Sunday, April 27, 2014

Better say gooddbye to Tyler while you can

Two of our critics grew up in the Golden Age of Radio, an age when DJs decided what to play on their shows and their shows were just that - creative shows, the auditory equivalent of a TV show.  Rock and Roll ( a phrase coined by none other than a famous DJ, Alan Freed) exploded on the scene and the music's form changed as quickly as new records could be made.  DJs of that bygone era played what they liked and helped form the careers of up and coming rockers as well as their own careers while constantly pushing the broadcasting envelope with the quickly changing style of music. 

DJs who didn't appeal to a national listening audience still helped bands gain local fame and hits.  Strawberry Alarm Clocks, for example, released a song, Barefoot in Baltimore, that made a number one local hit by virtue of DJs from DC to Philadelphia playing the song regularly, even though the song only charted 67 nationally.

By the way songs are chosen for play on radio today, Barefoot in Baltimore would most likely have been a blip across the airwaves and quickly forgotten.  If a DJ really liked the song, he wouldn't get to play it because it would have quickly fallen off the playlist dictated by a program director.     

Meet your DJ of tomorrow
DJs, today, are little more than glorified disc changers.  Very few DJs get to play what they want to play.  Corporate execs do the research to maximize profits and the DJs are handed playlists
that result from all of that research.  The playlists not only tell the DJs what to play, but also how often and in what cycle of rotation.  It's not hard to see how radio stations in the near future could save tons of money by outsourcing the DJ positions to a mix of computer-driven hosting and nationally syndicated shows to give the auditory illusion of being "live" broadcasting.

Oh wait.  WZBH appears to be going the nationally syndicated route already.  They already have Hard Drive and have announced a new show, Sixx Sense, to be airing soon.  It will only be a matter of time before the morning show is replaced by a syndicated show and the rest of the dead air time will be hosted by a computer instead of a live, local person.  (In fact, we dare to say that as the air time is being eaten up by national syndicated shows, Great Scott Broadcasting needs to get off their "support local" high horse.  Using national syndicated shows translates to a loss of local jobs.)

It is really sad to see the developing trend, especially when a DJ like Tyler comes along.

We first mentioned Tyler about a month ago.  Two things about his show impressed us: he talked about the music and the music groups at least three times in an hour and he never felt a need to tell us who he was. 

AC DC still plans to make music after 40 years,
according to the band's official website.
We listened to him a couple of Wednesdays ago.  He relayed a rumor circulating about the group, AC DC, that they may be done as a musical group.  Malcom Young, Tyler explained, returned home, apparently ill, and the band had made a pact a long time ago that if any member could no longer play, AC DC would disband instead of replacing the lost band member or playing without him.  Tyler than asked his listeners to call in with their favorite AC DC song and he would play the song with the most votes in AC DC's honor.

You had to hear the show to appreciate the excitement he generated.  Listeners were calling in and a few even congratulated Tyler for doing such a good job.  Our two critics listening weren't the only ones feeling the excitement Tyler generated.  Heck, our two critics felt compelled to call in their own votes.  Tyler made listening to the radio fun again.

We've listened to Tyler a few more times since that Wednesday and the excitement he creates with his listeners hasn't waned.  His performance is reminiscent of the great DJs of a bygone era.  Too bad he doesn't get to choose his own playlist.  If he could, that would be an added dimension to his show that could probably propel him to legendary status.

You might be wondering, by now, that if Tyler is so good and enjoyable to listen to, why should we be saying goodbye to him while we can?

First, he breaks the mold of WZBH style of programming and the style of programming the operations manager, Crank, thinks radio should be all about.  Since at least 2010, that style has been to find dumbass stories, stories of extreme behavior, or any story well outside of the expected White, Christian, heterosexual male behavior and ridicule the story, ridicule the people involved, and ridicule the stereotyped group of people likely to be starring in such stories. 

