Sunday, May 27, 2007



I’m obsessed with News. I think it’s in a similar state as music—from a media perspective and at least in the way it’s presented. I think Fox does a good job—at least I get why they are #1.

It’s interesting that I’m sensing a “flexing” with the culture, as discussed in other blogs. They had an ACLU guy on the air—and they were actually NICE to him. The thing I like about Fox is that they have re-invented TV News to a large degree…they are interesting to listen to/watch, they do A LOT right and they have a POINT OF VIEW---and seem to flex with the times…sorta. I’m not talking about the politics of Fox—I’m talking about the execution and design. Most other news organizations are chaotic--Fox is consistent. Like the POV or not.

I'm not getting into politics here. But you run into Fox bashers. I think those bashers should channel their energy into worrying about other news organizations that could challenge Fox. Why blame Fox because many other organizations suck. Just don't watch it. Take most of the Liberal News/Talk outlets--Some are THE WORST News/Talk/Information source I've ever heard. I see Air America is launching a new version. I hope its better. I also hope they avoid the shilling by Hollywood guys like Paul Newman, Dixie Chicks and Barbra Streisand.…That stuff will kill the cred. It ties them at the hip with entities that while popular figures, have NOTHING to do with the big issues. I think celebrities do more harm than good when they step out of their turf and attempt to be self serving world savers. Stick to movies and records PLEASE. Contribute your money and organizations to people with intellect and savvy who can force change instead of your ego being so out of whack that you think you can actually do it by offering your celebrity. The power of celebrity undermines credibility. Can you really take what Sean Penn says seriously? Pop Culture or it's sick cousin Junk Culture de-sensitizes ideas that the left might have that focus on biting issues. Lightens it up to where the mainstream doesn't take it seriously. Where's Cronkite when we really need him? Sometimes I think Liberal News/Talk/Information services are backed by Conservatives because it's almost like they are TRYING to be horrible and irritating and seem to be unable to present their POV in a way that generates respect and enthusiasm as Fox does on the conservative side. In my PERSONAL opinion, the lack of a cohesive and credible approach has set liberal biased radio back a century. It's not the message--it's their execution.

Now—If others weather audio, visual or print took a lesson from Fox…along with Huffington Post, Drudge Report and others that are on the new edge of modern media, we WILL have a News/Information revolution in this Country which we DESPERATELY NEED..Is wanted… and WILL succeed. NEWS/Information is just sitting there with 200+ millions—READY to embrace re-invention. Now is a REAL bad time for denial. News/Information Media in the US generally (with exceptions) is god awful. Rudderless---grabbing at straws. It didn’t take much to predict a few months ago that Katie Couric would get destroyed at CBS. Guess what—she’s getting destroyed. These people are SO incredibly non visionary and behind the curve—it’s scary. Great PowerPoint I’m sure, but pretty vacant and isolated from the streets and alleys of America. But I REALLY believe that the opportunity to AFDI change in News/Talk/Information is not only attractive…but do-able…and would receive universal acceptance. Intelligent CAN be mass appeal….as long as it’s in sync with NOW. Some public broadcasting is intelligent---but in sync with 1969…or just too damn elitist and self serving.

NOW---imagine a News/Information service that was TRULY Intelligent, non elitist, colorful, interesting, credible. Honest, modern, imaginative, zero whine and had the balls to throw out the “News Playbook” and re-invent it for 2007. A tall order. Do-able. It will be done. The opportunity is too powerful. There's too much of a financial upside as well as NEED for a revolution in News/Information not to happen. A GOOD change instead of a descending spiral into the abyss of Junk Culture OR (equally bad) dated thinking.

Being in sync with 2007 ISN'T hard...but no one is really doing it with true integrity. No-one is doing it with REAL balance. It seems to be all about taking sides. “Sides” is part of the game, but what would happen if the sides were personalities, but the overall vision and delivery of was truly neutral. Powerful. So until someone does, Fox will own the masses.

The stodgy old line journalists club ain’t gonna be the ones that do it. It’s an incredibly powerful and exciting area. I guess the News/Information business is faced with scenarios like this:

I received a note from an FM Program Director who has a lot of knowledge of and respect for the XM way. He was OK if I posted his note---though we agreed to leave his name, station and the others involved out of the picture and replaced with lines like “MAJOR RESEARCH COMPANY”. I’m pasting this because it is SO symbolic of the ills of FM Radio. Here goes:

I really have to tell you about a "Lee Abrams moment" I had within the past month. I always think of you when the MAJOR RESEARCH COMPANY guy comes to town, but I know you would have howled at this scene. Picture the MAJOR RESEARCH guy, GM, CORPORATE VP’S, NATIONAL PD, our marketing director , me (as an observer only - it wasn't my station on the hot seat), and a couple of others who won't be in this business in two years...we're sitting in the conference room going over the perceptual study of one of our cluster stations. The station's PD WAS NOT PRESENT!
(That's absurd in and of itself, but not really material to this story.)
After going over the PowerPoint™ charts and graphs which basically told the station to stop flirting with the fringe of their audience and play the hits, we came to the climactic conclusive slide. The high-priced recommended plan was this: 1)Focus on the musical era when the target audience was in their formative youth (duh), 2)play fewer songs and thus more hits (duh), 3) keep the morning show, even if they do suck, because starting over right now would be worse and it would take 18 months for a new show to take hold (questionable, but certainly cheaper and less labor-intensive), and 4) cement it all and call attention with a revolutionary new positioning statement (yes, there was a build up to this as his voice became louder and his gestures more animated):
This is where I could almost see and hear you busting out laughing. But this room full of people who should know better nodded their heads and congratulated each other. And by the way, there was little to no marketing money available to inform potential listeners of this fabulous new position. Later I expressed my disbelief to my GM, who half-defended the MAJOR RESEARCH COMPANY yet admitted that the presented ideas were hardly ground-breaking.
At the end of the day, MAJOR RESEARCH COMPANY got another fat check, the station sounds the same since the PD was out sick that day and didn't witness any of this, and THE COMPETITION continues to kick ass.

