Tom Leykis: Blow Me Up Tom!
Updated: May 31
Tom Leykis understands how radio works. He understands people and how they engage with radio. The Long Island kid who spent his first radio show playing Glen Pitney (and loathing it), became one of America's most renowned talk show hosts. He would go to war against other talk show hosts. He spoke in this podcast of the time that he challenged Neil Rodgers to a fight on the streets of Miami, and started off his shows stating that his show is the one, "not hosted by a right-wing wacko or a convicted felon". (The former referencing Rush Limbaugh, the latter G. Gordon Liddy who was rung up in that Watergate thing) In 2012, after radio ran into financial struggles stemming from debt, the arrival of social media, and dollars disappearing to digital, Tom started his own company called the New Normal Network. For years he would stream to his audience who had paid a subscription, proving that people were prepared to pay for premium content. Today you can now access his shows in podcast for with a few tiers of monthly subscriptions. (Also proving that you don't need Patreon to take 10% of your money if you can connect with people properly) We talked about the early days of his career, the demise of his relationship with radio, and I even snuck in a little baseball talk. As mentioned, he is a good follow on Twitter.
Tom and I also touched on this 1988 Oliver Stone Movie called Talk Radio, which was released when many of America's Shock Jocks were receiving the bulk of their notoriety. The movie was loosely based on the assassination of Denver radio host Alan Berg.
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"I really enjoyed your Tom Leykis interview. I live in Edmonton but first heard Tom when I was working in Los Angeles in 2007 when he was on KLSX.. I listened to him regularly when he had his live stream going and had the pleasure of attending a couple of his listener events. He's the man!" - Rick, (Edmonton)
"I just finished listening to your Tom Leykis podcast. This was your best one IMHO.
Mind you I'm a big fan of the Professor.
I love what he had to say and Im glad I'm on the right track preparing for the radio afterlife." - Fred (Halifax)
Amanda (Voiceover) 00:00:01
This is the Podcast for Broadcast. The Sound Off Podcast with Matt Cundill.
Matt (Host) 00:00:01
Tom Leykis, the legendary talk radio host who built a name for himself by being irreverent, one of a handful of love shock jocks who made his name in the 80s with legions of fans and followers who brought ratings and attention to radio stations. Shock Jock Radio entertained many, horrified others, and a lot of people made some great money along the way. In 1988, the same year that Tom started working at KFI in Los Angeles, Oliver Stone made a movie called Talk Radio, which was based loosely on Alan Berg, a Denver talk show host who was shot and killed one evening in 1984 by what we would categorize by today's standards as a hate crime. We're going to talk about that era. But also Tom's venture in 2012 when he broke out on his own, started a subscription service streaming his show, and later shifting into podcasting fulltime. I'll be the first to admit that Tom has been an inspiration over the years. I loved listening to his show before the Internet was even a thing. I'd have some friends even send cassettes to me. After radio, Tom showed me that you could have a profitable company, own your content and work outside of radio. Now this is a long overdue conversation. I've been planning to have him on the show back when we were just four or five episodes into this whole thing. So here we are at episode 140. And with that, I can say that Tom Leykis joins me from the home studios of BlowMeUpTom.com. Tom, can you take me right back to the beginning when you first got into radio and you knew you were going to get into radio?
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:01:35
I won a contest when I was 14 years old. A radio station on Long Island had something called the Student DJ Contest. And I was in junior high school, and what they did was they told you to write a letter to the station and tell them why you thought you should get an hour of airtime on a Saturday morning. And so I didn't intend to be in radio. My whole thing was that I like music. And like every 14 year old, I didn't think that the radio station was playing the right music. And I thought if I could win this contest, I could go down there and show them a thing or two about what music they ought to be playing. So I won the contest, and I spent weeks preparing. I had the date and time I was going to be there. And I spent weeks picking out records individually and putting them into my big- The big record store at the time when I was a kid with Sam Goody, and they had these big yellow plastic bags in which they would put the records you bought. And so I went to Sam Goody and I was individually selecting records and preparing for my appearance. Well, one thing led to another. The day came. I went down with my big bag of Sam Goody records and walked into the station. And the program director met me at the front door. And he has two hands out. And in one hand he had a stack of what we call liner cards or cue cards. And on the other hand he had a stack of cartridges. And he said, this is what you're going to say and this is what you're going to play. And I got my first lesson in radio that I wasn't going to decide what music was being played, the program director was going to decide. So I was mortified as the song It Hurts to Be in Love by Gene Pitney rolled at 08:00 A.m. Under my voice, reading the legal ID. And I was absolutely horrified because I told everybody at Newfield High School in Selden, Long Island, that I was going to be on the radio. And now I couldn't believe this lousy music they were forcing me to play. At the end of the hour, I was all crestfallen, and I was leaving the station with my bag of unused records. And as I was hitting the door and ready to leave, program director comes out and says, hey, you were pretty good. Would you mind coming back? And that's how I got into radio.
