Monday, September 25, 2006



I left Washington around 8pm last Sunday to head out to Los Angeles to spend the day at USC. Took the late flight so I could catch the White Sox lose depressingly to Oakland. I should have taken the earlier flight. Upon arrival, Mike (no relation) Abrams picked me up at LAX as he was out West for a Dance Convention. Not a bad idea since he oversees our Dance channels. We had a quick dinner and I got to the room at 1am. Exactly 1 hour of tossing around and then a 2am, being still on Eastern time, I was up and ready for action, aided by my Blackberry which started spewing out early morning e-mails from the East Coast. At least, unlike many years ago, I was awake naturally and not fueled by the substances of that era.

So, at around 8am I head over to USC to meet up with Jerry Del Colliano who is a professor there. Jerry started Inside Radio, a popular radio trade newsletter. I always had a love/hate thing with Inside Radio depending on what he said. He ALWAYS had a POV on everything which created an always interesting read that could either inform, infuriate or amuse. I will say, Inside Radio was very helpful in giving our AOR format credibility in the early days, as he'd often report glowing th in gs about the formats' progress at a time when it was viewed with suspicion by many radio group heads. Jerry is a real radio guy who has been in the trenches and I gota hand it to him for being a teacher at a time when he could retire from the profits of selling Inside Radio to Clear Channel. Additionally, Jerry shares the common feeling that terrestrial radio has sunk to such lows that it's truly sad for anyone who has lived through the eras where radio WAS relevant and a vanguard of our culture. Jerry has a pretty cool blog worth checking:

At around 10am, we head to his "Masters Class"...they were working on a research project and I was sort of a 'consultant' to the students, giving them my feelings on new media and music issues they were studying. Sharp group...only about 5 of them but they are clearly engaged in 2006. At around 11, we were met by Dave Van Dyke who runs Bridge Ratings, a research company. It was a pleasant surprise. I first met Dave in February of 1971 when he was a University of Miami student who got hired to be a DJ at WMYQ/Miami. I "broke him in" on the overnight show which meant showing him how the board worked and smoking a joint to see where he was "at". He later went to WWWW (W-4) in Detroit and shortly thereafter I went to PD WRIF and we hung out some more. Later on, we brought him in to be PD of KGON/Portland and KTXQ/Dallas where I was consultant. He later became a GM for CBS in Boston and Los Angeles.

At Noon I went into the Auditorium of the Thornton School at USC. On stage Jerry interviewed me about XM and 2006 Media in general, though interaction with the 100+ student audience was encouraged. Oddly enough Michael Steele from Indie 103.5 was in the crowd...a ringer! Anyways, I did my "raps" but the real magic was hearing the interaction from the students. Incredibly smart questions and excellent dialogue. They may not know this, but I learned more from THEM in 90 minutes than from just about any meeting I've been to in 20 years. A real reality check on....everything. These are very smart and generally sophisticated people. I had to tell myself that their POV is quite different from a 20 year old waitress at Denny's or a baggage handler at O'Hare, but from a new technology perspective, they had incredibly interesting and logical thoughts. I recall all too well when I'd talk to students years ago and see the vast difference between their often sophistacted musical life worshipping Lou Reed and the musical life of a guy working at Sears who barely heard of Lou Reed but worshipped Styx. I was honored to be involved in this forum which was possibly more of a learning experience for me than for them.

Later that day I headed back to LAX for the flight home. I couldn't stop thinking about the input I got. I was already typing emails to senior management here at XM with my "findings". Having not slept for 48 hours, I plied my way onto the 757. Sat next to some guy from Boeing, holding an envelope marked "Extremely Confidential/Military Data"---I really hoped he'd go to the john so I could check THAT envelope out. He didn't go. So, I played "find the terrorist" and 'find the Air Marshall" while looking around the cabin. then remembered that it's United! XM is on United. I started listening to our channels, but then migrated over to Channel 9 the Air Traffic Control Channel and fell asleep. Upon arriving into Dulles, I realized why I like flying myself instead of commercial as there was a 2 hour wait for luggage.

One thing that USC students do is research. I have some STRONG opinions about research because I think a key reason that terrestrial radio is in a creative funk is because of research. Now I do believe the idea of research is critically important as a strategic and tactical tool. An essential component in operating any business. But it's mis-use is devastatingly negative, particuarlly when it intersects improperly with the creative area . From a creative standpont, I think the key is WHERE it is utilized in the execution of an idea. Ideally, research should be used in the beginning. To identify markets and get a big picture understanding. Then, turn it over to the creatives for INVENTION...EXECUTION...then, use research at the end as a report card. I see the problem is when research is used throughout the execution of an idea. That's when it screws everything least in programming (in more pure business areas--research and data is probably best THROUGHOUT the execution--before, during and after). But in content creation (music, radio or whatever) research cannot supersede the creative process. Use it in the beginning and the end, but leave the middle...the execution , to creative invention. Take the early days of FM Rock. The BEST stations often happened because the owner researched and found that there was a hole for FM Rock. Then the station was put together with PURE creativity. Then, after the station was assembled and on the air, there was back end research to see how it was working. Nowadays, on terrestrial radio, research dominates the whole process.

