Monday, February 26, 2007



A marketing buzzword that borders on cliché is "brand". You hear a lot about stations as 'brands'. Actually, this is a critical factor in what makes great, lasting radio stations that actually mean something with that reward meaning with LONG term success in an era where everyone seems to be focused on the quick hit. Some, though not many, terrestrial stations that have done it well, including WDVE in Pittsburgh. I consulted them for many years, and they have nicely evolved their station to where they are #1 and pretty firmly entrenched in Pittsburgh as a long time and clearly defined fixture. WGN in Chicago is another example of a station that stays on plan and while the audience is old, they just keep staying true to their game plan and have become a 'brand' that the city identifies with. Speaking of Chicago, there are some stations that have textbook blown it. The Loop (WLUP) had it ALL...and completely blew it. WXRT has brand power but is running on creative fumes. WNEW-FM and KMET in NYC and LA respectively are other stations that blew it. I wonder about KROQ--once the pinnacle of cool stations has seemed to have lost the cool franchise in LA to Indie 103.1 and KCRW. Not many people actually listen to those stations but SO many people say they do--a component in the hip component in brand building.

Usually in blowing the brand it's all about a) forgetting where they came from and who their "natural" audience is. Weather its greed, grossly misreading their market or mis-evolution. b) Going for the quick hit at the expense of their heritage. "Oh, it’s all about _____now--we better get in sync with that" usually pisses in the face of their historic listenership and 'meaning'. c) Research. Research is knowledge but so much radio research is flawed. Often pointing stations in the wrong direction, or failing to capture the whole picture and the blind buy in rockets stations in the wrong direction. d) Not paying attention--ya get rich ya CAN get sloppy. e) Getting lazy and cashing in on the brand -- living in the cash driven moment instead of continuing to develop what got you to the cashy point in the first place. e) Hire people who have NO idea what the brand is about--and putting them in charge. A common consolidation thing. New owners/managers come in and understand the spreadsheet but not what got them there. A prescription for deconstructing the brand.

And still yet, in a music environment, a lot gets back It usually gets back to the 16-24 thing. The music you like during that age period tends to be the blueprint for the music you'll like for life. Capture listeners THEN and take them for a 50 year ride. If you take them for a 5 year ride then change gears, a potential lifelong brand is thrown out the window.
Today's stations often aren't thinking about creating long term brands. It borders on "junk culture" where you get a clever name like Bob, Jack, or Tom and try to capitalize on the "shuffle thing". That kind of short term, scratch the surface thinking guarantees that Bob, Jack or Tom will NOT be here in 2009.

Then there are stations that are more akin to the Gas Company than a media brand. Most Internet radio is like this. "Audio Services". A brand requires immersion. You need Passion, Character and Muscle. An electronic juke box does not have those timeless characteristics, therefore will never become more than an audio service rather than a cultural beacon.

Bob Lefsetz, the love him or hate but you read him blogger, recently made a comment about Artists as Brands. He objected to this idea. I completely agree. Artists BECOME brands, and at that stage of their career you can market it as such because, through natural progression, they’ve become that. The Eagles are a brand, but it took 35 years of music to evolve into that. BUT--If you try to build a new artist into a brand, instead of it happening naturally, you’ll end of with garbage. You'll ruin the artist’s career by putting brand building ahead of natural music development. Of course in today's world there are "artists" with a look but no actual musical skill or vision, and the only hope is to create a brand, but that's more about PR than music.

The point is that "Brands" are incredibly powerful, but it's a marketing cliché that leads people to think you can snap a brand together by throwing around the word. Marketing change rather than doing it. You gotta DELIVER THE GOODS FIRST, and then worry about brands. One reason most terrestrial stations will never be TRUE brands that cut through and last is that the first thing a brand needs is originality. How can any station stand out as a brand if they sound like EVERY other station?