Matt (Host) 00:04:07
And when in the early 80s, did you evolve into really getting into talk?
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:04:12
Well, that was pretty early on in my career, I would say, right about 1980-81. So at that point I was maybe 24. And I realized that there were about 8 billion disk jockeys with tapes and resumes. But there were only about two dozen qualified talk show hosts on the radio. Keep in mind, in 1980, there were very few stations that played talk shows all day long. Very few. And as a matter of fact, there are more talk radio stations today in California than there were in the entire country in1980. And so I realized that talk show hosts were in real demand. And I decided to learn how to become a call-in talk show host. And to do that, I went down to a studio on 23rd Street in New York City called ETC. And I went down and I rented a studio to do a talk show for public access in black and white with no delay. And for three years I went in there and took all of the- they didn't call them trolls, but all the crank calls and what have you. And I learned by doing. I learned under fire how to host a call-in talk show. And then pretty soon, I got my first job in talk radio at the Pacifica station in New York, WBAI. I was on from 3:00 to 07:00 A.m., and that's where I got started in regular radio.
Matt (Host) 00:05:58
But talk radio was really dull back in 1980-81, and you began to bring a little bit of fire to the format, you and a few others, but it started to really amp up in the 1980s.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:06:11
Well, here's the deal. Clearly, one of the problems with talk radio at that time was that the audience was older than dirt and a lot of radio stations wanted to do a talk format, but they wanted to attract people in the 25 to 54 adult demo. They didn't exactly know how to do it. My concept from the beginning was I was kind of a satire of talk radio. I really wasn't a straight ahead talk show host. I was playing with the form right from the beginning, everything from coming in and saying that I was doing the show naked and then taking the complaint calls from the very old audience that was listening. I wasn't naked, but I said I was one guy called in and said, I hope there's not an American flag in the studio when you're doing this. He got very upset. Or by playing with people in other ways, telling them that I was masticating with a banana. That may sound like old hat today, but back then, people were horrified. They couldn't believe I was masticating. There might be children listen. And it was always like that. The idea was to not take the form seriously.
Matt (Host) 00:07:26
We just passed, I think, the 35th anniversary of you in Miami working at WNWS.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:07:34
Matt (Host) 00:07:35
And at this point, there are guys like you and Neil Rogers and others who are becoming tremendous assets to radio stations. And you had some stuff wind up in court.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:07:45
Oh, many times.
Matt (Host) 00:07:47
But this specifically involving your work contract and your employment.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:07:51
Right. Well, by the way, I replaced Neil Rogers, who had been in a contract dispute. That is how I replaced him. And then when he won in court, he went on opposite me. And we went through this incredible radio war in Miami, which was legendary, really legendary. It was an amazing experience to have been through it. But I was sued by a listener in Juneau, Alaska, because she said that I gave her post traumatic stress disorder. So she sued me for $2.7 million back in 2001. I was fined by the FCC in 1990 because I had done shows on KFI Radio in LA, where I had a guest on from an organization called the Hung Jury, which in order to be a member of the organization, you had to have eight inches or more. And the guy was talking about the various members of his organization. I mean, literally and figuratively. I also had the woman who called up and said that I was doing a show called Sexual Secrets that we all have secrets that we keep from the people we're married to, the people we live with, the people we date. So I asked people to tell their sexual secrets. And a woman called in and said that she is a dog breeder, and she masturbates her dogs. And the FCC got upset because I said, "Do they make a noise when you do that?" She said, well, yeah. I said, "Do the noise. Do it." She started making the noise that her dog made when she masturbated it. We got fined for that. So, yeah, over the years, I've had my series of run ins with the law. I was sued by Marty Ingels, I guess, the latest in life and the most recent to the present. He was the voice of Pacman on the Pacman cartoons in the 80s, and he was also the husband of Shirley Jones of the Partridge Family.
Matt (Host) 00:09:50
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:09:51
And he called our show and tried to get on. And I told him he was too old and hung up on him. And he sued me, saying that I engaged in age discrimination and violation of California's Unruh Act. And we won the case. But the idiot spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to sue me and the network, and he ended up having to pay our legal expenses. So it's part of the game.
Matt (Host) 00:10:22
Did the assassination of Alan Berg in 1984, did that change anything for you?
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:10:27
Oh, no. I was on the air the night Alan Berg was shot in Denver, and now I was talking about it. I wasn't hiding from it or trying to avoid the subject. I was right in there discussing Alan Berg's shooting and what it all meant and that it was not going to shut me up. And it never did.
Matt (Host) 00:10:49
Did not change your perspective of who was listening to your show?
