Honestly, I could name a slew of no-longer-great stations that the loss of the fun in the building, was a big chunk of the Jinga Tower that helped bring them down.
I always reference V-103 in Baltimore as an example of a GM destroying the #1 station in a market, and it started with his first day where he went around dispensing edicts about what needed to go because “this is a place of business!” My lame “Well, no, it’s actually a radio station” reply to some insane request to take down all the gold records and artist posters was met with a blank stare. I called Jerry Clifton in Hawaii and predicted, “They’ll be out of the format in a year.” And they were.
As a Promotion Director, I always kind of saw myself as “Spanky” from the Our Gang series. Spanky was the ringleader. The Fun Instigator. The person who recognized a need for hijinks and called everyone together to light the Fuse Of Hilarity. Though I never did put on a show in the barn to save Ms. Crabtree’s job.
Doug Parker when he was at KSFM? Spanky. And his office set the tone: he had a moose head on the wall. And when you listened to the station? You heard “vibe”.
Kiss 102 in Charlotte was an amazing station. All of these years later, people will still refer to it as the best sounding station they ever heard. And we had fun. All of the jock photos in the lobby had been graffiti’ed. We played soccer in the hall. My office was a collection of games and toys because I wanted to give the staff a place to hang out and play.
The opposite was a Promotion Director at KGGI in Riverside who kept her door closed. She didn’t like people in there bothering her, which I can totally understand…but you need a place for people to gather. A clubhouse so to speak. A closed door is just so metaphorically wrong on so many levels.
We started a radio station in Saginaw that was poised on the brink of greatness before the GM killed it off. Clifton wanted it to sound like a college radio station and have that kind of fun and irreverence. The obstacle was a General Manager who treated them like a relative who has moved in and sleeps on the couch, and banished them to the end of the hallway in the basement. True story: if you were down there for more than about 10 minutes you got crushing headaches and when you left the building, they went away.
So I took all the spare chairs and desks and made a pile at the entrance to the hallway; to get to the studio you needed to crawl through a tunnel of furniture. It lasted four days until the GM paid the station an inspection tour and almost had a heart attack. He was literally shaking.
The tunnel disappeared, protocols were established and the station transformed into a wall paper music station that lived a brief life and then was out of the format.
The GM who tanked V-103 in Baltimore was right in one regard; Radio is a place of business. But how many readers know banks, restaurants, fitness clubs and other places that they frequent where you can tell the employees are having a blast?
All you need is your Spanky.