Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Will Tom Ride Off Into the Sunset?

Although I disagree with him on certain very important fundamentals about life, the universe, and everything, I have long said that Tom Leykis is an excellent talk show host and there are many things about which he is right and makes a lot of sense. I admire what he has been doing with his venture, the New Normal, and especially what he's been doing with his flagship program, The Tom Leykis Show.

He clearly enjoys doing his show, but he does not want it to be some hobby he pays for. He wants his business to be profitable, and he's set a rapidly-approaching deadline to make it happen. He's even made it possible for his listeners and other observers to know how close he is to reaching his goal by earlier announcing a minimum number of subscriptions he needs to secure and giving updates on how many more need to be secured to reach that goal.

A certain amount of transparency is one of the things that makes his venture different from terrestrial radio.

If his goal is not reached and he isn't able to wave a profit statement in the air and mock the big radio companies who are billions of dollars in debt, his announced plans are basically to stop producing his show and to spend more time enjoying life in other ways. He's been fiscally responsible enough and had a lucrative enough contract when he worked for corporate radio that he can afford to do that.



A couple of months back I thought there was no way he was going to reach his goal.

Now I'm not so sure.  I think it is actually possible now.

His company generates revenue in multiple ways, including: selling subscriptions to multiple shows (which allow people to listen to any hour in the archive at any time on any device); selling the limited advertising time on his shows (his flagship show can be heard live and then for replays for the next 20-21 hours and on weekends for free); providing studio time and services to those who want to to rent them; an Amazon affiliation (you click through to Amazon from his website and then buy something at Amazon and his business gets a small cut of that); live events; auctions; and flat-out accepting donations. Many of these methods create a sense of community and he has many very devoted fans.

Unfortunately for him, a lot of people who used to listen to him on terrestrial radio have yet to find him online, despite his e-mail list, his Facebook page, his websites, and Twitter account. It seems like every week he gets callers who say they just found him again.

His main show typically totals about 16 hours per week (3 hours most weekdays, but Tuesday is usually 4 hours long). Keep in mind that his commercial breaks are much shorter than those of corporate radio so those hours are packed with content. I usually listen to a majority of those hours.

I skip his most popular hour, 5 p.m. Pacific Time on Wednesdays, which is "Be Funny". Callers simply try to be funny in whatever way they can - telling jokes, doing impersonations, song parodies, etc. It's almost like The Gong Show or America's Got Talent, except it is all audio and people can be as raunchy or vulgar as they want to be. I skip the hour because I'm listening to be challenged to think, to hear meaningful discussions, and because Tom often talks "inside radio" or "inside Hollywood" and I want to hear that. I also skip any time he does a "Racism Hour" and the one Wednesday per month that he has Gustavo Arellano of the Orange County Weekly on because I can't stand that guy. There are various topics Tom might announce as an hour's focus that might not hold my interest, and I'll skip that hour.

I also can't stand it when Tom does hours pandering to the racially hypersensitive victicrats, and when he does it, it seems to contradict his normal approach to life of personal responsibility and breaking through road blocks to achievement. So I won't listen. Yeah, I get it, he grew up with a lot of racism around him and had young brushes with racism. I think racism is evil, and I can't deny people still experience racism, but I don't see it as a pervasive, oppressive problem any more.

I'm always interested in his Leykis 101 hour (Thursdays at 5 p.m.), Wide Open Phones (which he pronounces "wop"), which is typically all of Friday's show and perhaps some other hours during the rest of the week, and Unscreened Calls, which don't seem to have a set schedule but are rather done when his crew is doing something other than screening calls. Speaking of his crew, while I used to hate it when he spent the hour talking with his crew back when he was on corporate radio, I find it much more interesting now, no doubt in part to their increased freedom making for more interesting conversation. Also not to be missed is that bonus Tuesday hour, which is when attorney Adam Michael Sacks joins the show to talk family/divorce law one week, and criminal law (especially DUI) the alternate weeks.

An example of something I found interesting that he couldn't have done on terrestrial radio was that he recently spent over and hour, perhaps two, taking calls on the subject of masturbation. I guess inside every man is the 13 year-old boy he used to be. I'm speaking about myself, not Tom.

If his show becomes profitable and survives, I predict there will be a glut of copycats (in methods, not necessarily content). And if that happens, changes in corporate radio will accelerate.

UPDATE on Wednesday, December 17, 2014: Last night while Leykis was on live, he reached 500 subscribers to "Super Premium Tom", which was the magical number he announced in September for the show to return for 2015. He was understandably proud and celebratory. Keep in mind that Super Premium Tom is the paid subscription offering that allows subscribers to hear any hour of his show that in the archives on-demand without commercial breaks. There is a lower tier service, Premium Tom, which allows for on-demand with the commercial breaks still included. There are more subscribers to this tier than the Premium. Consider that there are also many more regular listeners who are listening for free via the stream.

Congratulations are in order.

Tom still says he needs to crunch the numbers over the holidays to see if his business has actually had a profitable calendar year. It probably has. And if it has, he's going to crow loudly (as he should) and point out that his "little Internet project" has earned a profit while the terrestrial radio titans are swimming in oceans of red ink.

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