Monday, April 30, 2007



Three things have happened on XM that re-enforce our commitment to the theater of radio.

We have re-upped with Bob Dylan for a multi year term for him to continue creating his award winning “Theme Time Radio Hour”. I gotta tell you that this has been an absolute highlight in my career. His show is consistently amazing. It’s Bob fucking Dylan…and he’s doing a radio show.
HIS way. With TOTAL freedom. The thing that amazes me the most is how people of all ages and musical backgrounds gravitate to the show.
I often get asked “what’s it like to work with Bob Dylan”? Well, I don’t! His show is a complete mystery. Bob and his producer Eddie put it together in complete secrecy. Part of the charm. Untouched by radio hands! Pure him.

He teaches us radio types a lesson in diversity…a lesson in the dangers of the playbook. Below is an old 3 part post that summarizes the early days of the XM / Bob Dylan relationship:

Immediately upon arriving at XM in 1998, part of the mission was going into the daydream zone. Incessantly thinking about what this thing what going to SOUND like. The mandate was to bring together something that re-invents radio. Something that people will gladly pay a few bucks for. Something that can be an icon of the emerging new age in technology and sound. Generating FANS and not users. One of the things that we all knew was that the artist community would love and embrace the liberation of the play list. To play careers…not JUST hits. Who should WE embrace? Who should WE bring to the party? Quincy Jones, Snoop Dogg, Wynton Marsalis and an army of others that reek quality and commitment have come aboard. But there was ONE name that kept me sleepless. Bob Dylan. This guy IS XM. Or at least what we drive to be: Revolutionary. Intelligent. Rebellious. Different. Timeless….and oddly enough he wrote our anthem in The Times They Are a Changin.Getting through was not easy. The label was pretty useless. Of course the label usually owns the plastic...the managers own the Bob's case it was appearing that Bob owns Bob, and there lies the challenge. I tried one of his managers. We had a cordial breakfast in LA, he looked a a few proposals, but really couldn't get much traction. At the time I had no clue how complex and un-ordinary the Bob Dylan thing works. Most major artists have a back door. Bob was pretty isolated, but that is why he's Bob Dylan. The mystery. The purity. The intangible magic one should expect from one of the great poets of any generation.I kept trying. Every angle. Nothing. Then I heard that Bob owned something like 12 XM Radios and he loved it. The more I read and studied Bob--partially out of admiration...partially out of trying to sway him into a relationship. Hell, this is the guy that helped me write the soundtrack to MY life. In 1962 my older brother saw him at the Gate of Horn in Chicago. The legendary Folk Mecca run by Bob's one time manager Albert Grossman. I was into Bobby Vee, who ironically Bob points out as a mentor and fellow North Central US alumni from Fargo. But upon hearing Bob, I was educated. Not unlike hearing the Beatles. A musical version of the monolith in the 2001 series. "Something" that elevates you to a higher musical place. So with that all said---This battle for Bob has just started.I talked to a lot of artists and high level music types. No one really had much of a feel for this. There were the agents and artists who've worked with him, but there didn't seem to be the one "guy" that could unlock the door. The more I listened to Bob's work, the more emotional I got. There are two sides of me musically--One is the hardened programmer who battles for listeners, the other is whimpering muso that cries at the raw emotion of anything from a cinematic wide screen pictorial Classical piece to a touchingly well sung Gene Pitney wail to a Pink Floyd or early Yes song that hits a space beyond the threshold of consciousness to a favorite oldie. I was getting into that "zone" with Bob which is an emotionally dangerous but inspiring place.A few breaks came along. The first one was that XM's pal Willie Nelson was touring with Bob last year. Hmmmm...Willie is coming in to do an ARTIST CONFIDENTIAL, maybe he can bring Bob too. Willie alone is magic---with Bob, it could be well...historic. When I asked Willie he said "I've been on the road with Bob for a month...haven't seen him yet....have you?". Oh well, Willie along with his band and Son were awesome enough. But the Bob thing lingered.Miraculously, I am put in contact with his business manager, an incredible guy behind so much of what Bob does. We talk a few times, exchange e-mails, and he comes for a visit to DC. We hit it off immediately! Telling tales of the golden days of music and radio. I give him a few copies of Billboard from the 50's and Melody Maker (The essential UK Rock publication of the 60's & 70's). We share the same passion for Americana, for those 50kw AM's at 3am from 600 miles away in the early 60's. He gets pitched by EVERYONE but I think he has strong passion radar and can see through the typical BS he sees daily. I think I, and more importantly XM passed the test. He’s too smart to not have had his BS detector set to high when we met. I couldn't fake it. XM couldn't fake it. He met Hugh Panero our CEO and he said "You know Bob is not a "CEO" kind of guy"---but Hugh delivered the goods as a person who "gets" the idea of Bob and XM...from a musical standpoint. I credit Hugh for this because he could have done a CEO rap and talked about the business impact...but the conversation focused on the musical impact. Sure, there are deal points, but it was more about coming to terms with XM being a logical and comfortable radio home for Bob. Without that, deal points are irrelevant. This is about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for art and technology to merge. For Bob fucking Dylan to play on a new stage....XM. Everyone can win here because this thing is for the right reasons.The next step now that "contact" has been made was to figure out HOW Bob could be involved. It was verified that Bob loves XM and listens to our Hanks Place and Bluesville channels religiously. Not surprised. Hanks Place is the kind of radio that is, by design, modeled after a Country station in Lubbock circa 1956. Smell the speakers and you smell Stale Lone Star Beer and freshly spat Red Man. Bluesville is as organic as radio can get. Together they represent that gritty, zero BS soulful radio that defines the story of America.At first there's talk about a Bob Dylan Channel. Well, we COULD do that, and it would make a great press release.But then what. Bob couldn't possibly oversee that and at the end of the day everyone would be disappointed. The fans....and Bob. Too much to manage. Too complicated. IF Bob would give up his career to run it--OK. But reality set in and we thought about what Bob could actually do that has NO compromises, that he totally controls and that speaks volumes a bout his spirit, intellect and vibe...but isn't some cheesy tell all where he explains Blowin in the Wind. It was decided....A weekly radio show. One where he dreams it up and delivers...on his terms. I am ecstatic. Bob's passion for Americana radio...his people having a grasp of how Bob ticks, at least as anyone other than Bob can...and Bob. I know him. Through his poetry, history and music. I don't REALLY know him, but I have a strong sense of what he can deliver on the radio with all of the stars lining up.Speaking of Stars lining up, they have. Weather it's by design or pure chance, Bob seems to be opening up....a bit. I sense he'll go to the grave as a mysterious genius and musicologists two centuries from now will be waxing on about his vision. But for now, he did 60 Minutes...the book...the Scorcese documentary. This window may never open again. It is now a personal mission to see that this thing happens. It's not about the deal. It's about the extraordinary opportunity to hear Bob in his own words. To peek inside the soul of a master. To subtly observe the inside his soul without disturbing the mystique. This is not about a quick PR hit. This symbolizes XM's commitment to long term excellence. Baseball ain't going's part of our cultures DNA. So is Bob. Quick hits fade. Quality lasts. Most radio today is so focused on the quick hit...the quick buck that it's creative balls are being cut off and America hears it. Bob is more than a "content deal", it literally symbolizes our musical position. As Bob liberated the word, we hope to liberate the ears. It is a marriage from the Gods.OK---there is an opportunity--now what??!! We know that Bob Dylan is not an amiable hippy who will mindlessly sign on the line. He and his associates are smart. This has to work for them. There's a balance of art and business at play.

