Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Recently, it was written that XM may be losing its edge. Huh? This is truly absurd. Our mission is as strongly defined today as it was in 1998. A day doesn’t pass when the déjà vu between the emergence of FM back in the late 60’s and the emergence of satellite doesn’t rear its head. The similarities are astounding. I recall so clear when AM was dominant…and making a fortune. Doing so well that they couldn’t see their own vulnerabilities. Fueled by the emergence of Stereo and a musical revolution that the AM programmers generally didn’t grasp, FM quietly came out of the closet and within a few years put those AM music powerhouses out of business. Today, the FM guys generally don’t see their vulnerabilities. I don’t necessarily blame them because they have their own issues and in fact DO have the majority of the listenership. But the vulnerabilities are every bit as clear and almost exactly the same as those facing AM 35 years ago.

Eye off the musical ball…suspect, flawed and often corrupt music policies; a dated technology; absurd spot loads; sameness and lack of choice and most importantly — using a playbook that was written 30 years ago. At XM we need to be thankful for the denial that forces FM to put Band-Aids on their problems instead of attacking the reality of their dated programming point of view. Their problems are not spot loads or losing Stern. They are deeply rooted in the sound and attitude they subscribe to.

It’s easy to whine about it. At XM it’s up to us to change it. Just like the American GI’s were the ones who liberated Europe in WW2, XM has to liberate America in 2006. Same idea. It’s about liberating from a claw of something not particularly positive. Probably sounds a bit over-the-top. But that’s the mission. The first thing is AFDI. A call to action meaning Actually Fucking Doing it. When we have ideas, we gotta make them happen. Can’t handle talking about a revolution then chickening out and doing shit. Then you gotta de-cliché the place. Anybody who comes from FM is infected with volumes of tired clichés and assumed way of doing things. At XM we built a cliché buzzer—three clichés/buzzes and you’re fired. Then you gotta stress the importance of “creative batting average” where instead of sitting on your ass doing things as always, stepping up to the plate and taking creative swings. If 3 out of 10 ideas work—you’re an all star…most Programmers for whatever reason, fail to take any swings and bat .000. I can go on and on about the tactics to liberate but it really boils down to three things:

PASSION: Bringing back musical passion to radio. FM shot itself in the foot. It’s all about mechanics…not about the soul…the discovery…the musical magic radio can create. You get so hung up in the “A” coming up at: 19 you forget about the power of radios musical experience—in ANY genre.

CHARACTER: The magic that happens between the songs. The sonics...The attitude. The Technicolor.

MUSCLE: Ever since MTV emerged radio has had an inferiority complex. Screw that. Few mediums are as powerful and engaging as radio.

Am I pissed off at FM. Hell YES! I grew up with the transistor under the pillow…BELIEVING that radio is the theater of the mind. To hear how music radio has declined into this artless, soul-free zone is disturbing and upsetting. That’s why XM must re-invent radio to recapture the magic and save America from the parody of itself it has become. I don’t live in the past. I respect the past. To hear airchecks of the GREAT stations from the 50’s and 60’s can be an inspiration in the same way a Robert Johnson 78 can inspire a blues musician. Radio was COMPLETE back then. A total experience. Not a morning show, tested library and billboards.

It had a surreal quality. It was visual. The idea is to understand the history but program for tomorrow.

As Chief Creative Officer at XM, part of my responsibility is to force a certain style of thinking among our staff. Guardian of musical integrity and change.

Recently I put a list of 20 myths together that is only a microcosm of the intensity of revolutionizing, but symbolize the un-learning and re-learning necessary to move the radio listening experience forward:

THERE ARE GREAT FM STATIONS IN AMERICA. There are great call letters historically, but personally I can’t think of ONE FM station that would be worth taping and playing to the XM Staff. There are some OK ones, but most really are doing nothing especially interesting, compelling or new. A lot of stations are utilities doing a decent job…but are inherently vulnerable because they are living by the old rules. THIS is the #1 reason WE have to seize the incredible opportunity we have despite whatever barriers or difficulties this new medium serves up. Most of us came from FM and may have great memories…but it’s 2006 and the more we think about the RIGHT way to do things in 2006 rather than using the way FM does it…the sooner we’ll prevail.