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:10:53
No, because here's the thing. Looking back now, that's 35 years since Alan Berg was shot in Denver, we always knew that these kinds of freaks would be some small percentage of the audience, the loudest group in the audience, but the very small percentage that they are or were. And that's true today. My God, I think we're closer to that than ever. Keep in mind Alan Berg was killed by white supremacists. And for my money, that's pretty much what AM radio is turning into, an audience of extremists and outliers and militia members and gun owners and preppers. That's the remaining audience of AM radio today. So the thing is, back in 1984, when Alan Berg was shot, when I was on the radio in Miami, talk radio was a mass appeal medium. It was not like today where it gets a 0.7 in Los Angeles or a 1.1 in New York. It was a mass appeal format. It appealed to people of all persuasions. And stations had a Liberal, a Conservative, a feminist, and they would be arguing with each other, the hosts on the station. It was very vibrant, very lively. And now with AM talk radio, nobody who isn't a Trump supporter or a prepper is tuned in. So it's a very tiny audience today. But I knew that if you shrink when this kind of thing happens, you're dead. Your show is dead. Your brand is dead. You can't say, you know what? I'm going to dial it down, because you dial it down, the audience is going to dial you out.
Matt (Host) 00:12:44
Your program director at KFYI in Phoenix. And by getting to do that, not only do you have your show, but now you get to sort of put a bunch of people around you and build this radio station. What was that like? And who did you have on the air? What was the end result of it?
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:13:05
Well, the radio station in Phoenix, KFYI, was based on my experience in Miami at WNWS. The idea was that you cast a radio station like you cast a play. So instead of having the Jewish Conservative, followed by the black Conservative, followed by the white Conservative, followed by the Libertarian Conservative, followed by... Which is what they do now. We had a line up that was literally- and I went to find them the way you would cast My Fair Lady on Broadway- I was looking for a Liberal, a Conservative, a Libertarian, a feminist, and a rock and roller. That was my concept, so that you can talk about the same topic all day long with different points of view.
Matt (Host) 00:13:53
When you moved to KFI, 1988, this is the first time I actually know who Tom Leykis is, and I'm living in Canada. And the only way that I can sort of find out about other radio is Art Volo video air checks. And I saw a video air check of you. And I'm like, who's that? What is he on about? And this station sounds like something I want to listen to.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:14:16
KFI, I was not the program director, I was doing the afternoon show. But the original program director who was there, frankly, had never programmed talk radio before. And so even though I was not in name the program director, I was doing a lot of things behind the scenes to kind of encourage that we recreate or reproduce what we did in Phoenix and what we did in Miami. So we took this Miami style of talk radio to the airwaves in Los Angeles. And we used to do things like the battle of the talk show hosts, which was originally, by the way, invented by Neil Rogers. We called it different names, Meeting of the Mouths or Think Tank over the years have different names. But the idea is to take all the hostss on the station and put them all together and let them yell at each other. And the idea is if you have enough different kinds of hosts who have different points of view, you don't ever need to take a phone call. You could just have the host yelling at each other. We also had a lot of debates. My first day on the air at KFI in July 1988, I had Reverend Roy Masters, who was the father of Mark Masters of Talk Radio Network. He was a hypnotherapist a Christian hypnotherapist who said that he could cure homosexuality. And I put him on the air with the most Butch lesbian I could find. And the two of them debated for 2 hours. And I believe in creating fire. I believe in stoking the fire. I believe that you've got to have some dramatic tension in a talk show. And if all you are doing is doing straight interviews with people or taking calls about the local water treatment system, it's just not compelling and it is not going to get a big audience. But my goal in radio is to get a big audience, sell a lot of advertising, make myself phenomenally wealthy in the process. I was never there to get anybody elected. I was never there to get a particular bill passed. I think the people who do this are fools because it's such an opportunity to make a great living having a medium like that, having it at your disposal. I was always about creating a circus.
Matt (Host) 00:16:45
You managed to work in some of the best talk markets, places like Miami, places like Los Angeles. But what about when you went national into syndication, into 1994? What did you find when the show went national?