I guess the bottom line is creating and delivering the goods, knowing the blueprint and instilling that in EVERYthing you do….THEN---build the brand component and LIVE by it. But I don’t think you can “create a brand” without living and breathing it first. Do first...then market…and stay true. And don’t read too many marketing books or you’ll become about the buzzwords more than the “do”

We are launching Artist Confidential: Latino! We’ve had trouble connecting with the wheelers and dealers in that community, but Jesus Salas joined us several months ago to spearhead our Latin efforts and has connected well with that musical community and we are on our way. Jesus is quite an operator. I sorta steered him in the right direction, gave him some templates and Artist Confidential 101 and he's off to the races. George Taylor Morris has been helpful in tutoring him on the concept as George is often the host, has incredible instincts and feel for the program and can help Jesus short cut the learning curve on the set up and hosting. Hosting these is tough. George does most of them though Lou Brutus has done a few as well as BK Kirkland, Programmer of the Groove and Ms. Kitti from RAW. Lou is a man of all seasons, he can tackle Harry Connick Jr. with the same grace as one of his Punk favorites.

The Latino version of this has it's challenges. First off, the whole thing is in Spanish or at least a large portion of it. I've been on a few calls with Jesus to managers of Latin artists. It's a whole new world. We'll talk in English for a minute, then Jesus will launch into a conversation in Spanish at breakneck speed as I sit back wondering what he's saying. I wonder if it's "Don't listen to Abrams--he's an asshole..."? Actually I doubt it, but I do wonder. Jesus is Cuban. There's definitely fire in his blood. It shows in his work and it's a reason I think the Latino edition of Artist Confidential will be successful. It may be like when Ms Kitti from Raw hosted Artist Confidential with Ludacris. Complete mayhem. Completely out-of-control...and it was amazing.

Speaking of out of control, I got Steve Cook our Automotive EVP tickets for his kids to see Slayer at DC's 9:30 Club. I then found out he is going WITH them. Steve has NO idea what he's getting into. Steve is a mild mannered, kinda preppy guy. I tried to explain what Slayer is all about but I don't think he got it. I went to a Slayer show back in Dallas. Cops were beating up the kids, and I was rooting for the cops. It was THAT nuts.
Anyways, for Steve's safety I pray he doesn't wear a tie. Steve warned me about wearing University of North Carolina garb at the Duke game we went to a few weeks ago. Said I'd get pummeled. That ain't nothin' compared to looking like a corporate narc at a Slayer gig.

XM did a Grammy Channel. Personally, so much of what America sees and hears about the Grammy's is "junk culture". Pure Made for TV garbage. BUT---There is actually a lot of the Grammy's that is pretty interesting which is why we carried the pre-TV awards. Those are the awards that are the most interesting to a music fan. Probably not a ratings getter, but that's where the SPIRIT of accomplishment is celebrated and you hear the awards that go beyond Beyonce and the Dixie Chicks whining. For that alone, I'm really glad we got involved. It's sad to me that only the red carpet star power is highlighted when the awards celebrate SO much more.

The Police are touring again! I love this. I love the Police. What a great band. Great songs. Great playing. Great arrangements. Great everything. I'll never forget coming back from the UK and telling everyone about them. Unfortunately most people thought I was nuts and that the Police were another New Wave band that would have 2 hit singles in Europe, the drummer would kill himself and that's the end of that. Few people could accept that these guys were really excellent musicians as most of those New Wavers prided themselves on sucking. I saw a bunch of those bands and they truly sucked. The Boomtown Rats weren't great players but were very clever...the Police were amazing. I'm sure there were more, but in the USA that New Wave title lumped bands together as anarchists who couldn't stay in tune and wrote angry songs that didn't relate to Americans. After all Van Halen and Led Zeppelin were the heroes. Anyways, the Police just got better and better and obviously made a lasting impact. I am SO happy to have contributed to their success as much as I could have. We need a band that reeks quality in this era of "Junk Culture". They can only inspire.

Friday, February 16, 2007



I think American Culture may be having a nervous breakdown. Popular Culture is one of our greatest resources and exports, but “junk” culture is clogging the arteries of our lives. I tune in a “respectable” news channel and hear, in order:

*A critical update on who the Father of Anna Nicole might be, along with ongoing coverage of Anna Nicole’s death. Since when does a trashy bimbo with absolutely no talent but DOES have a skill for attracting attention, warrant ANY coverage on a legitimate news channel? I thought we had tabloids for this stuff...and no she's NOT Marilyn Monroe.


