WHAT IF MICROSOFT HAD SOUL?
WHAT IF MICROSOFT HAD SOUL?
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 DNA...you'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.