The one really good experience I took away from Las Vegas came about by accident. We wound with a group of programmers listening to radio air checks from the baby-boomer days. These were mostly contemporary stations from larger cities like LA, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, plus a few smaller places like Kansas City, Jacksonville, etc. I came away thinking… “so, this is what radio is suppose to sound like!”
There were so many ingredients that melded perfectly… humor, lots of quick interaction with listeners, local police reporting traffic… I’d sum up the essence as face paced entertainment. There were plenty of jingles (for the most part they added to the energy, but not always). And none of their humor was blue.
I guess I can best describe the difference between then and now is that what we have today are announcers and what they had were DJs. In saying that, my guess is that if the iPod had been invented 25 years ago, it would have found radio to be a lot tougher competitor because back then there was a lot more to radio than just voice-tracking song titles.
PS – Given the atmosphere of Vegas we had fun but it was a bit obvious that not many of the rank and file think highly of their corporate ivy towers. Of course, I could be misreading their gesture of mumbling the company name followed by the all too common eye-roll.