Monday, June 05, 2006

MORE FROM THE XM PLAYBOOK

We are not "there" yet...it takes time, but here are a few things we preach. Do we deliver? Not always? Do we try? Hell yeah. Why am I telling people outside of the building about these "secrets"? Because if someone thinks like this--we want to know. Here are a few items----

AFDI: (Actually Fucking Doing It)The battle call. The center of our programming universe. Instead of researching EVERYthing, commitees and "we can't do that"...the idea is to actually EXECUTE on the ideas that are created.

SWAGGER: The way we carry ourselves on and off the air. An air of confidence based on AFDI and collective ego. Radio has been beaten up by other media--time to fight back.

MINUTE BY MINUTE: The musical bottom line. Forget Depth. Forget Tight. If you, at any given point in time (minute by minute) are playing a cool song, you will win the music battle.

ARTIST OWNERSHIP: Re-claiming artists. Bringing them back to radio. XM Radio.
Radio has given up on trying to own artists...given up to MTV, Print and Cable. XM must bring artists back to radio.

CELEBRATION: We don't simply "play" important music. We celebrate it. A Gospel Church may celebrate the Lord...well, we’re the Gospel Church of music.

AUTHENTICITY: In a plastic world, we are the real deal. No compromises. Ward Cleaver and Manny Malig run XMLM our Metal channel. They bleed metal, and listeners will hear and respect that.

SONICS: It's the evolution of "Imaging"...it's the SOUND of your channel. Don't think bumpers & promos. Think beyond that.....it's all about a whole sonic environment you create.

SONIC DENSITY: The intensity and frequency of sonic pieces.

CAUSE I WANT TO: Doing things on air, "because you feel like it"...maybe a break in Swahili....or Pig Latin.....

HUMVEE CRASHING: The art of crashing an R/C humvee into the wall during an important meeting. XM must live and breathe in the hallways too!

NATIONAL & PROUD OF IT: Local radio is quaint....National radio is the future.

SUPRISE ATTACKING: Wanna mess up the competitors mind: Run a Top 5,000 three weeks BEFORE Memorial Day. You will screw up their system...

24 HOUR MORNING SHOW: There is no morning. We don't shut down at 10am. We are always on.

JUST DO IT!: No bragging...no cheezy claims . No "Most Music" "Best Mix" "Never a Bad Song"........Those claims have no credibility. Just deliver the goods and our fans will know.

FANS: To Ad Sales they're listeners....to Marketing they're customers...to us: They're Fans. Treat listeners like Fans. Think like a Fan. This is show business. Relating to listeners as numbers is fine---for the sales people.

MUSICAL CONFIDENCE: Delivering the goods musically. Not lying about how musical we are...actually delivering music to the point where listeners believe we're in it for "The Passion not the Cash". Cash is a nice reward if we make people happy.


BIBLE OF MUSIC: Your station is the center of your music's' universe. You have the chart. You have the answers. You are in command. You must deliver. You must deliver. You must deliver. MTV, Rolling Stone, Spin...fine entities, but YOU must own the charts, the info, etc...listeners must come to YOU to know what's going on musically.

CINEMATIC RADIO: The sound of your station is more like a wide screen movie soundtrack than a radio station. You should close your eyes and your sonics ignite with cinematic brilliance. Even News....Even Classical...no format is exempt from creating cinematic magic between the songs.

BAGGAGE: Old radio thinking. There's allot of radio thinking that's timeless...like playing the best songs...but there's a king bong of baggage too....lose it.


ER: Bigg-ER.....Badd-ER....Intense-ER. Think like Walt Disney did in the 50’s..."ER". Rides were fastER, parks were cleanER, etc…

OTT: Over-the-Top. Subtle sucks. Want to cut through the Internet, AM/FM, print, TV etc....well, you ain't gonna do it unless you do everything OTT

TOP DOWN SOUND: There is nothing more magical than driving down a freeway at 100mph...top down...great station blasting at top volume! XM will bring this experience back to Americans. Think about this experience as you program. It's more than great songs...it's the whole package...it's the essence of "The XM Sound"

ECCENTRIC...ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK: Doctors, Repairmen, Cops should not be eccentric! We should be....all the way to the bank. Smart eccentrics make the great art.

