This week, I’m going to attempt to be the first person, I think, to ever write a column-in-a-column (this has probably been done thousands of times). Earlier in the day, Jason Barrett penned a column on the site called “The Cold Dose of Radio Reality” which is a good piece on the business side of radio, especially for younger people in the business to read. To make it a little more related to sales, I thought I would go through and make some notes on Jason’s column:
It’s hard sometimes not to become jaded if you work in the radio business. The more time you spend time in it, the more you discover that it’s not just about watching and talking about sports. The newspapers and industry trades at times paint a gloomy picture of what’s happening, leaving you to wonder about the stability of your career. Then as you improve at your craft and command more respect and warrant higher compensation, you learn why the word ‘business’ is included in your industry’s profile description.
Radio is, most definitely, a business. For the larger companies it is BIG business and there are BIG expectations. Yes, it’s radio, it’s the entertainment industry, but like any other business it all ultimately comes down to dollars and cents (or is it sense?). And, while we all know the real story, the reality is two of our largest companies in the industry did file for bankruptcy, so it was easy for that to become the story.
Now, we all have to do our part to change the narrative and focus on all of the positives…one client, one agency at a time. The good news for us, is that when we improve our craft, the higher compensation comes with it!
One of the most common mistakes people make in radio is believing that their contributions to a company entitles them to something greater. Managers believe the brands they run are ‘their radio stations’ and the hosts, producers and contributing members all feel their presence and value to a brand is vital and difficult to replace. Their contributions certainly do matter, especially to those they work with, but in the grand scheme of everything, we’re all still replaceable parts. Some may have greater value, but none of us are irreplaceable.
How many times have you heard someone who’s young and on the way up in their career complain about the money, long hours, and lack of attention they receive from their employer? There’s this belief that their hard work should be recognized, radio should reward its people better, and more TLC should be provided by bosses.
It might be a wise thing to do if you want to retain good employees, but does an employer owe you that? They do not. A company’s primary responsibility is to make sure your check clears every two weeks, and provide you with access to the building to showcase your talent either on-air or behind the scenes during the hours you’re assigned to work.
If you’re smart, you’ll appreciate and take advantage of every single rep because experience benefits you no matter where you go in the future. As we all know, the only thing guaranteed in radio is that something will eventually change. Many people desire to work in this industry, so there’s always going to be someone standing behind you wanting what you have and willing to accept the position at a fraction of the cost.
The key words here from Jason are “none of us are irreplaceable.” Like the programming side, we have our superstars, too. There are sellers who are the best at what they do and while you would absolutely hate to lose them, the fact of the matter is you’d recover. The best possible thing you can do to protect yourself in this business, no matter which side of the building you are on, is to have those air tight relationships – be the person who brings the money (or the audience) along with them, however, while that makes your position very strong, it’s not irreplaceably strong.
Too often I hear complaints about the way companies operate. A host may not like what they’re being asked to focus on from a content standpoint or they may feel restricted from using specific words or tackling certain stories. Producers bitch about the pay, demands of the job, and hours involved to tackle each task. Programmers become frustrated when companies push self-serving initiatives on them, market managers meddle with their product, and corporate folks limit their ability to hire or retain good people.
In many cases I’ve agreed with their concerns, but whether I think they’re right or not, it’s still about convincing those above you to reevaluate a situation because they ultimately have the final say. There is no Mr. Cumulus, Mr. Entercom or Mr. iHeart standing in your way. There are people tasked with representing each company and looking out for its business interests, even if it means halting your plans and complicating your situation.
Stop it. All of us, just stop it. When you go to work for a company, you play by their rules. Now, if you disagree with something happening or have suggestions on how to improve certain aspects of the job, prepare a “case” and make yourself heard. You have to go in, though, knowing that you might get turned down and have to continue doing something you disagree with. That is just part of life and happens at companies each and every day. Too much time is spent complaining about things that are out of our control and putting an end to that would save an incredible amount of time.
