Monday, February 05, 2007

THE DESIRE TO CHANGE…HARRY CONNICK AND MY FIRST PLATINUM VOCAL

THE DESIRE TO CHANGE…HARRY CONNICK AND MY FIRST PLATINUM VOCAL

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 radio.......it's just a matter of AFDI.

Remember:

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


Remember:

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

Remember:

Artists and visionaries change things. To be an artist and a visionary...it 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.

Remember:

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 robotic.......it's all in the balance.


Where are we at now???? Pretty damn good start....lots of momentum.....old thinking starting to break down...new 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"....now 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.
Lee

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 this...in 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.
Lee

Norah Jones Sets Amazon.com RecordNorah Jones' third album, "Not too late" has become the most pre-ordered album of all time on Amazon.com, 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 www.560.com 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…

15 Comments:

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"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."

Then Lee, why isn't Bruce Kelly from the 80's channel still there ??

 
At 5:20 PM, Anonymous Dick Hungate said...

Good Lord, Lee. Sometimes I wonder if there is any entertainment world experience you HAVEN'T had! I have one great experience with you that I've never reminded you about and am curious if you possibly might remember it (with all the places you've been, stuff you've done, etc.) At a "Radio and Records Convention" in Atlanta's Peachtree Plaza back in 1981, I think, you and I ended up sitting at the same table as Chris Squire and his then-girlfriend (from the West Indies, maybe?) in the tourist attraction restaurant "Pittypat's Porch". Chris and his girlfriend were super nice. You and I had just invented the country's very first "classic rock" station, WYSP in Phildelphia. It was really catching fire! Chris gave me his home phone number for the freaking CASTLE in England (as you well know, replete with Bentley's, butlers, maids, etc.) and a few months later on his birthday I called his house LIVE on the air at WYSP. With the time difference, he had already gone to bed. "Who is THIS ?!" he stammered, hilariously, in front of thousands of Delaware Valley rock fans (and Philly has always had a HUGE fanbase for Yes). I wished him a happy birthday "on behalf of all of us at Classic Rock 94YSP and across Philadelphia" and the bit came off just great. Love the Yes guys and always found them far less ego-d out and pompous than the crew from ELP, for example.

 
At 7:20 PM, Anonymous ditchwater said...

radio personalty is a must.yes i pay to hear music.but Bohdi and Grant Random (Squizz) sound like "just one of the dudes"good actors or real.. the guys on squizz just feel right.and i'm no kid i'm 58 years old.and would like to hear one more radio personalty on squizz.

 
At 9:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't like to respond, like a message board, BUT,

Bruce Kelly is a "Man Left Behind", really, He left for personal reasons, last year,

That said the Channel HAS NOT been the same, thus I will respond,

MDBP

 
At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Musical filter for the masses"? Gee, thanks for holding your listeners in such high regard. You play, we'll decide.

Promoting "important" new releases cross-platform? Who, pray tell, determines what should be filtered out? Is a new Norah Jones release that sells a gazillion copies right out of the chute more important than a new Rascal Flats release or a new Natasha Bedingfield release or a new release by some one-hit wonder protege of Jay-Z that does the same thing? Why? And why should Mike Marrone or Bill Evans have to talk up the Jones CD at every opportunity?

And ... promoting those "important" releases CROSS-PLATFORM!!!? You're going to have NRRay talking up Norah Jones? Martin Goldsmith talking up The Game? Bill Wax talking up Natasha Bedingfield? OK, that certainly isn't traditional "FM" thinking, but geez, don'tcha think the country listener who hears his favorite Hank's Place DJ raving about the new R. Kelly CD is going to think "Huh?" or "Oh, come on. He doesn't REALLY like that!" or, even worse, "Payola!"

Love XM, love the music, don't want to see major changes, despite the competition's success with hits-based programming. Hype for new releases across the dial is not the sort of change I would welcome.

 
At 6:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

L.A.,
Norah Jones
Exactly, that is what your PD's, should be doing,maybe not with "Fungus Among Us", But, On 90's, Hits etc, Cross Sell your "Diversity Chart",
The Excitement for the new "sinlge" should be Created by the PD or channels who are "ON IT", call them the ( GENRE SHARPSHOOTER ),
Thus, the ( Genre SharpShooter ) from the Loft, should Create a 2 song RIP, to be used across the XMPlatform.
EX.ON 90's, " Loft ( channel # ), Presents, NJones, ( Cult Sph Hit song), voice over ( excitement NOW) at end of song, the fact that next song is her new release, play the new single."
And more Importantly, This is where the PD's ( Genre SharpShooter's ) of 90's and Loft, need to work as a team ( pitcher and catcher ) to CREATE a 4-5 song segment of similar styles, NOT G&R then N Jones(that is what I get Now),
And Voila, Just Created 16 minutes of programming for 90's, do the same across the XM Platform, and we have CROSSED SOLD 8 channels and created 2 hours of programming that can be used, OVER and Over,
I can "trickle this down" even more, but
MDBP

 
At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a 4 year subscriber and rabid music fan all my life, I have always appreciated the deep programming, but it is impossible to revel in any of the music presentation anymore because of the shitty sound quality. When XM launched, you were reported to have near-CD quality (and I agreed). Now, the SQ really is worse than many FM stations. How are we supposed to feel PASSION for the music, when it's aesthetically repugnant to the ears??? The rock channels are especially reeking (notably Squizz, Ethel, etc)- it's muddled, shallow, and basically one-dimensional. There's no depth or character to the music anymore. It defies all reason why the rock stations are so neglected in this area, when XM excels in the rock programming.