It's all about "creative batting average"--Come up with 100 ideas and if 30 work, you are a 300 hitter. That's strong. Most stations have 000 hitters because they're not taking any creative at bats to begin with. Gotta swing for the fences if you want to hit home runs. When we started XM we had and have a no research policy when it comes to music. Find PD's to "get" the genre and let them create and select based on passion and knowledge. Of course, there's always data to look at and our PD's do. But they are not tied down by the traditional radio research that is often flawed. Before our crack research team at XM keel hauls me, I must say that in non creative areas, it's a different story, where research is absolutely essential...but we don't need data to tell us that Radiohead is a good band, or that we should play more than "the single" from Red Hot Chili Peppers...and then there are so many formats that are genuinely unresearchable--not unlike the way a great piece of music can't be created by research. A quick snappy single can...but I'm talking about something original and lasting.

One thing about research that bugs me is simply the assumption that it's the end all. I AM still annoyed by the idea of guys in nicely tailored suits completely dis-associated from the streets towing phone book sized research projects around... that's fine, but they need BALANCE. Say I ran a hip hop label. It would be like me carrying research books figuring I had the answers. I'd trade in all those books for ONE street savvy hip hop dude that bled hip hop. It was the same thing years ago on FM. We'd have a PD who lived it and our competitor had some rocket scientist guy. We'd destroy them every time. It's like here at XM--we impress PD's NOT to look at airplay charts. Why? Its the blind leading the blind. You can reference them...but make your OWN decisions based on knowledge and vibe. research is important--but it's how and WHERE its used...and how it's balanced into the human equation. The balance of a street smart media person armed with data is a dangerously good long as science and art are in balance and the unleashing of the art and the science happen at the "right" time in the execution.

Back to the USC thing---I imagine if you had USC students doing the research, and then have someone who REALLY understood that data, you'd have a very potent understanding of the college market. But--- I've seen it before: research denial. Some person WAY out of the college demographics saying "that CAN'T be right", with the end result being more confusion and wrong decisions than before. True story: FM Rock DJ named "Roach" Rogers in '72. Listeners (16-24 guys mainly) LOVED the guy because of his name...figured he was "one of them" (a pothead). The not-too-sophistacted research came back confirmed that. Station owners thought "We can't have this"! That data is wrong! Changed his name to "Rich Rogers"...and that "selective interpretation" lost them 3 points and the daypart. Listeners thought it was "bogus" to change his name. That's research denial. If a 22 year old PD was interprting that instead of way out of the demos owners, "Roach" would by now be in the hall of fame in that market. I like to use examples from earlier eras in radio and music because it all becomes clear. The good and the bad. You can see where things were great and why...and where things gor screwed up and why. Again that magic word--Balance. I believe balancing that sense of history with pure 2006 reality yields the best answers.

Then, there's the issue of good research being effective on the back end, but often unreliable on the front end. Here are three true examples of how research CAN flaw things:

1980: Music tests clearly illustrate that The Police and U2 will never succeeded in the US. To "new wave"

1998: Downloading music will never be a factor because it's too labor intensive

1968: FM will not succeed beyond Classical and "Good Music" fans.

...these were ALL from professional research reports.

Again---research is important. It's about learning...but it must be put in perspective and balanced. It's become "the answer" and it's not. It's part of it. I still would take a street wise instinctual thinker every time. But the thinkers and the data together---- They're both parts of the complex equation of winning ears and fans in 2006. Research CAN create strong content--but often that content lacks soul and is short lived, and at the end of the day is something that was more plastic than organic---more fleeting and cool for the moment than lasting and of high quality. There's an empasis in so many areas of our culture to stress buzz over "market" change rather than actually deliver create something that'll work for a minute, without understanding WHY it works beyond what the data tells you. I imagine if today's broadcast type research were previlent in the 40's and 50's and 60's, we would have never seen Citizen Kane (too different), heard Rock n Roll (Didn't test well--too ethnic), or watched Star Trek (too cerebral).

Research is knowledge. But WHERE it fits in the creative equation and that it co-operates with human instinct and vision decides long term, quality driven success.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I'll never forget the magic of listening to the AM radio, circa 1966 at 2am. Just quiet enough so I wouldn't wake my parents. There is no feeling like it. It is American experience that I wish everyone could have felt. You were reaching over the horizon listening to well tuned AM transmitters beaming the tale of their city with a homegrown DJ, homegrown ads and a music mix that is poles away from the typical over engineered play lists of the 21st Century. I remember those cold Winter nights especially well, where the signals beamed crisply into my bedroom in the South Side of Chicago from stations like KSL/Salt Lake City; KAAY/Little Rock; CFOR and CHUM up in Ontario; KOA/Denver and of course the big guns like WABC/New York and WBZ/Boston. Even the little guys like WILS in Lansing that faded in and out had their own sense of romance. The joy of hearing a new song that may or may not hit the Chicago charts...the strange accents from distant quadrants of the Nation. The excitement of a stations production which tended to ooze the flavor of the burgh they served. An AM radio on a Cold Winter Night---spanning the continent. Electronic poetry......on those nights--all was well with the World.

And now it's 2006...and there are some issues out there relating to the newest generation of Satellite radios and the Record labels. There's legislation on the Hill taking aim at Satellite radio. I can only relate to this as sort of an outsider and there's a legal side to all of this that programmers like myself need to and should stay clear of as my legal training is to say the To check out more about it goto

Nonetheless, we're all about playing music so I can't help wonder about all of this. So much of this impasse is old news. I remember in the 70's when cassette players also had FM radios. Any softening of record sales was because people were supposedly taping off FM instead of buying the Album. Funny thing though---when the quality of the music improved, sales were mysteriously back. I guess people only wanted to tape crap.

