As Jon Goulet, FS1 producer for The Herd with Colin Cowherd shared with me in the first volume of the Producer’s Playbook, “Don’t be afraid to push back on your host. If you aren’t getting into arguments or disputes somewhat regularly with the host then you aren’t doing your job right. Hosts don’t like producers that agree with everything that they say. They respect producers that make them and their shows better.”
A particularly unique vantage point for host’s needs come from those who have sat in the producers chair at some point in their career. I spoke with three producers turned hosts about what the necessary ingredients for success are when it comes to balancing the producer/host dynamic.
Host of Pritch and Clay on Raider Nation Radio 920 and longtime executive producer & co-host alongside Ed Graney on ESPN Las Vegas, Clay Baker weighed in on the most valuable lesson he learned and how it can help others as they begin to form and develop relationships with their talent.
“If you’re a producer starting out, sometimes looking at how a host does a show can be a mystery that only the talent knows. So immerse yourself with every facet of a show. Take pride in doing all the little things that help hosts stay informed and entertaining; whether it’s show prep or using audio to aid the host’s narrative. Over time, your contributions will add up and you’ll figure out the mystery for yourself. And when it comes your turn to lead, you’ll know what needs to get done in order to do good radio.”
Baker also says the most vita quality for the producer in the producer/host dynamic is enthusiasm. Nothing is as important as actually wanting to do the job.
“Being a producer, it can be a thankless job, and if you come in there looking for daily adulation, get another job. But I believe there is an unspoken energy of someone who wants to be there despite not getting the credit.
“The host’s job can be grinding and whether they realize it or not, they need a creative environment to be successful and as the dynamic gets smaller, the producer’s spirit becomes essential. In addition, enthusiasm keeps you following up on guests, doing production, social media with a purpose. So, if you’re one of those people who produce, while all the time thinking you can do a better job as a host, you’re not only doing a disservice to the host and audience, but you’ll miss out on all the little things you need to learn to be successful, as well.”
Pritch & Clay airs weekdays 7-10am PST / 10am-1pm EST on Raider Nation Radio 920 (@RNR920AM). Follow Clay Baker on Twitter @claybakerradio, his co-host @mipritchard and longtime host @EdGraney on Twitter.
Travis ’T-Bone’ Hancock, co-host for WFNZ’s The Mac Attack, started his career as the executive producer of the show. Producing for over a decade before moving into the co-host chair gave T-Bone a wealth of knowledge about how to navigate his new role on the show.
“The most valuable lesson I learned is patience and be ready for the opportunity whenever it comes time to be called up to host. It’s the radio equivalent of being a backup QB and staying ready daily. Once you get the chance you are in such better spot than most because a host personality with a producer mindset is a tremendous advantage not everyone has. There are few situations you haven’t experienced on air or off air that you can’t handle,” Hancock explained.
T-Bone weighed in on what he believes the key is to developing a strong producer/host dynamic.
“Constant communication is the key between the host and producer. I also learned day one with Mac (now my co host) that in order for me to succeed, and the show as well, that I needed to attempt to match the host’s work ethic as much as possible to create a bond that each day we are a team and in it together.”
The Mac Attack airs Monday-Friday 6-10am EST on WFNZ in Charlotte. Follow @MacAttackWFNZ co-host @TBoneWFNZ and host Chris McClain @MacWFNZ on Twitter.
Jonathan Von Tobel, host of The Edge on VSiN and former Cofield & Company on ESPN Las Vegas producer, shares his experience and the lesson that has resonated the most in his career.
“I would say the most important lesson that I learned in my career was to be aggressive. Usually aggression is viewed as a negative attribute, but it certainly helped move me along my career path. As an intern I asked for opportunities to learn new skills and techniques. As a producer, not only did I make sure my show was always ready to go, but I also volunteered for many opportunities. Going to press conferences to grab sound, running the board for local games and eventually asking to be included on pregame broadcasts. When I was hired as a producer at VSiN, there was an opening for an emergency host. I volunteered, and that was the best decision I’ve ever made, as I’ve been a full time host since that moment,” Von Tobel shared.
“It helps to be aggressive, but with my aggression in my career came a strong work ethic. I always strive to be the best at what I do. Whether it was as a barista while going through school, or as a host right now. With an aggressive mindset, and a willingness to work, I got to where I am today.“
Von Tobel also breaks down the dynamic between producers/hosts and what element is the most crucial to fostering open-communication and success.
“To me, the most important quality to a positive dynamic between a host and producer is the personal relationship. Once the two get to know each other on that level the show can really reach new heights. When I started as Steve Cofield’s producer at ESPN Las Vegas the show was just a show. But as I got to know Cofield, and his co-host Adam Hill, our show improved exponentially. I knew what their personal interests were, what they found funny and what they were looking for in content. It just helped the show find a new level of cohesion,” says Von Tobel.
“As a host, I can speak even more to this, as my current producer, Jacob Roach, and I really get along. Since we’ve come together for our show The Edge, we have improved almost every day. To me, that personal relationship between host and producer is priceless.”
The Edge airs on VSIN weekdays from 1-3pm EST on SiriusXM you can follow Jon Von Tobel on social media at @mejvt. Folow Von Tobel’s former hosts @stevecofield & @AdamHillLVRJ and his current producer @Roach_97 as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
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.