Life in a Recession: Josh Venable Reflects on His Layoff by Clear Channel
Late last year, Josh Venable was let go for the second time from the Clear Channel-owned 102.1 KDGE, the Edge, and he has yet to find another radio station to call home. "I watch a lot of Murder, She Wrote," Venable says of his down time while sitting in an Addison sports bar that's not too far from the Clear Channel building. "That's about it."
When asked if had an inkling he was about to be let go, he is very quick with a response. "Not at all," he says. "I knew that layoffs were coming." Those who have worked in radio, especially at Clear Channel stations, have come to expect layoffs every year. With what became Venable's last day in 2012, he was already covering for somebody he knew was going to be let go. Halfway through his shift, Venable was asked to see his boss and Venable was sent packing.
"It is what it is," he says. "It's a big business. It's a corporation and stuff happens."
By that point, Venable had a large hand in what the Edge was. Spending six or seven days a week at the station working as the program director, the midday anchor, and the host of the award-winning Sunday night specialty show, The Adventure Club. "Well, of course there's a feeling of loss because it's my station since the time I was 15 years old," he says. "People who have read enough Josh interviews know the story, but since I was 15 years old, this is all I've ever wanted to do."
Venable had moved to the DFW area when he was 15 and he wanted to meet his idols at the station, like George Gimarc, Alex Luke, and Jeff K. At 19, he got to host The Adventure Club when Alex Luke left the station. Fast-forward 18 years with the station, he was promoted to the prestigious program director position. "I wanted it to succeed," he says. "I wanted to prove that I was the right person for the job." Ratings for the station were some of the best in the station's history under Venable's leadership. "I wanted to show that all those years I was the kid that brought the weird music to play on Sunday night that it was now our time," he says. "And I think that has been proven time and time again."
While the ratings did dip a little before he was let go last year, that wasn't Venable's fault. When the Edge wasn't the only station in town playing Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers and Coldplay anymore, a ratings decrease was bound to happen. Since Venable's layoff, even more people have been let go from the Edge, leading many to wonder about the station's fate. But for now, The Adventure Club remains on Sunday nights with host Mark Schectman.
So what's next for Venable? "Well, I've never done anything else," he says. "That's kinda the problem. It's a double-edged sword. All my other friends went on and learned all these things in the business world that I probably should have done, but I was too busy interviewing 3 Doors Down at the time." Venable held other jobs before radio and during his early days of radio, like working in a grocery store, at Bill's Records, and at Best Buy, but the station was always the focus. "I can't conceive doing anything else," he says. "It's like you're a fireman and somebody goes, 'Are you gonna keep being a fireman?' Well, I'm not going to sell insurance. I'm gonna do what I know how to do."
Whether people only liked Venable's music choices or when he'd rip apart bands in a talk break or both, he had an impact on many people throughout the metroplex. "I do feel very bad for the people who have Adventure Club tattoos, who made their own Adventure Club shirts, the people in prison who wrote me on a weekly basis saying, and I quote, 'This is what I live for all week long. The only respite I have from this hellhole that I live in is knowing I might get to hear Massive Attack on the radio on Sunday. Thank you so much for what you do.' That's very tough to walk away from."
In the meantime, Venable has found a great outlet in singing for a band called Panic. "I have about as much musical talent as a newborn child, so I've been extremely lucky over the years to be friends with people who have loads of talent," he says. Venable had performed before with a Bruce Springsteen cover band called Nightmare on E Street. When that band ended, the idea came up start a tribute act to The Smiths and Morrissey's solo material. Originally called The Venables, the band recently changed their name to Panic. Featuring members of Chomsky, Baboon, and Long Sword Spectacular, the band has played the House of Blues, the Granada and Lee Harvey's to very large crowds. "I had become so taken with getting up on stage and playing this other role and it was fun," he says. "After the Granada show, I talked to multiple people who literally had tears in their eyes because we had played 'I Know It's Over.'"
He adds with a joke: "I think it helps that Morrissey cancelled shows and doesn't play very much because [Panic is] the eighth best thing."
He's also created a site called A Wide Open Space to stay connected with people who enjoy his perspective on what's worth checking out, be it a record or a movie. "It's really just about things I enjoy," he says. "There's no big agenda to it." His agenda with the site is the same as the one he had with playing songs on the radio: "making people happy."
Plus, working with an old intern of his, Venable is working a film on autograph collecting. But he does want people to keep him in their thoughts and hope he finds a new radio gig above all else. "I would very much like a job where I can be back on the air, making you happy," he says. "I do hope that will happen very soon. I'm almost done with Murder, She Wrote."
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