WRCX: (or any other station we worked at): Lose it. Kill it from the memory. These stations are NOT the standard to compare. If we are to compare the XM Sound to something, make it a Kubrick movie......a Beatle epic.....a Radiohead track. NOT radio stations we used to work at.

CREATIVE BATTING AVERAGE: % of ideas you come up with that work. 300 Average is All-Star. Ya gotta take some swings to get hits.

CLICHE BUZZER: Three buzzes and sayonara. But the real cliche buzzer is in your head.

SONIC DIVERSITY: Using the World of Sound. Not some damn production package or pre-cut promo factory CD. USE SOUND! Thunderstorms..static...busy streets....short wave radio tuning....sample a TV Newscaster and repeat "In Todays News..In Todays News..
over and over. Discover the world of sound. Use it.

VOICE DIVERSITY: Discover the world of voices. I'm mildly depressed that Fine Tuning was the only format that at CES used foreign voices, voices off the street, etc....
"Professional" voices are fine...but you're only using 2% of the voices out there.
There is magic in the human voice. There is cliche' in the radio voice!!!

THE GEORGE MARTIN GENE: Everyone has it. Activate it. It's the gene that tells you to diversify your sound. There are no rules. Our Reggae channel can have signatures that combine Gregorian Chants with Steel Drums. WE MUST RE-INVENT THE WAY RADIO SOUNDS. There are no barriers except your imagination.

CONVENIENCE HIRES: It's only natural, and often correct to bring in people you know and trust. But, it's also natural to bring in people who are convenient. We must hire only the brilliant.

IT FACTOR: Some people got "it"...some don't. If you don't get "it"....please see me asap

MOUTH OF AMERICA: XM should sound like America. From hicks in Mississippi to Brothers in Chicago to Mothers in San Francisco to Yuppies in St. Louis. We must open the phones to reflect the magic of National Radio.

MOOD/RELIABLE: Mood listeners tune you in when they're in the mood...Reliable listeners never tune you out. That's the secret to rating success (or satisfaction in our case). The only way to achieve this balance is to never compromise....stay pure....play "your" hits...don't fear tune out. In other words: Do your thing, but do it brilliantly and consistently.

STAR WARS: Those goofy laser sounds that must die

THE CHUCK VAN ROGERS FACTOR: OK, if you have a radio name and don't want to change it...fine. Especially if you've had it for years... But if you do want to change it..Go for it! Mike O'Morgan (whoever he is) just reeks of fake, old, tired radio. This is Show-biz. Like the WWF, who's gonna win the bout? Bob Stevens or The Masked Killer from Mars. Again, not a requirement, but
cool names, real names (Frank Schmutzbaum is cooler than Mark James) or Nicknames that are "XM" are great. Why does radio have this thing with TWO first names?? Robert Stevens, Steven Roberts, Michael Williams, William Michaels?

PAPER TIME vs REAL TIME: On one of our deeper formats we'll tend to look at two lists: A 20,000 title list and an 10000 title list. 10000 probably makes more sense...though on paper 20,000 looks better or 200 if you’re an old school research guy. This is the difference between paper and real-time listening.The point is separating paper from reality.

TODD STORZ: The creator of Top 40 on Real-Time listening: Just when DJs are going to strike because_____is still on the playlist is the same time Mama is learning to hum the verse". The point: Paper Time vs. Real Time. Think like a listener/fan not a DJ in terms of music rotation.

CAN'T UNDERSTAND THE FUTURE UNTIL YOU UNDERSTAND THE PAST: An appetite to learn about the history of contemporary radio. If you weren't there, learning about the great battles will arm you with powerful knowledge.

