Radio Can Learn from Grand Rapids’ Lip Dub

Posted on May 31, 2011


Back in January a post on the Newsweek Web site listed Grand Rapids, Michigan as one of the country’s top 10, “Dying Cities.”

Out to prove that reports of their death are greatly exaggerated, a group of over 3000 Grand Rapids’ residents took part in a 10-minute Lip Dub video, a single camera video shoot where people move in and out of the frame lip-synching a song. 

In this case, being a response to Newsweek’s list, the producer chose American Pie. 

Even if you have no ties to Grand Rapids and — like me — won’t recognize any of the local celebrities take 10 minutes to watch this amazing video. And while you do, consider what one piece of local pride is notably, under-represented.

Yep, it’s radio.

I saw the vans from all three local television stations but just one radio station logo.

Now it’s entirely possible there is an airtalent I don’t recognize that isn’t wearing any identifying gear. But otherwise Citadel-owned WNTR, Thunder Country, is the only local radio station represented.

Now bear in mind, even if Citadel somehow shut every other broadcast group out of the production, the company owns five stations in the market including WLAV, a rock station that has been a fixture in Grand Rapids since 1974.

I don’t see where any of the other four stations are included. 

But the lack of radio station presence in the video isn’t the most important lesson to be learned. 

What’s more notable is that the idea didn’t come from a radio station.

It was spearheaded by a 22-year old community event producer named Rob Bliss. Other events Bliss has led include Zombie walks through town with thousands of people and the creation of a giant downtown waterslide on a hot summer day.

The radio industry needs to stop worrying so much about commercial-free sweeps, block party weekends and the best mix of the 80’s, 90’s and today.

We need to identify and hire Rob Bliss and others like him.  

We need to go back to being a champion for our local communities and to putting on attention-getting, reputation-building, buzz-worthy events and stunts that people remember.

Otherwise we’ll be on a Newsweek list of the top 10 “Dying Industries.”