Monday, November 06, 2006



Last month we were on our weekly Conference call with Snoop Dogg's management and decided to do a month long "celebration" supporting Snoop's newest release. Dion Summers who runs our Urban group came up with the name "Dogg-Vember" a play on the incredibly tired 'Rock-Tober'. Dogg-Vember is SO awful, it's brilliant.

It gets back to the idea that AWFUL is great and BRILLIANT is great, it's that stuff in the middle, the 'average' stuff that gets lost to the point where Average simply in unacceptable. There are SO many examples of this, including:

Radio Classics: Those old time radio shows. Some of them are SO dated, they are genius by today's standards.

Special X-Mas: One of our holiday channels and the one that always gets the best response. It plays the worst Holiday music ever recorded. So's brilliant.

Guest DJ's: The old guest DJ routine. The best ones were always the horrible ones. Far more entertaining than someone bordering on "pro"...that's too obvious. get the idea.

XM's new ad campaign is like this. There are those who think it's amazing and others who think it sucks. GREAT! It's "average" ad campaigns that get lost in the muck.

There are some things that are inherently average. Take Adult Contemporary Radio. The challenge is how do you make something NOT average in this environment?

One of the reasons radio in general has lost it's edge is that it's SO average. Even 99% of the "Chuck & Stan In The Morning" shows you hear in every market are designed to be edgy. Guess what--they're average. The best shows are the great ones...AND the truly awful ones. Those average ones are the LEAST entertaining. Nothing bugs me as much as "aveage" morning show stunts, like a prank phone call that any talented 16 year old could make. Then there's those things like Opie & Anthony's Church bit--now that was NOT average.

This "average" thing is important to note. There seems to be this effort across the land to create things that are average. Probably because of the fear of doing something wrong. But it's the extremes that cut through. Average, unless backed by some marketing campaign of biblical proportions or remarkable accessability like Fast Food or FM, will just blend in and not make any significant impact.

When I was a consultant I couldn't stand BORING Program Directors. Better someone completely off the wall than someone "average". There's something special about the extremes. EXTREMELY BAD and EXTREMELY BRILLIANT. That middle ground, aka

Last week was Halloween. Strange holiday. Eric Logan had the idea of having a contest amongst the various clusters here at XM for the most bizarre treatment of their work areas. It turned into a museum of the insane. Te winner was the Rock Cluster. Lou Brutus orchestrated a Disney quality tribute to deceased Rock Stars. Decked out with strobe lights that challenged the Fillmore, the area was sectioned off into exhibits of various dead stars hosted by various XM programmers and DJ's. It was SO sick, it was brilliant...and won the competition. The thing I liked about it is that it COULD have been a real stupid waste-of-time that most "office" Halloween parties turn into. This was FAR from that....NOT average.

One guy who wasn't there was Martin Goldsmith. He's in London working with Paul Mc cartney on some programming to support his Classical CD. A lot of guys doing Classical things. Some fans don't like that but I figure guys like Mc Cartney and Sting have contributed enough to where they can do whatever they want. A more controversial issue is the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame nominees. The RRHOF is one of those things that symbolizes everything wrong with Rock n Roll 2006. A great idea, but it should be the Rock CRITICS Hall of Fame. It's SO bloody biased. There are the obvious entries, then there are those who are in that are Critics friends..but not much else. Then of course there are those who'll probably never make it in--especially the prog rock types like Yes, Rush and The Moody Blues. Critics never liked those bands anyways. But a marginally popular Punk band that could sell out CBGB for five minutes--well of course they're in. ..or some "icon" that was a New York Underground thing but maybe had one or two lasting songs--but was/is a critics darling...they're in. The bias for and against some genres makes the thing a joke. And Cleveland? I can see where Cleveland has merit because of Alan Freed and the whole "Rock n Roll town" thing it had going in the 70's, but after several meetings with the RRHOF it was pretty obvious that it's more about commerce---tourism than anything else, so the idea of having it there is flawed from the beginning.

Flew the Cirrus with Kerry Dunn, our executive assistant in Programming and Jim Sharifi one of our audio animators. Kerry wanted Chicken Wings so I planned for Buffalo. Snowed in. Chuck Dickemann from our Baseball channel suggested a place called Quaker State in State College, PA. Wings were OK, but more impressive was the genuine Batmobile in the lobby of the joint. Needless to say we all got several pictures.

Heard a great band: Pure Reason Revolution. UK Band. You hear pieces of Led Zeppelin, Genesis, and the Beach Boys...but it all fits together and works . Other than XM I doubt if it'll ever get heard here, but it's a very interesting an adventurous sound for those who like a modern take on the Kashmir era. They actually have really good harmonies and aren't locked into a technique arms race as pretty much all of the neo prog bands are. that's what I loved about the early Yes before they flamed out, at least in terms of cohesive recordings. The Yes album, Fragile and Close To The Edge are as clear, powerful and cinematic today as they were in the early 70's. Any musician or non musician that has the patience should listen to these today. Despite Yes' image as pompous and worse, these are remarkable albums that have turned around even the most hardened young music fans who may know only of Yes as a tired "Classic Rock" band that had a hit with 'Owner of a Lonely Heart'. A quick listen to THE YES ALBUM for example will change that. Telepathic arrangements, stunning sound, amazing playing and cohesive, melodic and epic songs. Definitely a love/hate thing. It's not for everyone, but that era for that band generated, in my opinion, some timeless magic that lives on despite the fact that while they are as impressive as ever on stage, never again captured that sound on record .

New Satellite went up. At first it was XM-4. WAIT! Our first two satellites were called ROCK and ROLL. The next two RHYTHM and BLUES. "XM-4" is SO "Boeing"--not exactly edgy. I guess you could say "average". After a volley of emails and pleas, it's now "Blues". Not exactly something that changes the course of our business, but still subtly important as we ARE an entertainment company!

