I got my start in radio back in 2000 at WLRS, but by early 2004, I was already out of the game. Not wanting to leave the industry, and seeing the opportunity to learn other sides of the business, I took a job with a record label to run their radio department. Since I had just come from being a music director, I figured I knew how the conversations went and how the game was played. For the most part, I did, but it wasn’t until I got into the trenches did I realize how important relationships were. Yes, maybe you have a good song that you’re pushing, but the promoters who have been at the game longer, who spend countless evenings and nights visiting the stations and forming friendships, will have a much easier time getting their record heard. It was with that in mind that I decided to go to my first radio conference to get face time with all of these names that I was trying to impress. I had a mission: make new friends.
Like most conferences, there were seminars to attend, but being this was the world of rock n roll, most of the attention was placed on drinking, eating and seeing lots of really amazing musicians play semi-private shows for you. Even bigger names would come in for the chance to get in front of some of the most important radio directors in the country all at once.
The second morning, I awoke early to catch the first gathering. I thought 8 a.m. was crazy considering how late we had all been out drinking, but whatever. It was called Friends of Bill W. Now, a lot of you already see where this is headed, but me? I had never heard of Bill W., but I was happy to be his friend. It was a small gathering, but considering the time, I wasn’t too surprised and figured they planned well by reserving a smaller, more private room, and after some general chitchat about the bands from last night, everyone began to seat themselves in a circle. Again, no warning signs. No warning signs, that is, until the person at the top of the circle introduces themselves by saying, “Hi, my name is so and so and I’m an alcoholic.”
Bill W. = Alcoholics Anonymous. Yeah. I’m pretty sure my face went from the embarrassed beat red to a scared pale white. What do I do? How do I get out of this? The story went on describing this person’s struggle with sobriety while I tried not to vomit up last night’s whiskey shots.Then the next person started telling their story. And then the next. And then me.
“Hi, my name is Kyle … and … I didn’t know what this meeting was about.”
The hush that followed could have lasted for an eternity, but luckily was disintegrated by the laughter of the room. There were tears in the eyes of the group as they came over to hug me and then laugh some more. I explained to them that in my naivety, I was looking to network and make some friends as the new guy. In turn, they invited me to stay for the rest of the meeting, under the promise that I not share anything said within. I even did the chant at the end.
I spent the rest of the weekend back on track, though sheepishly hiding my drinks when I would go near my new friends. In a business that occurs mostly at night, in bars and clubs, over endless rounds, the will of these folks is more than impressive, especially when you factor in the addiction side. Not just having it around, but the internal battle. I have a few sober musician friends who I worry about even more. As the center of attention, the drinks constantly appear and their ability to push that out is beyond applaudable, not that they’re asking for any kind of applause, and not that my new friends cared if I was drinking around them or not.
The idea of sobriety and music is a much deeper idea that I’ll write about later, worthy of its own article. This one is just a funny little story about how I ended up meeting some of my closest industry friends that I still enjoy talking to today. They took me in when they could have kicked me out. Cheers to them.
Kyle Meredith is the music director of WFPK and host of the nationally syndicated “The Weekly Feed.” Hunting bears was never his strong point.