The basis of the morning show is to find stories for Crank to ridicule.  There would be no morning show if the dumbass formula were banned.  Crank would be clueless about what to talk about. 

In the morning slot of ten am until three pm, after a song ends, Sarah finds stories and polls to ridicule before flicking the switch to a commercial.  DJs of yesterday, including JJ, Captain Blue, and Doug McKenzie relied on the dumbass story formula as the staple of their show, too.

Tyler comes along and, gasp, shuns the ridicule formula and talks about the music and the groups behind the music.  He doesn't care if you are a friend or foe of anything.  He only cares what your favorite beer or favorite AC DC song is.  He doesn't care about making some sort of social or political statement.  He only cares that his listeners are having fun and feel like they are an important part of his show.  And he cares about making his show all about what radio is supposed to be about - the music and the performers behind the music.

We're fairly sure that Crank, as operations manager, has a lot to say about who stays on air and who doesn't.  Anyone who doesn't follow his formula of programming (that is find things to ridicule), that DJ may as well as start looking for another job.  And if anyone dares to show even an inkling of more talent than Crank has (which means just about anyone who knows how to talk into a mic), they definitely have one foot out the door with the door about to hit them in the ass because he can't get out the door fast enough.  (Ever wonder what happened to Ian?  We have.)

Second, even if we are completely out in left field with our above analysis, there is no disputing Tyler is full of talent.  With a little polishing and experience, he is destined to explode on the radio scene.  Bigger markets, and maybe even satellite radio, are going to steal him in a heartbeat.  We only hope that when he does become a radio star, a feat very difficult for DJs to achieve in today's corporate run radio world, he doesn't forget about his roots here on Delmarva.

If you haven't listened to Tyler, you have to catch his show weekdays, three in the afternoon until seven - only on 93.5, The Beach - Delmarva's only rock station. 

(Don't worry, Crank.  We won't send you a bill for this bit of advertising this time.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

It's over between Sarah and us

We won't hide it.  Us three guys have had a love affair with Sarah for the last more than a year.  Always the wallflower, we held out hope that one day, she would jump off the wall, take control of the mic, and show her little boy cohosts how to really entertain the masses.  Alas, Sarah has cowered under the oppressive thumb of Crank and has become content playing the role of a wallflower.

The Crank Show (the morning show has always been about Crank) is run with an iron fist, Crank's fist.  He is the star and anyone sharing the mic is merely decoration.  Decorations are supposed to enhance, not overshadow.  When a cohost begins to overshadow Crank, he/she is kindly shown the front door and a new decoration is ushered in. 

JJ and Phoebus were the two latest decorations discarded like tinsel on a Christmas tree.  They served their purpose and had to move on.  Ian would've been discarded if it weren't for the saving grace of WZBH's high employee turn around.  Doug being fired and Captain Blue simultaneously leaving left a lot of hours to be filled.  Ian got shuffled to the evening shift - as far from Crank as possible so that he wouldn't overshadow Cranks poor morning performance.  Otherwise, he probably would've been shown the front door.

Now Sarah is a smart one.  She quickly learned what happens to cohosts who try to spread their wings and be a star in their own right.  She decided a paycheck was more important than growing professionally in her career.  She happily hangs on as the decorative wallflower on The Crank Show in the morning.

After her four hour stint as a wallflower in the morning, she goes solo for five hours playing the role of dumbass critic.  There's no doubt in our minds that the operations manager, aka Crank, pushes the DJs to report on the dumbass stories.  Dumbass stories have been a staple of Crank's performances since the old Matt Walsh days.  He gets a perverse pleasure out of taking extreme stories and ridiculing them as if they were everyday, normal stories.  That might explain why every DJ recites dumbass stories during their stint.

Sarah's normally bubbly, optimistic outlook has turned negative under the influence of Crank.  One can even hear the negativity in her voice. 

"Yeah, like we need an app to tell us if an apple or a cookie is more healthy to eat."