THE LETTERMAN FACTOR: Disco Demolition, Hit This Plane & Win $5,000, Snow Sharks, and other stunts are pure America. People love it. The more radio versions of "Stupid Pet Tricks" we create, the better we'll be….on the RIGHT channel of course.


THE CULTURALLY CHALLENGED: We must never be "too hip for the room". We target everyone from musical elitists to the culturally challenged. KNOW YOUR PLACE. Sophisticated humor on "America" is as bad as stupid contests on XM Classics. Knowing WHERE the edhe is and delivering right on it is an art.

WARPED: A way of looking at things. Akin to eccentric. If we can take an angle and warp it, we've done our job. Clapton warped his guitar in '67 by using a wah-wah pedal....Warping is taking a sound or idea and modifying it to "the XM Sound"

SMELL THE SPEAKERS: Our formats should be SO sonically dense...SO pure..so authentic, that they should smell. Smell the speakers during Frank's Place and it's martinis, an old deck of cards and Sammy Davis Junior’s cologne.

AUTHENTICITY: XM is to FM what EPCOT is to Reality. We aren't a model of the real thing....we ARE the real thing.

PURITY: Every format must be pure. There's magic in what you DON'T hear. You'll hear Deep Tracks and never hear Foreigner...You'll hear BONEYARD and never hear Steven Stills, etc.....We must avoid Good-Good-Shit-Good-Shit, meaning a few "correct songs" then a shit (or misplaced) song. Every song will get played SOMEWHERE on the XM band...the key is in purity so each song happens where it's meant to happen.

YELLOW PAD: Everyone should be filling these up with ideas. Document your dreams.

AS ACCESSABLE AS POSSIBLE WITHOUT LOSING LISTENER CONFIDENCE: The goal shouldn't be how "deep" can I go. It should be how "far" can I go WITHOUT LOSING listener confidence. It's a magic zone where you reach the most listeners and satisfy them all simultaneously. Too commercial and there goes satisfaction...too deep and there goes the volume of fans.

WHACK FACTOR: "Where in hell did these guys come up with that!"....thats what listeners should often think.

AVERAGE SUCKS/EXTREME RULES: Ever been to Ben's Chili Parlor down the road?
It is a dive...a dump....and it's magical. It's extreme. Give me Ben's over a nice clean Denny's anytime!! The point: Amazingly good or Amazingly bad---who cares, as long as it's amazing. Anything but average!!!!

2001FACTOR: Pre 2001 (the movie), all Sci-Fi was goofy robots crushing Tokyo. Then 2001 reinvented Sci-Fi. Lush Space Scapes...Classical Music....a whole new approach. It changed Sci-Fi forever. No "Help Me Will Robinson cliches" no spooky Theramin sound effects.(though those are kinda cool in a campy way) THAT is how we must change radio sound. It's happening in publishing. It’s happening in video…radio is next—if we let it happen

THE MILLIONAIRE FACTOR: Like the TV show completely re-invented game shows...we must completely re-invent radio. It ain't evolution...it's revolution.

EMPATHY: Walking the halls, I'll often hear how "Stairway to Heaven" and Creed really suck. Well, if those aren't part of your potential playlist...cool..they suck. BUT---if these belong on your list, you need to learn empathy, because these are major. In 1970, I was a hard core Prog Rock fan, but worked at an early FM Top 40 where we "celebrated" Donny Osmond. I learned there, the importance of empathy. I hated that shit, but learned how and why it worked, and never whined about a song again. Even, neutral programming via understanding why things(songs/artists) work.

ENVIRONMENT: Song environment is key. Stairway next to BTO & Doobie Brothers is a snooze, but next to Traffic and a cool Hendrix track, the songs' magic can emerge. That's a great thing about XM: Even the most tired "great" popular songs can live on a format where they can find new life by what they're surrounded by.