*Ongoing debate about The Dixie Chicks and how “important” they are to the 2008 elections. Huh??? Keep up their rants and it’ll guarantee a Republican President.


*More about the pre-marital sex the astronaut with the attempted murder rap. If as much attention was paid to the positive efforts of NASA we'd have someone on Mars by now.


*An update on Brittney’s partying and a possible split with Paris. Important stuff...

This was NOT on an Entertainment” segment. This was masquerading as “news”. This celebrity thing is WAY out of control. It’s “junk culture”. It’s always existed, but never before have there been literally millions of websites, radio, TV and other outlets to spew this shit….and many people actually DO believe what they hear and read. And think it’s important. It MUST be if “News Alive Action Super Update at 10” is doing the lead story. This is very sick. What’s sick is the degree it is making us a Nation of media cretins. I can’t blame consumers... I can’t blame anyone— but its happening and it’s out of control…and it isn’t one of these old guy things wishing we were back in the 60’s….it’s one of those, we Americans better be careful or we’ll choke on our own trash. It CAN happen here.

Celebrity is weird. There are a ton of classy celebs---Paul Newman seems to be one, certainly Oprah, but with media’s open door policy, it’s the low lifes who “work” to get the ink instead of doing their thing and letting the ink happen that blur fame with stupidity. I sort of understand the celebrity thing---While it’s often based on talent. It’s also frequently based on clinically insecure people with a nice face that work “getting noticed” very hard. That’s the problem—you can’t rely on media to figure out who has talent and who is useless beyond the latest crisis. Who will be here In 5 years and who will be a trivia question? In today’s media environment you can succeed by marketing yourself without a specific skill beyond that…but that inevitably fails and adds to our growing pile of eye and ear junk that fills our culture like a long term disease that is a form of self inflicted terrorism.

I first questioned celebrity with Liz Taylor. I know she was big in the 50’s, but when I started becoming aware, she was someone who got divorced every 3 months, was in and out of rehab and seemed to be a mess…but of course she had her own line of perfume. I have nothing but respect for people who market themselves well, but it is scary that these people have so much traction based solely on their self promotion. But---then I wonder if they REALLY do. Paris and Brittney are popular but I have to believe that except for a naïve 9 year old, they are perceived more as a joke than anything to be taken seriously. And I’ve yet to meet ANYone who takes Anna Nicole’s death as anything more than a feather weight soap opera… more junk culture.

Maybe this celebrity stuff is just a mask for the more serious issues facing the planet. A cheesy release from reality I hope so…but I worry about that for as many people that think it’s a joke---there are just as many that take it seriously. Along with poverty and other demons facing our culture, dumbing down might be the most dangerous of them all. To those who think I’m getting too heavy on this and to lighten up—it’s just “entertainment”—I think you are wrong—it’s the symptom of a cultural nervous breakdown. It CAN happen here.

All of this is like a lot of radio stations who are all about their “message” but have NO substance. It’s all the best, the greatest, the most…complete with direct mail with highly unbelievable faces of “pop stars” and “phoners” with Anna Nicole’s Mom. I just hope we at XM can do our part to be an escape from this level of celebrity madness that WILL drive those who become linked to it, down an inevitable path of failure.

…as predicted last year in an earlier blog—Katie Couric is dead last in the Network News ratings. Of course she is. The bozos at CBS News apparently bought into the “celeb doing news” thing—thank God most of America did not. HOW do these people make these decisions? We at XM make some bad decisions sometimes as everyone does, but something THIS obvious? My problem with most celebrity worship is that celebrating these damned souls takes time away from the celebrities with talent that actually contribute something. Junk culture does NOT nourish our future.

One of the reasons Bob Dylan is so successful and so timeless is that he doesn’t buy into this crap. He remains pure and enigmatic. I STRONGLY believe the attraction of Dylan, Ray Charles and Johnny Cash is that they never went celebrity…or if they did it’s because others positioned them that way, not because they thought they needed to shamelessly self promote. You can say that about a lot of recently emerged artists too. I doubt if you’d see Radiohead announcing a clothing line.

