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.)

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