It's 8:39pm on a Sunday evening and the more things change, and the older you get, the more you turn into that grade school kid who didn't do homework all weekend so now he's got to cram on Sunday night. There's that Sunday night angst that never really goes away because try as you might you still wind up already behind for the week. Go figure. Try, just try, to do all your homework and go to bed early on a Sunday night so you'll be refreshed and prepared for your Monday morning Science test or radio show.
On Friday, after the show, Alexis and I made the yearly trek to Waveland Avenue for a charity rooftop party. We push the hell out of $120 tickets all Spring so that 250 or so Region Rats can sit on top of a building across from Wrigley Field and engage in various forms of gluttony. There's an endless supply of food and beverages for the $120 and an endless supply of interesting and sometimes even weird conversations. And over the years there's been a whole lot of weird and interesting things happen that I can never, ever talk about.
Here's a mild one from Friday. I'm sitting there on the rooftop with my personal group of degenerates from the Tuesday night bowling team, which includes liquor distributor Brian Cook, attorney David Gladish, cabinetmaker Wayne Micka, and Rick Griffin, the X-ray guy. After enough imbibing, we start talking about how much money it would be for a lower level ticket to game 7 of the Blackhawks-LA Ducks game Saturday night in Anaheim. Hmmm. In Chicago it would be about two grand.
But not in Anaheim, where they apparently have a lot of other things to do on a Saturday night than go to hockey games. In Anaheim it was only $450. So these geniuses - with the help of my daughter Jeanie dinking around the internet too on her phone - figure out that you could fly to LA round trip ($328), buy a game 7 lower level ticket ($420), rent an SUV for five guys for two nights ($20 per person) and get a hotel room ($180 per guy for two nights based on double occupancy) for less - WAY LESS - than what it would cost to go to a game 7 jn Chicago.
Go figure. Now this discussion emanated, as things like this often do, from some stuff on my show that morning. It seems that a local attorney - Kevin Smith, who was on WJOB on Friday morning - had turned down a game 7 ticket in Anaheim from his brother, Matt "Money" Smith, the big LA sportstalk host guy. In with the ticket, of course, was a free place to stay, transportation from the airport, free food and drink and so forth. In other words, it wasn't gonna cost Kevin Smith anything but 25,000 United miles to fly to LA for the evening. Plus, he'd be going with his brother to sit in celebrity row and attend celebrity parties, if he so chose.
But Kevin Smith didn't choose. He declined. WJOB morning producer Ryan Walsh got wind of this, called Money Smith, whom we know would be working out at about 8:30 central time, and got him on the phone to essentially embarrass his brother. Suggestions were made that attorney Kevin Smith should turn in his man card (by me) and one insightful texter came up with this - "We know what Kevin Smith will be doing at 7pm on Saturday night - getting a bikini wax."
It's not that I'm not injected in to the story. As we sat on the rooftop plotting to drive straight from the rooftop to Ohare to fly to LAX, I texted Matt Money during his show to tell him of the price differential and that a bunch of Region Rats were on a rooftop trying to figure out a way to see game 7 on Saturday night in Anaheim.
Money didn't text me back right away - he was doing his show, remember - but he did call me right after his show with an invitation to come to Anaheim and, you guessed it, stay at his house, etc. And like his sissy brother, I also declined. That's between you and me. And since nobody, and I mean NOBODY reads this blog, let's keep it that way.
To make a long story short, I wound up driving back to Indiana with wife Alexis, daughter Jeanie, and station manager Debbie Wargo. Before that, though, we did walk across Clark Street to Bernie's, where we sat near the back bar to let the traffic bleed out before trekking across Chicago. And a weird thing happened - I ran in to some guys I used to work with on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade.
Let me take that back. It wasn't necessarily weird that former Chicago Board of Traders were hanging out at the back bar of Bernie's. That has been the unofficial Board of Trade hangout for decades. Until I left trading in 2004, there were many afternoons instead of sweating it out in the pits, I'd be sweating it out at the back bar at Bernie's. It would be essentially the same kind of gathering as in the pits - sweating, stinking guys shouting into each other's ears and some pretty, non-stinky gals hanging around either shouting along with us or just sitting there looking pretty.
Anyways, I got a point here so hang on. Alexis, Debbie and daughter Jeanie find a seat on the patio out back. It's crowded as hell with drunk people everywhere, cops, people on bikes selling peanuts, drunk girls pushing through in to the mens room to take a piss - you get the picture. Friday afternoon Wrigley stuff.