I’ve been fortunate in my career to work with some really great people but I’ve also dealt with some shady characters too. Over the past ten years I’m not sure our industry has improved the way it treats its own people. I see too many instances where people perform higher than expected and still lose their jobs over money.
There have also been instances that I’ve experienced firsthand as an entrepreneur which leave a sour taste in my mouth. I’ve done favors for market managers and executives only to have emails ignored afterwards. I’ve witnessed programmers act in cowardly fashion, threatening employees over contributing a piece of content to the BSM website. I’ve had hosts reveal serious issues, only to ignore the advice, and not address it with their employers, and then complain again months later when the same issue pops up.
What you need to remember if you’re working as a host or behind the scenes employee is that your employer is paying you to harness your talent, connect with an audience, sell their advertiser’s products, and extend your resume. By doing so, they’re giving you the chance to increase the viability of your personal brand, and place yourself in position to benefit from the experience you’ve accrued. Maybe it will be with the same radio company. Maybe it won’t.
I, too, have worked with some great people over the last twenty-plus years and plenty of shady characters as well (oh, the book I could write!). For the sellers, the company is giving you the chance to build a book of business using their well-known brands, their talent and their programming – so take advantage of it! Your job is to go out and close business, (all/some/most) of the tools are provided to you to do that and you get to piggy-back off of, in some cases, a heritage radio station that has spent millions on talent, marketing and branding and built great standing in the community. Pretty good deal if you ask me. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, you have the chance to build such a strong relationship with your clients, they go wherever you go.
For those involved on the managing end, there’s a different message that needs to be understood. The station you manage may be part of your identity, and you may love it dearly, but it is not your property. The company owns the brand, you simply operate it. The day you leave, the show goes on. You may not like the direction of where the ship sails next, but it’s no longer your ship to steer when you take your hands off the wheel.
Executives sometimes get caught up in the moves a station makes after they’ve left, and they forget that the choices they made while in control aren’t guaranteed to remain permanent. I’ve gone thru it myself a few times. You can feel differently about the way an operation is being run, and want to rescue what you perceive as ‘your brand’, but all that matters in the end are the results, and how the people involved respond to the new path forward.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over time it’s that there are many different paths and styles to enjoy success. You may have to change a few parts to fit a new vision, but a good brand with good people serving a good audience will always find a way to remain relevant and successful.
I’ve been there. Sometimes you are incredibly invested in things you’ve been a part of, but when you leave, it’s not done the same and you don’t think anyone will care about it as much as you did. That should be expected. I suppose I would worry more about the person who spends a lot of time with a company, then departed for whatever reason, and did not feel connected when they left. Most of us are putting in obnoxious amounts of hours either doing the job or thinking about the job, it would be a shame to have it not really mean much to you.
Because so many people involved in the radio business have passion and love for the work they do, they struggle to cut the cord. The station and staff become part of your heart and soul, and although you may care more about what happens to them than a CEO sitting in a boardroom examining the brand’s profitability, it’s not your choice to make. They made the financial investment in the station, you didn’t. That gives them the right to run it however they see fit.
The point behind this column isn’t to cast a black cloud over the industry, it’s to provide you with a cold dose of reality. Radio is a business, but the line of work you do is special. The people around you share a similar enthusiasm for sports, and it’s a common bond which brings us all together to distract us from the pressures we face each day in life. Yes it’s a job, but it’s a rewarding one whether you’re making $8 an hour or seven figures.
I used to know a gentleman in the business, who every time he talked about what we did, said “This beats a real job any day of the week!” It is special, the business we are in. Even the little people, like us, get the envious look when you tell someone what industry you’re in, followed by the “What’s (so-and-so) really like?”
The fact of the matter is, the younger you are when you learn that radio is a business, the better off you will be. The business of radio consists of revenue and ratings, so make sure you are bringing one or the other and there will always be a place for you, unless you are simply a nightmare to work with.
Work hard. Do your job to the best of your abilities. Not much else is in your control, so don’t waste time with it. I have written this before, but it’s one of my favorites from Dave Gifford: “There isn’t a sales problem in the world that can’t be cured by more presentations!” That’s what you can focus on and control and that’s what the key to making more money is, so as the saying goes “You do you.”
