Your Idea Is Ugly

44Ever had someone say that to you? How did it make you feel?

Well, all ideas start out as ugly.

Ed Catmull, CEO of Pixar writes in his book Creativity Inc. that early in the creative process every movie Pixar has ever made sucked.  They all start out as “ugly babies” that are “awkward and unformed, vulnerable and incomplete.” And that’s OK, because the public never sees these “ugly Pixar babies.” Catmull says it’s the company’s job to protect these original, fragile ideas from being judged too quickly. They understand that great ideas aren’t born; they are created from ugly ones.

Ideas Are Born Ugly

The problem today is too many ugly ideas are released to the world while they are still ugly. No one has invested the time, love and attention to craft them into something great. Or, just as bad, ideas not ready for broadcast are put on-the-air piecemeal. Radio is famous for doing this sort of thing when they change music formats and start off with 10,000 songs in a row. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. So why put something on the air that is not going to be what it will be when it’s finished?

Practice, Practice, Practice

You don’t see a Broadway show open without there being a lot of practice first. You don’t see any type of performance art take to a stage without practice. “All of showbiz except for radio has rehearsals,” observes programming genius George Johns. Why is that?

When Did Radio Stop Rehearsals?

Ron Jacobs, the first Boss Radio PD in America at 93/KHJ writes in his book KHJ Inside Boss Radio that before the new KHJ launched, every air personality and board engineer spent two weeks practicing for the station’s debut. “Every word and every nuance was critiqued on the fly by Jacobs and (Bill) Drake,” said Boss Jock Gary Mack. “More up! More energy! Faster! I remember the distinct odor of flop sweat. But every day got better, and we made our mistakes off the air,” said Mack.

The entire original Boss Jock air staff was all seasoned radio professionals by the time they were hired to launch the new KHJ. But they all had to attend “Boss Jock Kindergarten” before they could go on the air. Boss Jock Tommy Vance put it this way, “I was to spend six hours a day doing it (practicing) until he (Jacobs) decided I would be ready for the real thing. He would be listening in his office. If the red phone rang, pick it up and listen to every word he said – very carefully. Take notes and follow his directions to the letter. Jacobs left me in my Boss Jock kindergarten.”

“Six hours every damn day I played the records. Read the commercials. Again and again, and yet again. The red phone never ceased ringing. Criticism was heaped upon me hour in, hour out. I began to picture Jacobs as the force behind the Spanish Inquisition. As the Marquis de Sade. Jack the Ripper. Eventually I was let out of the bag and given the six to nine pm shift,” said Vance.

That Used To Be Us

This was the way radio worked once upon a time. Nothing went on the air unrehearsed. Everything that went on the air was screened to insure it would meet the standards set by the station. “Ugly babies” were nurtured until they became great ideas that became great radio stations.

Great radio takes work. Great radio is exciting to listen to. Great radio gets results.

Let’s make radio great again.

9 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales, Uncategorized

9 responses to “Your Idea Is Ugly

  1. I thought I was the only one who realized that things should be right before going on air. My rule-of-thumb is 3 months. 3 Months to work out the kinks so that when it hits the air, it is what it should be. And, keep it that way. I believe that consistency is very important. I realized over 30 years ago that the public does NOT listen to radio the way those of us in the biz do.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hal Widsten

    This practice….and many other good programming practices…ended when sales managers became more important than program directors. Once upon a time the programmers created what attracted listeners and the sales people sold that. What has happened since the beginning of consolidation has been well chronicled. Big time debt changes everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great story. Are there any PDs out there that still do airchecks and critiques?

    Like

  4. The pursuit of excellence is a lost art. Perhaps what is most frightening is that in some cases it is frowned upon and actually put down. Where this kind of thinking prevails failure is certain to follow.

    Like

  5. spotmagicsolis

    As you all know by now, t my peak, I spent 5 hours everyday, reading, writing and rehearsing/timing my bits for the next show. And sometimes 30 minutes before the show in production room for a recorded bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Inc. Magazine Radio | DickTaylorBlog

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