YOU CAN MECHANICALLY MANIPULATE “TIME SPENT LISTENING”: You can’t. It’s never worked. The best TSL device is simply having the kinds of listeners that love your station to the point where they listen a lot. Creating a station that is so right-on that you have fans who SAY they listen even if they don’t—and also listen a lot because the channel is so damn on it. PD’s have tried everything from time distortion (saying it’s 7:15 when it’s 7:10) to AQH stretching contesting. It inevitably fails. No human carries a pen around and writes down when they listen…or has the ability or desire to re-create their listening truly accurately. Most important, PD’s historically try to trick listeners mechanically/formatically. It’s all so simple: Create an amazingly cool station—and they will come. No need to complicate anything.

TRADITIONAL RADIO RESEARCH IS AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO BUILD A PLAYLIST: Research is smart…it makes sense…BUT—the ‘traditional’ terrestrial methods are clearly flawed. Every station does it—and most of these stations stink. IF traditional (call out, focus, auditorium, etc…) worked, FM would be invulnerable and there’d be no need for an XM.

YOU MUST BE MAINSTREAM TO SUCCEED: In our world, if we had 100 1 share channels, we’d succeed. In FM, yes—a degree of mainstream is essential. And on XM, there are of course mainstream channels…BUT—Look at “mainstream” as a word. It’s changing. Just like contemporary music was once mainstream and meant a hit song touched just about everyone. Now, we’re in a fragmented society. In our terms I think the “mainstream” is reached by every channel meeting their audience goals...then you add everything up and XM AS A WHOLE is “mainstream”. Classical, Jazz, AC, Decades and others contribute to a mainstream XM...often by being un-mainstream…but when you add everything together we ARE mainstream. There’s a NEW MAINSTREAM of American culture, and it’s the combination of a diverse spectrum of musical and cultural Points-of-view. Beaver Cleaver is dead.

NON PLAYLIST PROGRAMMING SHOULD BE PLACED IN SOFT DAYPARTS: If you have a Special that really touches a nerve—hell—it should be in PRIME TIME.

ARTISTS NEED RADIO TO BREAK: The ultimate denial. They don’t. It helps…but more and more there are other areas that can break artists. For us---we should view ourselves as a NEW medium and NOT get lumped in with the terrestrials who are digging their own musical grave. FM, Old-line Record Companies and the tired old guard of the music business are holding things back—including us. Think BEYOND the old music industry driven by cheesy promotion, free lunch and the good old boy network. Radio isn’t the cultural icon it once was…it shot itself in the foot—now it’s OUR turn to program at a creative level that makes XM the icon of the new millennium.

HAVING AN ARTIST DROP BY OR PHONE IN FOR AN INTERVIEW IS COMPELLING: Let me preface this with—It IS on a channel known for this…or on a show like Bob Edwards…or if the artist is certifiable. It ISN’T on a music channel. The point---We can think of better interaction than the clichéd old “interview”. We need to lose the “phoner” thing.

PLAY THE POWER SONG AT THE TOP OF THE HOUR: Back in 1968, stations played news at :55 and wanted to “re-establish” the hour by coming out of news with a “power”…that didn’t make much sense since they blew off so many listeners with their news, no one was left to hear it! Now---it makes no sense because :00 is nothing more than a given minute in the hour…nothing special about it.

LISTENERS WILL BELIEVE WHAT YOU TELL THEM. Not anymore. FM has lied and bragged to the point that music radio has little cred left. Best to just DO IT and if it’s “the best music” they’ll know without telling them that. We STILL have writing that is circa 1979.

YOU HAVE TO “SELL” LISTENERS TO GET THE POINT ACROSS: Yes of course, but sell on 2006 terms. The hard sell, radio speak, is amusingly behind us. It’s all about intelligence and talking normally like YOUR listeners actually talk... The exception is the channels where we are trying to re-create a bygone authenticity like on the 60’s.

THERE ARE NO NEW IDEAS IN RADIO. Correct—that’s why WE have to create them. Time to tear down the walls…burn the old playbook and create radio for 2006.

