Monday, July 30, 2007



Hugh Panero is leaving. Gonna miss him. As soon as he leaves I’ll share a few classic Hugh stories…has to wait a few days since he can still fire me. I’m the only original employee left (other than Chariman Parsons who has been here since about 1955)

Satellite Radio is where the action is. In preparing for XMX (our new channel that aggregates our special programs), I looked through the range of content—and it’s really mind boggling. For example:

Over 50 Bob Dylan Shows. It’s REALLY Bob. Pure---
Over 50 Tom Petty Shows. It’s REALLY Tom. Pure---
Dozens of Wynton Marsalis Shows. A sound tap in the mind of Marsalis.
Hours and Hours of Quincy Jones Specials. One-on-one stories fro the master.
Over 100 Bill Anderson Shows—interviewing the Gods of Country Music
70 Artists Confidentials. Including Mc Cartney, Sting, Willie Nelson, Robert Plant. Incredible intimate performances and audience interaction.
Over a Dozen Then Again including Jethro Tull redoing Aqulalung, Allman Brothers redoing Eat a Peach
Dozens of Live Broadcasts of Concert Events from Live Eight to Bonaroo to Willie’s Picnic to Telluride to Merlefest..
5000 Concerts recorded at XM…John Legend to John Mayer,
Offstage—One off DJ shows from Bob Seger, Elton John, Yoko Ono, Josh Groban, Joe Walsh, Jon Anderson, Gregg Allman

..And that’s just the tip of it. It’s really amazing. What’s especially amazing is that FM is still in the land of canned sounding syndication. Satellite radio is on the edge creating really powerful NEW content. That’s why this XMX thing is going to be good—NO ONE knows this stuff exists..It’s been buried. One of the problems with SO many channels.

While Satellite is engaging artists, the big news at Viacom is lawsuits between Redstone and his kids. Classy operation.

Kelly Clarkson apologizes to Clive Davis. Huh? Actually it's typical in the "musical/cultural" lull period we are in. Lull periods are characterized by things like Business controlling artists (ulnike the opposite "Intense periods" where Artists drive things)...In lulls there's fashion over art; Boyfriend/girlfriend lyrics are in command; no major musical advances that make the prior generation of music nostalgic more than relevant; the "look" of artists is flashy but not scary...and the list goes on. Let's just say that we are SO in the American Idol era... It's actually a fascinating study of music and cultural trends over the past 50 years that I did...well, I think it's fascinating...I also know it's valid because I developed it in 1978 and it has been extremely accurate for the last 29 years in assessing and to a certain degree predicting trends. I guess I'll dive into it next blog. The point right now is that an artist apologizing to a label head is typical during a lull period--During an intense period (like 55, 64, 70, 80 or 93, A label head would bow to an artist that sells as many CD's as she does)...Can you imagine Elvis, The Beatles, Hendrix, the Police or Nirvana APOLOGIZING to a record company???!!!! Yeah--those are "big names" but any important artist from "intense" periods wouldn't even bother. More on this lull/intense thing later...but suffice to say, we are in a lull...

If you think radio is clichéd, TV is worse! Had some dialogue with Randy Michaels who runs Local TV LLC, formerly the New York Times Stations. A nice group with stations in Memphis, Norfolk and a dozen or so other markets. Randy of course will do some damage in these markets---He has NO TV ‘baggage” and is a brilliant and hyper-competitive guy. He was sharing the clichés…it’s unreal. The consultants CONTROL local TV News. Then I went and looked at the websites of local TV Stations---they ALL:

*Share the same three or four “good testing” slogans.

*Have the same mix of homogenized teflon news people (They all LOOK the same)! Fake. Funny that historically and even today, the most respected (rather than simply tolerated) news people don’t necessarily “look” great. More about character than happy and shiny.

And…well, go to And click away---The homogenization is unreal.

