Sunday, June 29, 2008

Recycled Radio

Recycled Radio

A few weeks back, over on the CRM Message Board site, a person asked a question in response to people who keep asking to hear the same radio personalities again and again and not anybody new. The person, "regionear," had this to say:
Chicago radio is so "inbred"
Does it always have to be someone from another Chicago station?

I was going to post a short response, but decided to hold off and turn it into a blog posting, since it deserved more than a sentence or two.

Is Chicago radio "inbred," as he said? Does it recycle the same ol' people year after year? I think one could make a pretty easy argument that this is indeed so. Why is this so? That is the bigger question.

First of all, you have to realize that this is not exclusively a Chicago phenomenon. This is true of pretty much all major markets and often complained about in each of them.

Smaller markets tend to take whomever they can get that has some semblance of talent or they go with syndicated programming. Quite often, these people will stay in that market for many years and become well loved there, but there isn't that overwhelming sense of loyalty from the listener to the personality in the smaller markets. If a long-timer gets fired or moves on, there isn't a long-lasting outcry over the loss. Now in contrast, larger markets have larger & longer outcries. If a long-time or well-loved personality is missing from the airwaves, it makes news -- sometimes even national news. The loyalty factor is much larger & deeper in the bigger markets, too. It used to be that if you could develop a loyal following in a major market, you could be set for lifetime employment there. Used to be. (We'll come back to that point in a bit.)

It is odd that on message boards like CRM, there is often the complaining about recycling the same voices instead of bringing in fresh ones. Just as odd are the ones who complain about these fresh voices showing up and displacing the old ones. Odder still is that sometimes the same person takes both sides of the argument on different days. Again, this is not just a Chicago trait. New Yorkers often complain about hearing the same old voices coming back, but also get upset when "carpetbagger" personalities from San Francisco or Philadelphia get jobs there. LA radio fans want something new on the air, but go crazy if a voice that used to be in New York or Miami take over the airwaves. Down in Dallas? You better not sound like a Yankee, Mr. Newcomer! All big markets want it both ways, and yet they don't.

The exception to this rule is if the new voice is from the perceived region (ie: A Rockford or Madison jock moving to Chicago; a New Jersey jock moving to New York, etc.).

There are so very many reasons we want to "recycle" radio personalities. For the most part, major market audiences want familiarity. The voices of known radio personalities are the voices of an old friend. Who doesn’t want to ride in a car, listening to an old friend? It's the audio equivalent of comfort food.

When a show is not local, like most syndicated shows, it leaves the listener emotionally cold. We Chicagoans like it live & local. When a new radio personality IS live & local and still doesn't connect with an audience, it is even worse. I still remember when Rover was on WCKG and he mispronounced Chicago streets and his sidekick, Duji pronounced the silent "s" in Illinois. And they were born in the Chicago suburbs! Regardless, they came to our radios from out of the area and did not connect with the locals. Bringing back a past personality removes any fear of mishaps like this. It's the known versus the unknown. Given a choice, 9 out of 10 Americans will choose a known entity over an unknown.

Station managers like the fact that a returning personality brings with them a built-in audience. The listener likes being part of a shared community; part of that audience. It makes the show hit the ground running, instead of starting from scratch trying to build a fresh following.

Proven talent means usually means proven results. If they have a following and have already shown what their talents can do, why take a risk on an unproven act? That may sound like a Program Director's way of thinking, but it is also the audiences way of thinking. Time is valuable. Unless the sounds coming from their radio speakers grab them emotionally right away, a listener will not stick with an unknown for more than a few minutes. They will stick by a familiar voice for a very long time.