It took a long time to put the Dylan Radio Show together. The delay was that I’m not sure everyone at XM “got” how extraordinary this could be. Maybe because it’s so unthinkably cool that there was this “We’ll never get Bob Dylan” thinking that was happening. After all—Bob is not a typical “content deal” that takes money and a good PowerPoint. This is engaging BOB DYLAN to do something that you’d never think he’d do. In any case, I laid traps throughout the building and enlisted everyone I could find to support this idea. The best supporters of this project were the other timeless and emerging artists. Not ONE artist came through XM without talking about Bob. As an influence. As a guiding light. Unprovoked and unsolicited. And then there are those who COMPLETELY got it. Together, along with the media attention Bob continues to draw, it became more and more a project we HAD to do.Once we had our house in order on this, the deal part was painless. It took three days. A lot of the credit goes to his team who is so damn easy to work with. When it comes to protecting the Dylan legacy and vibe—they are Patton. When it comes to AFDI’ing something (our internal programming slogan for “Actually Fucking Doing it”), His guys get it done with a minimum of the typical legal crap that goes along with ironing out the details.OK—It was right before Christmas, and we had an agreement. At first the shows were to start in February, but Bob DOES have a musical career also, and his first priority was finishing his album which he was in the middle of. So it was decided that a May launch was realistic.First the press release. The reaction was astounding. As we were told it would be. It was. Front page of the New York Times and Washington Post; mentions on thousands of TV shows including some pretty funny lines from Leno. I got calls from radio stations in Japan, Russia and the UK. First time I got to be on a Russian talk show! Then of course there was the “Sirius has Stern…XM has Dylan” comparisons. Pretty absurd. But in a way it does illustrate the differences in our companies, especially in terms of musical integrity and goals. However using Bob Dylan as a competitive advantage never really occurred to us…it’s not about that. It’s about something much higher.What has impressed me the most is how intensely Bob and his associates are taking this? This ain’t no radio show. This is an epic. We talked through the vision. I was expecting to guide then through the process, but in reality their vision was exactly what I hoped it would be. Theater-of-the-Mind. Americana radio. The glory of an AM from 500 miles away at 3am. Whacked humor. Ear Candy. Arthur Godfrey meets Bob Dylan…in 2006. Eddie Gorodetsky, a legend of his own, was brought on to help Bob produce the show. Their team is set to make magic. Eddie’s request for tapes of old jingles, air checks and ads so hokey that they are genius made me very confident.We first got copies of the song lists. For technical reasons we need to make sure they are in our system. As deep as the XM library his, they had us stumped on a few. Good! Symbolizes that the musical direction will break every radio rule. Perfect. In fact that they have no clue about what a traditional radio show should look and sound like means that the show WILL be a PURE reflection of Bob and uncompromised for mass consumption. I believe that because the show IS so unusual that it WILL be mass appeal…but certainly not by trying to be.Now there’s our team which is about Half the Company! Our technical and production people, marketing people, press, and the list goes on. The key is that EVERYONE at XM is in sync with the vibe as much as the timeline. Because the show is produced on Bob’s terms, it’s different. There are a million moving parts that go into each show. A true “production”…radio theater. As expected, the look and smell on our end leaned a bit traditional, or maybe a bit standard. So copies of his book, scrapbook, videos and other items were dispatched to everyone involved. The programming people instantly “got” the vibe…others who are involved in the traditional marketing of XM needed some guidance, though at the end, everyone got into the unique and powerful attitude that this show conveys and everyone in all camps seems pleased with the way the show is being represented. It’s a fine line. We have to have to make certain that this concept is presented artistically and intelligently while not getting TOO cool for the room. Personally I think erring on the side of too cool suits us best in this case. Reason: It IS too cool—and there are a lot of people who WANT too cool from their media.Every Monday at Noon we have a meeting/conference call with Bob’s team. Bob’s not in on the call…I don’t think Bob does Conference calls. Dealing with this project is so refreshingly music driven. The language is Radio Theater. Integrity. Quality. Keeping everyone motivated is NOT a problem, but there is a significant challenge in that this show launch involves so many pieces.Last Friday I had the chance to present the idea to the ENTIRE XM marketing force. Had a five minute demo that included dozens of major artists talking a bout Bob that we culled from our Artist Confidential series. Priceless comments from Coldplay, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Judy Collins, Phil Collins and many more. At the end of the CD there was BOB DYLAN talking about the show. Surreal. It really was Bob. And he was talking about the show. Had a PowerPoint, but kind of tossed it to wax on about the show hopefully better than A PowerPoint. The main point was that this was actually happening!! And that this is NOT a normal show…its Bob Dylan. Putting the PowerPoint was interesting. It had to look pro…but it had to have grittiness to it to illustrate the character.Another conference call in an hour. We’re getting close to ShowTime

Now it’s getting interesting. The actual launch show is in its final production stages. We give Bob along with his team complete freedom. Why would we want it any other way? The last thing we want is a Bob Dylan show sanitized or compromised to radio standards. The magic is hearing what Bob Dylan can do with a radio show. No doubt it will be different from any other show…ever. However, there is a lot that we at XM need to do to support the show, particularly in promoting it. It’s a learning experience. At first a bunch of our more adventurous “audio animators” as we cal them wanted to take a crack at the thirty and sixty second promotional announcements. In a sonic array that is a bit like a merger of Rocky Squirrel and Frank Zappa, they created some pretty incredible pieces. WAY out there. His team has the right to approve these and we knew they’d either hate them or love them. He hated them. Actually they liked them, but thought they were way too crazed for Bob Dylan. Or maybe the wrong kind of crazed. No problem…we kind of knew that. It’s a good feeling that our guys can create something that brilliantly insane, even if the got thumbs down from the Dylan camp.OK—this time we’ll produce some things with some guidance. We did. They were close. But they didn’t like these either. Too over-produced. Now I’m getting a feel for the style that Bob’s team wants. I took a crack at writing something. They liked it. Jim Mc Bean one of our animation aces recorded it---I just sent the MP3 to them. I think he’ll like it. Very informational…not too dense with sound. Stay tuned.This project is refreshing. Painful at times…but refreshing. The Dylan camp doesn’t operate off the radio handbook. They operate via the Dylan handbook which is probably more relevant today to listeners than the radio handbook is. Even the drastically re-written XM handbook. These guys know no rules…it’s all about sound. They have this keen and powerful Point of View that has absolutely nothing to do with radio. THAT in itself is a learning experience. I always prided myself on thinking beyond what the radio sheep were thinking…but these guys are SO far away from “radio thinking” that it really gets you realizing how engrained we radio people are in a certain style of thinking and creating.Just received the show’s graphic logo. Again—there ain’t nothin’ like it in radio. Zero “corporate” look. Very camp. Very earthly. As good as our graphic guys are, we would have never come up with this very cool retro look. Again, they aint thinking radio graphics…they’re thinking Bob graphics. This is all liberating. This won’t be another radio show. This is different. And it’s different by design, but spontaneously. No one is thinking “this has to be different’, it’s just happening that way. Not too many radio thinkers to screw it up. Keeps us on our toes.The web design was another area. We have some brilliant web people working on this, but in going through the web plan with them, there were dozens of little details. Lines. Looks. Attitudes that weren’t quite right. I talked it through with them. They got it. Still---Bob’s guys found more “flaws”—though they were pretty minor. I felt pretty good that I’m starting to learn how this thing needs to look and smell. An education in cool.Had to send Eddie some sound. He wanted some sound effects and strange vintage “classic” radio bits. Got ‘em sent. Mc Bean and John Keith, two of our guys doing a ton of work on this put a nice package together. Hmmm…I wish more of our own Programmers asked for this stuff. I’m confident that this Dylan adventure will inspire us all. In radio! His show will obviously open up some music voids in our heads…but who woulda thunk that this show would inspire in radio. I thought WE were the experts. Guess not. Can’t stop learning. That’s the problem at FM. They learn about systems and research, but stopped learning about the soul of radio.One thing I can help these guys on is the classic radio thing. I understand that. So do they. Together I think this thing will morph into something more like a radio variety show from the early 50’s than anything else. Now that is good.We really have our A team plugged into the production. Randy Ezratty and Rob Macomber from XM Productions in NYC are on the scene up there. Going beyond the call…on a taxi shuttle schedule to and from the production office. Here it’s McBean and Keith…and a lot of other people. Then there’s George Taylor Morris who runs Deep Tracks, the show’s home channel. George is experienced in this as he’s closely involved in Tom Petty’s show…and George is helping immensely with the music. We have millions of songs in our library, but even then Bob and his team are finding some real gems, that even we don’t have. But we’re getting them. I think some might be on 78’s. But this ain’t gonna be no oldies show. It’s about MUSIC. The dates are irrelevant. It’s all over the road—for the right reasons. I’m Kissinger. Keeping the XM and Dylan camps on the same page. Feels pretty good. This thing might actually happen! And LISTENERS are the ones who will really benefit from this.We moved the press announcement back a week. No big deal. Nathaniel Brown and Anne Taylor Griffith need some extra time to organize. Actually we ALL need the extra time as the premier date is creeping up.Feels like the days before the moon launch must have felt to NASA. The countdown continues…

On a related note, we did a week long tribute to Larry King. On paper, it’s not that big of a deal. On this air, I was blown away. We were able to acquire his old shows from WIOD in Miami and the Mutual Network. He was interviewing guys like Stan Musial, Jackie Gleason and Desi Arnaz. It was an education in radio magic and both entertainment and in Stan’s case, baseball history. These interviews were expertly conducted, but more importantly, hearing these legends in this unbridled environment was beyond fascinating. They were at the ends of their careers but still active so their point of view was very interesting. Been around long enough to tell it like it is/was without fearing ANYbody or ANYthing, but still in the mix enough to have a contemporary POV rather than a post mortem on their career. It was so “real”.

On yet another related note and another personal highlight we did Artist Confidential with George Carlin!!! George is entering his 50th year in Show Business. His “story” is so remarkable and told as only he can tell it. It was one of the greatest 90 minutes of radio in memory. WE forget that George came from radio. He worked at K-JOE in Shreveport, along with KXOL on Ft. Worth and KDAY in Los Angeles. He was one of the first “funny morning guys” along with Bob and Ray, Dan Sorkin and a few others. I can’t begin to tell the story of this show—you’ll just have to listen. What made is so great is that he doesn’t give a shit…about anything. As a result he is SO un-PC…so completely honest that it’s riveting…and of course funny because funny is in his DNA. He could sneeze and it would be funny, but it’s no about ‘jokes’…it’s about his take on life---which is so real and so bizarre….it’s ….funny. He talks about having a meeting with Johnny Carson completely coked up…to well, ya just gotta listen.
What all of this means is to underline that there’s SO much more to radio than formats, songs and ads. There’s a soul that in most ways is missing, but vanguards like Bob Dylan, Larry King and George Carlin illuminate the dial in a timeless and permanent way.

