Clarence Clemons Dies, Radio Fails to Notice

Posted on June 21, 2011

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Clarence Clemons, the Big Man from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, died this weekend.

Though, from what I could tell, if you are a radio listener you might never have known.

Clemons died late Saturday night. About twelve hours later on Sunday afternoon, I wanted to hear some Springsteen so I started looking for a station that was paying tribute to the Big Man.

Nada.

Most classic rock stations had posted the news via Twitter or Facebook but that was about it.

I even looked at Clear Channel’s IHeartRadio.com and CBS’ Radio.com sites expecting, or at least hoping, to find an all-Springsteen channel their stations could have promoted and utilized.

Nope!

I did find this article on Huffington Post Sunday afternoon with 12 embedded videos of Springsteen songs that highlight Clemons’ sax. That’s far more depth than the coverage I found on most classic rock station Web sites.

These aren’t rare or exclusive clips that only HuffPo could access. They are on YouTube; anyone could have linked to them.

So, out of curiosity, I did the same drill on Monday and the results were fairly similar.

I found one notable exception: Entercom’s AAA WMMM (Triple M)/Madison which is programmed by my former boss and good friend Dave Moore.

Moore says the station essentially did two tributes, with the morning show playing Springsteen music and airing clips of interviews with Clemons. Then, during the lunch show, the station played another big block of Springsteen songs that prominently featured Clemons’ sax work.

“Bruce is a core artist for Triple M and this is a pretty big deal,” says Moore.

To be fair, I’m confident, or at least hopeful, that I just missed a lot of stations that did reach out to Springsteen fans beyond just a tweet.

If your station did special programming of some sort please send me a note. Help revive my faith in our medium.

But this feels like when I posted about the Mavericks winning the NBA championship. I couldn’t find any special production and there was very little talk about it on Dallas radio stations.

Situations like these are what separates radio from faceless online audio streams.

It’s about being a companion to our listeners not a utility.

Utilities are consistent. They are there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. But they aren’t very noticeable. No one thinks much about electricity unless their power goes out.

A companion is there when you need them. A companion understands what’s going on in your life. A companion shares your triumphs and your low-points.

For radio to have a future we have to a companion to our listeners, not a utility.

P.S. It’s not too late to pay tribute to the Big Man. Envision Radio Networks is offering a one-hour special from Tom Cunningham, host of the “Bruce Brunch,” for free download.

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