TUNE OUT IS BAD: Tuning out of a channel is a fact-of-life. NO station is tune out free, especially on XM where tune-out can mean simply tuning IN to another choice on the XM dial. “Tune out paranoia” is a key factor in the TOO-short lists, mindlessly written “statement promos”, rapid fire DJ’s who regurgitate liners with no real content, etc….The idea is to create a channel that is SO reliably “on it” that if anyone tunes out----fine---as long as they tune back in when they’re in the mood to hear what you deliver. Trying to create a tune out proof channel has never and will never work. In fact, it’ll create this machine that will deliver a sound that may well decrease listenership. Listeners will always tune out—but you should be great enough to insure that they’ll always tune BACK in when they’re ready for you.

THE PAST IS OVER: Yes it is---but there was a time when radio really was the soundtrack of the Nation. You gotta look back a ways, but there’s much to learn from radios golden years. Weather it’s the “theater of the mind” from he Lone Ranger in 1949 to the one-on-one connection that the old Top 40’s of the 50’s and 60’s had. What we gotta forget is the consolidation era radio that’s infected the FM dial—THAT is what we gotta generally speaking avoid and create something better---to bring a NEW golden age of radio—on XM terms. IF we were to use terrestrial as a reference point—better to use terrestrial in 1956 than 2006. In other words, radio CAN be magical—if we make it magical.

LISTENERS ARE SMART: Some are, but generally they aren’t. But-- a funny thing happens when you give them something intelligent---You raise the bar. I’m not talking about something elite and SO intelligent that it goes over heads…I’m talking about…smart. Intelligent. Something that doesn’t dumb down, but reaches out and takes a listener to a new level. Not unlike The Simpson’s, or an amazing movie or HBO Original TV show. Smart things LAST. Dumb stuff may have its five minutes---but goes away. It’s part of our “duty” to deliver something that raises the bar.

SHOW NAMES MUST BE “MASS APPEAL”: We create mass appeal. Look at the emerging Airlines. It ain’t Trans Global. It’s Jet Blue, Jazz, Virgin etc…Or how about I-Pod, or Google, Or car names, or any “new generation” success stories These are new names that sound and feel good. Even our own new radios have cool names. You wouldn’t believe the pushback on calling Fred Fred…or Fine Tuning Fine Tuning. My point is that when we give content a name---It’s OK to CREATE something that may not mean anything---until you deliver it. Then—it’s the “cool name”.

MUSIC & DJ’S ARE THE KEY INGREDIANTS IN A STATION/CHANNEL: Critical of course, but symbolic of the over-simplification that’s going around. An amazing channel needs to be complete---Features (aka trademarks); live music (where applicable), etc….Things like Ricky Nelson Complete and Harlem make our 50’s channel “COMPLETE” And completeness turns listeners into FANS. Cool on air voices and amazing music is a given---That “extra stuff” is what contributes to a TOTAL LISTENING EXPERIENCE

YOU CAN’T GET HURT BY WHAT YOU DON’T PLAY: Very clever at the 1968 Billboard Convention as a line Rick Sklar used to fend off irate Promotion guys. In reality, I wouldn’t want to be the station that DOESN’T have the new Pearl Jam…or DOESN’T play the other cool Metallica tracks, etc….You CAN and WILL get hurt if the library doesn’t deliver the goods in terms of the musical promise.

BIG VOICES ARE IMPRESSIVE: Hey if you got a big voice—cool! But it really isn’t too important. Look at Stern, Rush or historically most of the A-list “personalities. The Big Voice thing is so hilariously dated. CHARACTER is what counts. Pushing a voice to sound big (and just about everyone does it!) is…lame.

LOCAL IS IMPORTANT: Local radio is dead. It’s irrelevant. For us we should be ALL OVER THE NATIONAL thing. Big ‘n bad ass. Local radio is a quaint relic. BUT—We are NOT taking advantage of this if we aren’t Talking to America. The old “using fans pouring out of a Beyonce concert in San Diego to call in the set list and review”----Getting listeners to call in on their cellphones to be your stringers during events and catastrophes in their communities. ENGAGE AMERICA ON THE AIR to maximize “National”. We are missing a giant opportunity!

