The past month has been chaotic, with two and a half weeks of travel causing me to feel out of sync. I’ve attended the Podcast Movement Conference and NAB Radio Show, visited FOX Sports Radio, FS1 and Jim Rome’s studios, enjoyed a few drinks and conversations with top notch program directors, and have earned the eyes and ears of more than 10 CEO’s and/or corporate executives, strengthening my relationships and expanding my knowledge of various companies and situations. That doesn’t include engaging with numerous folks by phone, email and social media.
If you told me I’d be in these situations two years ago when I launched BSM, I would have questioned why I didn’t make the move sooner. The pace has been fast, the challenges different, and it’s kept me so focused and bullish on our business that I had to be reminded by my fiancé of my company’s two year anniversary this past Friday.
As crazy as that sounds, it’s a great problem to have. I entered this space determined to build something special, and to see it gain traction and generate respect and interest throughout the industry is something I take great pride in and am very grateful for.
Having spent more than two decades in the radio business, I’ve seen a lot of folks over the years brand themselves as consultants whenever they were in between jobs. It was a way for people to stay relevant and tell decision makers “I’m not unemployed, but if you have a job for me I’ll gladly consider giving this up.” They offered feedback to people who wanted to improve on the air but discovered that relying on industry members for business was extremely difficult.
Given my background as a programmer, I understood why many assumed this would be a stop-gap move for me. It was expected that I’d show up in a building in New York or relocate as I had done multiple times during my career, but truth be told, I went into this space fully committed. I had no desire to reclaim my PD stripes. I saw how the radio industry was changing and felt the need for outside consultation would increase if I was able to whether the storm of starting and growing a business. If operators needed to take a wait and see approach before working with me to make sure it was an area I was committed to, I had no problem being patient and letting my work and persistence do the talking.
When I started working in radio 22 years ago, I was cautioned by my father that it was competitive and paid very little. I knew that I’d have to scratch, claw and work my tail off to make noise and create opportunities. My first full time opportunity paid $16,000 dollars per year, and with a family of four to support at the time, I questioned if I was doing the right thing. But radio was in my blood and fueled my desire to wake up each morning and perform, and I couldn’t turn it off.
I actually took a 6-month departure early in my career to enter the ‘real world’ and work for AT&T Wireless. When I landed the job I instantly doubled my income which felt great, but I soon discovered that I couldn’t work a job that I wasn’t emotionally and passionately invested in. I’d go to the office, writing down phone numbers of athletes, celebrities and media personalities, hoping to book them for future shows, only to be reminded by one of my cubicle compadres “Jason, you don’t have a radio show and you aren’t in that business anymore.”
And that’s when I realized, I am not going to be confined to a cubicle, answering phones and questioning why I didn’t chase my dream. Money makes life easier to live but what you do professionally occupies so much of your time in life and I wasn’t going to waste mine.
You can imagine how well it went over when three weeks before Christmas when I walked in the door and told my family I quit AT&T, was going to return to radio, and would not rest until I made it. There were short-term financial challenges to overcome but I was and remain a firm believer that you don’t make decisions solely on money. In anything you do, there has to be a bigger purpose and a sense of excitement attached to your involvement, otherwise you become a slave to the paycheck.
Not to take anything away from anyone who makes a living answering phones or working a M-F 9a-5p job. I’ve wished at times I was wired differently and could accept a simpler lifestyle. But for me, the radio light bulb was always on, and no matter how hard I tried to turn it off, I just couldn’t. As the famous line in The Godfather Part 3 goes, “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
In writing this column, I wanted to share how I think and operate because the way I manage BSM is no different than how I’ve managed my career. This company isn’t a placeholder. It’s my new way of life. I’ve invested in knowledge and fought to build a career, earn respect, and deliver results for my employers, and I use that same approach today to guide BSM.