NOTHING IS SACRED: We urge you to re-think EVERYTHING. Many things are indeed evergreen, but Struber must be commended for re-thinking the 6-10/10-3/3-7 show (never shifts!) configuration.

YOUR HITS: XM is hit driven. Every format. But the definition of a hit differs by format..dramatically. And inour world hit isn't driven necessarily by sales. Hits can mean:
-Song driven. The standard hit song as with Oldies formats.
-Artist Driven. as in Deep Tracks. Santana, Cream, Beatles...but not the same three songs. Careers...not just the most played tracks.
-Novelty Driven. The Jetsons theme never charted..but its a hit
-Sound Driven. "Hit" is irrelivent..it's the "sound"...a Coltrane piece may not be a 'hit' by traditional definition but in the frameork of Real Jazz...it is.
-Non Radio Driven. Edgy car ads can be hits
..the point is: A Hit to XM means simply: An important song that gives you minute by minute musical excellence. KNOW WHAT "TYPE" of hit works for you...every format is different.

CANNON BALL/FORT THEORY: If the Fort's destruction is your goal, then each cannonball that hits the fort is a hit. Miss the fort, it's a stiff or an un-necessary song. More hits on the fort and the faster the fort falls. Every song must serve a purpose, regardless of it’s chart position or traditional hit definition.

THE RECORD BUSINESS & MUSIC PRESS ARE LOST: There are some smart people and there are some clueless people.
That's why I constantly impress the need for you to study the genre you serve....know your genre beyond passion. Passion is easy... but balance that with knowledge and that's what makes you dangerous . The reason college radio has never been a factor is because it's all passion....
but find a college radio person who balances passion with understanding--and there's a positively dangerous person--that we should hire!We must continue to absorb REALITY and not simply feed off the industry and press..

CULT/FRINGE: Every successful artist has fans who are cult or fringe. Know the difference and program appropriately. Cultists are REALLY into the artist....Fringe fans like the artist for the fleeting hit(s). Doing a big Spectacular?? You're wasting your time if the fan composition is heavy fringe.

SPECTACULARS: They enhance your image...recycle listeners and create buzz.
Run them prime time (NOT 11pm Sunday Nights). Build them. Think about them.
Hourly, Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly. Go OTT. (Over-the-top) Repeat them. The classic cliché is taking a cool program and burying it because it varies from the song/dj/song format.

MEAT: When you promote...promote Meat. Never: "Great Music Coming Up"....give 'em something to chew on: "The lost Elvis tapes found this morning"

INCIDENTAL SOUND: Sound that just happens. Sound that "fills in the cracks"......Audio theater.

THE XM TRAVEL AGENCY: XM Formats must take you places. Too often the music takes you to the stars...then THUD. The reality of a "radio break". XM must be an "out of ear" experience. Bluesville takes you to the land of Bluesville..you ARE there. 60s on 6 takes you back to the sixties. Fed takes you inside Fred's mind... These are truly "mind fucks"....this is cinematic radio. Movies take you places.....XM must take you to the same places. Never "Thud" people.....Sonic Density.....

MOXIE: You should know what this means.

THE BIG THREE: Music....Character (Magic between the Songs)...Muscle.

THE PLAYBOOK: Terrestrial is: Get a morning show...test the library...throw up some billboards......and everything is fine. Great radio is complex. Develop a playbook. A gameplan. A mission beyond the obvious.

THE TRUTH: XM tells the truth. Don't like Hendrix? Fine...don't listen this Friday. XM 20 on 20...the top 20 over and over and over...until you're sick of them. TELL THE TRUTH.

HUMOR: XM is about reality humor. 99.9999% of all funny things on radio are only funny to the staff. The best humor is reality humor: Old TV themes....real stories, etc....
Other than our Comedy channels humor is delicate....few things will cliche you back to the FM Band than things that really aren't funny.

