Sunday, March 10, 2013

Reimers' Garbo routine...

On December 17, 2012 I sent the following e-mail to Bertold Reimers asking why WBAI doesn't hold a benefit concert the way WFUV does? The following e-mail isn't rude or disrespectful. I think it makes very valid points that a benefit concert, run by a professional concert promoter, not only would attract WBAI listeners but more importantly, it would attract people who've never heard of WBAI. I'd imagine that a such a concert could inject WBAI with anywhere from $50,000 or more in one go. Plus, who knows how many new memberships the station might get in the lobby of the auditorium or how many tee-shirts the station could sell? How many recording artists got their start on WBAI? We can start with Bob Dylan. And how many actors and writers got their first radio interviews on WBAI and could help emcee a benefit concert and draw even more people to buy tickets! WBAI is sitting on its heritage like an elephant sitting on its butt. I have contacted WFUV and I have the contact name and e-mail address of the person who produces their concerts and I was given that contact info by someone in the upper ranks of the station, so it doesn't sound like even WFUV is against it. For goodness sakes, what does it take to make this radio station work? —anonymous listener

Dear Mr. Reimers:
Over the years I have been a member of WBAI-FM in accordance with my personal finances.
Approximately two years ago I called in and got on the air during the listener feedback portion of a “Report to the Listener” program. The main topic during that program was the station’s finances. I took the opportunity to make a fundraising suggestion.

I mentioned that during its history, WBAI-FM has played a valuable role in fostering the early careers of many of today’s music performers and theatrical players, as well as the stars of Hollywood and television and authors and artists of all description. I then suggested that WBAI consider holding a benefit concert at a place like Carnegie Hall or Town Hall because those venues have held benefit concerts for many years. I also suggested that WBAI make contact with the fundraising staff at non-commercial radio station WFUV, which has had a very long and successful history of holding fundraising concerts at Town Hall and the Beacon Theatre. I was thanked for my suggestion and the call ended.

Since then, whenever WBAI has gone through a fundraising period, I would think about that call and wonder why the suggestion had never been acted upon. However, a few days ago I was quite literally shocked to hear over WBAI’s own airwaves, a recorded announcement asking listeners to buy tickets for an fundraising event being held at the Beacon Theatre in support of Native American activist Leonard Peltier. The announcement for the benefit concert featured the likes of Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger, Jackson Browne, Bruce Cockburn, and filmmaker Michael Moore.

When I heard this, the first thing I thought was, “I just don’t understand how WBAI operates!” Please don’t misunderstand me, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with helping the Native American community and Mr. Peltier himself by announcing that concert. However, WBAI could easily hold a concert like this each and every year. Now I realize that the word “easily” might sound like something that’s easy to say, but difficult to accomplish. Still, I’m sure your airwave neighbors at WFUV wouldn’t mind putting your staff in touch with the concert professionals who help create WFUV’s shows. So it could be a lot easier to do such a concert if you asked them for concert industry contacts and technical help; and why wouldn’t WFUV help. I’m sure if they called you asking for the names and telephone numbers of technical people in the radio business, that you’d share your Rolodex with them. Why wouldn’t you, or they, for that matter?

Further, please think about this for a moment: Even with your station’s new “WBAI Buddy” campaign, the message itself mostly goes out to current WBAI listeners who are asked to either make monthly donations to the station, or to recruit friends to become donors. However, if you think about the benefits of holding a fundraising concert you suddenly open yourself up to several important financial opportunities:

1. Word of the concert will instantly filter out to the public by way of (a) TicketMaster, (b) the concert venue’s own advertising, (c) the concert listings featured in the Village Voice, Time Out New York, local newspapers and various New York/nightlife-themed websites.

Not only does that mean that such a concert would stand a very good chance of raising funds for WBAI, but just as equally, many New Yorkers who may be presently unaware of WBAI will learn about it. In-between musical acts you could have well known persons (like Michael Moore) come out and tell the audience about WBAI’s on-air mission. Audience members might just tune-in and then become members during the next fundraising period.

2. Famously, Bob Fass was one of the first radio hosts in New York to introduce and expose Bob Dylan which immensely helped Dylan. While Bob Dylan is still going strong and touring, now’s the time to contact his representatives and ask for his participation. It’s also important to remember that an artist like Bob Dylan might not necessarily need a full backing band and could conceivably come on stage solo with just a guitar. That would dramatically lowers the muss, fuss, and wherewithal involved in signing a performer like him to such an event.

