We all have rubbernecked car wrecks. But have you ever listened to one on the radio? That is the best way to describe what is happening on Free FM with the David Lee Roth show...EVERY SINGLE DAY. CBS Radio has the pleasure of paying DLR $4 million a year (he's made it through one-quarter of the first year post-Stern so far) so that Roth can rip into Free FM and CBS Radio management.
After his two-day mini-suspension last week, Roth came back on the air (as posted here) sounding like a beaten dog with his tail between his legs. This morning, Roth opened up his show at 6am and basically spent the next few hours completely skewering his management masters and shredding Free FM. When he did the "news", in an act of defiance, he resorted to reading the comics on the air instead.
It is a classic case of talent vs management...and the crashes keep happening every morning commute.
For the most part, DLR has had zero publicity other than the gossip about his pending departure in the newspapers and the blogs. No magazines interviews or TV talk show appearances. Their lack of interest in Roth is reflected in the ratings, too. I think their booking agents are missing a hot story, though. This is an example of heavy drama in the modern media age, where the artist unaccustomed to creative restraint battles against not only his management...it's global conglomerate, multi-media Corporate (with a capital C) management.
Have you seen the documentary "The Corporation" and the scene between Fox News in Florida and the case of The Investigators, where corporate tried to edit/dumb down/fake their report on Monsanto bovine growth hormone in ALL U.S. milk production to protect Monsanto's mega advertising dollars across all of corporate mothership News Corporation? Instead of letting their Investigators report the truth on TV, corporate fired and sued them after months of trying to manipulate the message. In many ways, Roth may think he is in the same situation...and he is shocked...SHOCKED...that it is happening to him.
I really don't know who is right here. It may be a situation where both sides are completely wrong. Roth bitches and moans about lack of guest bookings and over-zealous controls of his show preventing him from doing what he wants. Okay, that may be true; however, Roth is new to radio and not only does he not have the experience, he has his flaky reputation built up from his post-Van Halen fallout. Is management being too aggressive/not patient enough? Not for me to say; they have a huge investment to protect and they (deservedly) expect performance and results right away. I'm sure I'd be as aggressive -- if not more -- if I were in that situation.
However, just as the US faces the "break it and you own it" rules with the Iraq War, CBS Radio made the decision to put Roth in replacing the World's Most Successful Radio Show. Howard Stern spent 15 months promoting his move, bitching and moaning all the way to the end. CBS Radio knew it faced a massive tuning and revenue loss post-Stern. The decision to hire Roth -- with maybe 2 weeks of total radio experience -- is their decision to own. NONE of what has been happening on-air should come as a surprise; they had months of prep and dry runs to understand what this show would be all about.
Here's where Free FM management isn't getting enough credit: they are letting all the dirty laundry to be aired out for us to hear. They are "freely" letting the mudslinging happen. Not only is management (Roth's supposed enemy) "letting" Roth unload on the station's General Manager Tom Chiusano (who is well-trained after 2 decades being Stern's nemesis on-air), Program Director Mark Chernoff and CBS Radio CEO Joel Hollander, management is also letting the rest of the NYC-based Free FM shows to talk about this Rothian drama. Plus, it is all over MySpace pages dedicated to the Booker Show, JV and Elvis, and Jake and Jackie. This isn't just back-room shenanigans; this is a multi-car pileup on I-95 for us all to rubbernecker on our way to work.
On top of that, Free FM is actively using new tech media, creating many podcast segments updated daily and available in multiple locations, including Apple's iTunes Music Store, where even Roth Radio is one of the Top 100 podcasts.
It is so New York. Who knows how long this will continue. Roth predicts three weeks. Whatever. This is PURE GUILTY PLEASURE! Would I rather hear great radio? Of course. Would I rather have clear traffic instead of being hassled by slowdowns from a car wreck? Of course. You think the Danny Bonaduce meltdown on VH1 was so bad it was good? Roth vs CBS Radio is better.
What do you think of DLR vs CBS Radio? FMQB takes a look here.
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Tuesday, April 04, 2006,