The frustrating thing for XM programmers is that there are several labels holding back from doing things with Satellite Radio because of these "issues". No doubt they'll be resolved, but in the meantime, once again artists are getting screwed. An example is that last month we wanted to do something with a pretty major classic artists' new CD. We've done a ton with him, he's an XM fan, and while he may not be on the cutting edge, there are a lot of people who worshipped his albums as the soundtrack of Suburban America in the mid 70's. Much of the Rock press and modern music aficionados may wish he'd go into hibernation, we think there are a lot of his fans who'd like to hear what he's up to. His music was beaten into the ground and his follow-up Albums may have been less than stellar, but the point is that he IS a great musician and his fans deserve to hear what he's up to. So--we wanted to create some programming around his latest CD. Ain't gonna happen. Label won't LET it happen, despite his management and publicists offering full cooperation. Who does this hurt? It hurts this artist and his fans. It's not like FM is going to roll out the carpet for him. THIS is what I don't get! What are these labels thinking? Then--last week, a "major label" nixed the Classical Confidentials with two important Classical artists. As if ANYONE is going to gve these artists the intense love that Paul Bachmann, Martin Goldsmith and our Classical channes will give these artists. It's insane what they are doing to THEIR artists. I think the relationship between XM and The Record Labels is a partnership in exposing music. Yes--There are these legal issues, but you'd think that those could be dealt with on a legal level while the music side works together until a legal resolution is found. Painting XM as "bad" to the Hill is in my opinion, criminal in itself.

Funny thing is that most people we deal with AT the label level think this whole thing is absurd...of course they'd get fired if they spoke up.

The fact that these issues affect the music is what's wrong with the world. To me, the satellite radio thing is yet another convenient excuse for blaming something on a soft market and changing world. IF XM was breaking the law and not paying artists, that's one thing, but XM pays a fortune to well as songwriters thorough BMI, ASCAP and SESAC. XM is going over-the top to embrace music, break artists and solidify careers AND we are paying. FM is grandfathered in and doesn't pay a dime to artists.

The key to the thing is that our new radios record. So did Walkmans and VCR's and Tivos . You can't transfer that recording to another's for personal listening only....and we PAY artists already.

XM is the only place that the very new, the very old, the eccentric and the forgotten geniuses can be heard. The fact that there's a bad attitude about this is whacked. I collect old Billboard Magazines. Gives you a good perspective on the history. The more you understand the past the better you can design the future. These magazines are loaded with other examples of The "industry" trying to stifle the inevitable technology advances. It's whacked.

OK...back to the positive----Ludacris did an Artist Confidential. Man, that thing was HOT. Mz. Kitti from XM's RAW (uncensored Hip Hop) was the host. This lady was on fire. She was over-the-top. Talkin about tittes and shit. Ludacris was REAL. The man is super intelligent, and has that pure un corrupted sense of what he's all about. An old White guy like me needed a translator like in Airplane (Barbra Billingsly: "Excuse me, but I speak Jive"). But I didn't NEED to "get it"--I got it. The vibe was intense and pure. REAL. I'll never be part of the Hip Hop Nation, but man, I was inspired by this. The line of questions was from a street POV. There was NOTHING "radio" about this. It is un-syndicatable. It is pure XM.

Speaking of intelligent. A personal mission is to help our staff evolve ourselves from the "I read R&R and do lunches with the record guys" types or the 'programming by code' thing where it's all "P-1 listening patterns can redirect a TSL and therefore an AQH, put industry code word_____here" to a different style of thinking. Reading R&R and having lunch with record guys is fine, it's part of the turf on the traditional format side, and knowing the science part is cool, but in my opinion, radio programming people need to seek a different level that changes the style of programming and managing channels to the 2006 reality.. Tone down the Hollywood Bullshit and Jive factor, or ease off on the rocket stuff and start thinking and operating on a more human/person to person plane. That doesn't mean going corporate, data driven or boring, it means re-evaluating ourselves and recognizing that the bullshit part of the "business" is just that--bullshit. The code words have a place, but can further alienate you from the real world...And you know the whole--"Hey--lookin'good...whendya get in?...Love ya babe" stuff that is often superficial to the point of being comedic. actually I think SNL has done a few routines like this. Sometimes we are a parody of ourselves. I hope we all have intense fun, but tone down the Bullshit and code and focus on the revolution at hand. A Style of thinking that impresses listeners not each other. I suppose I'm full of Bullshit and Code too...but I'm trying....

Sometimes programmers are their own worst enemies by talking in code, being TOO self important and living in the "Hey I'm in "the industry" thing or allowing the jive and code to get in the way of what REALLY counts---turning on listeners. WE aren't stars OR Rocket Scientists.

Katie Courics ratings slipped after the big circus opening day. Good. I'm sure she's a nice competent person, but the kickoff was way over the top for the wrong reasons. William Paley must be rolling over in his grave. I REALLY think these people will suffocate in their own hype. I really believe that North America will see a drastic hype overkill effect this decade. There's SO much sell, and so little substance out there that it's going to swallow some companies. Enough already with the "sell"--time for substance. What a concept. It's all lies. On the surface that may sound bitter. Hey--no bitterness--it's the truth. Cyclical I suppose...late 60's were TOO devoid of "sell, now it's 180 degrees from that. The truth is powerful. I predict truth will become a marketing tool in itself. Imagine a company that admitted they used to suck, but now they figured it out...and apologize to the public and promise a great new product. That'll NEVER happen, but it might just be effective.

