Saturday, November 18, 2006



I'm scanning Direct TV the other day and there are five channels covering the Britney Spears divorce. Complete with authoritarian "in the know" attempts at journalism. Does ANYBODY really care? The answer is probably Yes, and that's pretty sick. It's mind candy. Not healthy but a quick cultural sugar fix for those who are addicted to that kinda thing. Maybe the FDA should ban this stuff with the same fervor as banning smoking---it's just as unhealthy. This sort of celebrity driven journalism has always been around. I collect old magazines and the old issues of Photoplay and the like are equally focused on non issues like this, but here in 2006, it's right in front of living color, presented as if it actually mattered. This coverage turns dumbing down into an art form. How spiritually hollow can it get. Some bozo who had a few hits among 11 year olds gets a divorce. Big fucking deal. I suppose it's part of our culture, and pretty well ingrained, but it's pretty sad. I guess the only thing you can do is try to change things. Hopefully there will be enough people who do. But you can't fight the cycles. We're in a cycle where celebrity, as inane as it might be, drives things. BUT---for every celebrity driven cycle there's a more cerebral one. I can only hope to inspire people to be a part of the change that gets us into that more cerebral cycle. It WILL happen. ALWAYS does since the history of entertainment just like Buddy Holly, Elvis and the Crows changed the "Doggy in the Window" era...or Liverpool changed the "Frankie & Annette" era...Hendrix and Pink Floyd changed the Tommy James & The Shondells era...The Police & U2 changed the Captain & Tennille Era...Nirvana changed the Hair Band era, etc...Over simplification of course, but you get the idea. These "cycles" are discussed on some old blog from last Summer. Arguable stuff, but historically every era that's driven by celebrity rather than substance morphs into an era that celebrates substance over celebrity. You just better be ready for the change...and feed it rather than be in cultural denial. I've seen that WAY too many times. One gets SO plugged into a cycle they can't evolve to or feed into the next one. Career wise, it's the cerebral cycles that are all about longevity. Celebrity without substance is fleeting. Substance lasts....

On the flip side, I went to an event at Jazz at Lincoln Center. A tribute to Gershwin. Pretty amazing stuff. A musical education. An 80 or so piece band doing a jazzed up version of "Rhapsody in Blue" was pretty amazing. Rhapsody in Blue was that song that United Airlines uses in their TV ads so effectively, so I guess that qualifies it as timeless. It was a cool night. Kind of an elite tuxedo kind of crowd, though I didn't wear one and haven't since Prom. Ed Bradley was a huge supporter and was in fact supposed to be the MC that night, so there was an air of sadness though in the spirit of Jazz, his passing was turned into more of a celebration. On hand from XM was Nate Davis (with a very cool rock n roll tux thing going on), Hugh Panero, Randy Ezratty, Maxx Myrick, Russ Davis and their respective spouses, as well as a resplendent looking Trinity, Nathaniel Brown , John Kramer and Jon Zellner who was subbing for Eric Logan who got food poisoning in Nashville. Of course Eric would be whistling for a George JONES song instead of George GERSHWIN. After the concert there was one of those banquet things where everybody schmoozes and hangs. Different vibe that a music Industry type dinner because there was no-one from the music Industry there. Mostly well heeled New Yorkers with a passion for Jazz and expensive Midtown social events.

That's what gets me about Britney's Divorce. So mindless at a time when there's so much NOT mindless out there. It's a reach to expect an A.D.D. 14 year old to throw out Ashlee Simpson's posters and discover Gershwin, but that's not the point. The idea is to try to turn around this infatuation with dumbing down. Radio dumbs down better than anyone, though the competition is strong. How about Katie Couric. Adding a pretty face to the news...she knows how to talk to important celebs like Paris Hilton. Gee, that's great. I imagine she's probably pretty smart--she must be to get where she is--but the whole positing of her and the party atmosphere about her taking the reigns at the once credible CBS News was so typical. Of course after a week of good ratings, she's plummeted to third, not that the other Networks are very good. I don't worry about terrorists killing us...I worry about us imploding under the weight of dumbed down media that is more of a cancer than the bad guys. Hell, Al Quida should just buy the new Clear Channel and a TV Network and do NOTHING with it. That oughta do the trick for their agenda to collapse America from within.

Yoko Ono has just produced a three part OFFSTAGE where she is the DJ. Not sure what to expect, but I heard it and it's really amazing. She really took care in putting it together. As a side note, we are involved in an art show she's doing in Miami. So I get to spend a night on South Beach and hopefully hit Joe's Stone Crabs after the event. I just heard from Les Garland who is going to meet me there. Les ran CKLW back in the heyday and was part of the original MTV group. Les is a character. A total original. The most likable guy known to man. Back in 88 when I left Burkhart/Abrams, I joined up with Bob Pittman of Bob Pittman fame and Les at a Company called Quantum Media. It was a venture that would include many multi media projects. They had two TV shows that were WAY ahead of their time. One was Morton Downey and the other one was a Cops type show filmed on the beat in Newark. They were the fore runners of Cops and Jerry Springer. We were going to launch a Satellite Radio station called Radio Lisa which was the prototype for what we did at Z-Rock. Part of the gig was going around the Country with Garland pitching the thing. It was a great sales combination but a deadly party combination. We fed off each other well on the business side, but after the business side was done it was rock n roll hell. A typical trip to Houston started with getting hopelessly lost. Then finding the station we were itching and doing a stellar job. Then Garland HAD to hit golf balls, so off to the driving range...then off to Goode's Barbecue...hen to Ricks, a ridiculous and expensive strip joint favored by Arab Sheiks and Oil Billionaires. They ply you with Champagne and the hopes of "scoring"--but of course you just leave the place drunk broke and fantasized. At 2am back to the hotel...then up at 8 to go to Dallas and repeat the scene. I'm STILL recovering from those trips.

