It’s easy to get overwhelmed here. Shit is happening from all sides. Personally I kinda like it. Activity. Growth. Intensity. Beats being bored. You might read things and think the world is caving in, but it’s not…makes good press though. It’s just a crazy world out there, especially in ANY media. It used to be so mellow…rolling along under the radar. Now, the radar is full tilt on XM, Sirius, The music Industry, digital technology—you name it. There’s some evil stuff, there’s some futuristic stuff, there’s brilliant stuff, there’s cheesy stuff… there’s “stuff” overload. At XM, it’s easy to get pissed off and whiny as the percentage of brilliant to average changes, and that’s one counter productive mode I’d rather avoid. What I mean by that brilliant to average ratio thing is that when you are small everything it’s easier to maintain quality on…when you get big in terms of both your own growth and the audience growth it’s more difficult for EVERYTHING to be brilliant. I think it’s the same with every growth business. A guy who makes 10 guitars a year will probably turn out 10 amazing guitars. If production ramps up to 1000 guitars a year there’ll be some lemons in there. The brilliant to average ratio just needs to clearly lean toward brilliant. Gotta just get in there and do the best ya can. Can’t lose the focus or faith. Gotta keep pounding the message INTERNALLY. There’s something I admire about a McDonalds type company—just in sheer consistency. But McDonalds ain’t about creative…it’s a commodity. Gestapo like operational standards won’t fly in a creative environment or in an entertainment company. Well, actually they could, but you’d throw out the magic in the process. That spontaneity…that character
So it’s easy to get frustrated. With 1000 cylinders they realistically ain’t all going to fire. Does XM have ones that don’t fire? Yep. Drives me and a lot of us nuts, but as long as ya stay out of denial, I think you’re going to be OK. I certainly saw that at AM and later FM. Denial that there are problems brewing is not good. Accepting and attacking without ego issues and bullshit is what keeps great ideas moving forward. Roadblocks and down periods are a reality, just like great artists hit lulls, but constantly evaluating and re-thinking is where its at. That’s certainly the intention here. But again, it’s a complex business moving at light speed and as much as I wish everything was perfect, it isn’t. Is it bad? No. It gets back to that Brilliant to Average ratio. If EVERYTHING at XM was average, THAT would be bad, but there are a lot of brilliant things XM does…and a lot of average stuff, but overall leaning to brilliant I hope. I won’t get into what is average…or worst, much of that is either obvious or in the eyes and ears of the beholder. But anything that ain’t right IS our problem. Gets back to pounding the mission. We have some brilliant people at XM, but not everyone has the creative DNA. In fact, it’s a good thing some don’t. I don’t think our rocket or finance guys wouldn’t operate too effectively if they were creative whacko-s, just like I’d worry about an audio animator/production person with an accounting degree. But the fact is that EVERYONE here, in my opinion, needs to be plugged into the mission. The look, feel and smell that XM needs to project….and it starts within.
One thing that comes into play is the empathy thing. It’s very hard to understand the diversity of the audience if you are not here. The other day I received four consecutive letters, paraphrased, they were:
*Quit playing esoteric music, play songs we know.
*Quit playing hit songs, let’s hear some deep stuff
*Why do you have all those Jazz channels, no one listens to Jazz
*You need more Jazz channels, get rid of that Country stuff, no-one listens to Country anymore.
…you get the point. It’s a juggling act. But I have no complaints about that…comes with the turf. There’s a reason for every listener argument and every listener kudo. The goal is to take every bit of input, balance that with your interpretation of that input, keep things in balance and adjust and deliver to the highest standard possible. It’ll drive you nuts…but it’s a good nuts. My biggest fear is people getting overwhelmed, or consumed to the point where one forgets about the mission. I don’t see that happening, but it CAN happen…anywhere.
OK---enough of that---We have a cool show coming with Graham Nash. Just locked that. Quality artist. A very different approach to artist hosted shows…that debuts soon. Then we have Janet Jackson coming in. THAT will be interesting. The problem is that about 8 of our Pop channels all want a piece of her (time). We gotta figure out the most fan friendly way to do this. And a big month for Artist Confidential series--Pink, Chicago, Amy Grant (kinda diverse, eh?). If you haven't heard these Artist Confidentials, check them out. Rush, Randy Newman, Santana, David Gilmour, Paul, etc...We've done about 50 of them....they're cool. We also just started running Joe Walsh Offstage, Joe doing a one off radio show--this guy is amazing...and is re forming the James Gang.
There's ALOT going on from growth nuisances to heavy workload to staying on the edge in today's media environment.....Here are a few "thinking points" to remind us at XM about the "core" of our mission..things that at the end of the day, are what truly AMAZING and genuinely REVOLUTIONARY radio programming is all about......and something EVERYONE at XM in all creative departments, in my opinion, needs to breathe and live:
*OTHER THAN PLAYING THE MOST IMPORTANT SONGS FOR YOUR LISTENERS AND TASTEFULLY PROMOTING XM CONTENT, THERE ARE NO CREATIVE RULES.
