DON IMUS, JUNK CULTURE, THE DUMBING OF AMERICA---AND DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT
DON IMUS, JUNK CULTURE, THE DUMBING OF AMERICA---AND DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT
"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 music.....music is a powerful weapon in our radio revolution arsenal.
BAD GM: We got a morning show...tested the library...got a billboard up...we're cool
BAD PD: Check R&R Chart...see what the label is pushing...add & report...we're cool.
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 changin...you can bet on it. That Intense/Lull chart is the real deal in illustrating change
During Intense Periods:
OLD WAVE OF ARTISTS HIT WALL
TECHNOLOGY CHANGES MUSICALLY
THE LOOK CHANGES
LOVE/HATE EMERGES (Wrong bar)
THE SOUND OF MUSIC RADICALLY CHANGES
Dancing Comes Back
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 Stars...as 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 fast...you 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 tools...you're fighting a nuclear war with stones.
Your responsibility: KNOW your audiences psychographics...live 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:
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.
NEW IS CRITICAL:
NEW? BE CAREFUL!
OLDIES BASED FORMATS
NEW? WHO CARES...IS IT COOL? IS IT GOOD?
*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.
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 above...it ain't a hit
Don’t play it (except as special)
KNOW YOUR KIND OF IMPORTANT SONGS (HITS)
KNOW WHAT SONGS ARE NOT IMPORTANT!
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
Think MINUTE BY MINUTE
Remember the Cannonball/Fort example
Don’t play stiffs
Don’t drag out songs...Ain't workin? Cut bait!
Think Hits..."THE XM DEFINITION OF HITS"
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 Stairway.....it 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 thrive...it'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 pure...it must be exclusively yours...no 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)
STAY ON YOUR TURF. LIVE YOUR TURF. (SEE VIDEO ATTACHED TO BLOG HOME PAGE)
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
SOPHISTICATION IS A MUSICAL REFERENCE POINT
UN-SOPHISTICATED DOES NOT MEAN LAME
ALL XM FORMATS MUST BE BRILLIANT
SOPHISTICATION IN THIS CASE IS SIMPLY A LEVEL OF MUSICAL AWARENESS AND LISTENER MUSIC EDUCATION & PASSION
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 it...now 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 edge...no 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 existence.....re-read the definition of hits....be what you're musically SUPPOSED to be. Nothing more nothing less. Dead on it. (Had to repeat this one...it'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)
*RESPECT ALL MUSIC.
…OK getting long…to be continued….