Monday, June 25, 2007



A 40th anniversary edition of Pink Floyd's debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn will be released August 28. A three-CD set is on the way, in a box set made to look like a cloth-covered book, with remastered versions of the record in stereo and mono, along with bonus tracks and a reproduction of singer Syd Barrett's notebook. This is pretty exciting for anyone with even a remote interest in the formulative years of the British late 60’s album movement which really set the next 15 years into motion as one of histories most important, productive, adventurous and colorful eras. I can’t imagine any student of music—weather a musician or a studied listener would not gather an education from this. The whole period in the UK was so eccentric back then---that eccentricity generated an incredible spirit of taking things to the next level. America had it’s share of eccentric artists of course from James Brown to Jim Morrison. I key difference between musicians than and now, other than the way the business works, is that they channeled their eccentricity into the MUSIC. Nowadays, I sense that the eccentricity is channeled into the tabloids and the video. I think if the eccentric factor was 100% on the music, the rest would fall into place. Now it seems like many artists focus on BEING eccentric rather than CREATING eccentric music.

Along the same lines and one generation earlier was a guy named Joe Meek. Best known as the brilliant whack job that created the song Telstar---performed by his studio band the Tornados. Google Joe Meek and check this guy out. A madman who killed himself…a suffering genius plagued by his demons, who knew no boundaries. The beginning of Telstar was created by recording a toilet flushing backwards, A psycho genius who owned a sound laboratory on the third floor of his apartment building—who later killed his landlord. A stunning contrast of madness and brilliance. A precursor to Syd Barrett. The thing so great about Pink Floyd other than their history is that they are one of the few bands that has not lowered their standard…not changed their ways to reach “the kids”…not compromised or sacrificed their integrity. And they could play tomorrow and sell out the Grand Canyon. Why is it so hard for people to understand when something is timeless…and go with it?

Brings me to the topic of “testing” things. We do a lot of that at XM and it’s important, though I worry that we don’t cross the line and test things that are untestable. Testing everything was a contributor to the creative downfall of FM. Sometimes you have to use an educated guess as long as the person doing the guessing gets it. That was a problem with underground free form radio. It was all pure emotion aka guesswork. Some DJ’s had it. Natural ability to play the songs that worked. Others were a disaster playing things that about two people liked. I went back into the archives and found a few “tests” that illustrate the danger:

U2 and the POLICE: Tested awful. Daggers. No way could they break in the USA. Enough people said screw the tests and combined with the stations that didn’t test back then; they obviously DID work rather well here.

DISCO DEMOLITION: When our client WLUP in Chicago had so much success with it, we spread the word to our other clients that this anti disco thing resonated with the Rockers. A few stations actually tested the idea of taking an anti disco/pro rock stance and found that it would never work. While the idea was epitomized by Steve Dahl at WLUP, It DID resonate everywhere…except at the blind management of the stations that researched it.

MIX: While nowadays there’s a MIX in every market in the USA (there’s n FCC regulation requiring it I think), initially, it was an eclectic handle. It was tested. In about a dozen tests, it tested poorly as in “listeners won’t know what a mix is”.

…the list goes on. Thank God we didn’t test XM Channel names or Bluesville would be called Blues: Channel 74.” Testing areas that come from the soul will fail you. On the other hand, testing cold facts is critical. Gotta know what to test and what to leave to the guys that get “it”. Get that balance right and it’s the best of both worlds.

In the early 70’s I was part of a radio brat pack of young Programmers that, looking back, were snotty nosed “know-it-alls” seeking new answers. Research was part of it. So much new radio thinking came out of those years. Invented the term “Superserving”…broke out traditional demographics by psychographic sub sets, bought every galvanic skin testing report (hook people up and watch the lie detector type device tell if you had a hit on your hands. Looking back, so much of it was bullshit. Self righteous crap that made good raps at panels, but in reality was probably pot induced. Some guys never evolved…in fact there are so many programmers STILL working off the early 70’s playbook. I think I was able to move on…take the best bits of that and combine it with a 2007 perspective.

Got an HD Radio. What a piece of crap. In the MP3 player world, this particular unit looks like a Heath Kit from 1968. I’m sure there are cooler models, but the $59 one I saw was pretty bad. Fred Jacobs, a respectable consultant recently wrote about how HD radio programming is being thrown away. Well, you can add the hardware to the list of reasons that the HD boys better get their shit together of they’re looking at AM Stereo---where you could hear static in BOTH channels!

Popular Culture has sides. Junk Culture is the side I’m at war fact I think 90% of America is. I believe a Junk Culture backlash is at hand. There’s just too much awareness of it as a factor in the destruction of our society. You’re starting to see anti Junk Culture on U-Tube…on Leno…It’s starting to happen. I don’t think we’ll see Steven Hawking on the cover of US, but I do sense a move toward Smart Culture where intellect and enlightenment become part of Popular Culture.
If there was a Cultural stock market—I’d buy Smart Culture now. And I thank Paris Hilton and her pals for helping the awareness of how hollow and mindless what she represents is---and to the news media for propping her up to International proportions and increasing the public’s sentiment for how absurd her folly is in the big picture.