LISTENERS LISTEN WITH THEIR EARS: NO! They listen with their minds. That’s why “cinematic” production is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO important, Your taking to a mind. A brain. Engage that listener’s brain with sound. XM is a travel agency—taking people on sonic adventures!!!! Cool voices…new sounds…WE MUST TAKE LISTERNERS ON A TRIP----Kill the one dimensional production. We can miss a giant opportunity by not creating amazing sound that engages minds…not just messages for the ear that don’t impact the head.

I can only say that in today’s changing environment, that the balance of science, business and art has never been more critical. It’s the art part that needs a kick in the ass and we’re doing that.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Now it’s getting interesting. The actual launch show is in its final production stages. We give Bob along with his team complete freedom. Why would we want it any other way? The last thing we want is a Bob Dylan show sanitized or compromised to radio standards. The magic is hearing what Bob Dylan can do with a radio show. No doubt it will be different from any other show…ever.

However, there is a lot that we at XM need to do to support the show, particularly in promoting it. It’s a learning experience. At first a bunch of our more adventurous “audio animators” as we cal them wanted to take a crack at the thirty and sixty second promotional announcements. In a sonic array that is a bit like a merger of Rocky Squirrel and Frank Zappa, they created some pretty incredible pieces. WAY out there. His team has the right to approve these and we knew they’d either hate them or love them. He hated them. Actually they liked them, but thought they were way too crazed for Bob Dylan. Or maybe the wrong kind of crazed. No problem…we kind of knew that. It’s a good feeling that our guys can create something that brilliantly insane, even if the got thumbs down from the Dylan camp.

OK—this time we’ll produce some things with some guidance. We did. They were close. But they didn’t like these either. Too over-produced. Now I’m getting a feel for the style that Bob’s team wants. I took a crack at writing something. They liked it. Jim Mc Bean one of our animation aces recorded it---I just sent the MP3 to them. I think he’ll like it. Very informational…not too dense with sound. Stay tuned.

This project is refreshing. Painful at times…but refreshing. The Dylan camp doesn’t operate off the radio handbook. They operate via the Dylan handbook which is probably more relevant today to listeners than the radio handbook is. Even the drastically re-written XM handbook. These guys know no rules…it’s all about sound. They have this keen and powerful Point of View that has absolutely nothing to do with radio. THAT in itself is a learning experience. I always prided myself on thinking beyond what the radio sheep were thinking…but these guys are SO far away from “radio thinking” that it really gets you realizing how engrained we radio people are in a certain style of thinking and creating.

Just received the show’s graphic logo. Again—there ain’t nothin’ like it in radio. Zero “corporate” look. Very camp. Very earthly. As good as our graphic guys are, we would have never come up with this very cool retro look. Again, they aint thinking radio graphics…they’re thinking Bob graphics. This is all liberating. This won’t be another radio show. This is different. And it’s different by design, but spontaneously. No one is thinking “this has to be different’, it’s just happening that way. Not too many radio thinkers to screw it up. Keeps us on our toes.

The web design was another area. We have some brilliant web people working on this, but in going through the web plan with them, there were dozens of little details. Lines. Looks. Attitudes that weren’t quite right. I talked it through with them. They got it. Still---Bob’s guys found more “flaws”—though they were pretty minor. I felt pretty good that I’m starting to learn how this thing needs to look and smell. An education in cool.

Had to send Eddie some sound. He wanted some sound effects and strange vintage “classic” radio bits. Got ‘em sent. Mc Bean and John Keith, two of our guys doing a ton of work on this put a nice package together. Hmmm…I wish more of our own Programmers asked for this stuff. I’m confident that this Dylan adventure will inspire us all. In radio! His show will obviously open up some music voids in our heads…but who woulda thunk that this show would inspire in radio. I thought WE were the experts. Guess not. Can’t stop learning. That’s the problem at FM. They learn about systems and research, but stopped learning about the soul of radio.

One thing I can help these guys on is the classic radio thing. I understand that. So do they. Together I think this thing will morph into something more like a radio variety show from the early 50’s than anything else. Now that is good.