Many fans want to hear personalities not on the air return to the air out of a sense of "fairness." When a DJ is fired, which happens to all DJs regularly, fans often feel it is unfair that these "friends" lost their job in this way. It doesn't matter what the ratings were, what the billings were, what the behind-the-scenes relationships were. All the fans know was that the firing was unfair. A returning DJ is like a triumphant justice for them.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, there are the memories. Most everybody knows that songs can trigger memories. A song can take you back to a period of your life when you were happy, sad, innocent, in love, and so on. Music is the soundtrack of our lives. Up until very recently, radio almost exclusively delivered that soundtrack to us. Not just radio… DJs on the radio. Those DJs often are connected to the music memories and the emotions that go along with them. Hearing their voices on the radio is a way of feeling those innocent times once again -- even if the listener does not realize that at the time. Talk radio personalities, especially those with a sense of humor, can also trigger memories and past emotions of happiness and happy times. A funny segment, a popular "bit," a running gag, silly nicknames, silly voices, a famous bizarre incident. These are just like a hit single for a DJ. The audience has the same longing memories of these as they do a song from their Senior year of High School.

Sometimes, instead of bringing back a past radio star, a link to that star is brought in. In lieu of the well-known personality, a show could be given to a sidekick (or two), a family member, a producer, a popular call-in person, or a semi-regular guest star of the main show. Quite often this will work, but it usually doesn't last long. While it delivers some of the memories & emotions mentioned earlier, it doesn't quite feel the same as the feelings from before. It ends up making the longing for the main star of the past show even stronger.

This is why there is always going to be people asking for a DJs return here in Chicago. It's a natural reaction. It will not stop anytime soon. It probably is not even a bad thing. It is not done to the point of excluding new talent from coming to town. There are still plenty of spaces for new talent to shine through. They just have to realize that they are competing with legacies & legends. They also have to know that they need to build their own legends, so they too can have a long-lasting desire to be heard here. Once you build a loyal Chicago audience, you could possibly have job security here for years to come.

One problem with all this today is the current state of radio ownership. Instead of having dozens of stations in town owned by dozens of companies run by radio people, we now have dozens of radio stations owned by just a few national media corporations, run by shareholders & accountants, who can care less about radio. Bringing back a beloved personality may be a boon to the station, but they almost never comes as cheap as a kid fresh out of broadcasting school, a small market person looking to jump to the big city or a syndicated show out of New York. Instead of looking at the big picture and investing money in a proven personality, they only look at the small, immediate picture of a lower salary. This makes less availability for popular personalities of the past to return to the present. There is a too-long list of names of unemployed (at least in radio) personalities that have a loyal Chicago audience waiting and hoping for their return.

So are Chicago airwaves "inbred" and using recycled people? Yes, they are. It is done for good reason and for welcome reasons. As it now turns out, it isn't being done enough.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin Passes Away

The great George Carlin has passed away. One of the finest stand-up comedians, and many lists consider him to be THE finest ever, Mr. Carlin kept a few generations of audiences laughing, thinking and viewing life in a way that seemed different at first, but so obvious later. He was a brilliant observational comic, who enjoyed pushing the envelope of comedy. Sadly, as brilliant as his brain was, his heart was weak. He died of an apparent heart attack last night at the age of 72, living longer than many would have thought, but it still seems like a life cut short.

In regards to media, he was a very integral person to radio & TV, largely due to one particular stand-up routine of his from the early 70's: "The Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV." Those seven words: "Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, CockSucker, MotherFucker, and Tits" and Carlin's hilarious routine around them, is largely responsible for the FCC as we know it. After the recorded routine was played on the radio, the Supreme Court made sure that the government had the authority to fine stations for playing "offensive" language. Even doing the routine in front of a live audience, sometimes got him arrested, including up in Milwaukee in 1972. Many TV shows in the early 70's were afraid to book him, for fear he would do the routine. When NBC booked him to be the very first host of a new LIVE late night TV show called Saturday Night Live, many thought they were crazy. That show is now historic.

"The Seven Words..." came from the album "Class Clown," which many consider to be the greatest stand-up comedy album. My personal favorite was an album from before that called, "Take-Offs & Put-Ons." This was his recorded debut and very early Carlin, before he developed the edge that made him so great. However, this is a media fan's delight, especially his take off of a radio station "Wonderful WINO" (in Western Walla-Walla...). He also parodied TV newscasts, daytime TV & radio commercials on this album. I remember listening to this scratchy vinyl LP as a small kid and being blown away by the comedy contained on it.

