Seven Take Aways from Mike McVay

Mike McVayCumulus Senior Vice President of Programming Mike McVay knows a lot about radio. He’s been in the business since 1969 as a talent, PD, consultant and futurist. In his current role, he heads up programming for over 500 radio stations nationwide.

Deb Slater and I chatted with Mike this week on the Radio Stuff podcast. It was a wide-ranging interview that went well beyond the ten minutes he had promised us. He was gracious, accessible, frank, funny, and insightful.  You should really listen to the whole thing. Really.

Here are my seven big takeaways from Mike McVay.

1. If you are on-air at a Cumulus radio station bring your “A” game each day, don’t phone it in, because he’s listening.

icfsw1sMcVay: “I still dial in on a radio when I travel. I carry a Sony ICF-SW1; a small, 10 channel, digital radio. And the reason I carry it on the road with me is I want to hear the local station and their commercials and the imaging.”

McVay: “Lew Dickey said it best in a recent weekly meeting I had with him. Air talent that are live and local are fewer and fewer, so those air talent who are live and local need to really make every break count. They really need to be in the community, they really need to show why live and local is so valuable. Because where we have live and local talent we do excel. If we’re going to be live and local, the air-talent need to grasp that every time they turn on the microphone it is a rare opportunity and a privilege that they should take advantage of. “

2. If you are an air talent looking for work follow Mike McVay (@mikemcvay) on twitter and get his attention.

McVay: “I find myself actually finding new talent on twitter. One of the reasons why I tweet so much and I’m so involved in social media is because other people at the same level or same position I’m in in our industry don’t. And so I thinking making me accessible is a good thing.”

3. If you are a PD at Cumulus you are being closely watched.

Slater: In the 20-months you’ve been there what impact have you made?

McVay: “…and I’ve been able to help educate and direct our program directors. Having been a consultant for so many years, I’ve become a teacher. If anything I hope I’ve helped to make our PDs better.”

Slater: What keeps you up at night?

McVay: The greatest thing that worries me is individual programmers and individual air talent who are going through the motions, who don’t share the passion that we at the top of the food chain at Cumulus share.

Gifford: What’s your biggest programming challenge?

McVay:  Getting your people to use the tools and resources you give them and then have connectivity to a market. I can show you markets where our program directors take the tools we give them and they excel in the market and stations in the market are highly rated. I can show you other markets where the PDs take the exact same tools and for whatever reasons stations don’t excel. Now in some cases, one could argue the competition is better, but other cases I think I could argue that our PDs don’t embrace the systems the way they should. They don’t use the tools they way they could. As a result, the stations don’t perform as well.”

4. Radio says it wants change, but those who try to change get ridiculed. img_5844-e8f87ffb9a3a8a76a991840d72fb281e36d9cfeb-s6-c30

McVay: “Someone challenged me that putting Huckabee on, putting Geraldo on, hiring Michael Savage are crazy ideas and my response was I’ve been coming to these conferences for ten years. I hear all of you sitting in this audience complain there isn’t change, that we need to do something to get new and younger demos. Well, if nothing else, give Cumulus credit for trying something. Some things we try are going to fail. Some of the things we try are going to work. Everyone should be hoping that what we do works, rather than belittling it, because if it works, in this lemming business everyone will then run off the cliff and do what we’re doing.”

rush-pubshot5. Rush Limbaugh isn’t going away anytime soon.

McVay: “He’s not done. We are continuing to be big fans of Rush. You have to keep in mind that many of the things you read in the trades are taken out of context. And we are fans of Rush Limbaugh and, you know, the demise of Rush Limbaugh is greatly exaggerated. He continues to be one of the highest rated talk talent in America and all of us should want to have the ratings that he has.”

 6. It’s a great time to be in the radio business. Believe it! 

McVay: The opportunities are greater today, because there are so many more outlets. There are 12,000 radio stations, limitless internet radio stations, and opportunities for you to be heard. You may not make the type of money that people in broadcasting made in the past, but the opportunity to be on the air is greater than it’s ever been before.

If someone sits down and believes there is no opportunity for them in radio, then that is a person who is not creative. They are closed minded. If you really want to get the message out, you’re going to find a way to do it.

7. And one final thought…

McVay: People in broadcasting mostly need therapy, because they have a great inferiority complex.

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  1. December 17, 2013 at 12:56 PM

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