…this guy is of course strapped by this scenario. It’s SO incredibly fucked up…and happens at 99% of the terrestrial stations out there. Pure evil.
Been doing a ton of Interviews about the 40th Anniversary of Sgt. Peppers. What’s so incredible is how truly monumental that album was. It:

*Re-invented the way Album Art looked. Re-invented Rock Art
*Was Cinematic in it’s production…audio movies
*Introduced eclectic instrumentation into the fabric of pop music
*Changed the lyric standard from boyfriends girlfriends and cars to a whole new level.
*Spirited the FM age. You couldn’t listen to it on AM…you’d experience it on your home stereo and then realize that AM was NOT the place to experience the new generation of music.
*Influenced scores of artists to raise THEIR creative standard.
*Helped popularize experimentation in the artist ranks
*Brilliantly unusual arrangements.
*Fostered the FM revolution as albums like this needed to sonically breathe as they couldn’t on AM.
*Was a Statement that resonated as much as an album.
*Popularized the idea of albums as complete works vs. a $4.98 platform for the single
*It was an experience…not just an album
…and the timing was from the Gods, as The Beatles had the accessibility and image to come out with this and have a built in audience airplay to facilitate listening.

…you’d hear it on radio…then REALLY “listen” to it on your home stereo..

It’s what I try to inspire at XM. In fact, I call on our people to access their “George Martin Gene” and re-invent sound. Here’s a note I sent to the staff in 2000:

Access your "George Martin Gene"......his production saved us in 1964 from a life of Bobby Vinton production...then again in 1967 from a life of Tommy James production. Just listen to the timeless strings on Eleanor Rigby....backwards lines on Rain...the sound paintings on I Am the Walrus...the end of Day in The Life...the trippy Blue Jay Way...etc.....George with some help from from a few other creative guys CHANGED SOUND. No clichés...always fresh...used the whole universe of sound not just drums, guitar bass and keys....Sound familiar? That's what XM MUST DO TO WIN. Our production sound MUST be genius, clear, fresh, new, never-before-heard. I can't bloody stress this enough. You must open your mind in order to open the ears of America. You must release yourself from everything you've ever heard on radio. I am totally not kidding. I am totally trying to impress the importance of this. We will blow it if we fail to make the sonic magic our minds are capable of. When we DO make this magic...look out.

The magic to making XM truly revolutionary is to balance:

STATIONALITY: Character, spirit, attitude, vibe that is totally in sync with your format goals & target

MUSICALITY: Perfect music, the perfect mix for your format goals & target. the magic third piece of the puzzle is SONICS!

Sonics...Production...imaging whatever you call it, it is the magic between the can create excitement or enhance a mood....
It is what can give XM a radically new sound.


We don't want you to evolve the production sound, we want you to COMPLETELY RE-INVENT IT.
Production must be a trademark for XM....a sound you can hear a mile away and know it's XM.
Sound that transports the listeners, whether its to Main Street in Bluesville or to Alpha Centauri on Audiovisions.
This ain't going to happen unless we RE-INVENT radio sound.
Don't underestimate the critical importance of this.

Production is part of the listening experience...not an "ad" for the station.

What is the XM Sound?

...It's Audio Disneyland. You turn on XM and you're in this Audio Wonderland....Dreamscapes, Heady, Futuristic....Ten years ahead. Clear, totally powerful in both subtle and intense ways.
And each format has it's own distinct Sonic attitude,.......Fine Tuning is very BBC........XM Cafe is educated and cool......90's is a big cartoon...Bluesville is....the Blues
America is the wide open Montana prairie .Each format must be SONICALLY DENSE. Lots of sound...let the listener get absorbed in swirls of sound.

XM Production is "Theater"......CREATE PICTURES. Traditional production hits you like a hammer....XM Production will melt in your mind.

The XM Tools include:

Accents!!!! Magic. Pure magic. British, Asian, Russian...exotic accents! USE THEM. Chicken shits stick with traditional radio voices...we are not Chicken Shits.

The Walrus Factor. Go ahead...Listen to it.

Sampled Instruments. Bagpipes...Harps...YES! Even on Rock stations. Exotic sound works.

Modified. Backwards, Sped Up, etc....

Song Bits (Out of Format especially)

Orchestral, New Age and Electronic Recordings. A gold mine of sound!

Scanners, Short Wave Radios...

Telephone. Call Toshiba and ask them about their XM line.

Radio Drama! Westerns, Detective, Sci-Fi. Loaded with camp and brilliant SFX

Nature. The power and sweeping vista of a Thunderstorm recording is magic. On Rock, Country...anywhere

Endings. Day in the Life was're next

Morse Code. Why not?

...most importantly, activate your George Martin gene.

Yes, you need to have a sonic point of view for your format, but there is NO reason Cartoon soundtracks can't be used on Smooth Jazz....or Harps on Metal formats. Go tell Metallica or the Beatles you cant use strings.....

TV, Film and Commercials have KILLED Radio in the Sound creativity area as we demonstrated on the CDs.
Radio has de-evolved to being:
Dumbed Down
Infected by cheezy Production "libraries"
Sheep like inventiveness is our responsibility to BRING SONIC BRILLIANCE BACK TO RADIO.....The XM way!

It starts with thinking BEYOND RADIO. DO NOT USE CURRENT RADIO PRODUCTION AS A MODEL. Forget it totally. Lose it.
Sure, these stations do good production...But the goal is to COMPLETELY CHANGE THE SOUND....Not evolve or update.