I suppose the argument would be that it makes sense to duplicate a successful formula. Yeah—but this ain’t duplication…this is mindless sheep herding. Just as bad as terrestrial radio. No bitterness here—nothing to be bitter about---It’s more about the sheer amazement at the ongoing homogenization of media. America used to be the place where innovation drove the train. Now, with the exception of the Apples, HBO’s and a handful of others, there’s no engine..Just a lot of freight cars carrying a vacant message. That vacant message feeds junk culture and junk culture feeds mass stupidity…which...Ok—you see the domino effect. That’s scary..And that’s why I really believe in the NEED to innovate! –or at least TRY to innovate. Other than those completely focused on the pure business side and not having the sense to balance it with the creative—the real culprit is the research and the research companies driving content. I gotta credit content research companies for having outstanding sales skills to hypnotize an entire industry, tempered with disdain for the unwavering advocates of this stuff. RESEARCH is of course a wonderful thing (and there ARE “good” research companies delivering important data) ---but it’s WAY out of control in terms of guiding upfront content decisions and more often than not being used where it shouldn’t be at the expense of being used where it should be…and it’s always positioned as a “road map” but the map is blindly followed directly into the pit of mediocrity. From a radio perspective it was good that in 1966 it helped us realize that people like to hear their favorite songs…or in 1976 it’s good to say your call letters a lot. OK—I think we’re beyond that. I personally get heat for “ruining radio” back in the 70’s by researching it. Well, at the time, that’s what it needed. NOW—that’s NOT what it needs. I guess the same thing in TV news---It NEEDED research in 1980…but now, the research morphine is what’s killing it…through the slow death of homogenization to the point of irrelivency. The NEW innovations are based on ideas...Often from people who have either ZERO baggage and don’t know any better OR from vets who have been through the research grind and think beyond it. Make no mistake: research is “finding stuff out” and is invaluable…but the way it’s positioned as the magic serum...and bought into without questioning or dialogue is what is aiding homogenization, junk culture and irrelivent dated media. In a way, Im thankful. Without the over researched radio stations, basing everything on obviopuslty flawed data, there’d be no need for XM because terrestrial would sund just fine. I’m betting on Randy Michaels to succeed in TV because he gets this. In fact, I think the over researched sheep mentality is good—for anyone with new ideas. While everyone is asleep on the research drug---innovators can have at it….and succeed.

Something over-research forces is communicating with people in marketing speak instead of real words. Simple “memorable” slogans that in MOST cases have NO traction—in fact they are plain silly to anyone over 8. Do you think ANYONE believes words like “Biggest…best…most…”…but you still see “Biggest, best, most” and other nonsense. Focus group slogans worked…back in the 70’s…but “enough already” just TALK and explain. Normal. Super Action News You Can Trust That’s on your Side….yeah right!

XM did several early content oriented research projects...Thank God we didn’t follow that information---It proved 90% dead wrong from “Comedy wont work” to a complete misfire on predicting who our early adopters would be. One disclaimer here---We have a research person here named Rob Johnston—He’s great. He knows WHERE to use data…delivers it and it’s a good thing.

Newspapers continue to slide. A BIG Part of the problem is that the PAPER is still the center of their universe. They are often incredible news gathering operations, but are betting the farm on print instead of print being a component in the distribution of their content. It also hurts when the print part hasn’t been truly reinvented beyond a few band-aids since 1888. Personally, I think Newspapers are among THE most attractive media today—because of the opportunities to re-invent these insituitions.

Here are two article links worth checking out. The first one is pretty funny from THE ONION, who is “in on” the junk culture joke:

This one is from the Wall Street Journal. About our Country’s #1 problem…dumbing down.

Monday, July 23, 2007



One of my early all time favorite Deejays retired recently. Miami’s Rick Shaw. Been in Miami radio for almost 50 years! I first heard him in about ’63 when our family took vacations to Florida each winter. WQAM had tried an early experiment with automation in the early 60’s—a dismal failure, but bounced back to full and VERY live by ’63. Rick Shaw was the night DJ, and I thought he was amazing. He and that station manufactured magic. It was truly an emotional experience far beyond just songs coming out of a speaker! Not just for me, a kid radio freak, but to just about everyone under 30 in Miami at that time. I think he had about a 70 share of the market. By today’s standards, it was all hokey and corny, but in the mid 60’s—it was electric. ANY CHR programmer who studied those tapes and could put what Rick and WQAM did into 2007 terms would win in about 10 seconds. All of the TIMELESS ingredients were there---When Rick talked about a new song---you were sold. The phone interaction…the street slang and despite like all DJ’s back then, being a bit pukey, he was believable. He was “one of us” even though he was an old fart of about 26 at the time. Beyond WQAM, Rick pioneered SO much stuff—had his own Club called “the World”...had a teen newspaper...a TV show and actually hosted what I believe was the FIRST music video show called “Now Explosion” in 1970. He and I, along with Dan Chandler actually started a consulting company in 1968. We each invested $50 (!). Predictably, nothing happened, but at 15 or 16 I got to be “in business” with a radio hero. In fact, Rick, and the late Jim Dunlap (then PD of WQAM) took me under their wing. I got to hang out at Dunlap’s house while he’d drink beer and tell war stories. Occasionally we’d go to Rick’s house. He had a Cadillac and his Wife was an ex Playboy Bunny. Man—I was feeling big time, hangin’ with these guys---and actually talking radio WITH them. If Rick was in NYC or LA, there’d be statues built for him…but Miami being a growing but still not Mega market, he never got that recognition outside of South Florida. But anyone who grew up down there in the 60’s, knows exactly what I’m talking about. Most citities had a Rick Shaw, burning the night airwaves with the sound that defined youth.I was just luck enough to have experienced one of the best.