Cingular will carry XM on cellphones. On the positive side that'll increase our audience even more---I understand XM reaches 44 Million if you combine our subscribers with the fact that XM is on AOL, DirecTV, United, Jet Blue and AirTran Airlines. I talk to teens all the time who use Cellphones as a third arm. For me, my Cellphone is for phone calls and email. I can't imagine listening to music on a cellphone. I still go for the music "experience"---big speakers or intimate headphones. But I'm old.

And ..... I continue to be on a mission to support the BEFORE THE MUSIC DIES FILM--Here's the press release in case you missed it:

Bside and XM Join Forces for Innovative Grassroots Launch of
Independent Documentary 'Before The Music Dies'

AUSTIN, Texas and WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Specialty independent film distributor Bside Entertainment and XM, the nation's leading satellite radio service with more than seven million subscribers, today announced the two companies are joining forces to launch the electrifying independent documentary, Before The Music Dies (B4MD). The partnership will include a national grassroots screening week bolstered by XM programming, including the first-ever "radio premiere" of a full-length film.
An unsettling and inspiring exploration of today's popular music industry told from a fan's perspective, B4MD and its message have garnered passionate support from a host of music artists, many of whom were quick to participate in the film. Dave Matthews, Eric Clapton, Erykah Badu, Branford Marsalis, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt and Questlove are a few of the artists who contributed to the staggering array of musical performances and interviews featured in the documentary alongside a number of journalists, industry commentators and fans.
With a strong grassroots network supporting the film, Bside has organized a national screening week for B4MD to be held November 12-19, during which any music lover has the opportunity to host their own screening of the film. Events are already scheduled in markets across the US and Canada, to be held in venues ranging from recording studios to public libraries to large music clubs. Details of additional events will be provided regularly on
"We have had such incredible offers from artists and fans wanting to support the B4MD movement," said Chris Hyams, CEO of Bside. "By partnering with XM, we can now give them a way to bring the film to their communities and celebrate with others who live for great music."
XM will kick off the national screening week with an audio broadcast of B4MD -- the first-ever "radio premiere" of a full-length film -- followed by an exclusive half-hour interview hosted by XM's Bob Edwards with the B4MD filmmakers, Andrew Shapter and Joel Rasmussen. The B4MD broadcast and interview special will air November 12 at 9 p.m. ET on XM Public Radio (XM 133). Additionally, XM will provide a 24-hour loop of the documentary audio broadcast and Bob Edwards interview on the XM LIVE channel (XM 200) beginning at 8 a.m. ET on November 19.
"B4MD is an important film for anyone who loves music and we at XM are happy that we can help share this film with our millions of listeners. While this documentary tells a story that may be a shock to many consumers, it speaks directly to the appeal of XM's service -- people who subscribe to XM enjoy a broad universe of music they can't find anywhere else, and artists, regardless of genre, can reach larger audiences and grow their fan base," said Lee Abrams, chief creative officer of programming, XM.
More information on how to host your own B4MD screening or to find screening events scheduled in your area is available online at


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

Lee-for the 5th XM sat to go up, how about "Satellite of Love" for the name? Great Lou Reed song and of course the end music for Ron and Fez.

At 8:09 PM, Anonymous ffuege said...

So's brilliant. It's not just Special X-Mas but Special X itself which I am fortunate to be able to continue to enjoy online. Here's hoping to the day that we can return some of the more unique channels banished to online in favor of some rather average channels in comparison. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for some of the new channels that have come like Lucy, Big Tracks, & XM Chill... but there's still a special place in my heart for the weirdness of Special X. I just wish we could have it ALL. ;-)

At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another vote for returning the brilliant non-average Special X to satellite. But never-the-less, am looking forward to this year's Special Xmas. Viva La Weirdolucion!

At 12:01 AM, Blogger Cygnus said...

Lee, you hit the nail on the head with this:

The RRHOF is one of those things that symbolizes everything wrong with Rock n Roll 2006. A great idea, but it should be the Rock CRITICS Hall of Fame. It's SO bloody biased. There are the obvious entries, then there are those who are in that are Critics friends..but not much else.

I always figured the Pretenders got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Phlegm because so many critics were busy having orgasms at the mere mention of Chrissie Hynde (see also Blondie and Debbie Harry). So does this mean Missing Persons will be inducted because of Dale Bozzio? (I never remembered which Bozzio, Dale or Terry, was the husband or wife.) And hell, the Pretenders' best known song is Rush Limbaugh's theme!

Why is Miles Davis in the RnRHoF? I'm not saying he's not a great musician, but why is he there?

How about Buddy Deane? You can't say he didn't do a lot to popularize rock back in the day.

And I concur that it's a complete travesty that neither Yes; Rush; Emerson, Lake, and Palmer; nor Genesis will ever make it in (and the Police did? Oh, that's right, Sting is a deity to the critics). This calls into question whether reaching the RnRHoF is much of an achievement to begin with.

I won't be visiting anytime soon.

At 10:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pure Reason Revolution is a great band, though I'd call them a mix of Pink Floyd and post-rock. I don't hear any Zeppelin influence. Great stuff!

At 9:03 PM, Anonymous danska said...

Please keep upop for x-mas! It was bad enough they took the system last year. Next time take a station not many people listen to.. Like one of the christian stations.

At 1:37 PM, Blogger lightningclap said...

I can't belive that in the same paragraph you mention Cingular using XM, then go on to say you can't imagine listening to music on YOUR phone. That's honesty. You ROCK!

Yeah, and RRHF IS lame.

At 5:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey man cleveland rocks! average is the masses, and the masses are the listener!


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