The point: We can't evolve these stations...we must forget they exist. Forget radio exists...and start creating sound from scratch.
Pretend it's 1921 and radio production has NEVER been done before. OK? Great. Now...GO!
Ambient, Big, Quirky, Funny, Campy, Intense, Sick, Dreamy...anything but "radio"...

You are a media artist...not a radio producer.
Set your sound creative meter in the George Martin, Eno mode.
Think like a music producer, not an radio producer

Sex. Pleeeeeeze. Overdone. Yes, Sex sells in certain formats, but it's also the #1 cliche next to lasers.
Humor. Be careful. Every production guy tries to be funny. Rarely works....
Star Wars
Pissed Off
Big Claims (no cred)

Aged (like JL Hooker)
Real (street people)

XM Doesn't have Prod Rooms...We have Sound Labs

The more background a format is, the more you must rely on a heavily repeated audio signature.

Sound Occurs everywhere on XM!
Break rules. Go between spots, songs, under voices...everywhere SONIC DENSITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


You get the idea. .
This whole business of completely re-inventing the sound of radio is the real deal. Don't worry about going "too far"...we'll pullya back to Earth if necessary.
The important thing is GO THERE> That’s how revolutionary radio is made.


Monday, May 21, 2007



Well, had Sinus surgery to clear out a stuffed nose. Not too bad except that you can't do anything for a week. So--I sat at home...all week. No phones. Isolated. At one point I got so bored, I wrote an update to the staff--hoping for sympathy. Not medical sympathy...boredom sympathy....

Other than that it was all about:

*Missing the Megadeth Artist Confidential and a performance from Patrick Moraz at the XM Performance Theater

*Attempting to stay up-to-date via email.

*Unlocking the secret crevasses of the Internet.


*Addiction to DirecTV which has XM AND Major League Baseball

*Listening to our competitor as...a listener.

*Reading every imaginable newspaper. has "Headiness" from newspapers around the World. Kind of cool. Otherwise dispatching family members to Borders.

*Watching instructional DVD's....airplane stuff mostly

*Watching Dr. Strangelove six times....learning new respect for the Andy Griffith show.

*Cringing at the Junk Culture TV (though much of it IS so bad it's good...or at least mildly entertaining in a scummy way) -- But there's something disturbing about the popularity of watching how stupid other people are as witnessed by the "Judge" shows. But, it's it's junk food and is what it is...I think it's about "getting the joke"--- Springer's show is actually hilarious.

*Writing down stuff...ideas, plans, and the like. Most were unreadable later. Generally 70% interesting (to me anyways) but undoable, 20% the pain pills talking, 10% keepers.

*Reading thousands of Wikipedia articles

*Watching some really strange You Tube stuff (check out the Radio Controlled Jets)

Oddly enough I was only out for 8 days but it felt like an eternity. The good news is that I can breathe and smell again...I've never felt as great. this giant wall lifted off your head. Wow. The energy rush is fantastic. The feeling is amazing.

Now...for something a bit more important. Some look at this stuff as Bullshit...others as secondary to more immediate pressures....some try to tackle it with data...others don't get it at all. Personally, I think this "reading the culture" stuff is paramount. If you look historically, some successful people luck into reading culture right...others are in the right place at the right time...others make themselves understand it. Look at radio programmers---Anyone who has lasted through generations, probably understands the flexibility of culture, or any technocrat that continually re-invents themselves and their product is probably doing the right thing. THEN--look at the failures. SO often, it’s NOT corruption or mis management---its failure of staying IN SYNC with the culture. The best management team on earth will not save an entity that is too far head of or too far behind the cultural flow.

I think it touches everything...not just politics, content and entertainment. You'd be amazed that in the years I've been doing this, how many people write this stuff off as BS. Pretty much all of those people are nowhere to be found these days. For some this all comes naturally, others have to work at it, but in any case an awareness and keen sense of READING the culture and ACTING on the read is what drives relevancy and success. article that I found interesting I wanted to pass along below is very much in sync with the "Junk Culture/Anti Dumbing Down" message I'm fixated on. Not as a political thing---but a a mega trend that I am convinced is happening NOW and will continue to develop as we are in a cyclical cultural low period and about to rebound out of it--or at least the public stage is SET for a mass cultural thinking shift. It has been happening like this for over 100 years. Tap into it and you are to tap in or "get it" and you are behind the curve and vulnerable. Culture and every aspect of it--especially in an electronically charged world is constantly flexing. Media tends to reflect for awhile and gets comfortable and rich...then there are some bold thinkers that AT THE RIGHT TIME challenge the comfort which by now is out of sync, and create the next generation of media and popular thinking. BEING IN SYNC WITH CULTURE SHIFTS has never been more critical because we are AT a time where the old school is reflecting and regurgitating rather than stimulating and involving. Those who get it and ACT on it and inspire it are the next winners. It's a challenge for's a challenge for....everyone dealing with reaching people.

Among the keys include:

Balance. Yeah--can't stress this one enough. Art and Business...Cultural awareness with operating processes. Got art and no business people to execute on that level? Good luck. Then-Arts & Crafts need a rudder too or it'll never get off the pier. Corporate hell needs to ride the right creative wind to sail it in the right direction....that's the art part, otherwise it'll collapse under its own bureaucratic weight. It's SO simple: Balance. Unfashionable and often viewed as esoteric...but reality in changing times to have it BALANCED. In a very general way, great lasting bands are like that: Soulful expression and creativity, backed with a team of mo-fo's that work the system. Balanced. When the artists start trying to do the business part-not good. When the business team starts dictating the creative-Not good. A simple basic balance that keeps creative and business in check usually leads to the freedom of flexing with the culture without going off the deep end.

Look at who has it. Apple sure does---the art of their packaging and vibe with their obvious corporate muscle. HBO gets it. Southwest Airlines gets it (actually I love studying their history--an exercise in balancing eccentricity with operational excellence. And for an airline!----Airlines are rooted in maverick but nowadays are among the most conservative operations around with immense challenges--The Southwest story is a remarkable one, for its combination of street smarts and sky efficiencies. Then there's and --- this is where relevancy is happening, certainly more than traditional media!