I grew up in Chicago and listened to WLS—loved it. By the mid 60’s, it got a little tired until John Rook came in a evolved it. Funny thing is that looking back, many of these “great” Top 40 stations really only had a 5-7 year run of brilliance. QAM ran out of creative gas by 70 aided greatly by the FM revolution…but it underscores the ONE thing that sets programmers, jocks and operators apart—staying in sync. Longevity. Anyone can have a 5 year run---

Last week we had the Smashing Pumpkins in for Artist Confidential. Billy Corgan was the classic brooding, punished rocker, and the show was remarkable as they demonstrated songwriting, performed and answered questions from the dangerously overfilled XM Performance Theater with total attitude and spirit. I think he’s into a lot of Government conspiracy stuff which reminded me that I’m seeing a trend toward the popularization of Government conspiracies, thanks to the internet and a troubled world conducive to this mode of thinking. Troubled world wise: There’s a tendency to Escape (reality shows and junk culture); to be frustrated (at the dumbing down and gross homogenization of traditionally reliable and respectable news sources); or to search for answers (this is where the overly imaginative conspiracy theories emanates). The big media hit is in serving the frustrated, selling the junk and most importantly—blowing up the homogenized so-safe-it’s painfully dull media. The problem with conspiracies is that they’re like UFO’s—It always stays in the “what if” zone.

Personally, I find the conspiracies generally laughable. In ’56, Elvis was a conspiracy from Communists to poison America’s youth. In 1970, the Moon Landing was staged. Nowadays, you hear that 9/11 was staged by Bush and Israel to gain oil access…and that Bin Laden DOES NOT exist (the reason he hasn’t been caught) and that he’s a made up Bush figure to “blame” the War on. I really doubt if Bush, or ANYONE was brilliant enough to pull off a global scam like this. I’ve also heard where Bush is no longer alive and that Cheney had the CIA create a fake Bush to carry out his policies. In fact, most conspiracies may be vaguely plausible, but to pull them off and fool most of the World on this level would be genius beyond the abilities of any known human. Then again, there’s always “Governent” bullshit---When I was growing up, you needed 8 glasses of milk a day to be strong. Hell, 8 glasses of milk a day will kill you. Then there was “smoke pot” and your chromosomes are destroyed. I would love to consult the Government on messaging. Some of the messages are hilarious—my all time favorite is Nancy Reagan telling kids “Just Say No” followed by the “brains on drug” frying pan thing. Does this resonate with American youth? Yes! As a great comedy routine. In fact, Dan Turner ordered a series of Government films from the 50’s---incredibly funny and lethal. “Yes, in case of a nuclear attack, don a set of strong sunglasses to protect your eyes, cover yourself with a blanket and tune in your local Conelrad station on your AM Radio”…it goes hilariously downhill from there. Can’t wait to watch the Government anti drug films of the 90’s in about 30 years. But “Bin Laden is a Hollywood creation” type conspiracies? Nah…I don’t think so. Weird stuff and secret stuff—absolutely! But My POV is that it’s a scary place out there and junk culture and conspiracy theories just sugar coat and junk culturize the bigger issues. Good for TV ratings and movie plots…but does nothing more than dumbs down our culture instead of understanding what’s REALLY going on….and it ain’t the extremes of government propaganda or Hollywood meets Washington conspiracies. Serving the frustrated is where it’s at. --- But that’s a tough call as most big media companies are in my opinion, SO behind the curve, that’s scary in itself. Too many buttoned up deal guys and not enough smart mavericks with dangerous ideas.

On a much lighter note---Flew to the Outer banks with Stepanie Mantelmacher and her husband Howard. It has taken 5 years to get Stephanie in my plane---classic” We ARE going to crash and die” thing---Hugh Panero was helpful in convincing here it was OK. Years back, Hugh actually tested me by sending up his assistant as well as Jack Wormington, a retired Brigadier General in the Air Force, and the guy who built our statellites, to be guinea pigs. I passed the test and flew Hugh up to Long Island with me. He assured Stephanie it was OK. She loved the trip. I asked Dan Turner, an Outer Banks regular where to go for lunch and he said for the ultimate cheesy tourist experience, go to Awful Arthurs. We did. It was a tourist way. Flew back afterwards and Stepahie was converted. It’s a good thing; she’s one of the #1 “go to” people here at XM…makes things happen.