Then---there's reporting about how no major news organization wants to pay a million dollars to interview her. I guess this is a good sign. I hear Larry King is going to, which sounds right as Larry is more of a culture guy than a news person.

Dave Mason was here to record OFFSTAGE. Great guy and an XM regular. Another timeless sort who has been in the trenches for years and years. His voice and playing is as solid as ever.

Travelogue: Me and Lou Brutus hopped in the plane for a trip to Pittsburgh to see my White Sox actually win a game. Took my Son and his Girlfriend who is from Pittsburgh. Saw PNC Stadium on the All Star Game telecast last year. It lives up to the hype. Fantastic place to see a game. Great staff…great vibe. We arrived at 1pm and went to Primanti’s, the local grease house to soak in local culture and lunch. Highly recommended. Open 24 hours. I imagine it’s pretty popular at 4am on Saturday night after a bender. Then walked around the strip district. Pretty authentic. Can definitely imagine a Mob whacking happening in the alley. Lots of character. Pittsburg has really cleaned up its act. I remember going there as a kid and choking half to death from the fumes. It’s a pretty nice place now. Lou and I got dropped off at the stadium at 3. Game was at 7. The second the gates opened, we were in. Lou spent a few hundred bucks on merchandise. Mets merchandise. In fact he wore a Mets uniform to the game and (no kidding) got attached by the team mascot. It seemed half the crowd were Sox fans in from Chicago. It was a full house and when a White Sox player got a hit, the place exploded. We sat 3 rows behind the Sox dugout. Lou took literally 500 photos. Amazing ones that captures the players’ mindset perfectly. An overall magic night, though sometimes it’s not so good being THAT close to the players…they are TOO real…too human. Kinda like the disappointment of meeting your favorite star. Sometimes it’s best to know them on TV or record. My Son picked us up after the game and we got hopelessly lost getting back to the airport. Finally took off around 12:30 for the short hop back to DC. Nice night. My big mistake was drinking a big coffee before takeoff and being wired till 5am. There was hardly any air traffic at that hour other than a few United flights running late into Dulles. Got a direct routing so the flight home took about 35 minutes. The ever creative Lou continued to snap photos in the air.

In Pittsburgh, drove by a big Heinz plant—it looked deserted, but it sure had character. I was intrigued by it and went and looked at Heinz history. Mr. Heinz was riding a train and saw a sign about “21 variations” of some gadget. He liked the idea and came up with his 57 Varieties line. No focus group. The line seemed to stick. Heinz is pretty cool. I’m infatuated with timeless logos. I love old railroad logos. They were art pieces, but visceral enough to cut through. While I’m not suggesting that we go back to 1935, I do think that the older logos, in many cases, are more soulful that the corporate slick ones so common today. The thing I like about the old railroad type logos is that they had character—TIMELESS character…like the Heinz logo.

Airbus has a new plane, the A380. The ATC designation is “SUPER”. In other words, if Air France Flight 10 is an Airbus 380, they have to report to the controllers as Air France 10 Super. The plane is so damn big that the controllers need to separate it further from the trailing traffic as not to put the poor guy following through a literal hurricane. Airbus is a very honest name. Boeing has a luxury liner that’s a damn great plane…but unless you are one of the 6 first class seats…it’s a very fast and nice BUS. Airbus at least is telling it like it is!

Finally, Hillary Clinton picked a Celine Dion song in a campaign song “contest”. A Canadian, yet. Love Canada---but you’d think a US Presidential candidate would go home grown. Help!

Monday, June 18, 2007



Bill Black is one of our Audio Animators at XM. If you ever visit, he’s hard to miss. He has a NATURALLY booming voice, and wears America’s largest collection of Negro League Baseball jerseys… he either wrote or found this:

A Japanese company and an American company decided to have a canoe
race on the Missouri River .
Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.
On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile.
The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing
defeat. A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend
appropriate action. Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering,
while the American team had 8 people steering and 1 person rowing. Feeling a deeper study was in order,
American management hired a consulting company costing a large amount of money for a second opinion.
They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing. Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing
team's management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 3 area steering superintendents
and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager.
They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 1 person rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder.
It was called the 'Rowing Team Quality First Program,' with meetings, dinners and free pens for the rower.
There was discussion of getting new paddles, and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and bonuses.
The next year the Japanese won by two miles.
Humiliated, the American management laid off the rower for poor performance, halted development of a new canoe,sold the paddles, and canceled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses and the next year's racing team was out-sourced to India

...kind of funny, interesting and scary all at once. Reminds me of a recent discussion with Randy Michaels, newly minted TV mogul. Upon taking over the New York Times TV group, he said the leading question from employees was "what will the new policy manual look like"... Huh? think about it: An entertainment owner...and they're worried about a policy manual?

