RANDOM STUFF FROM THE XM HALLS
Had lunch with Nate Davis, our new COO.---Actually there's nothing new about him since he's been on our board for years. He's a good guy and in my opinion will be enormously beneficial to many operational areas of XM--no small feat. When we started it was all pretty simple--but the bigger XM gets and the more competitive life is, the more demanding the nuts and bolts get. Forget the programming and marketing for a sec--there are all these business functions guys like me don't think a lot about but are essential to the success and future of XM. He'll be a good balance to the Hugh Panero and Gary Parsons senior senior management. One of the things that impressed me about Nate is that he is VERY integrity and quality focused. I overheard him talking with our retail guru Dan Murphy about various "things" and Nate kept talking about Sound Quality and other musical sorta things (He's a big R&B fan--I got him tickets to Al Jarreau and Benson show last week). He definitely "gets it"...
The relationship I have with Eric Logan is a lot about "balance" too. Eric is an extremely bright, mildly A.D.D. CEO in training. I'm not sure what I am, but it's a potent combination because we each have to offer is drastically different ... on just about everything. But together it works great. When XM is firing on all cylinders, it's that balance that makes it go. Kinda like great bands--it's the balance of different musical point of views that melds into one powerful sound.
Speaking of people, there's a lot of talk about "the future". I think that at the end of the day, whether it's satellite, terrestrial, internet or whatever new technology emerges, the best content wins. At XM, we GOTTA keep creating original series like Artist Confidential, Artist2Artist, etc....and we GOTTA grow our people. These are things that are our trademarks and will only become moreso as time and competition increases. Guys like Martin Goldsmith on Classical, Bill Wax on Blues, Mike Marrone on his stuff, Eddie Kilroy on Old line Country, Maxx Myrick , Trinity, Russ Davis and Jackson Brady on Jazz, George Taylor Morris and Earle Bailey on Rock, Lou Brutus on general insanity, Jessie Scott on Americana are incredible assets...and the list is A LOT longer than those guys (The point is not to list everyone--if you are an XM listener you know who they are--and there's no shortage of them). These are people who have burned the FM playbook and create radio for FANS not Arbitron numbers. People who take home stacks of CD's to figure out what to turn fans onto...tireless workers who are in the trenches to turn people on to NEW radio. They LIVE the genre and listeners KNOW that. Sure, things like Baseball, O&A, our News and Talk assets and Bob Dylan (among scores of others) are incredibly potent and absolutely critical to our success, but often I think even WE forget that at the end of the day, it's the people creating the magic day in and day out that are going to be our trademarks that regardless of the competitive landscape, will be XM's anchors in the wars for ears. Once again--Balancing the passion with the products.
IT has started. IT is pretty much every pop song ever charted since 1930. IT is completely over the top. The idea came from how lame the "Top 500" countdowns you hear on FM are. Hell, its simply the regular playlist but put in order of popularity. Big deal. There are people who will find IT too obscure, but I think they understand why we're doing it...to create a place to really hear the complete story of pop music--song by song. Some say we should play all those songs anyways. Well, we play a lot of them, but quite a few are best played in the environment of IT. How many times can you hear Puddintain by the Alley Cats from 1963? Once a year is probably fine. In any case, enough with the scrath the surface "Top 500" inevitably on Memorial Day. We wanna display the complete heritage of Pop, even if it means playing some non hits.
Went to Nashville yesterday. My Son is a professional musician and got fed up with the New York scene. He's really a "pure" musician that is seeking a music friendly environment. His is music is more akin to Chet Atkins than the latest out of New York so we're hopeful that Nashville is the place. Jon Anthony from XM Country was our tour guide. After 2 hours with him, I am ready to move there! Speaking of Chet Atkins---If you like guitars, check Chet. This guy is amazing. I always kinda looked at him as a old line Country guy that I may not relate to...then my guitar hero Steve Howe told me that Chet is the guy he based a lot of his sound on...so I got Chetized. When people ask me what I heard lately that's good---I tend to respond to something old that I'm FINALLY discovering. The music industry tends to teach us that discovery must be NEW music. Often it is of course, but there's hundreds of years of masterful music out there that is part of the discovery equation too.
No Country radio in LA any more. There are 2,782 Pop stations though. No Metal station there either...no jazz (well "diet jazz" but nothing traditional at least among commercial stations...and is there any wonder that there's a NEED for other places than FM to experience music?? I don't blame KZLA for changing...I blame "the system". The whole system is screwed up. there's a video on a website--Check this out: http://www.beforethemusicdies.com/index.html I really hope XM can make a difference. Trying to make a difference is the difference.
There's nothing wrong with disposable pop...it's always been around and always will. But there needs to be a balance. Places where ALL music can thrive. If some alien music loving UFO's observed Earth in 2006, they'd probably be appalled.
As dysfunctional as so much in the World is today, you can add music and media to the list.
Dylan CD is amazing.
XMU is really coming around. It's been ignored for a few years, and that's a problem. By ignored, I mean it hasn't been embraced internally like it should be. OK---It was a mistake. We're we stupid to make that mistake? Yeah? But we've seen the light. Billy Zero with Tobi is getting that thing back where it needs to be. Not there yet--but on its way. We don't believe in the old "Fix the lists and change the promos and everything is fine" thing. It takes time and focus...but I know we are on track to make that thing what it should be. XMU stands for XM UNDERGROUND..then it meant XM UNIVERSITY...All I know is that its supposed to be a great college station that has a staff that doesn't change every semester and has some discipline to it. The idea is a home for emerging, usually Indie and unsigned artists. A place for discovery. When something becomes popular it should migrate to another channel that focus on popular music. XMU is about popular music before it becomes popular...or simply a place to hear what is happening below the public radar.
Someone asked me if I feel the same way about XM as I did in 1998 when I got here. The answer is of course Yes...better in fact...but different. It's a dramtically changed place and there are hourly challenges to keep the vision alive. Not everything is optimistally rosy as it was when we launched. It was all about hopes and dreams. Now it's the hard crunch of reality. we have over 12 million listeners since the average subscriber has a few people that actually listen to the subscription. Then again we have 700+ employees. Among listeners the vast majority think XM is a godsend, some are indifferent, and some think we suck. I KNOW this! I can only tell you that I and most of us here at XM are doing everything we can to create a Suck-free XM. It'll never completely happen because....it just ain't gonna happen. It's a mission, not a job for most of us. It's a place where we can actually change things positively if we let ourselves and do it right. At the end of the day, the best content will win....and yes we need to get that message out there...and we gotta AFDI it...and it's an ever changing media landscape that we gotta react correctly and with pinpoint accuracy. If we blow the opportunity to change world, we should all be shot---but I think we will succeed whe it's all said and done .