Monday, May 07, 2007

WISDOM FROM A BASEBALL GURU AND LOSING THE CLASSIC ROCK WAR…

WISDOM FROM A BASEBALL GURU AND LOSING THE CLASSIC ROCK WAR…

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 created...it 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 language...it'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!

3 Comments:

At 7:52 PM, Blogger Marty said...

Lee, what exactly does Steve say that's, uhm, diplomatic about the stock price?

I could use some tips for dealing with the wife. :)

 
At 11:52 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

You're a White Sox fan and a prog rock fan! Sweet!

 
At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Deirdre Flanagan said...

Hi Lee:
I read your piece in the Post today and I recall very well the new 'kid' in town...XM. In fact I was selling radio and print in Baltimore and I tried to get hold of Hugh to see if I could get in on the ground floor...no response and life goes on.
My husband gave me XM last year prior to our HUGE drive from Annapolis to Alaska to the Baja and back to Annapolis. I'm a Yankee fan and even though he "detests' anything from NY ( a Chicagoan/White Sox)...he gave me my then favorite gift.
I was overjoyed to have Yankees and MSNBC, Al Franken....but alas MSNBC was dumped and the radio worked only intermitantly throughout our lo-o-ong journey. I remember calling tech support from Fort Richardson outside Anchorage and the tech telling me to go to an open area and he would resend the signal...like a goofball I did everything except dance naked under a full moon...no signal. When we were camping outside Homer at the most westerly spot in the US, I could coax my car forward and back by miniscule inches and gain or lose the Yankee game. It was an ongoing challenge to find the signal and keep it! Something to focus on outside of our daily opposite politcal discussions.
Anyway your column gave me pause and reflection on my XM.
Thanks.
Deirdre Flanagan

 

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