…some of our most inventive people here are our Audio Animators. Formerly called production directors—but they are infinitely more than that. They are…audio animators. Drew Kennedy, Pants, Larry Whitt, Matt Wolfe, Jim Mc Bean, Aaron Lee, Rashad Smith, Ben Krech, Jim Sharifi, Bill “Lucy PD” Hutton, Rob Aneiva, and ALL the others (I figured I stop here name wise because I was bound to forget Someone and I don’t want to because they’re ALL good). I’d stack these guys against any---anywhere in the World. Absolutely THE BEST team of audio guys on the planet. Whenever anything lame gets on the air—and it’s bound to happen with almost 200 channels, it’s not these guys fault. They’ve salvaged some real crap.

Paris Hilton has found God and has decided to “stop being dumb”. Fascinating development. Actually, it’s predictable that the ‘dumb celebrity’ thing is ebbing. It’s funny and light for awhile—then hits the “enough already” phase. I doubt if we’ll start seeing Steven Hawking on the cover of US or PEOPLE, but stupidity as celebrity aka Tabloid crossover has reached the point of diminishing returns.

Leo G—who runs RAW, our uncensored Hip Hop Channel had a birthday. 3000 people showed up. Not bad. I was in New York and missed it, but he sent around this note to the group:

I want to send a very sincere thank you to all those that joined in and were apart of my birthday celebration last night at Love in DC. I can say with modest honesty that it was by far one of the most celebrated born days I've ever had in my life. From the artist community, NBA players that were present, media, the well over 3000 inside the venue (some having driven as far as Texas to be there) and everyone working/behind the scenes to make this such a stellar event! Mz Kitti I cannot begin to express how proud I am of the tremendous job and responsibility you executed flawlessly! I am so very humbled by the love that was shown last night. I know this stretches well outside programming, so please on my behalf forward onto everyone you know outside of programming that shared in such a special evening. I am so very grateful. Thank you all once again so very much!!

Now that is a “FAN” thing.

One of our guys who used to work here WAY back in June of 1998 sent me this—it was the first thing I sent around to give my POV on this yet-to happen thing. Early early on. Before we were actually called XM, we had a very small and often amusingly dysfunctional staff. Robert Acker an MIT trained engineer was overseeing marketing, I had to answer technical questions—thank God we soon hired Tony Masiello from CBS who actually KNEW what he was talking about, and Hugh and Gary were on the road finding money, so I shot around my POV on where I thought we might go. I didn’t have much else to do since there was NO programming staff yet :

"Clickability of Radio" (when DARS vs. Internet question is posed. Radio is a click away while the Internet takes some work). Selling Digital radio as “radio” instead of an esoteric ‘device’ that is complicated to work. There are people who think email is “hard”---no need to confuse with another ‘hard’ device.

"We're the best thing for music since the transistor" (The transistor radio was a key factor in the growth of the music industry in the 50's...Now you could hear hits on the beach)

"New radio for the new mainstream" (a general line about the "new" generation of media consumers)

"The 'er' factor (Bigg-er, clear-er, great-er, loud-er)

"Eccentric...all the way to the bank" (on why our programming will be a bit warped compared to conservative programming on terrestrial)

"24 hour Morning Show" (A comeback to the 'what about morning drive' question since we cover 4 time zones) we don’t turn it on for mornings…then go into autopilot after 10am

"People who get "it", the "it" factor (the kinds of PD & DJs we want to hire). Has nothing to do with their track record as much as “it”.

"Music/Character/Muscle" aka The Big 3: (A quick definition of what the programming will be like : Music passion & purity Character...not robotic or bland Muscle...National and proud of it)

"Mood and Reliable" (defines kinds of listening. You listen when you're in the mood for something (AMRC will have the depth to fill all moods) and Reliable....we have reliable channels that deliver the basic format services that people reliable listen to like News in the morning)

"100 one-share Stations": ( In reference to some of our super-niche formats. If every format gets a one share.......)

"We're a shopping mall": Lots of stores. Anchor stores (formats) like Country and specialty shops like Reggae. Cross promotion keeps listeners in the mall.
Terrestrial is a strip center....good stores, but we're bigger, one-stop for all your (listening) needs, hipper (people don’t hang out at strip centers), etc....AM is a mom & pop store...FM is a strip center....We will be Mall of America. We’ll have the specialty stores (Jazz); The anchor stores (mainstream) and the food court (CHR)…


"Creating change rather than marketing change" (plays on terrestrials habit of discovering a problem instead of correcting it, they'll promote how they've fixed the problem as in 'Now on K-106...more variety!' reality they didn't adjust the playlist...they're simply 'tricking' listeners.

"Radio's vulnerability is in the playbook" (There are no surprises, everyone from Joe Public to the competition knows radio's playbook, leaving it open to attack from anyone with the guts, money and the signal.)