One of the real perks of making this move has been that it’s helped me learn so much more during the past 24 months. Being active with multiple companies in different cities keeps me on my toes, and every week and challenge is unique. One week I might be sitting in front of three ultra-successful big market personalities discussing the progress of their show, the next week I might be doing a social media evaluation for another client. The following week I could be working with a smaller station to help a young man develop as a host, play by play voice and brand leader, and the next I’m analyzing ratings trends, developing seasonal strategies, evaluating imaging and helping recruit talent.
I’m extremely fortunate to have great support from my fiancé, son and parents, and valuable relationships with exceptional companies/clients and thousands of industry professionals. Without each of them placing their faith in me this business would be nothing more than a pipe dream.
During the past two years I’ve grown my clients from two to eight, I’ve gone from having no budget to attend conferences to being able to attend three to four per year, and I’ve increased my in-market training projects from two to six. I’m extremely proud of that progress and it lets me know that I’m on the right path.
I’ve also built up the website as a source of information and original content. BSM has amassed more than two million pageviews and become a destination for other industry professionals to write and earn a few dollars for contributing. That doesn’t include creating 22 episodes of the BSM Podcast, and generating an additional 56,000 listening sessions.
And I’m not even close to where I want to be. This is only the beginning.
One thing I hear often from industry leaders is how important it is to be bold, take risks, invest in people who can help improve products, and not be afraid to seek others outside of the organization to keep a brand honest. In fact, these messages were repeated often during the past three weeks at the NAB Radio Show and Podcast Movement Conference. Executives stressed how rapidly the world is changing, how cluttered and competitive the content and revenue spaces are, and why operating in status quo mode is a failed strategy. I agree with every single one of those assessments, and as an independent resource who knows the sports space as well as anyone in it, I’m looking forward to holding our industry’s leaders accountable to their words.
2018 is going to be a big year for radio with a ton of change happening. I’m sure we’ll say the same thing when 2019 and 2020 roll around. Although we can’t predict what the future entails, we can prepare for it by having the right people in our corner (hint, hint).
I take great pride in being an advocate for the sports radio format. I don’t believe there’s any individual or platform championing this format’s cause and impact more than I, and I do it to help our companies and sports radio brands gain the recognition, respect and revenue they deserve, and to showcase the people who make it possible. There are so many great stories to tell about our format but sometimes we have tunnel vision and forget to share our ideas and information. The world isn’t going to know what you’re doing if you don’t let others know about it, so for all of my programming friends, hosts, producers, sellers and corporate leaders, continue sharing the information, no matter how big or small you may think it is, and I’ll keep fighting to help elevate the conversation about our format.
The second thing I’m working to evolve is the perception of consultants. Maybe in the past it was enough to tell market managers and programmers, “do this, do that, lose this person, add this one” but in 2017 that isn’t enough. Today, I evaluate content, ratings, branding, imaging, develop relationships with people for potential short-term and long-term opportunities, research audience interests, study social media trends and make strategic recommendations, develop seasonal strategies, share big picture ideas and revenue generating events, supply information to operators for weekly appointments, write columns and news, host a podcast, help create new digital ideas, vote on awards, and appear on sports radio shows as a guest sports media analyst. Plus in 2018 I’ll be hosting the very first BSM Sports Radio Programming Summit.
Having been a PD before, I made decisions and stood by them, win or lose, but I never made them without doing research, gathering opinions and opening my mind to other possibilities. Every great leader should want to surround themselves with smart experienced people. Especially those who can provide them with additional ideas and information, and an honest perspective that they might need to hear during critical times.
I think we’d all agree that the audio space is booming, and the appetite for sports content is growing by the day. I’m a huge believer that we are well positioned for greater success, and although our industry faces challenges, there’s never been a better time to be involved in it.
As I reflect on the first two years of BSM I’m extremely thankful and excited about where we are. I can’t thank those I’ve been lucky enough to work with for their trust and business, and I look forward to expanding my relationships with other great broadcasters in the near future. Being active is great, but changing the game and making a lasting impression is what fuels me each morning. It’s time now to get back to work and begin making year three our best one yet. Thanks for your consistent support of BSM!