Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail" RW Emerson

Bill Gable, a Toronto performer, serves up his pov "Researching Ourselves to Death".

If JACK stations find success in certain U.S. markets, it could be due to the attitude more than the music. “Playing what we want” is an affront to homogenized radio and may strike a chord with listeners. But what is the shelf life of that? And will an “oh, wow” song still elicit that reaction two years from now?

In the long run, compelling radio wins. Musically, JACK’s broader playlist is becoming more and more available through various means to the individual listener.

Thanks Bill. You may read his writing here

It seems to me - how one defines the word "compelling" has become important to the discussion. As I have written before...

Let's agree to stop describing our programming as compelling unless something actually happens on the radio station after the morning show that is not a liner, a sweeper, a promo, that day's music log, or one exceptionally good phone bit with a contest winner. . More here

What Tom Kent does is compelling. What Bobby Rich creates is compelling. Fred Winston, in five words, paints a picture rich with patois - compelling. Today we are blessed with much great talent, performance art is their metier. These gifted people create proprietary intangibles - the alchemy that puts people in the tent and keeps them coming back to the show. These people are not announcers, certainly not disc jockeys, they are that rare animal - the performer, the talent, the star of the show. Talent is radio's last sustainable barrier to entry, no matter the format. The popular excuse today for not hiring talent (e.g., the morning show "challenge" it seems every PD has) is "there's nobody out there" - nonsense. Our talent problem is a symptom, we have a leadership problem.

Too few are obsessed with finding, developing and leading creative people. The tradecraft required is casting and directing. To serve as a program director one first needs to appreciate and respect talent. A great program director works for talent, bringing out the best in each performer. It's all about servant leadership. Like the artistic director of an Opera company, the great program director knows you don't fix a poor box office by simply telling Pavaratti to "sing better" nor do you blame the performers when you've picked the wrong production to stage. Ordering great talent to read, verbatim, poorly written liners is akin to telling Picasso to copy a stickman sketch onto a series of matchbook covers, while it may work - purely as a novelty - it's actually a waste of everyone's time. Why put a Ferrari into a go-kart race?

Directing talent to deliver your message in their style unlocks creativity, engages the imagination, inspires the high wire act that is communication and, at its best, the result is entertaining, engaging, arresting. In the big picture - the research and music computer stuff is easy, simple - the leadership of creative people is difficult, complex. The latter affords the optimum ROI.

One final thing - are your liners spam? Clutter? What purpose is being served? Why is it on your air? Begin by taking things off your radio station. Use the old butcher's rule "cut the fat, expose the meat." Then listen and ask the question - the one every programmer must ask...Why?

Speaking of great talent...I am reminded of something Bob Shannon wrote about KVIL without Ron Chapman..."like The Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger: They're still playing music, but a long-familiar voice is missing" There is a lot of great talent out there, find them, hire them, provide a positive environment for these gifted creatives. Let them know what you want, draw the boundaries in chalk - you'll be amazed once you give them permission to have fun on the radio. To turn up performance even more - catch them doing something right.

Can you tell me the definition of a "reverse morris trust?" Well it's a safe bet any ABC manager can. News in today's Wall Street Journal that ABC may sell it's radio gets the attention of former ABC rock star John Rook. You will find John's take, The XYZ of ABC, here.

[FD: Mr. Winston is a client of my employer]