Monday, October 30, 2006

THE RISE AND FALL OF AMERICAN MUSIC...AND RISE AGAIN?

Friday we had a field trip. We took the XM Programming Staff that's based here in DC to one of those arty but modern theaters called AFI. American Film Institute. I did a short warm up rap, Jon Zellner did an intro then we showed the entire staff the movie "Before The Music Dies". I gotta tellya, this is a revolutionary film. It's not a cinematic masterpiece, but an emotional one for anyone remotely interested in music. It attacks the rise and fall of American Music---with an inspiration on how to make it rise again. Radio and The Music Industry have destroyed the essence of American music. It's a National tragedy. This movie brings it to light. It's positive in that it celebrates the American music story, and offers hope for those willing to change it. After the film, I wrote this note to our staff:

OK, for you who attended the BEFORE THE MUSIC DIES showing and mini bootcamp, this note is for you. If you are not in DC---SEE THIS MOVIE--NOW! (we sent copies). Now, to summarize shortly:

Our tying into this movie is no "movie promotion"--It is a mission. A mission that we are ON and that the film clearly displays. As I mentioned, we need to recognize that this film IS what we are all about. I hope this painfully drove that point home. Every time we lower our standards, chase the vacant FM dream or just don't think like revolutionaries, the less chance WE have to do something positive, timeless and at the end of the day--successful.

Keep in mind:

INTELLECT: Radio is dumb.....idiotic....a joke that is fodder for skits on the Simpson's. We gotta lose the old line "do lunch with the label guys, read r&r and cut some promos" mentality. It is STUPID. It is dumbing down our culture at a time when it needs SMARTENING. Every channel from Kids to Franks Place can be intellectual. Intellect isn't elite---it's using our mental and creative tools to give something back----joy.

EXPERIMENTAL: We are experimental. Satellite Radio has never been done before. If we weren't experimental, we could just do what's already out there. Experimental is good. We need to get BACK to experimenting...re-writing the playbook. Nothing is revolutionized without being experimental first. It's a state-of-mind backed with actions geared to change the sound into something that's RIGHT for 2006 North America....

COMMUNITY: we are local. Our locality is all of North America. If we do not take advantage of this by ENGAGING the audience as our stringers and community members, we are no better than a local terrestrial station. CNN has Kissinger talking Iraq...XM has Cliff Burnstein (manager supreme) talking about Metallica. And...ENLIST the XM Nation.

THE XM GAME PLAN: It has worked and will continue to work. We suffer when we get OFF the plan. We cannot afford to do that.

PASSION

CHARACTER

MUSCLE

...and AFDI. We gotta deliver on what we explain XM to be--otherwise it's all bullshit and we are no better than the other guys.
-Lee


...This is a mission for me personally and is shared by A LOT of people at XM. I got into "the business" in the mid 60's and am shamed by how pathetic we've let it get. I certainly contributed as did everyone who has touched the mainstream. It is time to get out of the ruins of 1970 or 1980 and get into 2006 and fix it. In many ways, it's all part of the disturbing trend toward--SHIT. Some products improve life...most just cash in on it. They will see their day of demise. We will get back to the Garden and start planting seeds instead of harvesting and forgetting. Quality WILL rule. The crash of American music is symbolic to the nervous breakdown our society is having anyways. It's one of the things this Country can't turn it's head to. And a big part of it is the machine that feeds our culture whether it's manufactured goods or media, or whatever.

When I was a kid something " Made in Japan" mean cheap. Now, in certain products, I double check to make sure it IS made in Japan. Or how about China--a bunch of guys in Rickshaws begging for Rice? Hardly. It's fast becoming a gleaming center of Global commerce. Or Dubai--a weird place with seamy guys on Camels ready to rob the rich? Hell, they're building the next Las Vegas. The point is that AMERICAN MUSIC is one of the great American exports and contributions to the World, and to see it being smothered by soul-less profiteers is to say the least disturbing and wrong. It's something I believe we at XM need to be on the watch for. XM has an opportunity to do the RIGHT thing and have a soul instead of simply being one of 1,000 new technology companies. If we balance soul with correct and smart business practices, we will succeed in a timeless way. I have no doubt we are and will, but in today's environment we need to keep our Bullshit detectors on high gain.

With all that said, in media, music and other venues--It's an extremely powerful and positive time for those who embrace change. There's a new Gold Rush out there...and it's different from the old one.

It gets back to "Marketing Change vs.. Actually Changing". SO many companies market themselves as "great" but in reality, they suck. The mainstream WILL catch up to that.