We all have opinions about the pros and cons of this business. The industry will never satisfy 100% of us. Some operators will do things to make employees feel essential to their success. Others may not. You can waste a lot of energy worrying about everything under the sun or ask yourself two questions: “Do I feel a connection to the job in my heart, mind and soul?” and “Is it a career worth investing myself in for the long haul?”
If the answer is yes, then that should be plenty enough reason to continue doing it. If you’re still unfulfilled and feel you need more control, then there’s a solution – buy a radio station. Then, and only then, is the station and each decision truly yours.
As sellers, doing what we do each day, we don’t have a lot of extra energy to waste on worrying, so the only choice is to decide if you are someone who loves being in this business and is willing to grind it out. For most of us, that answer is yes, and if it isn’t then I’m going to STRONGLY disagree with Jason and suggest you not buy a radio station!
Dave Greene is a former sales columnist for BSM. He works as a General Sales Manager for Audacy St. Louis. He can be reached by email at DGreene@Audacy.com or find him on Twitter @DaveGreene34.
Adam Hawk Knew Life Outside Radio Was Possible
The funny thing about radio is you may leave it but it takes time for it to leave you. Meaning, your daily routines in the business don’t just go away the day after you walk out of the studio for the final time.
Waking up at a normal time the day after the Super Bowl was another pleasant reminder to Adam Hawk that his life wasn’t consumed by the grind of radio. For the previous 15 years, watching the Super Bowl meant the stress of constantly taking notes, and trying to create content for everything that was happening, all while facing the inevitability of waking up at 4 a.m. the next day to prep for the biggest The Jim Rome Show of the year.
But not this year. Instead, Hawk spent the night with family and friends and even indulged in a few drinks, all while watching a classic finish between the Rams and Bengals. It was his first Super Bowl in several years where he wasn’t an executive producer of a nationally syndicated radio show. And he loved the change of pace.
However, that feeling is in no way indicative of what his time on The Jim Rome Show was like. It’s just the opposite. Hawk left the show in late July of 2021 because he wanted a different lifestyle than what radio could offer. He was always passionate about creating the best show possible daily and doing it with a group of coworkers he calls close friends, but he wanted a less demanding lifestyle.
“I feel like I’ve lived a couple of lifetimes since leaving The Jim Rome Show and radio in general,” said Hawk. “It’s just been a completely different lifestyle. I’ve been super busy with my own business, working another job for a golf association, and then two kids. I filled up my schedule and I felt a sense of freedom that I hadn’t felt in a long time before. That’s not necessarily indicative of The Jim Rome Show, that’s just radio. You’re always chasing content and glued to your phone and TV. Just to have that away from me, it’s felt like five years, in a good way, not a bad way.”
The funny thing about radio is you may leave it but it takes time for it to leave you. Your daily routines in the business don’t just go away the day after you walk out of the studio for the final time. If you’re used to waking up at 4 a.m. like Hawk was every weekday, you’re bound to find yourself waking up at the same time for several days after.
“The two things I couldn’t shake right away were, my body clock was still waking me up at 4 in the morning,” laughed Hawk. “The show started at 9 a.m. but we were showing up at 5 a.m. I also couldn’t shake the feeling of whenever I would see sports on television, the idea that I needed to form an opinion about what I’m seeing and then turn it into content. When it sunk in that I didn’t have to do that anymore, it was a massive relief.”
Deleting Twitter has also been a massive relief for Hawk. Like so many others in radio, it used to consume his everyday life. It never allowed him to leave work at his actual workplace. Work was always on the screen of his iPhone even at home. So when he decided to leave radio, he couldn’t wait to delete Twitter. Sure, it was odd at first, but he swears by a lifestyle that isn’t controlled by an app.
July 25th marked one year since leaving the radio business. On that day, some reflection likely happened with Hawk on his decision. Though he’s still happy with the way he decided to take his professional career, you can bet there was a moment when he looked back at the great times he had on The Jim Rome Show. Those good memories that popped into his mind were the camaraderie he had with the rest of the staff. The days were everyone pulled together to accomplish something great. That happened a lot as an executive producer and those are the days he looks most fondly at over his 15-year career.
