Tuesday, May 30, 2006


The Dixie Chicks performed an ARTIST CONFIDENTIAL at our Jazz at Lincoln Center facility in New York last week. I personally don't like the kind of music they do, but there sure are a lot of people that DO and combine that with their volatile point of view and you've got a pretty electric version of the series. I really wish they hadn't made those comments about Bush. Not for political reasons but because it's yet one more thing that trivializes music and fuels the whole celebrity driven state of the art. They were really outstanding as singers...their band was airtight and solid, but you couldn't help thinking about "the incident"---it clouded the perception of the sounds.

I really could give a damn about what an artist thinks politically. Many people were hurt by their opinion including themselves, and I can sympathize with that too...but the POINT is that it drives me nuts when artists get political outside of their art...actually let me change that--It drives me nuts that people actually care about what an artist thinks outside of their art. Recently there was a "teen pop princess" waxing on about Iraq. It was pretty deep. "Like war is so uncool...like people get hurt and stuff...like it's really not cool". It went downhill from there. There are so many intellectual and educated observations on both sides of the political scale to draw opinions from, but so many people gravitate toward the celebrity for guidance. It's a reality of the modern world, but so symbolic of the often transparency of celebrity.

I wish artists would express themselves via music rather than tabloids.

The lyrics can say so much more and say it with such power.

In any case, the Dixie Chicks were strong musically and engaging people, I just wish they had said "it" with music rather than social commentary outside of the song. Or...I wish people would draw their opinions from a wider and more credible source of input than celebrities. Jimi Hendrix said more about the state of our Nation with his electric Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock than he could ever say in a magazine. Bob Dylan didn't need to say ANYTHING beyond what he said in "The Times they are a Changin"....The power of an artist’s opinion is in their music. The random political commentary can work against the artist. You can re-enforce a point of view much stronger through lyrics and musical attitude than any other means….and it just fuels this notion that celebrities define our culture.
To me, that’s an intellectually dead end street.

In any case, The Dixie Chicks were great…and we look beyond their POV and focus on the musical output.

On a lighter note---Bob Dylan did an amazing show about Baseball. He actually SANG "Take me out to the Ballgame". Baseball and radio are such a magical combination. Great play by play is an art form. It DEFINES theater-of-the-mind. We had a baseball boot camp recently where we tried marrying the qualities of music radio with sports radio. Sports radio can get as clichéd as Music Radio. But somewhere in the middle there's a point where the excitement of music radio thinking intersects with the spirit of Baseball...and I think we're there. The morning show on Channel 175 is worth listening to. These guys go far beyond recapping the games. They take the baseball experience to a new level. These guys aren't sports talk guys...they are REAL players tellin' it like it really is...and they're a gas to listen to.

Musically, we operate on a few arguable theories, actually there are hundred of them, and they are hard to explain in writing, but a few include:

*16-20: Historically the music people like before 16 is fleeting. You kind of go through phases based on what's cool at the moment. Might be looks...fashion...hot trends. Then around 16-20 you go into the "musically formative years" where you really lock into a sound. You get hyper critical. Things you don't like tend to "suck". When I was 16, there would be fist fights over who is a better: Cream or the Rascals. Before 16 I kind of went with the flow...but come those formative years, and music becomes a powerful personal statement. After the formative years of 16-20, you are somewhat locked into YOUR sound. You evolve, but your roots are firmly planted in where you were musically 16-20. That's the KEY to Classic Rock. Once a 50 year old has tasted those 16-20 era artists, that's the reference point. New music would need to be an evolution of that sound to gain personal traction....or you are simply satisfied with that sound. It's YOUR sound. Take a 50 year old today, if that 50 year old is musically adventurous, I can guarantee you that he or she was into the "Album artists" of the early 70's. If another 50 year old in 2006 was into Top 40 back then, that person is likely into AC today. In other words, they didn't suddenly at the age of 30 or 40 discover adventurous or progressive music.
The musical architecture of a person is designed during those musically formative years. Back in the 70's, we distributed "call back cards" where whenever someone bought an album we got a card with their name and phone # with the Album they bought. We'd then call them back a week later to find out what cuts they liked...and what they thought of the Album after living with it for a week. This was effective in determining which cuts to play. About ten years ago, we called people back (with about a 10% success rate) to see what they were into 20 years later. The 16-20 thing REALLY came into play as it was totally clear about peoples' evolution musically and the power of the 16-20 years. It also led to the pretty obvious discovery of where Classic Rock on FM has failed itself. A person may have bought an album and really liked 8 cuts. Then Classic Rock researched it down to one cut, leaving 7 popular cuts in the delete bin, creating the "enough already"! thing, where you ask "Do you like Born to Run"? Answer: Yes! "Do you want to hear it again on the radio"? 'No!--Enough already"--cant you find something ELSE to play by him? Our belief is that Classic Rock is about CAREERS not just SONGS and in many ways Classic Rock is like ANY music form that touches a generation in the 16-20 region going back to the earliest Classical...you need to deliver the complete package, not just a taste of the biggest pieces. The 16-20 thing also debunks the "music is for youth" thing. Yes--it STARTS with youth, but music hangs with you for life. I recall a major manager once telling me from backstage that "The kids are really loving the show"....Upon looking out at the audience the average age of "the kids" was about 35!
From a programming viewpoint, a station that targets under 16 is all about the moment...16-20 it's all about being in the trenches and violently supporting and nurturing the tastes, over 20 it's about celebration of the music that a listener is rooted in.

