RADIO GUYS DOING TV & XM CD’S
RADIO GUYS DOING TV & XM CD’S
I read with great interest how Randy Michaels has bought into a sizable group of TV stations. I shot him a congratulatory note, where he proceeded to reply in self effacing "I must be crazy to buy into TV" rant. On the surface maybe, but this guy doesn't do too many crazy things. Well---he's known to do some crazy things on the air, but in a business sense, he usually makes the right moves, and I'm sure there's more to the puzzle than what was announced.
I find the idea of a guy like Randy, backed with a pure business head like Bob Lawrence, might do some very interesting things. While they won't really control much of the programming since the stations are Network affiliates, I’m sure they will do SOMETHING to separate them from the pack. The idea of some whacked all the way to the bank radio guys putting their stamp on TV properties is fascinating. I haven't met too many TV Programmers, but other than Fred Silverman the rebel who used to run NBC, the ones I've met really aren't programmers in the radio sense. More like deal guys, putting the best deals together on their platforms. So what happens if you get creative guys in there? Seems like it will either be a) Nothing happens because it's too hard to do anything b)they'll fail miserably because TV is different c)They'll do some NEW things that make a difference. d) this is just the first part of a bigger picture. Knowing Randy, I’d bet on C & D. He was ousted by Clear Channel, but that was no surprise--talk about Oil and Water with the Mays Family, but when he had a freer hand as with Jacor and some of the early incarnations of that Company, he always engineered some interesting things.
My own TV experience is relatively limited. I was involved with the original Pittman/Garland era MTV, and later did some work for a very bright guy named Scott Sassa at Turner, and consulted some products on TV ads and use of music—like Mello Yellow, a piss colored product that was basically sugar and caffeine, aimed at teens who liked a sweet buzz. A different world that struck me as being FAR too tightly wound...BUT---The clever creative ones like Pittman and Sassa knew how to navigate the minefields and it paid off. Navigating minefields is a real art. Many smart guys caved early by failing to understand this. Kinda like being a programming consultant or overseeing the direction of any creative venture. It gets down to how you can express your ideas and get a buy in from the guys you are working with. Too easy to isolate or piss off or simply not get through.
Our third Concord CD is coming out soon. Watercolors RED. Like Watercolors BLUE, it’ll be distributed exclusively at Circuit City. It's a cool series that marries Concords deep "Smooth Jazz" archives with XM's Watercolors channel programmed by the ebullient Trinity. With the built in distribution at retail through Circuit City it's a win/win. The first Concord/XM release was BLISTERING LICKS that was distributed through Starbucks.
These compilations are not easy to put together and may take awhile to gain traction in a BIG way, but I think we're on the right course. A lot of people here are involved from Trinity to design ace Brian Lichty to Zack Kovolenko to Shannon Suydam and Jody Feldman on the marketing team. XM has actually released over 20 CD's...some compilations like these, others simply releases of recordings created in our XM Performance Theaters. I am convinced that over time, XM will be known as a creative Mecca beyond radio content as we create SO much music here. Over 5000 sessions in just a few years. EVERYTHING from Mc Cartney to Odetta to Porcupine Tree to pretty much anyone you can think of from all genres and all success levels. A lot of these lean toward classic artists. Not by design, but Classic artists tend to have better stories, but in reality it's because there are MORE Classic artists--after all we can go back 50+ years and there are A LOT of artists to work with compared to the relatively short list of newly emerging ones.
Sony/Burgundy also just released America Then and Now which includes the Then Again we recorded here awhile back. Kurt Gilchrist also put a great special together that ran on the 70's and The Loft where the band walks through the recording of each of their greatest hits. An Audio biography sorta thing.
Another CD coming out soon is REO Speedwagon. They recorded a "Then...Again" of High Infidelity AND an Artist Confidential which will packaged with a set that'll be distributed at Wal Mart. In most cases, these CD's are not profit centers for XM, but instead are image enhancers that flex our musical muscle and provide a vehicle for our artist and retail partners. PARTNER is a key word. In terrestrial radio, an artist hasn't been a PARTNER in eons. Where the artist and the station work TOGETHER. What a concept. We are desperately trying to avoid the "We are radio...and you're not" thing and instead embracing the artists to do things...as partners. To leverage our 44 million listeners.