Integrity is inevitably the best sales tool…and the ONLY way to last for more than a tabloid minute.

Art Garfunkel did an artist Confidential. I heard word that he was difficult to deal with. He’s kind of a perfectionist as you’d expect but he was great to deal with as was John Sher, Doug Thayler and Bridget Nolan his managers and crew. About an hour before the show, a guy walks into the studio where I’m hanging with Aaron Lee, Steve Kingston, XM engineer Rob Macomber and host George Taylor Morris. In walks this guy with a baseball cap and a ruffled look asking all kind of questions. We thought it was someone from their road crew and we were nice, but only somewhjat focused. We answered his questions. About 30 minutes later, one of his managers comes back with the guy and introduces him as Art Garfunkel. SHIT! I was expecting that frizzy hair and the face on Bookends. He had a hat and looked fine, but that WAS 40 years ago! Almost blew it! Before the show he has all these ideas about singing along with Scarborough Fair and doing a few other fancy production tricks. We were all a bit worried, but our crack team figured a way to make it happen. I was buried in the Police press conference details as that was about to start...unlike FM, we carried the WHOLE thing live! Our guys worked everything out and after a long soundcheck with about 50 reverb changes, the show was on. Art indeed sang along with Scarborough Fair and demonstrated some verses that never made it to record. EXACTLY what we hope an artist will do in this “workshop” environment, and proceeded to ultra intelligently walk through his career and play 5 or six songs including some gems from his new album of standards. His voice remains absolutely as clear and on the notes as it was during his Simon and Garfunkel days. He’s a truly brilliant guy and the ideal victim for an Artist Confidential. He answered all of the Q&A with the charged audience with grace, humor and intellect. You sometimes forget what an artist like this has been through as we relate more to the songs on the radio than the mind and soul of the person. Art has had hits in the Fifties as Tom & Jerry, the 60’s with Simon & Garfunkel, and solo in every onward decade. The dumbed down music business de-emphasizes these guys favoring the quick jolt of this weeks’ celeb. I’ll take a timeless musical intellect any day---and if you REALLY look at the big picture—so do most people. You just don’t hear about it in the press unless they win some goofy award, which of course he has and will.

REO was in for an Artist Confidential. Loads of fun with the guys after the show at dinner. Huge arguments over Chicago trivia as most of them, and I, are from Chicago. Pulling out blackberries to Google who was the newsman on Channel 7 in 1965…to a violent discussion over who had the hit version of little Latin Lupe Lu---Righteous Brothers? Mitch Ryder? Kingsmen? On to singing the “Garfield Goose” theme (you have to be a child of Chicago to know that one). All in all good fun. Great guys who can still sing, play and write. Pal and XM Family member Jon Anderson of Yes has assembled a group of music student to perform Yes classics. That should be interesting as Yes material is extremely challenging to play with strange time sigs, telepathic changes and structures of epic proportions. They were supposed to play in DC but got snowed in, hopefully they’ll be back—Gotta check that out. I have a LOT of Jon Anderson stories. Yes were my heroes early on and over the years we’ve all grown quite close.

Oh—and Bob Ludwig corrected me on my comments about our visit to his studio:

From Bob:

There was one small error in the blog, we have a 1 inch tape machine with two really huge tracks or, for surround sound analog work, we have the 2 inch machine outside my door with 8 large tracks on it.

My excuse: I was too mesmerized with the sound to take accurate notes.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007



Bob Ludwig is the Guru of mastering engineers. An ear of gold. Check just about any amazing album and you’ll see his name. So, via Randy Ezratty, we set up a trip to see his setup in Portland Maine.

Saturday morning early, I met XM Audio animator John Stevens at the Manassas Airport. John had been up all night and told me that he threw up on the way to the airport. Not a great start, but he had a Mc Muffin to settle himself as we climbed into my plane for a trip up to White Plains New York to pick up Randy and his Wife Jo Ann. Takeoff was a turbulent affair as a powerful cold front passed and the bumps were everywhere. I kept a close eye on John whose stomach has a bad track record. Leveling off at 7000 feet we hit smooth air and a huge tailwind giving us awesome speed. Pretty uneventful flight as it was too windy for most people to fly so the traffic, even into New York, was light. We landed at White Plains where the line man guided us into a bank of ice that tore up my wheel pants. Shreds of composite material everywhere. Not cool. We met Randy, loaded into the plane and began our trip to Portland. The ruined wheel pants had no impact on the flight characteristics—but looked like crap.