PLEASE address this issue soon, or I'll have to completely revert back to my CD collection. I'm tired of paying for Fisher Price sound quality.

 
At 5:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who the hell are the lawyers at XM? They obviously suck! You guys lost Frank's Place! How is that possible? You just lost NASCAR!! It's unbelievable, really. How is XM allowing Sirius to continue being known as the better satellite radio company for prgramming?? Sirius is EVERYWHERE! Where is XM? Who is your mouthpiece? Why aren't you guys sponsoring concerts? Why don't you guys just freaking settle with the RIAA, so you guys can move on to more important things like better marketing?? I feel like I am watching a car accident. You guys are losing your clout. What happened to the commercials where the artists fall out of the sky? That was exciting! Now? Not so much. There is no buzz about XM. Why aren't your partners and big name celebrity hosts pushing XM more? I would hate to see XM lose to Sirius...I really would. You guys need better lawyers and marketing! You guys need to get the NFL, NBA, and/or Nascar from Sirius!!!!!!! You guys need to be really going after the minority demographics. Why aren't you out sponsoring concerts? Why don't you guys have street teams? Why didn't you guys advertise during the Superbowl? What the hell is going on over at XM? Come on guys...You have fans...you have loyal fans. It's like you guys aren't focusing on really getting out there. Where are all the billboards in the major cities? Where is your stealth/guerilla marketing? Where are your product placements on hit shows/movies? You have a partenrship with Starbucks...everyone goes to Starbucks...but you guys have no presence there! Why not? What the hell? Someone is slippin' over there at XM. It's really sad because I believe so much in XM. It just hurts my soul everytime I hear a friend say they are getting Sirius. I ask people why and they say because Sirius has better programming. WTF? It isn't true! XM is soooo much better! I ask if they have listened to XM and the answer is usually no. NO!! Yet they are making a statement against XM by going to Sirius. It's sickening. Sirius does not have better programming...they better marketing and lawyers.
Come on XM!! Get it together people!!!!!!!
Sorry, but I just had to get that off my chest.
Good luck.

 
At 9:34 PM, Blogger Billy Roberts said...

As good as XM is, there is still room for improvement.

I agree that XM is somewhat lacking when it comes to artists' latest CD's. I doubt there are many songs from John Mellencamp's latest CD being played. Only a few songs were played from Red Hot Chili Peppers' critically acclaimed double CD...why is that? Why does the Hits channels only have to play Hits music? The Hits channels should be introducing songs that FM stations are not playing but they aren't.

I agree with the poster that the sound quality is suffering. I don't know what XM can do to improve it but they really should strongly consider doing that. XM does have amazing programming - I want it to sound great!

I also agree that XM has no buzz in the media. C'mon XM, get on the ball! Don't let SIRIUS have all the attention. Here are some suggestions:

1. Get actual subscribers to donate some time making a commercial for XM for little or no money. Let them talk about WHY you should get XM.

2. Going back to my Hits discussion, have Top 20 on 20 introduce a new song that's not on the charts and is not getting airplay on FM. It can be by some red-hot artist (Daughtry is a good example or an album cut by Justin Timberlake or Beyonce). How cool would it be to see Billboard magazine announce that some song is zooming up the Hot 100 thanks to XM!

3. Make a great video filmed at XM of all the people who work hard and put it on YouTube.

4. Have a MySpace page devoted to all XM with detailed schedules of shows being broadcast.

Please consider at least some of these ideas.

 
At 10:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lee...

First off, ditto on the sentiment about sound quality. An improvement to its so-so mp3-ish quality would greatly increase XM's image in the geeks' (and, osmotically, regular listeners') mindset.

Regardless, XM needs to revisit its channels; a true jamband channel would rock, as would a dedicated effort to promote O&A and Ron & Fez. Truly, they're the platforms that'll make the difference.

Anyway, happy 101.

 
At 3:59 PM, Anonymous Dick Hungate said...