The new XMX channel is rolling along for an upcoming launch. We’re really focused on doing this complex…make that REAL complex channel RIGHT. Paul Bachmann is “Program Director” so to speak, Dan Turner is the master logistics captain, Sandy Girard is den mother (You’d know what I mean if you know this TCB lady)and Jim Mc Bean is looking over the production. Eric Logan has no shortage of massive input too of course, though we've been able to keep Eric's Oklahoma Football off the channel. In many respects, we’re keeping this close to the vest. Everyone company wide is involved and informed, but the actual design and execution is tightly held. The thinking is that the more people that get involved—the higher chance it’ll be compromised—that’s the reality. I have two functions: One—I oversee or am intimately involved with much of the content on the channel—Dylan, Artist Confidential, Tom Petty etc…and I gotta make sure that it stays smart. I’m not saying I’m smart or anyone else is dumb--—I’m saying the channel needs to be smart! It’s too easy to hype n cheese these things up. It would be insulting to the integrity of the artists that make up the channel to do so. Especially in the age of Junk Culture. I have no reason to think that the team putting XMX together will create anything less than a stunningly smart, appealing and cool channel. This channel is the anti junk culture---we’re doing our part here! I’m pretty stoked about the channel. FINALLY—a place to properly display some of the truly revolutionary and intelligent, but never too hip for the room, programming.

Next trip is to the Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown. Going up with Eric Logan and his Wife in the plane. Staying at a crummy hotel that’s charging about $400 a night for a room that usually costs $45 a night, but going to the exclusive Major League Dinner and events. Then later in the week we are doing a Baseball Confidential with Derek Jeter---sorta like Artist Confidential, but no music, unless Derek decides to sing a few numbers..Then, flying two winners in an XM Silent auction to Yankee Stadium for a game. Now...if I only liked the Yankees.

Monday, July 16, 2007



We’re launching a new channel—XMX. It’ll be a central point for all of our exclusive music programming. Desperately needed! There is so much cool stuff from Dylan and Petty shows to Artist Confidential, and an arsenal more…It gets lost. With this channel, it’s practically on demand. We had some debates about the channel name ranging from the very lame “XM Spotlight” to the bizarre “The XM Sausage Works”. (I kinda like that). In any case, it’s XMX and that works well. I have a constant battle with names of things. There's an aversion in saome quarters to cool names. It's a fight worth fighhting. In any case, this will be a much needed resovoir of high quality programming you just cant get anywhere else...our secret weapon.

Then there was LIVE EARTH. I think we can give "LIVE (put cause here) Concerts" a rest. They are quickly becoming a parody of themselves...Despite that; XM’s Live Earth Coverage was amazing. All politics and "cause" aside (it IS kinda silly to see "green" artists talking the talk, but living about as green as US Steel), our guys did a first rate job covering every city and broadcasting every note. Our "superbowl" style coverage is what turned it into a musical event worth checking out and getting into. We even did an EARTHSOUNDS channel. Sort of the sound of Earth before Man screwed it up. Environmental sounds…audio valium. Pretty cool. An environmental channel to discover the natural sonic beauty of the Earth. From the serene sounds of dawn to temperamental thunderstorms, Earthsounds is a seamless cinematic soundscape that captures the majesty of sound that is the soundtrack of the planet. Actually a channel we almost launched back in '01.

As far as environmental or other political causes--I think these events are great fun but don't reach the people who they need to reach. They are cool events if you are there and on the air--but I beleve overly righteous fawning from "caring stars" has more of a global eye roll effect than a changing one. Does anyone really think Madonna can help? These people can cheapen causes rather than enrich them in the eyes of those who need to be convinced. Raise awareness? Yes of course—and commendable, but I think we'd have a better world if the artists would make better records and let causes be fostered by those who have a clue about these sorts of things and have impact upon the real power players in the world environment. OR--DO AS WILLIE NELSON DOES--Invests HIS money in a Bio Diesel company--and promotes THAT. Maybe these Hollywood characters and pop stars should invest in the economics of change instead of a 4 song set and shouting a few slogans before hopping into their jet. I'd guess that 90% of those in attendance or listening on Satellite or Internet are already keenly aware and commited to the cause. My whining aside--there was some good music and a wonderful Spinal Tap reunion (anyone who hasn't seen it--and I'm amazed at that number), but I don't think rock concerts that are designed to change the world here in 2007, have any prayer of doing so. Time for a new approach....or borrowing from Willie's book and doing something beyond a gig. With that said--I think the thought was there...

