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…


At 7:54 AM, Blogger MikeV said...

"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."

Like, say, XM's sound quality? Not that it's horrible, but it leaves LOTS of room for improvement. I keep hoping that someday it will improve... but it has yet to.

At 12:18 PM, Blogger Dan Kelley said...

Again, thank you for sharing your wisdom.

All the best to you!

At 12:02 PM, Blogger AngryTypingPest said...

I was hoping you might comment on the situation at XM that seems conspicuously absent from your blogs. I'm talking, of course, about Opie and Anthony.

Basically i wanted to know the answer to one question, where the HELL do you get off censoring a show that is blockable AND on a pay service to begin with?

To not trust them to keep the "homeless charlie" news story under control with their comments is simply preposterous. contrary to what the suits at XM think, opie and anthony dont want to blow up their careers by giving the story more credibility than it deserves. They are however some of the best voices out there in pointing out the hypocrisy's that exist in the media, and in particular in radio.

by forbidding them to talk about the situation and then suspending (firing) them after they GENERALIZED about the situation in radio, you have gone against all of the principles and ideas that i joined xm in the first place to enjoy.

Thanks for thinking of your damn wallet instead of the most hardcore fans on your entire platform.


great job alienating 90% of your most rabid audience

At 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't agree more with Mike V. Being with XM since June 2003, I remember when leading publications marveled at XM's "near-CD sound quality." 4 years later, what would those same publications say? I understand bandwidth is finite, and that an arms race of sorts took place with content, but make a return of sound quality a high priority. I've said it before- it's like serving fine cuisine on paper plates. All this unparalled music programming gets tarnished (to say the least) by the tinny, shallow, depthless sound quality we hear today. I listen to XM in SPITE of sound quality- that's not what a music FAN should have to tolerate from a service that you continue to insist is dedicated to creating an audio experience. Musical content + sound quality = audio experience.


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