Lessons From Rush Limbaugh And How I Got Arrested Learning Them


This is an article written and shared by Eric Rhodes (Editor of RadioInk)
He takes full credit for the ideas and may request that I remove this post at any time and I will immediately comply. However, I wish to spread this message far and wide as I feel it is unequivocal in today's fast changing broadcast environment. The lessons are priceless and the commentary; touching. I strongly agree with the purpose (if not always the premise) of this article and feel everyone even slightly interested in politics, radio and especially both should read on.

Showman P.T.Barnum
A Message from Radio Ink Publisher Eric Rhoads
An e-mail this morning from a college student led me to offer some lessons we can learn from Rush Limbaugh, and a story about how I got arrested learning those same lessons, long before Rush was on the air.
I wanted to comment about your recent blog. I sure do relate to what you said about radio not paying attention to developing future talent. I am 22 years old and have hosted and co-hosted a talk show on my college campus. I am looking to get into the business, and am sending out a new demo I created to various places. I feel because I'm young, have done talk, and am unique, perhaps I'll be noticed. Would you have any advice for going about getting noticed, or would you know anybody I could send a demo to? Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
-- Ryan V.
I've been in your shoes, Ryan.
One thing to understand, which is hard at 22, is that most of us (not all of us) at a younger age THOUGHT we were very talented, but our talent had not caught up with our belief in ourselves. I could not understand why no one would hire me. Looking back, it was because I was green and needed a lot more experience to be considered talented by others. Of course, my persistence made up for my lack of talent, and that can work for you, too. Keep pushing.
The biggest issue you face is that there are more talented, experienced people out of work and lots of people for employers to choose from. Why hire inexperience when you can get experience?

I know you don't want to hear any of this. I wouldn't have either. So how do you get noticed?
Take a Lesson from Rush LimbaughLet me turn your question around. If you were on a top station in town doing your show and the PD said, "You have 60 days to either get noticed and get your ratings up, or you're history," what would you do? It's a real-life scenario that happened to me. I was told to get noticed or lose my job. It was a career turning point because I realized that great personalities are great self-promoters and masterful at generating controversy.

Rush Limbaugh on Fox, CNN, and Most Other Media
Last night on Fox, Bill O'Reilly spent 15 minutes talking about Rush Limbaugh's buying into the St. Louis football franchise. I don't know how important this is to Rush personally and how far he will carry it, but he has all the major media in America talking about him. Now that the buying group he was part of has dropped him, Rush can milk this for another couple of weeks. No matter the outcome, this is great for his show. It acts as a reminder for people to tune in to see what he will say about it, and it will bring new listeners and advertisers. It's not unusual to find Rush in the news with some controversy like this a few times a year. It's great for business, and it doesn't happen by accident.

How Do You Translate This to Your Situation?
You don't have the experience, audience, or name to get the media talking about you. Yet every day you see someone get their 15 minutes of fame via YouTube or some viral e-mail. I cannot advise you about the specifics of what you should do, but the goal is to get noticed, get hired, and hope that some visionary PD will see you and say, "This guy has guts. Let's give him a shot." You can be highly targeted (Rich Marston at WAYS/Charlotte once had himself delivered to a car dealership in a coffin. When they opened the coffin, he was holding a sign that said, "I'm Dying to Get Your Business"), or you can go national.
Your job is to figure out how to create some noise that will work to your benefit. If you can learn this lesson early in your career, you'll be ahead of 85% of all talk hosts. Most of those who are nationally syndicated are there because they are expert at creating buzz over what they've said. They understand how to get people talking. Think about Michael Savage being ousted by the United Kingdom and the subsequent legal battle, or the White House criticisms of Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh. These guys are consummate masters of buzz. The rest of the pack seem to tread water for their entire careers because they've never understood this principle.

How I Got Arrested
The principle of buzz really applies to everyone, whether on the air or off. We're all in the business of persuasion, and the first rule of persuasion is to get people to pay attention. Of course, it needs to be appropriate persuasion, or it can backfire. As a green 20-year-old DJ in Florida I pulled a stunt that, thankfully, worked, but could have ended my career.
Don't Lose the License
My PD, Jerry Clifton, told me to get my ratings up at 96X in Miami (1974). "I don't care how you do it or what you do, just don't lose the license." I went on the air that night, told my audience I had been fired and this was my last show, and proceeded to take over the radio station, barricade the doors, and "take control of the transmitter." I vowed to played one obnoxious song over and over "until management gives me my job back."
Guns Were DrawnI did such a convincing job that the Miami Beach Police Department was flooded with emergency calls, and police were outside the studios. When the jock who was on before me (Steve Rivers) left the building, they cuffed him, threw him in a cruiser, and then demanded that he open the door to the station. I was about to do my next break when I heard a sound. I turned around to find two Miami Beach cops with their guns drawn and pointed at my head. (I only wish I had opened my mic to get the arrest on tape.) I was cuffed, arrested, and about to be removed from the building.
Saved By Quick Thinking
As I was being taken out of the building, I said to the cop, "It's ironic that here you are, doing your job arresting me, and you're the one who will end up in prison." He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "I'm licensed by the FCC to sit here at this federally licensed radio facility. If you remove me, you're committing a felony." Again, I must have been convincing, because we got the GM on the phone, he confirmed this, and they let me go. (Meanwhile, there was an hour of dead air.)

Kids, Don't Try This At Home
The end result of my stunt (which I believe is now illegal, so kids, don't try this at home) is that I went from being an obscure unknown to being someone everyone knew. The Miami Beach police made us run on-air apologies every hour for a week saying, "This station would like to apologize to the Miami Beach Police Department for statements made by Eric Rhoads and Steve Rivers on the air. We assure you it will never happen again." We made the newspaper, the local news, etc., and I accomplished my goal of better ratings and going from fairly unknown to fairly well known.
The Art of BuzzRadio has always been the master of creating buzz through stunts and promotions. The mark of a true pro is having the ability to do it well, get others talking about you, and do it without causing damage or losing the license. Hollywood also gets this, which is why they thrive on tabloid rumors. It keeps the names in the news and gets people talking. If you want to be in the media, you need to learn the art of getting noticed.

Eric Rhoads
Radio Ink