Lou Brutus did a great three hour rap with Nick Mason of Pink Floyd. Lou is quite a talent interacting with artists. He's kind of a sicko--in a very positive way. That sickness is wonderful. I'm sure Lou and Nick talked about some real sick stuff that'll be really cool on the air.

...I just got back from USC to talk to the NEXT generation... and HEAR whta they are about...I NEEDED that reality check today. THEY represent the future and hearing their input was incredibly powerful...I'm STILL taking it in. there is hope...these people have NO baggage. I talked a lot, but LISTENED more. There IS hope!

Monday, September 11, 2006


Chicago! Terry Young on 60s on Six, salutes the Great Top 40 Stations of the 60's every Friday at 4pm Eastern. This coming Friday he's doing WLS in Chicago and Ron Riley, the legendary early evening DJ from '63 to about '68 will be joining Terry. Ron brought a massive box of "stuff" from that era at WLS. Being from Chicago and an avid WLS fan, I was asked to contribute some advertisers that would help make the thing authentic. Karroll's Red Hanger Shop, Mr. Norm's Grand Spalding Dodge, U.S, 30 Dragway with drivers like Arnie "The Farmer" Beswick...the list goes on. EVERY city always had those great local advertisers. "Dennisons A Men's Clothier" had an ad on the WABC All Night show in every break. That was a weird sponsor---an all night Men's clothing store. I hear they were eventually shut down because it was really a front for a Whore House. Some of the charm of those old stations were oddly enough the commercials. They had character. Often so bad they were good. Anyways, this WLS salute will be amazing for anyone from Chicago and interesting for anyone from the 60's. Terry does an incredible job literally recreating these great stations.

Dylan CD debuted at #1. In a future blog I'm going to address a theory regarding "cycles" of music where we tend to go through cycles of music change, integrity and revolution and music based on fashion and formula. In a nutshell: Revolutionary in 56 with R&B and Elvis...Formula in early 60's with the Bobby's (Rydell, Vinton Vee, etc..)...Revolutionary in 64 with British Invasion...Formula in Mid 60's with Paul Revere and the Raiders--fun but not exactly world changing...Revolutionary late 60's, Formulaic in the mid 70's, Revolutionary again in the early 80's...Fashion and Formula in the mid 80. etc....You get the idea. Interesting patterns we'll explore later. There are always exceptions, and an aggressive underground prepping the next "revolution", but in broad strokes, I find the cycles pretty accurate in a mainstream /commercial acceptance way. Another interesting theory" is artist commercial success levels. This "chart" deals with artists that are commercially successful (must separate that from good/bad). Both of these are "theories" that no doubt will be mis-interpreted, piss people off or taken WAY too seriously, but I think they are good thought starters:

--Breaking: Breaking big but will they be here next year? A bad CD can close down their career
--Emerged: Emerged as stars clearly. Can make bad CD and recover
--Cycle: Tour/CD/Tour/CD etc...For life. Totally established long as they maintain their sound and keep working, they're money machines and the popular pulse of mainstream America
--Renaissance: Classic guys who are bigger than ever, Could do 250,000 in Grand Canyon w/HBO simulcast
--Untouchable. Once in a lifetime Gods...Beatles, Sinatra, Dylan
--Special Interest. Relatively small Audience, but extremely loyal and long term fan base: Marley, Enya, etc...
--Fashion Driven. It's all about the publicity machine and look more than music. Tend to have relatively short but extremely high profile careers
...more detail on this stuff later on someday. This stuff might be pretty useless in many respects, but personally I find these sorts of things interesting to look at and think about---at least they help, for me anyways, get a handle on what happenned, is happenning and may well WILL happen. More people in music and media should look INTO things instead of accepting what everyone else is doing or has done and living in the sheep mode.

There's an interesting article in the London Guardian that indirectly affects us. (part of it below) It's about how the I-Pod specifically is SO popular it risks losing it's cool. It's like Vans. In 1975 Vans were totally cool. Musicians, hippies and cool people had Vans. Every FM station had to have a station Van because it was cool. Nowadays, Vans are hardly cool...they are a utility for the mainstream--The standard family vehicle (of course FM stations STILL have Vans, usually painted like circa 1985 mobile station 'ads'). The point being the challenge in staying cool while simultaneously become a mainstream product.

