A programmer in a mid-sized market and I had a conversation yesterday about a plethora of related radio topics. I had to ask one question prefaced with how I felt about the issue of new talent and/or the lack of it. I still remember how excited I was when I got my first radio gig at WIGO in 1985. The possibility of moving from market to market and having a career in the music industry was almost overwhelming to me. To think that dream or that excitement has rarely been felt by a young black jock in the last decade disturbs me. If I was programming a station today and I was unable to train new talent and guide them, I would not be interested in working there. I can’t speak for other radio folks in their 40s but, provided you’re human, there comes a time in one’s life when you want to begin the process of leaving a legacy. A need develops to help others as you begin to finally understand, it’s really NOT all about YOU! Sadly, there are some people who never learn that lesson and greed dominates their lives… but we will talk about syndication later.
An urban programmer is not just the person that fine tunes the radio station but he or she is also a teacher, mentor and guide for future legends. I asked this programmer in particular if he was able to train new urban talent and he told me, “That’s one of the things I miss the most about programming. I had a GM tell me that those days are just gone.” No surprise there. While urban programmers have many jobs today, it would seem difficult to circumvent the creative aspect of the position but it appears many PDs have had no choice in an effort to keep their jobs (plural). I talked to another PD about the same issue and she told me she misses is so much that she actually has a kid that goes to a local college that she guides for the hell of it. She sees great potential in this kid but the opportunities to hire and train him, these days, are limited. She stated: “The way urban radio works today, there are not many new talents waiting in line anymore, you basically take the best of the worst to train when an opportunity comes along because it’s hard to find the best of the best. It seems potential jocks are losing interest.”
Without a doubt syndication has played a major role in would-be and even once-potential young urban radio superstars, forced out and forced to choose different career paths. This is one of the main reasons I am so against it. It just boils down to greed and self promotion disguised by community-oriented themes. That’s fine, if urban radio could profit from it. If you think steve harvey is not making money from the Kmart Lay-a-Way program you have my permission to go and bang your head into the nearest wall. I absolutely can’t be mad at Steve for taking advantage of the opportunity but I am pissed at the urban radio template for not giving TRUE urban announcers an opportunity like this to promote their OWN shows. Bottom line, Steve has stations and Steve has leverage to do what the hell he wants to do but the question remains, is urban really generating any revenue from this? I hear if you want Steve, for example, to come to the station and city where his show runs to do an appearance, he will allegedly send you an invoice for $45,000. What a great way to say thanks to the urban markets and stations that continue to build his show. What urban station can afford that? In addition, how long do you think it’s going to take before syndication companies start hitting urban radio up to even RUN the shows? Trust me, it’s coming. In the 60s and 70s believe it or not, urban radio announcers were actually allowed to sell their own shows. This is exactly what Steve and Tom are doing but on a grander scale. Is there one innovative urban programmer out there that thinks a YOUNG local talent cant drive the same numbers if not BETTER than any syndicated show in their market? I think this concept of allowing a local announcer to sell his own show, under some guidelines would certainly work today if the announcer could get a percentage of the campaign and it would motivate announcers to win, be creative and it would generate excitement AND urban radio would not be forking over the entire campaign to a dated syndicated host.
The syndicated hosts, in addition, have no interest in developing young urban talent. Look at who is on their teams? Most if not all people on the other side of their careers who are over 40. Have you also noticed that none of Steve Harvey’s crew is allowed to promote themselves? I can appreciate all that the current syndication hosts have done as far as their shows but it almost always (if not always) benefits them monetarily. Remember one was sued for keeping donations from Hurricane Katrina? If that was one of us, the corps(e) would find a way to keep us from making ANY profit and blackball us. For those of us who love the industry TRUE hosts do something FOR the industry instead of themselves only. They leave a legacy, create trends and break barriers. Who would have been the next Petey Green, Frankie Crocker and now Wendy Williams? I have yet to hear one single jock say they want to follow the radio paths or be like Steve Harvey, Tom Joyner or Michael Baisden. Have you? The return to local radio will save Urban radio because it is the ONLY concept that even the INTERNET can’t duplicate……YET. If you can find the room to train a local jock for the weekends kill two birds with one stone, satisfy your creative flow and prepare for the new industry to emerge sans more than 50% of the current syndication within the next couple of years. Corporations will CONTINUE to lose revenue and blame it on the economy sans exploration of the actual failing product and they are going to be forced to start selling off stations, The new independent owners, who will have a fresh and innovate perspective, will immediately realize syndication will not work for them.
If WHEN any of these new owners are successful, the corporations will be forced to take note and act, hopefully it won’t be too late.