It’s the day after All Access effectively shut down – a zombie version is continuing but the staff, including me, was shown the door – and we’ve had our email shut off, so I don’t know what else is going to be disappeared. In case the column archive goes away – they say they’ll maintain it but I’m not certain of that – here’s the final “The Letter” column for posterity:
And Now, My Job Is Just Beach
In the end, it’s about freedom.
Okay, it’s also about hiring people who have above-average creativity, but that creativity is not served by restricting them and making them follow rules that might not lead to their best work. Radio management has always leaned on the idea that sticking to formulas and doing things the way they’ve always been done is the way to success, but the hosts who have transcended the medium did things their own way. Greatness doesn’t come from shutting up and playing the music, or sticking to political party talking points. Big personalities doing different and entertaining things, playing around with the very medium itself, turning convention on its ear: There aren’t a lot of people doing that anymore. Radio is a lot of “more of the same” and precious little “I’ve never heard that before.”
And that’s where I came in. When I started in radio, music radio was what it is today, mostly shut-up-and-play-the-music except for morning shows doing the same bits in every market. Talk radio — political talk — was all straight out of Republican Party headquarters. Still is, even more so than back then. But there were the Sterns and Hendries and Rogers and a few other hosts and stations trying something different, and for a short period of time it seemed like there would be more, talk radio aimed at younger and more diverse audiences, but that meant spending money and developing talent. With consolidation and private equity investment, that couldn’t last, and it didn’t, which is why I spent the last few decades trying to swim against the tide, using this column to urge the industry to change before it was too late.
I could not have done that without support from management. In the over 20 years I’ve been writing this column, Joel Denver never once told me not to write something. He let me complain and cajole and bloviate and criticize and praise whatever I wanted. If there was any blowback from outside, I never heard it. I’ll forever be in awe of how Joel gave me the freedom to be myself in print, and I hope I gave him reason to feel like his trust was justified.
What’s next? For radio, I hope we hear talent trying different things, experimenting, entertaining. For podcasting, the same, and with no management to get in the way, I expect someone’s going to do something amazing one of these days.
For me? No idea. I’m open to anything that’s creative, interesting, and forward-looking. Whatever I do, I hope you’ll join me there. I’m on most of the social platforms (@pmsimon) and at pmsimon.com, and I’ll let you know what I’m up to there. Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if you’re in South Florida, you might catch me for lunch. Or I’ll literally be on the beach. Seems appropriate.
Oh, yeah, just a little more: Thanks to Fran for putting up with my weekly “what am I gonna write about this week?” angst for something like 24 years and helping me put my jumbled thoughts into semi-coherent columns. And thanks to you readers for your support and encouragement. See you down the road….