Dan Aron was an account executive
at WABC from 1966 until 1970.
Scott Benjamin interviewed Dan for this web site.
It's very interesting to hear how Dan became involved at the station...
and how much money it was possible to make at WABC as its popularity increased!
The senior account executives had the established clients, such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and since everyone worked on a straight 7 percent commission, Dan Aron, the most junior of the salesman at musicradio77 WABC in late 1960s, pursued other avenues.
Over time, he landed Volvo, Braniff and TWA, for example, clients who
previously hadnt considered Top 40 radio.
George realized that I was selling on the basis that popular music wasnt just for teen-agers, Dan said of George Williams, who was then the sales manager at WABC and later would become Musicradio77s general manager. By the time I left [in 1970], practically everyone 30 and under had largely been influenced by rock music.
By then, WABC had eliminated network commitments, such as the Breakfast Club and the nightly Newscope, and had five and a half million listeners who tuned in to hear the All-American air personalities, including such legends as Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie.
Five and a half million listeners at a local radio station was insane, Dan said in a Feb. 17 phone interview with Musicradio77.com. The audience eventually grew to 8 million in the 1970s.
Dan said that after some time the sales commissions were reduced to 6 percent, reportedly because Leonard Goldenson, the chairman of the board of the American Broadcast Company discovered that some of the senior salesmen were approaching salaries that approached his own annual income.
Even with the lower commission, account executives at Musicradio 77 could generate handsome salaries.
That last year I was at WABC I made more money in real dollars than I ever have, said Dan, who has had several large corporate clients and has captured several awards in the 36 years since he left WABC and began producing commercials for No Soap Productions, which he has owned since the mid-1970s.
He said that he worked at WABC during an interesting time, when you had some colorful air personalities and there were people in the sales department that were Damon Runyon-types.
In the late 1950s while growing up in South Orange, N.J., Dan set out to be the next Alan Freed, referring to the legendary father of rock & roll who was the most popular air personality in New York City at WINS during the late 1950s.
At Harvard, which he graduated from in 1960, Dan hosted Sound of the Blues at the campus station, WHRB-FM, starting in either late 1958 or early 1959.
He stated in a Feb. 25, 2006 e-mail message that it was, to the best of his knowledge the first college radio show dedicated to the full spectrum of blues from Robert Johnson to Leadbelly to Muddy Waters, Ray Charkes, Jimmy Reed and Howlin Wolf.
Among the live guests he had on the show were Memphis Slim, Willie Dixon, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee and Brother John Sellers.
Additionally, WHRB held blues marathons during exam periods, which Dan said were all-request and ran around 7-8 hours in length.
After serving in the Navy, including a stint in Laos about two years before the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was approved, a family friend arranged for him to meet with Hal Neal, the president of ABC radio, and Wally Schwartz, who had succeeded Hal as general manager of WABC.
Wally told me that to become established as an air personality in New York City you first had to establish yourself out of town, he recalled.
So I went to Long Island, he added with a laugh regarding his short stint at WLIR in Garden City.
A bit later Dan was working at WRFM during the week and WPIX-FM on weekends, both in New York City, grossing a combined salary of $160 a week.
There was a lot of competition for positions at the stations then, he recalled. For every jock with work there were five or six that were out of work.
I finally saw that with the hours and the pressure that I didnt want to continue, Dan said. I was good enough to always have work, but I wasnt going to be able to go big time.
In 1966 he met again with Wally, who told him that he ought to use his Harvard education to pursue a path toward a management position.
He interviewed for positions in news, as an assistant to legendary program director Rick Sklar and the sales department.
I had never thought of sales, Dan said. Although I also didnt have any fear of it.
Initially, he did sales for WABC-FM and then moved to the AM side as the station was growing in popularity.
Under Williams, an ex-Marine, the salesmen had to wear suits instead of sports coats and loafers were forbidden as footwear.
The fact that as the junior account executive I was given many of the small agencies and direct accounts, he stated in a Feb. 18 e-mail message. They often didnt have broadcast background to be able to write and produce sports for WABC, and that job would fall to me. That outlet for creativity made the opportunity to join No Soap Radio when it came up [in 1970] extremely appealing, and was another major reason to leave ABC.
I had fun producing commercials, Dan said in a Feb. 23 phone interview. Going to No Soap was a natural outgrowth.
He said that during his four years at WABC, commercials were undergoing changes as a result of the influence of satirist Stan Freberg and production wizard Tony Schwartz, among others.
Freberg was incredibly clever, Dan said. He knew how to use the media, particularly with his parodies.
He also brought the techniques of Orson Welles to radio commercials, he added comparing Freberg to the renowned filmmaker.
Dan said that Schwartz, who used legendary WABC afternoon air personality Dan Ingram on several voiceovers, would buck-cut with very small, attention-getting edits that made his commercials more fun to listen to.