Why the iPod is losing its cool
Apple has added ever more extras to its digital music-player in a bid to stem falling sales. But fears are rising that the device is now too common to be cutting edge David Smith, technology correspondent
Sunday September 10, 2006The Observer

The Mermaid, Puddle Dock, is not the first place you might go in search of the cool and cutting edge. That will not stop an expectant crowd gathering at the conference centre in London's Blackfriars this week for a live satellite broadcast from San Francisco that could make or break one of the consumer icons of the Western world.
The iPod, the digital music player beloved of everyone from Coldplay's Chris Martin to President George Bush, is in danger of losing its sheen. Sales are declining at an unprecedented rate. Industry experts talk of a 'backlash' and of the iPod 'wilting away before our eyes'. Most disastrously, Apple's signature pocket device with white earphones may simply have become too common to be cool.
On Tuesday the eyes of iPod-lovers the world over will be on Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple, when he seeks to allay fears that it could follow Sony's tape-playing Walkman into the recycling bin of history

BOOTCAMP is coming. we're doing another famous XM Bootcamp. We get everyone together and get into it. Below is a recently de-classified follow-up to the crew summarizing an old bootcamp we did (Early 2002 I think) You had to be there as this is a follow-up...but...:

Here is a condensed review of our meeting on Friday. Please ask if there are any questions or confusing points

In the early70's radio changed forever. The old "rules" were challenged and new rules was a whole new ballgame. Totally....because suddenly FM came out of the closet, did radio on 1970's terms and won. Today, the scenario is extremely similar, as XM is the new FM. BUT----There are some major differences from the FM vs. AM Battle.

The reality is that we are learning about these differences and it affects our game plan. Not the creative game plan as much as in the level and quality of play. An FM in a toilet facility could limp along with sloppy radio and score well......we can't. We gotta be SO on the game. SO on it...SO focused! Know that:

***The expectations for a pay service are HIGH. People expect crap from free radio, but demand excellence, imagination, musical credibility and a totally non-terrestrial sound from us.

***FM listening might be 6-7 hours a week for a good station...we're getting ten times that. People are listening at AQH levels that are unheard of in FM.

***We aren't alone. There's another player out there trying to revolutionize radio too.

***We are in defining times. Comparative times. Bad time to save the best for later. Pull out the best now and keep improving on it

We are at a state of heightened competition. A time where tactics, reaction time, inter-department coordination and co-operation, and AFDI the details has never been more important. It is also the fun part. as we are entering a new era of dirt chewing competition

We are first, we are in control, but we must execute flawlessly and adjust where necessary, as well as be on alert in certain areas where we are, to some degree, vulnerable.


*Quickly. Time is not an ally.

*Smartly. There are comments coming at us from every angle..every chat board..Good and Bad. No time for knee-jerking

*Noticeably. If we adjust something...adjust it so it's noticed. Otherwise why bother. No FM denial adjustment here.

The Big Picture reaction?

1. Improve our music so we are better on EVERY Channel

2. Tune up Production so it REALLY makes a positive difference. Kick it up so we are less FM than ever.

3. Tune up presentation so we're always on. Efficient power raps that nail the info without going into mindless chatter land.

4. Communicate. Teamwork.

No-one, including myself are immune from responsibility to excel and clearly prevail in the programming battle.

While everyone knows the direction, Don't be afraid to ask for help. We nail YOU when something isn't right, so if you need help in executing anything...ask. THIS IS NOT A TIME FOR GUESSWORK, ASSUMPTIONS or ANYTHING SHORT OF CLEAR, SMART PROGRAMMING.



kinda like the U.S. Military. Gulf War---Organized, focused, coordinated, on plan. Great PR
Viet Nam----A mess. Unfocused. Unclear. Bad PR support

That's why:

*We gotta AFDI the details of our plan

*We gotta work at perfection.

*We gotta work as a team. Across our department...across the entire company.

With our style or radio, there's little room for creative errors

Remember the Big 3:

MUSIC PASSION--Complete stations, energy, celebration, positive, LOVE music, ON TOP OF MUSIC, features, clever mixes, surprises and B Sides.

CHARACTER--Clearly not a jukebox, but smart about it....mindless talk without focus kills. Most people think many FM DJs are idiots. Why would we sound even remotely like them?

MUSCLE---National events...Big stuff...Think MTV not local radio. This is XM not some station in Anywhere USA . Think XM Scale.
This is one of the reasons we must super co-operate with other departments. To maximize the muscle of XM to spread the magic

Frankly, I think we've beaten FM in the creative area. It's just a matter of time. Now we have another competitor, and it will be more difficult to beat them. We will. But it starts now.

They can beat us if you're out of your neighborhood: If XMU were musically behind...if Deep Tracks was repetitious...if 70's played stiffs....
Every channel is need to LIVE in your neighborhood.

I wont repeat the neighborhood spiel as you should know that by now, but some keys for all neighborhoods--
(there are exceptions, and you know who you are, but in the big picture)---

Totally, ridiculously on top of music

Repetition aware/Powergold savvy

Genre features!

Dig for turn ons (fan visual: XM DJs carrying stacks of CDs home to figure out cool new stuff to turn listeners on to)

In control musically...the LEADER.

"Been there" Staff vs.. novices. Ooze experience & Passion. STREET experience, not Terrestrial. It's all about the streets.

Complete (features/concerts/artists in studio/callouts to industry figures)

THE MUSIC MIX IS THE HAMBURGER...Features as condiments. Need both.


JJ Cale factor (as in Cocaine song)

Shotgun Backsells

North America References

Cross Promoting XM Channels----Informing

"Selling" XM --- but selling through information and honesty not drilling it down throats.

Ear Candy

Organic Production

Never: (and LOOK for can happen)

Goofy, Stupid

Insulting Music


Fake friendly

incomplete (not enough features/concerts/artists in studio/callouts to industry figures)

behind the music curve

Underestimating intelligence/intellect

CHR style audio masturbation....stuff only other DJs think is amusing

Stiffs. Think TV show analogy

We're getting better. We're almost there. But all of the above still happen, however sporadically. We are seeking 100%, not 95%

The biggest XM problem areas. Some are infrequent, but we strive for zero occurrence

Too much Talk (MAX-AMERICA) not terrestrial drippage
Sophomoric ----ok, there's place for it, but it's gotta be done well.
(remember: If you're targeting youth. Target 5 years older. a 14 year old respects a 19 year old....a 9 year old respects a 14 year old. A 14 year old hears ANOTHER 14 year old and it's jealousy. A teen radio basic!)]

