Do you have this ability?
The late Steve Rivers was one of a small handful of great program directors with whom I’ve been privileged to work.
I never heard a station he personally programmed that did not sound great.
Once, while working together in New York, he asked me how the stations I had helped shape could all be so different from each other.
He was overwhelmed at the time by constant travel and problems and he was frustrated by the non-musical parts of his stations: the air talent and understanding how they can create deeper bonds with listeners.
Music could be tested, rotations perfected (he thought) but air talent was endlessly difficult to identify, manage and understand.
He grew up in the age of the Top 40 jock, tight, bright, and light.
As always when I spoke to him, I learned from the things we discussed.
And so a few weeks later, I passed along a book I had found interesting, The Shape of Content by Ben Shahn.
I don’t know if he read it.
But I’ll share a portion of it with you here:
“All art is based upon nonconformity [and] every great historical change has been based upon nonconformity, has been bought either with the blood or with the reputation of nonconformists.”
“To create anything at all in any field, and especially anything of outstanding worth, requires nonconformity, or a want of satisfaction with things as they are.“
Shahn believed in “…the necessity for feeling things in addition to merely perceiving them…(that) the artist operates from an intuitive place of deep feeling.”
I know most of you don’t think of yourselves or your air talent as “artists.”
I’m not trying to sound elitist or persuade you that entertainment must be elevated to be useful.
But the truth is that some air talent have found ways to become more than liner-readers and disc jockies.
And every one of them has been a non-conformist, willing to trust their intuition, anchoring some of their content in the deepest emotions they feel.
And while I don’t believe every person on the air around the world is equally gifted with this ability, you will never know if you’re one of them unless you try.
And to try, you must be willing to risk failure, to be a non-conformist to what every other person on the air in your market does, to the way they sound.
It’s not for that faint of heart, but I’m happy to help you try if this strikes a chord.
Because it was inspired by Steve Rivers, and I wish he was here to talk to today.