Dan states on No Soap Productions web site that he is, A fervent believer that commercials must be as entertaining as programming.
Radio used to be better at creating pictures, he said of Musicradio 77s hey day in the 1960s and 1970s.
WABC, for example, had the All-Americans and the reverb sound that gave you excitement that now is sorely lacking, Dan said regarding Musicradio 77s air personalities and the audio processing.
Although he honed his production skills while in sales, he also encouraged clients to use live commercials, he said.
You had distinct air personalities that could add something through their ad-libs, Dan said. It wasnt as though we just gave the air personalities a fact sheet; but they knew how to improvise and make the copy even more interesting.
I think today on some stations the live commercials might get lost in the clutter of talk and even when there isnt a lot of talk, the air personalities are no as well defined as they were years ago, he added. You also dont have as many distinct personalities, which is why I think [Howard] Stern and [Don] Imus, in part, stand out so much.
You had the same play list, but with Herb Oscar, Ron, Ingram, Brucie and Chuck, you had distinctive personalities at WABC that made each show sound different, Dan said, making reference to Herb Oscar Anderson, Ron Lundy, Dan Ingram, Cousin Brucie and Chuck Leonard.
His career as an air personality not only helped him in producing commercials, but in establishing relationships with people in programming.
I believe that I was the only one in that [sales] department who actually loved music, and listened to the station as a matter of course, he said. That, of course, was a factor in my relationships with Dan [Ingram] and Rick [Sklar].
I was more into the music, particularly the rhythm and blues, Dan said. Rick would ask me about records, and I might tell him that there was a song out that had some crossover potential to a Top 40 station.
Ingram would occasionally join Dan when he was meeting clients in hopes that the presence of the air personality with the largest audience in the United States would make a favorable impression.
After Dan joined what was then No Soap Radio, he had Ingram voice some commercials and in 1973 they became the partners of the firm, a relationship that lasted for about 15 years.
I have immense respect and personal affection for Ingram, he said. We both love the blues and have some other similar interests.
He said Ingram who has been one of the most successful voiceover announcers of the last 50 years, is in truth a radio actor.
Ingram could quickly switch to different wavelengths, Dan said. He related to the adults on one level and to the teens on another level.
He got listeners for WABC who probably only listened to WNEW-FM at the other times of the day, he added.
He said many of the air personalities were interested in attending promotional events.
He said the biggest client program that he coordinated was a 1968 promotion for Mallory, the maker of Duracell batteries, in which WABC asked listeners to send in a transistor radio, which would be outfitted with a Duracell battery and sent to the troops in Vietnam.
The thousands of small radios were displayed at Madison Square Garden at an event that was attended by Musicradio 77 air personalities Herb Oscar Anderson, Charlie Greer, Chuck Leonard and Roby Yonge.
The station also rented a cabin cruiser during the summer that was docked at the 79th Street Boat Basin and was frequently used to entertain clients.
However, many client contacts took place at New York City bars and restaurants.
A lot of business was done over long, liquid lunches, Dan said. I was turning into an alcoholic, which is part of the reason that I left in October 1970, right after he landed a 52-week commitment from Datsun, now Nissan, to sponsor Howard Cosells Speaking of Sports commentary during the Six Oclock Report.
Through the years, No Soaps portfolio has included the New York Stock Exchange, Walt Disney World, JP Morgan Chase, American Express, the New York Times, Pepsi and AT&T. It has won Clios, New York Radio Festival honors and Mercury Awards.
The company, based in the New York City borough of Manhattan, has recently done work for Exxon/Mobil, Court TV and Volkswagen.
The airwaves are loaded with commercials that are poorly conceived, inadequately executed, or both, No Soap Productions states on its web site.
Radio is the step-child medium, Dan said in a phone interview regarding the amount of money that sponsors spend on it. Television comes first.
He and his wife, Ann, have three children Mike, 35, Zam, a student at the University of Miami of Florida, and Jake, a student Fordham University in New York City.
The family now lives in Madison, N.J., after residing for 22 years in Montclair.
Dan teaches a course in radio acting at Montclair State University.
He said the $64 million question in radio is what impact satellite networks XM and Sirius, which offer commercial-free music channels, will have on advertising.
Terrestrial radio will continue to survive, but as has been the case with the major television networks, its audience will decline, Dan said.
And actually, I think one or both of the satellite networks will implode, he said regarding their wider financial losses during the fourth quarter of 2005.
I would put my money on Karmazin, Dan said of Sirius chief Mel Karmazin, who has held similar positions with CBS Corporation and with Viacom.
He said that to survive, the satellite channels might have to go to a two-tier system where you will pay more for commercial-free music and then a lower fee for the package with channels that have commercials with music.
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