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:17:00
Well, keep in mind that people love to brag about having syndicated shows. It's one of those things in radio where everybody lusts to do that. Everybody wants to be national. Remember the movie Talk Radio when the character Barry Champlain, played by Eric Bogosian? This was the whole thing about him having a local show in Dallas and then going into syndication. That was the big deal. And I found in 13 years of syndication, actually 15, but 13 years with Westwood One, I found that syndicated shows are not valued by local radio stations. They are a throwaway. They are what we call in the business needle movers. Stations have 3 hours to fill and they don't want to pay somebody $20 an hour to come in and do a show. So they take your show from the satellite and they look at shows that our satellite delivered. The way you look at DirecTV or Dish Network, if they don't like your show, they put the Donna Mike Show on. They don't like Donna Mike, they put Bruce Williams on. They don't like Bruce Williams, they would just keep switching from syndicated show to syndicated show was the commoditization of what we did. I think my work was way more appreciated on a local basis when I was employed by a local radio station. In syndication, you have complete freedom because very rarely is there somebody sitting over your head telling you what to do or how to do it. No micromanaging. But by the same token, stations would cancel you with no notice, or they would say they were running your show. They would sign affidavits saying they were running the show and they hadn't run it in a year. Very little respect in that field. Very little. I did it. I enjoyed it. I traveled the country. I did my dog and pony show in different places. We drew big crowds wherever we went. But in reality, behind the scenes, there was very little understanding of what we brought to the party and very little appreciation for it as well. The only appreciation they ever show you- And that's something that is good advice for anybody in business, whether it's radio or wherever. Is that the only way they show you appreciation in businesses with commas and zeros. Nobody pats you on the back to say, hey, good job. Hey, you're doing great. You're never going to get that. If you can't function without that, you can't survive.
Matt (Host) 00:19:28
Where did radio take the wrong exit on the highway? Was it the 1996 deregulation act? What was it? Or has it just been a collection of things?
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:19:37
Well, deregulation began in the 80s, and that's really where it began, where you had the caps on how many stations a company could own, first in a market and then nationwide, being lifted, or at least being relaxed. And so you have an awful lot of people who are paying big money, borrowing hundreds of millions or billions of dollars to buy up chains of radio stations or to buy individual mom and pop companies and string together a chain of stations. And so they needed to get a quick return. I mean, the reason we got shock jocks, the reason we got shock radio is because people were buying large numbers of radio stations. They needed to get a fast pay off, and they didn't want to spend any money on marketing. So if I could go on and get a ten share by talking about my penis, they didn't care as long as they got a quick payoff. And so eventually they paid more and more and more to bring me in as a hitman. I was a radio hit man, and they had another station in town that was number one. Their station was number 27. And I would go on the air and start taking shots at the most popular guy in town, whoever that was, and get him to step into the bucket with me. And it happened often. I got into this war with Neil Rogers. Neil Rogers had been number one for, I don't know, ten straight years or something like that in Miami. When I arrived and I started torturing him, I started talking about him and saying that he wouldn't have the guts to fight me. I told one of his listeners who called in on my show and said, you can't even lick Neil's boots. And I said, I'll tell you what, I'll not only lick Neil's boots. I'll beat the crap out of them anywhere, anytime you tell them tonight, 12:30, 79th Street in Biscayne Boulevard. I will meet him there and I will beat the crap out of him. You tell him I said that. So here's Neil getting callers on the air saying, Tom Leykis is talking about you right now. And of course, that meant all his listeners were tuning over from him to me to see what I was saying about it. It was a pretty easy formula. And what you do in a situation like that, for all you- are there any budding radio personality anymore? I don't know. But if you were thinking about getting into that business, you just bleep out all those calls. You have them screened out. You don't take those calls. You don't let people go on your show and talk about what the guy opposite you is doing right now. You don't allow that. But Neil could not resist. He thought he was number one forever. And so he started taking shots at me and said I was a cocaine addict. He said that the radio station couldn't find anybody to do nights. So they hired a supermarket bag boy to do the nighttime show at WNWS. Within nine months, I was the number one show in Miami, thanks to Neil Rogers.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:22:34
I was singing for everybody. Dean's favorite song, 1805 800 Tom is your telephone number. We are about to vanquish another competitor in the Southern California radio market. He's about to get axed from his current position on a certain radio station. You won't be hearing them anymore in the afternoon. Stay tuned for the Tales. What do you do when you're 50 years old? You look like Mr. Clean. You spent your last couple of years of your career talking to yourself about how you're the number one show and you're going to grease your fist and shove it up my ass. And then suddenly you find yourself taken off the air. What do you do then? I don't know. I'm not going to mention any names, but that's the deal.
Matt (Host) 00:23:38
In 2012, you launched the New Normal network. And let's go right back to the very beginning. What were your intentions when you were starting that? How is the company morphed over the number of years?
