Seven Hours with Tom Leykis
When Tom Leykis showed up for lunch at Avant in Buellton he was decked out in his trademark, dark sunglasses, mussed up hair, a black shirt, and a Cheshire grin. His voice was softer than it once was and rough like sandpaper. The effects of a black mold infection years ago in his Hollywood Hills home.
As we sipped local wines and grazed on our trendy lunches we turned to the thing we have most in common; radio. Tom, not unlike his on-air persona, is full of opinions and certainty when it comes to the business. And let me tell you – he’s done his homework, he’s put in sweat equity and he deserves a seat at the table. It’s why he was invited to Talkers New York 2014. It’s why countless, nameless talent and executives still call Tom to see how he’s doing it;
“IT” = Internet Radio, Making a Profit, Having Fun, Engaging with Fans, and Learning the World of Terabytes and Bit Rates
The reality is Tom’s entrepreneur spirit is the driving force. He wants to make money. He wants to make radio. And so he’s doing it. (Tom isn’t shy about the fact the New Normal LLC will turn a profit this year and generate more revenue than Clear Channel and Cumulus combined.)
“The radio business model has been broken,” he told me. “I don’t know if the model can ever be fixed. But, the good news is there is still an audience for what we do.” There are approximately 35,000 unique listeners a day to the Tom Leykis Show according to data from Triton Digital. And it’s growing.
Despite his bemoaning big broadcast companies and calling out executives by name, Tom doesn’t hate radio. He says he’s been doing it too long, made too many millions off of it and has too many friends still in it to hate it. “I love radio. NOT the appliance, but the concept. I divorced the appliance from the concept a while ago.” He likens radio’s resistance to new distribution channels to the Rolling Stones insisting their music only be heard on 45rpms. That would be ridiculous. Of course, they created content and put it on albums, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, and mp3s.
And that’s radio’s new normal.
Tom (and others like him) has discovered, “people want content and will go wherever they have to go to get. Who the hell was Marc Maron five years ago?”
After a chat for the Radio Stuff Podcast
around his kitchen table and a two-hour discussion of radio between Tom, me and his listeners it was time to bid The Professor goodbye.
For the record: Tom assumes people think he’s crazy, but he’s out to prove them wrong. He told me he’s having more fun, believes he’s more creative, compelling and entertaining than ever and promises his proudest moments are still in front of him.