Some estimates place the amount of displaced radio talent at 60 percent over the last five years.
As the terrestrial radio model's bottom line shrinks, those numbers will increase before they level off. Tucson has certainly not been immune from the chopping block, considering the ouster of a number of recognizable local radio performers.
But for many of these radio veterans, the days of broadcasting may not be over after all.
One could make a very strong argument that Tucsonan Brian Baltosiewich has accumulated the strongest lineup of local on-air talent in one platform, thanks to radioexiles.com. Baltosiewich is the brainchild behind the Web site, which houses the podcasts of former and current radio personalities.
First, the formers: Jonas Hunter and Andy Taylor have reunited 18 months after being jettisoned from their two-year-long gig on the KLPX FM 96.1 morning show.
Mike Rapp and Betsy Bruce are also podcasting; Rapp teamed with Tim Tyler as part of the highly-regarded KLPX morning show for a successful run in the '90s. Rapp also hosted more politically driven morning-show gigs at KNST AM 790 and KCUB AM 1290, and rejoined Tyler briefly at KHYT 107.5 FM before getting bounced in favor of syndicated morning hosts Opie and Anthony. Bruce was the Betsy part of the popular Mojo and Betsy Show on KRQQ FM 93.7. She also had morning stints at KZPT 104.1 FM (then known as The Point), KIIM FM 99.5 and alongside Rapp and Chuck Meyer at KCUB.
Current radioexiles.com content providers who still have radio jobs are Carrie Moten, Brad Allis and yours truly. Moten is an integral part of the JohnJay and Rich morning show, which airs on KRQQ but is broadcast out of Phoenix and syndicated on a half-dozen Clear Channel stations. She also hosts The Very Bad Movie, which airs Saturdays on KTTU Channel 18. Brad and I host the pregame and postgame broadcasts for UA football and men's basketball on KCUB. (Local management at Citadel, which operates KCUB, has been kind enough to allow us to participate in this endeavor.)
At the moment, each show consists of a podcast per week. Baltosiewich says the concept was born after conversations he had with Moten, and after the podcast success of Adam Carolla, who was released from his terrestrial morning show by CBS in February.
"CBS let him talk about his podcast on his final show. He gets fired Friday. On Monday, his first podcast has 250,000 listeners. By Wednesday, he's picked up on iTunes. By Thursday, he's the No. 1 downloaded podcast on iTunes, surpassing what had been regarded as the No. 1 podcast of all-time, the Ricky Gervais podcast in England, which was averaging about 400,000 listeners," Baltosiewich said. "The dawn of his podcast led me to think that with all this displaced radio talent, what if there was one central location which offered this talent a home? We came to realize there were enough displaced personalities right here in Tucson where you could build a good, deep pool of talent."
Baltosiewich is no stranger to the podcasting concept. He was ahead of the curve with Sports Apocalypse, a Web-streaming talk show that was hosted by azstarnet.com. The technology at the time limited the show's opportunities; many of those technological concerns have since been alleviated, and that's made the podcast a more viable medium.
"When I had Sports Apocalypse seven or eight years ago, people might have listened if they had sound capabilities on their computer. Most didn't, as it turned out. It was too soon," Baltosiewich said. "Now everyone can play sound on their computer. Everyone has an iPod or some sort of player. The cool thing about the podcast is you can take ownership of it, listen to it at work right from the Web site, listen on the road (and) start or stop it if you like. ... When a radio show is out there, it's gone. With a podcast, it's a tangible file. It's on your computer as long as you want. It's on our Web site for an extended period. It's a format and technology whose time has arrived.
The talent at radioexiles.com is running with the opportunity. The Jonas and Andy Show, in particular, has incorporated legitimate production values and features a multitude of guest interviews. It sounds like what you'd expect from a well-rated morning show, without the restrictions of having to actually worry about what meddling consultants and Arbitron numbers might suggest.
"We don't need to get ratings. We just need to be entertaining; there's a difference," said Hunter, who worked at KLPX for 11 years. "Getting ratings versus being entertaining is a form versus function thing. ... Between Andy and me, the show will be fun. It's not just going in, sitting down and walking away. It took Andy and me four hours to put the show together. It's not that we needed all that time, but we were having fun. ... This is our element, and we really enjoy it."
Those sentiments were echoed by Bruce and others.
"It felt like I had been bumped off the horse for so long, that I loved getting back on it. I love that," Bruce said. "Brian is so sweet. He keeps saying, 'Thanks for being so enthusiastic.' Are you kidding me? It's my life's blood."
Said Baltosiewich, "Everyone we've approached feels like they've been slighted, that they've had their voice taken away way too soon, and that they still have something to say. They also have fans, whereas fans locally are looking for someone to connect with. With Jonas and Andy, there was an emotional connection. Listeners, especially women, connect with Carrie in a way I can only begin to understand. Carrie resonates with women. Carrie's show allows her to expand her audience and show what she's capable of.
"There's more talent out there, but this is a good place to start. We're looking to grow. Sooner rather than later, we'll be in contact with talent that's been blown out in other markets. Some personalities have already contacted us. It's really cool that we've been able to launch this thing in Tucson, but we definitely have eyes on a national scope."