Zach Bye went to dinner to celebrate. Sean Salisbury was almost moved to tears. Both felt incredible validation the first time they saw their name in the BSM Top 20. For Bye, the validation meant his peers were respecting the job he was doing at 104.3 The Fan in Denver. It meant 10 years of working odd jobs and inconvenient hours just to get his big chance in radio was worth it. For Salisbury, the validation meant a redemption from his rock bottom. A moment where it was clear he had defeated all his demons and was still one of the top radio hosts in the country.
That’s what being ranked in the BSM Top 20 can do for a host. When you’re recognized by the biggest decision makers in the industry it tends to give you a validation that few things can provide. Especially when it’s the first time.
“I just remember how elated I was and it almost felt too good to be true,” said Bye. “It felt like an incredible piece of validation. You have to keep in mind that I worked for 10 years to get the job that I have right now. To get that job validated beyond good ratings and be nationally recognized by an outlet that I respect and one I’ve seen and followed for years, that’s crossing into a new threshold of validation.”
“I was ecstatic,” said Salisbury. “I don’t ever pander for that stuff and I didn’t even consider it. I’ve known Jason Barrett for a long time, but you always wonder who’s actually paying attention, are they paying attention and who hears all those things. So yes I consider it not only an honor but a tremendous honor. I’m not downplaying it, I was very, very excited.”
Bye’s debut on the BSM Top 20 came in the 2018 rankings. His celebration dinner that night was with his wife, who has been with him since college. Even during his struggles of trying to find a full-time gig in radio, she was always supportive and never asked when he was going to get a real job. All the dues were paid when Bye found his radio home in Denver, hosting alongside former NFL star Brandon Stokley.
Bye claims it was a “big freaking deal” when his show was honored for the first time. In fact, the possibility wasn’t even on his radar. He felt his show in Denver was too new to receive any kind of honor, outside of good ratings. Sure, he believed in himself, but when proof came out that others did too, an incredible sense of pride overcame him.
Granted, his partner, a two-time Super Bowl champ, is accustomed to being honored and recognized, but for radio guys, that’s not always the case. Can a Super Bowl compare to a BSM Top 20 ranking? Well, probably not, but even the former champ is liking how the duo in Denver is climbing up the list.
“I think it was more of just starting to understand what it was,” said Bye. “Stokely had only been in radio for like a year before I got the job. I was following Jason Barrett before I got to Denver. I was aware of it because, guys like you and me, non-pro athletes, we love the business. I was way more sensitive to it at the time, but Stokely is a fierce competitor at whatever he does. Now that he’s in the radio game, he wants to be the best. To be nationally recognized, on that platform, after understanding more what it is, he was pumped. Then last year our ranking was higher than the year before and he got even more excited.”
The only thing that can compare to the feeling of being in the BSM Top 20 for the first time is being ranked No. 1 in your category. Dan Dakich of 107.5 The Fan in Indianapolis Has been a regular at the top of the BSM Top 20 rankings for mid market midday shows. It was a surprise to nobody he took home the No. 1 slot this year. But it seems no matter how many times you can be acknowledged for something, there’s still a significant pride that overcomes a host when recognized as one of the best in the industry.
“It’s an honor, really, because I know some of the guys and I know how good they are,” said Dakich. “It’s something I’m proud of, frankly. I want to live up to it. I’ve been on Cole Cubelic’s show. I’ve been on with the guys in Nashville (formerly the Midday 180 on 104.5 the Zone) and a couple of others and I know how good they are. Anytime in a profession, it’s nice to be recognized as, I don’t know if I’m the best, but at least in that voting I was. It’s nice to be recognized that way.”
Salisbury is having a nice run of being featured in the Top 20. Currently hosting a morning drive show at Sportstalk 790 in Houston. If there’s a guy to be happy for, Salisbury is it. Any honor or recognition that comes his way, also comes with a moment of gratitude and thanks to the people who helped make it possible.
“I went through a time where I didn’t know if I’d ever get back,” Salisbury said. “I had to rebuild myself with the help of a bunch of people.”
Comments from hosts like Salisbury, Bye and Dakich make you realize just how big of a deal the rankings actually are. If you need further proof, you can easily find opinions from upset people on social media that disagree with the order. If people are upset, that means it matters.
But no matter how accomplished of a host you might be, getting told on a big platform you’re doing a great job is enough for even the most successful host to smile.
“Any compliment,” said Salisbury. “Whether it’s from a fan in Jacksonville to an executive on how they view your show, to rebuild it and get back, it’s almost eye watering, because to be considered and held in that regard, there’s not a day I’ll take it for granted. Maybe at one point I did, but not anymore. I mean that with every ounce of fiber in my being.”