36 Reasons Why I Suck At Radio

So, I did an on-air interview yesterday for a radio show. This is very similar to the kind of thing that Ryan Bolger did earlier this year, with the exception that he was speaking to a listening audience of, let’s say, billions of people, whereas I was speaking to a listening audience of, let’s say, 6 (I’m not counting the board engineer, since he was playing Nintendo DS during most of the interview). Yes, friends, I was a guest on the Mighty KAPU.

The topic was on how peer-to-peer networking, illegal file sharing, is changing the music industry. If you know me, you know that this is like playing t-ball for me. This is my end zone. This is my home run gimme softball lob. This is my bumper-bowling, no miss, perfect 300, slam-dunk, 3-minute powerplay, this is my … well, those are all of the sports metaphors I know, but I think you get my point. I’ve lectured on this topic, written extensively on it, led group discussions for both students and peers, and spent maybe 6 years developing a highly nuanced, deeply complex, and subtle perspective on these trends:

Under our current economic system, we balance supply and demand, creation and compensation, through the exchange of commodity units of property, which means that in order to compensate artists, we have to treat their output like property (with some limitations and exceptions), which may not be the perfect system, but as long as the system is in place, sets up normative ethical behaviors in the interest of protecting the property rights of the content creator, which makes illegal distribution not an ethical dilemma, but an ethical wrong, and while we may recognize that the system has inherent flaws, the only ethically proper choices are either to participate in the system (by using the content and paying for the unit of property) or to refuse to participate in the system (by not using the content, and not paying for the content), but to say that the flaws of the system allow you to selectively participate in it (by using the content and not paying for it) is a farcical argument at best, coupled with the fact that there is a burgeoning movement of artists and listeners who are electing to engage each other outside of the property system of content creation, and instead distributing content for free and being sustained by the engendered community brought about by their creative efforts, all of which is a separate question from whether or not the proliferation of illegal file sharing is the root cause of the economic downturn in the music industry, or whether additional factors like increased DVD sales, grassroots media, and gaming systems are competing for the same consumer attention, or the tapering of redundant media upgrade sales (sales of previously purchased music to fans moving from tape to CD), might be the primary causes, a view recently given support by a national study undertaken by the Canadian Recording Industry Association.

So, when the light flipped to red, and the host said, “So, tell me Michael, what do you think about file sharing?”




Everything I’ve ever thought on the subject. It was a violent heaving of opinion and data into the microphone, a blast of complex and subtle and nuanced distinctions; it was 6 years of thought all spilled out in one unbroken stream-of-consciousness diatribe.

When it was all over, the hosts just both kind of stared at me. One flipped numbly through his notebook. The other host tried to rescue me by asking me some very simple, not open-ended questions that I could answer with one or two sentences. Instead, I proceeded to launch into part 2 of my thesis on Property and Creation. Mercifully, the segment was only 4 minutes long, so they cut me off after a while and went to commercial.

I suck at radio.

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13 thoughts on “36 Reasons Why I Suck At Radio

  1. Morphea

    Oh, poor thing. I [sort of] feel your pain. We all do this at one time or another, my dear.

    When I made the end-of-choir-tour speech/recap (I was the college choir president dutifully fulfilling the yearly tradition) to the entire student body at chapel in 1998 or so, I went on and on, disjointedly, tremblingly, for about 15 minutes. No one should have to listen to a choir tour recap for even 5 minutes. During that extended period of time onstage I even managed to totally lose my head and inserted a criticism of a song the director’s wife had written that we had performed that year.


  2. Matty

    Well…that’s definitely a tough situation. Sorry to hear about it.

    Now please tell us the other 35 reasons you suck at radio.

    I made the mistake of eating Carl’s Jr right before a on-air radio promo for Calvary Community Church. The host threw me a couple of questions which I answered quite well.