SEX: Worst than bad humor. Don't you "love" those Rock stations that have promos "We have the biggest balls"--Oh wow--He said "balls" Anyone who thinks, that in 2006, talking about tits is clever, go back to FM. It's tired, stupid and annoying. The key is: If sex is an angle, lets come up with a fresh way to approach it please. Particularly you Rock guys.......Leave it to O&A who specilaize in it.

THE XM CREATIVE METHOD: Starts with the blueprint.....then PD builds it....Producers and Talent decorate it. We are Frank Lloyd Wright not Hill Valley Homes. Ever wonder why every home sorta looks the same? Me too. If FM is safe suburbia...we are edgy Frank Lloyd Wright.

ONCE IN A LIFETIME: The opportunity to change radio window is open. If we don't do it, we should all be shot. It'll never happen again in our lifetimes. Remember my cycles in music chart....we are at the beginning of another 56, 64, 69, 81, 92 up curve. we are in sync with history.

TRADITIONAL RADIO RESEARCH SUCKS: It's flawed. If it worked, why does every station sound like it does? Everyone does research....it's proven it doesn't work in it's traditional form.

POPCORN CAN RADIO: An old Z-Rock trick. Huge Popcorn can was in lobby after contents being consumed. Clever DJ decides to do entire show from inside the popcorn can (mic and all). Now THATS radio!

STUDY SOUND: Collect it. Warp it. Radio is in last place in the sound department. Movies are light years ahead of us in sound...TV commercials are too, so is MTV, hell...so is NBC.
Use it. We live in a world of sound, yet sometimes we're deaf to all but WRCX (nothing personal against WRCX employees of the past.....but it's symbolic of "radio"..nothing more, nothing less).

SURGERY: We are operating on radio. This ain't out-patient. This is somebody on a death bed....penecillan (research) didn't work....new drugs (consultants) didn't work. This patient is dead unless we come up with a radical operation.

SOUL: Radio has lost its soul...we must bring it back. A consciousness...a spirit....a genuine desire to bring radio back to the people...and AFDI. You must know the business side of things, but not at the expense of your soul. What I'm saying is SO unfashionable...SO uncool in today’s' lets make a deal environment, and I'm not in any way bad rapping that critical side of our business...but the front line of programming needs a heart. We must bleed XM colors....cry at the magic of a great song (or break), program for the people, live and breathe art, move forward with fist clenching intensity and desire to win through brilliance and imagination. Funny thing is that as un-Wall Street as that might be, that sort of thinking will deliver the kind of radio that XM needs to win the war. Think and program like an artist. A smart artist. Kinda like Springsteen. Uncompromising. He just "Does it". An American Original...........

CAMP: XM must celebrate life in North America. The good, the bad and the ugly. That's why we love TV themes, old commercials, homeless guys doing promos, heavily accented people doing IDs, bagpipes in bumpers. Celebrate America by DELIVERING THE SOUND OF NORTH AMERICA.

ANTICIPATION: There is ALWAYS something coming up on XM. We program forward.


SELLING: Sell the Music...sell the programming...sell the specials, etc...Selling is a lost art.
I'm not talking about selling Used Cars...I'm talking about ridding ourselves of the Radio Inferiority Complex and selling the shit out of the cool stuff we're doing. This isn't bragging, because bragging is generic, bordering on lying. Selling is talkin' it up and DELIVERING. If we sell AND deliver, credibility will occur!

This is a mission...not a gig.

16 Comments:

At 3:57 PM, Blogger Jack Dibee said...

This is awesome reading! I hope all of the XM programmers read and live this! This is why I susbscribe to XM!!!

 
At 5:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog Lee. Your vision of what XM should be is amazing, but you guys still have work to do.

 
At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, Sirius continues to gobble up market share with tight playlists and heavy mainstream celebrity involvement.

How long can the integrity of the "mission" withstand the crushing mediocrity of the mass market, especially when satellite radio MUST become more than a niche product to satisfy Wall Street?