*Cult/Fringe: Every popular artist has two kinds of fans. Cult members are TOTALLY into the artist. They know the bass players' name...they may travel 300 miles to see a gig. A Fringe fan likes the artist for the latest single. Cult artists include Yes, Phish, Miles Davis, etc....Fringe artists include Foreigner, Mariah Carey, etc...
Then the ultimate commercially is the artists who have a balance: U2, The Stones, etc... This is of course highly over-simplified but it's an effective tool in determining the degree of exposure and depth an artist's fans are best suited for. With a cult artist it's insane to play "the hits"...these fans want to hear everything. On the other hand it's doubtful there's much demand for depth from Foreigner as those fans crave the hit tracks and are pretty uninterested in the other tracks. The combination Cult/Fringe artists are the ones that you go nuts with across many channels--some focusing on the hits, others delivering the nuggets.

Music programming has in my opinion become this mindless game of numbers. There is SO much more to it. Every artist, every listener, every channel is different. Music programming is a complex issue. THAT'S THE PROBLEM today. Failure to try to understand the complexities involved in the PROGRAMMING of music . There's a tendency to do everything the easy way--Play the hits...watch the other stations...apply the Top 40 principles to EVERY format. Ouch! That sucks. We may not have the answers but it's a mission to understand what listeners want...knowing how far we can go before we get too cool for the room...UNDERSTANDING as much as we can about capturing the soul of every genre and delivering the goods FAN TO FAN not "Corporate Radio to Radio Consumer".

...I'll have a few more of these arguable theories coming in the next few weeks.

Just got back from Chicago for a 3 day weekend. Flew into Midway Airport and thanks to my tail number of 101XM, we were treated royally as the ground personnel were all XM fans. After a quick focus group on the tarmac we were downed out by 2 departing Southwest 737's....We had two Soul Street fans, a Bluesville fan, a 60's fan, and three White Sox fans. I really liked listening to WGN. They really have the pulse of Chicago. One of the few remaining truly "local" stations. But there was this new Oldies station on FM. The music was pretty decent. Wide...not the typical oldies station were you'd hear respect twice a day. But the production was THE worst I have ever heard. It was SO bad, I thought they were kidding. It was comedic it was so clichéd. I ended up listening mostly to AM stations with some cool ones trapped at the right end of the AM dial. Didn't have satellite. I guess the cars equipped with it were all rented.

This week at XM looks pretty interesting. We're going to take a group photo of the Programming Staff. Last one we took was in 2000 for a trade magazine. We had hoped to take it on the roof of XM but were advised that the roof might collapse as the staff has grown pretty big. I'd like to take it at the Greyhound Station down the street or at the legendary "Bens Chili Bowl" in downtown DC...give it some character. Not sure I'll win this one.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Most people passionate about radio have an all-time favorite station. Usually it’s one they grew up with. That station you’d listen to late at night under the covers. The station would paint pictures with the music and the magic that happened between the songs. Often it was a cinematic experience. True theater of the mind. It was for me. When I first started listening to radio I was amazed that the “fact” that the jingle singers would march into the studio every few minutes and sing the jingles…always perfect. Of course I later discovered that they were tapes, but it was fun while it lasted. That was just part of the experience. It was a soundtrack to life.
Mesmerizing. I feel bad for younger people today who may have first gotten turned on to radio during the 90’s—the consolidation era. Many have NEVER heard a “great” station. That’s probably a core reason why so may under 30 find the Internet or other technologies far more engaging than radio. I’ve run into 18 year olds who think radio sucks…always has…always will. I try to explain that XM isn’t the kind of radio they’re used to...but the point remains that they were born too late to know of radios potential magic.

My life changing station wasn’t WLS in Chicago where I grew up. WLS was a wonderful station, but to me nothing tops WQAM in Miami circa 1966. They had it all. We used to drive from Chicago to Miami on Holidays. You’d go through Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville, Atlanta, Jacksonville and every city has stations that reflected the character of the region. Make that same trip today and the local stations all tend to bind together into a very generic sound. But rewinding back to the mid sixties, the trip was capped by WQAM coming into range:

STAFF: You could feel the camaraderie. They were cool. I loved that they took their two local teen
idols-- Roby Yonge (later known as the populizer of the Paul is Dead rumor while on WABC) and Rick Shaw-- and “packaged” them together as the “Rick ‘n’ Roby”
show. I now believe they didn’t really know what they were doing as a station, but it worked. There was no research, just a keen understanding of what the audience wanted…and man, did they deliver. They were probably making 200 bucks a week…and probably a ton more from appearances…but that didn’t matter back then-- they were genuine stars.

THE COMPETITION: They murdered WFUN. WFUN had 20/20 news, so QAM had 20/20 Twin Spins. When the Beatles played Jacksonville, FUN rented a bus..then QAM came back with a fleet of buses…then FUN countered with a DC 7 Prop…QAM checkmated with a DC 8 Jet to take listeners there…it was that kind of battle…and WQAM always prevailed.

