by Dennis Daniel
Geez, did a bunch of stuff happen in the wacky worlds of radio and advertising this month! I've got lots to tell.
My former employers at WDRE performed a major ax job! They fired morning show hosts Donna Donna and Hillary Blazer (who just boosted their ratings up 80%!). They fired midday Jock Malibu Sue (who, along with Donna Donna, had been at the frequency for over a decade)! They took evening host Gary Cee off the air and put him in production. And, shock of all shocks, they gave the boot to production pros Steve Morrison and Bob Marrone (Steve being a certified genius in production/writing/voicing -- a guy who used to get fan mail about his commercials, for God's sake! And Bob, a radio veteran for over two decades!).
Every one of these people, in my opinion, were dedicated, hard-working professionals! (By the way, there's no doubt in my mind that if I had still been an employee, I would now be an ex-employee along with my colleagues.) The obvious question is "Why?" Why did all these talented, qualified people get the boot? The answers are many and varied. As I pointed out in my last column, talent does not mean respect. Creative people, more often than not, are cannon fodder in this industry. The bottom line is always money, period. Who can we get cheaper? Who will do twice as much for half as much? In WDRE's case, the ratings have been so poor for so long, change was bound to come. A new Program Director came in, and that almost always spells "change." I can understand that. As PD, it's your ass on the line. If you're the one being judged, you're going to want your people on your team. If you're not happy with the staff you've inherited, and management is behind you, the ax is gonna fall! To add insult to injury, some of these folks let their feelings be known about certain aspects of their jobs that left them disgruntled (which, by the way, is perfectly human and not necessarily a detriment). No matter how talented you are, nobody - especially new department heads -- wants to hear negative feedback, regardless of the fact that negative feedback is steeped in truth! A good rule of thumb is to watch who you talk to and keep your mouth as jammed shut as possible. Shit rolls downhill, if you get my drift.
So, the 'DRE massacre story can be read briefly and to the point. New PD. Low ratings. Bad vibes. Heads roll. Format and jock adjustments. Try again. ('DRE are the champs of trying again! In my four years there, we had six -- count 'em, six -- different morning shows!) It's the radio biz, pure and simple. I'm not making judgments on anyone. In fact I wish WDRE all the success in the world! Regardless of any disagreements I may have, they always treated me with respect and were fun to work for. I hope they see results. I feel horrible for my dear friends. It sucks. But it wouldn't be the first time, and it won't be the last, that tremendously talented people are suddenly wiped out. (Quick side note: if any of you reader type folks know of any job openings in production or air shifts, or both, these people are the cream of the crop! Drop me a line and I'll hook you up!) The lesson to be learned here is simple. Never believe for one minute that you are not replaceable! I don't care how many awards you have, how talented you are or how much praise you receive on a daily basis! Always watch your back, your mouth, and have a resume updated and ready, as well as a current voice demo. Even if you get fired (or quit, for that matter), never burn that bridge, no matter how upset you may be! The stories are abundant in this industry of people who eventually end up back with former employers. Please trust me on this, I beg of you!
Speaking of demo tapes! I'm in the process of putting together a V.O. tape for One On One Productions to play clients and give them a voice selection. Since I wrote in these pages about my new company, I've received dozens and dozens, 80% of which were totally useless. Why? Because people just don't know how to make good demo tapes! I listened to tape after tape with massive hiss, bad edits, entire spots rather than montages, and crappy packaging! Even if the talent shone through the hiss, how could I put that person's work on my company tape? The rules for demo tapes are simple! Make 'em quick and punchy, give 'em variety, and put 'em on high quality tape! Type or print out cassette labels; don't hand write them! Impress your prospective employer! Show pride in your work. Why should I care about, or want to hire a person, who sends me a crappy demo? Next column, I'll do what I promised in my last and give you some advice on how to get voice work. (Unless, of course, another entire group of my friends are fired)!