I love just about everything about XM, but I can't ignore the huge buzz Sirius seems to create with everything they do, and the proven mass appeal of their mostly-hits approach to music.

XM seems incapable of generating buzz -- Sirius plasters its logo all over NBA venues and on sideline headphones at college football games, even games involving teams whose games are on XM. I can't even find the XM logo at Fenway Park and the print ad in the Red Sox program is buried way inside and is visually dull to the power of X. Sirius brings celebrity hosts to New York; you pay Tom Petty and Bob Dylan to phone their shows -- as great as they are -- in. They ought to be in Washington, dropping in on George Taylor Morris and Robert Aubry Davis (who really should be on the air full-time on The Village).

Lee, I hear you talking and I want your approach to win. But I really worry about XM's shrinking public image and wonder if your eclectic, evangelical approach to music will ever resonate with a public that largely wants sizzle and not steak when it comes to music.

 
At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of this sounds great, but very little of it is happening at XM. You've dropped the great niche channels like WorldZone, duplicated the hits channels offered by Clear Channel which is a total waste, and over-channeled the system so the sound quality has decreased dramatically.

Have you actually listened to XM with headphones lately? How long does it take for you to get a headache? When you switch between MP3s and XM content on the Inno, the XM sound seems like it's playing through a bath towel.

Please wake up and listen to the reality of XM's programming and sound quality in mid-2006 versus the fantasy of what you're writing in your amusing blog.

Stop trying to win the battle with Sirius by having the MOST music and instead try to have the BEST music -- in diversity of genres and superior sound quality.

 
At 11:59 PM, Anonymous Bob said...

Lee, these are great insights.

But I have to ask: does the talk show side of XM use the same playbook? The music channels sound as if they're crafted with great care, but the talk channels often make me wonder whether anyone at XM actually listens to them. There are some talk channels that play the same solitary stale show promo for six months (this is the XM promo I'm talking about, not something from the talk channel itself). The listener is left with the impression that some engineer opened the network feed, then left the building. Considering the number of people who like talk, that's really a shame.

 
At 10:17 AM, Blogger Dave said...

Lee - Bravo - well said, again. There are lots of folks that share your pov and some are in a position to do something about it. While there is a great amount of poor or bad audio today, one can also find some exceptionally good and occasionally even great audio. Yes the good stuff is in the minority but then again, it was ever thus. Keep writing. All the best

 
At 1:36 PM, Blogger Billy Big Rig said...

Every time I read these words, my mind goes back to my return flight from DC to Naples, FL after my spring 2001 interview at XM. I had a lap full of papers to read on the flight... most of them Boot Camp memos from the earlier days of XM as the "playbook" was taking shape.

Thanks for reawakening my love for the profession, Lee! I miss the vibe. I truly do!

 
At 8:50 PM, Blogger Billy Roberts said...

I have mixed feelings about the direction XM is going. While I do feel the passion in radio on certain channels such as Deep Tracks, The Loft, Soul Street, etc. others are lacking that passion such as Boneyard, Ethel (I'm sorry, but I just don't think Steve Kingston "gets" XM), The Heat and others. It is so frustrating when certain channels gets 5 star treatment while others are, more or less, being ignored. ALL the channels should get 5 star treatment.

I have been critical of XM's Hits channels both in e-mails to XM as well as on the XM411 fan site (my screen name is Bama-Buddy over there). Despite having more Hits channels than ever before they are still lacking. They will not take any chances. I'd love to be able to hear some upcoming songs get played BEFORE they become hits. FM radio used to do that; XM should be doing it too, but they are not. The Hits channels should be playing the occasional album cuts from current pop artists - let XM have some bragging rights by saying "We broke this song out first before FM radio stations started playing it!".

I'm also a bit angry that XM has "three" World music channels on XM Radio yet none of them play traditional world music. I find that insulting. There's an interest in global news and programming; I'd like to see World Zone return to the satellites in the near future.