“I’ve also missed the invitation to be creative every day,” Hawk said. “Radio affords you the opportunity to be creative because every day you have to build a sandcastle, a wave is going to knock it down and you start all over again. The content changes and you have to start over every single day. There aren’t a lot of jobs where you start from zero every day.”
Hawk will always have a special legacy with The Jim Rome Show, seeing as he was the executive producer at the time Rome was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame in 2019. Not only was he there at the time of the highest honor in show history, but he pushed to make it happen. Hawk was even mentioned in Rome’s speech, which was one of the most surreal moments of his entire career.
“Jim had to stump for votes, which was kind of demeaning for a guy of his skill set, talent, and importance to the industry,” said Hawk. “But I can see how the Hall of Fame, in order to get some buzz going, would want to have these hosts ask their listeners to vote for them because at the very least it gets the hosts talking about it. We had to ask our listeners to vote and find a way to entice them to do so. We created this thing called The Box of Chaos, where we threw a bunch of things into this box, like, we’re going to do these things if we beat the hosts we were up against.”
“We were up against some conservative talk radio guys, where we had no shot, because they had this built-in fan base that’s so much bigger than even Jim Rome’s, but we ended up thanking the listeners and pulling some of that stuff out because they went so hard for us. The box of chaos was super, super fun and it ended with my good friend James Kelly, who works on the show, reading mean tweets about the size of his forehead and it was one of the funniest payoffs and one of the most fun couple of weeks. I got to work really hard on something I really believed in, which was Jim getting into The Hall of Fame. Ultimately it didn’t work, but he got in the next year on his own merit. I got name-checked by Jim Rome in his hall of fame speech which, as a kid, that’s something I would have never imagined. Radio was some of the best times of my life.”
There’s also the thrill and excitement of producing Smack-Off which is one of the most well-known sports radio features the business has ever seen. It’s a huge time for the show and likely a stressful time, as well.
“Every Smack-Off was a proud moment because there’s a lot of things going on behind the scenes in terms of producing that show,” said Hawk. “That show, in my opinion, is still the most important radio show of the year for our genre, because it’s been around for 30 years and it trends on Twitter and people take it very seriously. It was always a proud moment to produce those.”
Those memories were undoubtedly on Hawk’s mind when he started to consider leaving radio in 2020. He didn’t leave the business until 2021, but the pandemic contributed heavily to his decision. Hawk watched as so many people around him transitioned into a work life from home, where they could set their hours. He was envious of their ability to work remotely and reconnect with family and friends on a different level.
“I know people have Comrex setups and things like that, but you can’t do The Jim Rome Show from home,” Hawk said. “That’s not possible. I realized that I was in this business where it’s incredibly hard to get time off because content never stops. I think anyone in radio can attest to this. It’s stressful around Thanksgiving and Christmas to think about taking time off because everyone wants it but someone has to be on the air. There’s a lot of games during the holidays. It’s not a normal life. After 15 years of this, I finally thought, I want to trade this in for a normal life. Everyone is thinking, with us, this is the greatest gig in the world. And in some respects it is, but it’s not what the general public thinks. It’s not sitting courtside at Laker games. It’s not flying on private jets to the Super Bowl or being best friends with Odell Beckham Jr. it’s a lot of work and that content doesn’t produce itself.”
If Hawk was going to leave sports radio, he wanted to chase something he was passionate about. He found that in 2020 with a company that specializes in preserving the swanky style of a well-dressed golfer. Nation Golf is a clothing brand for golfers and a style that Hawk believes in wholeheartedly. He was immediately drawn to the business and knew it was a venture he wanted to chase.