"If cartoons have evolved at the same rate as radio, we’d be watching Tom & Jerry instead of the Simpsons”

“Audio Service”? (Drives me nuts when Satellite Radio is called an “audio service”…god I hope it’s more than that)!

“Smart Radio: position ourselves as intelligent…and smart”. Unfashionable maybe, but smart lasts. Dumb is good for six months.

“Take risks”: We ARE in a risky business…a bad time to be conservative.

“If people are going to pay for this thing it BETTER be good…and different”. Can’t lie about it…gotta actually promise it…and over deliver on it

"The enough-already factor: (A reaction to radio's over-reliance on research & tight play lists, as in Q: "Do you like the song Free Bird? A: Yes...great song Q: Do you want to hear it again on the radio? A: NO! Enough already! In fact, we should ban the word playlist…and think in terms of library.

With no ratings to worry about we should look at every age group as equal. Who knows, our biggest early appeal might be to the older folks who remember what radio CAN be like…especially if we make Satellite Radio EASY these luddides.

We need to learn from the mistakes FM made. Over data’d, eye off the street, too wrapped up in the plan to execute it. Over thinking. I’ll prepare a more comprehensive list…

"It's the Golden Age of Talk radio...and the Dark Ages of Music radio": (the cutting edge, the excitement, the fun is in Talk Radio.....not music radio.....It's historically the other way around).

…I think we’ve done a pretty good job---but it’s always good to take a look at the early plan. A lot evolves and changes…but some things don’t.

…Bob Dylan’s show continues to amaze. Here’s a link to a story NPR did on the show that says it all about the experience of listening to Bob:

….and then there’s this from the genius at CBS who let Stern get away and fired Imus:

Article: CBS blames sexism for bad ratings

Leslie Moonves, CBS chief executive, on Tuesday suggested that sexist attitudes were partly to blame for the faltering performance of Katie Couric, the news anchor he recruited to the network with a $15m annual pay package.

“I’m sort of surprised by the vitriol against her. The number of people who don’t want news from a woman was startling,” Mr Moonves said of the audience’s reaction to Ms Couric, who this month brought ratings for the CBS Evening News to a 20-year low".

Sexism???!!! There seem to be a lot of Women running Countries, in political office, on TV doing quite well…and we may even have a Woman President. Give me a fucking break. Katie is poster girl for Junk Culture….and Junk Culture will be the unraveling of….everything.
Maybe they should hire Paris when she gets out of the joint. 15 million should cover it.

Monday, June 11, 2007



The world of music is getting very sophisticated, complicated and driven by dealmakers...

But what if Microsoft had soul? Not the software or systems, but their foray into music. Big monolithic highly successful companies who get into music talk about devices, systems, distribution---but what would happen if they also had soul. Pure non-corporate love-of-music as a component that the public believed in beyond the "brand name". It would be unstoppable. The thing is, soul isn't in the DNA of the business tycoons and technocrats running these companies. Apple comes close---there's a pulse of "getting it" in there, and it's no wonder they are #1 in music. Soul is an unbelievably powerful thing in any aspect of music. From performing it to selling it to distributing it. These big companies have no clue about that, or maybe they research and try to create it, but that "marketed fake soul" is completely transparent and possibly damaging in furthering the perception that they are trying to buy passion instead of...actually having it.. Record labels and even MTV used to have soul. It happened naturally. It's long gone as they traded Main Street for Wall Street. Wall Street is good, but not at the expense of main street...just like "devices" are wonderful but not at the expense of soul. Wanna win? Have BOTH. Soul is the #1 most important competitive advantage that a company even remotely associated with music can have. Just like Truth is in News. I see where Microsoft's ZUNE went over a million units. They'll never touch Apple unless they tap the Soul. If you don't know what soul is---forget it. It ain't James Brown--though he certainly had it! It's an intangible spirit that can't be researched and developed in committee meetings. It's like "it"--you got it or you don't. If you don't...better figure out HOW to get it. Maybe step back from corporate speak focus group conference room elitist Ivy League thinking and get back to the streets...that's where winning happens. SOUL CREATES FANS..NOT "USERS"...and fans sell you, love you and make you...and music isn't hardware or software where soul isn't really a factor. But MUSIC--whether it's being created, dealt, distributed, manufactured or delivered, needs to intersect with the emotional component of soul. Fake it and it's just more junk culture (pop culture's sick cousin). Have it and you possess the key. As the business side of music is getting more sophisticated, it is losing it's soul. THAT IS THE ROOT...THE #1 REASON THERE IS TROUBLE IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY....AND IT IS THE #1 MOST IMPORTANT VALUE IN DEVELOPING THE NEW SYSTEMS AND TECHNOLOGIES THAT PRESENT MUSIC. Without Soul, weather it's Microsoft, Sony or whoever, you're doomed. Someone WILL come out with a cooler moustrap and if you don't have Soul in the company're only as good as your last device or "thing".