Unfortunately, Quantum lost financing and that was that. Probably a good thing...but a fun 3 months. Pittman has gone on to become a billionaire. He REALLY works it. I gotta hand it to him. Years ago he was a PD of some local stations. He really had a career game plan and executed flawlessly.

Cirrus Flight log: Once again Buffalo was weathered out. My plane can handle just about any kind of weather---except the type that happens in Buffalo during the Winter. So we went to Atlantic City. Ended up at Carmines, a Little Italy type joint at the Tropicana. It was a close call between there or the White House Sub Shop.
The White House is a trip. A real "joint" complete with yellowing 8x10's of guys like Sinatra who allegedly would order 300 of them to be sent to Las Vegas. I love these kind of places. Pure character. Carmines is Disney Italian. The look and feel of the real thing...but it's in a casino that was built a few years ago. Flying to Chicago in a few days..always fun.

Saw Bob Dylan at the Patriot Center in Suburban DC. Always mesmerizing. He could probably go on stage and fart, and it would ring with poetry. Bob doesn't play his hits...he doesn't have to. Hell, he doesn't have to do ANYTHING, he's already done SO much. I was impressed with the complete absolute professionalism of his team, and the melting pot of demographics ranging from inspired teenagers to fans from the early days. This was NOT a "Classic Rock" was a musical crowd where age is irrelevant. The only annoying thing were these attractive girls sitting next to Dan Turner and I. As soon as the music started they went into this spastic dancing routine, punctuated by the kind of "Whoo...yeah...Rock n Roll" screams you'd expect from a drunk Skynyrd fan. They were so STUPID looking. Then they'd get on their cell phones and say "like wow--this is Soooo awesome...". It was part humorous...part disturbing...and very annoying. I'm all for fun, but I was THIS close to telling them to fucking shut up. There are some things you just don't do a bad disco dance to.

Dylan is truly timeless. I sent around the lyrics of "The Times They Are a Changin" to our staff. Just as relevant today as they were when he wrote them. Some might have thought it was odd to send around those lyrics...but then again it only takes a few to take them to heart and get on board the change. They ARE changin'...and it's pretty easy to stay on the old road instead of building the new one.

If you haven't seen the XM DIVERSITY video yet...check it out. It's on the main blog page under XM DIVERSITY.=


At 10:42 PM, Anonymous spiritof67 said...

Lee, I was with you about celebrity journalism and the dumbing-down of society until you talked about Quantum Media. Bob Pittman and Les Garland may be great people, but shows like "Morton Downey Jr." and the "Cops"-like show you three helped create and produce contributed to the dumbing-down you wrote about earlier in this post.

At 7:43 PM, Blogger goorootooyoo said...

Lee, you're my guru, but allow to me present an opposing view on the Britney thing.

Here we are, radio people, whose very livelihoods depend upon our consumers taking an often unhealthy interest in the lives and lifestyles of middle-aged, drug-soaked rockers... or gun-toting rappers... yet we're always the first to jump on people for wanting more information about Britney's divorce or Angelina's adoptions.

If it weren't for our listeners' hunger to dig into the details of the personal lives of the artists we play, I doubt that there'd be the passion that there actually is for artist-driven formats. Cause the listeners need more than just the music.

Dirt sells. And rock 'n roll artists have proven that much more so than have Britney et al.

At 6:03 PM, Blogger Charlie Kennedy said...

Hangin' with Dylan --

Going to Tanglewood, the Baseball Hall Of Fame, and Jazz At Lincoln Center --

Lee, do you need an assistant?

At 2:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Hell, Al Quida should just buy the new Clear Channel and a TV Network and do NOTHING with it. That oughta do the trick for their agenda to collapse America from within."

what a priceless comment. You are totally spot on.

I have an open ended question though:

"would advertisers support more free form radio programming if they played more eclectic playlists?"

I know that's kind of a broad question, but ultimately, major market radio programming is driven by what the primary advertisers want right?

Would radio advertisers support stations if they went back to a more request driven / DJ programmed programming format?

in my mind, that's the million dollar question here. I keep thinking that I would be willing to invest advertising dollars with a station that reached a broader audience demographic. Seems to me that my advertising message would reach a broader audience rather than say, buying radio time on a narrow format station ...

but I'm young and don't have years and years of experience in these areas so I defer to the opinions of those with more experience in these areas. I'd also like the opinions from people who actually advertise actively on radio. What are those people's opinions?

submitted by Dutch from Denver

At 2:13 PM, Blogger Tex said...

As a GM dealer (long familiar with XM), a shareholder, and a musician, I can honestly tell you that I think Dylan's show- your brainchild- the greatest thing to hit radio since.. well, I guess XM itself.

One major issue however: why not permit the show to be podcast? You could make it subscriber-only through the website, but it's often very difficult to get in from of the radio at the Appointed Time. What's the thinking on the subject?

At 2:39 PM, Blogger David said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger David said...

To Tex:

Get an Inno! That's how I do it - and archive the shows, too.

-David H

At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saying that Dylan only has to stand on stage and fart and everyone is happy; isn't it another way of saying that his vocal cords need plastic surgery(with all due respect to his brilliance). I think Dylans sounding like Tom Waites, I miss the Dylan spunk in his voice. Don't you? Having said that, I think he pulls off Beyond the Horizon beautifully.
regards Aussie honesty


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