Saturday, January 16, 2016

Who stole Jason Lee's job?

I am a very big proponent of the shop local movement.  I've always embraced the local flavors and idiosynchronicities.  Yes, I know idiosynchronicities is a made up word, but if I didn't tell you that, would you have known? - and yet I bet you know what it means.

Thanks to mass transportation, mass distribution centers, and mass communications, everything local is being lost to nationalism.  No matter where you go in this country, we all pretty much eat the same tasting food, we all pretty much sound the same, and we all pretty much think the same.

Reckon I have to back up a step to ensure we're all on the same page.

National companies have grown to dictate our tastes and styles.  KFC sets the standard for fried chicken, Bush's for Boston baked beans, and even Mrs. T's for the poorly imitated Ukrainian dish of perogies.  They have set our style of dress...everything from designer jeans to fashionable footwear.  Wear overalls, suspenders, and a gingham shirt and if people aren't laughing at you, they might ask what theater you are appearing in.

The telephone, radio, TV, and now the Internet are destroying our local communities' unique dialect.  We hear how others talk and since we don't want to sound dumb, we try to talk like them.  That's a natural and human thing to do because we want to fit in.  Slowly, the identifiable dialects of Boston, New York, the South, Texans, Midwesterners, they all are being lost.  We know how those different dialects sound, but do we hear them any more?  Next time you watch TV, pay attention to how the characters speak.  Unless someone is trying to fake an accent, like Kyra Sedgwick on The Closer, everyone pretty much talks the same.  And for those who hold on to their local dialects?  Well, some try to erase it, like in Boston for example.

All this background brings us to our local radio station, WZBH, owned by Adams Radio Group over thirteen hundred miles away in Minnesota.  Adams Radio Group also owns our sister station, Big Classic Rock.  Both these stations have aired commercials encouraging listeners "to keep it local" meaning spend your money at local businesses  because more of your money will stay in the local economy instead of bleeding out to some corporate headquarters in another state.

These shop local commercials by national companies like Adams Radio Group are really nothing more than public relations commercials and a lame attempt of fitting in with a new community.  Lets face it.  Adams Radio Group is not local.  If we heed the advice of their commercial, local businesses on Delmarva would choose to advertise elsewhere instead of giving their money to Minnesota.  The radio stations would go bankrupt from the lack of ad revenue. 

Where does your ad revenue spent advertising on WZBH or Big Classic Rock go?  Does any of it stay local?

The answer is some of it does.  On WZBH, there are two local DJs who get paid.  Jason Lee , the evening DJ, was let go for "budgetary reasons" as he explained on his FaceBook page .  The two remaining DJs cover nine hours out of the twenty-four the station airs.  On Big Classic Rock, there's one local DJ getting paid.

When one looks at the studies on shopping local, the studies suggest that for every $100 spent at a locally owned store, $68 stays in the community.  Only $13 stays in the community if that same $100 is spent at a national store.  Using this study as a guideline and knowing what we can glean off the Internet about WZBH and Big Classic Rock, I think it's safe to say that about 20% or less of the income each station earns through ad revenue stays in the local community.  (If I am wrong, I challenge Adams Radio Group to provide a verified breakdown of what they earn and what stays on Delmarva.)

If I'm right, where does the other 80% of the cash go?

The rest goes to pay Bob and Tom in Indiana and Alice Cooper in Arizona for their syndicated shows over on Big Classic Rock and to pay Billy Madison and crew in Texas and Lou Brutus in NYC for their syndicated shows on WZBH.  Oh, and then there's the people at corporate headquarters in Minnesota who need to get paid, and, like it or not, the federal government. 

Between the two stations, there are three local on air talents being paid at what might be considered full time or dang near full time hours.  Most of the day - and the generated local ad revenue - is spent on talent outside of Delmarva.

By comparison, there is another "local" radio station, WXDE 105.9 Talk Radio, that advertises a similar shop local message even though they are owned by a company out of Pennsylvania.  They have local talent covering the on air time from 5:30 in the morning until 7:00 at night plus local weekend talent covering a sizable portion of the weekend hours.  They have created at least nine local on-air jobs and actively give air time to locally owned and operated businesses.  We have to ask, "Why can a PA company running a talk radio station spend more on local talent to cover their on air time than a MN company can spend on local talent to cover their on air time playing music?"

The answer may lie partly with the undeniable fact that radio is in its death throes.  There are lots of reasons why FM radio is performing its swan song and for far too many reasons to enumerate in this article.  Suffice it to say that blandness across the radio dial and the consumer desire for content on demand are killing traditional radio.  And, yes, that means the national corporations, i.e. the recording industry, trying to dictate what the nation wants to hear with no regard to what the local communities want to hear has killed traditional radio.  Talk radio, on the other hand, isn't trying to sell MP3s or CDs for the recording industry and has an easier time filling the niche market of local flavor.