*RADIO IS LIKE FOOTBALL: THE DEFENSE IS THE SONG FAMILIARITY FACTOR...THE OFFENSE IS THE TURN ONS, THE DJ CONTENT AND THE EAR CANDY....THE SPECIAL TEAMS ARE THE FEATURES. BALANCE WINS.
*THE MODERN FM FORMAT WAS CREATED TO SERVE AND CHEAT ARBITRON. THIS IS WHY THESE FORMATS ARE OBSOLETE IN XM'S ENVIRONMENT. SERVING AND CHEATING ARBITRON IS IRRELEVANT.
*WINNING BIG USUALLY CREATES TWO THINGS: EXHAUSTION & PERSONAL SUCCESS (both are worth it)
*PRODUCTION IS WHAT TURNS BLACK AND WHITE SOUND INTO TECHNICOLOR. SOUND IS TO THE EAR WHAT COLOR IS TO THE EYE.
*IT'S NOT TOO LATE FOR MUSIC DJ'S TO ONCE AGAIN BECOME RESPECTED, ADMIRED & LOVED.
*THE SONG/SONG/DJ/SPOT/BUMPER/SONG/SONG TYPE ARCHITECTURE STILL WORKS, BUT IS CRYING FOR RE-INVENTION.
*PROGRAMMING IS A BALANCE OF ART/SCIENCE/EMPATHY/STREET SMARTS/MUSICALITY. LACKING ANY ONE OF THESE FACTORS IS DEADLY. EMPATHY IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT IN "READING" LISTENERS WITHOUT BIAS.
*FACTORY WORKERS DO SHIFTS..PERFORMERS DO SHOWS.
*AMERICA LOVES "SPECIALS" THAT DIG INTO CAREERS BELOW THE SURFACE.
*IN RADIO AND MUSIC, ASSHOLES & EGO CASES ARE ALWAYS SECOND TIER PLAYERS. TRUE WINNERS EXUDE CONFIDENCE AND SWAGGER NOT BAD VIBES AND HOSTILITY.
*PART OF MUSIC RADIO'S MAGIC IS BEING TURNED ONTO TO NEW SOUNDS*THE OTHER PART IS THE COMFORT OF SONGS YOU KNOW AND LOVE
*IF WE DON'T AGGRESSIVELY SEEK AND DELIVER A NEW SOUND...NO-ONE WILL.
*WE ARE OUTGUNNED 300 MILLION FM RADIOS TO 6+ MILLION XM RADIOS. THE FIGHT HAS JUST BEGUN.
*MORE COLORFUL-ER...HIP-ER.....BADD-ER.... LIKE IN FOOTBALL--IF THE OTHER GUY FUMBLES, WHO CARES UNLESS YOU RECOVER....... AND RUN FOR A TOUCHDOWN!
*THERE IS NOTHING ABOUT XM THAT IS SIMILAR TO FM. DESPITE THE CHALLENGES AND PAIN OF BUILDING SOMETHING FROM SCRATCH, THERE IS NO BETTER PLACE EMOTIONALLY, CREATIVELY, STABILITY WISE OR, IF WE ALL DELIVER, OVER TIME, FINANCIALLY THAN RIGHT HERE....THAT GOES FOR LISTENERS AND EMPLOYEES
*BRILLIANT RADIO IS 10% LUCK. 10% SMARTS AND 80% SIMPLY GOING THROUGH THE EXERCISE OF "RE-THINKING" EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU EXECUTE IT. IS IT PERFECT? CAN IT BE BETTER? IS IT UP TO XM STANDARDS? IS IT THE BEST YOU CAN DO WITH THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE?
*BASIC GOOD RADIO (THE FOUNDATION) IS OFFENSE/DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS......EVOLVING TO BRILLIANT REQUIRES A BALANCE OF INSANITY AND DETAIL IN THE EXECUTION.
*IN MASS TERMS--DUMB STUFF PEAKS FAST (BOY BANDS). SMART STUFF LASTS (SIMPSONS). ELITE STUFF NEVER GETS OFF THE GROUND.
*IT'S OUR JOB TO TURN CUSTOMERS INTO FANS.
*DENIAL KILLS. IF SOMETHING AIN'T RIGHT. DO WHAT YOU CAN DO TO FIX IT.....ADMIT IT--WE ALL CARRY SOME DENIAL.
*WE'RE THE GOOD GUYS. THE LIBERATORS. XM IS BIGGER THAN YOU AND I. XM IS SERVING A MAJOR FUNCTION IN CHANGING AMERICA......
AND FINALLY AFDI.......