Arriving into Portland, the controller warned us of severe winds. Fortunately, they weren’t too severe and after an magical approach over Portland Harbor on a perfectly clear day, we had arrived. No cabs, so Randy requested one from the terminal attendant. 5 Minutes later a massive stretch limo arrived and the four of us poured in.
Nice ride. I guess they figure most private plane arrivals expect this. All we wanted was a cab. The limo driver charged us cab like fare so immediately I was into the Portland thing. Met up with Bob at Walters, a cozy café. Perfect for the sub arctic weather outside. Had a nice lunch. Bob did some technical work for XM early on with our Tony Masiello. Unfortunately, Bob ONLY listens to Classical music and HIS Classical music---so no XM. Then took Bob up on his invitation to see his facility. We drove, Randy and John walked. They got lost, but eventually we all met up at Bob’s creative oasis.

WOW! First there was his guest book. It would be worth a fortune on e-bay. Springsteen to Clapton. Everyone was in it. They all come here to have their CD’s mastered. In fact, Portland is a secret hang out for the stars, who all pay homage to Bob’s sound. Legend has it that Eric Clapton loves the cheeseburgers here.
Then the walls. Grammy’s, Audio awards and literally thousands of platinum CD’s from every imaginable artist. Thence the tour begins: All of the trappings of a cool place to create. Pool tables, nice offices and whatever it takes to maximize the vibe. He takes us into a room where I sit in the middle and watch a Roy Orbison documentary in surround sound. You are THERE. I have never heard such a clear transparent soundtrack. I twitched when I heard the audience clapping as they sounds appeared to be next to me where in reality there was nothing but an empty room. Talk about theater of the mind! But that was nothing. In we go into “his” studio. I have never heard sound like this. The speakers are made of granite and bolted into the ground…there are NASA type baffles and every imaginable type of equipment including analog that he records two tracks on two inch tape. He played us some things he worked on ranging from a 1958 Miles Davis recording to a recent Foo Fighters.
I cannot tell you how amazing it sounded. Truly. I have NEVER heard sound so clear and pure. Chillingly beautiful yet completely natural. You are INSIDE the notes.
It was mind blowing.

Bob is the nicest guy you could meet. A genius. Probably born with this gift.

We departed Portland at dusk. Flew over Hartford, Bridgeport and back into White Plains. Randy’s Wife Jo Ann is now an official co-pilot as she studiously asked questions and memorized every aspect of the flight. Light snow created a psychedelic affect against the wingtip strobes as a full moon was overhead and the lights of the Northeast once again dazzled. Upon landing, I made sure John drank some coffee. Otherwise he sleeps from takeoff to landing and it was late and I wanted someone to talk to. The return flight paid us back for the supersonic tailwinds on the way up. 80 mile an hour headwinds right on the nose. I think trucks were beating us. Not really, but we were slowed down—a lot. Once again the full moon, infinite ground lights and snow provided a wonderful backdrop for a magical night of aviation.