Sunday, April 22, 2007



Took my car in for servicing and got a loaner. It only had AM & FM, so I scanned the dial. Found this new station I'd heard about called "The Globe". The right idea, but they're still saddled with radio baggage that weighs them down. The production is simple--no laser beams with a goofy booming voice. Just spoken. That alone if refreshing. The music is pretty cool. Covers a lot of genres but with the same psychographic type in mind. DJ's are kinda "there" and focus their raps on the music instead of trying to sell you on how cool they are or giving away some tickets to the 9th caller. In a listen they are decent--far better than the horrendous Jack-Bob-Bill-Tom type formats where they lie to you about how "they play anything" -- of course it should say "We play anything, as long as it tests well from our 800 song universe".

But the Globe just didn’t take it far enough. That radio baggage pulling them back. The production was so simple; it didn't add anything....sort of bland. The music was TOO obvious which ultimately will lead to a disappointing experience. You just KNEW it was computer selected--it had that feel. Nothing like the spontaneity of say, the LOFT on XM. THe jocks were like the production--bland. You got this feeling they were told to study the artists and intro songs with that info rather than simply KNOWING the stories and telling them. In any case I’m rooting for them, as much as I can root for a terrestrial station. They are at least trying something interesting.

I think it’s a case of slapping a format on instead of creating a mission plan. A trend in the past 20 years has been to launch a station with a condensed game plan. Music library, morning show, put up some billboards and you’re done. The GREAT stations were assembled with more of a complete plan…a mission…
When we launched XM channels we had this “Check List”:

Schooled staff making you successful: Teaching the mission beyond the “liner card”

Music Perfection/Definitive Minute to Minute perfection…but different for every channel.

Intresting voices, not radio mouths. Explore the world of the human voice beyond the cliché “good pipes”

Killer Production/A lot of it!: Mobilizing radio’s big advantage--SOUND

“Using” the XM talent pool: With 100+ channels, there’s a lot of diverse talent…here

Incidental Production/Ear Candy: There’s more to sonic brilliance than scheduled promos

Your format language: Talk like your listeners not DJ’s

Features/Staging: There are more than just songs & DJ’s

Stars on staff: Find them…let them develop. Don’t tie talent to the playbook IF their talent can benefit the channel.

Point of view: The lost art in music radio.

De-clichéd talent focused on music and the future: Kill the DJ clichés. Just TALK.

Slogan/Call into action: But in a truthful way. Not an “ad” for the station or a goofy slogan

Names locked/Menu complete: COMPLETE radio experience.

Audio Signature/Background ID: the third eye in station identification

Industry contacts mobilized: If you don’t educate on what you are...Ain’t no-one gonna do it for you.

Artist connection: CONNECT. Create a partnership with your key artists. Bring artists back to radio.

Growth system in place: What’s your evolution?

Industry Fear/Respect (A tough add): selectivity—but once you commit—you deliver.

New music action plan: Celebrating instead of simply “adding” songs.

Anticipation built in: Reasons to listen. Might be the brilliant music mix, but there’s always magic coming.

Authentic enough to be appalling: Screw vanilla safe radio.

Chart: YOU and your listeners determine what popular is, not traditional charts.

Listener psyche understood: Another lost art. Everyone is on autopilot. Do YOU “get” your listeners?

Extra mile: This ain’t gonna be easy…get ready

Whack factor installed: Whack whorks.

Serving your local community: Yes—we are local radio, except our “local” is Long Beach to Long Island.

Smart pill consumed: Break away from dumb thinking that you may have been conditioned to.

MINUTE BY MINUTE: This is where YOU are playing a BETTER song than your competition at any given minute. It's literally impossible to have 100% Minute by Minute dominance, but you should strive for that. This is where "un-necessary" songs hurt.....chances are if you're playing one of these; your competitor is playing something better. "Better" is a definition that is different for every format, which we will continue to discuss. But---the point is, as we define "better" for your format, it's the "better" songs that must dominate the list so you win the "Minute by Minute" Battle. Sound obvious? It is...but stations continue to water themselves down. We can't. BETTER is not a chart position. On some channels better might mean a crazed demo from some guy in Zambia.

AS COMMERCIAL AS POSSIBLE WITHOUT LOSING YOUR IDENTITY. Commercial is good. That means people like's an offshoot of "commerce" which is a good word. The point is try to reach as many people as possible with your music...RIGHT UP TO and never beyond that "point" where you lose it and become TOO Commercial. You/we need to know where that point is....and stay right there. Otherwise you risk being too hip for the room....or too commercial. A fine line. A critical "point" that literally defines your ultimate potential for success. A historically proven basic to winning.

KNOW YOUR PLACE ON THE XM SPECTRUM. Critical. There will be some overlap musically, but we need to limit it. You will be narrower in target than you've ever been...and that's important. There's a lot of musical magic within even the narrowest of targets. XM formats that step on each other are a nightmare of mine. Proper "Turf" alignment ...knowing what you AND your format neighbor are all about is key to the success of the XM SYSTEM.

THE MAGIC IN WHAT YOU DON'T HEAR. Songs that poison your mix because they don't belong.....especially in our super-narrow target world.
Foreigner’s Hot Blooded on Deep Tracks.....poison. On another channel...perfect.

THE MAGIC IN WHAT YOU DO HEAR. An argument FOR a "Focused" play list. The more killers you have in the mix and the fewer "why bother" songs will allow the important songs room to breathe. A "deep" list can shoot your foot off by limiting the really important songs because you're cluttering the list with un-necessary depth. Again, it’s a format by format thing...

NEVER PENALIZE A BIG SELLER BECAUSE IT'S NOT A COOL SONG/BAND. A Big Seller is a Big Seller because a lot of people like it. Styx, Creed, Bobby Goldsboro.....hey, they have a lot of FANS with credit cards to buy XM does Miles Davis . Clear, unbiased, clever, focused, professional and empathetic....that's XM music programming. Sometimes ya gotta play 'em...sometimes ya gotta blow 'em up....but ya gotta recognize them and deal with them in a smart way.

COMPLETENESS; You need to be "complete"'s more than a play list. It's features, specials, novelties (TV Themes and old spots....speeches and sound from your channels era, heroes, enemies, etc...) on oldies channels. If all you offer is "songs"'ll be a jukebox. You absolutely must include the "sounds" your target knows, in addition to the songs. An “experience” not just songs.

ABOUT FEATURES & SPECIALS: The keys include:

*They should celebrate your most important artists, genres, eras and moments.

*They should help your "completeness" by offering extended exposure on the cultier side of your formats' music.

*They should have AMAZINGLY COOL NAMES!!!! Radio is stuck in “focus group name land”

*They should be original. Please...not another Beatle Special that has been done 50,000 times on FM.

*Be honest with yourself. Fluff Specials suck. A special must have the power to FORCE listening...examples:

---Fluff: A phoner. Who cares?

---Meat: "Artist Confidential” – if you do a special, it’s gotta be good enough for Prime Time not something you hide at Midnight.

SELL. Build into your clocks, places to SELL music. Unfamiliar, unusual, new ...You will lose listeners unless you SELL it….tastefully…because YOU BELIEVE.

…these are a few things that preach “completeness”

All in all, the Globe is a step in the right direction, but the aren't taking it OTT. It's too safe. Not a complete experience yet.

Speaking of safe--The Willie Nelson/Wynton Marsalis concert was recorded at Lincoln Center a few months ago and we aired it last week. It was NOT safe. Listeners loved it--reaction was outstanding on both the Jazz AND Traditional Country stations it aired on. It broke every rule, but the sheer quality and integrity of those two guys superseded any format train wreck. Once again proves that "format train wrecks" are usually in the mind of radio people, not the public.

Took Jayme Karp who adeptly handles the logistics for all of our live concerts along with Matt Fishman from our Baseball group and Matt Wolfe a cerebral production ace to Atlantic City for lunch. Interesting group. Jayme was just digging it, I couldn't tell if Matt Fishman was scared or liking the flight and Matt Wolfe was clicking photos and spacing on the clouds. I've known Matt for a long time. He was the production guy at Z-Rock and totally gets how I think and vice versa so I always applaud his work--except when he tries to do foreign accents. He's not foreign. We need to go find a real foreigner for those. Anyways, bumpy trip in the clouds, but a quick one. Went to Carmine’s at the Tropicana. Over- ordered and Matt Wolfe ended up with enough take home to drop 5 knots from our return flight. Then Matt wanted to see the fake statue of Stalin in the hotel and he got lost. We finally regrouped, and headed home.

