I’m convinced that some high profile radio decision makers are suffering from severe hearing loss.
When radio listeners ask for quality programming, the decision makers hear quantity programming; hence HD Radio and its smorgasbord of insipid formats.
When listeners, weary of pitiable audio processing and pitch escalation on their terrestrial stations, ask for quality audio – radio execs hear it as quantity audio and cram in more HD side channels of auditory mediocrity.
When listeners ask to hear quality music, radio execs hear quantity music, so listeners have to suffer through the many variations of “classic hits.” The nearest thing to a radio industry ideological dispute is what to name the format - Jack, Jill, Mix or Magic.
When listeners ask for quality news, they hear quantity news, convinced that they’re fulfilling those needs with truncated, facts-optional, newscasts with murder on the ones, weather on the twos, traffic on the threes, sports on the fours, and armed robberies on the fives.
When listeners ask for quality (fill in your own suggestion), they hear quantity and (fill in your own favorite embarrassment).
We could go on for days, weeks, months, years.
Let’s single out production for a moment.
Remember when radio was considered the last great illusion? That, like the written word, you could play on one’s imagination? In radio’s case it was about creating audio with imaginative production and proficient writing.
Some of you may even remember Stan Freberg’s testimony to radio’s cinematics. With skillful writing and sound effects to match, Freberg drained Lake Michigan of all water, replacing it with hot chocolate and a mountain of whipped cream. It ended with a group of helicopters in formation dropping a giant maraschino cherry on the summit of that whipped cream mountain. The promo, which was for the advantages of advertising on radio, closed with, "Let's see them do that on television!"
Here’s the kicker. This was 1957! Fifty years ago today! Freberg produced that one with a reel-to-reel, tape, a razor blade, and round pots. No multi-track, no digital read-out – and, back then, a description of basic Pro Tools would’ve sounded like something out of The Jetsons.
That’s what radio should be doing today. Bring back the creative. Bring back the art of playing on one’s imagination. You want to save radio? Have it to what it does best.
Instead – and I’ll site an example from a few months back - when a highly talented production director (I won’t tell you the market; it’s too obvious) who had created some memorable spots for local clients was replaced by an automaton. This automaton produces local spots at a slightly quicker clip, which is why the other guy got downsized, but he also has zero production creativity. As a result, all spots on this cluster of stations now sound alike and it’s not uncommon to hear his wearisome voice on two, three, even four spots in a row. Quality control? Are those two words supposed to go together? Now, a few clients – including one major player – are making plans to place their business elsewhere – to TV and cable – because they need a“visual” for their product, which that cluster can no longer deliver. I ought to know. They called me to ask why an allegedly financially strapped radio chain would turn away business.
Let’s not even begin to delve into the some of the miserable copy these production guys have to deal with. In the days before radio sales departments looked like a Greyhound Bus station on a Friday night, account executives actually cared about a client’s finished product.
There are those born with specific predispositions that slant them to beliefs, which are foreordained and not in any way the results of logic and study that they think they bring to issues.
That’s the only excuse I can come up with to explain the many faux pas committed by several of the current crop of radio decision makers.
Or as Bob Dylan put it in “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” That he not busy being born Is busy dying.
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the capability of these clowns to screw up.
You’d swear there are a whole lot of creative radio types that have been frozen in a cryogenic vault for the past 10 years.
Those who are working keep their skills under the radar and just do what they’re told.
Creativity. From an asset to a liability in just one decade.
That will, of course change.
I’m going to print up bumper stickers for just that occasion. They’ll read: “1996: I was a seller, not a buyer” and “Follow me to the Fire Sale.”
In the interim, is it even worth the effort explaining the difference between quality and quantity to those running the show right now?
Nah! This bunch? You can’t even confuse them with the facts. They couldn’t even buy a clue. It’s not in the budget.