The Single Most Important Thing

Do you know what it is?

We are in a business that has lost its way.

There’s enough blame to share with just about everyone in Radio:

  • Consolidation
  • Greed
  • A short-term horizon fixed on Wall Street payoffs
  • Too much reliance on music research — “safe” playlists
  • Too little investment in perceptual research and marketing
  • Virtually no investment in training and development of talent
  • Constant cost-cutting that has decimated and disheartened our ranks
  • A “CYA” mentality where internal company politics is more important than listeners
  • Even consultants…

Yes, I blame us too.

I’m linked by classification to a group who have made most Radio bland and boring…

who took the easy way out with “talent” that wasn’t all that talented, by having everyone read inane liners about unbelievable claims touting quality and quantity, which added verbal clutter and zero relevance to listeners’ lives, thereby proving that listeners really didn’t want to hear “talent” talk…

who taught a generation of programmers that you’re not hurt by what you don’t play rather than reminding them of the brilliance and joy of hearing a great new song for the very first time and linking that emotion to a specific radio station…

who gave the local PD one more reason to worry, to play it safe, to have data to back up every decision so they couldn’t be second-guessed and back-stabbed.

Yes, there is plenty of blame to spread around.

But my purpose today is to tell you the single most important thing you can do to change everything we’ve lived through over the past 25 years.

In order to succeed in our business, in order to create something that will have lasting value for the next 25 years, we must be both original and unique.

And in order to be original and unique, we must take risk, because everything truly original and unique could as easily fail as succeed.

We must risk failure to find genius.

Unfortunately, our business has been especially unforgiving of failure over the past 25 years.


We absolulely must have innovation and originality to succeed going forward, yet we have systematically removed those most willing to try new ideas.

So the single most important thing you can do right now is to make your people feel secure.

Make failure acceptable.

Hire the most creative, unmanageable, thinker you can find. Give him or her one of your stations, a real budget, and more importantly, your personal support.

Remove the political minefields and layers of management that sap creatives. Don’t let the bureaucracy stifle the innovation. Keep your VP or President of Programming away from this person at all costs.

And see what happens.

If the experiment is a total failure, give this person another station in another market, and try again.

Risk it.

You need some suggestions of “creatives” who could totally shake up one of your markets? OK, here are a few. If you’re serious, call me, and I’ll put you in touch with any one of these:

Steve Allan
Bob Wood
Cleveland Wheeler
Scott Shannon
Jeff Scott
Bobby Rich
Thom McGinty
Bob Harlow
Ed Scarborough
John Hendricks
Lee Rogers
George Johns
Brian Wilson
David Baronfeld
Allan Hotlen
…and I have lots more

The single most important thing you can do to help Radio right now is to do everything within your power to make every employee you have feel secure.

The only way you can do that is to stop punishing failure, stop firing people to save money, and reward creativity and innovation wherever you find it.

Make all of your employees thankful they work for your company, because its a company that actually invests in its people.

You up for that challenge?