There was none like him before him. There have been none like him since him, except for a handful of imitators and wannabes. George Carlin will forever be one of the comedic greats and will forever be missed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Soul Train Gets A New Owner

Don Cornelius, the one-time Chicago DJ, who went on to star on & own the highly successful TV show, Soul Train, has sold his show.

At one time, Cornelius was one of the most influential men in the music business. If you were a recording artist in the 70's and wanted to reach the urban or hip white audience, Don Cornelius was the man to know. A 3 minute slot on Soul Train meant huge sales & bigger credibility. As the years rolled on, though, the show faded away and Cornelius did little to promote this valuable franchise. American Bandstand, The Midnight Special and other shows from that era, have DVDs, websites, merchandising materials and more, while Soul Train continued to be just a memory.

Now, a new company called MadVision has purchased the entire Soul Train franchise from Don Cornelius. After 38 long years, ownership has changed hands. The new owners promise to look into every possible avenue to use these classic music clips & shows to keep Soul Train alive & profitable. A new version of the show is a possibility, too.

You can read more about this huge sale in today's New York Times at this link:
After 38 Years, 'Soul Train' Gets New Owner

The engine may have ran out of steam in recent years, but it looks like the Soul Train may soon be a-chuggin' along again!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Radio Generates Billions For Music Industry

This is something most thinking human beings knew already, but a study this week revealed that Radio generates billions of dollars for the Music Industry. The study was done by former Stanford economics professor, Dr. James Dertouzos, who found that radio airplay brings in between $1.5 billion to $2.4 billion in annual music sales to the Recording Industry. The study, entitled "Sales vs Spins" used data from both Nielsen and Pollstar. In a series of line graphs, the data showed clearly that the when a song is played on the radio, record sales quickly go up. Music airplay (aka "spins") and sales were analyzed for 17 artists covering many different genres and varying levels of success, including U2, Velvet Revolver, Josh Groban, Rascal Flatts, Green Day, Bruce Springsteen, The White Stripes, Taylor Swift and Linkin Park. The analytical study focused only on album sales and legal digital track downloads from 2004 to 2006 in the 99 largest American markets.

The monetary value of radio play could be even double what was mentioned above! The study did NOT take into account radio's impact on licensing revenue or merchandise sales. It also did NOT factor radio airplay's promotional role in increasing concert ticket sales. It also did NOT take into account music played on satellite radio or HD radio -- this was only based on terrestrial, free radio airplay. Clearly, there is no better friend to the music industry than radio.

When it comes right down to it, there is a direct correlation between the number of spins on local radio and the sales of music, according to this report.

It makes the Music Industry's argument that the radio industry is not giving it free advertising and should pay taxes on the music played, seem pretty damn ridiculous. The Music Industry should be pushing for MORE music played on the radio and not trying to punish Radio for helping them out.

The same can be said about how they treated the Internet Radio industry, but Internet Radio lost that argument, since it didn't have a powerful study like this behind it. It's never too late to revisit that issue, though...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

CRM: In Your Face(book)!!

I've done it. I've taken the plunge. I tried resisting the temptation and the many months of invitations, but I finally gave in.

I went and joined Facebook.

There is now a Chicagoland RadioandMedia page (that's how it's spelled on there) in Facebook. The CRM MySpace page is still active and will continue to be updated, but I've grown tired of the inane bulletins & messages about "I just bought you as my pet", "Find out how much you are worth", "I'm bored, so here's a survey", etc,, as well as the spam, hackers, porn links & viruses that have become prevalent there. It seemed like the right time to give Facebook a shot. So... if any of you have Facebook accounts and want to add the CRM page as a friend, please do so! Here is where you'll find it:

CRM on Facebook

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Shock Jocks: Hate Speech and Talk Radio

There is a new book out called Shock Jocks: Hate Speech and Talk Radio. Let me say right here that if you are a fan of right-wing talk radio, DO NOT CONTINUE READING THIS POST.