"I'll join you guys out there in a few minutes," I tell them. And that's cuz I'm in a conversation with a guy I used to trade with. He tells me that he's left the Board of Trade and that he lost X amount in real estate and Y amount with a couple of restaurants but that he still has Z amount left and that he travels around mostly and that he's leaving for Europe on Monday. Good enough.
Then I talk to another Board of Trade guy - let's call him Mr. Outtrade because he had a lot of miscues on the floor - and he told me that his wife left him after he had an affair with their gardener but that he invested X amount with a former floor trader who runs a hedge fund so he has Y left, which is enough to send all his seven kids to private school, high school and college.
Another guy told me that he lost all his money - X amount - and he drives a limo. He gave me his card.
One gal told me that she works doing nails and that her boyfriend rides a 1967 Harley Davidson that costs X amount.
"So you ran in to some trader people, huh?" Alexis asked.
"Yeah. Same old thing."
"You mean they talked about how much money they have and didn't ask you once about what you're doing?"
That Alexis. She's got some pretty good insight. Anyways, Gladish, Cook, Micka and Griffin went to Anaheim and sent me pics all weekend. I appreciate that. And I also appreciate that they brought home a game 7 victory and now most of June will be spent planning around upcoming Hawks games. It's a great way to spend a summer, if that's what you call it. It was 48 degrees, windy, rainy and dark all weekend. But, you guessed it, it was a steady sunny and 80 in Anaheim, California.
......... Oh, also, maybe since I was feeling a little guilty lately, Alexis, Jeanie and I went today to visit with my 95-year-old grandma, Jean Matson. There's a pic above of us at Debby and Danny's house. How many 53-year-old radio hosts can say they hung out with their 95-year-old grandma today? Huh, how many?
It's 2:13pm on a Thursday afternoon and my day's essentially over, at least in terms of radio. It was a show full of law enforcement. Griffith chief Greg Mance talked about why he went to Lake County prosecutor Bernie Carter with possible charges against Griffith and Hammond players from the big on-court melee in February. This is big. A change of policy, police tactics, community acceptance (or non-acceptance). We haven't heard the end of this one. How do you stop the violence in high school sports? Not easy.
As I pressed Mance for why this occurrence, why not violence in other sports? He said I was being absurd, pointing out that the Griffith-Hammond video went viral nationwide.
"So is that the standard? If it goes viral nationwide then you'll press charges."
"I didn't say that."
Mance probably didn't like that exchange all too much but as I said afterwards, Greg knows how to put on his big-boy pants. Oh well.
Then it was another Greg, attorney general Greg Zoeller, who has been put on a big trade commission in DC. I chided this Greg, who is regularly suing and/or critiquing our federal government, as a potential Washington insider. He probably didn't like that too much but oh well.
Then sheriff John Buncich came in. He weighed in on the Griffith thing, first praising chief Mance. Then the sheriff said that it was his opinion that high school athletics stuff should be handled by the schools and coaches and parents, not law enforcement. You see, everyone's got an opinion on this one. Maybe it is time to start charging out-of-line high school athletes with criminal charges. Maybe it's not. You tell me.
Oh, and I chided the sheriff about having catchers mitts for hands plus sausage fingers. And for driving five miles an hour below the speed limit. He laughed but not so sure he liked my jocularity. Oh well.
Also, Will Glaros brought in Benny Gamba, whose restaurant in Merrillville sets the bar for fine dining around here. Benny said a lot about working hard, coming to the country not speaking a lick of English, and, also. - "I don't follow trends. Just keep it simple."
You get the picture. It's another day of radio in the books. After the show, I worked with our new marketing department in the form of Kelly Lauer and Alex Kazmierczak, recent Purdue Cal graduates. We are coming up with packages for businesses to sponsor the new studio that should be ready in a couple of months. It's weird, this marketing thing. As I say on the air a lot, we have had, for last 11 years, PMS.
That's the Passive Marketing System. For 11 years we've pretty much just waited for people to call us to advertise. We're finally ready to be pro-active about it. And it's not just radio. It's the traditional terrestrial radio with the audio and video streams, podcasts, website banners, Facebook, twitter and other social media. You could wipe your kitchen table three times over with all of the digital malarky we have to offer. I'll keep you posted how all of this goes.
For now, we are starting from scratch in terms of forming a marketing department. Debbie Wargo, my sister Jen, the two Purdue Cal newbies, Ryan, Alexis - we're all putting in our two cents to create something from nothing. We'll see.
