Do a Show Springsteen Would Be Proud Of

Posted on May 29, 2012


When I was a program director I used to try to read books about how to be a better manager. I always got suckered in by the ones that had pop culture references I thought I could relate to. I remember one about Tony Soprano’s management style and another that was based on The Matrix.

Invariably I would get about half-way through, get bored and give up.

But a sense of nostalgia led me to click on a recent Forbes article about management lessons from a Bruce Springsteen concert. Hey, it’s got to be more applicable than Tony Soprano right?

While management tips from the Boss turned out to be a bit of a stretch it struck me that several of the suggestions were germane to hosts which makes more sense because Springsteen’s role on stage isn’t a manager, he’s a performer.

Here are some of the suggestions from the article re-created for hosts:

1) Give them the unexpected: The article talks about how Springsteen stated off the show with a song he hadn’t played in 30 years which was something special for die-hard fans who have been to a lot of his shows. You have listeners who tune in several days a week. It’s important to give them something equivalent to Springsteen digging up an old song; something unexpected so they need to keep tuning because they never know exactly what they are going to hear.

2) Give Them the Expected: Despite the advice above, you can’t go off the rails completely. There are less frequent and even new listeners sampling your show everyday. Be consistent in what you deliver so these people come to know what to expect when they tune in.

3) Trust Your Customers: The article talks about Springsteen crowd surfing and embracing fans who managed to climb on stage instead of having them thrown off. Do the same with your listeners. Don’t hide from them. Find ways to integrate listeners into your show and trust that they will be a positive addition.

4) Be Open to Opportunity: A good host is flexible and understands seizing the moment. Embrace something that’s going on in the community or find a way to play a song that fits the emotion of the day. Don’t get fired over it but find ways to make your show more spontaneous and reactive to what’s going on in the world.

I can’t speak to Springsteen’s management style but, having seen him a number of times, I can say he’s a great performer. Take a couple of pages out of his playbook and you can be too.