Interesting to see the ratings---TV was pathetic…but it broke all streaming records, and XM listener ship was high.

Cindy Sheehan running for office against Pelosi? Might as well throw in a Dixie Chick and make it REAL exciting.

Somebody sent me a link to a photo of me, an old Atlantic Records guy named Phil Rauls and Robert Walker, a cohort at the old WMYQ in Miami. From back in 1971. I guess I really did have a Black afro back then. I used to put on a suit when I pitched stations---I had ‘em completely confused.

Bought a new Laptop and it was hell. STORE ONE: Horrible! Waited 30 minutes with no help. Then asked a guy and he said “I’ll be with you soon”…and disappeared not to return. Then saw two employees hanging out and asked them if they could help. They said no….but they’d find someone. Then they just continued chatting with each other. Finally I said to a guy “Look—I want to BUY a laptop”—he said he’d try to find someone to help…no one ever showed and I left. STORE TWO: Better…though the store was pretty empty. They had XM 70’s blaring on the store PA and outside. Was immediately helped, though the guy barely spoke English. I decided on a unit…went to check, and there’s no stock. Bought another one, but the store computer was down. Finally after about 40 minutes the trainee type who was checking me out figured how to do it. I left it with them to transfer files. When I called them using both Information and the Yellow Pages to find the number, both gave me the fax number. Then I looked at the sales receipt which oddly enough had the right number. Spent 20 minutes navigating the "push 2 for" and NEVER got a soul. In fact when I pushed 1 for the computer deptartment I got a no-one is available message that went BACK to the original message. Reason I called is that when I finally got my laptop back, the store had put their password on it and I was locked out. Had to drive back to the store since I couldnt reach them by phone. When they finally undid the password, about 1/10th of the files were actually transferred, but I decided to eat the $99 they charged me for the transfer because therre was no way I'll ever step into that store again. Both stores were incredibly inept, though I got the sense they were “trying” at store two, but the ineptude was laughable. Scary. Future purchases will be on line!

Got into a debate about the first rap artist. I guess it probably goes back to poets, but it forced me to bring out and re-discover my Gil Scott Heron vinyl. Man—this guy was WAY ahead of his time. The Revolution Will not Be televised is as chilling today as it was in ’70. Worth checking him out. Definitely angry and probably didn’t care for white people, but the man delivers some strong stuff. No "Red Carpet" or mindless after parties for this guy. Check "Small Talk at 125th and Lenox" album...or just Google the guy. Real.

FROM THE “ARE YOU KIDDING” DEPARTMENT: Study says radio airplay actually drives down record sales.University of Texas at Dallas Professor Stan Liebowitz says radio airplay can hurt music sales by as much as 20%. He finds the more time listeners spend tuned into the dial - the less likely they are to buy pre-recorded music. Liebowitz's study comes at a time when record labels have started pushing to nix radios' royalties' exemptions. So should labels pay radio to stop playing a record?

Well, historically there has been no more powerful vehicle to exposing music than radio. Even now, as wretchedly limited as most FM stations are, nothing will power a big seller better than radio. We certainly see the power of radio at XM, as SO many people feed back that were turned onto music by hearing it on XM. But there are different levels of being turned onto music where it translates into sales. Listeners with a more sophisticated ear can hear an artist one—become mesmerized, and purchase it. More mainstream listeners NEED the repeated play to finally go into the purchase mode. EVERY artist is different but the fact remains that IF something gets exposed on radio (a big IF) influences sales. Then you factor in cult/fringe. It’s complicated, but suffice to say that the best way to influence buying music is to hear it first (there are exceptions with “cult” bands where you are SO into an artist airplay is irrelevant—no one sat back and waited to hear the new Phish a few years back—they were in line the second it came out. Then there’s the whole sharing and word of mouth factor. As FM radio becomes less reactive to new music, this becomes ore of a factor—aided by technology facilitating this—BUT, once again, hearing something over the air in your speakers or buds off broadcast, satellite or Internet radio, has a powerful promotional effect. This Dallas Professor is completely full of shit---I read the report. I “love” all of these paid reports coming out that manipulate data for those who pay for it.

