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Monday, January 21, 2013

DJ's Just Don't have the talent and class they once did.

Radio station fires DJ who asked B.C. Premier Christy Clark if she was a ‘MILF’

That was the headline last week. It seems to be a trend. It seems to be because it is and has been for a long time. 
In the article above the actual DJ is referred to in this way:

 "A shock jock on Vancouver Island says he has been fired for doing his job."

And that is really the point of this blog. The DJ's of today try to and basically are expected to shock rather than entertain with personality, wit and charm. Why is that? Simple, it gets you paid large sums of money and makes the radio stations rich with advertising money. That is, until they disc jockey goes over the line and then they have to run away from him or her.

"I did what was expected of me," he told a CKWX1130 on Thursday. 
Back in April of 2007 a very famous,  syndicated and successful DJ named Don Imus got in a lot of trouble for saying this:

He wasn't the first to really push the envelope. Howard Stern and others had been doing it for many years. I am old enough to remember a time when that wasn't the case. When radio DJ's were funny, talented and knowledgable performers who were larger than life because they deserved to be. Howard Stern is actually funny and he has proved that many times on talk shows like Letterman. But he knows that being outrageous and shocking people gets him richer and eventually to plum jobs like America's Got Talent.

“I work at a rock station. We do entertainment and comedy interspersed with things in our community. I don’t think it was a bad thing. I think, more the media attention is what they were angry about."

The thing with DJ's these days is their lack of talent. They resort to pranks, and gimmicks. Back in the day, they had personality and they knew something about the songs and artists, mostly because they had met them and experienced it. Not because they read it on Wikipedia or someones blog. 

Many like Dick Clark, Alan Freed and Wolfman Jack in many ways were the bigger stars than the artists and could make or break their career.

That is sadly lacking these days. A lot of DJ's are just failed singers or actors who are grinding out a buck.
And the second thing is that they know they are under the gun to produce. Radio stations these days change DJ's just about every year or two, at the first sign of sagging ratings. While that did happen as well in the old days, it wasn't as common or as frequent. Many DJ's stayed with the same station for 10 or 20 years back in the 60's and 70's. Those days seem to be history now and the DJ's of today know that. If you want steady and lucrative work, then you shock and get the money while you can.

When I was growing up in Toronto, there were two very famous DJ's that lasted for many years with the same station. One was Don Daynard. They called him "Dazzling Don" because he was so smooth. For 30 years he only worked at two competing stations and retired at the second one. There was never any controversy with him and he was highly entertaining. The other was Jay Nelson. He was billed as "Jungle Jay" and he was iconic on Toronto radio. When I was very young, the biggest radio station in Canada for music was 1050 CHUM, and that was also one of the most popular stations in the world. Jay Nelson was the morning DJ for 17 years during it's heyday. Both Don and Jay knew how to entertain without ever shocking or insulting their guests.

"Jay Nelson possessed the one characteristic that I regard as absolutely essential for a successful morning man, the ability to think on the spot.   He never prepared any material that I know of. All his one liners and jokes came to him Johnny Carson style... extemporaneously.  He could be hung over, half asleep... hell, half DEAD for that matter... and the funny stuff would just happen.  I've NEVER been able to do that, and I don't know how those guys do it either.  I had to sit and think up the bits I did, it was hard work.  Nelson, and people like him, are just naturally funny.   Like I said, it just happens."

- Pat Bergin

And that brings me to the incident most are familiar with. The prank pulled by two Aussie DJ's. The one that resulted in a British nurse committing suicide. Now, my contention has always been that this woman must have been troubled to kill herself over this and they are not responsible for that in any way, but that doesn't excuse the lack of judgment and talent of these DJ's. They resort to prank calls rather than be witty and entertaining themselves. And they do that because it is expected of them to keep their jobs. 

The sad reality of radio these days is that it is a dying art form. Between the internet, TV and all the social networks, radio just doesn't have the audience it once did. It still does have a big audience but not the one it once had. Not one big enough to justify paying the big bucks to the real talent of yesteryear. And hence we get the types that inhabit it these days. Many just resort to reading the news between songs and making some lame comment similar to a facebook status. In many cases, they just read facebook status updates. They neither put any effort into their work nor have the raw talent of a Jay Nelson to be funny on the spot. So they resort to shock tactics and pranks until they go too far and it backfires on them. Which it always does.

 "I think people need to lighten up. Why does everything have to be so serious all the time," he said.

 And the thing that most of these DJ's don't realize is that they are offensive. They can't see that the issue isn't so much that they shock, it is that they fail to make an attempt to entertain with any skill or talent. Any incident is turned back on someone else and they refuse to take responsibility for doing a substandard job.

"The whole reason this became a news story is because the B.C. Conservative party are... looking for something to attack her on. It comes down to this: whether she's the premier or not, she's a person, she has an opinion, she has a sense of humour and if anything I think that humanized her more than anything else."

 It won't change. That is the new reality. We can expect these types of incidents to increase over time and not decrease. In this day and age,  shock sells and talent isn't that much of a consideration. Ratings is.

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