Look who lost it. MTV. Doesn't get any more obvious than that. One of the great brands hanging in on strong fumes, but the magic is....over. Some record companies. I remember walking into labels and feeling this distinct intense street driven creative buzz...and then on another floor, an intense lawyer-driven business buzz. The buzzes seemed to be well defined and in harmony.

Time Compression. Things happen at an electronically inspired compressed rate. The most obvious is in the Internet world. You can go from cool to lame in days. Used to take years to lose "it".

Look at INSTITUTIONS that lost it. Local Newspapers. People still read, but they haven't reinvented themselves in 75 years! They're like railroads...some have (painfully) re-invented themselves and are giants as in BNSF, others never quite made the transition though railroads used to have THE coolest names & logos. (Gulf, Mobile & Ohio; Wabash; Frisco....)

The power of cool is critical just as the power of lame...and these terms affect EVERY demographic. Cool and lame ARE part of our culture's evaluation's also something that happens because of actions. TRY too hard to be cool without getting why and you are lame. That’s part of the problem for some. TRYING to be cool but just not getting the "why".

Timing: Having a feel for when to ride the wave and when to change the wave. Tricky because you can get lulled into complacency when things are going well, but the underground is about to explode into mainstream thinking. I liken it to radio in the 90's. Terrestrial radio was SO focused on themselves that the idea of Satellite, Internet, MP3 and other emerging challenges took a back seat. Its part of that junk culture thing---when does the joke part of it become "OK, enough already..."?

I KNOW there's a shift happenning...a new awareness on a mass scale. It is a mission that I hope is more people's mission. You can either take advantage of it and get in sync...or not. Living in omnivision--trying to figure it out. Living it. Everything from the way people TALK these days (notice how so many people talk in questions? Like "I was thinking about going to the store today"? Interesting to watch how talking evolves. The 30's, 60's, 80's and today all have their own speech patterns.

Check the article—it’s not about politics or weather changes-at least that's NOT why I'm pasting it...just another "junk culture" evaluation with some interesting points:

By Al Gore
Not long before our nation launched the invasion of Iraq, our longest-serving Senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor and said: "This chamber is, for the most part, silent—ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing. We stand passively mute in the United States Senate."
Why was the Senate silent?
In describing the empty chamber the way he did, Byrd invited a specific version of the same general question millions of us have been asking: "Why do reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions?" The persistent and sustained reliance on falsehoods as the basis of policy, even in the face of massive and well-understood evidence to the contrary, seems to many Americans to have reached levels that were previously unimaginable.
A large and growing number of Americans are asking out loud: "What has happened to our country?" People are trying to figure out what has gone wrong in our democracy, and how we can fix it.
To take another example, for the first time in American history, the Executive Branch of our government has not only condoned but actively promoted the treatment of captives in wartime that clearly involves torture, thus overturning a prohibition established by General George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
It is too easy—and too partisan—to simply place the blame on the policies of President George W. Bush. We are all responsible for the decisions our country makes. We have a Congress. We have an independent judiciary. We have checks and balances. We are a nation of laws. We have free speech. We have a free press. Have they all failed us? Why has America's public discourse become less focused and clear, less reasoned? Faith in the power of reason—the belief that free citizens can govern themselves wisely and fairly by resorting to logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available, instead of raw power—remains the central premise of American democracy. This premise is now under assault.
American democracy is now in danger—not from any one set of ideas, but from unprecedented changes in the environment within which ideas either live and spread, or wither and die. I do not mean the physical environment; I mean what is called the public sphere, or the marketplace of ideas.
It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know I am not alone in feeling that something has gone fundamentally wrong. In 2001, I had hoped it was an aberration when polls showed that three-quarters of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on Sept. 11. More than five years later, however, nearly half of the American public still believes Saddam was connected to the attack.
At first I thought the exhaustive, nonstop coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial was just an unfortunate excess—an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. Now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time: the Michael Jackson trial and the Robert Blake trial, the Laci Peterson tragedy and the Chandra Levy tragedy, Britney and KFed, Lindsay and Paris and Nicole.
While American television watchers were collectively devoting 100 million hours of their lives each week to these and other similar stories, our nation was in the process of more quietly making what future historians will certainly describe as a series of catastrophically mistaken decisions on issues of war and peace, the global climate and human survival, freedom and barbarity, justice and fairness. For example, hardly anyone now disagrees that the choice to invade Iraq was a grievous mistake. Yet, incredibly, all of the evidence and arguments necessary to have made the right decision were available at the time and in hindsight are glaringly obvious.
Those of us who have served in the U.S. Senate and watched it change over time could volunteer a response to Senator Byrd's incisive description of the Senate prior to the invasion: The chamber was empty because the Senators were somewhere else. Many of them were at fund-raising events they now feel compelled to attend almost constantly in order to collect money—much of it from special interests—to buy 30-second TV commercials for their next re-election campaign. The Senate was silent because Senators don't feel that what they say on the floor of the Senate really matters that much anymore—not to the other Senators, who are almost never present when their colleagues speak, and certainly not to the voters, because the news media seldom report on Senate speeches anymore.
Our Founders' faith in the viability of representative democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry, their ingenious design for checks and balances, and their belief that the rule of reason is the natural sovereign of a free people. The Founders took great care to protect the openness of the marketplace of ideas so that knowledge could flow freely. Thus they not only protected freedom of assembly, they made a special point—in the First Amendment—of protecting the freedom of the printing press. And yet today, almost 45 years have passed since the majority of Americans received their news and information from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers. Reading itself is in decline. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by the empire of television.
Radio, the Internet, movies, cell phones, iPods, computers, instant messaging, video games and personal digital assistants all now vie for our attention—but it is television that still dominates the flow of information. According to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of 4 hours and 35 minutes every day—90 minutes more than the world average. When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost three-quarters of all the discretionary time the average American has.
In the world of television, the massive flows of information are largely in only one direction, which makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation. Individuals receive, but they cannot send. They hear, but they do not speak. The "well-informed citizenry" is in danger of becoming the "well-amused audience." Moreover, the high capital investment required for the ownership and operation of a television station and the centralized nature of broadcast, cable and satellite networks have led to the increasing concentration of ownership by an ever smaller number of larger corporations that now effectively control the majority of television programming in America.
In practice, what television's dominance has come to mean is that the inherent value of political propositions put forward by candidates is now largely irrelevant compared with the image-based ad campaigns they use to shape the perceptions of voters. The high cost of these commercials has radically increased the role of money in politics—and the influence of those who contribute it. That is why campaign finance reform, however well drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the dominant means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue in one way or another to dominate American politics. And as a result, ideas will continue to play a diminished role. That is also why the House and Senate campaign committees in both parties now search for candidates who are multimillionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources.
When I first ran for Congress in 1976, I never took a poll during the entire campaign. Eight years later, however, when I ran statewide for the U.S. Senate, I did take polls and like most statewide candidates relied more heavily on electronic advertising to deliver my message. I vividly remember a turning point in that Senate campaign when my opponent, a fine public servant named Victor Ashe who has since become a close friend, was narrowing the lead I had in the polls. After a detailed review of all the polling information and careful testing of potential TV commercials, the anticipated response from my opponent's campaign and the planned response to the response, my advisers made a recommendation and prediction that surprised me with its specificity: "If you run this ad at this many 'points' [a measure of the size of the advertising buy], and if Ashe responds as we anticipate, and then we purchase this many points to air our response to his response, the net result after three weeks will be an increase of 8.5% in your lead in the polls."
I authorized the plan and was astonished when three weeks later my lead had increased by exactly 8.5%. Though pleased, of course, for my own campaign, I had a sense of foreboding for what this revealed about our democracy. Clearly, at least to some degree, the "consent of the governed" was becoming a commodity to be purchased by the highest bidder. To the extent that money and the clever use of electronic mass media could be used to manipulate the outcome of elections, the role of reason began to diminish.
As a college student, I wrote my senior thesis on the impact of television on the balance of power among the three branches of government. In the study, I pointed out the growing importance of visual rhetoric and body language over logic and reason. There are countless examples of this, but perhaps understandably, the first one that comes to mind is from the 2000 campaign, long before the Supreme Court decision and the hanging chads, when the controversy over my sighs in the first debate with George W. Bush created an impression on television that for many viewers outweighed whatever positive benefits I might have otherwise gained in the verbal combat of ideas and substance. A lot of good that senior thesis did me.
The potential for manipulating mass opinions and feelings initially discovered by commercial advertisers is now being even more aggressively exploited by a new generation of media Machiavellis. The combination of ever more sophisticated public opinion sampling techniques and the increasing use of powerful computers to parse and subdivide the American people according to "psychographic" categories that identify their susceptibility to individually tailored appeals has further magnified the power of propagandistic electronic messaging that has created a harsh new reality for the functioning of our democracy.
As a result, our democracy is in danger of being hollowed out. In order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum. We must create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. We must stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo-studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's ability to discern the truth. Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the rule of reason.
And what if an individual citizen or group of citizens wants to enter the public debate by expressing their views on television? Since they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their opinion. But too often they are not allowed to do even that. tried to buy an ad for the 2004 Super Bowl broadcast to express opposition to Bush's economic policy, which was then being debated by Congress. CBS told MoveOn that "issue advocacy" was not permissible. Then, CBS, having refused the MoveOn ad, began running advertisements by the White House in favor of the president's controversial proposal. So MoveOn complained, and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By temporarily, I mean it was removed until the White House complained, and CBS immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to present the MoveOn ad.
To understand the final reason why the news marketplace of ideas dominated by television is so different from the one that emerged in the world dominated by the printing press, it is important to distinguish the quality of vividness experienced by television viewers from the "vividness" experienced by readers. Marshall McLuhan's description of television as a "cool" medium—as opposed to the "hot" medium of print—was hard for me to understand when I read it 40 years ago, because the source of "heat" in his metaphor is the mental work required in the alchemy of reading. But McLuhan was almost alone in recognizing that the passivity associated with watching television is at the expense of activity in parts of the brain associated with abstract thought, logic, and the reasoning process. Any new dominant communications medium leads to a new information ecology in society that inevitably changes the way ideas, feelings, wealth, power and influence are distributed and the way collective decisions are made.
As a young lawyer giving his first significant public speech at the age of 28, Abraham Lincoln warned that a persistent period of dysfunction and unresponsiveness by government could alienate the American people and that "the strongest bulwark of any government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectively be broken down and destroyed—I mean the attachment of the people." Many Americans now feel that our government is unresponsive and that no one in power listens to or cares what they think. They feel disconnected from democracy. They feel that one vote makes no difference, and that they, as individuals, have no practical means of participating in America's self-government. Unfortunately, they are not entirely wrong. Voters are often viewed mainly as targets for easy manipulation by those seeking their "consent" to exercise power. By using focus groups and elaborate polling techniques, those who design these messages are able to derive the only information they're interested in receiving from citizens—feedback useful in fine-tuning their efforts at manipulation. Over time, the lack of authenticity becomes obvious and takes its toll in the form of cynicism and alienation. And the more Americans disconnect from the democratic process, the less legitimate it becomes.
Many young Americans now seem to feel that the jury is out on whether American democracy actually works or not. We have created a wealthy society with tens of millions of talented, resourceful individuals who play virtually no role whatsoever as citizens. Bringing these people in—with their networks of influence, their knowledge, and their resources—is the key to creating the capacity for shared intelligence that we need to solve our problems.
Unfortunately, the legacy of the 20th century's ideologically driven bloodbaths has included a new cynicism about reason itself—because reason was so easily used by propagandists to disguise their impulse to power by cloaking it in clever and seductive intellectual formulations. When people don't have an opportunity to interact on equal terms and test the validity of what they're being "taught" in the light of their own experience and robust, shared dialogue, they naturally begin to resist the assumption that the experts know best.
So the remedy for what ails our democracy is not simply better education (as important as that is) or civic education (as important as that can be), but the re-establishment of a genuine democratic discourse in which individuals can participate in a meaningful way—a conversation of democracy in which meritorious ideas and opinions from individuals do, in fact, evoke a meaningful response.
Fortunately, the Internet has the potential to revitalize the role played by the people in our constitutional framework. It has extremely low entry barriers for individuals. It is the most interactive medium in history and the one with the greatest potential for connecting individuals to one another and to a universe of knowledge. It's a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas, in the same way that markets are a decentralized mechanism for the creation and distribution of goods and services. It's a platform, in other words, for reason. But the Internet must be developed and protected, in the same way we develop and protect markets—through the establishment of fair rules of engagement and the exercise of the rule of law. The same ferocity that our Founders devoted to protect the freedom and independence of the press is now appropriate for our defense of the freedom of the Internet. The stakes are the same: the survival of our Republic. We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it, because of the threat of corporate consolidation and control over the Internet marketplace of ideas.
The danger arises because there is, in most markets, a very small number of broadband network operators. These operators have the structural capacity to determine the way in which information is transmitted over the Internet and the speed with which it is delivered. And the present Internet network operators—principally large telephone and cable companies—have an economic incentive to extend their control over the physical infrastructure of the network to leverage control of Internet content. If they went about it in the wrong way, these companies could institute changes that have the effect of limiting the free flow of information over the Internet in a number of troubling ways.
The democratization of knowledge by the print medium brought the Enlightenment. Now, broadband interconnection is supporting decentralized processes that reinvigorate democracy. We can see it happening before our eyes: As a society, we are getting smarter. Networked democracy is taking hold. You can feel it. We the people—as Lincoln put it, "even we here"—are collectively still the key to the survival of America's democracy