Musically unaware

Not challenging enough (FM sedates...XM Challenges)

Repetition. Now remember that repetition is the cornerstone of winning radio. The repeated play concept. It's critical in every format. BUT---we are playing under different conditions. Every channel has different rules.We discussed ways to minimize it--AFDI



FM tightened music as far as you can go without alienating

XM loosens music as far as you can go without alienating

NEW MUSIC. Awareness is critical. While others talk about what’s out, XM talks about what’s COMING too….and we don’t just play ONE song…we play careers. (Though now and then there are indeed one song albums!)

WE GOTTA BE ON TOP OF THESE RELEASES. PLAYING THEM –LIVING THEM. If you dont play currents...that's fine--LIVE YOUR artists old or new.

Talk about it. Be in the loop. We have a real staff. We can really talk up the new CDs.
Where is it on YOUR chart? Call a record store in a cool or offbeat town and chat with the kid behind the register. GET CREATIVE IN SELLING NEW MUSIC. I cannot tolerate or fathom our competition beating us in the sell of new sounds. (You decades folks needn’t worry here), but, anyone focused on artists still alive, lets hear XM clearly dominate the air with information and EXCITEMENT about new and upcoming releases.
Now, song wise, unless you’re a decade station where the original authentic hit version is critical, look for imports, live versions, BBC versions…”different” versions of library songs. Some are bad. But some are gems. Again, we cannot let our competitor be cool because they are playing an odd version of a Hendrix song and we’re playing the same old greatest hits version.

THE BOTTOM LINE—Our “fans” must know tat we’re out there searchin’ for the BEST DAMN MUSIC on Earth and there ain’t no static play list sitting there dictating every song. C’mon—DIG INTO THE MUSIC. Listen to Franks Place…..Listen to The Loft, among many others—these guys are talkin’ music..Informing..And doing it in a concise and compelling way. In other words, let’s hear ENERGY…SPIRIT…AND FUN! Swagger, Information and “ownership” of your genre. Nothing less will a) be acceptable b) give us a clear musical victory.


-PLAYING THE BEST SONGS (remember “neighborhoods”. The BEST songs can be hits or experimental music or depth or....…depends on your musical neighborhood)




-THINKING LIKE A MUSIC FREAK (research geeks don’t “get” playing a lost Hendrix B side…we thrive on searching for cool songs to turn listeners on to). IT'S OUR JOBS TO BE MUSIC FREAKS.

-THE EXTRA MILE. Ben Smith is already contacting artists coming to Wolf trap in August. Some guys are "setting up" the interaction with artists releasing songs NEXT year. Max is working with Jazz Times for his chart.

If we do the above consistently…..we win.

Some things to remember:
BURN IN THE LARRY FAST LOGO--It's our signature
REMEMBER ORBITS....Work the Orbits (levels of rotation). Every channel has different orbits.
SPONTANEOUS CREATIVITY...Three camp Non-Zep off beat Stairway To Heavens back to back...or how about when Deep Tracks plated Streisand's version of Spiders From Mars (!?)
XM HAS LIBRARIES NOT PLAYLISTS. Use language to "describe" our limitless music access.


*Six weeks in Front (for releases and visits). Create an interesting way to intract with artists instead of the old Cattle Call where you get a 10 minute "phoner" thats inevitably boring and unrewarding for artists and fans.
*Email YOUR chart weekly. Include all levels of label contacts, managers, format related press, etc..). Reach OUT...don't expect people to learn about your music stance from trades.
*Managers! It's a labels' job to promote us and that's great...but establishing personal rapport with managers is important in the big picture.
*Follow-up letters and post-artist event reach out---send the love BACK. Don't take artist co-operation for granted!
*Lunch...NEVER at gig. Sitting in line with the jock from k-107.5 backstage is pretty lame. If you have ideas to present an artist/manager/label, don't stand in a line at a show and expect to get traction.
*Name power. Find out who's name here will open the door. It's a name driven business.
*Make the Manager a Star...or label guys. Put them on the air! Our secret weapon! National it up to the guys who makeb things happen
*Backstage flowers or whatever it takes to show love.
*Tell them straight...advice not fawning. If an artist is making an error--tell them. You might get laughed at--then again you may make a point. We have unusual access to fans, share the info!
*READ! Study ALL music information sources from UK mags to College playlists to...everything. LEARN.

PRODUCTION: (separate review will be issued...but think non-terrestrial, organic, soulful, writing, "different").
We MUST EVOLVE "sound" and rid ourselves of the pure cliched' audio shit on FM.
PRESENTATION: We will discuss one on one.
BIGNESS: We are going for BIG. If you have ideas. Write them out. BRAND MANAGE. Prepare a proposal. Hand it to me and I'll route it to the right people. Eddie has an Ozz-Fest idea, Joey has a Miami Festival idea, etc.....write them out. They will get looked at and in many cases aggressively acted on. Back to the creative batting average--If 30% of your ideas are hits, you are a 300 hitter--an all-star.
OTHER STUFF: the purpose of this note is not to go through every know what they are. Now just AFDI.

