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.


At 10:14 AM, Blogger Philip said...

this is in response to your Wash Post item on 6/18.

i confess, i don't have your product nor have i heard it. what i do know is your product and the 'on-air' big wigs have done one thing to old radio, put it all in one big bag. that leaves out local flavor not to mention local jocks with no gigs.

one of the joys of travel used to be hearing what's hip and new in a neighborhood not of your own. i grew up in Dayton, OH and around 1966, we got our first FM station, WDAO. (uh, i'm a brother by the way when i say We)

the clarity was one thing but the amount of 'new' music blew us away as AM's 1410, WING wasn't cuttin' it. Gene (By Golly) Berry/Barry was ok but something was missing. and it became obvious when i recalled that we used to go to our record stores (Dorsey's on Germantown Ave) or if you were really cool, you had older siblings who got records in the mail from that AM station in Nashville. the rest of us would pray that our older siblings would let us ride in the car so we could hear that station and the hits they offered in their package deals. You paid X amount for X amount of hit 45's and the DeeJay's items they felt would become hits.

To drive up and down I-75 was a dream. You'd hear just a bit different songs in Cincinnati just 55 miles down the road. By the time you hit Lexington, you heard what was new and hip there and on down the line. Of course, some of these towns didn't have FM but the AM musical offerrings would be different than the last city you rolled by.

Say what you want about the advancement of the age, you guys seem to miss out on the item of new per community. Yes, the planet has gotten smaller with the advant of a click and swoosh of a mouse. But I liked it and even some of those can't talk worth a bit of whatever on-air personalities. We enjoyed making fun of Tall Paul at WBUL in Birmingham, AL and his habit of playing the top hit of the week over and over again on a Saturday night.

Once I got into trying to be a musician (percussion items), the idea of hearing variety became a must. To this day, I can't find any outlets who have new or re-issued items from a trombonist from Brasil. Raul De Souza is the guy's name and if you're a real music-holic, might you help me?

My grandson's dad is one of your HVAC techs there (Rob Dearman). So, XM can't be but so bad to me. I probably need to take a test drive of your product but I'm gonna say I reserve the right to warn you that you might not be in my obscure brand of music since I listen to just about every and anything that aint played on 'for pay' radio, public broadcast or some college/university airwaves.

Big is sometimes not so good, Mr. "A".


Philip L. Broyles

At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing about the White Stripes album being played over the air before the release date and Jack White calling the station up and bitching at them?

Theres a pretty good article about it and how hard it is for radio stations to get new music when the people get it before the radio station.

At 6:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Katie Couric reads the news, nothing more, nothing less. Is she worth 15mil to read the news? No but no one else is either.

I don't really care who reads the news as long as I get the news. Give her a break okay?

At 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am concerned...there is a horrible rumor going around the "internets" that Steve Kingston and Kevin Kash locked you in XM's broom closet, and you are unable to get out to right the XM ship.

I fear that this may be true because there is no way the Lee Abrams that we love would sit by idly and let these channels get run into the ground by uninspired FM think and ridiculous and unnecessary repetition.

At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read one of the comments here about how the person likes to drive around the country and listen to the local fair, but what most people complain about XM radio is what is good about it.. You can in fact set the radio on a channel and "rip the knob off" and that is what is great about the XM.. You don't get "local flavor" but you also don't get to an area of the country where you can't pick up squat and have to listen to the local idiot brigade feeding you worthless crap about nothing.. Listen to the music...

At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe those former NYT station employees want to see it in BLACK & WHITE. If it ain't written down it ain't s*$#!

As for the newly reborn rising phoenix of radio and now teevee...let's just say many are not impressed.

He may talk a good game but as far as real's just the bottomline.

At 10:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about spending that much money to get a team of pack mules to drag Linda Ellerbee back to network anchordom? :D

At 12:45 AM, Blogger Kirsten said...

Help me out here. You're railing against junk culture, but XM Radio's idea of "Women" channels amounts to the Oprah and Coat-tail Clingers channel and the equally crappy Take Five. Whadahuh??? If that is what you folks think is programming that appeals to your female customers, I'm not sure who to be more embarassed for on that score- us or you guys.

Look, if I want Tyra Banks, Ellen, or Oprah, I've got a television for that. If I want the generipop stuff that's playing these days on the channels in the 20's, I can turn to FM. I don't pay for XM so I can get more of the same. It's these sorts of programming decisions that have driven me and my dog to stick almost exclusively to our favorite channels. I would still pay by $12.95 a month for just The Loft (I love it! DO NOT FUCK IT UP! Seriously, you will lose me as a customer if that ever happens.) and Audio Visions (very relaxing for my uptight, anxiety-ridden dog Pepper), but I miss having fun venturing around the dial on occasion to try out the other channels. At this point my ventures away from these two channels are mainly for special events like SpaceShipOne winning the X-Prize, Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Picnic, and The Monkees marathon.


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