That's a typical ill-informed comment we would expect from Crank, not Sarah.  The app that compares the nutritional value of different foods may seem worthless to you, Sarah, but let us ask you this: "You sense the beginnings of a cold coming on and want to load up on foods high in vitamin C.  Would you start eating salads, apples, oranges, or chocolate chip cookies?"

What really set our one critic, Mark, off to end the relationship is a ringing cell phone.  Every time he listens to Sarah, at least once an hour, he's digging for his cell phone because he swears he hears it ringing. 

Cell phone our critic
hears ringing when
listening to Sarah.   
Not pictured:
the ringing
With the nice weather, Mark's driving down the highway with his window opened.  Despite his age and generally ugly looks, he still believes that a beautiful woman may want to flirt with him so he drives with his window opened so as to better communicate with the potential female flirter.

Between the radio, the opened window, and Mark's age-induced hearing loss, a ringing phone is hard for him to discern.  Inevitably, while listening to Sarah, he hears his phone, starts digging through the pens, lighter, and cigarettes in the cup holder to retrieve the phone, and discovers no one was calling, not even the pretty woman on the cell phone in the car that just passed him.

For Mark, the ringing phone may be the final reason to end the relationship with Sarah, but the rest of us are hanging on to the hope that maybe, just maybe, Sarah has retained a bit of her own individuality.  Crank would never think of playing tricks on his listeners, at least not one as elaborate as simulating a ringing phone. 

Some of you reading this might think we are lower than the belly of a snake for ending our relationship with Sarah.  It is, after all, not her fault for following the script written by Crank.  If one is given a B-grade script to follow, a B-grade performance is what the audience will get.

Yeah, that's true, but Sarah shouldn't settle for B-grade just to keep her job.  There are other radio stations, stations that encourage performers to grow and shine on their own.  If only Sarah would drop off the wall at WZBH and join another station where she would be encouraged to blossom as an entertainer....

Oh, just in case you, Sarah, (or any of our readers) ever sense a cold coming on and want to eat a high vitamin C diet to ward the cold off, skip the orange and go for the broccoli and red bell pepper salad.  One red bell pepper, alone, has two hundred times the vitamin C as an orange has.  Throw in the broccoli (and kale if you have it), and you'll have more vitamin C than an orange tree.  Of course, if you had the food app, you could have found the answer with a click of a few buttons instead of hearing it from us.

Underneath this creature you might find Justin
Bieber, NJ Gov. Chris Christie, Crank, and at least
one of us rummaging around in the muck looking
for new story ideas.

Friday, April 4, 2014

WZBH hemorrhaging talent

In the last year, WZBH has seen the loss of five DJs (or "on air personalities", the seemingly favored job description at Great Scott Broadcasting) and possibly a sixth - JJ, Phoebus, Spera, Captain Blue, Doug McKenzie and possibly Ian McKay.  Ian has been missing in action all week, but we haven't been able to verify if he is no longer with the station or is simply on vacation. 

Of the employees who have left, only JJ can be verified as having moved to a new radio station (Ocean 98).   Phoebus is pursuing a career with World Gym, Spera appears to be seeking employment in York, PA, Captain Blue is touring with his band, and the whereabouts of Doug McKenzie and Ian McKay are unknown.

"So a bunch of people are gone," you might be saying.  "What's the big deal?  People leave their jobs all the time."

One doesn't need a degree in business nor extensive business experience to recognize when a company is in trouble, although it does help to have one such experienced business consultant on hand to decipher what might be going on over at WZBH.  A near complete personnel turnaround within a year is a sign of a company in trouble.

The nature of the employee exodus suggests upper management trouble.  JJ's exit was followed by Phoebus' exit a couple of months later, followed by Spera a couple of months after Phoebus, followed by both Captain Blue and Doug McKenzie on the same day a couple of months after Spera.  Three weeks after Captain Blue and Doug McKenzie left, Ian McKay has gone missing, possibly gone.