Independent is where it's at in music---in terms of image. Independent is cool. Big monoliths with well publicized multi billionaire CEO's and teams of perfectly coiffed executives are not cool...not in the music/entertainment space anyways. Why? A huge reason is that Independent has SOUL.

It's imperative that XM never loses its soul. Soul is SO off the radar at most places, yet it's the lifeblood of competing in this soul-less society that is crying out for substance...not merely" devices or delivery systems"

It’s really all about creating and retaining fans. At XM, our marketing department acquires customers…and programmings job is to turn customers into fans. Subs, churn rate, and other terminology is one thing, but everything comes home when you create fans. Not sure who put this together, but we found it awhile back floating on the internet:

You Know You're Addicted to XM Radio When...
You find yourself humming or whistling the XM "Theme" (those 7 notes you always hear).You find yourself calling AM/FM stations "channels".You don't even listen to FM anymore. You find yourself going crazy when you are stuck with a rental car or your parents car without XMAnytime you listen to FM and look at the radio expecting to find out the Title & Artist Info on the screen.You got to a party and bring your boombox. After you brag it up to everyone for a while they all can't help but wonder if you are really a salesman for xm.You would rather spend money on XM equipment instead of TV.Someone asks you "what's new?" and you start by telling them about something you heard on XM...You quit your job because you don't have a south facing windowAll your presets on your car radio are tuned to the modulator frequency for XMYou're watching TV wondering what you're missing on XMYou officially change your name to "Xavier Mathew Fanatic"You wanted a new Mercedes hardtop convertible, but get a GM car instead because it came with XM built in.When you have the XM 7-note jingle as the ring tone for your cell phone!Stickers on your car/SUV/truck are all about XM... making you a XMredneckXM is the only thing that can help you sleep at nightYour car battery dies because you were listening to xm for too long with the engine offYou buy a new stereo system in home/car to get best sound quality possible from xmYou've spent hours running wires out of your home stereo and up through the walls to pump XM through your entire house with your intercom system. Ah...XM in every room, plus the back deck!You rig a SkyFi car kit in your barn so you can listen while you are grilling steaks. You intentionally switch all the way over to the third lane because you know that the signal does not cut out when going under a certain bridge in that lane.You look forward to the day that AM and FM has to advertise on XM just to have and hope of surviving.You know the XM channel lineup better than what your friends like to do for fun.XM is so important, that you wait to finish hearing the program and you miss the first 5 minutes of the movie in the theater.You call the DJ on your favorite channels and they know your voice and you don't have to give your name, cause you call so often.You elect to go through the drive through (knowing they very well will screw up you’re order) but you risk it anyway because you don’t want to leave you're vehicle You laughed at most of these jokesYou actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends who are addicted to XM.

The key to creating fans is really inspiring it inside the building. PASSION….Confidence and willingness to break down the walls to AFDI what it takes to connect with people. That’s a big problem with terrestrial radio---outside of the occasional morning show and talk star, radio is used as an omnipresent utility…kind of like the water company. My biggest fear is that we lose that goal. As you become bigger it’s common and easy to focus SO much on the operational and purely business side that you forget what ultimately will drive the success—having a lot of FANS. As always—Balance is the idea. Execute with the idea of building fans…not users.

Was listening to one of my favorite channels, XM175, and heard Grant Paulsen. When we hired him I think he was about ten. He’s now somewhere in his teens I think, and the guy is one of the best sports interviewers I’ve ever heard. He was born with Sports Radio DNA, and oozes knowledge and passion about the game. I’ve heard him tackle tough ones like former jailbird and one time Tigers ace Denny Mc Lain with grace and expertise that betters 99% of the veterans 3 times his age.

Another great Artist Confidential. Perry Farrell and his new band Satellite Party. How could we pass up a band with that name? Perry’s great. Real smart, passionate (there’s that word again) and focused. I was supposed to fly me, Aaron Lee and Jayme Karp up to the show on Sunday, but there was a tropical depression with forecasts of big storms. Thought about the Delta shuttle, but they cancel flights if there’s a stiff breeze. So took Amtrak. They do a pretty good job with the Acela, though three hours from DC to NYC still strikes me as way too long. The entire trip I kept looking at radar on my blackberry, hoping the storm happened so I didn’t have to un-necessarily cancel the flight…Turns out that I could have made it---it was miserable outside, but safely flyable in the high tech “IFR Machine” (instrument flight rules) that the Cirrus is. Kinda pissed me off. And—the return Acela ran an hour late getting me home at 2am. Acela trains seem to be modeled a bit more after the European train. Airline style interiors, a higher speed than Amtrak’s usual 79mph, and trackage owned by Amtrak instead of the host freight railroads which create a dispatching nightmare that Freight traffic wins. The line has to accommodate commuter traffic, but the Acela has route priority so it speeds along pretty well. Lou Brutus hosted this one and opted to train back the next morning. Not a bad idea.

