|Oil of Dog
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A HISTORY OF WIZARD RADIO – CONTINUED
The foolish promotion we ran during our second rating period. We fumbled around with a pathetically banal contest that was “proposed” by the Friend Of The Management in which people were to vote for the “Best and Worst in Western New York” in various categories like “taco shop” and “album to make love to” and “street.” The ballots would be thrown into a pot from which winners would be chosen at random. If that wasn’t dull enough, we ran the contest for ten weeks without saying what the winners would receive because that is how long it took for the Friend Of The Management to find prizes. They finally obtained six used automobiles – prizes that could have been used humorously – but because of managerial ineptitude the whole contest was a dud. That was our major promotion during that rating period. Meanwhile, our main competitor – WGRQ the Abrams station – made international headlines with a stunt that cost absolutely nothing: they had one of their jocks make the Guiness Book of World Records by staying on the air for two weeks without sleeping. We diddled for ten weeks with a dumb contest with out any prizes and they say it was “too broad a spectrum of music.”
I kept telling Bob MacRae, We’ve got to talk to them, we’ve got to have a meeting with the management. They keep doing those dumb things, those Beetleboards, no prizes for the Best and Worst, no bumper Stickers. If we do poorly in the ratings it won’t be because of Programming. Everything they do is totally destructive. We’ve got to meet with them and try to explain what needs to be done. I said these things to Bob all the time. I know, I know said Bob, but they just don’t want to hear it. My stomach started to hurt. We’ve got, just got to talk with them. We finally did get together with the management over dinner, the day Reagan was shot, but almost the whole evening was spent telling ethnic jokes.
I’m leaving the third shift, just called to say thank you. You have a really great show, helped the night go fast.
Gosh, I really appreciate that.
Just called to say thanx.
Where do you work?
I just called to say thanx.
Okay. Goodbye, thanks for calling. Bye.
A HISTORY OF WIZARD RADIO – CONCLUDED
The horrible day July 15, the day after our birthday when I received that phone call from Bruce Moser telling me we dropped in the Arbitron from a 1.3 to a .5 percent share of the audience. This was not Possible. How could that be I said. I thought of the shows we sold out, our successful promotions, the record sales. I knew there were many people listening, more than ever before. The panic of calls, the sadness, the anger, the sadness, the burst of energy to go ahead to fix what was wrong, the sadness, the anger, the sadness, the calls the hope, the sadness, flipping and flipping and flipping out again. The commitment from the owner to give us one more try. “No one will lose their job,” he lied. Everyone knew the rating could not have been right, everyone was surprised, even the competing stations. Everyone knew it and admitted it, even the owner admitted it. The ratings were wrong.
But how pointless, how feeble, how nothing that fact is. Because The Book is The Book. Right or wrong, it is The Book. It does not measure the listening habits of college people or transient people, it is set up to ignore our audience but it doesn’t matter. There is nothing you can do. Nothing. It is inaccurate and everyone knows it but it is The Book. That’s all that counts. The owner was even heard muttering these words: you live by The Book and you die by The Book. Even though it could not have been right. Even though all our advertisers were seeing good results. The Book is all that counts. Actual dollars changing hands in stores don’t count. Actual records moving out of stores don’t count. Actual people showing up for concerts don’t count. Only The Book counts. The look in the owner’s eye changed immediately. He looked upon me like I was a dead thing. We will give the station another chance, no one will lose their job he said without a smile.
The party at Tugboat Annie’s attended by hundreds of fans celebrating our first year on the air where I met that Bella Linda, my wife to be. Ah! I looked at the owner’s children amidst all the happiness and congratulations and wondered why they looked so sad.
The night I finally got a request for Tucky Buzzard. I told John Farrell and he laughed and laughed. We have now fulfilled our mission in the world he said.
I told Bob MacRae of the way they fired Bob Allen. If they change the format on us it will be over night without any warning, a total shocker I said. We knew what needed to be done. We knew how to improve the sound of the station, that the promotion had to be taken away from the people who didn’t know what the station was about. We were ready.
