Saturday, July 09, 2005

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." GB Shaw

No matter your opinion of the latest jockless oldies stations, here is one observation difficult to refute - the manner and velocity of this format's propagation only serves to again confirm the irrational power of industry herd instinct. Too many in leadership are directing station people to fix their sick stations by launching a jockless oldies format ASAP. This seems to me analogous to a physician who, upon hearing of the amazing curative powers of one certain drug, makes her morning rounds issuing a directive that the same one drug be given to all patients without respect to diagnosis. "Prozac for everyone" - a move some may view, perhaps, as ripe with malpractice potential. To date, conversation in the trade is proving to be more interesting, and certainly more entertaining, than the subject stations. "When all you can say is 'more music' you ain't got nothin" so said our charming and delightful Uncle Lar.

A format based upon a diverse music library, an apparent contrarian sequencing of titles and an attitude may or may not produce a sustainable competitive advantage. No jocks is certainly better than bad jocks when the audience is presented no other options. It is still early in the game, too early to have the facts needed for any fair evaluation. Some of these jockless stations are, in fact, well produced. The music logs well cooked, the sweepers adding a cool bite of snark, the stations are indeed fresh - in contrast - with the other juke boxes in the market. Beyond this these stations may actually remain somewhat fragile, recovered from their sickly past but still in guarded condition. They might now suffer from a special case of anorexia, this presents as a loss of appetite for any depth of creativity, and this may yet prove to be acute. Of course there are also the celebrated cases where a heritage station has been converted - the hope being the numbers will prove all involved to have been right (you gotta break a few Faberge eggs to make an omelet, no worries - the eggs are not nearly as popular as they once were).

Clearly, the objective is to produce the best numbers as quickly as possible at the lowest cost, nothing wrong with that. But is the jockless, anti-corporate radio stance actually too clever by half? While this approach may turn out to be a brilliant, cost effective near term solution, we must ask ourselves if this approach is the best way to compete for the future. What are we doing to listener expectations? The best PD ever to key stroke Selector working with the best imaging director on the planet working with the coolest, hippest vo person now living will create the greatest, albeit potentially prosaic, juke box in history. What they will not create, however, is a great radio station. A great radio station, in my opinion, has a soul, is a true "wonderment" to use one of Steve Wynn's favorite ways of defining his new opus. As the amazing Mr Wynn has said it's "not as simple as different...the art of it all is ways of expressing the timeless fundamentals."

Please allow a digression here. When asked how important gambling is to his business he ranked it fifth in importance saying "you've got to love the process, you don't do this to run a gambling joint, why shouldn't this place be one of the most beautiful places in the world, let us be that ambitious, you can fall on your ass for half the price." My notion is...we need more Steve Wynns in this world, we need more leadership obsessed with building something great, leadership with a pathological, undiluted, and urgent need to win, leadership possessing a genuine will to win.

Perhaps more troubling is what appears to be a complete lack of courage, a visceral anguish and fear of any head-to-head competition, a deadly aversion to risk deeply rooted in a myth - the canard of first mover advantage. Should you be first to employ this jockless oldies approach you need have no fear of any direct competition. Industry leadership seeming to have lost the courage, creativity, commitment, talent and stamina required to compete and prevail in any such old fashioned winner take all format brawl. That the #1 billing station in America is seen by many as invincible, considered by so-called experts to be an impossible to challenge incumbent, this lack of imagination alone may say everything about radio's current state of affairs. Kudos to Jim Ryan, he has done more than create a great radio station, he has somehow convinced his competition to serve an unprecedented new role, that of financier, their charter to willingly capitalize his continued success.

John Rook, ever the keen observer and phenom, offers up some headline news and some comments worth reading...

(AP) ISTANBUL, Turkey -- First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff.

JR goes on to say...

I had little appreciation for following the herd, always looking for a way to distinguish myself and the programming I was responsible for in a way that was never a copy of someone else's creation. Sure I found motivation from anothers programming, but I constantly searched for ways to make my radio station, or stations, different than the others...

It seems to me today, we have mostly sheep not only in programming but in top management and sales also. Blindly following the herd - over the cliff. Those of us who made meaningful contributions in creating an era in radio still held up as an example of greatness can only hope the industry will change course and move away from the sea of sameness that exists today.

Bravo John! Your exemplary leadership puts you in league with Mr Wynn.
Read JR 's complete writing here

Mark Cuban tells us to forget about "the good ole days"...

It’s not the job of our customers to predict how our products and services should look in the future. Customer can tell us how to fix operational and transactional items. They can tell us how to make it easier for them to do things. They rarely, rarely, rarely can tell us what where our businesses should be next year or after that. Relying on your customers for strategic direction is a recipe for failure. That’s managements job.

That’s what makes the entertainment business so challenging. It’s difficult to come up with something original that puts a smile on a customers face. It’s not easy to invest in something new, knowing it could fail and you have to raise the bar even further to make your customers happy. But that’s the sport of business.

The smart ignore the reminiscing about the good ole days and focus on creating unique and improved experiences.

If you do it right, 20 years from now they will write stories about you that will be far better than being called part of “the good ole days”.

Read all of Mark's comments here