Here’s something I thought was symbolic of the era we’re in:

Essex songbird is Top of the iPods with her homemade album

Kate Walsh's album Tim’s House has topped the iTunes download album chart
Acoustic guitarist Kate Walsh has knocked Take That off the top of the iTunes download album chart - but does not even own an iPod.
The 23-year-old guitarist recorded her album in a friend's bedroom and named it Tim's House in his honor.
The homemade album has proved a unexpected hit with iPod fans who had downloaded it from the iTunes website in their thousands - knocking Take That and Kaiser Chiefs from the top spots.
Miss Walsh said: "You end up looking at it every day to see if you're still number one. I think I'm ahead of Elton.
"I don't actually have an iPod yet. I hear they are quite good for ten hour flights.
"I set up my own record label called Blueberry Pie and just got the music out there. It's pretty easy. Anyone can do it."
The classically trained pianist from Brighton, east Sussex, said she built up a fan base by putting her music onto her MySpace page and eventually persuaded iTunes to sell it.
Miss Walsh said she her songs were inspired by Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex, a seaside town where she grew up and still has family.
She added: "I was a classical pianist until the age of 18. I never thought I could have a career as a female singer songwriter.
"The web response is amazing. Someone I've never met called me the new Jane Austen."
Although the singing sensation has been invited to perform for record company bosses in America she is determined to stay in the UK.
She told The Times: "I prefer the pace of life in Brighton or in Burnham-on-Crouch."

….It’s 2007!

Monday, April 16, 2007



"American Radio icon Don Imus disgraced, fired after threat to reveal 9/11 secrets" --Pravda headline April 13

I really don’t care for Don Imus. To me, a bitter mean old geezer. Has a lot of fans, but I personally don’t care for him on the air. But the fanfare around his stupid comments is fucking ridiculous. The absurdity of someone like him using "ho" is goofy enough, but the media play on it all symbolizes the sickness of the “Junk Culture” mentality engulfing our Country. Add the fact that “credible” news organizations broke in with special reports on Anna Nicole’s father actually pisses me off—and inspires me. It’s the spoken word equivalent of the” enough already” factor. Some idiot friendly data illustrating to clueless media veterans how important these stories are—then they’re driven into the ground with the vision of a bat.

I’m not getting into Imus’ comment, though I can assume that Martin Luther King is rolling over in his grave at the sheer insanity of his doctrine being minimalized to some morning guy trying to be funny. In fact, I must have gotten a dozen calls from non Industry citizens who asked “Who IS this Don Imus” guy. Oh great—now he’s famous. And in Russia they think he was about to reveal the 9/11 secrets. Gotta love the Russian press--
at least they're amusing in a Borat kind of way.

We talk about how music needs re-thinking. Hell, that one is EASY. News and Information delivery is What REALLY needs revolutionizing. The state of news and information makes the state of music look like child’s play. I strongly believe that “smart” can be mass appeal, but everything is getting dumber in the USA at a time when much of world is getting smarter. There’s this BLURRING between news and pop culture whether it’s Katie Couric, Don Imus or Anna Nicole. There’s this assumptions that smart can’t reach Middle America. News media is stuck somewhere between 1955 and a fear of getting in sync with 2007 and the result is a form that is irrelevant and isolating to some, and unhealthy addictive mind candy to others. I don't know if this is THAT much worse than the absurd nonsense of Pravda.

There are solutions, but it ain’t gnna happen from old school journalists living in the Cronkite era or from pop culture pundits. There’s a NEW approach to news and information out there that hasn’t been presented yet. A weird similarity is music in 68. You had AM Top 40 which was becoming irrelevant, then you had underground FM which was too elite for mass consumption…but then there were concepts that were in SYNC..and it worked. I see the same opportunity for news/information in 2007.

Can’t really blame the big news organizations. Whether it’s Fox, CNN, BBC, NPR or whomever, they are in business and most are doing pretty well.. I’d imagine many of their employees also wince at the state of dumbness. In my opinion, it’s the overall system of thinking that needs an overhaul. A Fox isn't the place that's going to change. These guys do what they do and in most cases are successful. It’s a crisis much BIGGER than any organization. It’s a disease that’s deeper. The optimist in me says that any disease is curable---and he or she who discovers the cure will make a deep and positive cultural difference…AND make a lot of money. The best of both worlds. It's going to take a marginal or #2 operators or someone in decline to re-think and deliver. Usually #2 emulates #1 and stays #2.

Most people might like a Mc Donald’s every now and then, but News Media is living in a Happy Meal world. Feeding Junk Culture. I wonder if I’m just being elitist. Nah---I saw a few surveys that showed over 85% saying “enough already!” to Anna Nicole…yet the parade carries on. Just like Mc Donald’s, junk culture is OK…but leave it to the purveyors of it. Coverage is ok--a lot of people find Anna Nicole or Imus interesting, but obsession at the expense of the big, new and compelling local and global picture is self defeating. OBSSESSION with the junk is a key problem I believe.

It’s not about “serious news” just as it’s not about Junk Culture news…it’s about finding a new way to think it and deliver it. These new ideas will likely come from someone NOT in the news/information business. Someone with no news baggage who can change the paradigm. It’s actually something I’d like to do at some point. It starts by getting pissed off …then channeling “whine” into action.

We are in such an incredibly powerful era of history and to see the amazing opportunities to inform and enlighten being lowered to cheap junk culture is disgusting. There is SO MUCH OPPORTUNITY to engage our country’s mainstream and news media is delivering, with a few exceptions, shit. Rudderless shit.

It's a new world and in my opinion News/Information delivery hasn't found a way to adjust yet. There's the Net, the netWORKS and print. Where's the innovatiion? Where's the choice? It's on the Net. Traditional media can't fight the choice. Traditional media CAN make up for it in the INNOVATION and alliances with the Net. I think it's about traditional media living in 1957, 67 or 97 and confused partly because of the old school baggage that the leaders carry--at the expense of getting in sync with 2007.

And ya gotta ask the big "WHY". Why does the 10pm local news look like the 10pm local news or why does a newspaper look like a newspaper? You have to put the obviously important short term Economics aside, because re-capturing America for the long term is more about re-thinking and getting in sync--At XM we asked those same questions and had the luxury of rolling the dice. The results have been spectacular in terms of Joe Listener responding passionately in every metric to updating the playbook on music genres they like.

Ain't easy...but I believe it is do-able. But it ain't gonna happen with obsessing over the quick sugar rush of a story that is nothing more than junk.

Just like News Media needs to exude CONFIDENCE from its listeners/viewers/readers, musical confidence is critical on a music station. Do you have confidence in the quality of the station you listen to??

Below is a “music playbook”. Arguable stuff and more of an overview than specific answers, but it symbolizes new thinking in music…I believe changing News and Information has a lot of similarities.

(Excerpts from Music Playbook circa 2000)

We all have some of these characteristics---that is we gotta lose. Ya got:

-Voodoo Types: Charts & Graphs and Physics...but no soul.
-Trade Whores: Screw the station...I want my pic in the trades so I can get another gig
-Uninformed (aka Dumb Shits): People who just dot get it
-Selector Gods: Computer wizards whose stations stink but they're perfectly scheduled.
-Fake Experts: Experts who forgot how to learn and evolve.
-Sheep: Mindless followers
-Corrupt: Adds for Trips

Hacks add records, Programmer program is a powerful weapon in our radio revolution arsenal.
BAD GM: We got a morning show...tested the a billboard up...we're cool
BAD PD: Check R&R Chart...see what the label is pushing...add & report...we're cool.

....not quite!

OK, enough with the bad examples. You are here. You are good (which is why you're here)

The purpose of this memo is to take you to the next music level of music understanding....
Along with a balance of empathy, science and knowledge tucked into your head, you’ll have
the Tools to meet the XM Standard of excellence.

You need to be:

A MUSIC MANAGER...that’s the science
A MUSIC Programmer...that’s the art.

The end Goal: MC MUSICAL CONFIDENCE!!!!! Listeners to EVERY XM Format MUST feel CONFIDENT about the music on your station.
Its literally gone....WE WILL BRING MC BACK to American listeners...

UNDERSTAND THE BIG PICTURE. There are lulls and intense periods. Refer to the chart I passed out. I am old. I have been programming for 33 years.
But my win/loss record is 481-11. I have survived and will always survive and win. NOW IT'S YOUR TURN.
The secret? Being in sync with the cyclical changes I described. 99% of Successful Programmers Hit a Brick Wall when there's an intense period. In 1970, more PDs died than Tommy James records....same thing in '80...'92...

A PD who is in sync with 2000 but has no sense of history is reckless.
A PD who is in sync with 2000 but understands history is DANGEROUS (in a good way)

During Intense periods: Stations & DJs have the opportunity to be as Hip as the Artists (Murray the K 64...Tom Donohue 70...KROQ 80, etc..)
GET READY. The times are a can bet on it. That Intense/Lull chart is the real deal in illustrating change

During Intense Periods:

During Lulls:
Dancing Comes Back
No Love/Hate
Look is acceptable to masses
Labels and Producers are in control
McDonalds (corporate)Rock happens
Rock is Apolitical
Lyrics focus on Love
Tech becomes cheaper
Cuteness over-rides musicality

Intense 55 64 70 80 92 200-?!!
Lull 60 67 75 85 98--
(Note timeless styles like Jazz or Blues cut through all eras., as do renaissance artists --see below)

*Know when to support or drop an artist. Every artist has "levels of success"

--Breaking: Breaking big but will they be here next year?

--Emerged: Emerged as stars clearly. Can make bad CD and recover

--Cycle: Tour/CD/Tour/CD etc...For life. Totally established long as they maintain their sound and keep working, they’re money machines and the popular pulse of mainstream America (Aerosmith, Rush)

--Renaissance: Classic guys who are bigger than ever, Could do 250,000 in Grand Canyon w/HBO simulcast (Clapton, Elton)

--Untouchable. Once in a lifetime Gods...Beatles, Sinatra

--Special Interest. Relatively small Audience, but extremely loyal and long term audience: Marley, Enya, etc...

...if an artist doesn't fit here, or stalled after the breaking stage....C-ya. (except for specials or a "non-format" position)

*Demographics are age/sex type absolutes BODY
Psychographics are lifestyle/behavior understandings MIND

,, gotta know both.
Terrestrial is driven by demographics. We must know psychographics. YOUR psychographics.
Radio moves too must KNOW what your target needs, wants, tolerates, thinks is cool, hates...
Musically how to satisfy, piss off, be cool, be uncool etc....

Please see Psychographic Chart we handed out at prior Boot camp...ask if you need a copy)

You must develop PSYCHOGRAPHIC INSTINCTS to work fast, creatively and correctly in today’s FAST media environment.
If you're weighed down with traditional research or simple demographics as your're fighting a nuclear war with stones.

Your responsibility: KNOW your audiences them and react and act at the speed of XM

*What’s your format SUPPOSED TO DO?!!! Stations get in trouble when they live out of sync from what they're supposed to do musically. Examples:

Overdone: A CHR playing album cuts

Underdone: 120 cuts on an A-o-r station

Off Base: BTO on Deep Tracks......Dylan on the Boneyard

Out of Sync: An NPR sound on 20on20.....A Beer Fart sound on Fine Tuning

All Over the Road: Mixes that look good on paper but are train wrecks.

Each XM Channel is like a football player:

--A purpose
--A Position

The XM music strategy and these ideas are the Playbook/Game Plan

The XM system MUST be choreographed so our fans get maximum music muscle from the 50 Music Channels.

There are types of XM Stationality: Sick, POV, Audio Valium Special Interest and Cartoon.

There are different types of XM Musicality:

Song Driven (the Hit SONGS)

Artist Familiarity Driven (Depth on instantly relatable Artists)

New Music Driven (Cutting edge factor)

Sound Driven (Blues & Jazz for instance)

Experimental (XM Lab, Fine Tuning)

YOU must focus on the right type (s) of Musicality.
It’s like restaurants:

CHR McDonalds Hit Food No Spices Cheap n Quick

Blues A Funky BBQ joint. Smoky, Hot, Real

Fine Tuning French Nouvelle...Experimental. Ultra Quality food and patrons

Deep Tracks Classic French...Escoffier...No new weird shit....Reverence toward the masters

XMU, XMLM: A Bar.....listeners are intoxicated by the new music

Oldies: A Classic Diner....reliable old fashioned Hit Food with lots of Specials

NAC: Pan Asian Fusion Ultra Hip Chardonnay and Lobster Sashimi hipness.

DON'T SURPRISE PEOPLE. AC/DC on Deep Tracks is like Ketchup on Peasant under Glass.....An Album Cut on the 50s is like Sushi at the TopHat Diner.
A non "your hit" is a tune out and image killer.

*New Music!!??? The music industry has poisoned us to think NEW is BEST> In reality, it all depends on who you are.

For example,






*Older you get the longer a song stays Fresh
Older you are, more important great old music is
"Mama" line: When DJs are picketing 'cause the song is still on the list, Mama is just learning to hum the verses

Old/New reference point:
15 year old: Old is last month
30 Year Old: Old is pre 1995
50 year old: Old is Pre 1980

*Play the Hits! But what is a hit?

A) Differs by format
b) XM Definition: The most important songs to your listeners

screw charts and traditional definitions.
A hit is YOUR most important songs.

Hits Vary:

On Oldies: Top 10 songs

On New Age: Jean Michelle Jarres' Oxygene

On Steam powered Radio it's Old Chicago Copper by Bob Gibson

On Real Jazz: Bitches Brew by Miles Davis

On Boneyard: Depth from Stadium Rockers

XMU: Hell, could be anything. XMU's hits are hits before the rest of the world knows they're hits

...while there is overlap to a degree on our formats....the key is to focus on YOUR KIND OF HITS.

*Types of Hits:

Songs: Instantly familiar by SONG (oldies)

Depth: Oh Wow tracks. Familiar artists...unpredictable song Deep Tracks)

Non Radio: VW ad, Sopranos Theme (BE AWARE BEYOND RADIO!) (Everywhere)

Novelty: Unusual, but cool. Flintstones Theme.....a flaming flamenco solo by an unknown artist (Everywhere)

Forgotten: Tested Out of the system, but still valid!! (Usually Rock & Country & Oldies)

Sound: It has the right "Sound” (Jazz, New Age, Blues etc...)

Sell: THE LOST ART. Important because DJ has SOLD it as such.

If it ain't ain't a hit
Don’t play it (except as special)

Bottom Line:



Stations lose because they don't play the right songs and they do play wrong ones. Ya gotta be 100% YOUR HITS....100% YOUR POSITION. Don't stray..Stay true.


Don’t waste time with average songs
Remember the Cannonball/Fort example
Don’t play stiffs
Don’t drag out songs...Ain't workin? Cut bait!

Oh, more on empathy:

Amateur: Stairway to Heaven Sucks.

XM Pro: Stairway Sucks, but it's popular and I'm going to understand its popularity.

More on IS in my opinion a brilliant, but tired song. It sounds bad when it's surrounded by Layla, Don’t fear the Reaper, Takin Care of Business and other tired songs...but between a cool Traffic and an amazing Dire Straights song, Stairway will'll sound amazing...and believe it or not...FRESH!.
It's the "environment" songs are in that often make them sound bad.

....another reason you're Mix must be must be exclusively ketchup on the Sushi. Sushi next to a burger is gross (except to a Ward Cleaver)....but in the right environment....each work well.

*Sophistication. (Please refer to chart)

Northeast Quadrant (Older & more Sophisticated) NPR, super classy, very "smart"
Northwest: (Young & Sophisticated) Sick, brilliantly dark. Old SNL mode of thought
Southeast: Older & Not Sophisticated: Ultra Mainstream
Southwest: Younger and Not Sophisticated: Mall and Cartoon Radio

Most sophisticated likes SOUND or DEPTH as their hit factor
Least Sophisticated like SONG as their hit factor





Dumb n Dumber & Star Wars are poles apart....but both were brilliantly executed

*Evolve Formats. I evolved AOR from a mess of weird songs to an organized format in '72...also "evolved" dozens of other formats. Made a career out of it. NOW IT'S YOUR TURN. Every format that exists needs to be evolved musically (and CERTAINLY stationality wise..but thats a no brainer). Classical REALLY needs it.....Smooth Jazz kinda needs it.....there are levels of need. But, EVERY EXISTING FORMAT NEEDS TO BE EVOLVED MUSICALLY....that's your job. We are giving you the hard tools and knowledge to do GO FOR IT!

*STAY 100% True to your formats' musical purpose. PURITY.
Avoid good/ good/ good / SONG THAT DOESNT BELONG HERE/ good/ good /SONG THAT DOESNT BELONG /good/ etc....
This happens when a song that "isn’t you" is in there...or a stiff...or a hit that isn't your "kind of hit"
Be what your supposed to be. Magic in what you DONT play

*More music identity created by your SELL of music not by volume of adds! Selling is a lost art....we will bring it back

*Youth are Not Angry. Those who are anesthetize the anger with booze & drugs. Our youth formats are about either FREEDOM, PARTYING, or BEING SMARTER THAN THE REST OF THE WORLD (or a combination of those things). Pissed off radio is stupid. It does NOT attract youth!!!!!! Reflect their needs...even those who are pissed off are looking for escape...Not some adult trying to emulate their anger.
Low end radio is about escape! Dark escape if sophisticated...Cartoon escape if non-sophisticated.
One thing: LOW END LISTENERS ARE NOT DUMB. THEY ARE CULTURALLY BRILLIANT. EVEN THE UNHIPPEST TEEN is living in a special world that XM must and will serve without "G" (Generic) or compromise.

*We live in a musical society where AGE is good. Older artists are revered, in the US, the older you get the cooler you get (with the
Exception of guys who were uncool to start with). Examples--Stones, ray Charles, Santana, BB King, Clapton, etc.....For the first time in history there are 40+ Rock fans...millions of them. The 50's "Rock is for Kids" is James Dean Bullshit. Think ALL ages.

*It takes 7 exposures before a person likes a Song to the point of buying it (these are the Song driven psychographics)

*16 to 20 factor. The musically formative years

*Cant get hurt by what you don’t play concept is wrong (Beatle Anthology example)

*OTT: Top 500 No! Top 5000 Yes

*Commercial as Possible without Losing Authenticity. Don’t overdo it...stay right at the commercial need to go beyond

*Own Positions. Box set? Seek musical and cultural icons and "pieces" that are unclaimed. Make them yours.

*Just Do It. Never brag. THE STATION WITH THE MOST HENDRIX...BS. Just play it...they'll get it.
Some of the audience may be unsophisticated....but they ain't dumb!!!!!!

*Play Hits. Your hits. Don’t play songs that aren't part of your musical reason for the definition of what you're musically SUPPOSED to be. Nothing more nothing less. Dead on it. (Had to repeat this's important!)

*NEVER penalize a song or artist because its BIG or TERRESTRIAL is playing it. Never! That is immature.

*Policy: YOU OWN CHART. Not MTV...Not Billboard

*Policy: YOU own Countdowns. Base on sales, online, requests, your personal feelings.....depends on format.

*Names: "Hits at Six" or "Orange Headlights before 7"

*Research testing is flawed. Mr. Roboto...I'm so Glad...Lets Work together. TV ads are hipper than radio play lists.

*Mobilize your jocks (Jock picks of the week)


…OK getting long…to be continued….


Monday, April 09, 2007



Our Traditional Country Channel is "Willie's Place"...used to be Hanks Place but Willie Nelson 'bought it'. Instead of simply a press release and a hollow "artist endorsement", Willie actually listens and has ideas. I think he likes the fact that it's an AUTHENTIC channel. Smell the speakers and you'll smell chewing tobacco, stale beer and worn out 45's from an old Wurlitzer. Modeled after the way an AM Country station in Lubbock probably sounded circa 1955. Willie likes that authenticity and so do XM listeners. It performs outrageously well.

So...Willie has some ideas. Me, Paul Bachmann, ray Knight and Jim Mc Bean pile into my plane and we trek up to Danbury Connecticut to meet with Mark Rothbaum, Willie’s manager and a guy named Zack who Willie and Mark would like to produce a new show idea Willie has. Those three guys live way up in Maryland so I flew from Manassas Virginia (my home airport) and stopped at Frederick Maryland to pick the guys up. Beautiful day for flying. Nice flight up to Danbury. Upon arriving we rented a car figuring we'd want to check out the local vibe before we left. Mark met us and we followed him to his office--exactly 5 blocks away. So much for cruising the countryside.

Arriving at Marks office, we see a true Yankee Fan. Goose Gossage's jersey, signed pictures of the '60 Yanks and tons of memorabilia. I wanted to engage him in a baseball conversation, but it's useless and Yankee fans are impossible to talk to as they have this thing about their team being God's gift to baseball. Annoying.

We dove into conversation about Willie's Place. I kept pretty quiet the whole time and listened. Ray, Paul and Jim are the guys who have to make things happen, so I sat back and made sure no-one said anything that we'd regret later. They didn't. Often in the heat of a meeting with a manager or artist you can tend to promise exciting things---only to find out they are undoable later. Important to be straight forward and realistic. The only time I got involved was with the suggestion that Willie does his show when he feels like it for that spontaneously. Ah---I think we need SOME kind of schedule guys....Anyways-meeting went great. Zack was a pretty impressive guy. Day job is Film maker and the guy who designed anti Bush playing cards. By night he is an expert on Traditional Country. I hope things work out with him as he'll be a nice dimension to the group...which is all about authenticy and integrity...two things hard to come by these days.

After the meeting was wrapped, it was time to soak in local culture, so I pulled out printouts from a site that has all the best local joints to eat at. It was between The Goulash House which is known for "incredibly rude and inept angry hostess and great goulash". Paul violently objected and wanted to go to the “Waterfall Inn” a diner…..nah, too obvious, so we went to plan B Then I took a hit from Paul about listening to the XM radio in the car. “Not Fine Tuning! For Chrissake Lee!” So we settled on Soul Street and Chill. (actually—in my car I start at 4 and just keep going up the dial—but I have this Fine Tuning image) We also considered eating at JRs. They are knows for their Black and White pathology of Weenie history on their walls. It had the biggest # of reports on, but we decided that the place was almost too reputable. So it was The Amigo Deli. A Cuban deli and market. After a few passes, we found the place. Talk about Authentic! We were far and away the only Anglos...and the only ones who spoke English in the place. It was kind of a dump, but it had character. Cases and cases of weird Animal parts and strange alien vegetables. Strode up to the counter. After several language issues we ordered. Mc Bean got some strange Chicken stew along with Tamarind Nectar, I got a Cuban sandwich, Ray got something he didn't order and Paul got a Chicken Parm Sub (in a Cuban place???!!) though he actually ordered a Cuban sandwich and Ray ordered fish---it was ah, an ordering “experience”. An extra Cuban sandwich came with our order and Paul devoured it. The staff there thought we were from Mars but seemed to enjoy the attention. Mc Bean was clicking photos of the exotic food with a wonderful shot of miscellaneous animal parts I’m sure.

After the Amigos experience--back to the airport. Flew just west of Manhattan for a nice view of the city. Then over Allentown, we flew over a series of Hot Air balloons at Sunset. Beautiful. Then--me and Ray saw a UFO. Looked like a guy in a bike at 7000 feet. Peddling fast as it zipped by. Still not sure what it was—definitely more UFO than aircraft. Probably not a vehicle from Zarcon....probably not a guy on a bike. Oh well....swamp gas I guess. I sure as hell aren’t going to report it. More important was the fact that Mc Bean had to pee. I pulled out a US Air Force approved bag that turns pee into solid material. He held it---probably a good thing. Dropped the guys off at Frederick and flew back into enormous air traffic to Manassas.

FROM THE WAY BACK MACHINE: Here’s a note to the staff (though we only had 27 employees in programming at the time!!) from 2000. We're pretty stable but 9 are still here from those on the distribution list on this particular memo. I like to review these to make sure that while we have to evolve and stay in sync, we also keep our creative roots in check—most of this stuff is still relevant:

From: Lee Abrams Sent: Thursday, September 07, 2000 1:57 PMTo: Lee Abrams; Ward Cleaver; Josh Cunningham; Kurt Gilchrist; Kenny Curtis; Rick Lambert; Redbeard; Mark Parenteau; Lori Parkerson; Eddie Webb; Dan Turner; Kevin Straley; Irina Lallemand; Bob Mckowycz; Sari Zalesin; Charlie Logan; Dave Logan; Matt Wolfe; Michelle Hammond; Dave Logan; Blake Lawrence; Steve Harris; Ray Knight; Cleveland Wheeler; Blake Lawrence; Phlash Phelps; Wayne JobsonSubject: ELECTRIC MOMENTS FROM THE LAND OF CORN

Can't stress enough the importance of cool new names for features and "stuff" that happens on your channel.
Electric Moments from the Land of Corn.
...that slogan WILL mean something IF you attach a concept to it!
YOU are in control. Obviously, the slogan or name must be in the language of your format. That slogan on Classical is TOO bent...but on FRED, it might just work.....
Obviously, these crazed names and slogans are most effective once you have people listening to you and understand vibe, focus, environment and point of view of your channel...
Once listeners "get" what you're's time to go nuts with names. Again, nuts is a relative term and needs to be "nuts" in terms of YOUR listeners.
Historically, crazed inventive names GET REMEMBERED, and enhance your image.
Remember: Psychedelic Psupper vs. Oldies at Six.
We need to think like artists, NOT RADIO GEEKS. If Eric Clapton was a radio guy, Disraeli Gears would have been called "Hard Rock music featuring the wah wah pedal" or Exile on Main Street from the Stones would've been "New selections from the Rolling Stones"

"Hi...who's this?" "Whereya callin from?" (on music formats)

Many of our formats will be PHONE HEAVY. On those formats, we want XM to sound like the "mouth of America" with people and accents from across the land.
It's part of our "Not local????...Damn right...we're National, big and proud" spirit. A big part of that is the experience of listeners hearing all of America represented on the phones.

The problem is that most phone calls die before they get started due to a clichéd opening line.

Re-think this...there's more to life than "Hi who's this, whereya callin' from?"
Maybe it's:

"Speak to me!"


"You're on XM...GO!"

"Eat Me!" (Well.....we need to talk about this one first....)

(On the 70's format) "OK, quick, name your favorite Brady"

...the point is Call Openers need to be re-thought........ESPECIALLY important on our National platform! XM IS ALL ABOUT AMERICA!

XM Boot Camp starts shortly. After boot camp, THEN,”formal" format design starts........
As you know, we must RE-THINK EVERYTHING! we must CREATE A STUNNING AND OBVIOUSLY NEW SOUND...As Fresh to today’s' FM listener as FM was to an AM listener 30 years ago OK, you know that.

Many of our formats are "firsts" so the fact that it exists is exciting enough....but with ESTABLISHED formats:

We often talk about re-inventing specials, production, etc....That's critical, the little things add up BUT....
We can also (in many cases) re-invent BIG, MAJOR PARTS OF THE FORMATS' ARCHITECTURE. For example:

XM Classics: Instead of a tweedy bow-tied pipe smoking 80 year old professor sound.... No-one has ever heard Classical like that.