    But then I felt it. A very unhappy onion ring (I believe it was an onion ring…they’re usually the most vocal complainers) was very unhappy with my choice of beverages. I held my breath while the host asked his next question, in the hopes that suffoccation would kill the upstart ring, to no avail. The host looked at me — and I at him — and I burped.

    Live. On the air.

    It smelled like onion rings. Luckily, only the host and I knew that.

  3. simone

    Sorry it was so bad.

    If it’s any consolation, you told the story in a very funny way.

    Perhaps next time you should try to do comedy.

  4. harmonicminer

    Hmmm.. I’d like to draw a distinction. You suck at being a radio GUEST, but might make a fine radio HOST, once you get your rhythm. Guests have to be able to get it out in small chunks, leave room for leading questions from the host, get out some more, and at the end of it cover the topic adequately… all of which requires cooperation of the host, of course.

    HOSTs, on the other hand, have time to develop their thought, don’t have to fit it all in before the next hard break, and can find their own rhythm since they don’t depend on anyone else to draw out the story or concept.

    If you can teach (where you have some control of pace), you can host, I think. And these podcasting days, I think you’re going to be doing a lot of it!

    BTW… the guest exists only to make the HOST look good (apologies to EIB). You did that, it would seem. So you were a good guest, too!

    Now, let me tell you about a couple of interviews I’ve done sometime… The giant sucking sound you hear is the reflexive inhalation following my overly kinetic ejection from the control room….

  5. matthew

    I’ve never been on the air … but for some reason if you put a microphone in front of me … well, my brain switches gears and I become a completely different person. For instance, normally, I have a fairly decent handle on profanity, but give me a mic and I’ll be droppin’ the F-Bomb. I can’t help it. I LOSE MY MIND. Maybe it is the microphone at fault and not you at all. At least your brain switches to boring ramblings. It could have been much worse my friend. Much much worse.

  6. corey

    i laughed out loud (at the retelling, not the broadcast). Sorry you walked away feeling like you really sucked an egg. Welcome to the end of every conversation I’ve ever had.

    that is one of my night-waking fears… profanity in the microphone. I lead worship from time to time and I’m always terrified that “This Will Be The F***ing Day That The Lord Has Made!!!”, in true emergent fashion. Ozzy does church.

    having said that… that pesky little squeaking sound you hear is just my name being sharpie’d out of the little black book of worship leader subs at Mike’s church.

  7. Stick

    I’m impressed at the fact that you made that whole paragraph above one sentence.

    And my time “on the air” was usually in reference to one certain commercial that I somehow got on, so most of my utterances were monosyllabic. I did guest on A LOT of morning drive time radio shows and a few TV talk shows, most notable being the great Maury Povich. Speaking of, he’s a pretty good golfer.

  8. Gretchen

    Speaking of radio, Aly whatever happened to your “This I believe” essay for NPR? Truly not trying to bring up a bad experience (which it hopefully wasn’t) just curious.

  9. aly hawkins

    I think they get something like 500 submissions a week, so I’m not surprised I haven’t heard back. With my luck, they’ll choose mine 3 years from now when Pat Robertson’s dead, Jerry Falwell has repented, and Hilary Rodham Clinton is President.

  10. Chad


    A. It was a hiccup.
    B. It was the FORMER Vice President of the United States.
    C. There had been alcohol served, absolving me of any and all responsibility, and I get the Secret Service Tracking device removed in just another six months.

  11. aly hawkins

    A. You’re right, it was a hiccup. A really LOUD hiccup. Possibly the loudest hiccup I have ever heard. My mistake.

    B. He was an ass, anyway. And a Republican. (Nothing against Republicans. Much.)

    C. Who knew that the owners of a fast food chain would have such excellent taste in wine?

  12. Daniel Semsen

    you guys are all frickin hilarious.

    but hey-I think you’re really only talking about an audience of more like 3, which is HALF as large as you previously thought-so there…and that includes the Game Boy kid…but he really wasn’t listening, was he?

    and Chad burping at the VP is so funny…only you, Chad. Only you…

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