3. Since WBAI would be producing the event, as part of the arrangement with the venue you would ask that WBAI staffers and volunteers be allowed to man tables where literature about the station would be handed out. These tables would also give the attendees the opportunity to make a simple cash donation to the station, or to take out a one-year membership on the spot.

4. Think of the additional revenues that could come from such an event: (a) the sale of concert tee-shirts and programs, and (b) if the concert were recorded then the CD or DVD could be used as an on-air premium. And (c), those CDs and DVDs could be sold via the WBAI website to people worldwide who couldn’t attend the concert.

I would like to ask you to please think about my suggestions and share your thoughts with me on them.
Best regards

The above was posted to the BlueBoard Sunday morning, March 10, 2013. My response was: I assume that you never received a reply. Reimers' indifference is as baffling to me as it is consistent. I hope you don't mind if I post the above on my blog. The listener answered promptly:

Yes, unfortunately I never did receive a reply from Mr. Reimers and that's exactly the reason why I chose to share the e-mail that I wrote to him here. As I previously said, the e-mail wasn't attacking or defamatory, it's merely a suggestion as to how WBAI might utilize some of the goodwill that it's built up over the years and make use of it. If only a show had been produced in January or in the start of February, we might not be in the position that we're facing right now.

I should also add that I sent private messages via e-mail to approximately ten WBAI hosts and producers asking them to raise this fundraising concept with station management, however, I haven't heard back from even one host or producer. So I'm more than baffled because with this extra effort that I pursued, to have not even one person get back to me makes me seriously wonder if everyone's waiting for someone else to make the first move?

Feel free to re-post my e-mail to Mr. Reimers, or this entire posting on your blog as well as elsewhere.

Meanwhile, may I just add that on February 16th I made a $35 donation to WBAI and yesterday I made a $100 donation to the transmitter fund and I specifically said to the volunteer o the other end of the telephone line, "No premium, please." At my level of income, I feel that I've done as much as I can. So it's not like I'm not doing my fair share. Still, I'll say it again, just one benefit concert could raise tens of thousands of dollars. "WBAI -- what's wrong with this picture?" 


  1. Pacifica managers how no oversight. It builds them into lazy managers. In 10 years I've only received one single response from a Pacifica GM. I think they must have planned this strategy together because they each do the same behavior. No response. No accountability. No actual work need be performed.

    1. It wasn't always so, Kevin. Wa-a-a-ay back, when I was WBAI's manager, there were 3 Pacifica stations and 3 managers. Each of us did a live Report to the Listener once or twice a month. It gave us contact with the people who sponsored us—we read their letter on the air, answered and discussed them, and often acted on their advice in regards to programming. When it became possible to air two-way phone calls, we did that.

      The 3 managers also met once month (in California, to save on air fare expense) to swap ideas and experiences, and to work on shared projects. Prior to our managers' meetings, we participated in the Pacifica Board meetings. There was, in other words, a good line of communications on the managerial and board levels, and between the listeners and the stations.

      The current situation at WBAI, with Reimers practically in hiding and not even communicating to his staff, is a disaster. How can it be that the station is two weeks and $250,000 away from extinction before anyone is told about it? That's insanity.

  2. There will be a benefit concert to save WBAI's antenna access on March 27, 2013 at S.O.B.'s. More to come.

    This is being organized by a few staff and Local Board members, with the support of WBAI management.

    Mitchel Cohen
    Secretary, WBAI Local Station Board

    1. That's a good thing. It figures that WBAI "management" approves—Berthold Reimers should welcome anything that can make him look better these days. How about a rally to lay it on the line, get rid of Reimers, his cronies, and the producers/hosts who have scared off the majority of the station's listeners? How about REALLY saving WBAI?

    2. The benefit at SOB's was, I believe, organized by Ibrahim Gonzal├ęz. It was a great success in many ways, not the least of which was that it raised about $5,000 for the transmitter fund. Berthold Reimers was apparently there, not the least affected by the fact that he si to a very large degree responsible for the current problem. Fund raising events such as this one are laudatory, but also more or less a waste as long as Reimers and his cronies are still allowed to roam free. I have just read, elsewhere, complaints of four separate instances where serious program suggestions (all readily doable, one already recorded) were submitted by Mitchel Cohen and others, but totally ignored by Reimers—not even a brief "thank you" was received. This is what people who care for WBAI have to deal with, David Rothenberg is leaving WBAI because his attempts to contact Reimers have all failed. With David's departure goes his program, a good source of year-round income for the station.