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:23:49
Well, the idea of it was I had a five year contract with CBS where I could not work for anyone else. So I was off the air for 37 months. And when my contract was coming up for its expiration and I would be free to do what I wanted, I started meeting with some of these radio companies, and I was shocked at how little money they were offering. Considering the track record I had. I was being offered as little as 1/9th of what my previous salary had been. 1/9th. And I negotiated them up to 1/6th. And I was offended. And I had no intention of leaving the house for that amount of money because keep in mind, I had an eight figure deal, guaranteed money with CBS. I'm set for life. I did not need a job, but what I did need was respect with the commas and zeros. And there was only one comma in the last offer I had, not enough. So I decided that, being that two of the top three companies and radio were in the process of heading for bankruptcy, which has since happened, I'm going to prove that you can still make a profit in this business by doing a call in show without a transmitter, without a radio station. And so I found a space that had been tricked out as a recording studio that was formerly a laundromat in Burbank. And we set up in there to do a live stream, audio only, no video. So it would replicate the call in talk show, the radio experience that people were familiar with. And we did the show live in the beginning, five days a week, three or 4 hours a day, every week. And we managed in doing this. We sold some advertising, we sold some subscriptions to our on demand library. We managed to make a profit six straight years. And we did that in the face of Cumulus going bankrupt and not having a profit for the longest time. iHeart media has not had a profit since before 2008. So my goal was sitting at laundromat in Burbank and make more profit than the biggest companies and radio. And we achieved that.
Matt (Host) 00:26:20
And you also did your paperwork this week because it is tax time. So how'd you make out this year?
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:26:25
Well, profit wise, once again, even though we stopped doing the live stream in October, we converted to being a podcast full time. Once again, we made money. Did I make a zillion dollars? No. Did I make a respectable profit and keep a bunch of guys employed? Professionals who had no reason to be out of the business? I did that. I succeeded at that. I kept these guys employed for another seven to ten years, depending on which one we're talking about here. And so for me, it was a success. It was a great experience. That part was fun. Now we are doing what JCPenney is doing, what Victoria's Secret is doing, what Sears is doing. We are closing down our physical location and we are producing content. In my case, I have a home studio, so I no longer have a producer. I no longer have an engineer. I no longer have a screener. I no longer take live phone calls. And amazingly enough, the podcast world is an amazing thing. Amazingly enough, we are three to four times more profitable now than when we did the show live, putting us in a nice mid six figure range. I'm very happy to have it.
Matt (Host) 00:27:48
You know, I look back at 2013 and you wrote an article and you gave advice to disc jockeys and radio personalities about what was to come. And a lot of it centered around owning your content and getting your stuff under wraps. And within six months after I read that article, I did not listen to you. I was out of work and I had to go and get a website and I had to start everything from scratch. But I do remember not listening to that advice in that article and then finding myself out of work. And then I went and pulled the article back and I said, well, I better get to work on all this.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:28:23
Well, I have told people who are in radio who are fat and happy and working for stations like WBT in Charlotte with 50,000 Watt clear channel signal. You're not a ten share show, buddy. You are a ten share show because you're on WBT in Charlotte. When you go off the air, you're not going to have access to the same cumulative audience that you have on WBT in Charlotte. So what guys like that need to be doing now is having their own URLs, having their own email addresses, having their own websites, and also to keep every email you ever receive and harvest the email addresses of everybody who's written to you over the past couple of years. I went into this business with 11,000 confirmed emails from people who'd written to me at KLSX between '07 and '09. I had all these names. And so when I started my new venture, I immediately had a mailing list that I could tell people, all right, I'm back. You've been waiting for it. Here I am. And the reason I have BlowMeUpTom.com, the URL I've had for 20 years, is simply because Mel Karmazin was running CBS and Westwood One back in the late 90s. And I had gone to Mel personally. People have heard Mel's name on Howard Stern show is named. People know. I went to Mail personally and I said, Mel, why don't we have email addresses? Why don't we have websites? And he said to me, before anyone ever heard of Netflix or Amazon, he said, you can't monetize the Internet. So I went out and got my own URL, my own email address. I had a website. I owned it. Westwood One couldn't put their name on it or couldn't tell me what to put on there. I couldn't put any advertising on it or use it for contests. Nothing. I had all of that. I paid for it myself and I owned it. When I ultimately left CBS at the end, I was able to put up a big countdown clock and tell people, I'm going to be back in 2012. Here's the exact day and time I'll be back. April 2, 2012 03:00 p.m. And I counted down to that day. Everybody needs to be doing that. If you're in radio, the end is near. It's like working in one of these shopping malls where half the stores are empty. Take a clue. Get ready for the future. Be prepared. That's what I tell them.
Matt (Host) 00:30:58
Yeah, you posted a picture on Twitter a couple weeks ago from a shopping mall. It was empty and it was the middle of the day. And about two days later I was in Phoenix and same thing. It's a Tuesday and it's barren.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:31:14
Right. That was the La Cumbre Plaza in Santa Barbara, which, by the way, has a nice demographic of upscale individuals who live in the area. And here it was a weekday afternoon, a beautiful, sunny day with a mall. It was one of these malls that is not enclosed. It's an outdoor mall. No foot traffic, zero. Nobody there. All of these food courts with a bunch of empty chairs and tables. Sears had recently closed about two weeks ago. And all the stores around Sears are now going out of business because they were depending on foot traffic from Sears in its dying days. They were depending on the people who came to Sears. And without Sears, these pizzerias and delis, they were all going under. And radio is Sears, all right? Radio is Toys R US. It is going out of business. And if your plan is to sit there at the mall and wait for business to come back, it isn't.