Thursday, May 10, 2007



Went to the Musexpo conference in Los Angeles. Interesting gathering of managers, artists and the like. Completely different from the old conventions which were complete self serving orgies…but who’s kidding who—they were a blast. This one was infinitely more toned down and focused, but I couldn’t get over how mellow these things are compared to days gone by. I remember that the parties spilled into the lobby at 5 am…nowadays you can shoot cannon through the lobby at 5PM. Nonetheless, good attendance and quite a bit of passion amongst the delegates. But it WAS sorta sad as the music industry is on life support and it really comes home at these gatherings. A lot of complaining and commenting on the state of the industry….and frustration. My point is that it’s just another prong of junk culture that’s feeding off itself. Until some intellect gets in the mix, the music "system" will continue to dumb itself down to irrelevancy. Add the new technology and the confusion it adds, and it’s all fucked up. Actually, there are INCREDIBLE opportunities—that’s the good side…but the big picture is pretty dismal with the exception of the smart, the established, and the lucky which there are too few of. Music Industry will sort itself out IF the whining is channeled into fixes and if we get off this junk culture merry-go-round and start to support and nurture those who have “it” rather than the Paris Hilton level non-artists. Takes time and pain—but throughout history, most lasting things do. Of course we seem to be more concerned about the quick hit---the cultural junk food, while the real quality is coming from places like China and Japan. Funny how whe I was growing up "made in Japan" meant "Made in Japan" is a good thing and "Made in America" often suggests cheap in many product lines. Whenever I stay at a great hotel, I’m almost assured it's owned by someone in Singapore or Dubai. Sad. But I believe fixable. At least, I see extraordinary opportuinity in trying to fix it. I don't have the power or money to, but this IS America still and I can do my part. The thing is that fixing the junk culture actually is a capitalist thing, not some obscure 1968 hippe thing. It's what America WANTS in 2007. For every Aircraft Company or Software Company that IS delivering quality and succeeding by doing that, there are 10,000 well schooled bozos running things that are good in the conference room, but clueless about the streets. It's certainly apparent in media---but I think it touches literally every aspect of our National identity. Media is in my opinion among the worst offenders—just watch your local TV news. But I remain optimistic and focused on the fix rather than the whine.

Had dinner with Bob Lefsetz at Luques. Bob picked it. Oddly enough it’s the same place XM had a music industry coming out party in ’00. Déjà vu. Dinner was great. Bob in person is a living breathing extension of his blog. Food was very California. Good Sand Dabs. Still missed going back to the hotel to watch motorcycles being thrown out of the Elektra records suite. It was odd going back to the room, checking email, watching Fox news and going to sleep. Healthier though…

One of the conference rumors was how Clear Channel apparently has told all non Morning Show DJ’s to keep their breaks at 7 seconds. Laughable. I say if they can’t say anything interesting—why have DJ’s in the first place. I think DJ’s who don’t say anything are useless. Why bother. The “7 second rule” strikes me as a completely absurd way to deal with the issue. Most DJ’s on those kinds of stations say NOTHING. Maybe they should get rid of them and run fewer ads. Most listeners would love that. OR invest in a few that DO say something. “Something” doesn’t have to be ‘morning show’ stuff. Hell—the only way to understand that is to listen to great DJ’s from days of yore that DID say something—that’s timeless stuff. Today’s typical FM DJ says NOTHING. Pure noise. Why bother?

