At Cumulus, “Uncle Lew” Wants You

The recession is over.

I know that because BIA/Kelsey is predicting modest growth for radio this year. That’s a 1.5% increase and anywhere from 2-4% annual growth in the immediate years ahead. All that after the lower than expected 18.4% decline in 2009.

Okay, everything is good again, right?

So how about putting personalities back on the air again?

Or cutting back on the massive voice tracking that is now being accepted as the industry norm.

How about doing live local radio again?

And rehiring sales professionals and giving them a fair and honest compensation structure to earn a living.

After all, the worst is over, right?


The trouble is just beginning for consolidators who have gutted the radio industry and ruined the careers of radio professionals at the hands of their mismanagement.

Take Lew Dickey.

The Cumulus CEO is now recruiting!

You read that right – the lean mean Dickey machine is open for business once again hiring.

See, the recession must be over, right?

Of course, Tricky Dickey is hiring after he has already “cleansed” Cumulus of people who are – let’s see if I can put this delicately – costing him and his brothers too much money.

Now he wants cheap replacements.

What the big radio CEOs are about to do is tell the world that things are trending up – at least compared to the worst numbers they’ve ever turned in last year – and that recovery is on the way.

What the casual observer or may miss is that you must not confuse an economic recovery with a return to radio as it works best – live and local.

I’ll have to give my friends at Clear Channel some credit.

Keith Abrams in Cleveland just hired two PDs where one used to work.

WGAR and WMVX now have separate program directors.

Hooray for Clear Channel. Maybe I am getting through to John Hogan that more is more. Tony Matteo is the new PD of Mix 106.5 and Charley Connolly the new PD at WGAR.

Connolly leaves Cumulus Nashville.

Joel Denver’s All Access rightly asked readers if this move to have a program director for each of these two Cleveland stations amounted to a sign of things to come?

Good question.

My answer.

I wish.

I hope.

I doubt.

Most consolidators these days are simply routing programming from vaults of Premium Choice and other network fodder to local transmitters and sticks. It is more likely that they need a programming traffic cop to direct the flow. Some are moving in that direction.

Back to Uncle Lew.

Picture this.

That old Uncle Sam picture where he points out and says “Uncle Sam Wants You” is scarier yet when you photoshop Lew Dickey’s head onto good old Uncle Sam.

Cumulus is in deep doo doo.

It has arguably the worst reputation as an employer in radio and now they need people to work – well, on the cheap. So why not look to the people they are underpaying for leads.

Here’s the stew Uncle Lew finds himself in.

He’s running another sales recruiting contest to get existing employees to recommend future victims of corporate torture – and if they will sacrifice their friends, Tricky Dickey will pay the bounty.

An email went out March 23 to all Cumulus market and sales managers from Colby Buell who calls himself Director of Talent Recruitment/Development.

And, as usual, my disclaimer – I am not making this up.

The subject of Buell's email was On-Air Recruitment and the importance level was deemed “high”. Just so you know. This was not a casual, refer us some leads kind of memo.

Let’s take a look:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, We are in the process of developing three distinct on-air recruitment campaigns, so we are requesting your creative input. One winner for each campaign will be selected and awarded $1,000, so a total of $3,000 may be earned. Ultimately, these recruiting campaigns will effectively assist you in attracting talented individuals in your market”.

See, if Cumulus would just pay fair wages to their employees and treat them with respect they wouldn’t have to pay bounties. Clear Channel doesn’t have to pay for recruitment. And they are the Evil Empire.

“Market Managers are responsible for submissions. Submissions by employees other than the Market Manager will be disqualified and not eligible for consideration. Please distribute this information to the appropriate parties in your market for participation.” (By the way this paragraph appeared in bold in Buell’s memo)

Sounds like they’ve already lost that lovin’ feelin’ and now they’re cracking knuckles. Imagine what it would be like to “win” this contest by getting a friend hired.

“Contest Rules:
•This contest begins today and submission deadline is COB on Friday, April 2nd

• You are allowed 3 submissions per campaign, so make them your best

• Submissions must be made by the Market Manager and include copy and .mp3

• You may submit to 1 or all of the campaigns”

This doesn’t sound like fun even though Cumulus calls it a "contest". In fact, I’m getting scared.

“Campaigns: 1) Under-employed /not happily employed sellers- ($1,000)
Copy point suggestions (no career growth, depressed industry, poor leadership, limited company resources)”


Underemployed and not happily employed. Why look outside the company, Cumulus has a whole company full of underemployed and unhappy people already in place.

“2) People considering a re-entry into the work force- ($1,000).
Copy point suggestions (family requires dual income, develop new skill sets, training, high income potential, parents able to work-children are school age or empty nesters)”

They’re kidding, right?

Empty nesters?

Cumulus has done more to put thousands of people out of work and never worried about any of the motivations in #2.

“3) General recruitment- ($1,000)
Copy point suggestions (achievement drive, career development/training, high-income potential, fast-growing company)”

Excuse me, I am choking here.

Did they say “high” income potential?

Fast growing company. Isn't Cumulus on the ropes pushing off debt that they cannot pay bu buying more debt at a higher interest rate?

These are just fabrications. Not backed by fact. They must be talking about Apple.

Fortunately, few unhappy Cumulus workers are going to turn in their friends or associates for a bounty. Just the fact that Cumulus is urgently asking them to do this is telling.

They know all too well what working in a hostile workplace is like.

In fact, I’ve got a better idea.

Cumulus should pay people not to work in their company because in a few short months – if previous experiences mean anything – these new people are going to be out on their asses just like all those qualified Cumulus people who have been turned away. They might as well save that money because apparently this scenario happens all the time at Cumulus.

This just in from a repeater reporter:

“The guy I replaced as GM (market redacted) held the position one year. I was given the hook a year later in April of last year. The guy who replaced me was let go this week. Am I going too fast for you? Try and keep up. Since I left last April, they (Cumulus) fired TWO GM's in (one market), the GM (in a nearby market) was fired and replaced. Ditto (two more southern markets). I'm not saying those are all of them, just the ones I know of in the region. WTF?!”

In the end, the Dickeys will find out that the captives who remain at Cumulus are waiting for things to get better so they can get out.

After all, with the poor employment and management record of the Dickeys, their employees know best that friends don’t let friends work at Cumulus.

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