THE PRODUCTION: There was no more densely produced station on earth. It was Technicolor. You might here five pieces of production between two songs…but it worked. Short bits. Long jingles. Homemade stuff. They knew how to use production to manufacture excitement. It was riveting. They had this old device called a Mackenzie in the studio which allowed the DJ’s to rapid-fire production without loading tape cartridges. These DJ’s were master of the lost art of doing a SHOW, not a Shift. A machine gun barrage of sound that pulsated rather than rattled.

MUSIC: They had The Fabulous 56 Survey and they actually played all 56 songs. They were on the edge musically. The station was anchored in the hits, but the DJ’s had such cred that if they thought a new song was cool, you’d believe it…or at least listen and check it out. And they relished being first on songs…they SOLD that to listeners. Music was in their DNA and you could hear it.

THE STATON CAR: A blown-out GTO, of course, and it was actually driven around South Florida not parked in the back lot until a remote broadcast from a car dealer on a Saturday.

VIABILITY: They were everywhere. No Billboards or print…but they CREATED events. They had TIGERS’ DENS (They were “Tiger Radio”) around the area for dances…later in 68 they put on the legendary Miami pop Festival complete with George Harrison doing promos saying “maybe we’ll see you there” (they never showed). They seemed to avoid the goofy car wash remotes and focus on events that were in sync with the vibe of the era…Surfing Contests, for example.
They of course had their own magazine and their weekly music survey was available EVERYWHERE. It was the Bible of music in South Florida.

INTERACTION: They were masters at the phone. Requests...they even had high school stringers reporting on local school info. “Fortune Phone” was one of their premier contests…far before the resurgence of phone contesting in the 70’s & 80’s. By today’s standards the station was extremely cluttered...but again, it worked.

ANTICIPATON: You hated to tune out because you might miss SOMETHING. And they always delivered. The DJ’s seemed to have this telepathic rapport with the listeners. Spontaneous. Madness. Always ON IT.

CLICHES. They had every one in the book. But they INVENTED most of them!

WHAT HAPPENNED: Things unraveled for WQAM in the early 70’s. Most importantly, culture changed dramatically in the late 60’s: Moon landings, Drug Revolution, Sexual revolution. Riots in the streets, Viet Nam. WQAM was SO firmly rooted in the middle-60s Surf generation that they just couldn’t cut through. Add to that the emergence of FM, a new generation of artists that hardly identified with the WQAM era, and many unfortunate internal issues like a strike, firing their kingpin Rick Shaw, a haircut rule amongst the jocks and a management-forced deal where they had to wear these goofy blazers with a happy tiger on them to public appearances and a general losing of the vibe. OK in the Paul Revere and the Raiders era…kinda stupid in the Jimi Hendrix era. WQAM was one of the first Top 40s ever, a Todd Storz station. A guy credited, along with Gordon McLendon, with inventing the Top 40 format. My former partner Kent Burkhart was the original Program Director. Rumor has it that Top 40 was invented while sitting in a coffee shop, noticing that the patrons kept playing the same hit songs over and over—thus the “repeated play concept” aka Top 40. It was probably a bar. I can’t imagine sitting in a coffee shop all day. Anyways, WQAM dominated in the late 50s…then to cut costs they were probably the first popular station to automate. They died. Then they scrapped the automation in 63 in time for the Beatles invasion and in 64-68 they were untouchable. It seemed like an eternity, but to me that magic was a fleeting four-year spread. It shows how greatness is fleeting if you don’t work at it.

Monday, May 15, 2006



Mike Marrone is PD of the Loft. He’s extremely opinionated about EVERYTHING…I suppose that’s one of the reasons the LOFT is so effective. He cares…has high standards and no shortage of moxie about what gets on or off the channel. What really gets me though is when he starts doing his “New Jersey is superior” routine. Not easy for a Chicago guy like me to handle. He’s always ragging on the joys of Jersey pizza. So for years I’ve been asking him to let me fly him in my plane up to Jersey so he can take me to the joints he grew up around. Never took me up on it claiming to be scared to death of heights.

Recently I took one of our marketing guys up to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. One of the cool things of the XM MLB deal is primo access to places like this. Once Marrone heard about this trip he put his fears aside and decided to make the trip. However the weekend we were to fly there was a snowstorm up there so I challenged him to come with me instead to Jersey to settle the pizza dispute. Oddly enough he agreed.