I often get asked “Do you ever talk to Kent Burkhart”? Kent was my partner for years and years at our consultancy Burkhart/Abrams. I DO talk to Kent but not as much as I’d like. I have this vision of him, sitting on the beach in Key Biscayne, pipe in one hand with his yellow can of Balkan Sobranie tobacco, cell phone in another hand, nursing a Margarita…doing a deal. Kent was the consummate deal maker, and again that ying yang thing that made our Company so successful. Talk about complete opposites. Kent would get front row seats to see Paul Anka in Vegas while I’d go watch Yes perform 80 minute epics…Kent came up with the Disco format at WKTU that went to #1 in about 8 days while I was blowing up disco records at our Rock client stations. One thing about Kent is that he stays in sync. In 1970 I sent around proposals to the big name broadcasters preaching my FM concept. I got three replies: Rick Sklar at WABC, Buzz Bennett at Bartell…and Kent. His served me well—the REAL big shots wrote back. The mid level guys didn’t. I NEVER dis some young guy with an idea. Now Kent even in 1970 was a “veteran”—He actually worked for Todd Storz in 1956 at the first Top 40 station, but he completely “got” the FM idea. We met at his client station KSTP in Minneapolis one morning and 18 minutes later had a deal. It was perfect. He does AM...I do FM. He does the business part, I run around and hang with Program Directors. The next day I was in my car driving to Atlanta where his lovely Wife Pat drove me around for days to find a nice apartment that met my very low budget. We went on for an amazing ride throughout the 70’s and 80’s. I think we had over 1000 clients at one time. Kent was very good at putting up with me…though I DID bring in a ton of revenue so I guess it all balanced out. In any case, yes---I do talk to Kent. More on Burkhart/Abrams adventures at a later date….there was SO much happening then. Heady days. I’m lucky enough to work at XM which is a renaissance for me personally. Blessed with the opportunity to do something paradigm changing…TWICE!

Another travelogue: Kevin Straley who runs our Talk Channels asked me if I’d fly him and Eric Logan to Raleigh to see Duke play UNC. Of course I said yes. Kevin and Eric had to bail, but I went with Steve Cook our EVP of Auto Relations and another guy who’s been here from the beginning. Steve is a Duke Grad and was bordering on manic excitement about the UNC DUKE game we were about to see. I kinda humored Steve more than anything.

We ditched work early (though I didn’t feel guilty because the game was an XM event---covered by an Army of XMers on our Sports channels…hosted by Tobi from XMU so it was more college insanity than a typical sports broadcast). I was more excited about the plane ride than the game. Once in the air, Steve impressed upon me the importance of this. I was starting to get into it. Steve brought me a Duke sweatshirt insisting I wear it. Upon landing in Raleigh, it was mayhem—you’d think it was the World Series. Scores of heavy iron (business jets—BIG ones) were there armed with CEO types in for the big match-up. A car met us and we headed to Bullocks (no kidding) a world class Red State BBQ joint. Authentic with charming waitresses who have been there since the 1920's, well fed factory types with their families and an air of old school Middle America. Brilliant stuff. Steve brought three pounds back with him. Got a tour of the Duke campus including the gothic Duke Chapel where Steve was married. Pretty impressive place. Then off to the game. It was unreal. The SPIRIT rivaled a Metallica show in ’92. Definite Duke crowd. The chants were X rated and the young crowd was electric with passion and craziness. Outside the auditorium it looked like hobo camp as students have camped out for days before the game. Satellite TV vans were everywhere. The air was filled with a combination of stale beer, teen spirit and an attitude you could cut with a knife. We sat 4 rows back center court. Actually we never sat—you HAD to stand the whole time. Now I was REALLY into it. It was a nail biter. Duke was ahead til the last 4 minutes---then lost. By the second half I knew the players--their strengths and weaknesses. I was impressed by this kid Pulos on Duke. We were so close to the floor I could hear him working his team mates. It was kinda cool how a guy would miss a free throw and get high fives for tryin'. I haven't had this kind of a sports buzz since Game 1 of the 05 World Series where my Sox (White) Clobbered the Astros in Chicago. In 2 hours I went from a who cares guy to a believer in the magic of a game like this--and how RADIO can capture the magic which is not only on the court, but in the stands and outside the venue. I was and am still mesmerized by the whole scene. I've been so caught up in the musical side, I have not engaged in this side of the equation. After the game it was back to the plane and in line to take off behind a dozen corporate jets loaded with well heeled alumni and ESPN types. The flight back was like a dream. It was the middle of the night as Steve had to be back for a marketing meeting so we got back around 3am. Nice flight—flew through some more psychedelic snow on an otherwise frozen clear night. I have new respect for College Basketball….and Bullocks.

Monday, February 05, 2007



My Blackberry had officially crapped out. Reason is too many undeleted E-mails. So I went back and started deleting. You find some crazy stuff. This was a memo to the staff---or the staff that was actually on board at this early date. Six years ago today.

