Several years ago when syndicated radio took over the airwaves at urban (more than any other format) there was an outcry of sheer disappointment acknowledging that local key time slots were now eliminated, most notably mornings and afternoons. My real radio roots forced me to take aim at Tom Joyner and Steve Harvey for what I perceived as greed and a disrespect for the true blood hard working urban announcer who already had limited options, benefits and bus fare to work in urban radio. Since then, I have had to offer a greater respect for Harvey because I now understand that his vision was NOT that of selfishness but to provide opportunities. The jury is still out on Joyner, I don’t see any young urban announcers being trained under his wing but that could be because I don’t listen.
Those of us who understood how the urban radio system once worked are aware that an announcer started out as part-time graduated to overnights, then to nights or mid-days then to afternoon drive or mornings then to MD then to PD and he still qualified for food stamps while the black owner drove up in their new Mercedes each day and the PD was riding his 11-year-old daughter’s pink bike to work. That cycle has been interrupted for the past 15 or more years specifically because of syndication and consolidation but before we complain about Michael Baisden, Steve Harvey or Tom Joyner as the culprits and evildoers… Let us understand the power of… signing up for night school and taking the bull by the horns instead of waiting for somebody else to determine where we will end up. Oh, I meant to say… let us understand they are ALSO, I’m sure unbeknownst to them, the very reason many of us over 40 are still RELEVANT in this youth-driven industry today.
25 years ago upon my entry into the industry, I can clearly remember (nothing, it was too traumatic working for black owners back then) I can clearly remember a 40-year-old industry person was considered a relic. A Social Security recipient with a pot belly, three and a half teeth, balding and a nappy gray beard. The men looked bad too. The 1985 40-year-old was older than his mother… blind, crippled and crazy and certainly retired by the industry’s standards. This included (and still includes) performers. UNLESS the industry person had a top notch position, they may have been an exception but even then their time was running out and VERY few would remain relevant. Today you have several urban PDs and label execs well into their 50s some even in their early 60s still working and still relevant. At Radio One many PDs look like they are in their 80s but they are only 45, it’s the stress of not being able to add more potential hit records to the playlist. They are the students who are exhausted from teaching the “teacher.”
The cycle of the young urban announcer has been interrupted by the syndicated shows, the new pool of PDs was also affected and eliminated so the vets have gotten to remain in the business 15 years longer than they would have 20 years ago. In addition the labels have had to follow suit because the industry is based on relationships. Most people on the urban side of the industry have already reached vet status and have been there for years. We are proud AARP members who have remained in the industry with all of its restrictions, extreme demands, slave owner policies and arrested development on the radio side, but there is a BENEFIT greater than the 15% off adult diapers at Costco, the syndicated shows have kept all of our old asses working. Yes, Grandpa Ross just said that.
Michael Baisden‘s messages might be important to his audience as his campaign states but lest he/we forget having the New York market, I would venture to say, is even MORE important. Would Micheal be fighting to have his show placed if the market was Turkey Nuts, Kentucky? .. NO! Several people have asked me, ‘Lord of the industry, whyith can’t he just can’t settle for the fact that his show is online and people in NY can tune in that way?’ My question to the serfs then is “Why don’t you settle for half of YOUR paycheck?” Damn obstacles. Of course these are people outside the industry who fail to understand advertisers are not as impressed with online listeners for the top market as they are an actual time slot on the commercial airwaves.. that’s why.
I have never met Baisden but I have CERTAINLY heard a lot about him. I have not heard Baisden’s show in a while but I know people who know him who state it’s a combination of many things. Baisden wants New York and whatever the reason behind it is, it doesn’t matter. It is most unfortunate that his and now MANY options for time on the station will be limited but to be honest I’m glad to see WBLS still standing and be even more relevant now that it ever was. That station has one of the most impressive histories in urban radio with one of the few people in the industry (besides advertisers) that I greatly respect, Frankie Crocker. He was the very first DJ I ever heard on the radio at WUFO in Buffalo when I was a mere 6 years old. Good luck to Mr. Baisden in his quest to land the NY market. Even if his tactics don’t work at least he’s bold enough to be heard. I can respect that.