Matt (Host) 00:32:14
You've made the great transition from radio into podcast. The first time I saw you was 2016 in Chicago at Podcast Movement and you were part of the air check session. Not everybody in radio is going to be able to make that jump into podcast, though. Some just aren't talented enough to do it. I know that sounds crazy, but I think it's true.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:32:34
Well, it's not just about talent because there's a lot of guys who are good. They have good voices, and they've gotten good ratings over the years. But in the podcasting world, you have to bring something specific to the party. You have to stand out in some specific way or have some specialty. There is no mass appeal show like you would have on these big stick radio stations like KFI in Los Angeles or WLS in Chicago. Podcasting audience. These are people who curate their own content. They have their favorites, and their least favorites, or the ones they would never pay attention to. You have to bring something that makes you stick out or you have to have some specialty. And if you don't have that or if you don't have something that makes you unique, it's a field in which you'll never succeed. One of the great things about having been in radio is that a lot of people know who I am, know what I do, know what I bring to the party, know what is unique about what I do. And they know that many radio stations were afraid of me because they're afraid it might be a little too hot to handle. And people are now willing to pay to hear what radio won't give them. And you have to have that kind of show, like something that you would not hear anywhere else. You wouldn't get it any other way. You have to have that kind of appeal in podcasting. There's no two ways about it. And part of what I tried to bring to the critique sessions at Podcast Movement was that, one thing we know about in radio is staying focused on a topic, staying focused on reminding people who you are and what you do, not wasting time. And I think a lot of people go into podcasting without thinking about these things. And I do believe there are people like Steve Goldstein and others who are bringing some of that radio expertise to the podcasting world, making themselves available to people who are doing podcasts, because a lot of what we know in radio is about producing audio content and would apply very well to podcasting. By the same token, many things radio personalities take for granted, like opening up the mic and talking to 100,000 people, that is not guaranteed in the podcasting world. So there's stuff we bring to the table, and there are things bad habits some of us in radio have learned, taking an audience for granted, that we have to unlearn.
Matt (Host) 00:35:11
What podcasts do you listen to?
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:35:13
I do listen to Marc Maron. I like what he brings to the table. I like The New York Times podcast, which I listen to on a regular basis. I'm a New York Times subscriber, and they have a pretty good handle on what's going on with Trump and all of that. So that's one place I go for information. I also listen to my friends Gary and Dino, because they have a podcast like no other, the Gary and Dino Show. Gary was my producer and Dino was my screener for over 20 years. And so now they've got a podcast, and I enjoyed them because they're fun. And then there's a bunch of them I couldn't care less about because they're about fields of expertise that are not my interest or I just don't find them exciting. There are so many of them that I tend to listen to podcasts and people I'm familiar with or people who have some field of expertise that I want to know more about.
Matt (Host) 00:36:08
What's the setup like in your car for audio listening?
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:36:12
Well, I have two different vehicles. I've got a Tesla, which has internet in the dashboard. So I can literally put on Tune In, or I can connect via Bluetooth and listen to anything that's on my phone. Anything I can hear my phone, I can listen to my car, and I do. So the Tesla has Tune In, built in, which is an amazing thing. I also drive a Honda pickup truck, a Honda Ridgeline. And that one doesn't have the same sophisticated audio capabilities. It does have Android Auto, it does have Bluetooth. So I am able to just tune anything in on my phone and then have it play through the speakers in the truck. I will tell you that 90% of the time I am listening to something from the internet and not from radio.
Matt (Host) 00:37:07
Well, I was just going to mention, you've got Tesla and you've got Tune In, which is built into the Tesla. And then you've got a company like Intercom that decides to take its radio stations off Tune In. I don't get it.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:37:19
Well, again, I feel the people at Intercom, as much as they may know about Wall Street when it comes to broadcasting, they just fell off the turnip truck. And they have this idea, like others have had, that they're going to own all their content and they're going to own all the commercial availabilities. They're going to own all that. They don't want to give that away. They want to own it. Cumulus did this. They took all their content off Tune In. Then one day they awarded it to iHeartRadio, and recently they came back to Tune In. So the fact is, if you listen to most live streams on Tune In or iHeartRadio or Radio.com, most of the commercial availabilities are unsold. You're a lot of the same promos repeating over and over, a lot of the same buck-a-cluck commercials running over and over. So the question is, do you want to expand the audience for your existing advertising base? I think that should be your goal. I think trying to hold on to every $1.98 that's available for the commercial spot on Internet streams is not worth their time and effort.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:38:28
It's Leykis 101, the ongoing on-air adult education course. It teaches men how to get more tail for less money, and more importantly, that teaches women how men think. Your questions for the professor coming up at 1-800-5800-TOM. The Tom Leykis Show.