A few days earlier, I had an off day. Got a call from Eric Logan and Sandy Girard (who makes life easier for all of us as she LIKES doing the leg work on projects) who were at a College Sports conference in Destin Florida. They had no options other than to spend about 5 hours getting home with lousy connections. It was a no brainier to fly down there and rescue them. Long flight. Three and a Half hours each way with an hour to decompress in Destin. They were running late which was good. I stopped in Athens Georgia on the way down to pee and check the Destin Weather which was pretty nasty with costal storms. Made it in without a problem. Interesting place to fly into since it’s the home of Eglin Air Force base, and you are mixing it up with the Military guys. I kinda like being the XM Pilot as an unofficial component in my job description. When I was a kid, I was completely focused on Music, Radio and Airplanes. Figured if I became an airline pilot, I couldn’t to music and radio…but with music and radio, I can always fly. Worked out well. Lucky to be able to do media, music…and airplanes.

Chubby Checker visited XM. Not a big deal as every day there are stars of all genres roaming the halls, playing, etc…An oasis for artists’ But rarely have I seen the reaction from the staff toward Chubby. Part of it might be the respect for artists from other eras that are still doin’ it. Part of it is where he came from…part of it is the sheer myth of the guy who popularized the twist and was part of Dick Clark’s world back before it cheezed out. He looked AMAZING. Hardly Chubby…and twenty years younger than his age. And most impressively, his single was really good.

Doing a Boot camp for recently added XMers. A short version—only three hours. Geared to cleanse them from what they are likely conditioned to, and thinking in 2007 terms…as media artists rather than contributing to radio’s component in Junk Culture. Getting them to think---more than anything, rather than simply and blindly accept that the way it’s been done is the only or best way to do things. Some will “get it”...others wont---

IT is coming. IT is a six week playback of about every song that ever reached the charts from the 30’s to today. Kinda makes those Memorial Day “Top 500 Countdowns” that were cool 30 years ago, look lame. Many don’t get IT because IT is so different—breaks about every rule. BUT—It increases credibility via the sheet unbridled completeness of it- It’s SO over-the-top that it is effective. It is riddled with tune out. Big Deal…listeners will tune BACK. Tune out paranoia drives average radio. Be great—ballsy—make crazy moves. It builds listener respect. To be concerned about holding a listener every second is absurd. People DO tune out. Fine. We gotta thing BIG picture…completeness, if you want a channel that LASTS.

Speaking on going way back---The 40’s channel has done a remarkable and historically significant tribute to D-day. Marlin Taylor—one of XM’s secret weapons, and Bob Moke have created something pretty special with their tribute.

Bluesville CD we did with Concord and Starbucks is on the shelves. GREAT graphics…nice package. First Blues CD we’ve done. It has....SOUL.

Monday, June 04, 2007



It was nine years ago last Friday that I arrived in Washington to join XM. Fresh off a 16 hour drive from Dallas inspired by the incredible lack of imagination on the plethora of radio stations I listened to on the ride. In fact I ended up listening to AM 1590 type local stations more than anything as at least they were somewhat interesting, even though the signals lasted for about 12 miles. Then it was over to old tapes for inspiration. Things like Arthur Godfrey, Daddy-O-Dailey, Alan Freed and Bob and Ray from the 50's; KFWB, WQAM, RADIO LONDON(BIG L), CHUM,WLS, WCFL, KLAC, WVON, WWRL, WABC, KJR, and WKNR from the 60's;Y-100, WDAF, LOOP, WMMS, KMET, WBCN, WEBN, WBLS from the 70’s and pretty much nothing from the 80's or 90's (other than some cool Australian, Japanese and Euro stations)because you could already here most of that-and it wasn't very inspired anyways-it's 80's and 90's style radio we were out to change...But there was a feeling of sadness and anger at how pathetic the newly consolidated terrestrial radio business had become...tempered with a feeling of responsibility to do something about it and a sense of "Don't screw this up Lee" as I was blessed with an opportunity to help change the 'sound' of radio. I think XM HAS changed the sound of radio, or at least gotten more people thinking of new ways to deliver it. Even the denial driven big terrestrial groups are starting to talk about "reinventing themselves"...bringing creativity back into the equation, etc...There are even some stations trying to make a difference. I credit the guys and gals here at XM, who had the guts to AFDI change for starting something that I hope we finish. Takes time but with very rewarding for all.