One thing that strikes me at all these conferences is that the discussions often focus on everything BUT the art of music. Not the fault of the organizers, but symbolic of the malaise in the Industry. It STARTS with the notes. If the music itself blows, then all the technology in the world won’t save it. Maybe Phil Spector was right many years ago when he said “Back to Mono”. I saw where Disney is going back to 2-D painted animation. Sometimes I think technology is moving TOO fast and is lowering the standards for the sake of convenience. I sure would rather hear music on an amazing stereo than on a compressed cell phone! I think that most people feel the same way IF they've experienced the big sound/high standard. If high standards are married with high technology—that’s the winner…but technology delivering something of lowered standards will inevitably fail because SOMEONE will eventually offer a higher quality version. BUT—when intelligent content meets technology—look out! And intelligence CAN be mass appeal—something that doesn’t seem to resonate in many business circles. And imagine a person who has grown up with the lowered standard--suddenly being exposed to a higher standard.

THAT'S where homeruns are going to happen. I find it very exciting if today's lower standard convienience world is exposed to higher quality products--both technology and content/goods....and marketing I'm not sure many business leaders see that...some do...most don't. Too mired in PowerPoint's to see the clear and obvious. But right now-Average or even well marketed below average "works" commercially, but I wouldn't bet on that long term. The truest investment is in quality....if it's well marketed and married to new technology---Look out! But 'look out' means you have to have all three working.

There are techniques from the pre PowerPoint era...a different way of doing things. Often so unsophisticated that it led to mistakes and missed opportunities...but sometimes so unsophisticated that it opens the doors to new ideas easier. Traditional radio research is like that. At first it was an incredible benefit and edge to research the listeners, but then it got out of control and worked against the instinctive creative nature of radio programming. Again, it’s about balance. Years ago, it was unbalanced in favor of guesswork, then there was that magic middle point where art and science were in sync, now it's balanced the other way where it's so damn over data’d that logic and intuition are choked by the corporate machine thinking. The bad word isn’t corporate---that’s about structure and commerce…the lifeblood. The bad word is “machine” where things get de humanized to the point of de sensitization to the street. And PowerPoint is simply a catch word for a style…it’s actually a great program…but I see where it becomes a CRUTCH. That leads to marketing what you want people to thing INSTEAD of delivering what they want THEN supporting it with marketing. The radio example is: "The Best Music"-that's what you want people to think...but in reality the music sucks. Mass America IS catching on to this! It's a slow moving trend toward the salability of truth. In the 50's there were ads with Doctors raving about the health benefits of Chesterfield Cigarettes. In the 00's there are fast food restaurants raving about how tasty their processed meat products are. (I heard Arby’s creates their ‘roast beef’ from a liquid that turns solid when heated---now THAT is CLASSIC technology at the expense of quality) It's only a matter of time before that fast food group goes the way of the Chesterfield lie.

Look at local radio. It was better in the pre research, pre PowerPoint era. (When staff meetings were held in an apartment instead of a conference room) Same with record companies. (When they were tied to the hip with the street) Same with bands (when they actually gathered together in a studio a CREATED an album).

I'm NOT saying let's relive the old days. I AM suggesting the power of balance. Balancing the organic art of invention with the PowerPoint fueled MBA driven science of 2007. Somewhere in the middle is where magic happens. And magic that is unleashed properly changes things.

...and weather its radio, the music industry, the news business or your local retailer--we ARE in an era where changing to get in sync with the masses is what will define the winners of the next era.

I’m off to Sinus surgery. I’ve had a stuffed nose for two years. Doctor said I can live with it or they can go in and clear them out for me. So—they’re clearing them out. Apparently the procedure isn’t too bad. They go into your nostrils with a scope and do their job. But they say you can’t work for 5-7 days. And they give you painkillers.
Should be interesting…

Monday, May 07, 2007



Aaron Lee is the guy that is "floor producer" for ARTIST CONFIDENTIAL. He also mixes these shows with great precision, editing, listening, dealing with artist comments and turning them into killer shows. So, I invited him to come flying. Not an easy task as he's about 8 foot three and weights in at about 600 (exaggerating—he’s just big). A gentle guy thank God because you wouldn't want to be on the wrong end of his fist. Fortunately with some seat adjusting, he fit nicely into the plane and we launched ourselves to Soprano's country to land at the Essex County Airport in Caldwell New Jersey. There we were met by Steve Kingston and his airplane crazed 12 year old Son who is already hassling his Dad for a pilot’s license and his own plane. Steve diplomatically says something about the stock price and with good parental skills deflects the issue. Today we head to Long Island for flight seeing and lunch. Typically crazy departure from the jet soaked New York Airspace over the Long Island Sound to a pastoral Eastern Long Island. After disconnecting from Air Traffic Control, I turn the plane over to his Son who has some pretty good natural flying skills. He'll make a good instrument pilot one day since he can’t see over the panel and flew by instruments. The plane I fly has a "Glass Cockpit" which resembles a video game. I think the next generation of aviators will do well in this environment since those video games are about as good of an entry into this world as anything. Of course I kept a close eye on everything in case he decided to dive bomb a mansion---but he kept things pretty steady. In fact I had to make up some stuff so Aaron and Steve wouldn’t think flying this plane was THAT easy. There's some pilot pride ya gotta protect. So we flew around, over Montauk, the Eastern most point of Long Island at a lazy 1500 feet. Then I took over and landed us at East Hampton. Grabbed a cab and went to Nag's Head for lunch. The season hadn't started yet so it was a little quiet, but the place oozed money. The place stuck me as a soap opera of affairs, parties and getaways for the rich and famous...or those who really wanted to be in that world. Last time I was there I flew Hugh Panero up there to go to an opening of a restaurant that his pal was opening. I remember we had to land 50 miles away because then President Clinton was on the Island and the airspace was closed. I liked that flight, it was one of the ONLY opportunities to have SOME control over Hugh as he likes to be in charge, but at 8000 feet he can't yell at me. A good thing because the day before we lost a Kennedy Center deal to the competition and he was NOT happy about that, so the plane was a respite.