I'll wait a minute for you guys to leave...

Hmmm... hmmm... hmmm...

They gone? OK, then. Where was I? Oh yes. Shock Jocks: Hate Speech and Talk Radio, the new book by Rory O'Connor, with Aaron Cutler. The book is written by veteran media critic and Emmy award winner, Rory O'Connor, who also has a popular blog called Media Is A Plural, Shock Jocks features unsparing profiles of who he feels are the ten worst conservative radio talkers in America. His Top 10 are Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Bill O' Reilly, Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Laura Ingraham, Hugh Hewitt and Don Imus. (Sorry, Mancow. You didn't make the cut.) A few other conservative talkers are mentioned, as are quite a few progressive talkers listed as alternatives.

This isn't abook about what many of us consider to be "Shock Jocks," DJs who will say & do anything for shock value, usually involving sexual & racy material, with the intent on being funny in a juvenile way. O'Conner's stance in his book is that many of the right-wing talkers are not just doing "conservative" talk, but doing doing "Shock" talk radio with an ugly agenda behind it. Worse yet, he considers this "hate talk" that hides behind guise of "free" speech.

He describes how these talker rose to the level of fame they have and the troubles that has caused America. He writes about how claiming they are not being "politically correct" (and making PC seem like a dirty word), allows them to use their anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-Europe and overtly racist language. He then shows how their becoming celebrities in the eyes of the public leads to a climate that not only tolerates, but actually perpetuates these dark attitudes, which is bringing our country down.

Walter Cronkite, the most respected & iconic journalist in American history, had this to say about Rory O'Conner's new book:
"Talk radio is one of America's most popular and influential media formats. In his book, Shock Jocks: Hate Speech and Talk Radio, Rory O'Connor reports on the shocking number of top radio talk show hosts who regularly spout hate speech over our public airwaves. This intriguing, eye-opening and hugely important work is a must read account of the dangers of blurring opinion, journalism and entertainment -- at the expense of our democratic discourse and ideals."

The book officially comes out later this month, but unofficially, you can get a copy now. The list price is $14.95 and available from the publisher at Of course, I like to help, so if you are interested in this book, you can get it now through my CRM Amazon store for only $10.17 by clicking on the image of the book cover below:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Van Halen Tour Grosses $93 Million

Critics said it would not happen. Detractors said it would not happen. Vegas odds-makers said it would not happen. Comedians said it would not happen. Even fans said it would not happen. But it did. The new version of Van Halen actually completed a full tour without imploding. They plenty of chances to self destruct:
-- Firing original bassist Michael Anthony because of his friendship with former vocalist Sammy Hagar and replacing him with Eddie's son, Wolfgang.
-- Diamond David Lee Roth's massive ego competing for attention away from Eddie Van Halen's massive ego.
-- Separate tour buses & accommodations for the Van Halen family and the Roth entourage.
-- Speaking to each other via attorneys more than directly.
-- Eddie's falling off the wagon again.
-- Eddie's forcing a postponing of the middle of the tour so he could sober up... oops... I mean staying home to rest up from an undisclosed "illness".

Despite all obstacles, the tour finally completed all its scheduled (and rescheduled) dates. The reward? The Van Halen tour grossed a whopping $93,000,000!

That means Wolfie Van Halen, who was 16 at the start of the tour, will get his cut of $93 million dollars. Even if the final net to the band is one-forth of the gross, that still over $23 million dollars for the band and at least a few million going into the pockets of this teenager. 16 years old and a sudden multi-millionaire because his daddy wanted him to play in his band. When I was 16, I was working in the paint department of the Sears in Niles and a hot dog stand in Des Plaines. I was hoping I could scrap together enough cash to by tickets to a Van Halen concert and maybe have a few bucks left over to buy a concert t-shirt. Quite a contrast.