Upon arriving at the Westin Hotel on 24th street, I immediately checked in with CEO Hugh Panero across the street at the ANA Hotel. Hugh got there a day or two earlier. We hung out in his room and watched the Bulls win, both kind of exhausted from the trip but pregnant with promise and anticipation of this incredible new idea. The next morning I checked in at our temporary office located with Worldspace, a satellite company focusing on overseas. I had no office because some lady promenading as the Princess of Zamunda conned Worldspace into thinking she was royalty. During the interim before she was discovered and busted, I camped out in an unused conference room. Every night Hugh and I both solo, would go to a nice restaurant to bond and brainstorm. The classic 'notes on a napkin' thing. We tipped heavily to counteract the guilt of ruining napkins and tablecloths with plans. These were heady times. Armed with a license, ideas and some start up money, we were off to the races. The conversations were great. One night at Marcel’s, we pondered what if's like: Bob Dylan doing a radio in digital sound...a channel that played nothing but "earth sounds" (waves, crickets and storms) and on and on. Some ideas we did...others sounded good at the time but were TOO whacked or simply not realistic. Others are still on legal pads in the archives. We talked about "liberating" American ears, about rethinking an omnipresent but tired medium, the enormous challenge of staring with no radios vs. 500 million FM radios...and getting people to pay for the service. Over a bottle of $7 French Water, it was clear that people WILL pay...for quality.

There are SO many stories abut the early XM. Those were magical times. I miss the free form creativity. I miss the "selling" of this new medium, and the pressure to CREATE new attitudes, language and ways of doing things. To balance history with a complete new blueprint in the building...on the streets and over the air. Quickly--efficiently--and thoroughly.

Now fast forwarding to 2007:
KT Tunstal came in for an Artist Confidential. She broke a new record and played for 2 hours! It was the Friday before Memorial Day and the 5:30 pm start ended up 7pm due to an endless sound check. The audience was thinking about bolting as it was one of those Holiday weekend Friday's you want to leave as early as you can. No one left. It was a rousing way to bring on the long weekend. Real stand up and go nuts stuff.

A few weeks ago we had a Linkin Park Artist Confidential scheduled. It was cancelled and re-scheduled till later in the summer at the last minute. It was planned for Sunday night up in New York, so weeks before we planned on seeing a Yankees game before the Linkin Park event. Even with Linkin cancelled. We figured we'd go to NYC anyways and check the game. For the love of baseball. Actually I can't stand the Yankees. Reminds me of growing up in Chicago when they'd come to town and pulverize my White Sox, usually by a score of 2-1. Back in those days the White Sox had unbelievable pitching. Check the records: Hoyt Wilhelm, Joe Horlen, Gary Peters, Ray Herbert, etc... EVERY pitcher they had was incredible. Unfortunately the hitting was anemic at best. he Sox would throw two hitters...and lose. (Which actually happened again last Wednesday)

The Yankees then were baseball Gods-Mantle, Berra, Howard, Ford...And every red blooded Chicagoan hated them. That hatred remains. That whole superiority perception. Nonetheless, it was a great day for a game, so me, Jayme Karp and Lou Brutus piled into my plane for a short flight up to Teterboro. Arrived in Teterboro and a car took us to Yankee Stadium...the car trip took longer than the plane ride. Arrived at the stadium. I had been there before for night games, never in the day. Good thing they're building a new one 'cause this one is in serious need of a coat of paint. Drab and bland. Yeah-I know--The House That Ruth Built...but for me it was a drab and bland place that really hold no significant memories. The flight was fine except for an autopilot failure on approach to Teterboro. A quick re-boot and it was back.

Got our Yankees provided seats behind Third Base. Lou and Jayme are dispatched to find genuine New York concessions and arrive back with Meatball subs from Arthur Avenue, a local Italian deli with an outpost at the stadium. I wait for Randy Ezratty who I mailed a ticket to. Randy and the subs show up and it's game time. In a display of the worst anti social behavior I am consistently emailing resident XM Yankee fans Mike Marrone and Eric Logan. Marrone is upset that he's not there as we are doing two of his favorite non musical things: Yankees and Meatballs. Logan, who remains in complete denial about the Yankees record, is giving me reasons why they will lose today, while still maintaining that they'll go all the way by October.

Pretty good game. Then in the seventh inning, two bars of Take Me Out to the Ballgame...then a dour PA announcer comes on and announces an emergency type message. Oh no! Terrorist Attack? Please head to nearest exit? Nope-It's the announcement that Roger Clemens is coming back. Baseball's answer to the Who. You know--seven farewell tours. OK-the fans go nuts. They need SOMETHING...maybe this is it. I sure got the feeling they need something. SO much talent and they're threatening Tampa Bay for last place. Maybe they have TOO much talent and it screws with the chemistry. I remember when WNBC had Stern, Imus, Soupy Sales and Wolfman Jack on the staff (can you imagine THOSE staff meetings)? May have been hi profile overkill.

Game ends, and it's back to Teterboro. Lou has snapped yet another edition of incredible photos and three sweat soaked fans head back to DC.