Until today. And I feel the tears. We meet the new consultant. He is a young guy who it turns out has been dealing with the owner for months. The owner told him nearly half a year ago If we do not do well enough in the next Arbitron we will hire you. The consultant introduces himself. I’ll give you the bad news first he tells us. The station will go off the air for one night and come back on a totally new format. The long promised power increase will go into effect. The Wizard logo will be dropped. The music will be that of a typical clone rock station hardly different from the other three clone rockers in this area. It is little more than an imitation of the Abrams format even though this silly consultant has convinced the owner it is better. It is not. It is an obscenely unimaginative waste of the airwaves just as is the Abrams format. He claims to be gearing towards a different audience than the Abrams station. He gives examples of songs we have all heard a million times that will make the new WZIR “different.”
I look at at the owner. He looks upon this consultant with pleased almost proud eyes. He says the progressive format was a noble experiment that failed. This is a business he says. This is a business. This is a business. This is a business he keeps saying. This is a business. This is a business. This is a business. Well, if it’s a fucking business, why didn’t they run it like one a year ago. He says the format was to blame for the low ratings. I don’t agree. I have never seen anyone more unconscious of the brilliance and dedication that surrounded him, more wasteful of his own and other people’s resources, more unappreciative of those who worked for him so hard.
I think the image they botched was the number one problem, the fact that we did not have our power increase and could not be heard in many parts of the market was the second, and third was that we did not live up to the potential of the format partly because of the ineptitude of certain jocks, partly because of the mix of the music was unrefined, and partly because I was too experimental. The format was not to blame. The basic idea was right. The owner is wrong. He did not give the format a chance. He botched it from the start with that stupid Hotspot campaign.
I look at the consultant. He is acting confident but I know he his not. I can tell from the things he says that he does not know this market, this station or even this kind of radio as well as he claims. Even if he gets good ratings he may not be able to save the station from its financial troubles. This is his first gig as a consultant. He is indifferent to music, business, art, radio, listeners, Buffalo. He has come in to destroy everything for the sake of launching his career as a consultant. If I had known it was so easy to be a consultant, I might have become one myself. Anyone could devise in a few days the station he is creating and then fail, as he inevitably will. Anyone can say “For mass appeal, you do not play Echo and The Bunnymen and you do play the Beatles.” Anyone can make a list of key cuts from albums and see what year they were released and “gear” them towards a particular age group. Anyone can make a list of top forty songs, current album cuts, recurrent album cuts just by looking in the trade journals. Anyone can send out surveys about records that people already have heard and make self-justifying playlists. Anyone can devise a system of rotation that will give a “good” mix of these various indistinguishable “categories.” Anyone can use slogans like “classic rock radio!!” and logos like “Z-98” that have already been tried without success in this market. I wish I knew it was so easy.
The one sensible thing that seems to be happening is that the owner has placed the whole station in the Consultant’s hands – everything, the promotion, the image, the music, the logo, the jocks. If only they had come on a year ago with a similar one dimensional clearly focused image, inexpensive well placed promotions, a competent understanding sales staff, and someone decisive with whom I could sensibly discuss the music. If we had this kind of support – with no interference from the Friend of the Management – I believe the owner would be very wealthy some day, in fact, the owner would become a hero in the history of broadcasting.
I did not kill myself this year for my health, or for the money, or because I want to stay poor. I did it because I believe it is possible for a station to play music and be successful. If only if only if only. Blind rage as I hear this fool consultant talk. I see the look in his eye. He knows me. He knows I must be dealt with. He does not want anyone around who has creativity or who might know more than he or who can question his dull witted format. I see the stony defensiveness in the eye of the owner as he casts a quick glance at me.