FINALLY----Just remember that it's a new World of radio. Never before has it been so important to:
Loose isn't sloppy! It's an attitude that allows you to focus, have fun and get it done

.....the battle goes on...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Our trip to Cooperstown to see Bob Dylan was scrubbed. The idea of seeing a twilight concert at a ballpark on a summer evening amidst the pastoral backdrop of upstate New York was squashed by the forecasts of heavy turbulence, rain and the other remnants of Ernesto. Looks like we'll take a rain check (literally) on that gig.
Nonetheless, no shortage of things to do during the traditional down time of Labor Day weekend. Dan Turner and I went to Atlantic City for lunch instead. It's kinda like Las Vegas with a big smudge...nobody smiles there. It was surreal. Las Vegas with a headache. I guess if you get real drunk you can have fun. We didn't get drunk, but had a good time making cultural observations that ranged from scary to interesting to.....strange.

On Friday, WOXY, an adventurous online channel closed down. As in the case of any channel that ceases to exist, we are inundated with emails from the fans hoping that XM will pick up the channel. We'd love to look at that, but we have no spare bandwidth right now, and our priorities would likely be to resurrect channels like Music Lab, Special X and On The Rocks that have been sent to online only because of bandwidth issues. We also need to improve our own channels that target the WOXY fan. The thing about the emails is that it's real difficult for the fans to send enough of them to reach critical mass, and the emails tend to be pasted from the website, along with the occasional "You guys are idiots, if you don't pick up this channel you are dumber than I thought" types which aren't very effective. My advice for any channel would be to have a central person that collects the fan input and then presents the case in a businesslike way to XM. Much more effective than the scattershot email torture. In any case, I hope WOXY is able to stay around. We need channels like this in the current new media mix.

I read recently where NPR is the #3 most listened to "format" in terrestrial radio. Now that says something. Programming NPR would be fun. I always wondered what would happen if a crew of smart and experienced veterans of commercial radio wars were to run NPR and run it WITHOUT compromising their integrity. It would either ruin it, OR take it to a new level. If done right, probably take it to a new level. I say that because in many respects, XM brought many public radio people as Programmers, put them in a more commercial type environment and they flourished as they had nearly zero preconceived notions for what it's "supposed" to sound like. Maybe people with NO public radio experience could bring that same clean slate to Public Radio. At XM, anyone who came from commercial radio wars had to un-learn a lot whereas Public Radio folks had no un learning to do in terms of the tired clichés that "FM commercial wars veterans" were associated with. An example is that we like to use Bob Edwards to voice production. He has no "here's how a promo is supposed to be voiced" baggage, and the fact that he just "talks" is so refreshing in itself. Experience can be a bad thing--even successful experience if the person is unwilling to aggressively evolve their thinking.

The thing that underscores the NPR success is that there's far more to successful radio than the contests, play-the-hits and STYLE of radio that's become a parody of itself. There's nothing wrong with playing hits! But that STYLE in which radio is presented on FM--and even on XM at tmes, is SO out-of-touch. I listen to some FM's...and some XM stations at times and wonder--WHAT are these people thinking!!??? Is there ANYone over 8 that would find this even remotely entertaining and interesting? NPR can certainly touch the other edge of the spectrum with being a little too elite for the room. There's that zone in the middle where it's inspired, interesting and not too elite OR cheesed out. THAT'S being "in sync" with the era.

A few years ago, a friend of mine named Frank Wood actually called them to try to buy it. Frank is an eccentric, brilliant and legendary station mogul who started WEBN in Cincinnati years ago with his Father and built it into one of the great stations only to be creatively dismantled over the years--though Frank's operation was SO strong during his tenure that WEBN still does extremely well. He later owned Secret Communications and sold the group during the early days of consolidation. He possesses a true balance of insanity and clever business acumen. He collects books about truly weird stuff ranging from torture techniques in the 1400's to books about sexual etiquette for teens written in 1905, he also owns a very nice Jet and takes cycling trips with Real Estate guru Sam Zell in Turkey. You get the idea. Now if Frank took over NPR, I have no reason to think it wouldn't be the #1 format within a year. Unfortunately, they said no way.

I recently had lunch with Frank and ex Clear Channel Radio head Randy Michaels in Cincinnati. Now THAT was an interesting lunch. I tried to figure out what Randy's next move was going to be. In typical Randy fashion he started waxing on about technology--I got about every third word, and left with the feeling that I still have no idea what his next move is, but it'll likely be innovative and successful. I also wonder what Clear Channel Radio would be like if Randy was still at the helm....He's one of these 200 IQ guys that probably didn't finish high school but memorized the tower height of every radio station in America by the time he was 8. We used to have these trivia games that went till trivia, but more challenging was a game of "What do the Call letters stand for" we had in Phoenix. (He won, but I got him on WQAM--We Quit At Midnight). Guys like Randy and Frank are the kind of guys that made FM Radio the icon it was. Real thinkers...but real crazies (for the right reasons) too. A potent combination.

