Scene, not heard

Please forgive me if the following paragraphs amount to little more than someone crying because the neighborhood bully stole his football and refuses to give it back. Maybe I just assumed that I (or maybe Robert Wilonsky) would be the one to pull the plug, that our relationship with Yahoo! Broadcast Services would end only when we gave up on it. Still, I haven't decided whether Yahoo Broadcast's decision to cancel Scene Heard Radio--the Internet-only radio show Wilonsky and I hosted for almost two years--on May 25 was a bit of insight into the way Mark Cuban and company do business, or a blessing in disguise. Only one week since abruptly being shown the door and how to use it, it feels more like the latter.

Here are the facts: Wilonsky and I started Scene Heard Radio in October 1998, an attempt to expand the Dallas Observer's music section into a new medium. (Well, something like that.) At the time, the company we worked for (though we didn't pick up a paycheck) was, before Cuban sold it to the powerful Yahoo! Incorporated and the smarter employees became millionaires. When Scene Heard started, our contacts at Yahoo! were vigilant, keeping us up to date on how many people were listening to the show. That, however, soon changed, and for the last year or so we were online, we couldn't even get anyone to return our calls or e-mails. When Tim Sanders, who helped us get the show in the first place, left to take a position at the Yahoo! corporate headquarters in Los Angeles, he sent us a note saying that he'd "keep tuning in every Tuesday." Trouble was, the show happened every Thursday. Thanks, buddy.

So, I wasn't completely surprised when Wilonsky showed up to do the show on May 25 (I had a previous engagement) and found out that we had been cancelled earlier in the week; apparently, no one had planned to tell us. The fact is, we were the only people that attempted to make the show work. Unless you were looking for Scene Heard Radio specifically, for much of the show's run you would not have found it on the Yahoo! Broadcast site, located at Scene Heard was finally advertised on the site a mere two weeks before it was pulled from the schedule.

If nothing else, now that the show is no more, Wilonsky and I don't have to spend two hours each week broadcasting into a void, never sure who, if anyone, is listening. We don't have to waste another hour or two coming up with a playlist that the handful/dozens/hundreds of people listening to will enjoy and want to tune in to again next week. We don't have to expend the effort trying to promote the show ourselves, sending out weekly e-mails and posting copies of the playlist to fan sites. We don't have to walk into the Yahoo! building off of Malcolm X Boulevard and feel like unwanted guests, greeted with quizzical stares and impromptu interrogations, though we'd been coming there since October 1998, long before most of the current staff.

To be sure, not everyone at Yahoo! is to blame. The people we worked with closely during our almost two-year tenure at Yahoo!, such as Derek Johnson and Jessica Nelson, were always better to Wilonsky and me than they should have been. I mean, the first several months we did the show were one huge train wreck after another, and our skills increased only marginally after that. Not that we were that far below typical broadcast standards; listen to The Ticket for a few hours and you'll hear for yourself. And I mean that in the best way possible. But I was having fun feeling my way along, and I believe that Wilonsky and I made an entertaining team. I would have liked to see what might have happened if we had the backing of Yahoo! Broadcast. Guess we'll never know.

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Zac Crain
Contact: Zac Crain