As a 37-year broadcast vet (nearly all of it in the classic rock format)...an EXTREME admirer and heavy user of XM and someone who has been trying to land a job there...I almost didn't post this note about sound quality. However, I wanted to lend support to the notion that not just a small handful of "atypical sonics perfectionists" are bugged by the iPod-like compression, flat/dull/lifeless sound, and just a modern-FM-outlet lack of dynamic range. If one uses even a particularly well-engineered song from the analog age (an excellent test track is ELP's "From the Beginning") and compares the sonics from its CD to that emanating from "Top Tracks"...the difference jumps out immediately and dramatically. Or maybe "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins. You'll notice than when those powerful drums kick-in the XM-transmitted version they don't hit you in the sternum...rattle your cage. Not to be hurtful or overly critical (I mean all of this SOOO constructively!), I was out in Los Angeles and did an A-B comparison between one of America's most-compressed and worst-sounding stations, KLOS-FM. There was virtually NO aural improvement on the XM broadcast. NOT COOL! My pure hypothesis (based upon nothing but a mere hunch, mind you) is that XM honchos looked at the fantastic success of MP-3 players and concluded that average music consumers don't give a damn about aural quality. But...if only on a very subliminal level, I would bet they certainly DO !! It's kind of like "You don't miss what you've never had". If you subscribe to XM and hear almost unfailingly flat, no-dynamic range, overly processed sound (especially if you are an iPod user also)...you just become accustomed to it and expect it be the norm...like "that's what terrestrial FM's, MP-3 players AND XM and Sirius probably 'should' sound like!" So then you say, "So what's the big deal?" Well, with every service there are ultra-important evangelists...the taste-makers, trendsters and rabble
rousers on that crucial front line of change. They almost could be called the "conscience" of a company. Analogy: those Dell laptop fans who first went ape-shit nationally about the overheating Sony batteries and DIDN'T STOP (!!) until an embarrassing company crisis/recall happened. These are not just intrinsically negative, impossible-to-please perfections. They are that 20% that represent the business axium "80% of your usage comes from 20% of your customers". Representing, as they do, the vanguard or the super-observant "leading edge" of XM's services...I feel strongly that their opinions regarding flat and unexciting sonics should be taken very seriously. Additionally...just think how you'd feel if you invested in one of the nice Bose or Polk units for your den or bedroom and then didn't hear that pristine, full-audio-spectrum quality you'd anxiously anticipated. What a bummer! I don't know...logistically and from an engineering and available-bandwidth standpoint... what can be done to address this issue. But I do believe the channels that attract a more discerning and sonically-attuned clientele (Deep Tracks, Top Tracks, Loft, Cafe, etc.) should be de-compressed so every nuance of their excellent music can be appraised very positively against the other market alternatives. Doing that, I believe (perhaps naively)will eventually translate into (again, if only on a sub-conscious level) the type of more enjoyable XM listening experience that eventually will lead to happier subscribers, less churn and more of a "buzz" ab out how fantastic this service is. Because it sure isn't a matter of actual programming quality! It is entirely an issue of sonic range and purity.

 
At 12:34 PM, Anonymous kenbaker said...

Lee - Radio is unchangeable. Great Music, Great Jocks, Great Production. 2 out of 3 and you do well. Hit the mark on all 3 and yer livin' high and wide.

The reason I got into radio was the Mighty 1190, KLIF in Dallas with the great Gordon McLendon at the helm. There was "bigness" associated with those great, "boss" stations.

I'm doing Sunshine Minutes dealing with Global Warming, Solar Power, etc. and wanna do a call in show on Solar and Renewable Energy and play Sunshine Songs.

Everybody Check out http://kenbaker.podhoster.com

..and do what I say. Contact me thru www.livinginthesunshine.com

Ken Baker

 
At 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting that this has turned into a discussion of sound quality. I'll have to chime in and agree. And I am NOT a sound nut, in fact I have some hearing loss in my left ear. But XM's sound is distinctly worse than it was when I subscribed a few years ago. Not only with music, but on the news channels as well. It is so hard to listen to talk shows when ever "s" sounds like it's being said through a kazoo.

Oh well, I guess it's hard to consider which channel you would have to take off the air to improve sound quality, so I don't expect sound quality to improve. But if your technology improves a bit please do NOT add another channel, instead, please improve the sound quality. Then, when your technology improves even more, that's when you can add another channel.

And maybe bring back World Zone. But that's another topic entirely.

 
At 5:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose that lopping off, say, a dozen music channels would improve the sound quality on the survivors quite a bit -- but would that sort of move scare Wall Street too much and/or give Sirius more fuel for its hype machine?

Like the previous poster, I also have a left-ear hearing loss. But even I can hear that Top Tracks and Soul Street -- which would be among my favorites -- are severely lacking in audio quality.

Wasn't satellite radio's original premise something like 35 CD-quality music channels? What changed, and who prompted that change? Sirius? Pressure from Wall Street to make satellite radio something more than a niche medium, the WebTV of broadcasting? Whatever the case, if non-audiophiles are starting to complain about XM's audio, this issue could be reaching critical mass -- perhaps enough to cause plateauing of subscriptions well short of the 40 million the medium promised the venture capitalists and Wall Street gamblers five years ago.

 
At 9:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Dick Hungate and others, let Generation Y think of MP3 as music and not a piece of crap, we pay and expect for a high quality rich sound. I grew up in the 70's when high-fidelity was cool, hot heavy bass or gimmicks.
Everything sounds too compressed and non musical on XM.

 

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