Charlie Cook On Air: Why I Love Radio

I think that everyone who knows me or reads this space each week knows that I am an unapologetic broadcast radio fan and participant.

“Radio has been berry berry good to me.”

I half-jokingly say that I like radio as a career, because we don’t pick up heavy stuff and we don’t sweat. That certainly is one reason.

I was talking to a friend the other day about the challenges that radio gets from the online services like Pandora and Spotify. His comment that if radio were introduced today it would heralded as a revolutionary tool for marketers and advertisers.

Imagine being able to send the same message/song to thousands of people at the same time for very little expense? Imagine being able to be part of a community hearing that message or song for free.

But the real beauty of radio for me and other radio pros is not necessarily the business of the business.

I have said before that all of my friends, with the exception of my Wednesday night poker group, are in radio. There is camaraderie in the radio business that has to be unequaled in other fields.

Even if all of your friends are in radio, and in some cases records, we have relatives who are in other businesses so we know that they don’t build this kind of bond if they are building automobiles or delivering overnight mail instead of newscasts.

This is exactly point made by Senior Vice President of Programming for Clear Channel Media and Entertainment Clay Hunnicutt on why he loves his job:

“The working relationships and friendships that I have experienced with some of the most talented and creative minds I could have ever imagined. From Sammy George when I started at WUSY, to Mike O’Malley & Marc Chase, Scott Borchetta and Mike Dungan, and so many others. I don’t think I could have experienced that selling insurance and building houses. Those are honorable professions, but the combination of art and commerce coming together at the same moment is exhilarating.”

Last week radio stepped up and performed at its best when the shooting occurred in Denver.  Many people in the business say that being able to serve the community is one of pleasures of working in the industry. When a tragedy hits your city, be it the shooting at the movie theater or the derecho that came through the Midwest and eastern parts of the country last month, there is a coming together that is matched only by the first responders charged with keeping us safe.

In Raleigh, WRAL is always in the top 3 ratings wise. A huge reason for this is Bill and Lynda on the morning and Barry Fox programming a great radio stations but Bill and Lynda are so good because they live the lifestyle and giving back is important to all of them.

“I love radio for the fact that we are able to positively impact thousands of lives daily,” says Barry. In fact it is that attitude that permeates the entire station and makes it an important part of the community.

I don’t use the term community lightly. I have been involved with radio for many, many years and most of it has been country radio. I can tell you that there is a marked difference with the country audience. I think that this has to do with the combination of the listener caring about their city and town and the artists.

Providing the information about the artists is a very important part of the experience because we have the ability to learn about who the listener cares about.

I am a big fan of Melody Lee at WTVY in Dothan. Mel is one half of the morning show and is also the sales manager at the station so she is talking to listeners on the air and interacting with customers/listeners every day out on market.

She told me, “I love radio because I get to interact with listeners each and every morning. Newspaper reporters don’t get that immediate feedback. Television anchors don’t get it. I get to communicate each and every morning with the community. Instantly. They tell me what’s going on in our community, what
matters to them, what angers them, etc. Speaking to them every morning makes me more passionate about where I live and the causes I support.”

As a woman who gets up at 4 am every day she is also realistic. “I love radio because no one can tell when I’m having a bad hair day,” she adds.

I am not taking shots at Pandora or Spotify here. In fact, Spotify CEO Ken Parks spoke to us at the CMA board meeting just Wednesday and he seems like a great guy who believes strongly in his service but what they all lack is the human element that all of us in radio have enjoyed.

Whether it be with other disc jockeys, sales people or listeners, I have received more than I could ever give back. And that is one reason I love radio.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MusicRow.)


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