Back to Caldwell and then back to DC. Nice trip.

Another new FM out there trying some new things. Lone Star 92.5 in Dallas. Formerly KZPS, possibly the worst Classic Rock station in Texas history. They completely fucked up a franchise by being the only Classic Rocker...and blowing it. Typical. They literally blew those 300 songs SO into the ground that is painfully boring...add to that the lame production and every cliché in the book and they simply bored the market to death. Literally. I remember going in and talking to them years ago and they just didn't get it. IT being that they served an audience not a Classic Rock playbook. What was REALLY frustrating is that the guys on the staff knew what to do but were scared to do anything about it. I can't blame the guys running the station--good guys, but they were strapped by the system. It was one of those stations where you'd hear six Beatle songs, because the seventh one didn't test well. Too unfamiliar. Unfamiliar Beatles song? Can't you play I Shot the Sheriff by Marley instead of Clapton ONCE? Or can't you REALLY play just about any Zeppelin song instead of only the 10 big "testers"? Not Caroulselambra instead of Kashmir every time. It's not about going crazy eclectic--it's about common sense vs. the system of doing things. Other than a handful of Classic Rockers that have evolved well, though often by Sports franchises and talent development, most have taken possibly the most obvious genre and blown it to hell. It all gets down to the playbook being works...then forgetting what got you there and simply mis-evolving or de-evolving. Or simply buying into the system of doing things which is....flawed. Thankfully there's satellite radio and other media that can attack the vulnerabilities of terrestrial radio and succeed. Challenging when there are about a billion FM radios out there---but do-able, with a little help from the terrestrials who have taken their eye off main street.

That's exactly when I completely realized that it was hopeless on FM. But now, this new station is at least TRYING to do something new. To add to the interest is old buddy Redbeard back on the radio. I met Redbeard when we put WZXR Rock 103 on the air in Memphis. Then he joined us at Q102 in Dallas and most recently as the first PD of Deep Tracks in Dallas. Redbeard gets it, at least when his managers let him get it. Plus, when we had a massive party at my house for the staff in'01, he fedex'd 200 pounds of ribs from Corky's in Memphis to the party. The white carpets went red real fast from drunken sauce spillage, but it was a Rock n Roll ting for the Beard to do. I actually hope the new station breaks a few rules and does well. While I am XM to the bone, I’m still a fan of RADIO and respect and root for anyone trying to keep our medium alive.

Rooting. I like that word. Its Baseball season and I'm rooting. For the White Sox. I think Baseball is either in your DNA or it isn't. There's a lot about Baseball that is similar to radio. That's why our Channel 175 works. Its Baseball delivered with a Rock n Roll attitude. It's got the morning show...the production, afternoon guys that you gotta watch because of their's got the whole package. Baseball is one of those sports that works well with promotion. Tennis isn’t promotion friendly unless you are selling sports drink. Football is SO over promoted it becomes a cliché of itself (the ultimate being the scoreboard for TV ads during the Super bowl). But Baseball promotion, when done right, just fits so well into the vibe of the game. A hero of mine is Bill Veeck. I guess it's because he ran the White Sox during their early 60's heyday. He invented the exploding scoreboard, names on the jerseys and too many ideas to even remember. He was a real Beer and a Brat kinda guy. A people’s owner rather than some mega suit who is too good to sit in the bleachers and hang with the fans. Kinda like a station owner who is too cool to hang with the listeners. I'm not a big fan of marketing books. Most of them are as effective as those "Soar with the Eagles" inspirational posters you buy in the Sky mall magazine and you see on the walls of middle managers at insurance companies. Then again there are the books that really inspire--Veeck As in Wreck is one of those. It's a baseball book, but is applicable to any business. Last week I went on a Veeck kick and started Googling him. Even Eric Logan who refuses to believe there is anyone worthy that hasn’t been associated with the Yankees must appreciate Bill. Ran into this---applies to a lot more than baseball:

The Twelve Commandments of His Professional Life: 1) Take your work very seriously. Give your all. Go for broke. 2) Never ever take yourself too seriously! He loved to paraphrase Shakespeare: "What fools we mortals be!" 3) Find your alter ego. A Rudie Schaffer, and bond with him for the rest of your professional life. 4) Surround yourself with similarly dedicated soul-mates of whom you can ask "why?" And "why not?" Naturally, they may ask the same of you! Never hire a coat-holder. 5) In your hiring be color-blind, gender-blind, age-and-experience blind. You never worked for Bill Veeck; you worked with him. Everyone was in it together and you were allowed to make a mistake every once in a while. 6) Attend every home game and never leave a game until the last "out." It's rude! 7) Answer all of your mail. You may learn something. 8) Listen and be available to your fans-customers. Again, you might learn something. 9) Enjoy and respect media members-the stimulation, the challenge. The "them-against-us" mentality should exist only between the teams on the field. 10) Create an aura in your city of operation, that you'd better be at the ballpark, at the game lest you miss something exciting and unexpected. No offense to radio and television, but at the ballpark you are a participant not just a spectator. 11) If you don't think a promotion is fun, don't do it. Don't ever put on something "for the masses." Never insult your fans. It was Ed Linn who summed up Bill's philosophy about "fun at the ole ballpark." "Every Day a Holiday and Every Fan a King" and-Queen, naturally. 12) Don't be so concerned with structured "photo ops" to preserve for some future viewing, that you miss the essence of what is happening at the moment. Instead, let things happen. Cherish the moment, commit it to memory. After all, the popular expression, "are we having fun yet?" was not manufactured out of whole cloth. Bill never once referred to our game of baseball as "just a game," "only a game." No one understood the importance, the value of holidays and parties, of fun and games in our daily.

…we need more Veeck’s!