“I’ve always been drawn to the timeless, aesthetic of yesteryear,” said Hawk. “You look at these old timers that are wearing these clean pressed shirts and slacks, you’re just like wow, they look as good today, as they did 50 or 60 years ago. It’s the pure definition of timeless. You turn on TV and watch the PGA Tour, nobody is dressing like that, they’re like NASCAR drivers covered in logos or clowns like Ricky Fowler in his bright Orange. There’s no style, charisma, or charm and I think when those guys see photos of themselves in 10 years they’re going to be embarrassed.
“I started looking immediately for vintage golf clothes and Zuckerberg is listening to everything you’re thinking so he put Nation Golf in front of me. I was like, holy s***, I can’t believe someone is doing this and I can buy it new, I don’t have to go to a thrift store. I can buy it new. I just got immediately sucked into it.”
Hawk noticed the Instagram following for Nation Golf was much lower than he thought it should be for a brand so cool. Something clicked for him at that moment. As the executive producer of a Hall of Fame radio show, he had confidence in his abilities to operate promotions and social media on a big-time level. He was curious if he could apply those skills and apply it to the business. He was out to see if he could do just that with Nation Golf so he reached out to founder and CEO Ryan Engle.
“I loved the logo, I loved the name, I loved the clothes and I ended up loving the guy,” Hawk said. “He told me he had taken it as far as it could possibly go on his own and it was the perfect time for me to come down and pitch him. He said, hey, Let’s play 18 holes together, if you’re not a serial killer, we can do this. And we did.”
Business for Nation Golf has gotten progressively better to the point it’s grown exponentially. But he never wanted to rely on The Jim Rome Show to help with the growth of the company, even when he was balancing both jobs daily. Rome was fully supportive of Hawk’s side hustle and only reminded him to ‘keep the main thing, the main thing.’
“I take a lot of pride in the fact I never used Jim’s platform to sell the company,” said Hawk. “I didn’t feed callers to him that were going to talk about it. I didn’t put emails in front of him that were going to talk about it. I tried to keep it as separate as possible. Even on my last day when Jim asked me on the air what was next, I did say ‘Hey, I don’t want to turn this into a commercial for what I’m doing next, but I am going to run my own business’. Didn’t even mention Nation Golf by name, because I felt like he had been sailing that giant yacht of a radio show for 30 years and I didn’t want to be the clown who’s about to jump off and pulling the parachute that has a giant logo of the company on it. That just wasn’t my thing.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
Sports Talkers Podcast – Tim Kurkjian
Fresh off of his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Tim Kurkjian joins Stephen Strom to talk about his love for the sport and his appreciation of his place in it.
Stephen Strom can be heard hosting ‘The Sports Talkers Podcast’ for Barrett Sports Media. In addition to hosting here, Stephen works as a broadcasting assistant for the Miami Heat and color analyst for Nova Southeastern. Additional career experiences include working for SiriusXM, performing analyst duties for Princeton basketball, and hosting shows for TalkNorth.com. You can find him on Twitter @SStrom_.
A Great Catchphrase Can Make a Baseball Broadcast Iconic
Baseball has lent itself to some of the greatest ‘catchphrases’ to ever grace radio and television.
Baseball has lent itself to some of the greatest ‘catchphrases’ to ever grace radio and television. Some are clever and some are excellent. A few have been made into t-shirts. Many of those phrases are delivered back to the announcers when fans see them in public. These catchphrases can be for any play during a game. A great defensive play, a walk-off win, but mainly you hear them during a home run call. That’s where a lot of the ones used today are featured.
For example. “See. You. Later!” from Nationals television voice Bob Carpenter. When a Washington player hits one out, Carpenter gets very deliberate and articulate with the three-word phrase.
Hall of Famer Eric Nadel in Texas exclaims, “That ball is history!” when a Rangers player goes yard.
Michael Kay on the YES Network says, “Going back, at the track, at the wall… SSSEEYA!”, really drawing out the “s” sound.
A jubilant Tom Hamilton on Guardians radio, belts out, “Swing and a drive, deep to left, a “waaaaaay” back and it is gone!”, and the fans eat it up.