2001 is the beginning of the future of's just a matter of AFDI.


In terrestrial radio you gotta "get special permission" to do something new, different and unusual

At XM, you gotta get "special permission" to do anything normal and accepted


If WE don't do ain't going to happen......WE are the Army that can liberate and CHANGE the sound of radio


Artists and visionaries change things. To be an artist and a starts by thinking acting and living like one. There is no room
for the average, the tired, the stagnant thinkers or the boring....not at XM Programming.


High Standards. If you balance insanity with detail, you will be effective in your creative work. All insane and people won't get it...all detail and
It’ll be's all in the balance.

Where are we at now???? Pretty damn good start....lots of momentum.....old thinking starting to break ideas starting to blossom

What's next???? The preparations for the battle.

.....after everyone catches up with boot camps, we will go into "BOOTCAMP PART V: Preparing for War"........If you think CES preparation has been exciting.....
that's been the "band working up songs in the rehearsal hall"......coming soon, we're "going into the studio" that is going to be our Abbey Road .

We must do to radio what the Beatles did to music or 2001 did to film or Millionaire did to game shows or Jets did to Travel or Mc Donald’s did to Howard Johnson or what Microsoft did to PCs. I'm not joking...our mission is on that level. There is no excuse for sounding like terrestrial radio. Our job is to invent the XM sound that America loves.

It's a pleasure working with all of you......please continue to unstrap your mind, re-think, change, revolutionize everything from sweepers to on-air names.
Ideas, problems, mental blocks, difficulty inventing? No problem.....the doors are always open to work through these issues with you
Ladies and Gentlemen------this is our year.

I DO wonder if we’ve maintained this spirit. I think we have on most channels. It would be very hard on ALL channels just because there are so many of them. What is IT we’re after? Things like:

*Being the Soundtrack to North America

*The voice of the NEW mainstream

*Creating the next sound for those in their musically formulative years

*Bringing back the sound that made radio an icon in days past.

*Balancing Soul with Science

…having a profound impact on listeners. A positive one that radio hasn’t created in a LONG time. Life beyond the morning shows and ubiquitous Talk shows…

Gets down to a WAY of thinking. A way that you see in other media, but haven’t seen widespread in radio for eons. A DESIRE to do things better…to re-think EVERYthing…a DESIRE to think about the listeners needs instead of going with the radio flow which clearly isn’t what North America really wants. IF they did, there’d be no use for Satellite or Internet radio…but guess what, the radio CREATIVE model ain’t workin…..Then there’s the DESIRE to dis-associate from old radio thinking…a DESIRE to seek new songs that will turn a listener ON. And I mean in EVERY genre…even hits focused channels…instead of going with the radio flow—often the blind
Leading the blind….a DESIRE to actually LISTEN to music. To be the filter for the masses. THAT is a critical ting radio has lost in it’s greed to out hit the competition at the expense of the listeners…the DESIRE to create produced pieces that are more akin to the cool sonics you hear on TV ads and less in line with the bullshit 80’s sound that radio tends to deliver…the DESIRE to be a student of the genre instead of a student of the format. This is critical stuff that not everyone “gets”---but is SO bloody important to XM’s future. Key word: DESIRE!!!! It’s gotta be in your genes. When we hired the original XM Staff, track record was a non-issue, it was all about WHO HAD THE DESIRE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. ANY creator that makes a difference through re-thinking and changing has the DESIRE built into their DNA. You can’t force it---you end up with cheese. It’s gotta be instinctive…an instinctive DESIRE to make a difference.

One thing that I wish we’d do better is supporting new important CD’s across the platform. New Norah Jones came out—broke every sales record at Amazon. Sure, we’re all over it, but I just don’t hear the excitement that XM has it on our air….Something I sent around to our guys:

I noticed this blurb (see below). I don’t have any “answers”, but I think its REEEEEEAAAAAAL important to embrace important releases like this. We used to do this better. I doubt if there’s an organized way to talk up the fact that XM has these important new releases—or at least we haven’t figured that out yet. But I think we need to be aware of releases like this and say the LOFT and CAFÉ are on it, OTHER channels should have the DJ’s saying things like “New Norah Jones is out—check XM Café & Loft..Bla bla bla...” This is an element that makes us the music authorities via ACTION not slogans. No-one else does fact I doubt if anyone else will play anything but the “single”—Supporting new releases by channeling on air raps to INFORMING listeners about things like this should be in our DNA.