We piled into my plane N101XM. He was freaked. I had to give him a hood used to practice instrument flying (aka blinders) to wear so he couldn’t look out the window fearing a complete freak out. Once we taxied out to BWI’s Runway 33L he ripped the hood off and decided to “face it like a man” and actually look out the window while I flew. We landed in Monmouth New Jersey an hour later…we were in the clouds most of the way so Mike couldn’t look out the window and see much other than grey cloud interior. Upon landing he rented a car and proceeded to give me the grand tour of the Jerseys shore. I learned where Springsteen bought his guitar strings in ’72 and some vacant lot where the Sniveling Shits first performed during the late 70’s Punk Heyday. Unfortunately the KIA had no XM. Not even Sirius. We were to listen to FM only. At first we couldn’t find a station NOT playing an ad, but as he toured me across the shore, we settled into FM land. First channel was a place he used to work. G-105 or something like that. Every cliché in the book. Every song sounded exactly the same and the DJ was some poor guy told to talk incessantly about some “Gorillaz weekend giving you a chance to win tickets to a Gorillaz show”. Talked up to the post. The DJ was probably impressed…listeners probably insulted, or really were simply conditioned to this level of music disrespect/radioisms…I found it amusing in how dated of an approach that is. Music was an afterthought next to his constant bombarding of this goofy promotion. That’s ALL there was to the station. Hype and songs presented in an old school “DeeeJaaay” way. Lot’s of circa 1978 Star Wars laser effects. Next we tried a Public station that he also used to work for…The Knight or something like that. Too cool to say who they were I guess. Not too bad—at least the DJ’s didn’t yell at you with inane liners and radio-speak. The music mix was free form that was GREAT for two songs…then lost it. That’s the problem with free form, just not enough discipline to have any sense of consistency. It’s always TOO free or too tight. I pray that we get that balance down at XM. It’s a matter of programming music for what LISTENERS in 2006 want rather than the 1980’s model. Not praying to the gods of Arbitron, flawed research and Ad Sales. In trying to find this public station we came across our own Jonathan Schwartz doing his weekend show. Pure Jonathan. Interesting, but I know what he’s all about, so back to the other stations. Hey! We can get New York radio…lets check out NEW-FM. OUCH. Did they suck. What a classic tale of blowing something. A legendary channel completely mis-evolved. They could have monster numbers if they would have evolved with their root audience that grew up with WNEW as a musical beacon. The Hall of Shame.

Then there’s Jack. The thing that gets me about Jack stations is the sheep factor. OK—so the focus groups said listeners want more variety and surprise, etc…Fine. But do they say the station MUST be named Bob, Steve, Mike, Jack or Tom?? This is insane. Underscores that no-one seems to be thinking. The sheep factor. WHY does it have to have some guys name. Jack is fine…but can’t anyone come up with another name? The classic focus group channel. Defined by the research—OK---but then there’s NO creative element to balance the data. It’s all by the book. Every Jack type station smells the same. By the Book. That’s why I believe it’ll inevitably fail. Well anyways, not much to this station. A lot of music. But then there’s the production. Pretty important when production and music are the only elements. It was more lies. I like the “We” play what we want. Who’s “we”?? There ain’t any we. Then the bit about how they play what they want. NO they don’t—they play a tested list just like everyone else. It’s called “Marketing” change rather than doing anything. Aka: a lie. All in all they were tolerable but from one of the Worlds’ entertainment Mecca’s, New York deserves something a little more engaging. They are a “focus group: concept. Creating something rooted in focus groups. You can HEAR that. To a listener, it’s just dull…not horrible…just soul-less. What a shame as radio is all about Soul. Imagination. Taking you on a trip. I don’t think they “get it”…it’s more about the station as something that can be culturally significant—or at least TRIES to be. Then there was the Classic Rock station. They were typical. Boring to the point of pain. Kept going back to that Public station that if they had some discipline, a better signal and a little focus could be at least somewhat compelling. Both stations sounded so tired…so old…so dated. None of he magic of old radio…just the baggage…with no NEW magic to counter he baggage. Basically—it was boring.

By now Marrone was waxing on about what he would do to fix the station…this evolved into conversations about XM. Constructive stuff. A little argumentative---in a good way. I guess that’s part of XM’s potential—the ability to brainstorm and act on the ideas. Then we started talking about Bob Dylan coming to XM to do a show. Funny thing about Bob. He has NO idea what a radio show is “supposed” to sound like. Because of that, he's stunningly original and…Bob. Picture 1949 style Radio with Bob’s POV done for 2006.

By this time, the FM tour was over and had to check AM. No surprises, but more entertaining than FM by a mile. The whole experience underscored how
Pathetic FM has become. All rote. No meat. All based on the 1980 playbook. Utilities rather than cinematic entertainment sources.

We tried to hit a used CD store, but they were closed. Market shriveled due to downloading. Then we wanted to hit a guitar store…but too financially dangerous.
So we hit the Pizza joint, Palumbo’s…then onto a genuine Italian cannoli place. Pure Jersey. ONLY if the radio even remotely captured the vibe…the food sure did. There was attitude in the air….just not on the radio

Headed back to BWI. Mike took roughly 30 pounds of Jersey Italian food back with him. Plane still smells like a pizzeria. Hit some Ice and crappy weather…fortunately the XM Weather in my plane guided us through, though I’m glad Mike had NO idea of the conversations between me and the controllers which were mostly about vectors around the heavy ice. Pizza coma I guess, dotted with discussions on Dave Mason and music in general between calls to New York Center, the air traffic facility monitoring the flight.

Upon arrival, the clouds cleared and Mike made it. He was beaming. A fear conquered. No barf bags, just a plane load of Italian delicacies from Jersey. One problem. Mike forgot to turn the rental car in. Oops.

We do these Flights to nowhere every weekend. The radio listening really points to the importanmce of DOING SOMETHING on air about the current state. And they sure beat the standard meetings under fluorescent lights in some office. These trips are reality checks…AND- Pizza rocked.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006



Well, radio didn't die. It entered the true golden age. Guys like Todd Storz and Gordon Mc Lendon "re-invented" radio with the Top 40 Concept, which is the foundation for most every competitive format 1955-onwards. Storz and McLendon were the marketing, carney and science guys. The "personality" was actually started by the great Black DJ's of the 40's like Al Benson on Chicago's WGES. Guys like Al Benson were rude, crude, and positively engaging. Combine that "personality" with the science, marketing and carney, target it to a mainstream audience, and the explosion was on. TV? Sure it was red hot...but so was radio as it was re-borne in the mid 50's on the AM band.

