Charlie Cook On Air

Cost Of Livin’ High And Goin’ Up

I attended the National Association of Broadcasters meeting in Chicago this month and a lot of the meeting was really good. There were great panels, great food, and good networking. But some of it was upsetting.

The networking is what I want to talk about. We also saw it this year at the Country Radio Seminar. I used to be the research committee chairman for the CRB and every year “networking” came back as the most important feature of the Seminar.

But networking has gotten desperate in the last few years.

“Everythin’ to know about me is written on this page
A number you can reach me, my social and my age.”

You can see it in a guy’s eyes. There is still a good degree of pride but there is also fear—not that the business has passed them by, but that others may think that of them. Fear that they still have two kids in high school and college is right around the corner. Fear that the longer away from the only thing they know, knows no mercy.

“I work weekends if I have to. Nights and holidays.
Give you forty and then some. Whatever it takes.”

It’s not just the radio side of the business that is suffering. Record sales have taken terrible hits in the last five years. Staffs and labels are impacted to their core. These are good people who believe deeply in their artists and love the music. But there is no longer room for them on the promotion and marketing side.

“Gave my last job everythin’ before it headed south.
Took the shoes off my children’s feet and food out of their mouths.”

The bad economic news is all over the radio and TV. Our nation’s unemployment rate has been over 9% for what feels like forever now. I don’t know what the real damage is in our industries. I know that a lot of emails have gone from corporate to Yahoo and that is sad.

“I work sunup to sundown. Ain’t too proud to sweep the floors
and the bank started callin’ and the wolves are at my door.”

I am not smart enough to have a solution to this. Unless President Obama’s jobs plan mandates that consumers have to buy physical CDs and automobiles (radio’s number one sponsor), I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Savings aren’t supposed to save you—they are supposed to soften the landing.

Consumers have decided to add 30,000 miles to their odometer and continue to buy single cuts…when they buy them at all. A lot of the conversation at the NAB was about digital: how great digital is, how to use digital, and why digital is our salvation.

Well ask Sony, Universal, EMI and WB how much they love digital and downloading. Ask Cumulus, CBS and Entercom how much they love digital (read: Pandora, Spotify, etc.)

I am not a Luddite about the Internet. I know that the business is evolving and that we all have to keep up with it. We have to learn how to take advantage of it in everything we do but that pain in the eyes of guys who have worked at five stations or four labels and don’t see a bright future are not at fault for not staying up to date. They are just the consequences of this progress.

I am not saying that you take in an unemployed radio family. You don’t have to send money to out of work label people. But you can think of them. You can pray for them and you can keep your eyes open for them in your company.

“Three Dollars and change at the pump.
The cost of livin’ high and going’ up.”

[Songwriters: Philip Coleman and Ronnie Dunn]

By the way, Ronnie sang this song at the Marconi dinner and received a standing ovation. How often do you see that from a crowd of broadcasters?


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