Tuesday morning, 9:59am.
Just finished the morning show. Verlie Suggs joined me 6-7:30am and we talked a lot about Griffith police pushing charges on high school athletes for a fight during a basketball game. Tectonic shift. Criminals on the court, felons on the field? Lots of calls. Thanks for that.
I did get a comment for this blog. Here it is from Jason.
perhaps if you ever responded to any comment, be it here, on social media, or through email, you might find a purpose.
..... point well taken, Jason. I'll think about it. Perhaps I just don't fully want to be a part of the ongoing, never-ending flood of blah that drips all day on Facebook and twitter. I don't get it. I do a show for four hours a day and then I'm kind of weary of the constant back and forth, the tug of war. When I'm done, I'm done. And I get the feeling that I gotta change that.
What comes to me is the question of why radio isn't Facebook or Twitter? No shit. As I've mentioned before, I went to the Radio Convergence conference last year (this year's conference takes place this week, and I'm not going). And what I heard was a guy tell me out by the pool - "I've been coming to this conference for 15 years and we still haven't figured out digital." He means that radio guys and gals are still lost when it comes to being an integral part of daily lives.
We do what I call "pedestal" radio.
Pedestal radio is a vertical relationship. Me host, you listener. Me talk, you listen. You call, me decide who gets on and how long. Me get paid, you don't. We put the radio show on a pedestal and everyone else sits on a blanket around it.
Facebook and twitter, on the other hand, are like this mosh pit in front of Sid Vicious. Anything goes. Or you can go sit in the garden out back and have a peaceful soiree with other admirers of fine linen. In a weird way, everyone's equal on Facebook and twitter but not in radio. Me host, you listener. Me post on website, you observe. Somehow we gotta change the vertical relationship in radio to a more horizontal relationship of Facebook, Twitter and social media in general. I don't know how but somehow radio's gotta be more like Facebook and twitter, at least in terms of the equality of the relationship.
I know that I'm not explaining "pedestal radio" all that well. But over time maybe I can. Another problem with radio is that it's mostly by appointment. Shows are on at certain times, and even podcasts get posted at certain times. Facebook and Twitter really don't have appointments, except maybe concert announcements and such. It's anything goes at any time. And that's crucial. Waiting in line at the dentist? Check your Facebook and interact with a high school buddy hiking the Himalayas. Radio has no place in that communication line.
How to attack the inherent weaknesses in "appointment radio?" Again, I don't have a solution. Not yet. But I think about it a lot. What if my show didn't necessarily have an exact time to come on? Or, more directly, what if I came on the air at random times? Why not? It's my wife's station and to be direct, we make most of our money during my show in the morning. Almost all of it. So what harm would it do if I just turned on the mic at any time of the day?
In line at Jewel - start talking in to my phone and have it go straight on the air.
Having a couple cold ones at a rooftop charity fundraiser on a Friday afternoon - go straight on the air, maybe during a top of the hour break or a short interruption to a network program.
There's an idea in here that is half-baked, I know. But I get the feeling that if we turn the thinking upside down, then maybe we in radio can be more part of people's lives. No shit.
Pedestal radio - Me talk, you listen.
Appointment radio - Me talk at five, you listen at five.
Where does radio have any role in a world in which you can pick up your phone and start interacting with people all over the world in an instant, get up-to-the-second news, learn gossip, look at photos, watch videos, even listen to audio? Somehow, for radio, there's got to be a better way. I'm sure of it.
So there, Jason. I hope that's a response to your comment about me never responding. You are right. I know it. And I'm looking for a solution that somehow involves that 400-foot tower out back of Smith Chevrolet.
It's been a long time since I wrote to you in this blog and I do apologize for that. The best I can offer is that 1.) if you help run a family-owned radio station, you work 60 hours a week on it. That's really the only way that it moves forward. And at the end of the day you really don't have the time to laze about and write about nothing.
And 2.) I don't know where this blog is headed. I really do want to chronicle the long, sweet goodbye of local radio. That's an overriding theme for me. I grew up during the heavy decline and near death of the local steel industry. I traded in the pits of the Chicago Board of Trade during the heyday and then during the beginning of the end, so I know what it's like when a way of communicating and doing business dies. I just wish I had taken more notes, written a blog... something. It died slowly and I started to feel it in the late 90s and by 2004 I was certain that the end was near. It was. Instead of sticking around for the goodbye hugs and drinks, I left trading completely. My wife and I bought a radio station (and a newspaper, if you remember correctly).