Matt (Host) 00:38:45
You're a great follow on Twitter, by the way.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:38:47
Oh, thank you.
Matt (Host) 00:38:48
Because I see every once in a while you rail on the LA Dodgers in some capacity. So, what is their problem?
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:38:56
Well, their problem is they are run by these Moneyball guys from Tampa. And when you're in Tampa and your average attendance is 14,000 a game instead of 48,000 a game, like Los Angeles, you can't afford to sign the big free agents. So what you do is you try to find ways to take a bunch of misfits and outliers and cobble together a team that by bringing in a pitcher who pitches to one particular hitter because that one particular hitter can't hit that one particular pitcher, they dice everything down into these little data nuggets. And what they do is they manage to have the team during the regular season win 80 or 90 games. The Tampa Bay Rays have been in the World Series just like the Dodgers have. They have been competitive, which in a bad market like Tampa, being competitive is your best hope of getting people to the turnstiles, but in reality, they never win anything. And so these guys have applied the methods of being in Oakland or Tampa, where you just want to stay competitive so you can get 20,000 people to come to the game. But in Los Angeles, you know what, we've got LeBron James, we've got the Rams who went to the Super Bowl this year. We've got a lot of other things going on. In Tampa, what are you competing with? Nothing. And in Los Angeles, we've got plenty of great stuff to do and plenty of great teams to see and plenty of great star players and sports. So these people come into the market and they think, we can just run this thing like it's Tampa. And you can't. When you see Bryce Harper going to the Philadelphia Phillies for $330,000,000 and everybody's complaining about the $330,000,000, the Dodgers got 8.25 billion- with a B- billion dollars to keep their games off television for 25 years. So I don't really want to hear their sob story about how much money Bryce Harper wanted. It's not my problem. You got the 8.25 billion. Now spend it. But they got everybody in the door by making a couple of big acquisitions in the beginning and winning the very bad division they play in and what have you. But the reality is they're not good enough to win the World Series. We found that out the last two years in a row. And if the team was so good, why have they shed about eight of the 25 players in the roster since last season? They consider every player to be a replaceable part. They don't see any value in having stars on the team. And I can tell you that may wash in Tampa, but it's not going to wash in Los Angeles.
Matt (Host) 00:41:59
Tampa's baseball team is going to wind up in Montreal probably in the next few years.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:42:04
Well, if only they build a Stadium in Montreal, which, I read those stories, and I find it hard to believe that there will be a Stadium in Montreal. Do you believe that?
Matt (Host) 00:42:16
I'm hoping. I'm a longtime Montreal Expos fan, and I left Montreal in '94 after the season never finished, and I really never went back to baseball.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:42:28
I understand, by the way, which is a reflection of my age. I was at Jerry Park the first year the Expos played. 1969. I went, and I saw Rusty Staub and I saw Donn Clendenon, and I saw Manny Sanguillen and some of the other players in that first season of the Expos. It was a blast going to a minor league ballpark and watching Major League baseball. It was pretty incredible.
Matt (Host) 00:42:59
Yeah. They just never got that stadium thing right in Montreal.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:43:03
Well, that Olympic Stadium had no intimacy at all, which I think- I think baseball requires a certain level of intimacy. And the Olympic Stadium is this big concrete bowl with the roof that never worked right. And that Astroturf that killed Vladimir Guerrero's knees. I think today in baseball, you got to have grass, you got to have intimacy. You really shouldn't have more than 40,000 seats, because on TV, you're just going to see a bunch of empty sections like you do when you watch the Angels on TV from Anaheim. All you see in the background are empty seats. Needs to be smaller, more intimate. Needs to look a little old school maybe. And I watch that every year. They play that exhibition game with the Blue Jays and somebody, because there's only one Canadian team. So you get the Blue Jays plus someone else. And it's an Olympic Stadium, and it's a big place. Now, of course, they've got 40 or 50,000 people coming for the one baseball game that Canada gets to see all year long. That one. But Montreal in the beginning was a great baseball market. It was fantastic. And I remember riding the Metro in Montreal and seeing all the ads on the subway, all the signs. Everybody was talking about it. It was pretty great. Between the strikes in Major League Baseball and the lockouts and what have you, it pretty much killed the Expos. And it's a tragedy, but I don't think the Expos are going to come back. I don't think there's going to be a Montreal team without a stadium. There's never been a lot of desire to build a stadium at municipal expense in Montreal. I still don't see it. Do you?
