radio

A Fly in the Ointment

Every once in a while I think back to my stint as a radio promotions manager at a Christian record label in Nashville. It’s a job that, although somewhat important in your radio-listening experience, is one that most people probably don’t even realize exists. Basically  I would call or email every radio station each week and try to get them to play the current singles by the artists on our label. I only worked at the label for two years, which is nothing compared to the others I know in the field doing the same thing, but it’s a slice of my life that left a strong impact.

The hardest part for me was hearing the music director at a radio station say “No.” I knew it was never personal but it always killed me a little bit because I believed so much in the music the label was putting out at the time. I never had to fake it and I genuinely liked and listened to (and still do) what we were promoting. What was hard for me was they were saying no to people I genuinely cared for, musicians who really were at the top of their game. I still get a little sad when a song pops up in my iPod that I thought was going to tear up the charts but never did for one reason or another. (I realize this makes it sound like we never got any airplay but that’s far from the case. We did have some nice success with some songs I really loved, but like Jerry Seinfeld once said, he could have 999 people laughing, cheering, and applauding but the only one he’ll remember after the show is the 1 person who just sat there. Why do we do that?).

Despite how much fun I had at the label and how many close friends I made whom I still keep in touch with today, there’s one memory that always bubbles to the surface that to this day I still find unsettling/surprising/disappointing. I was on the phone with the rep from a pretty big station in the South. They were a heavy hitter and they knew it and it was always really difficult to get them on the phone (even when I called during their designated “tracking hours”). When I would finally catch him, he always talked to me like I was wasting his time and wasn’t worthy of actually speaking to him. This behavior always sort of puzzled me, especially since the songs they were playing were the ultra-cheesy, snooze-inducing cookie cutter songs most people who don’t listen to Christian music think of when they think of listening to Christian music.

One day I finally caught the music director while he was in his office taking calls and I asked if he’d listened to the new single from (I forget which artist)  I had sent to him. He said he had and that it was nice. I asked him if he thought he would be adding it to the station’s music rotation and he responded by asking me how much money the label was going to give him to do so. It threw me for a loop and sort of took me back for a second, mostly because although a lot of listener-supported stations get a lot of exemptions, I was pretty sure payola was still illegal for everyone.

I honestly thought the man was joking, but he wasn’t. I remember telling him all we had to offer was really good music and he simply thanked me and hung up. He never took a call from me again and it was a long time after that before they would play a song by any artist from our label.

That incident still blows my mind today. It’s still incredible to me that someone saw themselves as so big and powerful and influential, they felt it was completely within their rights to be so blatantly…illegal. And douche-y. It poisoned my perception not of the music industry, but of the Christian music industry and I know that’s not fair.

I should point out this was the only station I dealt with to ever do anything remotely like this. The very large majority of the stations I dealt with were very cool people. Still…sometimes it just takes one person to wreck the fun. It’s sort of a bummer that, of all the nice people I dealt with and were kind to me and played our music, that guy is the one I always remember when I look back. I resent that guy not only for denying airtime to some great artists but also for still having such a strong place in my memory.

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My Pennsylvania Top 10

As the time to move on to my next adventure gets closer, I’ve had quite a few friends ask me if I’m excited to make the return out East. In a word: Yes!! The hardest part is actually waiting to make the move in mid-June. But that’s given me time to plan and plot, and as a result I present you with the

TOP TEN THINGS I’M GOING TO DO WHEN I GET BACK TO PENNSYLVANIA*

10. Go to IKEA
9. Find a coffee shop to write in (you have a lot to live up to, Pennsylvania Coffee Shops. I’ve become quite fond of my Brewdaily’s Cafe, and have written four short films, a short story, and a lot of stand-up there).
8. Speaking of stand-up, find someplace to do that
7. Re-acquaint myself with the train to NYC
6. Have get-togethers of the movie-watching/karaoke/game playing/hanging out kind
5. Film that movie I wrote about a radio station 5 years ago
4. Find the Amish quaint and adorable until I am stuck behind a buggy while I am running late and then remember how much they slow me down
3. Finally get to hang out with people at JTL who weren’t there when I was there last, but seem really cool online and in email
2. Hug Fred, Lisa, Stacey, John, Phil, Ann, Strayer, Mindy, Darlene, Trish, Linford, Mel, Tom, Ethan, Aubrey, the Ruoffs, the Grosses, and whoever else I may have forgotten or gets in my way.
1. Smile a lot

*My PA-area friends are more than welcome to join me on any/all of these adventures.