But it is not only the slow and steady decline of radio that interests me. It's what happens next, which is where I'm most confused. Alexis and I just took my daughter on a vacation for her college graduation. We flew to Ft. Lauderdale and then drove to Key West for a few days. That's the cheapest way to do it, by the way. And true to form for a good portion of the vacation I thought about radio. And every time we went somewhere I listened for how the music or other audio was being delivered. Only a few times did I hear traditional local radio.
One was in the workout room of the Bahia Mar Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale. The trainer who led rich wives through stretching and medicine ball exercises liked to listen to the Miami-based smart aleck guys on the hip music station. While I was in there one morning the jocks called a guy live and outed him as having had a gay affair with some other dude.
"I don't know who this is but I'm going to sue your station for libel and slander." Sounded staged. But it did have the dramatic shock effect that got the head trainer of the workout room at Bahia Mar Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to listen to their FM station.
The other time I heard local radio was on a boat. Alexis and I and Jeanie and her boyfriend Daniel took a "Danger EcoCruise" out into the gulf. Snorkeling, kayaking, sailing and a whole bunch of talk about the animals and plants and coral and you get the picture. I'm still a little sore from pumping on the sea kayak into a 30 mile an hour wind for the better part of a mile. Also got some really good GoPro footage of blue and yellow and pink fish and some pretty neat coral configurations and I will use that in an upcoming project. You'll see.
On the way back in to port, the captain put on the radio. While we had been out filming and kayaking and such, Alexis and a couple of other women and what looked like a couple of gay men stayed behind on the boat. They wanted what the captain called "make out" music, which my wife actually described to me as a Jack Johnson mix on internet radio. Captain Evan wanted something with a little more kick, so he put the country station out of Miami on the speakers for the ride in. Traditional local radio brought about by a boat captain singing along to modern Kenny Chesney while he twirled the wheel. He wore a ton of white cream on his nose and a salt-worn Atlanta Braves hat.
Oh, there was a third time that I heard some traditional local radio. That was at the pool at the La Concha hotel in Key West. For most of the day it was an all-ages internet-fed mix of different music that could play while you read the latest Grisham novel or paged through a People magazine. And drank pina coladas. But near the end of the day the bartender had to wash all the glasses, clean all the counters, flush the lines, pick up empties and so forth. The La Concha has ridiculously small rooms, so while Alexis prepped for dinner I went down to the pool and just kinda sat there, thinking about radio.
The pool slowly emptied of sunburnt insurance salesmen from Philly and sunburnt Germans, Israelis, Pakistanis and foreigners from Miami. So I got to sit there with an empty pool and... Mix 104.9 on the radio. Since most everyone one had left, the bartender had switched to his favorite radio station - the local high-energy rock and pop station. I kinda liked it. A little too much Taylor Swift but the station imaging is solid and they don't over talk on the music.
So there. Three times I heard traditional radio on the trip. We didn't even listen to traditional radio in the rented Ford Fusion. After some initial struggle, Jeanie synched her iPhone to the car stereo and we listened to either Pandora or to serial podcasts. If you don't know what serial podcasts are, then you don't know the future of radio.
To circle back. I really do apologize for not writing this blog for a while. It still boils down to that I am confused by at least two things - the purpose of this blog and the future of radio. I don't have a clue about either.
As to why write this blog.... I get this feeling that if I just write enough we'll approach a purpose. Or maybe if I write enough words they'll all jumble together to make us both realize that there isn't any real purpose but just some reasonable entertainment in my of observations, opinions, callers, listeners, sponsors, guests, producers, fans (yes, fans) and America in general. An Alexander de Tocqueville who lives here and isn't French.
But as to chronicling the long, sweet goodbye of traditional radio.... I'm a little confused about that too. We all know the numbers. Traditional radio loses about 6% total listening hours a year. And according to some recent hints from the Radio Convergence people, some stations are losing as much as 30-40% of their revenue, year over year, as buyers switch money to digital. I get all of that and am preparing for the changeover also... but I'm still quite confused about what's really happening. And when I sit down to write to you about what's happening in my life and my area and my radio, it's all happening so fast that I feel as if a big wave on Ft. Lauderdale Beach sweeps me off my feet. As I twirl around in the primordial saltiness as if in a washing machine, I lose my pen. That's the best I can explain it.