In response to our review on March 23, an anonymous commentator explained, at length, the inside workings of radio.  If one reads the comment carefully, it becomes obvious "anonymous" was an insider to WZBH as well as to the radio industry.  Before any listener knew Doug was gone, anonymous wrote  "...Doug, who is no longer there...."  When one says that an employee is "no longer there", that is a politically correct way of saying he was fired and obviously coming from someone working either at WZBH or with Great Scott Broadcasting. 

The business consultant on our staff interprets the information provided so far as a possible problem in upper management.  Employees are becoming dissatisfied with their jobs and are leaving in droves.  (Another possibility - but less likely given the nature of the business - is upper management decided to save money by cutting employees' hours.  If we had seen more nationally syndicated shows airing, we could see a cut in air time for the DJs, which could force them to look for employment elsewhere.)

Thanks to the wonderful world of the Internet, if one knows how to ask the right questions, one can find a wealth of information in a matter of minutes.  Ok, sometimes hours or even days if the answers to the questions asked raises even more questions.  In addition, people love to talk and a wealth of information can be gleaned from the social media, if one knows how to find it.  So we started digging to answer the question, "Why the huge turn around in DJs at WZBH in the last year?"

Matt was fired back in the summer of 2011.  Almost a year later, June 2012, Crank left WZBH and joined WGMD as star of his own talk show.  He failed miserably and two months later, returned to his old spot on the morning show at WZBH.  With the exception of Chris Steele leaving WZBH (to pursue his medical career) between Matt's firing and Crank's leaving, all was quiet at WZBH.

Tragedy struck on March 17, 2013.  CEO Mitch Scott passed away.  We haven't been able to pinpoint an exact date, but some time after Mr. Scott's passing, Crank was promoted to operations manager.  All was quiet at WZBH for four or five months until JJ left in the late summer.  The hemorrhaging hasn't stopped since.

Our business consultant zeroes in on the operations manager as a possible cause of the recent flight of employees.  The station appeared to be running fine until Crank became operations manager.

Operation manager is an important upper management position.  Operation managers are responsible for hiring people, negotiating contracts, addressing budget matters, understanding general business operations and guiding work teams for projects.

We have stated, repeatedly over the last couple of years, that Crank is a control freak who always needs to be right.  He doesn't allow his cohosts to shine in their own right and for every sentence they utter, Crank has four or five sentences to further clarify his cohosts' statement.  Heck, this morning, a paid advertiser was a guest and Crank couldn't let the paying advertiser explain what his beer product was.  Crank jumped in and explained the product as if he were marketing director for the beer company.  The Worst Show Ever should be renamed All About Crank to reflect more accurately what the show is about.

Someone with a heavy-handed, controlling personality who always needs to be in the spotlight is not the personality type a company would want in an operations manager position.  WZBH put Crank there anyway.  We don't know if it was Jeff Scott or Jim McHugh's decision to give Crank the position, but we think it's safe to say both can be blamed for a boner decision.  Let's face it.  Crank rode the coattails of a DJ who had to be fired because he brought the station to the brink of a lawsuit, then Crank upped and left for another station, and when he returned, was rewarded with an upper management position.

Free advice from our business consultant: take a hard look as to why your DJs have been fleeing your station and fire Crank to prevent future losses. 

Doug McKenzie was your program director who was probably fired at the hands of your operations manager.  Programming since Doug's departure has become a predictable mix of today's rock hits liberally mixed with rock hits of twenty years ago, hits more suitable for the sister station, Big Classic Rock 98.5.  Yes, Van Halen, Guns N Roses, and AC DC were big bands in their day, but does the operations manager, who most likely is subbing as program director right now, really think changing WZBH to a glorified classic rock station will expand WZBH's listening market?

Crank has more than demonstrated, over the last three years, his lack of creativity, talent, outside-the-box thinking ability, people skills, and diversity tolerance.  WZBH and Great Scott Broadcasting should seriously reconsider their decision to put Crank at the helm of operations.