People Are Watching The Fire In The Theater…Meanwhile The World Is Burning Down (Video)
Quite a bit happened in the last week. Kendrick Lamar gave his second (and third) interviews about the creation and inspiration behind DAMN. Joe Budden, DJ Akademiks, and Migos played host to the most talked about red carpet event of the year to date at the BET Awards. JAY-Z released an album that only some of the population can hear, and many that have, are saying a lot about it.
In this week’s episode of TBD, show host Justin “The Company Man” Hunte looks at a common theme to all of these media events. 92.3 The Beat radio personality Big Boy calls this “fire in the stadium.” Much like the centuries old idea of yelling “fire” in the theater, it is a guaranteed way of getting a reaction. Some people gawk, some people run, but it is an irreversible distraction from what everybody came to see.
Hunte revisits a conversation he had with Big Boy. The syndicated radio host left Power 106 to join the re-branding of The Beat. Once a prominent feature at one station, he became the lead focal point at another. In 2015, he explained his strategy to Hunte, and the advice he got from Dr. Dre. “I had a conversation with [Dr. Dre] and you do kind of have to set yourself on fire for people to notice. If you’re in a room, you’ve gotta scream to get people’s attention. I think that’s where a lot of that came from.”
Today, The Beat is besting Power 106 in the ratings. There were marketing implications in the move. When The Beat acquired Big Boy’s Neighborhood, L.A. billboards stated: “Big Boy Moved.” There was promotional picketing. Big Boy got support from Dre, Ice Cube, and Kendrick Lamar (who gave his Beat show an interview twice as long as Power 106 this week). People noticed, and made the shift with Big Boy.
Dre’s advice paid off. Big Boy yelled “fire” in the stadium, and legions of Los Angelinos changed their radio dials and presets. Hunte compares The Beat’s windfall of listeners to why The Breakfast Club, the syndicated show on New York City’s Power 105, did the same. Thanks to Ray J and Fabolous fighting in 2011, waves of people were forcibly introduced to Charlamagne Tha God, Angela Yee, and DJ Envy. Now, that show is syndicated, televised, and one of the culture’s biggest daily destinations.
That may be what Everyday Struggle accomplished when Joe Budden walked out of the red carpet interview with Migos Sunday (June 25). From all the memes, analysis, and what was revealed to the world later, Budden’s emerging Everyday Struggle show got mention. Similar controversies happened on the 2017 show previously, with viral moments surrounding Lil Yachty and Vic Mensa. But this one rang a bigger bell. Joe’s standing up from that stool and dropping his mic like Randy Watson in Coming To America was the shout of “fire.” The stadium may have moved.
“If you hadn’t heard about Everyday Struggle before this week, You absolutely know about Everyday Struggle now,” says Hunte. “This one’s so good it reached the super rare Ripe For Conspiracy Status. If someone told me everything outside of Joe Budden getting checked twice by Quality Control was staged, I might not believe them but I’d understand because that’s how important it is to scream fire in a stadium. Especially for burgeoning brands.”
Hunte motions that this is all by design. He points to the article, “The Age of Abundance: How the Content Explosion will Invert the Media Industry” from ReDef. “It describes how there’s more content creators than consumers of content. The era of big media dominating in a traditional fashion is gone and now the Influencer Curator reigns supreme.”
The TBD Show points to passages, including this one: “The entire media business is inverting. For decades, scarce capital and constrained distribution capacity meant that the media’s industry bottlenecks sat in the middle of the value chain. Today, however, the bottleneck has moved to the very end: consumer attention. This shifts the balance of power from determining what should be made to finding a way to convince people what to watch, listen to or read in a world of infinitely abundant content.” It is the crux of the “screaming ‘fire’ in a stadium” analogy.
Hunte brings this to Rap reality: “Sometimes that may require strategic Rap beef right before your album drops. J. Cole has leaned on that ahead of the release of his last two albums. Sometimes that means a beat eating media blitz complete with multiple press releases about your plan to battle a predatory bail industry then releasing arguably your most conscious album yet, exclusively on America’s fourth largest network, pissing off everyone who doesn’t have Sprint or Tidal, adding another layer of tension to the already trending topic.”
But this technique appears bigger than Hip-Hop. “Sometimes it means Tweeting wild word vomit when your health care bill goes crap-tastic, or when another member of your campaign staff is tied to Russia, or whenever there’s a need to change the conversation, or when a distraction also happens to be convenient. I hear about the crazy things Trump says more than I hear about the marches. The cop that killed Philando Castille got off, but I don’t recall seeing #BlackLivesMatter trending,” says Justin. “Is the resistance reaching protest fatigue, or nah?”
“Screaming ‘fire’ in a stadium is a useful tool. But what’s more important? The quality of what’s revealed when the fire’s put out, and all eyes are locked in? Or the significance of what’s missed while the world is watching you scream fire in a stadium?”
Food for thought indeed.