We really have our A team plugged into the production. Randy Ezratty and Rob Macomber from XM Productions in NYC are on the scene up there. Going beyond the call…on a taxi shuttle schedule to and from the production office. Here it’s McBean and Keith…and a lot of other people. Then there’s George Taylor Morris who runs Deep Tracks, the show’s home channel. George is experienced in this as he’s closely involved in Tom Petty’s show…and George is helping immensely with the music. We have millions of songs in our library, but even then Bob and his team are finding some real gems, that even we don’t have. But we’re getting them. I think some might be on 78’s. But this ain’t gonna be no oldies show. It’s about MUSIC. The dates are irrelevant. It’s all over the road—for the right reasons. I’m Kissinger. Keeping the XM and Dylan camps on the same page. Feels pretty good. This thing might actually happen! And LISTENERS are the ones who will really benefit from this.

We moved the press announcement back a week. No big deal. Nathaniel Brown and Anne Taylor Griffith need some extra time to organize. Actually we ALL need the extra time as the premier date is creeping up.

Feels like the days before the moon launch must of felt to NASA. The countdown continues…

* THE DYLAN DIARY PART 4 (The Launch is Real)


It took a long time to put the Dylan Radio Show together. The delay was that I’m not sure everyone at XM “got” how extraordinary this could be. Maybe because it’s so unthinkably cool that there was this “We’ll never get Bob Dylan” thinking that was happening. After all—Bob is not a typical “content deal” that takes money and a good PowerPoint. This is engaging BOB DYLAN to do something that you’d never think he’d do. In any case, I laid traps throughout the building and enlisted everyone I could find to support this idea. The best supporters of this project were the other timeless and emerging artists. Not ONE artist came through XM without talking about Bob. As an influence. As a guiding light. Unprovoked and unsolicited. And then there are those who COMPLETELY got it. Together, along with the media attention Bob continues to draw, it became more and more a project we HAD to do.

Once we had our house in order on this, the deal part was painless. It took three days. A lot of the credit goes to his team who is so damn easy to work with. When it comes to protecting the Dylan legacy and vibe—they are Patton. When it comes to AFDI’ing something (our internal programming slogan for “Actually Fucking Doing it”), His guys get it done with a minimum of the typical legal crap that goes along with ironing out the details.

OK—It was right before Christmas, and we had an agreement. At first the shows were to start in February, but Bob DOES have a musical career also, and his first priority was finishing his album which he was in the middle of. So it was decided that a May launch was realistic.

First the press release. The reaction was astounding. As we were told it would be. It was. Front page of the New York Times and Washington Post; mentions on thousands of TV shows including some pretty funny lines from Leno. I got calls from radio stations in Japan, Russia and the UK. First time I got to be on a Russian talk show! Then of course there was the “Sirius has Stern…XM has Dylan” comparisons. Pretty absurd. But in a way it does illustrate the differences in our companies, especially in terms of musical integrity and goals. However using Bob Dylan as a competitive advantage never really occurred to us…it’s not about that. It’s about something much higher.

What has impressed me the most is how intensely Bob and his associates are taking this. This ain’t no radio show. This is an epic. We talked through the vision. I Was expecting to guide then through the process, but in reality their vision was exactly what I hoped it would be. Theater-of-the-Mind. Americana radio. The glory of an AM from 500 miles away at 3am. Whacked humor. Ear Candy. Arthur Godfrey meets Bob Dylan…in 2006. Eddie Gorodetsky, a legend of his own, was brought on to help Bob produce the show. Their team is set to make magic. Eddie’s request for tapes of old jingles, air checks and ads so hokey that they are genius made me very confident.

We first got copies of the song lists. For technical reasons we need to make sure they are in our system. As deep as the XM library his, they had us stumped on a few. Good! Symbolizes that the musical direction will break every radio rule. Perfect. In fact that they have no clue about what a traditional radio show should look and sound like means that the show WILL be a PURE reflection of Bob and uncompromised for mass consumption. I believe that because the show IS so unusual that it WILL be mass appeal…but certainly not by trying to be.