Matt (Host) 00:44:53
Not yet. I hear things, but I think it's years away. It's years away, if at all. But there are people working behind the scenes like Warren Cromartie is very active in the community. He's got the Montreal baseball project, and it's something that we watch, and I think they're going to want to do it organically, much the same way the Winnipeg Jets came back as a hockey franchise. It was done organically. It's not done in the public space where your Commissioner is going to have to answer questions every 25 minutes about whether or not this is going to happen. It's something that they're going to try to work on organically.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:45:30
I also think, though, that in Canada, it's a lot easier to get a hockey arena built. How many arenas are like in Hamilton, Ontario, they've got an arena with no NHL team, Quebec, no NHL team. Getting an arena built for hockey is a lot easier in Canada than a baseball Stadium.
Matt (Host) 00:45:49
Yeah, absolutely. By the way, about things that killed the Montreal Expos. You got them all right. You just forgot one thing. And that was Rick Monday.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:45:56
What about Rick Monday? Rick Monday played for the Expos.
Matt (Host) 00:45:59
No, he played for the Dodgers. But there was that 1981 home run that he hit against the Expos in the National League Championship Series. And poor Rick Monday just can't get- he can't get served in Montreal. Still, really, people remember that home run as being just a devastating day. It was Steve Rogers came in in relief, of all things, in the top of the 9th, and he served up a tater to Rick Monday. Dodgers win two to one and went on to win the World Series. And the team didn't recover after that.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:46:30
I have to be honest with you. I remember the 1981 baseball season very well because I believe there was a strike and they split the season in two halves.
Matt (Host) 00:46:39
Correct. They did.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:46:41
And especially in 1981. I was 25 years old and I was a baseball purist and this idea that the first half winner was going to play the second half winner, and they completely changed the playoffs that year. I couldn't get into it. I was angry at baseball that year. So my memory of the specific games and players in 1981 is a little fuzzy.
Matt (Host) 00:47:08
Tom, what advice do you have for anybody who's in radio and looking towards the future in 2020?
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:47:15
Well, look towards the future because radio is not going to be in it. Radio is going to be voice tracked. It's going to be piped in from somewhere you don't live. There are going to be no local broadcast, no remote broadcast, no local advertisers paying talent fees to read the commercials. It is certainly, I think, not a career to plan for. If you want to plan to be in the world of digital content, that's where the opportunity lies. It's a little more complicated than when I got into radio, because the path to success in radio was a long one, but it was pretty clear what you had to do, what steps you had to take. I worked my way through eight markets, and I knew it was like being a comedian and having to develop an act and having to go work in small comedy clubs. I had to work in Stanton, Virginia and Albany, New York and Miami, Phoenix, Boston, and finally Los Angeles. And now you have to have a little more than just a good voice or the willingness to outrageous things. You've got to have knowledge of all things digital, every technical innovation, and you have to stay on top of it. And you can't wait for an employer to give you that knowledge or training. You have to invest in yourself. You have to spend a little of your own money, buy a better microphone, buy a better distribution system, know how to create content that sounds spectacular. One of the things I did in going from radio to a live stream to a podcast was to make sure that the audio content sounded just as good or even improved with time in all media that I work not have radio be good and then podcasting being good enough, which is what a lot of people do. I hear a lot of people talking into that- the condenser mic in their laptop, and that's a podcast. You've got to be devoted to making the content sound better and better with professional equipment and a professional attitude and professionalism. And when I go to that podcast movement, this is something people don't want to hear. I get a lot of blowback when I harp on the lack of professionalism. It blows me away. How many people put substandard sounding content out there and then wonder why they can't get any advertisers or wonder why they've got 37 listeners. People do care about the sound of your content and so I would say if you are looking forward to employment in the future or career opportunities in the future, do not go to your local radio station. They are not up to speed on digital content or producing digital content. Anyone who has any radio station that puts out something they call a podcast, usually all they're doing is replaying the morning Zoo from this morning. That's all they're doing. They're not creating content for podcasting. I did a three or four hour radio show for so many years and then in the live stream it was 3 hours. My podcast averages 35 minutes. That's what it's got to be and you got to get all the good stuff in there like a sun dried tomato. It's got to be concentrated and all right there and no wasting time. The radio is full of time wasters. Billboards on traffic reports, traffic reports themselves, news reports, weather reports. If I were programming a radio station for the 21st century, I would say if people can get it on their phone and take it off the air.
Matt (Host) 00:51:06
Tom, thanks a lot for being on the podcast today. I really enjoyed this conversation. It's been a long time in the making and I'm glad we finally got a chance to sit down and do this.
Tom Leykis (Guest) 00:51:14
Matt an absolute pleasure. I really appreciate it. I enjoy your podcast and thank your audience also for indulging us here.
Amanda (Voiceover) 00:51:21
Thanks for listening to the Sound Off podcast. Find us online at soundoffpodcast.com and connect with us wherever great social media is housed. The show is imaged using the sounds from Core Image Studios. Written and hosted by Matt Cundill. A production of The Soundoff Media Company.