A Message To Mark Cuban from Sun Broadcast Group CEO Mark Bailey
On a recent episode of your ABC reality series, Shark Tank, you were presented with an opportunity from syndicated radio host, R-Dub. A 10% stake in his network radio show, “Sunday Night Slow Jams”, for an investment of just $75,000. R-Dub’s show is heard on almost 70 stations around the country and has been on the air for over a decade. Every weekend he talks to people in love, people that are hurt or sad, people that have a great celebration to share or people just looking to unwind, and he plays for them a song that connects them more deeply to their moment. Mark, you and I have never had the pleasure to meet, and as a young entrepreneur who has owned my own businesses since I graduated from high school, you are someone I have always admired for the unique and innovative investments you make, but your response to this offer was one that, in the absence of any one else in my industry being vocal, I simply couldn’t let go unchallenged. I urge you to read on and reconsider your opinion about the true potential of this form of media that I, and passionate people all over this country, give their lives to each and every day.
Following R-Dub’s offer, you said, “syndicated radio is a horrible business.” Fellow Shark, Kevin O’Leary, added that, “the radio market as an investment sucks.” With respect, I couldn’t disagree more. I believe your opinion is based a flawed model. See, when I got into radio as a 17 year old kid, it was because of how the medium connected to MY life. I woke up, and put the radio on. I got to work, and put the radio on. When I worked in the yard, or on my car, or laid on the beach, I put the radio on. And during each moment where that radio was on, it was scoring my life and adding a deeper, emotional layer that affects me even still to this day. There’s not one person reading this, that hasn’t felt the same way. When a song comes on, whether through the radio, or new media like mobile or digital, it takes them back to a place and time as if they were right in it again. Sometimes it’s happy, sometimes it’s sad. It reminds them of a family member no longer with them, dancing at a party when they were kids. It takes them back to that moment on the beach with their first love. It sends a rush of emotion over them and takes them to the day they drove their baby home from the hospital. See, THAT is the power of radio and to me, being able to grow that experience is the best investment man could ever make.
I don’t blame you completely for your opinion about radio. So many in our industry have simply lost their way. Somewhere along the way that personal touch, that unafraid approach to programming gave way to stockholders and corporations worried more about what’s safe and tested, and less about how they can truly create a better, more intimate connection to the lives of those listening. Rather than create a way to drive people TO the radio, they build every mobile and digital tool to drive people AWAY from it. “If you don’t want to listen on the radio, it’s ok…just listen here, or here, or here.” What they forget is, circling all of our heads right now are airwaves that we are fortunate enough to have access to. Airwaves that only WE can use to get to your ears right now. To connect to you and score your life’s soundtrack. See Mark, I believe there is an incredible value to what we have here and what we can do if young, innovative thinkers are allowed to take chances and have the support of others that are simply bold enough to think different with them. For the last five years, I’ve been quietly building my syndicated radio network on the principals that we CAN be great again. We believe that radio just need better, interactive, personalized content that connects more directly to those we reach. It’s not about how many we reach, it’s about deeply we connect with them. I strongly believe a “smaller” show in smaller markets or with fewer stations that personally connects and interacts with their audience has greater value than some bulky show that by just shear mathematic manipulation has more “audience”. Somehow that’s the measurement lately. Just own big stations, keep your expenses low, and the basic math will make the Boardroom happy. Don’t worry about the listener…”they’ll always be there”. What they’re forgetting is that their content is falling of deaf ears. And the younger those ears get, the more drastic the problem becomes. Kids, parents, grandparents…they all need a soundtrack. They all WANT a soundtrack. They want to be entertained. They want to be spoken TO. They want to join in. They want to feel personally connected to their content. I believe that with some very different ideas and a very different way of thinking about our industry, they can be. And for you and Kevin O’Leary, I believe radio can indeed be something that you’d be proud to be part of.
So, call me. Better yet, come see me, and the people that give their lives to radio every day. Give us 10 minutes to talk to you about why radio IS and always will be a great investment, if we just get back to the basics.
As for R-Dub…I’ll use my closing lines to say way to go, my friend. The people listening to you every week need that connection. They want that feeling that you give them when you listen to them and play a song to score their life, so keep it up.
Sun Broadcast Group, Inc.
Response from R Dub…
Thanks Jay. I was so appreciative to be one of 40,000 applicants to make it on Shark Tank–I really did have the time of my life. To be able to market my product to 6.5 million potential new customers, and meet the Sharks–I’d do it all over again. Although I didn’t appreciate the bullying of our great medium that is radio, I was ready for it. Unfortunately, my valid and quick responses to each of the Sharks’ slams on radio were edited out, for dramatic purposes, and didn’t make the final cut in the editors’ room. I expected this and I get it; it’s a reality TV show, after all–all about drama. No sour grapes here.
So I thank you, for bringing up all the points that didn’t make the final edit. Critics have always said “Radio is dead,” ever since the television was introduced, and after every new technology thereafter. But “we” survive…and thrive…as we continue to adapt and connect. And it’s people like you who make be proud to be a “radio guy.”