Now there’s our team which is about Half the Company! Our technical and production people, marketing people, press, and the list goes on. The key is that EVERYONE at XM is in sync with the vibe as much as the timeline. Because the show is produced on Bob’s terms, it’s different. There are a million moving parts that go into each show. A true “production”…radio theater. As expected, the look and smell on our end leaned a bit traditional, or maybe a bit standard. So copies of his book, scrapbook, videos and other items were dispatched to everyone involved. The programming people instantly “got” the vibe…others who are involved in the traditional marketing of XM needed some guidance, though at the end, everyone got into the unique and powerful attitude that this show conveys and everyone in all camps seems pleased with the way the show is being represented. It’s a fine line. We have to have to make certain that this concept is presented artistically and intelligently while not getting TOO cool for the room. Personally I think erring on the side of too cool suits us best in this case. Reason: It IS too cool—and there are a lot of people who WANT too cool from their media.

Every Monday at Noon we have a meeting/conference call with Bob’s team. Bob’s not in on the call…I don’t think Bob does Conference calls. Dealing with this project is so refreshingly music driven. The language is Radio Theater. Integrity. Quality. Keeping everyone motivated is NOT a problem, but there is a significant challenge in that this show launch involves so many pieces.

Last Friday I had the chance to present the idea to the ENTIRE XM marketing force. Had a five minute demo that included dozens of major artists talking a bout Bob that we culled from our Artist Confidential series. Priceless comments from Coldplay, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Judy Collins, Phil Collins and many more. At the end of the CD there was BOB DYLAN talking about the show. Surreal. It really was Bob. And he was talking about the show. Had a PowerPoint, but kind of tossed it to wax on about the show hopefully better than A PowerPoint. The main point was that this was actually happening!! And that this is NOT a normal show…its Bob Dylan. Putting the PowerPoint was interesting. It had to look pro…but it had to have grittiness to it to illustrate the character.

Another conference call in an hour. We’re getting close to ShowTime.



Immediately upon arriving at XM in 1998, part of the mission was going into the daydream zone. Incessantly thinking about what this thing what going to SOUND like. The mandate was to bring together something that re-invents radio. Something that people will gladly pay a few bucks for. Something can will be an icon of the emerging new age in technology and sound. Generating FANS and not users. One of the things that we all knew was that the artist community would love and embrace the liberation of the playlist. To play careers…not JUST hits. Who should WE embrace? Who should WE bring to the party? Quincy Jones, Snoop Dogg, Wynton Marsalis and an army of others that reek quality and commitment have come aboard. But there was ONE name that kept me sleepless. Bob Dylan. This guy IS XM. Or at least what we drive to be: Revolutionary. Intelligent. Rebellious. Different. Timeless….and oddly enough he wrote our anthem in The Times They Are a Changin.

Getting through was not easy. The label was pretty useless. Of course the label usually owns the plastic...the managers own the artist...in Bob's case it was appearing that Bob owns Bob, and there lies the challenge. I tried one of his managers. We had a cordial breakfast in LA, he looked a a few proposals, but really couldn't get much traction. At the time I had no clue how complex and un-ordinary the Bob Dylan thing works. Most major artists have a back door. Bob was pretty isolated, but that is why he's Bob Dylan. The mystery. The purity. The intangible magic one should expect from one of the great poets of any generation.

I kept trying. Every angle. Nothing. Then I heard that Bob owned something like 12 XM Radios and he loved it. The more I read and studied Bob--partially out of admiration...partially out of trying to sway him into a relationship. Hell, this is the guy that helped me write the soundtrack to MY life. In 1962 my older brother saw him at the Gate of Horn in Chicago. The legendary Folk Mecca run by Bob's one time manager Albert Grossman. I was into Bobby Vee, who ironically Bob points out as a mentor and fellow North Central US alumni from Fargo. But upon hearing Bob, I was educated. Not unlike hearing the Beatles. A musical version of the monolith in the 2001 series. "Something" that elevates you to a higher musical place. So with that all said---This battle for Bob has just started.

I talked to a lot of artists and high level music types. No one really had much of a feel for this. There were the agents and artists who've worked with him, but there didn't seem to be the one "guy" that could unlock the door. The more I listened to Bob's work, the more emotional I got. There are two sides of me musically--One is the hardened programmer who battles for lsteners, the other is whimpering muso that cries at the raw emotion of anything from a cinematic wide screen pictorial Classical piece to a touchingly well sung Gene Pitney wail to a PInk Floyd or early Yes song that hits a space beyond the threshold of consciousness to a favorite oldie. I was geeting into that "zone" with Bob which is an emotionally dangerous but inspiring place.