It is over. It is over. Oil of Dog is dead. I must find some kind of new job. What will I do? I am sad. I can’t stand the feeling of waste, wasting a whole year for horrible people like the owners of Wizard. I am sick to death of doing things that fail. I don’t think I can stand to work in radio anymore. It is over. Oil of Dog is dead. It is such a waste. I will close my eyes for a little longer before I renounce it all. I will close my eyes and remember.
I wear jeans and a white t-shirt and engineer boots and I am very scrawny. I hang around pool halls and I am shorter than most of the guys there, I’m a little retarded. I stand by the juke box for hours and play the songs, I pride myself in the choice of songs. I look up smiling when a tune come on that I think the guys will like, I look around like I did a great thing, I look to see if I am cool. A guy goes hummph, an indulgent forced laugh. This music is everything to me. It is my only dignity. I do favors for the owner, I sweep up the place and put out garbage. I always ask the guys if they want me to get them a Coke. Their women make fun of me, twirl my hair and make my skin shiver. If they are too nice I will get a crush. Someone trips me, rips my shirt but someone says Leave him alone, he is just a runt.
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STORM FIRED FROM WZIR
Progressive rock disc jockey Gary Storm confirmed that he was fired, yesterday, from entertainment-rock radio station WZIR (98.5 FM).
The iconoclastic Storm is best known for his experimental all-night radio program, Oil
of Dog, which was broadcast on FM 88 (WBF0) for 5½ years until June of last year. A few weeks later, Storm brought the program to the newly established WZIR where he had been appointed music director.
It was recently reported that, as a result of a poor showing in the Arbitron ratings, Storm would not continue as music director and that the station’s experimental format would be scrapped along with Storm’s Oil of Dog program in favor of an album-oriented rock format. At that time, speculation arose as to whether Storm had any future at WZIR. Since the unconventional DJ had never worked in any format except one that he himself devised, it was difficult to predict how he would fit in with the new WZIR. Station owner, Paul Butler, ended speculation yesterday by firing him.
Reached at his home yesterday, Storm described his own mood as “sad,” although he added that the firing was fairly amicable, under the circumstances. According to Storm, Oil of Dog will remain on the station’s schedule through next week with the final broadcast beginning at a little after midnight on the very early morning of August 14. After that, said Storm with regret, “I don’t know if I’ll ever work in radio again.”*
* Jay Boyar. Buffalo Courier-Express, August 8, 1981, no Vol., no No., page. A-9.
You will notice I am not a survivor. People who have vivid dreams and inflexible ideals and stubborn codes of honor are never survivors. I am a small-town secondary-market facsimile of someone like Tommy Smothers.
Many of the stories in this book are about the fact that I have trouble with authority figures. I can’t help it. A sociopathic insecure idiot with the official title of “Manager” or “CEO” or “President” or “Chief” or “Officer” is still a sociopathic insecure idiot. I cannot grovel and I cannot dissemble.
Mind you, my stories about the radio business are typical of the entire industry. My experiences are not unique. Managers are always dimwitted assholes and on-air talent are always self righteous lunatics. So what I describe is really The State Of The Business. I would be surprised to learn that anyone was interested in my criticisms. But this is a book about radio and the radio business is inherent to the story of Oil of Dog.
So many pages of this book consist of whining and moaning about the failure of management to respect my vision because I cannot let go of what I know:
I know the power of music. And I know the power of radio. I love music so much it hurts. And I love radio so much it kills me. If it weren’t for music I would be dead. And if it weren’t for radio I would thrive.
I MEAN I REALLY BELIEVE IN THIS SHIT. I believe that ordinary people are open minded and intelligent and that they want to hear lots of different kinds of music. I believe in freedom of expression and that the good old U.S. of A. is great because anything that can be said CAN BE SAID without fear of recrimination. I believe that the freedom that is inherent in loving all kinds of music is LIBERATION INCARNATE and that if you give music to people without limitation then you give them the key to true freedom.
That is why I am not a survivor.
|To be continued . . . . .
Last updated March 31, 2009.
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