It is important to keep the purpose of this article in perspective. It is to start a fire in your heart to launch your own gig. It is to inspire. Not to disillusion you about our industry. This article does not in any way, intentionally or unintentionally, depict, accuse, imply or single out any particular radio group, its operators or affiliates. What I refer to in this story as “talent genocide” is merely my personal emotional reaction. It is also my motivation in starting my own gig. It is not a reflection of RAP’s opinion nor the opinions of any of my colleagues respectfully employed by a radio group. The current trend of talent layoffs is a common business practice in radio, or in any large business environment for that matter, of adjusting numbers to protect the bottom line. It is business. Nothing personal. The main concern for many of us is not the “business decisions” but how they are executed. It is very unsettling to watch humans, with decades of fine service, being discarded with less respect than one given to a piece of toilet paper stuck to your shoe. But, I regress, and of course, that’s not what this article is about.
The main motivation behind this story is the fact that I just started my own company and would like to spread the joy before the shit hits the fan. (That’s when, instead of joyful articles, I am too busy writing nasty e-mails to clients whose bills are way overdue and I am severely deprived of my initial enthusiasm.) So, in fullcompliance with the admirable spirit of RAP’s “share the wealth of knowledge you selfish bastard” philosophy… here we go.
Whether you have a stable gig or recently lost one, I hope this article inspires you to do the best thing you can do for yourself as a radio creative talent. Start your own business. Small, medium or large... just start it! Because, for the most part, the safest way to be in today’s corporate radio is to work with it. Not in it!
What’s all this stuff about motivation? I say, if you need motivation, you probably need more than motivation. You probably need chemical intervention or brain surgery. Actually, if you ask me, this country could do with a little less motivation. The people who are causing all the trouble seem highly motivated to me.
-- George Carlin
It was around 4 a.m. Sound asleep my wife and I were startled by a weird sound coming from downstairs. When I nervously came down to investigate I discovered little puddles of water on our floor splashed out of our fish tank. There was a little fish lying dead on the floor. Inside the tank a guilty, oversized oscar fish hiding behind the colorful castle. Oscar fish grow big, are aggressive and will eat anything smaller than them. The weird sound was the obvious result of a fight, a high-speed aqua chase and an amazing suicide. The little fish could not possibly fathom being eaten alive after watching his buddies get swallowed alive. Instead it chose to kill itself by jumping to his death. He ended his life. But he saved his dignity. We gave him a proper flushing and went back to bed.
Not pathetically but realistically, most of us working in corporate radio are just like one of those little fish. We are “little” not as in “insignificant” but in a sense that our ambitions are artistic not economic. Of course we are big fans of money, but we didn’t fall in love with this medium because of it. We are not managers, sellers, promoters or administrators. We like cozy places called studios with lots of sound toys, computers, decent pairs of speakers and online access to the world. Give us decent food, a clean environment, replace our filters regularly, and we will perform well. We will write cleverly, voice effectively and produce powerfully. We are not wired to be “business people.” We are the “creative types” — little fish who are perfectly content in their nicely maintained tanks. This is our choice. This is what makes us happy. This is our comfort zone. But, it’s time for some controlled dose of motivation to protect that comfort zone. We need to motivate ourselves to start our own gig and generate sustainable success. But not over-motivate ourselves excessively to become so big that we no longer answer to our creative ideologies and instead answer to shareholders. Now, you know what that Carlin quote is doing up there beneath the headline.
Currently I am witnessing a very hard to watch “talent genocide” in our industry concealed as “business decisions.” Creative types of all kinds from ratings-monster air personalities to imaging superstars are being eaten alive or jumping to their deaths off the big fish tank. This is not a good time to hide under the gravel and hope for the oscar fish to go away. It ain’t goin’ nowhere. In fact, the son of a bitch is getting bigger every day. This is a story on how to build your own little fish tank. So if and when you must jump, instead of to your death, jump into your very own tank which can be the happiest place on earth. There are many talented fish out there who are swimming with the sharks harmoniously, but realistic enough to have their own safety tank on the side. I recently became one of those fish. These are my humble suggestions for those who feel ready to start their own gigs.
PRELUDE TO BUSINESS DISCIPLINE!
Will Rogers has said “Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” You must make progress daily on your dream.
Some of us call it the “F.U. account” referring to that bank account into which we deposit religiously just in case we have to say F.U. to our boss. Others call it a side gig, an extra source of income, moonlighting, Plan B, free-lancing. Whatever you call it, you must obtain and develop a business discipline to begin the dream — because your Plan B can suddenly become your only Plan in the blink of an eye. To dream, you have to be motivated. (If you are searching for a motivation to start your own business, please read again the first three paragraphs of this article until this magazine transforms into a giant sledge hammer and hits you on the forehead repeatedly.)