Here's hoping his daddy uses some of his wealth to make sure his son stays grounded & leads as normal a life as possible. Otherwise, Wolfgang may end up going the route of so many other child stars who come into quick cash and end up a joke on a celebrity police blotter in a few years time. His father has done enough "Runnin' With The Devil" for both of them.

With the tour over, the band is talking about recording new material together. (Will all their attorneys be able to fit in the recording studio, especially with Alex's huge drum set-up?) After proving most everybody wrong and keeping the show together for a whole tour, it's hard to bet against a new VH album with DLR on lead vocals. It would be a huge seller, because after all, "Everybody Wants Some" old-school Van Halen.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

New Book Tells "The Story Of Clear Channel"

There is another book out now* that talks about Clear Channel's impact on media industries, both the good and the bad -- mostly the bad. (*All day today, sites have been talking about this book as a brand new release, but it has been available somewhat since April. It's widely available now.) The following description comes from Radio Ink today:


New Book By Bunzel Tells The Story Of Clear Channel

AUSTIN -- June 4, 2008: Veteran media writer -- and onetime Radio Ink Editor-in-Chief -- Reed Bunzel's new book, Clear Vision: The Story of Clear Channel Communications has been released.

The book, published by Bright Sky Press, claims to be "the only profile of Clear Channel Communications to include authoritative information from key company management. It traces the origins of the company from its founding in 1972 through the present - and looks to the digital future, as well."

The publisher says, "Throughout Clear Channel's history, many individuals and organizations have attempted to portray the company according to their own personal motivations or intentions," while Clear Vision, it says, "separates fact from fiction."

Bunzel's book is available online and in bookstores now.

(Source of the above article)


If you are interested in reading more about the behind the scenes scoop on Clear Channel, you can get it here! The list price of the book is $27.95, but by clicking on the image below, you can buy it for almost $7 less in the CRM Amazon store!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Shocking Local Music News!

Here's a shocker for you Chicago music fans: Marty Casey has LEFT The Lovehammers. Bigger shock: He is the new lead singer for former 80's hair band, L.A. Guns. Marty Casey had been co-writing songs with L.A. Guns when the lead singer decided to quit. Marty was asked to take over as the band leader and he accepted. He writes all about his decision to leave his childhood friends and join an established band in his personal blog, which you can read for yourself by clicking here:
Blog of Marty Casey: Change is Everything

The Lovehammers were a top Chicago bar band, putting out a couple of self-produced full length CDs here before Marty Casey gained worldwide exposure on the terrific reality show, "Rockstar: INXS," where he took second place. He also gained his band a major label (Epic) record deal, put out a insanely catchy self-titled CD and was the opening act for INXS' 2007 tour. The album received no publicity or backing from Epic and fizzled away (although, it did sell very well in the Chicago area). It was back to being a top local bar band for The Lovehammers, which apparently did not sit well with Casey. He is now back with a national touring band in L.A. Guns.

From my point of view this is not the best move for Marty Casey's career. He is now the 6th or 7th lead singer for L.A. Guns (I lost count when I ran out of fingers on one hand), a band that has little resemblance to it's original members or it's most popular formation. There is a second touring band made up of a few other former members that also calls itself L.A. Guns. It is easily a mess of a band and one on the decline, not one on the rise. With The Lovehammers, even though they lost their record deal, there was still a chance of better days ahead for the band, with a new record deal. If The Lovehammers weren't going to happen like he wanted, then an original, new & more vital band would have been a better move for Casey. L.A. Guns may give him the opportunity to tour the country, but fairgrounds, Indian casinos and bars that are 1.5 hours away from a big city, while sleeping on a beat-up tour bus or cheap motels, is not really living the rock & roll dream.

Speaking of which, the Casey-led L.A. Guns will be playing the Chicago area on July 23rd at the Chicago City Limits bar (max. capacity 200 people, as long as they're all skinny) in Schaumburg. Even The Lovehammers played bigger venues than this bar in a corner of a strip center.

