering a quick fix.

Bill Drake painted his vision of music radio thus in his Time magazine piece 'back in the day'. As his plane made its final approach into Atlanta Airport what he saw below were not just car lights and porch lights, each light to him represented a potential listener. His vision was to bring as many of those lights and listeners into one very large group listening (naturally) to his radio stations. The formula driving his vision worked!

I know that the grim reapers taking off and landing in private jets today also look down and see similar landscapes of car lights and porch lights, all of which presumably are still quantified even by them as potential listeners. Why do these men in gray hold their cards so close to the vest? Daily news blast plane purchases from across the universe of corporate America, this along with mind boggling bonuses paid to these 'mean boys' at the head of the table must say that their winning plan to breathe life into the body of radio, now sadly in rigor mortis, will be brilliant, otherwise they wouldn't get a seat on the jet right? C'mon, peel back a few layers and give us a peak at your shiny new plan.

Will 2013 see the last employee leave radio, and who will it be? Some reading this will remember "Radio's Last Contest" contest a few years back? Mix and match the guess of who the last employee will be with the "last contest" concept and you've got a winner, or loser. This of course depends on which side you fall on and also if you enjoyed being 'groped' by a 300lb TSA inspector during your holiday travels. We know of course the elevator crowd escaped this sordid humiliation by arriving on their executive ride purchased off the backs of the savings made from laying off thousands of dispensable radio peons. And thus, as you see, there is one airport, but two very different outcomes at the final destination. What's wrong with plain old first-class?

I love radio, just like I love trains, boats and things. I love all traditions which keep us grounded and like many others I hold back tears standing to sing the Star Spangled Banner, recite the Pledge, or sing Auld Lang Syne on New Year's Eve. Those schmaltzy old-timey traditional things we all choke up over that make us human.

There are better times ahead. Believe it, believe in rebirth (of yourself). Make personal renewal and :D reinvention your objective in the coming year. Above all believe in your common sense which guided you before political correctness ran common sense out of town on one track while the TeleCommunications Act of 1996 arrived on the parallel track

Radio is dying, wheezing and gasping for fresh air that's not there. She's tired...rusty, broke and confused...let her go...let her sleep.

Back at the ranch, would the last person to leave the building please turn her off.
Last edited by gbarn on Mon Dec 30, 2013 4:09 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: Radio's Last Contest - Radio's Last Employee

Post by CarterManGod » Fri Nov 25, 2011 3:43 pm

You said it- sho nuf! Very well put- but it's over.
That corporate greed is a very powerful thing, and they own radio. And so, it's now theirs to do with as they please. They are killing a creative medium - we all know this.

Here's my advice: even though you're right in every way- 'right' is not what it's about. So, RUN. I loved the years I was privileged enough to man a morning mic, and would love to see it turn around. Not for me, but for everyone. It's not going to though. The creativity and audience are no longer even a consideration of these corporate vultures.

I, very recently, made the choice to leave radio. And almost as soon as I said the words out loud, an enormous weight was lifted. The weight of feeling like the only one who 'gets it.' Even though I know I'm not the only one. Removing the madness from my mind has been so liberating.

Being a 'DJ' will soon become the new fast food gig. There's no respect left for the position- from Corp., from listeners, not even from other radio staff. A DJ today is a warm ass in a chair who's willing to work for peanuts. It's not fair- but it's the deal.

I can't imagine there's any way to win the race either- 'cause the longer a person stays in radio, the longer they choose to be a blk & wht tv repairman. I don't think it's pessimism to say any of this either because I once felt just like you. But once I removed the desperate need for radio to change from my life, clarity ensued. Greed will win. And greed will destroy something once loved by listener and DJ alike.

The most eloquently worded description of radio's failure will not move the hearts of the greedy. And they will continue to try and sweep problems under the rug and distort data, ratings and any info necessary to convince the public that radio is thriving! They'll do and say anything to fleece businesses out of their advertising dollars while offering less and less in return for those investments.

Corp radio is full of crooks who are full of crap. Common thugs in expensive suits not worthy of their positions. And nothing feels more satisfying than leaving it to them and walking away in search of something meaningful. Once you realize that you're position is worth less to them than the plastic knife they use to scrape dog shit off their shoes, it's an easy choice.

RUN if you can, JOG if you need time to re-train, but start moving away from this failed industry as it is already moving away from you.

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Re: Radio's Last Contest - Radio's Last Employee

Post by gbarn » Fri Nov 25, 2011 6:15 pm

Good luck in your new pursuits, CarterManGod. Be proud and approach with passion.