And WCBS-FM is back to oldies. Well, duh. Blowing up a timeless franchise for the latest new focus group format didn’t make too much sense. More “trying to be modern” when the old way worked just fine. In listening (hard to tell during its first week) they sounded like...a typical "oldies station". Pretty average. Nothing inspired. It'll probably do "OK" which seems to be what most oldies stations on FM strive to be. Same predictable "Respect" and 'Good Vibrations" every day...standard production etc...The thing that bothers me about that is that in New York--the Media Mecca of the Universe, and with the resources of CBS, you’d think it would be mind blowing. The kind of station you fly 1000 miles to tape. But, like most terrestrials, they are SO conditioned to average as being acceptable, that they'll never get there. They’re probably listening and patting themselves on the back about how great it's sounding, and sending around congratulations memos...

Central Talent Booking handles a lot of our Talent bookings---especially with our “Morning Shows”—Good bunch. They have a blog worth checking:

Saturday, July 07, 2007



When we put XM together, a lot of it was actually about “old” thinking. The technology was strikingly new---but the programming was in some cases…old. In this case, much of it was about bringing back the joys of radio which had pretty much vanished, at least on the music side. I think this is critical in today’s break neck speed of life. Instilling OLD thinking in new Media and NEW thinking in OLD media for the best of all worlds is something that escapes many. If you think about it—what the old media needs is stunning new ideas that connect, whereas new media often needs the old “passionate” thinking to balance out the often soul less and cold pure technology inherent to much of new media. I see that in music too. Some of the greatest and most timeless recordings ever, were made on 1, 2 and 4 track tape. Banging it out the hard way. A few of today’s artist could benefit from whatever “it” was that made this music so powerful and lasting. I talked to one band that made spectacular records back then. On 8 tracks. Recently they utilized futuristic technology, recording parts from different parts of the world and joining them together via sound files and technology. I kinda think that they need to inject some “old” thinking into the equation, because the result was a high tech, modern….disaster.

Not all old thinking is good…much is, old and deserves to stay that way. BUT---there are some concepts and angles that are perceives as old, but in fact are TIMELESS, but simply categorized as old and invalid because they haven’t been utilized much in recent times and have been thrown out with the notion that ALL old ideas are obsolete in today’s era. As exciting and powerful as NEW ideas are…there are often opportunities to inject old thinking into new concepts. Take XM’s 60’s channel. That’s PURE 1965 thinking, but performed on a 2007 platform. We COULD have done 60’s 2007 style and it would be pretty charmless. But that’s only one example of uniting the ‘character’ of many old ideas with the modern vision of today.

Ten there’s OLD media. I look at newspapers. I really don’t think they will die unless they are allowed to. Maybe not the medium of choice for an I-pod wielding 16 year old, but I think thery have tremendous potential simply because they are so much a part of society. But, man, do they have issues. Do THEY ever need to instill NEW thinking For example, newspapers are often perceived as:

*The bastion of “slow media”.

*Bulky and unwieldy


*Hard to navigate

*Perceived as Operated by cigar chomping Lou Grant types who still use typewriters…and are in complete denial about life in 2007.

*No pulse, edge or bite.

*Presenters of yesterday’s news…literally.

*Unscannable. Ponderous.

*Not proponents of junk culture…but not proponents of smart culture either—kind of in the gray middle zone that isn’t exactly a compelling place to be.

*Not as exciting to “get your name in the paper” as it was. Now you can have your own website.

*Dirt media. Then ink gets on your fingers.

*Who has time to read them?

But with that said—IF they park the denial at the door, and drastically re-think, they could continue to be an important part of culture. All I read about them though is cost cuts. A nice Band-Aid. The cuts are probably very necessary, but I have seen NO “re-thinking” of the basic creative and business model. Kinda like taking a terrible radio station and cutting staff…it’s STILL a terrible radio station, but just has fewer employees.

Tech heads of all generations are quick to convince that the old is dead. In 1955, Radio was supposed to be dead. In fact, it was about to enter it’s prime…but it TOOK a lot of re-thinking, with a little help from guys like Storz and McLendon. (Pick up Marc Fishers book “Something in the Air” if you don’t know about those two guys) That’s why I think print isn’t dead—unless it’s left to die. Imagine injecting new thinking into those tired old ink dogs. And—New thinking NEEDS to be about the products as much as the economic model.