Pat Hughes on Cubs’ radio, “that ball has a chaaaance gone!”, building in an ‘out’ if you will incase the ball falls short of the fence. One of the more unique ones these days is from Pirates broadcaster Greg Brown, “Clear the deck! Cannonball coming (to the Allegheny)”, a very team centric phrase. Also, after a win, he “raises the Jolly Rodger!”
There are others, but it would take several columns to go through all of them. Growing up in Chicago, I was treated to many great announcers calling games. I remember some of their better home run calls. For Jack Brickhouse it was punctuated with a “HEY HEY!” on a Cubs home run. Harry Caray said, “it might be, it could be, it is! A home run! Holy Cow!”.
One of my favorite announcers as a kid was Vince Lloyd who paired with Lou Boudreau in the Cubs radio booth. Lloyd was known for “Holy mackerel!” He morphed into adding “It’s a bell-ringer!” after a fan sent the guys a cowbell to ring when a Cubs’ player hit a home run. That might have been a bit excessive, but I was a kid and loved it.
Fans throughout the years have been treated to some great phrases by equally great announcers. Here are a few of them, again knowing I left many of out. Many.
Dave Niehaus, Seattle Mariners – “Get out the rye bread and mustard, grandma, it is grand salami time!”, that was his signature call for a Mariners’ grand slam. His normal home run call was pretty good as well. “That ball is belted, deep to left field…and it will fly away!”, a great visual aid for those at home picturing the ball leaving the park.
Ernie Harwell, Detroit Tigers – “Called out for excessive window shopping.”, that was one of his calls for a strikeout. I like this one better though, “He stood there like a house on the side of the road.” How Midwest is that? Iconic.
Mel Allen, New York Yankees – “How about that!”, pretty simple, but relatable. That legend lived on thanks to “This Week in Baseball” back in the day.
Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, Chicago White Sox – “You can put it on the booooooard…. Yes.”
There was no greater “homer” as in hometown guy, than the Hawk. That was just his home run call. There was also “Can of Corn” for a routine catch, “Duck Snort” for a bloop hit and a long drive that went foul, “Right size, wrong shape”. Throw in “stretch!” and “Mercy!” Pretty good and natural sounding stuff.
Red Barber, Brooklyn Dodgers – His signature was just “Oh, doctor!” Simple yet effective.
Vin Scully, Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers – Vin didn’t have a catchphrase. He didn’t need one. Vin was the quintessential wordsmith and his use of the English language was better than any catchy saying. Setting the mood, the drama and the moment was what Vin did best. An amazingly talented broadcaster that was able to span generations and the country.
That’s a good spot to pick up. One of the best broadcasters in any sport anywhere, really didn’t have a catchphrase. There are many big-league announcers that don’t have one either. It’s not something to me, that’s a mandatory thing. I remember one well known announcer asking me when I first started with the Padres if I had a catchphrase. My answer was no. I thought he would tell me how important it was, but instead he said ‘good’. I asked why? He said a couple of things to me that I haven’t forgotten.
First this very talented announcer said something to the effect, it’s more important for you to establish yourself as a great game caller. He stressed this a couple of times. The meaning behind it, be good at what you were hired to do and worry about the rest of the flare later.
He also said if you have a signature home run call, it’s strange sometimes, because a homer in the first inning is different than a meaningful homer late in the game. I think the first point holds more water than the second. I mean if you’re not a good game caller, what’s the point of even having a catchphrase, right?
Like I said at the beginning, I don’t begrudge those that have their own phrases. Those that have made it to the upper echelons of the profession are already excellent game callers, so why not have one to use. I’ve got nothing against them, in fact, I got jealous of a few, wishing I was the one that came up with it!
I don’t think it’s imperative for up-and-coming broadcasters to have one just yet either. Instead, I would advise them to concentrate on doing a good broadcast first and foremost. That’s how you get noticed for the right reasons.
Andy Masur is a columnist for BSM and works for WGN Radio as an anchor and play-by-play announcer. He also teaches broadcasting at the Illinois Media School. During his career he has called games for the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox. He can be found on Twitter @Andy_Masur1 or you can reach him by email at Andy@Andy-Masur.com.