By 1970, AM was tired..burnt out and FM took the lead and revolutionized radio just as potently as AM did in 1955. Now, FM is tired and burnt out, and the answer is whoever delivers! Part of our job is to help make damn sure that XM does to FM what FM did to AM…but at the end of the day, assuming equal signal reach. Best content is going to win

Radio keeps re-inventing itself as if by divine intervention. Radio revolutions then chokes itself through greed, inattention and somehow forgetting the building blocks of the revolution that got them there in the first place.

The following is a list of the key Building Blocks that created each Radio revolution.....followed by the elements that killed each revolution.
Besides the "movement" in radio back in 55 and 70, every...yes EVERY great radio station built and possibly destroyed themselves on the following points. By "great" station , I mean stations that LASTED 20 years...stations that had HUGE ratings...stations that others copied.

The point of all this is that XM has the opportunity to revolutionize...and the rules/building blocks are identical to those of what made 1955 and 1970 an era of change. These are things we strive for..., but the following lists are void of the trimmings and get right down to the KEYS that are the basics to COMING THROUGH on the promise of Amazing Radio in the fashion of prior revolutions....

Here are the factors that created the radio revolutions and the Great Stations:

*Technology. transistor radios in '55...Stereo in '70. Without the transistor radio...AM could have died in 53. Without Stereo, FM may never have grown to it's current proportion. Digital is now and there’ll be other innovations in the future.

*Music. A music shift that radio responds to and aggressively popularizes. '55 Rock n Roll. "Album", Post Soul Urban and etc…

*Production. In 55 it was jingles, news intros, weather jingles, overblown hype (it worked because it was NEW)...In '70, the mellowing out...the less plastic sound...as well as a Harder more in your face approach. Production is to radio what visuals are to movies and ads. TV Ads in particular continually evolve....Vastly new and fresh production had the same effect on the stations . New sound Production was as arresting as the NEW visuals in Kubrick’s 2001 or Star Wars or any shockingly fresh new eye treat....except for the ears...but the stimulation ends up in the same place--the head. Sound is to radio what color is to film.

*Features. A.k.a "trademarks." The Silver Dollar Survey Countdown and Coke Hit Parade in 50's...Chickenman in the 60's....AT 40 in the 70s for example. Block Party Weekends in the 80’s.

*In Sync. Hip. Current. Street saavy. When an early Top 40 or an early FM DJ talked...people listened. The DJs were as cool as the stars.

*Love/Passion. Stations were families. Not unlike bands who love each other at first...but over time want to kill each other (once successful)

*Audience Respect. No tricks. Honesty. Treating listeners as FANS and never screwing with them. Never lying about "15 in a row"...being the best by actions and truths not brags. Bragging has SO little credability that it's a key reason no one "believes" FM promos anymore.

*Personalities. Biondi, Lujack, Steele etc... Other than Morning shows, the average Joe can't name a single DJ on any given station today….AND “personality” was NOT limited to Mornings. These days there seems to be an unwritten law that says interesting talent on music radio must cease at 10am. Of course thre ARE some music concepts where DJ’s are an irritant, but mabe that’s because they have nothing to say that compliments the music.

*THE musical information source. You found out about EVERYTHING musical on the radio not in print or TV.

*Completeness. In the 50s & 60s it was News, Sports, Countdowns, Million Dollar Weekends, Printed Surveys, DJ's doing hops. In 70s it was Block Party Weekends, Truly sponsoring concerts, King Biscuit, Mascots. Now it's Morning Show, Billboards up and a tested library.

*Local. Truly local and involved. PART OF THE CITY. (For XM... we think NORTH AMERICA as our locality)

*Smarteners. You learned from the radio. It wasn't BS. Jocks said something..no stupid clichés and mindless DJ chatter.

*Musical Digging. No relying on research and trades. DJs/PDs DUG..WORKED to find great songs to play. Imports, Flea Markets....

*BLATANTLY/OBVIOUSLY new ideas. Out with the old. This sound is NEW....and obviously so.

*Anticipation. You couldn't turn a station off in fear of "missing something"

*Claimed artists. Owned them. Absolutely tied at the hip to them.

*Attitude through authenticity. Hired people who "got it" and never had to worry about attitude. The attidude was in the blood of the staff. Kinda like our Liquid Metal vs. a "Rock 40" station. XMLM IS the audience....At a Rock 103 point whatever, they need angry production to mask the fact that the Staff has outgrown the music & spirit.

*Promoting the station. Being smart or aware enough to realize that if YOU don't tell the audience...they aren't going to find out through osmosis. Gotta aggressively and constantly plug EVENTS/HAPPENNINGS on your and in our case other channels. New Eagles out today...if this were 1965, the channel would play the cut every hour....Go over the top in making it known that you have it!

*Star Pull. The stars visited because trey had to and wanted to...not because their label was trying to sell something.

*Guerilla tactics. Stunts...FM converter days. NON TRADITIONAL WAYS of attracting attention

*Thinking. People were creative. THINKING. CREATING NEW ANGLES AND METHODS. Today, radio is on autopilot.

