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What Can Weezer Teach Sports Radio?

“If you want to grow your audience you have to evolve. Even the stuff you have done well your whole career cannot sound in 2019 the way it did in 1995.”

Demetri Ravanos

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This Christmas, Santa is bringing my son tickets to his first concert. Somehow, his three favorite bands are all touring together, so of course we’re going. It’s Fall Out Boy (I will spend their entire set reminding myself that I love my son and that sometimes being a good dad means having to do things you hate), Weezer (whatever), and Green Day (one of my favorites).

Image result for hella mega tour

His Weezer obsession is a pretty new thing. Recently, when my kids are in the car, Weezer has been in pretty heavy rotation. I was never a huge fan of theirs. They have a couple of songs I like (“Hash Pipe” and “Keep Fishin'”), a few songs I love (“Pink Triangle,” “Dope Nose,” and “We Are All on Drugs”), and then a bunch of crap I could take or leave.

As my kids have gotten into Weezer though, one thing I have noticed is that their Weezer sounds nothing like my Weezer. The Blue Album came out when I was 13. “Buddy Holly” and “Undone” were power pop anthems filled with sarcasm and angst, something between punk and arena rock. Now that I have kids that are within spitting distance of the age I was when Weezer first broke through, the band sounds nothing like I recognize.

Weezer is just a straight up pop band now. They release cover albums. They perform songs from Disney movies. They have their eyes focused clearly not on selling vinyl, but on racking up Spotify streams.

It is an interesting phenomenon, but something sports radio hosts could take a lesson from. If you want to grow your audience you have to evolve. Even the stuff you have done well your whole career cannot sound in 2019 the way it did in 1995.

A good example of this is in how we interact with listeners. Nothing sounds more archaic in sports radio than a show that is just a never-ending stream of phone calls. Chris in Greenville is on the line yelling about how the College Football Playoff committee doesn’t show Clemson enough respect while Jason in Spartanburg is on hold waiting for his chance to yell about how the nation is so obsessed with Ohio State that they are going to be shocked when Clemson wins the Fiesta Bowl. It is so damn repetitive and spins the show in circles.

In 2019 we can turn to texts or Tweets. If you’re a Hubbard station, maybe you take advantage of the company’s mic drop program. Whichever you use, the point is that a good host and producer can screen quicker and not risk turning over multiple minutes of the show to someone that doesn’t really have anything to say. You can still be just as interactive as you were in the days of phone calls, except now you have all the tools you need to keep the conversation moving and hold the attention of everyone, not just Chris in Greenville and Jason in Spartanburg.

Think about where else it is time to you for evolve. This isn’t just an exercise for talent. PDs need to be thinking about contesting and imaging. Sales staff should be thinking about live reads and ad packages. Promotions staff should be thinking about what happens at their remotes.

Look, I may not like what Weezer sounds like now, but the band knows it can count on nostalgia to bring me into the fold at least a little bit. It’s far less likely that my kids were ever going to discover the band if all they had to go on was a 24-year-old song about a singer that has been dead for sixty years.

I use news talk radio all the time as an example of what the worst version of sports talk’s future looks like. Every spot break includes at least thirty seconds of Larry King yelling about Garlique. Why? Because their listeners are older than dirt. Why? Because every host has sounded exactly the same since 1985.

They are all recapping Fox News talking points and living on the far right fringes of every conspiracy theory they can imagine, because that is what their audience wants. No PD or network has ever stopped to think about what the next generation of news talk listener looks or thinks like, so the format is going to ride this angry white guy act straight into its apocalypse.

Weezer could have done the same. They could have been the new Kiss or Möley Crüe or Lynyrd Skynyrd, never releasing music and touring on the greatest hits. They could have watched as the crowds and venues got smaller until eventually there was no demand for their bullshit music anymore.

Image result for motley crue old men

That’s not what Weezer did and sports talk radio needs to take notice. Hell, radio in general needs to take notice. There are new audiences out there that we can bring into the fold, but they aren’t coming if we insist on only doing the kinds of things that they have already proved they have no interest in.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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