Old fogeys and the future of radio

Click through the posts of radio message boards and you’ll read rants along the lines of, “radio isn’t as good today as it was in the ’90s (or replace the ’90s with the decade that represents the golden age of radio to that poster).”
It was way more fun back then…whenever then was…and furthermore you would never employ an announcer who didn’t realize Burton Cummings was in a band before he went solo. The implication being radio is now joyless, soulless and populated by clueless 20-somethings who work cheap.
I work in radio with 20- and 30-somethings who love their careers. They look forward to their daily on-air shifts and care about entertaining and connecting with listeners.
And then I discovered the Off Mic Podcast.
The young folks interviewed were willing to work cheap and start at the lowest rung on the ladder. They stuck it out. They took jobs hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles from home in remote, colder than a witch’s tit towns. They paid their dues.
Of course, determination alone doesn’t guarantee success. No amount of hard work can overcome a cartoon character voice or or the absence of a personality. If you’re nothing more than a dull presence saying, “That was/here is…” your days are numbered if they haven’t ended already.
Prior to automation and voicetracking, radio stations needed live bodies. There were enough shifts for the smooth-voiced, phone-it-in prima donnas and the “I don’t pay to play in charity golf tournaments they should be thrilled to have me show up” self-important gods of radio.
Today, most stations are live only from 6 am to 7 pm and in many cases, 6 to 10 am. The other shifts are prerecorded either at the same station or from other markets belonging to the same chain.
I’m not saying this is good.
I would love to turn the clocks back and have all radio be live till at least midnight but those days are long gone. Ad revenues are lower and managers cut costs by combining jobs and having announcers voicetrack so many stations it’s amazing they can remember the call letters and slogans–though if you say “Mix” or “Today’s best (rock/country/polka)” you’ll cover half of them.
Listen to those Off the Mic podcasts and you’ll find all of the interviewees were willing to do remote setups, board operating and cruiser driving in order to land an on-air job.
They also have plenty of personality.
I’d be happy to have a beer with any one of them and I bet they do a great job of pleasing their respective audiences.
Granted, there are scores of talented radio people who are out of the business due to downsizing or because they had bottom-line bosses who dumped their salaries for cheaper alternatives. Sadly, that’s business. It sucks, but it’s business.
Even so, despite corporate greed, media consolidation and conglomerates, there are plenty of young jocks and news people who love what they do and don’t see it as just a job.

About johnnymaraca

sole proprietor of Maraca Media, former radio host (Johnny Maraca's Rock & Roll Riot), copywriter and producer and a print journalism grad.
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