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Re: Radio's Last Contest - Radio's Last Employee

Post by gbarn » Sun Nov 27, 2011 1:46 pm


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Re: Radio's Last Contest - Radio's Last Employee

Post by gbarn » Mon Nov 28, 2011 2:42 pm

Never put anything in your mouth that comes out of a tin can, a cardboard box, or is handed to you through a drive-thru window, never allow anything in your ears from radio that's formulaic and not created with passion and purpose. I had a breakfast meeting not so long ago with the head of a Wall Street Broadcast executive who has a serious ears!
Last edited by gbarn on Mon Jun 24, 2013 12:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Radio's Last Contest - Radio's Last Employee

Post by blitzmcd » Mon Nov 28, 2011 8:58 pm

If indeed radio has fallen to the depths that Gary so succinctly described, then why waste time and energy lamenting its present state of affairs?

Because, like many of us, Gary was there when radio mattered. Even though radio has long since ceased to be a viable outlet for worthwhile music, when it was on its game, it was untouchable amongst the various media.

To be certain, such long term, unwavering allegiance is not a matter of weepy nostalgia. Those who prioritize such periphery are generally interested in little more than providing a backdrop for their own personal revisionist history and tend to view both music and medium as inconsequential. They are not now (and in reality, never were) your audience.

No, radio as Gary therein alludes to was an example of high art at its apex, when the most creative minds in music and air talent joined forces to create a dynamic tension that those who were there took for granted and have been reluctant to let go of ever since.

However, if radio has indeed come to those "last employee" stages, the only surprise is the fact that it didn't happen years earlier. But take heart, disenfranchised faithful. There are other means available by which you can further your respective mission statements. The internet is but one of them.

And just as radio provided so many gifted individuals with a forum decades ago, those gifted individuals who remain (as well as the many like minded aspirants who continue to live by Archie Bell's classic maxim, "My Balloon's Going Up") still apparently possess the determination and vision to bring that level of excellence to the table.

Just as a worthwhile musician does not need a pat on the head from an ol' boys club in Cleveland which has no more authority in that respect than that which they bestowed upon themselves, likewise, a given air personality with ambition and a penchant for creativity need not canvas Wall Street in search of a benefactor. The faithful know what you are capable of and will respond accordingly.

Michael McDowell
Blitz Magazine
Since 1975 - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

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Re: Radio's Last Contest - Radio's Last Employee

Post by KaseyKruz » Tue Nov 29, 2011 5:27 am

Excellent posts, every one of them!
I love this line from Cartermangod...
"The most eloquently worded description of radio's failure will not move the hearts of the greedy."

That is spot on dude!

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Re: Radio's Last Contest - Radio's Last Employee

Post by CarterManGod » Thu Dec 01, 2011 6:08 am

Yes, I would consider those people greedy. Being able to command a salary does not mean it's reasonable for your services. This is the beautiful trap of Capitalism. Everyone, actually, thinks they have a shot at the big bucks, when most of us, you, will never see a dime over an average salary your entire life. Peyton Manning gets a huge salary, why, because he did well in P.E? Gaga, why, cause she's high enough to wear a meat suit for a photo?

I'm very sorry right-wing conservative person to have used a word like 'greedy' that threatens your shot at the big bucks!

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Re: Radio's Last Contest - Radio's Last Employee

Post by CarterManGod » Thu Dec 01, 2011 6:21 am

However, those people you mentioned have a talent. Some Radio Executive running around pretending he knows anything about radio from a creative perspective is a joke. We all know Arbitron is a joke, but these execs will study the numbers like gospel because they know the ad companies don't really 'get' Arbitron fully- making it easy to bullshit them. So, at least, any decisions made for Arbitron reasons are pointless, and probably harmful.

I guess they have a talent for name-dropping. Never met a radio suit that didn't take the time to mention all the big name radio jocks they've met...or haven't fired yet.

They put on radio for the shareholders, if anyone's stupid enough to still be one of those, not the listening audience. Radio Execs care about as much for the listening audience, as they do for the folks who've been sitting in the chair for 10-20 years entertaining them.

These slimy suits will soon destroy radio altogether, and they will have destroyed it for everyone. For a few extra bucks, they will take something away from the world. I call that Greedy.

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Re: Radio's Last Contest - Radio's Last Employee

Post by pbergin » Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:38 am

I've been saying this for several years... as long as I've been a part of this list. I've been pilloried and called names by more than a few, but my message remains the same... get out while you can.

It's only the fear of failure which keeps many from pursuing other careers. Learning a new job isn't easy, it's hard... believe me, I know this first hand. But it's incredibly rewarding as well to learn that, by God, you CAN do something other than crack a mike and read a liner card.

The communication skills you get in radio will serve you well, and these are skills that can't be taught they can only be learned from experience.

The OTHER stuff (pick a profession) CAN be taught.

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