The Big News

It’s very rare you find a job you not only love doing, but also love the people you work with. It’s also pretty rare to get a chance to do what you’ve always dreamed of and, again, love the people you get to do chase that dream with.

Even rarer than both of those situations, though, is getting the chance to do it again. Both of them.

I worked at WJTL in Lancaster PA for about three years and have stayed in touch with just about everyone there since I left back in ’92. A lot of places claim to promote a family environment but very few deliver. JTL is one of those places and when I got a call from Fred, the station manager at WJTL a few weeks ago, I was more than a little excited. Fred told me about a position he felt would be right up my alley. In a nutshell, they are looking for someone to do audio production, video production, and helping with their website. Of course I was excited because all of those are things I love doing. I mean come on! Web, audio, and video? Count me in!! It wasn’t 100% certain but Fred assured me it was 99% sure and would let me know as soon as everything was finalized.

Today Fred let me know. It’s official and I’m officially stoked. I have been offered the job and I have accepted. I promised a friend of mine I would DJ her wedding here in Indiana so I will be leaving for Pennsylvania immediately afterward, putting me back in Amish paradise in mid-June.

I’m really excited not only to be doing what I love to do but also to be near some very dear friends whom I consider my family.

But wait! There’s more!

If you’ve read my blogs you know I can’t shut up about how much I loved being in New York City and performing at the National Comedy Theatre, an improv theater in Manhattan. It’s a passion of mine I’ve chased for quite some time and the people there are very talented and dear to my heart. Well…Lancaster is only a 3-hour train ride away from New York City. Three hours!!! I have an iPod, so that’s nothing..that’s like 2 episodes of Saturday Night Live and a Ricky Gervais podcast!

That’s right, baby! Not only will I be able to work at a place and with people I already know I love, but I’ll be able to go up to New York on weekends and perform at a place and with people I already know I love.

Oh yea…and I’ll only be about 45 minutes away from an IKEA.

Sometimes God is much better to me than I deserve.

Name That Artist

My brother works for the post office but isn’t a full-time employee (yet). On his days off he comes to work for Dad and today was one of those days. It’s always a lot of fun when the Rayman is about. Today Ray, Rich (my cousin), and I were playing the game of Name That Artist while we had on the radio. We made up the rules as we went along, but here’s the basic outline:
* When a song comes on the radio, the first person to name the singer gets 1 point (the song is voided if the DJ says the artist before one of the players can)

*If no one can name the artist, the person in last place gets 1 point.

*At any point in the game, you can say “the next song is worth 2 points.” Each player can only use this once per day.

*At the start of the day, you each name 1 artist. The first person’s predeiction to be played receives 3 points.

*The game ends at 4:00. At 3:00, the next song played is worth 10 points if you are in last place, 5 points if you are in 2nd, and only 1 point if you are in first.

We had a blast playing throughout the day and it really helped to pass the time (you need to find something to do when you’re stripping and refinishing hardwood floors). I ended up winning and Rich came in a close second, although I think Ray cheated. He tried to convince me that Train sings that new song “Bad Day.” I told him I knew that was wrong, but couldn’t think of the correct name. He insisted it was Train and claims we gypped him out of 2 points (it played twice today and each time he tried to convince me it was a Train song). Turns out I was right, but I’m not saying who it is in case Ray reads this and saves the info for a later date.

I don’t think Ray is working with us for the rest of the week, but it was fun to have him pop in. If you’ve spent any time with me (especially on a car trip), then you know I love to come up with stupid games to play. Ray and I are kings at that. Tuesday we played the “Name an actor and then we have to come up with said actor’s best–and worst– films” game. It brought on some great discussion, rather heated exchanges (all in good fun), and rehashed the old “Who’s the better actor, Kurt Russell or Steven Seagal?” debate Ray and Dad have been waging for years.

All in all, a good time. My brother is fun.

My Life As A Sitcom

No, really. It’s a sitcom. Last night my uncle told me I should make my life into a TV show and I don’t think it’s a half-bad idea. Here’s the premise:

*Guy gets divorced and moves back to his hometown to take a job at a local radio station.

* Guy arrives in town and finds that the job isn’t actually available yet, so he goes to work for his dad painting houses.

* He has come from New York where cars weren’t needed, thus he has no car. He also has no place of his own yet, so he is staying with his aunt, uncle, their two daughters, and his aunt’s mom (I’m not complaining about this. They have a huge place and I have great accommodations. I just thought the situation itself was pretty funny).

* His other aunt decides to try to fix him up with a friend of hers, a Mexican immigrant with 5 kids, and won’t take no for an answer.

Gotta love it.