 
At 11:56 AM, Blogger Chug-A-Bug said...

The principles Lee Abrams is espousing may be universally applicable to all musical genres but they are not being applied throughout the XM system.

It's obvious which XM stations are really living up to the Abrams playbook -- deep tracks, the loft, real jazz, cross country.

It's obvious which XM stations are pathetically irrelevant to their genres -- XMU, Ethel, Lucy. Especially XMU. So Billy Zero is now XMU's new PD. Does he really come from the indie world? Does he need to "learn" the music, or is he excited about getting to program the music he loves? How hard is it to attract someone who knows and loves and breathes indie music to program XMU. That should be the easiest job in the world to fill.

Is it an age problem? It isn't like the folks in their 30s today are less musically smart than was Lee Abrams back in the day. But nobody who knows the newer genres, really knows them, is working there.

Sound quality has become horrible. When people are listening to 128kbps MP3 and AAC on their ipods, you cannot come in with the sound quality being delivered on the inno. I'm an XM fanatic who was extolling the someday arrival of something like the inno -- but now that it is here, I listen to it, and I find my own enjoyment of it limited by the unacceptable sound quality of the music channels. XM needs to bite the bullet on the clear channel bandwidth fiasco, and eliminate the duplicated pop music channels. I've always believed in content over sound quality, but the sound quality has become ridiculous.

As for buzz and mass market -- I totally disagree with the second anonymous poster, that the market wants the same cookie cutter crap that's delivered on Sirius and FM. XM delivers a superior product. It is losing in the market, and losing badly, because it has an ossified corporate culture that cannot recognize just how truly awful their marketing and branding has become.

Take the current inno ads. Terrible. Depressing. Nothing creative, nothing cool about them. They're like cardboard. XM needs to generate excitement about its brand and it needs to be aggressive, or it will continue to lose market share and be completely overtaken by Sirius. It doesn't matter what XM puts on the air if nobody is interested in checking it out.

(by the way whats up with blogger, the CAPTCHA isn't showing up and the message is rejected because there is no CAPTCHA, sorry if this is being posted 100 times)

 
At 11:36 AM, Blogger KennedyCS said...

Lee -

You have stayed true to that vision right from the beginning when you first began stumping satellite radio 1998 on the convention circuit. At the time, it seemed few got it. What does it mean, "AM, then FM, now XM"? It's amazing how few take the adage "history we forget we repeat." FM reached its financial peak in the late 90s but its creative peak in the early-to-mid 80s. Satellite radio fills an important void for those still passionate for radio. And you took an innovative leadership role right from the beginning.

Rock on, Lee!

Chris Kennedy
Joint Communications
Jointblog
jointcommunications.blogspot.com

 
At 7:34 AM, Anonymous passion said...

Good stuff mostly.

Reminds me of Karl Marx, although I prefer Groucho. Not that Karl wasn't magical; he just had no concept of a good cigar.

That said, how do you prevent the playbook from becoming just buzzwords and bullshit?

Is it an eye-contact test?

Can you really listen to so many channels for enough hours each to keep a finger on them?? Do you even try or do you trust?

What happens when the red-inkers screams start wacking deep into your team roster until you have too few to do the job well? When the stockholders demand their righteous share, environmental damage can ensue.

I know a consultant whose answer is often something like, "I've been there and done it before." Ever catch yourself on that one?

If research is the tool that created today's FM, do you do none at all?

How about the churners? Any in-depth ask-its about why they spent good money on equipment and then didn't renew?

Good luck into the future.

For all their spending, the stiffest competition won't be the dog. It'll come from other national reachers like WIFI, the Web and yet undeveloped technology.

By the way, I've always been a Gy-pgy. You too?

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger ai4i said...