New technology is changing the face of entertainment.  Traditional radio stations will need to keep up if they want to remain as a viable force in the entertainment industry.  Bottom line is people want to hear what they want to hear, not what some targeted marketing group thinks they want to hear.

Sadly, how Adams Radio Group is changing the face of our stations by letting all but two of our local on air personalities go might be a sign of what our radio dial of the future will look like.  Local talent won't be spinning the tunes for you.  Automated programming will.  Local talent won't be talking to you nor accepting your calls.  Hosts of nationally syndicated shows will.  Odds are you'll never get your song request through.  Trying will be sort of like trying to talk to someone in Verizon customer service - too many people vying for attention and not enough time or phone lines to give them the attention.

So who stole Jason Lee's job? 

Not pictured: the factories in China
and Mexico where the droids are
being made
Automated Programming.  I like to picture Automated Programming as a 24th-century-style super computer spinning tunes in a dust-free, mirrored floor room while it secretly directs factory workers in China and Mexico to turn out robots that Mr. Automated Programming controls in his quest to rule the world.  The day WZBH plays Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fear will be the day we know Mr. Automated Programming has unleashed his first wave of robots to take over Delmarva and eventually the world.

Since Delmarva is redneck country living in an age about fifty years behind the rest of the world, my realistic guess is Mr. Automated Programming is actually a reel-to-reel tape player.  To save money, the station borrowed an H1B1 Visa worker from Latin America and is paying him fifty cents every time he changes the tape.  It's one of those jobs no American wants, including Jason Lee, but the Latinos love to steal from us hard working Americans anyways.

There are lessons to be learned here about the future of radio careers.  Mr. Automated Programming doesn't need to be our future on air personality.  Through syndication, Jason Lee, you, and anyone (yes, even Crank) can be one.  Consider syndication as radio's form of outsourcing their on air personality jobs. 

I know, I know.  You're probably thinking it's not that easy to get syndicated and it probably costs a lot of time and money to even get started.

In an email interview with Dan Elder, creator of the podcast, Taco Tuesday, he offered this advice:  

Taco Tuesday is a private endeavor, I am the creator and have another professional podcast. I started first Radio Caca (later Taco Tuesday) to improve my podcasting skills and I started it with Adam Wolf. Adam is an aspiring comedian and he wanted to improve his stage presence so we just started podcasting. I did some research on what type of equipment we needed and I bought tit and set it up in a room at my office building. There are no recurring costs for podcasting, other than hosting fees for your audio files. We also have a couple of websites that are not needed, but you can get away with about $20 a month for Libsyn, or we use Podbean for I think $7 a month. Anyone can do it, just spend a bit of time researching.
While Dan made podcasting sound easy, he did offer insight to one huge hurdle he has not yet learned to jump. 

We have not yet cracked the code on how to create loyal listeners who want to listen to every show, and tell their friends. The hardest part for us is to figure out how to get new listeners.

Ok, I'll take the blame for them being one listener short of catching advertisers' eyes.  I'll listen to an episode once in awhile on a Saturday night when I'm done writing and want to space out with mindless computer games, free games because I'm cheap that way.  Right now, I don't have nor fully understand all the on demand technology so listening to Taco Tuesday on a regular basis is not feasible.  If I started listening regularly, maybe they could start earning ad revenue.

Our radio dial is on the cusp of embracing the changes technology is bringing us.  Program directors of tomorrow will scour the Internet in search of popular podcasts that fit their budget.  If no Delmarva talent is building a podcast audience now, our radio of tomorrow may very well be devoid of any local flavor.  Our radio dial will become a wasteland of Adams Radio Group style programming of childish morning shows, afternoons of dumbass story recitals, and Mr. Automated Programming playing the same stale hits of today and forty years ago before he and his machines take over the world.

Related Links:
Many thanks to Dan Elder in Texas for his contribution to this article.  If you like what you hear below be sure to keep in touch with the Taco Tuesday cast:
Taco Tuesday podcasts
Taco Tuesday on iTunes
Dan Elder on Twitter
Adam Wolf on Twitter
Adam Wolf on FaceBook

Additional related links:
The thieves returned Jason Lee
Foreigners seized our radio station

For your listening pleasure, Taco Tuesday episode TT67

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the coverage, we are following this closely through the trials and tribulations of one of my co-hosts Dave in the Cave. Dave has been in the radio business for going on 30-years and has worked for some of the big names. He has also seen the decline and has decided to reach audiences in both mediums for now during this transition time. Listen to his point of view on our upcoming episode on Feb 2 at