A few breaks came along. The first one was that XM's pal Willie Nelson was touring with Bob last year. Hmmmm...Willie is coming in to do an ARTIST CONFIDENTIAL, maybe he can bring Bob too. Willie alone is magic---with Bob, it could be well...historic. When I asked Willie he said "I've been on the road with Bob for a month...haven't seen him yet....have you?". Oh well, Willie along with his band and Son were awesome enough. But the Bob thing lingered.

Miraculously, I am put in contact with his business manager, an incredible guy behind so much of what Bob does. We talk a few times, exchange e-mails, and he comes for a visit to DC. we hit it off immediately! Telling tales of the golden days of music and radio. I give him a few copies of Billboard from the 50's and Melody Maker (The essential UK Rock publication of the 60's & 70's). We share the same passion for Americana, for those 50kw AM's at 3am from 600 miles away in the early 60's. He gets pitched by EVERYONE but I think he has strong passion radar and can see through the typical BS he sees daily. I think I, and more importantly XM passed the test. He’s too smart to not have had his BS detector set to high wjen we met. I couldn't fake it. XM couldn't fake it. He met Hugh Panero our CEO and he said "You know Bob is not a "CEO" kind of guy"---but Hugh delivered the goods as a person who "gets" the idea of Bob and XM...from a musical standpoint. I credit Hugh for this because he could have done a CEO rap and talked about the business impact...but the conversation focused on the musical impact. Sure, there are deal points, but it was more about coming to terms with XM being a logical and comfortable radio home for Bob. Without that, deal points are irrelivent. This is about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for art and technology to merge. For Bob fucking Dylan to play on a new stage....XM. Everyone can win here because this thing is for the right reasons.

The next step now that "contact" has been made was to figure out HOW Bob could be involved. It was verified that Bob loves XM and listens to our Hanks Place and Bluesville channels religiously. Not surprised. Hanks Place is the kind of radio that is, by design, modeled after a Country station in Lubbock circa 1956. Smell the speakers and you smell Stale Lone Star Beer and freshly spat Red Man. Bluesville is as organic as radio can get. Together they represent that gritty, zero BS soulful radio that defines the story of America.

At first there's talk about a Bob Dylan Channel. Well, we COULD do that, and it would make a great press release.
But then what. Bob couldn't possibly oversee that and at the end of the day everyone would be disappointed. The fans....and Bob. Too much to manage. Too complicated. IF Bob would give up his career to run it--OK. But reality set in and we thought about what Bob could actually do that has NO compromises, that he totally controls and that speaks volumes a bout his spirit, intellect and vibe...but isn't some cheesy tell all where he explains Blowin In The Wind. It was decided....A weekly radio show. One where he dreams it up and delivers...on his terms. I am ecstatic. Bob's passion for Americana radio...his people having a grasp of how Bob ticks, at least as anyone other than Bob can...and Bob. I know him. Through his poetry, history and music. I don't REALLY know him, but I have a strong sense of what he can deliver on the radio with all of the stars lining up.

Speaking of Stars lining up, they have. Weather it's by design or pure chance, Bob seems to be opening up....a bit. I sense he'll go to the grave as a mysterious genius and musicologists two centuries from now will be waxing on about his vision. But for now, he did 60 Minutes...the book...the Scorcese documentary. This window may never open again. It is now a personal mission to see that this thing happens. It's not about the deal. It's about the extraordinary opportunity to hear Bob in his own words. To peek inside the soul of a master. To subtly observe the inside his soul without disturbing the mystique. This is not about a quick PR hit. This symbolizes XM's commitment to long term excellence. Baseball ain't going away...it's part of our cultures DNA. So is Bob. Quick hits fade. Quality lasts. Most radio today is so focused on the quick hit...the quick buck that it's creative balls are being cut off and America hears it. Bob is more than a "content deal", it literally symbolizes our musical position. As Bob liberated the word, we hope to liberate the ears. It is a marriage from the Gods.

OK---there is an opportunity--now what??!! We know that Bob Dylan is not an amiable hippy who will mindlessly sign on the line. He and his associates are smart. This has to work for them. There's a balance of art and business at play.

Next: THE DYLAN DIARY (PART 2)---Putting it together