Christopher Morley says “The big shots are only the little shots who keep shooting.” This is where the shooting begins! Get motivated! Start dreaming! Fight the negatives! That’s the prelude to the starting line of your own business. Jumping off a diving board on your own versus being pushed prematurely can make a life long difference between developing a phobia or a passion for that sport. You have to be “ready” to start. Not be “pushed” prematurely. Some are never ready and that’s okay. Some are born ready and that’s admirable. Me? It took seven years to finally feel “ready.”
THE BATTLE AGAINST DISCOURAGEMENT!
Once the motivation leads to dream, you are now ready for the battle to overcome the discouragement. Fight the negatives! What discouragement you say? First, I would like you to Google the words “radio, creative, production” to see the eye-poppin’ number of results. Last I checked it was over five million. If that is not discouraging enough then tell somebody in the business that you are about to start your own gig. You will temporarily go deaf from the ear-piercing laughter.
Now that we know the enemy, here’s the road to victory. The fact that there is that much competition is indicative of your profession’s validity in the market place. Creative is your business and business is good. For the same reason there is nobody like you on this earth, there can also be no business like yours. Your services will be as unique as your DNA. So, to hell with the congested market of “creative services for radio.” There is enough bread for everyone out there. Especially if you are good. Wanna know how much better you are than them? Listen to a stop set on any radio station. Anywhere! Then you will see most of that congestion is just ants eating the crumbs falling off your table.
As for the friend who mocks your dream with a loud laughter and focuses on the list of excuses of why you should NOT start your own business? Tell him to put his red cape and horns back on and stick his pitchfork where the sun don’t shine. The devil loves to see us fail. His most popular trick is to convince us not to try. Clearly, one of the essential elements of achieving your dream is to surround yourself with people who support your dream. If this is the line of work you choose, here are some uplifting facts. No matter what new technology comes around the corner, radio ain’t goin’ anywhere. No matter what new economic roller coaster ride comes around the corner, advertising ain’t goin’ anywhere. That means no matter where you live, there is business in need of good creative, radio stations in need of business, and consumers in need of both.
CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE NOW READY TO FAIL!
That’s exactly what one of my mentors, the CEO of a global ad agency in New York, told me when I enthusiastically shared with him the completion of my motivation, dreaming and fighting stages. All I heard was “you are now ready!” That’s all I needed. Next were the steps which required the functionality of my left brain which I lack severely. Steps like developing a business plan, studying the market place, understanding the competition, analyzing my strengths and weaknesses, developing a potential client base and working out the numbers. Naturally, I skipped all of them. There was no way I was going to spend time getting into projects which had nothing to do with... uhm.... well.... having fun!! I wanted to create a bad ass web site, write, produce cool stuff, find new clients and have power lunches downtown. That’s when I started hearing that ear-piercing laughter in my head. That was enough to hire a CPA and a business attorney, two essential experts your business needs before you launch it. While they were taking care of the boring crap, I started focusing on what I love doing. Creating stuff! I have learned that the greatest risk in life, indeed, is not taking one. My mentor was right. Being ready to fail means being ready to succeed!
On October 3, 2006 I launched Yamanair, a worldwide creative agency offering premium services in the old and new media arena by networking with an elite team of seasoned pros like Eric Chase, Nick Michaels, Dave Foxx, Annie DeWig, Dave Kampel and more. It is in its embryonic stages now with a single focus on radio. Within the next six months it will evolve into a full service creative agency. I am happy. I am excited. I am scared out of my mind. I consume more Tums and less sleep. But, I jumped off the diving board on my own. So, I know it was my time. Is now yours?
Napoleon Hill once said, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Are you ready to start yours? The world is your oyster. Explore! Have fun! Make crap loads of money! Don’t think radio is all we do. We are blessed to be in a very special time period where there is a huge transition of media worlds. It is a fantastic time to be in the business of “creative.” How can we not take advantage of this monumental paradigm shift? Possibilities are endless today for the creative talent who understands the meaning of truly effective sonic branding. HD Radio, Internet, desperate wireless content providers, wet-behind-the-ear fiber optic networks competing for content with cable giants, Google getting into radio head first, and Lord knows what else is around the corner. As a sonic genius you are “hot commodity” baby! Upgrade your life right into your own business and embrace success. Carefully, responsibly, yet firmly. Preferably while you still hold a full time gig. If you compare testimonies of successful business figures of all time you will quickly discover a common theme. They love what they do. Your passion brings more than just a great performance. It provides the means. DO IT!
The other day I saw something horrifying in the mirror. My new “business owner” reflection! It resembled an oscar fish. Once I got over the shock, I gained more of an insight into why suits in corporate offices do the things they do. I also realized, with great relief, I still am the little fish dancing happily in my tank. Just wiser!