*PRIDE. Willingness to plug the WHOLE STATION because you're proud of THE WHOLE STATION

*Positive Attitude. Whiners or chronic complainers, historically, don't last long. They get in the way of the mission. A station needs a positive attitude…swagger. You can HEAR the negativity in the halls on so many stations.

*Sense of War/Mission. It's not a job. It's a battle. Permeates every corner of the buildong. WAR footing. Don't see that much anymore….at least in programming departments. The War seems to be in sales. That’s fine but that’s like having a Navy without an Army.

*Quality Radar. A bad piece of production....a bad or wrong record simply nver got on the air (with the exception of the occassional free form station...but those, while interesting NEVER reached the ratings or long term success to be in the "great"class)

*Graphics. Not really a programming function, but the revolution was characterized by a new "look" for stations.

OK, those are a few of the key points that made these stations and created the revolution. Don't get absorbed in "sure, we do that already"...Bullshit. We come close and we're getting there...but these "points" are more than vague concepts...they are critically important to AFDI. In all due respect, we don't have a single channel that does ALL of the above consistently. Often due to manpower & workload...sometimes by not fully grasping the importance of EVERY point. We do sound splendid overall so don't take this the wrong way.....My point is that a Radio revolution is a LONG TERM project!

Here are the killers. The things that killed AM..and are killing FM creatively:

*Technology. Not much AM could do, or in time that FM can do. Keeping step with technology has NEVER been more critical.

*Dated architecture. Airplanes are constantly evolving with new features...so are Hotels, Films etc....Radio tends to rely on its architecture until the damn building is crumbling. Traditional Air-LINES are a current model of failing architecture

*NOT embracing New music trends. The failure to understand with the utmost empathy, the changes in music, are deadly. It’s easy for a programmer to age and fight the emerging sounds. Happened in 56 with a failure to accept Rock n Roll…happened in 69 with a failure to accept the new Rock…happens EVERY generation.

*Tired, out of touch DJs. Their name isn't hip anymore..they're out of sync and sad. We all know a few of these. The spirit is drained.

*Old Production. FM is still in 1988 yelling at you with Star Wars laser beam sound effects and big “bite me” voices for example.

*Abbreviated Radio. Music, DJ, Spot,Jingle, Music, DJ, Spots, Jingle . Over simplified. NO MEAT.

*Research. There is GOOD research and it is good...but BAD research seems to rule terrestrial radio. If traditional radio research worked, there would be no need for XM because the 8,500 stations that rely on it would be SO in touch that listeners would LOVE the current state of FM. It's all about balancing ART with SCIENCE where ART rules...but SCIENCE tells you if your art is working. But so much radio research is obviously flawed.

*Ads. Too many. FM scored big with 8 minutes an hour vs.. 18 on AM...FM today? You know that answer! An economic reality? Maybe, but that doesn’t solve the issue.

*Shifts not Shows. If you told the Real Don Steele that his show was a SHIFT, he'd punch you out. Steelworkers do shifts, entertainers do shows.

*Forgot Local. With the exception of the great WGN type stations, most radio has totally gone Town-less.

*Audience Love. Forgot how to Love & respect the listeners. Started feeding them tricks, clichés and garbage in the name of “numbers. Numbers happen after you deliver the goods—they can’t drive the goods.

*Manana. In the early AM & FM days...everything was at light speed. Urgency. the fight to stay AHEAD of the competition...ahead of the curve. Nowadays, he urgency is gone. "I'll get to it later after I do my schedules" (BOTH are important)

*Programming not scheduling. Early FM used to have cool sets....Early Top 40 the same. Now, its rare to find imagination in a mix.

*Denial. In 1970 the NAB would allow FM Stations. History is repeating itself.
"FM is a fad that negatively affects the great AM leaders." were opening statements at the '69 NAB in Chicago.

*Politics. Infighting is a sure sign of the "breakdown" of a revolution or great station.

*Dumbing Down. Lowest Common denominator...instead of thinking UP. Inform. lead. Let listeners learn from YOU.

*No point of view: Its a no rap, no metal, no commercials, no talk weekend. It's also a No Interest weekend.

*Afraid of New. Afraid of the "creative batting average.” Come up with 100 ideas and if 30 work, you’re batting 300. Problem is that few are taking any creative swings…a lot of .000 creative batting averages out there.

*Failed to claim artists. EMBRACING artists….not just the obvious ones…re-engaging ear power to seek and deliver. There's more to owning an artist than playing thier latest...or playing the catalog. Thinking beyond the obvious is lost on all but a few stations.

*Off Course. Forgetiing what they are "all about"

*Stoginess. CHR or Low End Stations run by 40 year olds who are still living in 1985 usually makes this happen (Kids channels are the exception).

*Failure to Promote the whole station. Why: You don't care. A "screw it" attitude"

*Extra Mile? PAY ME! Sounds like short term view combined with questionable creative passion

*No Pride. Why? Station stinks..owners don't care and I'll never make any money here

*No THINKING. Accepting things as they are and "going with the flow" instead of thinking about the flow.

OK--both lists are not totally complete...but you get the idea.......

