As we swing into another Labor Day Weekend, two questions come to mind:
Where did the summer go?
Where did the YEAR go?
Of the three-day weekends that dot the calendar, this one's my favorite. The weather has a little something to do with it, but I see this weekend as the hors d'ouvre for the last half of the year. It's a great time to take stock of the first 8 months, and plan on making an impact with the time we have left before the holidays take us away from our jobs.
It's also a great time to think about the business that sucked us all into its web. In many cases, it was years ago or even decades ago. I couldn't help but notice, however, at the recent Morning Show Boot Camp get-together in Chicago just how many young people were in attendance, eager to learn more about this profession from those of us who have been “at it” for a long time.
I had the good fortune of doing some tone-setting at MSBC this year, thanks to the debut of the AQ study we did in partnership with Don Anthony. As it turned out, our study of radio's on-air talent has become much-quoted by those behind the mic as well as those who work in management and even ownership.
There are many findings in AQ that are eyebrow-raising, but the one that first grabbed my attention also jumped out at Inside Radio's Paul Heine yesterday. We asked our 1,100+ members of the industry's “air force” to tell us the main reasons they're on the radio. Of the 13 choices, the main drivers are fascinating as we celebrate Labor Day 2018:
When I first showed this chart in front of a SRO room of air talent at Boot Camp, it generated laughter – mostly because money, fame, and sex ended up at the bottom of the heap. (They were certainly secondary reasons!). But it's the top three items on this list that are truly worth talking about. For so many plying their trade on the airwaves of America, it is about having fun, entertaining, and finding emotional fulfillment in what they do for a living.
I wonder how the rest of us – those not talented enough to be on the radio – would respond to this same question. My suspicion? Our answers wouldn't be that far afield from theirs. As competitive and challenge as it's become over the years, radio remains a fun business in so many ways. Check that for me as you hang out with family and friends this weekend, listening to many of them whine about their jobs. Or worse, not even bothering to talk about what they do – because there's just nothing to talk about.
The photo at the top of today's post is of a DJ here in Detroit that you probably don't know. Unlike radio's highly visible syndicated hosts or well-heeled morning shows, Screamin' Scott Randall isn't a household name in radio. You don't read about him in the trades, and he's never won a Marconi.
Scott is the 7-midnight guy on WRIF – a perch he's occupied in Detroit radio for a long time. It may not be the highest-paying glamour job at Detroit's rock station, but don't tell Scott that. He's got a primary shift on the station, mixing it up with listeners every night – on the air, on social media, and on the streets of a metro area that knows how to rock.
If a picture says 1,000 words, this one is a run-on sentence. It's not well-shot, it's very candid, and it certainly isn't posed. But it captures the essence of what Scott brings to WRIF, Detroit, and local radio every day and every night.
Like his twin brother from a different mother at also Beasley-owned WMMR in Philadelphia, Jacky Bam Bam, Scott exudes everything about being on the air in radio that makes us want to keep showing up every day, serving our communities, and making a difference in people's lives. It's not just about bar nights, playing Metallica songs, and cashing that paycheck every two weeks.
It is about serving communities, entertianing thousands of listeners every on the air and on the street, and taking people away from their pressures, pains, and problems day in and day out.
And I'm not betraying any confidentiality when I tell you that without actually digging into Scott's AQ questionnaire, I can bet you his top three responses to the question – “Why radio?” – mirror the one's you see on the chart. Scott has that lunch bucket, show up every day, and have fun on the air attitude that is so common to so many who entertain and inform us every day in air studios all over America.
Despite the changes and challenges that have roiled radio these past couple decades – consolidation, debt, performance pressures, staff cutbacks, and those incredulous comments we hear all too often: “Who listens to the radio anymore?” – the enthusiasm we see from talent hasn't dampened or waned a whole lot. They're still mostly Gung Ho over a medium and a business that somehow found its way into so many of our bloodstreams.
So, as you're scarfing down that hot dog and a downing cold one at a barbeque this weekend, thank your lucky stars you fell into this business, and have the pleasure of working with so many fun, fascinating people who are on a mission to entertain and inspire even when they're tired, hurting, or just don't feel like it.
Saluting our laborers in radio behind the mic, who tell us it's not a labor at all.
Enjoy the weekend.