Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Antichrist of Radio

It's very timely today with Clear Channel having just been bought out. But it's not the first time that the radio giant changed hands or changed direction.

Randy Michaels was born as Benjamin Homel and calling him an entrepreneur is an understatment on the level of saying Idi Amin had a bad temper. He began his career as an on-air personality where he took the on-air name Randy Michaels. One thing is inarguable: He changed the face of radio FOREVER. Of course, many people will argue that it was for the worse. In fact he has been called "the Antichrist of Radio" For the record... it wasn't me who said it.

He is principally known for building the Jacor radio station group. While at Jacor he ruthlessly dominated four medium radio markets in the U.S. and bought up radio stations at a rapid pace. It was the begginning of the consolidation fad followed by the voice-tracking fad, and the conglomeration of live entertainment with radio. ...And for better or worse, it's his fault.

Before 1996 20 AMs and 20FMs, with 2 AMs and 2 FMs per market a radio chain could only be in ten markets. The limitation was severe, possibly too conservative. But when they loosened it, they didn't take it back a notch. They just cut it loose almost entirely. Jacor and Clear Channel (then still seperate entities) raced to consolidate. But Randy was .. randy about it. And then when the much smaller Jacor was bought by Clear Channel in June of 2000, Michaels and his Jacor cronies actually took over operation of Clear Channel.

As The Professor at WFMU said " He’s a high rolling wheeler-dealer motherfucker, and takes no prisoners." Interview here:

He also revolutionized independant promotions. He woke up one morning and decided that having the promotions money filtered [laundered] through independant promoters was a waste. he came up with a legal way for the checks to go straight to the CC offices in San Antonio. The cash never even stopped at the individual radio staitons. It went straight to corporate. Without going into the details, I'll just quote him "As long as they pay the money I’m going to take it. If they don’t want to pay the money, that’s fine. They all believe that money is really important to us. Every dollar is nice to have, but I will tell you that given the cash flow that Clear Channel Radio is going to generate this year, the record label money won’t change our percentage profit at all."

Randy Michaels was forcibly ousted from his position as CEO at Clear Channel in 2002. Since he was the biggest insatiable power junkie in media, he went right back to radio. He acquired syndication rights to a number of talk radio programs including The Ed Schultz Show.