Media is timeless—you can cherry pick from all eras. Some things WERE better before…And at the same time, there is a fountain of new ideas that will excite and stimulate that are yet to be discovered. I really think New Media needs some Old thinking to put soulfulness and magic into their mix, while Old media needs spectacular denial free new ideas to cut through the ever growing clutter. Denial is the key word. The Old Media guys tend to be so engrained in the way it’s always worked…new media guys often reject some of the old values that may be unfashionable in the board room, but enlighten and satisfy consumers. Hotels are like that. Some “modern hotels” lack character. Some old hotels, are…old and ratty. But the Old Hotel with all the modern conveniences and charm…or the new hotel that has character and vibe---that’s the magic combination. Old Media integrating new ideas...or new media integrating (the good) old ideas---That’s the plan.

Old thinking into New Media…and New thinking into old media.

Eric Logan had an Offsite meeting recently. It was actually very productive. Held at his Golf Club. In the early XM we had a “bootcamp” wih programmers and air talent at an exclusive Yacht Club in Annapolis. Needless to say, we were not invited back as the other guests didn’t get, like or appreciate our behavior. Eric’s meeting was pretty focused, plus he belongs to the club so he has some clout. And it wasn’t a bootcamp…it was a strategic discussion—different vibe. XM has a lot of Offsite meetings. I’m not sure I get that. Stuffy meeting rooms with all the character of….a meeting room, $12 muffins, parking headaches and fluorescent lights. I always preferred Field Trips to Offsites….or just staying in our wonderful building. We used to have these staff Fiekd Trips to places like The Museum of Horrors and Birchmere—the cool music venue….with a bar. Predictably, many of the Rock guys partook in the bar option, but in reality, it loosened them up and put tem on the offese rather than being imprisoned by a long meting. The result was truly incredible productivity—it WASN’T because of the bar…it was because of the environment and attitude. In any case, I’m personally not a big fan of Offsite meetings unless there’s something that makes it special…but that’s just me.

From the great stations department: Went to the Billboard convention in 1968. I was 15, and there were a bunch of us in the full Networking mode. There’d be a PD from a station in Kankakee illionis, and we’d be drooling all over him. But it was the big stations that really got the few kids like myself there going crazy. They set up a room with nothing but airchecks of the big stations that you could strap on headphones and listen to. It was packed, but WAYS in Charlotte was empty as most people were checking out giants like KHJ. WAYS blew me away. It was clearly Medium Market…but they managed every ounce of magic from that signal. The hour before the convention ended I walked into the WAYS booth and stole all the cassettes and left a thank you note. Years later, Kent Burkhart and I consulted WAYS and their sister styation WROQ FM. I focused on WROQ (the first of the W/K-“Rock” stations). The station was as crazy behind he sceneas as on the air. It was owned by Sis and Stabn Kaplan. Two extremely tough, hard core operators, who knew their shit. Both were tough as nails, but actually really really nice people. During visits I always stayed at their house. Maybe it was to save hotel expenses…but I think it was actually out of kindness. I’d be awaken every morning with Stan bellowing “God Damn it Sister!!!!!!…..the ____acount bla bla….”. It was kinda like being at my parents’ house, but everything was about radio. I remember Stan going on and on one night about the PTL Club---telling me how it was a scam and it shouod be called “Pass The Loot”. This was before those “ministries” were exposed. Then going inton the station was a trip. Located at 400 Radio Road. Sis had this HUGE poodle that defended her office. There were maniacs like Jay Thomas rolling around the halls. WAYS was always a leader in “Morning Shows” –WAY before they became the norm. Jack Gayle, then Jay Thomas. They were a very progressive operation—and very successful. They also owned WAPE in acksonville. Company meets were held in a room with a pool table at their house. Stan, Sis and their stations were classics…the best of the independent operator. Rough, No BS, loud, colorful, smart, brash and positively endearing….not to mention successful.

Travelogue: Flew up to White Plains to pick up Randy Ezratty and his two kids to fly them to summer camp in Maine. Saved Randy 16 hours of driving there and back. It was the day Putin was visiting Kennebunkport so the whole area was on high alert flight wise. The flight was fantastic. Perfect day. And it was cold. In fact we picked up Ice coming into Wiscasset Maine. Odd for July! Once we landed, Randy got a car and we toured the lush beautiful area where he used to have a place. Headed to Robinsons Wharf in Boothbay for lobster, steamed clams and other Maine food. Great. Right on the water. Then deposited his kids at camp and headed back to DC. Randy was going to hang at XM DC but upon arrival found that all of his meetings were cancelled as many were out for the 4th. So the poor guy takes a train back to NYC after flying in from Maine. Maine is definitely a relatively undiscovered place. It’s amazing. Very remote, but really not THAT far from the East Coast metroplex.