OK, now that we have our eyes set on changing the World, back to reality.
Monday, I traveled to Los Angeles. Went to yet another Quincy Jones awards dinner. Quincy is part of the XM Family though we probably don't do a very good job of telling the World. few people have been "awarded" more than Q. And he deserves everything. The man has been there and done it all. He is a timeless legend...hell, he worked for Duke Ellington, produced Sinatra and Michael Jackson's biggest CD's, wrote the score for too many Films and Hit TV Shows to mention, and the list goes on. And you know what? He's the kindest, most loving guy you'd ever want to meet. I love going to his house in LA..more like a resort. Phone rings--It's Clinton. Gotta put 'em on hold, cause the Prime Minister of Japan is on line two. Heady stuff. One 8-part show he did for us was "Be-Bop to Hip Hop" where he walks us through the history of music...from his ears. Be-Bop to Hip Hop. we color it with ear candy and sound bites and the result is a tour de force of knowledge and insight. With Q, all you gotta do is stick a mic in front of him...go out for lunch...come back and you got a show. He loves to talk...and it's not BS...it's personal stories from the trenches. The man's history is SO deep. He's 70 something, but has the energy of a 30 year old. I cannot say enough about Q. I'm honored to be among his legion of pals. If he ever gets bored with music, he could run the U.N.

The dinner in his honor was kinda cool. I noticed something strange about half way through it...I think I was among the few non African American in the place. That's cool--Much better than a bunch of Industry regulars glad handing vacantly. Being a solo White Guy is nothing new. Back in Chicago in my teens we used to go see R&B Shows at the old Regal Theater deep in the South Side. There'd be these shows featuring someone like the Temptations, but with their REAL act--not the one watered down for middle America...then a few blues players, emerging R&B acts and whatever else they could cram into the bill. Me and friends would be the only White guys there. On the ride to show we'd rehearse what we'd say if we were cornered by anyone offended by our being there. We'd practice in our hippest voices "Hey Brother, we're here to celebrate your music...peace man" just in case.....remember this was 1968 and a turbulent time. These were neighborhoods we were not supposed to go to. Of course the audiences were way too absorbed in the music to even think twice about a bunch of long haired white dudes to give us any trouble...but we were paranoid American kids who didn't know any better. The only strange parts were when the opening act would be a Redd Foxx type comic who tell jokes we didn't really get but we're probably about "us". We joined in with nervous laughter. The whole thing was kinda like the scene in Animal House where the boys wander into a Black club with their "dates". I love America. It's that melting pot of culture that makes the MUSIC so historically great. Now if we don't snuff out the flame, the music and the artists will rise above the sick machinery and prevail.

Big week for Artist Confidentials. And speaking of R&B, had Natalie Cole in. She was amazing. Earlier had Aaron Neville. BK Kirkland who runs the Groove did a stellar job of hosting the Artist Confidential; Soul Editions. Both artists were a delight to deal with. Pro. Zero head case. Immaculate playing. REAL artists. Timeless stuff not driven by the fleeting hit single.

On another front there was BASEBALL CONFIDENTIAL. An offshoot of our "Confidential" series. The guest was Tommy Lasorda. Man, this guy rocks. This whole series is really pretty cool. A studio audience, and in the tradition of Artist Confidential, a high level interview and Q&A with the passionate fans. Of course, there's no musical component, but you don't need one. The stories....the "real truth" about baseball stuff. A dream for any student or fan of the game. A huge line-up is coming to keep Baseball on XM swinging for the fences throughout the off-season.

Oh yeah, I promised Mike Marrone, who runs THE LOFT to mention HIS blog -- Here ya go Mike! www.myspace.com/Loft_xm

5 Comments:

At 11:11 AM, Anonymous Jason Birzer said...

I definitely want to catch that film at some point, but being that I have a kid, my freedom of movement is somewhat limited.

First, tho, it seems that only very selected channels play new music. For example, even with new management in place, I'm frustrated that Da Boneyard still hasn't gotten around to playing new music. Then there are the problems of Ethel and Squizz, which seems to be mired in FM programming hell, with not a whole lot of depth being demonstrated.

The second thing is that the focus shouldn't just be on American music, but music throughout the world. Certainly, there are plenty of bands in this great nation to promote, but there are also groups all around the world that are worth listening to.

 
At 12:07 PM, Anonymous fasolamatt said...

I agree with Jason above; having said that, a time and place for some aspect of music in the United States would be great. Look at Minja Lausevic's A World In Two Cities site as an example of how to feature music in America... one week, a Sacred Harp singing, the next week, Hmong pop music...

 
At 6:05 PM, Blogger Cygnus said...

Quincy Jones was too busy to talk to George Clinton? Wow!

 
At 5:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the previous poster regarding more music from around the world. World Zone was good, but I'd like to see more pop stuff in the mix. Also, there are still many good artists that fall through the cracks because they don't fit one of XM's channel formats. Fine Tuning may have been originally designed to catch some of these artists, but HD surround has cut their playlist way back.

Timothy Stockman

 
At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You noted that satellite radio is experimental, and that experiment is succeeding. There is a post on the compete.com blog today showing web traffic to XM and Sirius websites and XM traffic was nearly at an all time high last month. Nice work. Here is the link: http://blog.compete.com/2006/12/15/xm-vs-sirius-sattelite-radio/

That movie sounds excellent, I will defiantely check it out.

 

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