Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I Cain't Live Without My Radio

Not everybody knows this, but before my current incarnation as a misanthropic tech support guru, I worked in the radio industry for several years. I wasn't anything so glamorous as an afternoon or drive-time DJ (although I did do work on both those shows.) Nope, I was more of a behind the scenes kind of dude, recording commercials and doing voiceover work. I was the guy at the end of those commercials that said, "All Jordans Furniture stores, including the Fabulous Natick store, are open tonight until 10!" or "Don't miss Seinfeld at 8, followed by Friends at 8:30. It's "must see TV" tonight only on WBZ-TV 4!" Or there was always my personal favorite, "Do you have a problem with alcohol? Do you think you know someone who does? Boston University Medical Center is conducting a blah blah blah........." Often times I would record the voiceovers in an accent befitting the actual commercial itself (or the product I was advertising.) Seinfeld and Friends? I despised both shows - boring monotone it was. Alcohol abuse commercial? Slurred it. (I once did a voiceover for Corona in a lazy Mexican droll. Inexcusable, really. I'm lucky I didn't get my ass fired there and then.) Jordans Furniture? That one was pretty normal. I liked the guys that owned it (Barry & Elliot), although I did once, rather inexplicably, voice it in an Indian accent not unlike Apu on the Simpsons. (The guys at Jordans loved it, or so I'm told. Called more attention to the product, apparently.) I'm still amazed I was kept on the staff - although in retrospect, I'm not at all surprised I never made more than $8.00/hour.

Why do I bring all this up? Two reasons. The first is to brag. Not everyone can say they were once a bush league radio star. The second reason is more complex, though. Part of why I went stupid crazy on the voiceovers is because well... it was allowed (within reason - I got spoken two once or twice. Often times the bigwigs wouldn't even hear it anyway), but also because I felt it added some much needed creativity to a radio station and format that desperately needed it. The trouble with much of commercial radio, then as now, is that is had become rather bland and predictable. In the battle for ratings (which incidentally, are calculated using a ridiculously antiquated system in which listeners are sent a dollar and a diary and asked to write down what they listen to over the course of a week and then send it back. Absurd - although admittedly they may have updated the process since I left) many stations are afraid to innovate. Instead, they stick with the "tried and true" methods that previously worked. No wonder the industry is in crisis.

Whew. I better stop myself. I'm going off on a stupid tangent. Apologies. Anyway, back to me and creativity and things like that.... Yes, so I tried to add a little spice where previously there was monotony. I'm no longer in radio (left for monetary reasons), as I mentioned, but I still miss much of the creative aspects of it. Thankfully though, it seems the industry is undergoing a bit of an overhaul without my help (as if I played a huge role in the first place. We know what to say here, don't we? That's right. PSHAW!!!) Commercial radio stations, hit with declining numbers since the invention of the MP3 player and satellite radio, are scrambling to reinvent themselves. They might even make some headway. In the meantime however, I'm really starting to get into an area which is helping to cause their demise - the podcast (click for defintion)

Yesterday, Apple's iTunes started supporting podcasts and offering them for free through the service. Bsically the deal is this - you browse through the multitude of programs they offer, subscribe to the ones you want, and everytime you open up iTunes it will download the most recent of those programs you've subscribed to (which you can then transfer to your iPod or whatever...) Think of it as Tivo for the audio world. I've subscribed to a bunch of shows already. Among the notables:

I've also thrown on a few programs from WGBH here in Boston. And no, there's no way I'm listening to all of it. Time doesn't allow. A number of commercial radio stations are trying their hand at this, too. I've yet to actually listen to anything from them, but it looks promising at any rate. Of course, it isn't just iTunes that is doing this. There are plenty of other outlets, such as, etc... But the fact that something with as large a presence as iTunes adopted it means that the technology is making great strides. Or at least I hope it is. Otherwise, you're stuck with jackasses like me bragging about how they pissed off the execs at Applebees by referring to their signature Riblets dish as being 'for her pleasure.'


Blogger Sean said...

So Eric, when are YOU going to start creating and publishing your own podcasts??

10:24 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

The difficulties are considerable - and they're all self-imposed. For one, I don't have a machine I trust enough to create them (the machine I use at home is a functioning piece of garbage), and it would take me a while to figure out how to put one together, much less one I was satisfied with. Besides, you guys don't want to hear my voice... not sure you want to read my text, either - but my voice? Trust me on that one...

But really, Sean? I'm just lazy

11:18 AM  
Blogger Sean said...

Yeah. Me too.

12:05 PM  

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