...then last weekend I was going through airplane withdrawal. Couldn't fly for two weeks because of the Sinus operation. Finally given the OK to go up. Rob Johnston, our XM research guy sends me an urgent email. He had been reading Bob Lefsetz' blogs which focused on New Haven Pizza and Rob begged for a flight to get some. Great idea. So Saturday, it was me, Rob, Liz Speer from HR and XM audio psycho John Stevens hading up to New Haven. Talked to some experts and the rap was Pepe's...followed by Sally's (kinda wanted to go there because Sinatra used to have Pizzas trucked to Vegas). So, we ended up at Pepe's. Located on a quaint tree lined street in New Haven's little Italy. Perfect Day. 70...light breeze...Got their famous Clam Pie. No cheese just Clams and 3 lbs. of garlic with this crust from a 100 year old wood stove. It was unbelievable. Then went next door to Libby's for an Italian Ice to power down the acute garlic poisoning...then back to New Haven. The interior of the plane still reeks of Garlic. Brought some fans down yesterday to air it out.

So---Lindsey Lohan popped for DWI and cocaine. I just don't get why her and Paris and the others don't hire drivers. Would keep them out of trouble, though I assume they'd find another way to keep the tabloids in business.

Someone asked me "what are some big picture" things that one can transfer from radio reinvention to other media. That's a 500 page report, but in thinking, it’s partially about:

AFDI: (Actually Fucking Doing it): The idea of actually executing on ideas instead of talking about them or filtering them through too much research, meek, and committee thinking to the point where the ideas are diluted and/or simply not executed.


Passion: You just KNOW when a product is one created by passion…and one that’s created purely as an exercise.

Character: That extra dimension. As in radio, two stations can have the same play list, but the one that has character will prevail.

Muscle: Using “bigness” to your advantage.

CULT/MAINSTREAM: The magic balance. Engaging enough to have a cult following, mainstream enough to have a massive circulation. Religion is kind of like that….as is Starbucks.

NUMBERS OR FANS? Marketing people acquire the numbers for ad sales to use, content creators turn numbers into FANS. If the “Numbers to Fans” component is missing, the product will never be more than a utility. Utilities can be enormously successful, but the “fan” element ultimately makes the utility invulnerable.

ER: BiggER, BettER, or whatever…”ER” where it counts needs to be a focus.

SOUL: Ya need SOUL to cut through in today’s soul-les environment. Soul is that intangible that might be among the strongest competitive tools…and it’s off the radar in today’s conference rooms. Soul has to be developed…

ECLECTIC...ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK: Properly channeled eclectic…done smartly, is golden.

THE BODY CLOCK: Memories are as important as now. The infatuation with hip and young is a myth. Classic and Archive are key words in peoples lives. 16-20 remain the cultural roots for most.

SCANNABILITY: The world moves faster. Need to deliver content at the speed of Now. What was the right length in 1960 is too long today. What was too condensed in 1970 may be perfect today.

INTELLECT: Can be mass appeal and mainstream. Intellect is too often confused with elite and stiff.

MISSION VS. MISSION STATEMENT: A Mission Statement means nothing. A Mission is all about action. The difference between Talk and AFDI….between what you want to do and what you’re doing.

I was never a big Al Gore fan. Goes back to when his Wife Tipper went on a rampage about song lyrics. With that said, he continues to impress me with his Point of View on the dumbing down of News:

Al Gore slams 'trivialities and nonsense' in news media

May 25 05:03 PM US/Eastern

Former US vice president Al Gore on Friday criticized the "trivialities and nonsense" of celebrity gossip in the media and called on people to focus instead on issues like Iraq and climate change.
Gore, who is promoting his new book "The Assault on Reason," made the comments at a book signing in New York, where he was treated to a rock star reception by more than 1,300 cheering and screaming fans.
"What is it about our collective decision-making process that has led us to this state of affairs where we spend much more time in the public forum talking about -- or receiving information about -- Britney Spears shaving her head or Paris Hilton going to jail?" Gore asked.
He lamented what he described as the "destruction of the boundary between news and entertainment" and said the United States was "vulnerable as a democracy to mass and continuing distraction."
His new book draws parallels between the US government's approaches to climate change and the war in Iraq.
"Just like the facts available before the invasion of Iraq, these facts about the climate crisis have been repeatedly brushed aside and ignored as inconvenient," he said. "In both cases the facts were ignored."
Since losing the US presidential election in 2000, Gore has become a full-time global warming campaigner -- a path he says he intends to continue treading despite speculation that he could run for the White House in 2008.
Gore was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Price for his work in drawing attention to climate change, while the film he helped make of his best-selling global warming book "An Inconvenient Truth" earlier this year won an Oscar.

And…..XM has a a few more Micro Channels coming (short term channels). One is POTUS (President of the United States). An election coverage channel. I think it was Hugh Panero's idea. Then on June 5 we're dedicating a channel to the new Mc Cartney CD-Paul is "walking though" each track and telling the story behind it. It's also the first release on the Starbucks/Concord label. Highly symbolic of the new era we are in when an EMI lifer makes the just keeps getting more interesting.