Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Road More-Traveled...

The basement level of the domicile here that houses "Matt Anthony World Headquarters" has pretty much anything a guy could want. The largest part of the room contains a large-screen HDTV, a few chairs, a ping-pong table, and a bar. The smaller part has all of the guts, including water heater, furnace, and an older washer and dryer. It also contains an extra stove and two extra refrigerators. (what do you imagine resides in those units?) Speaking of beer, this part of the room, in addition, has a great "storage shelf", dark and temperature-consistent, perfect for conditioning the German Altbier that I brewed 2 weeks ago. The smallest part of the lower level contains the studio.

I think it was my wife's master plan to send me, permanently, to the basement. Little did she realize that the environment deep in the catacombs here is probably as nice as most middle-class apartments. And for that, I feel pretty fortunate. But during the day, I'm fairly confined to this 6-and-a-half by 8-and-a-half-foot space I call a "studio". I have a window that allows me to gaze, reflect, and occasionally yell at the deer who simply will not stop chomping flora on which they're not supposed to be chomping! But amongst the "reflecting" during down-time, I've come to the realization that Radio's "new world order"...can be fairly lonely.

2006 was a pivotal year for us. After cruising along in a good position in a major market with a handful of freelance-client stations, I, like many, found myself on the short-end of the "job elimination" game. In over 20 years in broadcasting, this had never happened to me before. It was an adjustment, to say the least. Being that I am skilled in exactly nothing else, I was forced to do what virtually every Production and Imaging guy dreams of: go out on my own. Don't get me wrong; I love what I do. And I'd like to continue doing it for a long time. However, the reality of instantly deciding to be an entrepreneur is an exciting, eye-opening, panic-inducing feeling.

But, compared to walking into a building every day and fraternizing with other like-minded folks, it can also be relatively lonely. Yes, I can go to the gym during lunchtime. I can take Maggie for a walk whenever I like. I can go grocery-shopping for voluminous amounts of toilet paper at Sam's Club in the middle of the afternoon. And although I think I'm a bit of a loner by nature...and probably do my best work without the need for massive amounts of brainstorming with six other people in a conference room...I do miss, well, people.

I have not completely given up on the prospects of one day joining a station, or group of stations, and contributing, either On-Air or in the Production studio. (of course, I would have to have a terribly understanding Program Director who wouldn't mind me stopping occasionally to record the sponsors for the "Game Open" of Texas Tech football, or one of the other AM sports/flagship stations with whom I have the luxury of working. I DO love those assertive Sports-Talkers!) But as cutbacks and downsizing continues, the opportunities at stations are becoming less and less available. I'm sure I'm not relaying news that isn't already known. However, even after being in radio for 20 years, I continue to be amazed at how the landscape, on so many diferent levels, has changed. Many industry contacts, and even former employers and associates, who were once consistent and dependable job contacts, are no longer available. There just simply aren't a whole lot of opportunities or prospects out there, even for an experienced, somewhat-solitary guy like myself.

I advertise and subscribe to Small Market Radio Newsletter, and the last issue included an article from a GM who wrote about the need to have exciting, invigorating, or as he put it, compelling, programming. (I do wish a committee would get together and unanimously agree to ban this word from the radio lexicon.) At any rate, this gentleman waxed philosophically about competent, fully-functioning stations needing to train their salespeople properly, keep their websites up-to-date, maximize revenues, utilize techniques to add to the bottom line...and, oh yeah, make sure we're providing compelling programming content. So I called this GM and introduced myself. I told him that I read his article and wanted to inquire about his need for compelling programming content. He said he was already utilizing lots of syndicated programming. I asked him why he didn't utilize and local talent and, of course, he responded that there wasn't any "budget" for local talent. I then asked him what he had been doing for his station imaging and he replied, "What's station imaging?" After I explained the use of a "station image-voice" and "branding" and such, he again responded, "Oh, no, we wouldn't have any money for that."

So, I thought to myself, hmmm...you have no budget to hire any local personnel, including a grizzled veteran like myself, You have no budget to place towards imaging or creative production. And, yet, you're writing articles imploring other GM's to make sure that they utilize compelling programming. Interesting.

So, as I sit here deep in the bowels of my basement lair, I try to be appreciative and grateful. There continues to be more and more Production/Imaging folks who are forced on to the same path that I took in '06. But, in the throes of downsizing, cutbacks, non-existent budgets, and a bit of lonely nostalgia for days gone by, I'm thankful for the opportunities I've had with my clients and appreciative that I have something to fall back on. Who knows...someday I may hook up with a forward-thinking group who just happens to have a cool AAA station that needs an affable host, who also happens to work for a boss who doesn't mind him stopping occasionally to record a weekend AC/DC concert ticket giveaway promo.

Until then, Sam's Club beckons. We're a little low on paper towels!

-30-

* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at www.mattmultimedia.com

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