Home > Brand, Interview, Management, Podcast, Programming, Radio, Saving Radio, Talent > Seven Hours with Tom Leykis

Seven Hours with Tom Leykis

Leykis1When 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.

DesRS 61 coverpite 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.

 

 

  1. Jonathan Hood
    July 19, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    If you’ve been a radio broadcaster like I have for over 20 years, the interview Mr. Gifford had with Tom will make you re-evaluate where you stand in the business. The podcast gave me pause on how to re-invent myself/brand. Quality stuff.

  2. July 19, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    This was a great interview Larry. I got into Radio in the early 90s with the vision of doing FM Talk Radio – Stern and Leykis were major parts of that vision.

    Of course once I got in it was at a dumpy little AM in upstate NY (I think tom might have spent a blip of time there) I too realized the market was only about “can you do conservative?”. I did some fill-in shows like that – but when I got my own show at night I aped Tom’s “lifestyle” interests of the young approach. Needless to say – talk stations weren’t into that – but many loved my production which I had done myself. So I’ve been doing imaging ever since – now for FM Sports Radio which is really the evolution of FM Talk. I miss doing the show though!

    I wonder if Tom had to start from scratch again if he could have done it via stream / podcast. It’s almost like the Big Label Band going “indie” after everyone knows who they are vs the indie band trying to gain traction without the Big Bullhorn.

  3. July 19, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    This was a great interview Larry. I got into Radio in the early 90s with the vision of doing FM Talk Radio – Stern and Leykis were major parts of that vision.

    Of course once I got in it was at a dumpy little AM in upstate NY (I think Tom might have spent a blip of time there) I too realized the market was only about “can you do conservative?”. I did some fill-in shows like that – but when I got my own show at night I aped Tom’s “lifestyle” interests of the young approach. Needless to say – talk stations weren’t into that – but many loved my production which I had done myself. So I’ve been doing imaging ever since – now for FM Sports Radio which is really the evolution of FM Talk.

    I miss doing the show though!

    I wonder if Tom had to start from scratch again if he could have done it via stream / podcast. It’s almost like the Big Label Band going “indie” after everyone knows who they are vs the indie band trying to gain traction without the Big Bullhorn. All the more reason to follow Tom’s advise and make sure your audience is really your – and not your just renting it from the Radio station your working at.

    (ps – if this is a dupe comment it’s because the original was done on my iPad which seemed like the comment didn’t take – so I’m posting it again from my laptop)

    • July 20, 2014 at 7:24 AM

      Jeff, thanks for sharing your story. It is strange how we “fall” into doing what we do.

  4. Steve
    July 20, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    Great article mr gifford. Was an even better sit down on Tom’s show. Glad it helped you out. I know I enjoyed it.

  5. Mark T.
    July 28, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    Like him or not (I do), radio people would be wise to hear what Tom has to say about the business. My hat is off to him for taking the plunge with his own money and resources to make his brand a success in the digital realm.

    It would have been easy to take early retirement and ride off into the sunset but Leykis was brave enough to blaze a new trail. Hopefully others are watching – and learning.

    One point, you mention that his New Normal LLC will generate more revenue this year than the big companies. Of course that’s not true, not even close. But, as Leykis noted, he will turn a profit in 2014 and that’s something that Clear Channel and Cumulus have no shot at.

    I enjoy the podcast Larry, it sounds better than ever. Keep up the good work!

  1. December 29, 2014 at 12:09 PM

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