Whats the point here? To GRASP AND EXECUTE the building blocks and to AGGRESSIVELY avoid the killers. In my opinion, XM will succeed because: (At least this is what we tell ourselves, and strive to deliver)

*It's Natural timing. Just as "natural" as FM in '70....AM Top 40 in '55. We are in sync with the radio historical timeline

*We subscribe to the formula/prescription that makes great radio--everytime

WE are the 21st Century version of 1955 AM or 1970 FM...except WE are all of the channels. That's why I'm so over-the-top about ALL Channels operating at 150%.



Terrestrial still has over 300 million radios out there..... It's up to new thinkers to create brilliance on the speakers.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006



XM launched in 2001. Quickly we became known for quality music, something to this day we hold of paramount importance. It’s kind of like Word War two where it took the American GI’s to liberate Europe against evil. XM is the modern day musical equivalent as it’s up to us to help liberate American ears from the creative evils of consolidated radio.

As we built our musical reputation, it was clear that we needed to go to a higher level. MORE than musical freedom and passion. We needed a vehicle that will put us into a different space. It’s really not unlike HBO. They ran a lot of movies, but once they introduced original programming, they separated themselves from the pack. Sopranos, Sex and the City, and a myriad of other originals made them so much more than a movie channel.

OK—so how does XM create original long form programming? We have a lot of it with concerts and artist “spectaculars”—they’re great, but they’re not really original in terms of a new idea. Well, we’re all about music, so let’s engage the artists. Initially, reaction from the timeless artists was luke warm. We could score the newer bands looking to plug their new CD, but the ones who and a history…a long term legitimacy we’re simply burned by radio. They didn’t want to go on the air and talk about tits, or answer “deep” questions about how great it is to be back in town. We needed something new…big…and intellectual. Something that the artists would find interesting and the fans could see a new side of the artist. Interviews generally suck. The artist would rather be ordering room service, the DJ is intimidated and the listeners want to hear music…combined with the fact that 99% of all interviews are lame. No new information. Nothing in the least bit edgy. Boring. Now Bob Edwards and many of our guys are interview masters---but generally speaking an interview is part of a cattle call to support a new release.

Along the way, George Taylor Morris had Yes and Graham Nash into XM. They performed, but instead of a straight gig, he’d intersperse the songs with an interesting Q&A. About the song…the structure…the inspiration. As with most XM performances there was an audience. The artists loved this…so did I. We then went to the drawing board and created a design for a new show that took this format and tuned it into a show that was extremely artist friendly and unique. We named it Artist Confidential.

The first artist was Don Henley. Unfortunately he had a cold and couldn’t perform…but he had no shortage of things to say. The uncensored forum didn’t hurt his rants one bit. The audience had the chance to ask questions…about anything (except the Eagles). We were onto something. Intelligent cerebral interview…audience of super fans…Interactive Q&A. Now—add the performance component and we may have a hit.

The booking continued with a performance being key—BUT—it could be workshop style rather than a traditional gig. Bonnie Raitt, Rush, Wynton Marsalis and dozens of others came aboard. Jamming…talking about the songs…interacting with the audience. Warm, smart, musical and intimate. The show was born.

Some of the most comical and interesting moments in my career have been around the signing of these Artist Confidential artists. Take Paul McCartney. This was HUGE. It started with Bill Porricelli…then Lee Eastman (both with his management). Didn’t really get much traction at first. Then we did Coldplay and in attendance was Mark Di Dia, the GM of Capitol. He was knocked out by the show. He suggested I reach out to Paddy Spinks, one of Paul’s insiders. Paddy’s an old acquaintance that I knew when he was with King Crimson. He reminded me of a drunken night in 1980 when he brought Robert Fripp to my house in Atlanta. Robert taught me a secret to his precision---practice with the lights off. It took two years to get Paul to do Artist Confidential, but we were on the fast track now. The ideal date for Paul was the afternoon he was playing DC. 4pm start and he HAD to be out by 5 for sound check (Its an hour show that is recorded and mixed for play about a month later). Now—Paul’s team is incredibly professional…but VERY VERY high maintenance….and standards. Then again, he IS a Beatle. No problem. But every day was a near catastrophic as we neared show date. They looked at EVERYTHING. 20 emails a day. Logistics Hell. Jayme Karp who handles the show’s logistics was going nuts. We all were. The night before the show, Paul’s swat team visited. Uh Oh!!! Show might be off! The chairs in the green room had leather! So we recruit a group of beefy interns to move out the leather and bring in the cloth. Piano is tuned…BUT we need a piano tuner on site just in case it goes out of tune…and it gets worse from there. We’re all kinda freaking…this show MUST go on.

It’s show date. Rainy. Miserable. Paul is arriving at Dulles Airport, about an hour drive from XM. It’s 3pm. No Paul. It’s 3:10. No Paul. It’s 3:20 and his road manager gets a call. Paul has arrived! But it’s 3:20—With the weather the way it is, he’ll arrive about 4:30. Sound check and he’ll go on at 4:55 and leave at 5. A 5 minute show??!!?? Then about 15 minutes later, a 9/11-ish blast of sirens engulfs the air. Roaring motorcycles zip up to XM. It’s Paul! A police escort. He arrives with time to spare! Despite warnings to give Paul his space and limit contact, he is the nicest person imaginable. Totally cool. He relaxes and does an amazing show. Writes a song on the spot to illustrate the songwriting process…pulls 4 people from the audience to jam with him. The audience was a mix of music students, VIP’s, Paul fans and just normal music freaks. IT WAS MAGIC. At the end of the show he thanks the engineers. He hugs Jayme…he takes plenty of photos and even compliments me on the British teacups I stole from my Wife as these were in his rider.