Norah Jones Sets RecordNorah Jones' third album, "Not too late" has become the most pre-ordered album of all time on, according to the online retailer

Harry Connick Junior: After years of trying, we finally booked Harry Connick Jr. to do Artist Confidential. Our Lincoln Center facility was booked so Randy Ezratty found this AMAZINGLY nice room at Right Track studios on 38th Street in New York. Great vibe. Great everything. This was one complicated deal. Harry has a 14 piece orchestra…all Union guys. Ann Marie Wilkins and her group at her management firm are super pro. Tough…but pro. Not “easy” to deal with, but if I were an artist, they’d be the type I’d want to represent me. All of this was done on FIVE days notice! It was nuts. The day arrives. Harry and his army of an orchestra and crew. Randy and his team, Jay Krugman and Harvey Leeds from Sony, throngs of fans and even a few XM Executives like Blair Kutrow, My-Chau Ngyuen and Hugh Panero’s MOM. The show was absolutely brilliant. Harry was the loosest most personable guy you’d want to meet. Totally cool. Lou Brutus handled the hosting duties this tome around in place of regular host George Taylor Morris who was recovering from surgery (He’s fine). The show goes on without a hitch and we are high fiving all day. Then---OH NO! An urgent email from Ann Marie that Harry did not like the way his band played. Initially it was “What the fuck”??!! Up until midnight exchanging emails with our shocked team and Ann Marie. In reality—Harry understands that this show can reach 44 million listeners and he IS a perfectionist—can’t blame him. After three days of depression over this, we found a fix. Randy and super engineer John Harris re-recorded the parts Harry didn’t like. Rush the sounds to Aaron Lee our resident editor and assembly maven and get it in the system! So the whole thing will come off as planned...and everyone is happy. These events are magical…but at a price. They can be REAL crazy. I credit our team and the professionalism of Wilkins management for saving a historically great day for Harry’s music. The Artist Confidential recording season is starting to heat up. The team here that co-ordinates, records and produces these events is spectacular.

I really appreciate professional managers. They balance protecting the artists with being efficient to deal with. Low Bullshit factor is especially nice
One band I did a ton of work with was the Alan Parsons Project which was really Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson. Talk about two different kinda guys. Alan is a sporty guy with a golden ear. Eric is a kind of hulking Scotsman, follower of Freud and world class gourmand. Together they were ying and yang, but for several years it worked. They had an ugly divorce I hear, though I still talk to Alan quiet a bit. It’s a lot like me and Eric Logan where the two totally opposite points of view and lifestyles work in harmony…except no divorce planned. Anyways, one night we and our spouses were having a dinner at an Italian joint in London’s Hampstead area. In the middle of the dinner, under influence of a 1966 Chateau Lafite (not Italian, but Eric Woolfson was paying) we were talking about their next Album. They needed someone to talk complete nonsense. I can do that. So I launched into this absurd bullshit rap about everything from fake play by play baseball to insurance sales. Alan said “that’s it”! And ran back to Abbey Road for remote recording equipment. Armed with his equipment and a good French wine buzz, I went nuts. They loved it and it ended up on their song “Lets Talk about Me”. I was credited as Laser Beam. An anagram for my name that Eric came up with. Nursing a hangover the next morning at the Carlton Towers Hotel (then kind of a media hang) I called Eric to replay the night. He did and I had my first vocal credit…..sorta.

For fans of 60’s Top 40, check out An extremely cool site celebrating WQAM in Miami. Not for everyone—you had to be there…but if you were, spend awhile on it—very cool stuff from a golden era. WQAM was one of if not the first Top 40 Stations. I understand it stands for We Quit at Midnight”. It was a Todd Storz station. Storz big error was not buying into FM. Kind of like Rock Island would probably be a major transportation company today if in 1955 they bought an airline. Live and learn…