REO is an interesting band. They get dissed a lot, but if you were in your musically formative years around 1980, and were into the American soundtrack at the time, REO was a band you probably cruised around listening to over and over. Most citizens (non Industry, artists or hard core aficionados) don't stop liking a band because they aren't cutting edge any more. Most citizens recognize that their edge has already been cut and live with that. While insiders may say "REO---how dated...80's corporate rock...give me a break". Real citizens from that era have nothing but positive memories and appreciation...and WELCOME new material from their heroes. Plus--they're solid musicians, and it drives me nuts when artists get disrespected because they happened to have success.
Speaking of Wal Mart, Eric Logan, Dan Turak, Rhonda Marsh and I went to Wal-Mart Headquarters in Bentonville Arkansas. We always visit our retail partners including Best Buy in Minneapolis, Circuit City in Richmond and others. Bentonville was a trip. I calculated that if we took my plane we would have saved 10 minutes since we had to fly through Memphis on Northwest. Bentonville is kind of small. One advantage of that is a great BBQ place called Smokin’ Joes---complete with huge guys sitting around eating ribs, toilets out back next to the smoker and real BBQ. Also the security line at the airport took 37 seconds to get through. Good visit at Wal-Mart Headquarters. Great group of people. What a complex business! The flight back was no eventful except that Eric paid an extra $50 and upgraded himself to First Class. I tied, but the agent said it was full. Of course it wasn’t. More great service from a bankrupt carrier. Logan made matters worse during taxi out by sending a total of 27 e-mails raving about the legroom…and a new email each time he had a free beer. We fly Coach at XM…unless I take my plane. We’re not into the corporate jet thing---not really appropriate at our stage of development. Reminds me of when I was at ABC. They were offered a new jet by a big syndicator that was in deep trouble. Hey thought that it was smart that this syndication company was getting rid of their jet to save money. In fact, the struggling syndicator was upgrading to a BIGGER jet. What are these people thinking? A company to watch is Day Jet. They are starting up an air taxi service using VLJ’s—a new generation of very small jets. You can fly on your schedule from places like DC to Bentonville at Coach like fares. Should be interesting.
Marc Fisher, the Washington Post writer who wrote "Something in the Air" an excellent new book about the history of rock radio, had another good piece in the Post Magazine section last Sunday. I think you can pull it up on line. He went to an FM "Perceptual Study". Marconi is rolling over in his grave. These studies are what is killing FM Radio. They sure look good on paper--but they are completely flawed and destructive. we LOVE them. They are tools that keep FM lame and further XM's opportunity to welcome listeners to our system. It is so odd that the FM guys don't seem to "get" this. Oh well...not our problem.
E-Bay alert: I discovered you can buy old telephone books. I bought them. Anyone remotely interested in advertising should check it out. The Chicago Yellow Pages from the 40's and 50's. It's fascinating stuff in the way that watching an old Dragnet show is interesting. The ads are priceless and I gotta tell ya, the artwork is in many cases so old school it would be stunningly cool NOW. Then there are the white pages. I love looking up the home addresses of famous baseball players before they had to be unlisted. Weird shit---but its kinda fun. I am learning things from the yellow pages ads. Borrowing ideas from the last 20 years is...stealing ideas. But when you go back THAT far, I have no guilt, and in fact, there are some angles, ideas and looks worth borrowing. Some are so bad---they're brilliant.
Started doing some cluster meetings. They went well. Really geared to re-introduce the staffs to the original architecture of their channel. Mostly found some basic mechanical flaws like song scheduling and the like. Overall though, pretty easy stuff. If you haven't checked the Video blogs--check them out---On the right side of the main page. There's one about XM in flight weather---OK if you're into aviation, but the one below where you can click LOW or HIGH is the presentation about the XM programming philosophy…always evolving but still revolving around the core idea.