Good article. I think I found one mistake where the author said backward what he meant to say:
AUTHENTICITY: XM is to FM what EPCOT is to Reality. We aren't a model of the real thing....we ARE the real thing.

 
At 6:41 PM, Anonymous Bud Wilcox said...

Great blog, Lee.

I hope that you prevail in your efforts. XM certainly has work to do on some channels (not to mention listener care and a better PR department). But let me add that for the most part I really enjoy XM and look forward to it getting even better!

My wife listens to Audio Visions and really likes the changes you've made in the last couple of weeks. She hates the electronic SciFi crap that was being played. She would get frustrated as the good sound would eventually give way to the electronic crap. She'd be listening to this beautiful sound while oil painting and all of sudden it would turn into the electronica hour. She stopped listening to XM and went back to listening to CDs (which cost me a lot of money) :-). She contends that Audio Visions should be a gentle experience - something you'd listen to while doing art work and other right brain activities.

My complaint has been the lack of a pure traditional rock and roll channel. 46 did a fair job early on but lost it about a year ago. I was overjoyed with the introduction of 49. My joy faded after about a month of great programming turned to more and more esoteric crap. If it's a traditional rock and roll channel then THAT'S what it should be. There's a ton of great rock – I don’t understand the need to dig deep into the unknown - that should be left for another channel.

Here's hoping that the XM experience only gets better. I’m very encouraged with what I’ve read in your blog (maybe you can talk Hugh into doing one of these – he needs to get out front again). Let’s also hope XM gets through all the bad press, the lawsuits and the ridiculous crap that the RIAA and NAB are throwing at XM. I went from holding 145,000 shares (thanks to XM I made millions) to holding zero today. I look forward to being a shareholder again in the (hopeful) near future. Maybe I can do a replay on this investment.

As a last thought – XM has a great story to tell. Why we don’t hear more of it is a wonder for me. I do a tremendous amount of research each day on your company so I usually know most everything that’s going on. You guys are a media company. Why aren’t you in front of the camera more often? As an example; having Bob Dylan DJing is an incredible event! Yet anyone outside of the XM world would never know of this. Same thing with Tom Petty, Bob Edwards and the others. THIS IS BIG NEWS! Yet no interviews on the tube, no write ups in Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone - nada. No big news flashes. This, in my mind, requires as much attention as how you do your programming. Do you have a PR department?

 
At 1:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you say, but like some of the others have commented, it is not being applied to some of the rock channels.

When I subscribed in April of 2004, Ethel quickly became my favorite channel. I used to joke that I paid $10 a month for Ethel, because I almost never changed the station. Lately I've been changing the station a lot, because Ethel has become so ridiculously repetetive. On my commute to and from work (30 minutes each way), I am guaranteed to hear The Raconteurs, Fall Out Boy, and Angels & Airwaves. That's a lot of repetition!

I challenge you to listen to Ethel for a while. Not just an hour or two, which could leave you thinking that everything is fine. Listen for a day or two and notice how it starts to get that "not so fresh" feeling.

Bring back the old Ethel!

 
At 5:13 PM, Anonymous Bud Wilcox said...

Lee,

I need to eat some of my words on my last comment. I had quit listening to Big Tracks about 2 or 3 weeks ago due to what I felt was not the best programming. Well after I wrote my comments I decided that I needed to revisit channel 49. I've been listening as much as I can during this time (my wife is not so happy about this!). From what I’ve heard so far the programming HAS changed - much improvement!!

It looks like your efforts are starting to have an affect. With the changes you’ve made to Audio Visions and Big Tracks has given me a more optimistic feeling for the future of XM. Please keep up the great work you’re doing. You have a lot of people pulling for you. Maybe it’s the new “XM Man” suit. You should be able to kick some real ass with that outfit! :-)

Thanks for the great rock and roll! I’m listening right now and totally digging the sound!

 
At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Mark Richards said...

No more X-Country, so who needs XM.

I'll just tune up my guitar and entertain myself.

 

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