As I get older, the past stretches out behind me in a longer and longer line, and sometimes I notice how much heavier it’s getting. I look at the road I’ve come down and get dizzy from how many twists and turns it seems to have, how far back into the mist it seems to go, and then I think, “Hey, where are my pants?”
I posted my 1994-2012 broadcasting retrospective yesterday, including my stint as creator/program director/air personality on the streaming alt-rock station Meta, so I thought I’d dust off more of my old radio airchecks.
Here’s an aircheck from KBIG Los Angeles… I think I did just about every daypart at some point, but had lots of fun hosting Disco Saturday Night, Boogie Nights, and all those live nightclub shows…
Here’s an aircheck from my time in Miami. It was at Planet Radio I think I became the radio personality I had always wanted to be. And I got to work with so many cool people, especially my best bud Frank who got in trouble for hanging out in the studio too much.
And an aircheck from my Orlando days… hanging out with “Bob the Intern” who eventually became Taco Bob, huge central FL radio star.
Good times… good times…
In January of 2012, as GoRadio was gearing up for the launch of our first set of stream stations, I had some thoughts I shared with the team in the following memo (with only slight rewrites to keep it relevant):
The biggest digital music device ever was the iPod, and the most popular feature on it was the shuffle setting.
That’s because people want to be surprised.
People don’t always want to spend their time building playlists. Some do, but most don’t. Speaking for myself, almost all of the time, my iPhone is set on shuffle when I’m using it to play music, even though most of my career has been spent building playlists and deciding the order of a specific set of songs.
Even on Pandora, which was built on the gimmick of building your own playlists, many people are using the pre-built “radio” setting. They just don’t have the time. But I think it goes deeper than just not having the time… I think that people have a deep, instinctive need for the element of surprise in some corner of their lives. Even Pandora users who love building their own customized “radio stations” still enjoy the element of surprise by continually adding qualifications to the list to maximize the joy of not knowing which song is coming next, even though they’ve told it what their favorites are.
Musically, if we as programmers and brand managers make “surprise” our calling card – a uniqueness not offered by terrestrial radio (nor can they offer it to the extent streams and online music services can) – this can be the way we carve a niche for ourselves. Not just with the stuff on the audio stream, but with web content as well.
The joy of not knowing what song is coming next, the joy of not knowing what new thing you’ll learn today, that can be our magic… our streamcraft that will set us apart.
“Don’t tell me what you got me! I want to be surprised!”
“I’m not going to tell you where we’re going, it’ll be a surprise!”
“Close your eyes! It’s gonna be a big surprise!”
Magic. The magic of surprise. The joy of surprise. And I think if we focus on that joy for the rest — the imaging, the features, the web content — we can make and we can be something wonderful, something with which people will connect, something with which people will form an emotional bond, a loyalty to the brand.
But a word of warning: While surprise is a magical thing to draw people in, there are good surprises and bad surprises. A surprise beating isn’t as joyful as a surprise birthday party. But this is where our expertise in applying the things we’ve learned as radio and music programmers comes into play – walking that balance beam between a joyful, magical surprise versus the kind of surprise that’s infected with the lifelessness of the random for randomness’ sake.
It’s the fine art of applying just the right amount of control, and balancing it with the freedom of giving it up.
But that’s where the magic is. That’s where the joy is. Find it. Mine it. Stockpile it. And no matter how much of it you store, don’t stop looking for more of it.
Renewed my license today – unfortunately, not much sleep the night before. Didn’t fall asleep until 7 then was out of bed at 9.
The young girl at the DMV whose job it was to take pictures looked like a model. I said, “The wrong one of us is having his picture taken.” I’m so smooth. And I could hear her thinking, “Old people creep me out.”
Personal sharing time: When I was a small boy, my family was a bit fractured by unfortunate circumstances, and often living situations were in a state of flux, with some members of the family there, and some here, and some in between. It was nobody’s fault. It was just the way it was.
In one of my (very old) elementary school yearbooks, I found a note my older sister wrote to me, telling me how much she loved me and how much she wished we could live together.
And suddenly it came flooding back, memories of being that little boy and not wanting to hang out anywhere but with my big sis. For whatever reason, I had a deeper connection with her, maybe because out of our original family we’d actually spent the most time together in our comings and goings.
My big sis always understood. She was older and knew answers I didn’t know. And as crazy and mixed up as family life got, I knew that if she was okay I’d be okay too, and so… in my young, uninformed way, I was always desperate to know that she was okay. That was the entire secret of surviving the universe and all the crap it seemed to be throwing at me, me all small and not able to handle any of it.
As we both got older and she was living on her own, I used to hang out at her house every chance I got. Even then, my big sis was the bellwether of whatever future might be coming my way. There was an invisible, unbreakable cord of connection between us that I never had with my older brother, who unfortunately I never got to know nearly as well as I’d have liked, and now he’s gone, and that past is past. Oh sure, I got to hang out with him too — he always had that older brother coolness — but it was my big sis who was my lifeline back then.
If she was okay, I would be okay. There was no other equation.
As I’ve gotten older, and loss has taught me the painful value of FAMILY, I’ve learned that I love all the members of my family deeply, perhaps even violently, though I am weak and pitifully unable to express it as I should. If I could fulfill any wish, I’d see them every day, and the continent’s distance between us aches like a broken bone.
But the little boy in me remembers my big sis, and how she was just about my whole world.
I love you, Gina Helvenston! Miss you! Thanks for being on this planet and for being a friend to animals!
Hey! I’m looking for my next cool gig. I’ve got decades of broadcasting experience, programming and on the air. I’ve created and programmed multiple formats in both old and new media from Miami to Los Angeles, marketing, social networking, developed imaging campaigns, and done a ton of writing along the way. Currently I’m a news anchor in L.A. on one of the most listened-to news/talk stations in the country. You want to hire me, trust me on this.