Casey is an exciting frontman, talented rock singer & writer and an engaging personality. He has bright future ahead of him. Well, after he leaves L.A. Guns, anyway, and figures out the proper path to take.

The new L.A. Guns with Marty Casey (center):

Monday, June 2, 2008

How To Best Run A Radio Group

Blog of the day goes to Inside Radio founder and radio industry vet, Jerry Del Colliano. On his blog site today he wrote a piece called "The Best Run Radio Group," which is highly recommended reading if you work in radio or any major industry.

You can read this blog by clicking HERE.

Jerry's blog site, "Inside Music Media" is in my lists of blogs on the side bar and is worth checking out often.

Jerry Del Colliano:

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Chicago Gets Funny This Week

Time for another "pick to click!" This time, it's just for laughs... really. Monday starts the 11th annual Chicago Improv Festival -- the Funniest Week in Chicago. With Chicago being the true home of Improvisational Comedy (Yeah, bite me, Toronto), it make sense that this terrific fest be held here each year.

Of the past 10 years that it has been going on here, some years have been incredible, with famous alumni of Second City returning to make us laugh, but some years have been not as top-notch. This year looks to put the showcase back on top, with the festival presenting 60 shows, with 32 shows making their CIF debut.

Scheduled to appear this week are cast members of NBC's consistently-hilarious 30 Rock, including Jack McBrayer (Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock & Mariah Carey's computer expert in her latest video), Scott Adsit, John Lutz, and Paul Scheer. Many MadTV alums will be on stage throughout the week including Frank Caeti, Ike Barinholtz and Keegan-Michael Key. The entire cast of Sports Action Team (seen here on NBC5) will be together with a surprise special guest from the Chicago sports world. IO's comedy troupe JTS Brown will reunite for one show only. For you Cloverfield fans: the actor who played Hud (the camera guy) is actually Improv actor, TJ Miller, who along with his partner Thomas Middleditch, make up the apply-named team of Miller & Middleditch, and will be performing this week. 4 comedians with duct-tape mustaches, calling themselves Ditka, will perform a routine based mostly on past Coach Mike Ditka quotes. Chicago's own 13-member, all-female, comedy troupe, Virgin Daiquiri will perform. And so much more!

In years past, CIF shows were held in a wide variety of location during the week-long period, from small comedy clubs to bars to churches. This year, all of the Main Stage shows will be held in one easy-to-find spot at the Lakeshore Theatre (3175 N. Broadway). There will be a handful of Secondary Stage shows later this week at other stages, such as at Second City Etc., IO, The Playground, ComedySportz and Martyrs.

Always admired Improv comedy? Want to learn how to do it yourself or how to better your techniques? There will be Forums given on Friday and Workshops presented on Saturday.

Want even more laughs? Wednesday through Sunday, there will be late night parties featuring the comedians. These wild times are open to the public!

The CIF starts tomorrow, Monday, June 2nd, and runs through next Sunday, June 8th. Show tickets $25 or less, and workshops costs range from free to $50.

For information on shows, performers, locations, workshops, parties, tickets and more, click on this link here:
The Chicago Improv Festival


Also, for those of you who want laughs, but prefer stand-up comedy over the Improv style, this is a very good time for you, too! Just a block or so down the street from the Improv Holy Land called Second City, is Chicago's stand-up comedy Holy Land: the narrow cavern known as Zanies (1548 N. Wells). This year, Zanies is celebrating it's 30th anniversary. To honor its 3 decades of comedy here in town, Zanies is having a year long birthday party. They are bringing in top name acts (Jeff Garlin, a Chicago native and co-star of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, will be here next weekend) and will have special shows on the 30th of each month. Some special days, customers who turn or turned 30 this year, get in free! In addition to the famous comedy club in Old Town, Zanies also has clubs up north in Vernon hills, out west in St. Charles, and south... I mean reeeeeaaaal south... in Nashville, TN.

For more information, check out the Zanies website at the link below: