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!


At 8:30 PM, Blogger VP81955 said...

Agree with your comments on the Globe...especially since it is wasting much of its "goodwill" with a few personnel from the glory days of WHFS, a local rock legend (not to be confused with the Baltimore WHFS that now has talk, U. of Maryland sports and the Baltimore Orioles). In particular, I'm referring to Weasel, a beloved figure in D.C. radio renowned for his musical knowledge and wide range of rock tastes. The station was smart enough to make him the morning man, but not smart enough to utilize what made him special. Too bad. You can be sure that he can't play many of the artists that made him on the glory days of the old HFS: Marshall Crenshaw, Dave Edmunds, Joe "King" Carrasco, or their more modern-day equivalents.

At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear your philosophies applied everyday on such stations as Squizz, 80's and even Cinemagic, a treasure that doesn't get enough recognition. But one station sorely in lack of character is the 90's, which has been DJless for over a year, and though the playlist has shown recent improvement in terms of depth, it still needs even more, and it needs character and interaction via DJs (and may I add, DJs that KNOW and LOVE the decade and can bring back the gems we don't hear). As we continue to move toward the end of this decade, the 90's drifts further away and demands the attention of other decades channels, as it's becoming increasingly nostalgic too.

At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are correct about what we are hearing on XM. One notable exception is Flight 26. Five For Fighting's 100 Years has been in my hearing in the car 3 times in the last 24 hours. What's up with that? However, it is the one channel my pre-teen daughters can listen to other than Radio Disney that I also like, so I guess I shouldn't complain.

It is a shame Music Lab gotten taken off the receivers and stuck on the internet. I tell you what, around the law firm where I work, folks have picked Sirius over XM for one channel - Jam ON. If XM had a good jam bands channel, I think it could capture more Gen-X market share. Four lawyers from different states originally and spanning over 15 years agree, in any event. The one thing we have in common is that we all went to private colleges, with the exception of one who went to UNO.

I realize Music Lab was a jam bands/alternative channel, but I think a solely Jam Bands channel would better fit the philosophy in your post.

In any event, I love XM Cafe, Deep Tracks, the Loft, Hear Music, and Bluesville. I have a MyFi and a Windows Mobile phone, so I pretty much have XM with me wherever I am. As a 35 year old lawyer with three kids, music kinda disappeared from my life after law school (and having the first child) until I got an XM radio in December of 2005. A lot of great music got made in those 9 years, and I've been loving it.

Thanks for all of what you guys are doing at XM.

Brad Drell

At 7:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: flight 26....its a hits channel....that's what they do...repeats
Re: jam channel....the entire xm service is a jam channel with more flexability and creativity then sirius ever thought of having.....deep tracks alone blows away at least half of sirius music offerings
Re: laywers prefer sirius.....they deserve each other

At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seee, Knew I would go "OTT" on the Exec's and they would take it the WRONG Way, if those Crickets Lived, I would be a Hero, I thought they all would live and a couple escape, that's all. and that it was really for "wallstreet", NOT them, I was arguing a STOCK Chart Pattern, going "OTT" by adding a 3RD Dimension, Trust Me, It was an A+++ stock video with like 5 Crosses,
The fact of matter was It got a Response, GOOD or BAD.
I might take your stuff to siriusly, OTT, larger then Life, Extreme, etc, as that was an original "SatRadKid" wallstreet "Character" I did to WIN some Cnbc arguments, " I became my STOCKS", Still Am,
"My biggest decision in the morning is, what Hat am I gonna wear? XM or Sirius?"
Great Stuff


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