As we wrap up 2009, we thought it would be insightful to go back to past blog entries from the year that seemed to resonate with JacoBLOG readers. This one, from last February, elicited many comments from broadcasters - mostly in direct emails to me. Enjoy.
These are clearly times that try everyone's patience, commitment, and love for the industry that originally sucked us in with the chance to be successful in a career that promised music, stardom, money, fame - or combinations of all those things. Whatever your motivation for originally getting in, these economic times test everyone's resolve.
And it's not just the crap economy. As those of us in radio well know, things weren't exactly going well before last fall, when all hell broke loose for the country as a whole. Radio's fate had been sucking for quite some time, layoffs were already taking place, local and national radio dollars were shrinking, radio stock prices were cratering, and budget cuts were already underway. But now the combination of a media industry that is being challenged to its core and the overriding hurricane of an economy have created an environment that none of us could have imagined.
Many are living with their own Plan B's at work. Stations don't sound even close to as good as they should - or once did. Programmers and managers lack the tools they once enjoyed, staffs are eroding, and everyone's doing multiple jobs and enjoying them less.
So where does that leave us? We all have questions to answer that we can no longer evade. For those who are out of work, and see little opportunity for getting a job that utilizes their talents, Plan B may mean moving to another business, industry, or work lifestyle. Maybe it's starting your own company outside radio, training for a new profession, or working out a different employment situation with a spouse. As industry comrades, we once joked about how the U-Haul people often were the big winners in radio. But for veterans who have moved their families two, three, four or more times in the past few years or decades, making one more geographic journey may be the breaking point.
And for those who have escaped the Grim Pink Slip Reaper up to this point, sleep and solace may be lacking, too. This may not be what you signed up for, but it's the reality of right now. If you're in it for the long haul, then the question arises as to how can you make the best of a tough situation. In every crisis, heroes and innovators emerge. Instead of complaining about things not being as good as they once were, how can lifers take the cards they've been dealt, and play them with grace, class, and innovation? Those are the kind of Plan B's that you'll need in order to ensure there is indeed a viable radio business left standing when the economic winds start blowing positive again.
If you're a grizzled industry veteran, the Plan B question may be painful and uncomfortable. Maybe you never dreamed of getting rich in radio, but you probably never questioned whether the industry you loved would ever deny you a living. And if you've just been in radio for a short time, your Plan B question isn't an easy one either. There are lots of industries out there, and yet, somehow you decided on radio. How bad do you want it, and are you committed? Sadly, radio and the economy have made it more difficult for you to hang in there alongside us older guys for what is proving to be a tough ride.
Maybe one of the lessons in all this turmoil is that the so-called experts and know-it-alls simply weren't up to the task. Like in the financial sector, it has become crystal clear that the pundits, CNBC gurus, brokers, and financial wizards were as lost at sea as everyone else. They just didn't know it. That's the case in radio, too. The CEOs got it wrong, the analysts were off-base, and anybody who tells you they know the way out of this mess right now is the kind of false prophet that's the last thing you need.
You are as good a barometer of what's right, what's wrong, and what may work as anyone at this point. Maybe it's a matter of taking stock of your situation, and deciding whether you're in or you're out. And if it's the former, let's work together as a community of concerned professionals to figure it out, and get ourselves out of this mess.
What's radio's Plan B?