Radio & Records

Nielsen stopped the presses on Radio & Records yesterday.

Some had been expecting it. Others hoping against hope. In all, 40 people lost their jobs and the radio industry lost a great and proud trade publication.

How weird it was to be having breakfast yesterday with Barry O'Brien, the former Vice President of Sales for Radio & Records. We got the news of R&R's demise separately and at the same time on our iPhones.

Nielsen bought R&R from Perry Partners a few years ago. The paper has been sold several times in its history but R&R has always been blessed with great managers, editors and employees.

It was a publication about good will toward the radio and music industries.

Beyond losing another great asset, the demise of Radio & Records, which took its website down immediately after yesterday's announcement and will publish no further issues, is a very meaningful commentary on the plight of both industries.

The original founder, Bob Wilson, was a genius.

He knew program directors and made the publication something expressly for them. Up until that point you could read Billboard's radio section but that amounted to Claude Hall, also a very able communicator. But Hall's column Vox Jox was Billboard. The rest was for the labels and rack jobbers -- you get the point.

Wilson carried it off by printing a newspaper -- not a magazine. Back then, that was major.

R&R arrived in the hands of program directors no later than Friday out there in the hinterland and, of course, on the newsstand at their home base of LA while the ink was still wet.

Wilson pioneered the feature Street Talk to handle the many rumors we live on in this business and eventually put columns together on specific formats. Many successful people wrote these columns and went on to distinguish themselves further. Joel Denver is one of many who comes to mind. The list is long. Then came the conventions, faxes, emails and special products.

The publishing house that Bob Wilson built was later run by former RKO Radio President Dwight Case and, of course the most recent publisher, Erica Farber.

When I published Inside Radio, my staff always held Radio & Records as the standard for an industry trade. Inside Radio was edgier under my ownership but R&R was the publication of record.

Now, it's gone.

But, then again, everything is going.

Three career killers -- Clear Channel, Citadel and Cumulus -- have eliminated thousands of jobs, reduced programming and compromised radio's status as a local franchise. These three blind mice of corporate operators were not alone -- but when your top consolidators are running their stations like a liquidation sale, it hurts everyone.

That's not bad enough but the music industry -- which is really joined at the hip with the fate of local radio -- also declined.

Radio may not make the hits anymore, but neither do the record labels. Together, they have a diminishing influence on actual music sales. The labels push to win repeal of radio's performance royalty tax exemption is a joke and an insult. Both businesses are dead on arrival.

There's a lot of music out there on the Internet as well as traded freely via filesharing. Radio and records, the industries, lost sight of new technology and changing sociology.

It is no wonder, then, that the publication that spoke to and for the radio industry -- R&R -- would eventually be expendable to their owners.

R&R Publisher Howard Applebaum blamed the economy.

He mentioned that Nielsen tried to sell it but couldn't. Imagine that for just a minute, no one wanted to pay Nielsen at least something for R&R. That's how bad things have gotten.

At times in the past R&R showed interest in buying Inside Radio. As my great editor Tom Taylor will tell you -- I went to lunch in Cherry Hill, NJ with Erica and a financial type from Perry Partners. Hey, I treated them right -- a Jersey diner. Meanwhile back at our Inside Radio offices, my staff sat nervously by waiting to hear if a deal would transpire.

After all, who would want to move from New Jersey to California (wink/wink)?

It never got that far.

The usual problem.

I wanted too much. They wanted to pay too little.

What I never told my staff which included our president Steve Butler (now of KYW Newsradio in Philly) was that I was not inclined to sell even at a more reasonable price.

That sounds unbelievable but then, in the 1990s, it was an age of operators. We didn't build things to sell them. We were all part of an industry we loved -- people we loved to serve and enjoy. And we were making plenty of money.

When I finally sold Inside Radio to Clear Channel as part of the financial settlement for their $100 million lawsuit against me and my $125 million countersuit against them, I clearly recollect two phone calls.

One, from my financial advisor, Steve Pendergast, telling me "The Eagle has landed" (meaning the money was in my account).

And then the moment the news was on the Dow Jones Newswire, Erica Farber graciously called me to say, "say it ain't so, Jerry". Erica was the first caller after my sale became public. I wish someone would tell me it ain't so about closing R&R down.

In the radio and record businesses today, it's all about loss.

Hardly a day goes by that I don't hear of another sad story where a loyal and talented radio person is fired as if they didn't matter. Yesterday, I heard of the dismissal of a great friend of mine -- an outstanding PD -- due to economic conditions.

On top of that, it isn't pretty for the survivors.

Another programming friend of mine lost his health after his firing.


Because he was working over 60 hours a week seven days in a row under great pressure on multiple stations just trying to avoid the axe.

I have no respect for the fools on the hill who run radio's consolidated groups.

They've trashed their corporate stock, survived by super voting stock tactics designed to keep them in power, ran up debt that is only repayable in boom times and have lost their humanity -- that is, treat careers, people and their families like statistics.

They deserve the ridicule they get and in my opinion are single-handedly responsible for not preparing radio broadcasting for the next growth industry -- the digital future.

Had they seen the future -- or hired people who could -- radio would be vying for a place in the digital beyond right now.

Instead, there are no significant budgeted Internet plans by any radio group.

No commitment to mobile content.

No real idea of what generational media is -- and a casual understanding of social networking.

They are missing the opportunity to build a large stable of talent -- just as record labels are missing the boat.

And what's maddening is that they are now providing the most watered down programming ever to listeners who are inclined to want to keep listening to radio -- the group I call the older, available audience.

Repeater Radio, what's that all about?

Cutting back, not investing.

Spy cameras in the stations -- as Cumulus is doing without a bit of embarrassment -- because it wants to run local licenses from headquarters in Atlanta.

It's cheaper.

Overworking the few who have not been fired even as they wonder whether they are going to be next or whether they'll get a serving of soup with an extra pea in it.

Perhaps you've seen or heard of what often happens when a person loses a loved one he or she was married to for a long time.



Losing the will to go on.

It's, then, perfectly logical to understand what happened to Radio & Records yesterday.

The radio and record industries died and R&R succumbed shortly after.

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