THE DYLAN DIARY (PART TWO)
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.
NEXT: THE DYLAN DIARY (PART 3)---The Launch