Good weekend radio listening. The Bob Dylan marathon on The Village is great. Then there's "IT", Fred Essentials, etc.... Usually we like to do these "specials" during less obvious times. There seems to be an unwritten FCC law that says a station MUST do specials during holiday weekends. My feeling has always been that if it's really special, why limit it to the "obvious" time. Then again, the listening patters are so conducive to these kind of things on a weekend like Labor Day, we should probably do them on Holidays AND during the non obvious times. It's one of those "baggage" things where you get SO conditioned to doing things a certain way...and that certain way might be completely wrong. We at XM need to do a deeper baggage search than the TSA.

Opie and Anthony were on Letterman. I gotta say I was impressed with the way they carried themselves off. I've been on a few News type shows and it's not easy. You drive to the studio rehearsing in your head about how cool you're going to be--then once the camera is on and there's 50 people standing around, everything goes down the toilet, but O&A had extraordinary poise and were as natural as they are in person. Guys like that are always a lightening rod for disapproval. There are people who WANT to see them fail. But fail they did not. I thought they were very impressive.

A week or so before, I saw where Steve Dahl and Garry Meyers kissed and made up. Other than Disco Demolition, Steve & Garry never got the National exposure that other "two man shows" got, but they owned Chicago. They hit their stride before the big National Morning Show syndication thing hit, so may have missed that boat, but damn they were good. Occasionally they'd do live morning shows before a huge studio audience. Radio magic. It was 1940's live radio meets the 20th Century. Before Steve and Garry, you had Fox & Leonard in Philly, but the first big two man team was Bob and Ray at WINS in New York. We still carry Bob and Ray on Sonic Theater Channel. Their style of humor is definitely worth checking out. You'll either get it...or you wont. Sorta like Fawlty Towers. If you get their style, it's timeless.

Our "Best of Artist Confidential" CD has hit Starbucks. Good collection of live songs recorded as part of our Artist Confidential series. Robert Plant doing Whole Lotta Love, Coldplay, Phil Collins, and several others are in there...good set. Getting the rights was a nightmare, but it all came together.

Ran across a good article about Richard Branson , everyones favorite Rock n Roll billionaire:

Sir Richard Branson still remembers how he was first received by the establishment powers when he started Virgin Atlantic Airways 22 years ago. "The head of American Airlines said, 'What does Richard Branson know about the airline business? He comes from the entertainment business.' But that was exactly what the airline business needed."
He has been right, of course. With the exception of Southwest, all of the look-alike U.S. carriers wound up filing for bankruptcy or going belly up. Meanwhile, Virgin, with its fun-loving flight attendants who seem to be hosting a party, is still thriving.
What Branson understood two decades ago is just now beginning to be embraced by other corporate leaders: We should be having fun when we're spending our money. In a sense, Branson has never left the entertainment business, and that's why he's kicking off our third annual Customers First awards. As his empire has expanded--from a recording label and a chain of music stores to what became his fiercest passion, airlines, as well as an astonishing array of some 200 other eclectic ventures worldwide--his method has remained the same. He takes on intransigent industries that treat customers inexplicably badly and shows that he can offer not only a better deal but a truly entertaining experience. The approach has made Sir Richard a multibillionaire and Virgin a beloved brand--as well as a $10 billion-a-year operation.
Throughout Virgin's history, many of its most propitious ideas, small and large, have sprung from Branson's wants and needs as a customer himself. "The reason I went into business originally," he says, "was not because I thought that I could make a lot of money, but because the experiences I had personally with businesses were dire and I wanted to create an experience that I and my friends could enjoy."
On one trip, he recalls, "I wanted to talk to the pretty girl in the next aisle, but I was stuck in my seat the entire flight." Branson's frustration inspired him to introduce stand-up bars in Virgin's cabins. After his wife's manicurist suggested offering nail treatments and massages onboard, Branson didn't bother with market research. "Sounds like a great idea," he said. "Screw it, let's do it." Now Virgin has 700 therapists on staff.
Putting customers first is hard in a corporate environment that understands only cost, efficiency, and business as it has always been done. That was the case when Branson thought flyers would love seatback video screens that would let them pick the movies they wanted to see onboard rather than having to wait for whatever film the airline had picked. "Seatback videos are complicated, expensive things to do," he recalls. "The cost was around $8 million, and the airline was quite stretched at the time. I went to the bank, and they wouldn't give us the money. So I rang up the head of Boeing and said that we wanted to order some new 747s and could he give us seatback videos, and he said yes. We were able to borrow $2 billion to buy a new fleet of planes, but not $8 million for seatback videos."
Airlines are not the only industry where the big players exist in a weird state of mediocre parity because they put their own interests ahead of their customers'. Virgin Active, Branson's European chain of health clubs, lets members pay when they go rather than locking them up with a contract. Similarly, in the mobile-phone business, Virgin Mobile USA has attracted 4 million customers by offering prepaid cards mainly to young people who couldn't afford costly long-term service plans. The lesson: Don't rip people off, and they'll happily stay your customer.
A lot of executives consistently do what's easiest or cheapest for the business rather than the people paying the freight. Branson offers an alternative: Take a look at your business and ask yourself, "Is this how I would want to be treated if I were the customer?"

Now for the other side of the coin:

What is the deal with this Katie Couric coming to CBS News thing? More imploding under he weight of short term glitz and hype. Personally, I think that's the TV equivilent of the radio STYLE that's out of sync with the era. The circus surrounding her will ceratainly get a quick buzz and draw attention. Understood. But I gotta think they are gong to collapse their future credability, integrity and ultimately success by living and operting in the world of cheese.