Total pro. One of the best shows ever.

Then there was Yusef Islam aka Cat Stevens. I was kind of expecting a crazed terrorist. This will be the first one on one he’s done with radio since the 70’s. We arranged a breakfast meeting to discuss the show. Hmmm….breakfast at a DC Power spot. Right move? Will he go into a rant? Man—was I wrong. Here was the perfect gentleman…who went on to do a classic Artist Confidential. A few weeks later he had that airplane incident. I was embarrassed for him. He was a wonderful guy. Brian Wilson was “interesting”…Rush had fans from Bolivia and Taiwan fly in---For an hour. To be 10 feet from their heroes. These aren’t radio “interviews”—but something infinitely more driven by intellect and music.

These things have no rules. Well, cell phones gotta be off. But that’s it. There COULD be a “stupid question” rule since we don’t want to dumb these down for mass consumption, but the audience is primarily music students and hard core fans…they are notoriously smart in their questioning. The performances are really a trip. Phil Collins brings in an 11 piece acoustic band…Judy Collins sits at the piano and tickles her way through her career…Willie Nelson brings his Son along to play…We even did Santana at our Jazz at Lincoln Center studio. A cosmic journey. Lincoln Center is kinda different because there are unions. The amalgamated lighting union to turn the lights on….plus it’s NYC where everything is just a touch crazier.

Artist Confidential is emerging as a trademark program for XM. It serves many purposes. It is organic and real—not one of those cheesy canned, edited and modified-to-fit-FM shows. It deals with timeless artists. All genres. All ages. The only real criteria is that they have a story to tell. That’s why we had Odetta…and Andrea Bocelli…and Rosanne Cash…and Trey Anastasio…and the list goes on. It’s about intellect and the artists’ career, present and future—NOT a promo piece for the new CD. We call it “complete” radio. In an era where the thinking is “Get a morning show, test the library and get up some billboards” is the game plan, we feel a radio station needs to be a complete experience. This show helps us get there.

We’ve expanded on the “Confidential” concept by adding ‘Classical Confidential’. Same basic show except it is hosted by Classical guru Martin Goldsmith instead of George Taylor Morris who ably handles Artist Confidential. Classical is a bit of a different World and Martin is clearly the man for that. Then of course there are more channel specific shows like LOFT SESSIONS that Mike Marrone and Kate Bradley put together for The Loft and literally dozens of other shows that are all original and ENGAGE artists on a cerebral and musical level.

Another show that helps us become more “complete” is THEN…AGAIN. Back in 1974 I saw Yes perform Close to the Edge, take an intermission, then perform Tales From Topographic Oceans. Depending on your point of view it was either a colossal bore or a sonic journey. Being a fan, it was a journey to another world. Brilliant. The thing that got me thinking was that “complete” albums performed live would be an amazing listening experience in terms of live music on radio. Traditionally, live sets are a mix of old and new with the anthems as the encore. THIS is something different and we try to be all about different. Along the way the BBC tried this and then Deep Purple performed Machine Head a few years ago. I thought this would be perfect XM concept. In studying the possibility it became obvious that most bands that created truly Classic Albums were either:

Not around anymore, or at least in a configuration that could re-create an early album
Can’t play all of the songs without extensive rehearsal.
Simply didn’t want to go to this space.

One artist told me “No way! This Album needs to rest-in-peace….besides, there’s no way that moment in time can be re-created”. Oddly enough that same artist slept on it and came back a week later with ‘well…I’ve been thinking, this Album is so powerful, it DESERVES to have a renaissance…”

So, we went out and talked to artists about this. The idea is that they can re-interpret the album in any way…re-invent it…re-arrange it. The only “rule” is that it needs to be the full album in exactly the same running order as it was on vinyl. We’ve done several in this series ranging from Cheap Trick at Budokhan to Dave Mason’s Alone Together. Jethro Tull’s Aqualung was especially cool, as was Pronounced by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Besides having NEW versions of Locomotive Breath and Free Bird to play, there’s something eerily magical about hearing the bands perform something so classic…today. AND—hearing the album in the SAME order as when you put it on a turntable 30 years ago…not to mention the joy of an audience hearing this from ten feet away. Except the Allman Brothers. They brought two semi’s worth of equipment so even the Grand Canyon couldn’t fit a crowd with that amount of gear.

The point is that radio needs to re-engage with artists. Radio shot itself in the foot in terms of “owning” artists. Information about artists…real compelling and different one-on-one relationships on the air that are actually interesting to the artist and the fans listening are something we are charged to bring back…on 2006 terms. Years ago, a Springsteen type may have gotten off the bus and headed to the local station to play a few tunes. No more…at least on most stations. I’m always amazed at how engagement with artists needs to be on radio terms instead of the artists’ terms. You know---Talk about the hits…hype the new CD. Yes, those are important ingredients in many cases…but like with everything, I think it’s necessary to think beyond the old school radio playbook. It’s all about careers ..not just hits. It’s all about engaging the artist not the new single. It’s all about RECOGNIZING that RADIO should “own” music, not print or TV…

It all gets down to COMPLETENESS. A complete listening experience…something that ONLY radio can deliver.