XM 60's on 6/ 70s on 7: We will be introducing”memory cluster" music sequencing. This WILL revolutionize Oldies Radio. Songs clustered 24/7 in three song sets from a given season, so memories BURN IN and are not simply fleeting moments as the typical oldies station navigates from era to era. We will let an era...a point in time, BURN IN. Three from Spring '66, next Three from Summer 69,(along with sound bites FROM that moment) etc......They will just happen as "the way" we program....this station will give people chills. These formats will sound more like UNSCOPED AIRCHECKS from a given date than "Oldies Stations"

This is a difficult and often fruitless exercise....but It's important you think beyond Where traditional spot breaks go....beyond what happens at: 00......... Beyond putting sweepers between songs......BURN THE RULE BOOK....BURN THE PLAYBOOK. It's our responsibility to create a new radio order that attacks and updates the BASIC CLOCK ARCHITECTURE.....or the ACCEPTED WAY OF DOING THINGS.....Your "bold" idea for a total new architecture may not pan out...but give it some thought. The point here is: RADICALLY changing the basic format structure.

YOU DON'T CHANGE THE WORLD WITH A FEW NEW THINGS...THINK OVERHAUL. Radio now is a great reliable, efficient 727......
XM needs to be the first hypersonic transport. That’s takes some design change beyond bigger overhead compartments, if ya know what mean!

Most stations out there aren't necessarily "bad"...they're "average....that’s why they sit there with a 3 share
Baseball team that’s playin' 500 ball is average......that’s why they're doing 15,000 instead of 51,000 a game
most new CDs released are Average....which is why they don’t sell
most new restaurants that open are average...which is why 75% of them close within six months.
AVERAGE is a way of life......99.9999% of America is pretty Average, make average acceptable.
We can very easily do average radio. Piece of cake...and you know what? It wouldn't sound would sound average.
We'd be "acceptable".....
An example of extremely bad is our proposed "Worlds Worst Music" channel. Yes friends, Extremely Bad is good the singer Stern has on his show that’s SO bad it's amusing....or Tiny Tim, or pro wrestling from the 60's, or the 1965 Mets, or William Shatner singing Beatles Songs.
The point: THINK EXTREME!!!!!!!!

EXTREME GETS NOTICED. Average gets lost.
Extremely Great: (my opinion here...but you get the point) first Star Wars Dark Side of the Moon
Extremely Different: This amazing Celtic Jazz harp record I heard Pulp Fiction Beavis & Butthead (it DID get noticed)
Extremely Bad: WWF (so bad it's brilliant) Carl's Red-Hot’s (A toemain infested dive in Chicago...the best) .....

THE KEY BETWEEN EXTREMELY BAD (but effective) or EXTREMELY BAD (and it will kill you):
Extremely bad but effective is based on authenticity, originality and quality
Extremely bad but will kill you is based on nothing authentic, nothing original and of low other words, average.

MTV WAS brilliant at "EXTREME"......good, bad or different, it WAS always EXTREME, and it always gets NOTICED.

All radio stations must have a van (I know we have a van....but I'm referring to promotional vans). Now, Vans were totally cool in ' that corny neighbor of yours has one. That ain't cutting edge. For the price of a van, a station can buy a used Caddy Limo....a used fire truck....a Tank......a '57 Desoto
The point is "re-thinking" rather than "accepting" that the station vehicle must be a van. Talk about a cliché!!!!!

America loves to Party! So....CREATE PARTIES. XM has the power to create holidays. Liquid Metal can claim "October 14th is Liquid Metal Day"....if you do it right, especially after we have a nice Fan base built up, America will be celebrating Liquid Metal Day in every city and burgh across the Country. Or "Garth Brooks Day" or whatever. HOLIDAYS DO NOT HAVE TO BE TRADITIONAL. Christmas and Thanksgiving are cool...but hell, we need MORE holidays. The answer: CREATE THEM. Through intense "sell" on the air, YOU have the POWER to create Holidays.

Radio has an inferiority complex....."We’re just radio" in the age of Internet & TV....Screw that! WE are the power.

Speaking of parties.....

THE BIG ARETHA PARTY: Coming! Next Wednesday! We will be discussing your duties as we get closer. In a nutshell, we're the "personality" factor in the mix...this is going to be a big event! BE PREPARED TO BE ON HAND 9am until????? (Late)

THE XM PROGRAMMING BASH: Thanks for attending. MANY MORE TO COME! Only the beginning of "the way we party"!! Stand by.......these are going to get very dangerous!

If there's one thing we need to be is SMART. We don't dumb down....we don't rely on old-line stupid Sex jokes and dated innuendo (talk about cliché!!!!).
Smart Radio has NEVER been "important"....well, it is now. I'm not talking about Elitist..."Masterpiece Theater" radio...I'm talkin' about intelligence...cleverness.
Big complaints out there include: Too many spots AND dumbness.
Sounds obvious don't it? Well, being "smart" in the old world meant following the research.......tightening up the jocks......studying the Arbitron for "flukes".....air checking that hot station in St. Louis for the latest ideas their focus groups came up with.......studying the "trades"......writing tired liners because that style of writing was safe.

Favorite old line smart radio slogans: "Don’t fix it if it ain't broke"........"The book was a fluke".........It's the jocks' fault (how can that be if they ain't allowed to talk??)....too obscure, the audience wont relate to it (oh yeah....Two-fer Tuesday is SO relatable)

I ain't bad rapping this thinking....its making people a ton of money.
But for XM to soar......

Man-WE MUST CHANGE THAT STYLE OF THINKING. That old-line "smart" radio stuff is:

a) Evaluating the flawed ( Most radio research is flawed. If it wasn’t, radio would sound better and serve better)

b) Blind leading the blind.

We must think on a totally higher level. More on this later. But part of the revolution is based on fighting SMARTER than everyone else.


Playing the hits works, always has worked and always will work. BUT!!!!!!----There is SO MUCH MORE to that simple statement. We are dead if we "simply" play the hits. Here's the deal:

*XMs hits are different from terrestrial because we are SO narrowly targeted. A Classic Rocker trying to reach four generations (Dylan to STP) has to play the songs that won't offend any of those generations. An oldies station going after the Buddy Holly through ABBA eras can only play the most compatible songs.
WE HAVE THE LUXURY OF SUPERSERVING. If you isolate ONE generation from a format that tries to reach four generations, the Hit list is naturally much deeper because you don’t have to worry about compatibility with other generations.


Chart Hit Songs (Big Songs) FAMILIAR BY TITLE

Hit Artists (Popular artists...Where the "Oh Wow" factor comes into play... "That’s Metallica, but it isn't Enter Sandman AGAIN" ) FAMILIAR BY ARTIST SOUND

Novelty Hits. One time wonders or oddball songs

WHAT KIND OF HIT DOES YOUR FORMAT PLAY?????? Answer: It all depends on the sophistication of the listener target.
Going after the Beer fart BTO crowd, and ya don't need to challenge them with depth.....They don't want it.
The "Traffic was best with Dave Mason on the first album" crowd......they want depth

This is an area we gotta be SUPER SMART!!!!!

*HITS ARE EXCLUSIVE TO FORMATS. "Oxygene" by Jean Michele Jarre is a HIT on our New Age...a total stiff on the 70s Channel.....Slayer is a hit on Liquid Metal...meaningless on 20on20.




(This is an area we will totally cover in boot camp!)

But the point remains, whatever type they are...YOU MUST PLAY THEM.

.....then there are FAKE HITS. The kind of hits you DON'T want to play:

Auditorium Testers. Flawed. How else can a song that was completely marginal suddenly be popular........?

Dead hits. Toasted by Testing

FINDING NEW HITS. Well, nowadays it's "testing"...and record label crap. And Indies...and trade ads...and Mindless self appointed music experts writing their comments in trade papers. I think that’s BS. Its the WORST of all worlds: Flawed research....corrupt hype and ego. THAT SUCKS!
The best ways are:

*RELIABLE sales based Charts.

* long as there's VOLUME and a reliable tracking system

*From your features. Do a feature on an artist or genre and if ya get response....HUGE response, its a no brainer.

*Artist History

*Regional breakouts. When a song is #1 in EVERY Country in the probably will work here on SOME format (despite the Euro problem discussed earlier)

Music radio went into the crapper when we stopped looking at these methods and got into "testing" music....or becoming slaves to trade papers and free ego dinners from labels.

If you're a classic/oldies/eclectic based format...we will discuss "the hits" in more detail soon

Finally, In regards to currents: "Its not how many songs you're's how you're SELLING the ones you DO play" You could add a song a month but if you handle its sell right, you'll have a better "new music" perception than anyone else in the Country.


TIME LOCKS: We'll all be doing heavy features...daily, weekly, monthly, etc.....
But remember the value of "hourly" features that are locked in. "Traffic on the 8's" is a good one.
One we'll be doing on 60s on 6 is: BEATLES at top of EVERY hour. Reliably locked in. Want the Beatles...they're ALWAYS there at: 00. We'll do the same for Elvis on 50's.

Be thinking...maybe Mark P can follow his current format of "Strange Oldies on the 8's" that he uses at his desk, on the Comedy Channel.

60's on 6 will dedicate 4 hours EVERY day to All Nationwide Requests (we sure as hell aint gonna call it that though). All Request Saturday nights get HUGE ratings...listeners love it. Why not EVERY night?

One of our Country Channels is going to do The Top 5,000 Country songs of all time.....kinda makes the Top 100 look sorta lame huh?

OK, that’s enough for today.... much more later.

Be Amazing! ...we HAVE to be to survive

Monday, April 02, 2007



We've been doing a lot of "special" channels recently. Channels that are temporary and geared to support and celebrate a day/days that are emotionally impactful to people. It all started with the Holiday Channels. Pretty obvious and nothing new, however we have the luxury of presenting every flavor of Christmas. From the traditional to the orchestral to the absurd as in "Special Xmas"--my personal favorite. Special Xmas is assembled by Dan Turner. While Dan is a buttoned down operational guy by day, he’s a madman at night, and this channel is all about his madman side...and it works. Special Xmas is actually an offshoot of a channel we had--and I pray we bring back at some point called "Special X". Headed by Lou Brutus the idea here is pretty much the strangest and possibly worst music ever created. So bad it's brilliant. It's still online, but when it was over the air it was pure madness. I think it was a huge mistake to lose the channel but at the time we had to make way for some others. But these are painful decisions that had to be made...some think we have unlimited bandwidth--we don't. Anyways, Imagine a show called "When Hillbillies Go Bad"---an hour of positively awful hillbilly music...usually from the 40's and 50's...or how about a Parakeet Training Record in” hot rotation"...It was Dr. Demento on Acid. Or "learn a language" records--but ones like "Learn English" recorded in 1946 in German, filled with how a German National explains the War In English with lines like "We are so sorry--we are your friends now" A wonderful channel. It WILL be back---don't know when...but it was too good to keep in the background.

Anyways, recently we did a St. Patrick’s Day Channel. The idea was to celebrate Irish Culture in an authentic way, instead of playing drinking songs and U2 records. We ”rented" Ken Aiken one of our executives who is extremely Irish as our consultant. He then turned us on to the Irish Embassy and we were off to the races. No fake accents doing Irish songs that a person who is as Irish as I am choosing. It was the real deal. It was more about Guinness than Lucky Charms.

Last weekend it was "Play Ball" a complete celebration of Opening Day. Great calls from legendary play by play announcers...Classic Baseball Comedies and Old Radio Shows (like Babe Ruth guesting on Bob Hope in 1943). Baseball poetry...Baseball songs--and a LOT of them not just Centerfield and the other obvious ones. The production was usually processed to sound like a stadium PA...and of course plenty of sound from the greatest cartoon of all time "Baseball Bugs" starring Bugs Bunny as the rabbit that took on the Gashouse Gorillas and won the game thanks to a Statue of Liberty umpire. Smell the speakers and it's cut grass, mustard and $7 beer.

Doing these CAN be easy but we take the hard course because we could just play a bunch of songs and issue a press release...and claim the credit. OR--We can do something REALLY special and deliver the goods. That’s what we do. It takes a lot of people. Lou Brutus, Jim Mc Bean, Ben Krech, Mike "no relation" Abrams and scores of others contribute to making these pretty special.

It gets back to that "honesty" thing--where you actually deliver what you say. Combine honest with imagination, vision, integrity and purity and you CREATE TRENDS....that last. The junk culture trend isn't a trend, it’s a cultural lull that happens in between trends. The junk culture from Katie Couric to Brittney Spears will be trivia questions when the next TRENDS kick in. We're wading in the shit right now, till it hits the fan, then you'll see a new day. Honesty, Integrity, Vision Integrity and Purity will help that shit hit the fan.

Took a commercial flight from Washington to NYC a week ago. Shoulda flown myself...again. I keep doing this--I have a wonderful plane but figure commercial will be less hassle. Not true. This time I was at Dulles Airport at 9 for a 10:30 flight. Flight left at 2:30. If I had flown out of Reagan, there’s a shuttle every 30 minutes, but Dulles has 3 flight a day...that's it. Had to leave from Dulles because friend and confidant Frank Wood flew me back home on Friday in his LARGE private jet (Oh my God--more on that later--I'm still goosebumping) and you cant fly Private into Reagan. Got to NYC at 3:30. Had lunch with Cliff Burnstein at 1:30. We met and decided we should have a hot dog at this place he knew because we didn't have time for the originally leisurely lunch we'd planned. Good hot dog. Good conversation--though abbreviated. One thing that really struck a chord was that he felt Satellite Radio doesn't do as good of a job as it should in “selling" new music. We sure play it, but it often doesn't get the buzz, whereas there are a few FM's that still go nuts and sell a new release. We used to do this better--maybe we've gotten lazy. Rushed to the Joss Stone Artist Confidential which was great…kept thinking about Cliff’s comment though.

I think the purpose of a music DJ is to emote and connect with the music. Otherwise, why bother? It just becomes useless DJ prattle… noise…I’m not talking about “morning shows” or other comedy and talk driven personalities…I’m talking about people playing songs. I DO believe there are a lot of channels where DJ’s are un-necessary. We DON’T have DJ’s on Top Tracks for example—WHAT can a DJ say about Hotel California? Or Audiovisions where a DJ would just interrupt the “spell”. But on most channels the connection to the music isn’t just paramount—it’s the very reason a DJ is there in the first place…to “narrate” you through the experience. Seems there’s this FCC Law that says only eclectic stations can connect with music. THAT is wrong. Connection with music is timeless and universal. IF a DJ is emotionally dis-connected with the songs he or she is playing—that is a BIG problem. That’s where you get the mindless DJ sound that permeates radio today. A bigger issue is that in light of the often soul-less new technologies delivering music—the DJ...Done right, is more important than ever when connecting with the music on channels that require a connection (not all do).

I sent this note to our staff:

Dan’s email about the great job on the Tim Mc Graw World Premier, reminded me of a lunch I had with Cliff Burnstein last Thursday in NYC. Cliff is one of the most important managers (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica etc….) on the planet. One of the reasons is he’s such a straight shooter. He shot straight with me and commented on how XM doesn’t “sell” new releases as well as we used to. By selling—it’s about emoting. Getting crazed over songs you love. SOME channels do this well (and you know who you are). Some channels fake it—and you can hear through that…some channels are on emotional autopilot. He went on to say how he hears BETTER music involvement on a couple of FM’s that we all know. Ouch! The idea here is that unleashing your emotions and TURNING LISTENERS ON to songs that turn YOU on, is an INTEGRAL part of the XM architecture!!! I know it’s easy to get distracted these days—but this is one areas that, well, you GOTTA stay on top of.

Here’s part of a note sent around on January 16, 2002 that covers this. Please get into and AFDI this CRITICAL part of the XM Sound! UNLEASH YOUR PASSION!

……Talk about it. Be in the loop. We have a real staff. We can really get INTO the music---get INVOLVED in it.
Where is it on YOUR chart? (you have one—right??) Call a record store in a cool or offbeat town and chat with the kid behind the register. GET INVENTIVE AND INVOLVED IN SELLING NEW MUSIC. I cannot tolerate or fathom our competition (satellite, FM, or even print) beating us in the sell of new sounds, let’s hear XM clearly dominate the air with information and EXCITEMENT about new and upcoming releases.


OLD MUSIC AWARENESS—Old music is just as important as new. We must be the smartest most in touch. No, we do NOT want to talk and talk and talk, but when we DO talk, music passion should ooze NOT from every break…but from every break where you FEEL it! (every break would be phony as you can’t POSSIBLY like EVERY song!)—honesty rules. Holding back sucks.

XM-Selling the concept
AMERICA—talking WITH and TO our very big local community

Now, song wise, unless you’re a decade station where the original authentic version is critical, look for imports, live versions, BBC versions…”different” versions of library songs. Some are bad. But some are gems. Again, we cannot let our competitor be cool because they are playing an odd version of a Hendrix song and we’re playing the same old greatest hits version.

THE BOTTOM LINE—our “fans” must know tat we’re out there searchin’ for the BEST MUSIC on Earth and there ain’t no static play list sitting there dictating every song. C’mon—DIG INTO THE MUSIC. Listen to Franks Place….. Among many others—these guys are talkin’ music..Informing..And doing it in a concise and compelling way. In other words, let’s hear ENERGY…SPIRIT…AND! Swagger, Information and “ownership” of your genre. Nothing less will a) be acceptable b) give us a clear musical victory.


-PLAYING THE BEST SONGS (remember “neighborhoods”. The BEST songs can be hits or experimental music…depends on your musical neighborhood)




-THINKING LIKE A MUSIC FREAK (rocket scientists may not “get” playing a lost Hendrix B side…we thrive on searching for cool songs to turn listeners on to)

-THE EXTRA MILE. Living your genre. It’s sad if listeners are more aware than YOU…and devastating if FM or another medium is.

-UNLEASH YOUR EMOTION. It’s bad if you can’t emote about what turns you on over the air…it’s REAL bad if you are so disconnected from what REALLY counts (music) that you present music in an automated and disassociated way.

If we do the above consistently…..we win….listeners win.

...a key word is "listeners win". We have another luxury---we don't have to program for advertisers on our music channels. THIS IS WHERE A DISCONNECT OFTEN HAPPENS and 99% of the programmers who join XM have to rid themselves of this key reality. Advertisers don't matter on Music Channels...therefore neither do ratings. It's all about LISTENERS. It's a whole new way of thinking and one that's dramatically different from FM or AM. We are somewhere in the middle--we aren't terrestrial and we're not Internet. We are in our own space and there is a new playbook. We are creating the new model. There is no model to refer to. Gotta remember that!