News story of the week: UK Bombings. So the TSA reports that US Airport Security has been beefed up. Interview with TSA person who then lists the airports affected with higher security. If I was a terrorist, you look at that list and choose a Milwaukee which wasn’t on the list.

Reason 305-C on why the record business is screwed up: XM signs up an artist to do an ARTIST CONFIDENTIAL. In many respects, these are “Infomercials” for an artist that get aired across XM, on AOL, DirecTV, and on several major airlines for a potential 44 million listenership. XM covers ALL the costs. Plus we do a video for the artist. Major label tells artist (one that NEEDS the exposure) they can’t do it with XM. Result is that the ARTIST is penalized…the artist misses an opportunity. Unbelievable.

…finally check Bob Edwards’s blog: Quality guy we commandeered from NPR. And the absolutely coolest place to check out THE most bizarre and wonderful shirts and tee-shirts is Give yourself an hour to discover the completely whacked and massive selection of clothing they have.

Monday, July 02, 2007



Eddie Kilroy who does mornings on Willie’s place just won the Will Rogers award from the “Academy Of Western Artists” for Country and Western disc jockey. He deserves it. He’s the real deal, right down to the spitoon and belt buckle the size of Lubbock. When we first interviewed people to program Hank’s Place (Willie bought the joint---so it’s now Willie’s Place), there was no contest. Kilroy totally got it. It being a channel that is an audio saloon that has the character of an AM Country station in West Texas circa 1955. Smell the speakers while the channel is on and you’ll smell Chewin’ Tobacco and Stale Beer. He aalo had the pedigree of working for Storz back in he day, running a country label, producing Country records and an undying passion for “Traditional” Country music. It didn’t hurt that he’s buds with some of the biggest names in the genre. Kilroy has recently moved down to somewhere in Texas to do his show so he can be closer to Willie and “Carl’s Corner”, Willie’s Truck Stop. Willie’s place is among our most popular channels—and Kilroy is a big part of that.

From the “It drives me nuts” category: Whenever XM is referred to as a “product”. Well, it IS a product, but reference to it as such reminds me of the music industry where music is often refeered to as ‘product’.

Did Artist Confidential with Blue Man Group up in New York. I actually never saw a Blue Man Group show but it’s obviously incredibly popular and reports back are that it’s pretty awesome. It is. A totally professional Vegas level act. Whe the thing was supposed to start at 2pm. It started AT 2pm. They brought a well oiled team of about 50 people. The show itself was stunning. Nothing old line Vegas about this. It was electronic, experimental and a tour de force. More akin to Pink Floyd than “Vegas”.
There were highly modified instruments, expert playing with eclectic and powerful percussion,, and some vocals from a stunning Tracy Bonham didn’t hurt. We heard the story of Blue Man Group interspersed with songs that were pretty amazing. Lou Brutus did a great job hosting. The whole thing kinda blew me away. Flew the plane up and back down to Baltimore to drop Lou, Jayme Karp and Aaron Lee off. Bumpy flight until we finally got up to 10,000 feet. Aaron brought back a case of some exotic beer from Holland that a previous band left untouched. I kept worrying that the cans would explode up there. They didn’t, but I’m sure Aaron had fun opening them once he was home. The flight from New York to Baltimore took 41 minutes. The car ride from Manhattan took an hour and a half.

Satellite Music Network is a place I did Z-Rock at. People don’t realize how big SMN was. Had about 1000 affiliates running ten formats. That’s 10% of the stations in Amrica. Most of them were in metropolises like Rooster Poot Montana, but it still had great reach. They are having a reunion. I’ll try to make it. We have a couple of SMN alumni here at XM: Matt Wolfe, Pat Clarke and Ward Cleaver. It was a pretty interesting place. Kind of a scaled down version of XM as there were dozens of studios buzzng 24/7 with the Country guys mingling with the Metal Heds. SMN was similar to XM except instead of broadcasting direct to listeners, it went to affiliates who then interjected local ads and rebroadcasted it locally. Of course, affiliates often screwed it up---A station owners Wife doing Mornings, Trying to localize it by having some weak local guy doing a show, American Legion Baseball play by play. The stations that just let it roll did the best. We had Garth Brooks come by and sit in on a channel and there were local affiliates who blocked it figuring locals would then know they weren’t a locally originated channel. Well, it wasn’t. It was just higher quality than they could afford locally. They should have just been up front with that and focused on selling ads to local car dealers. John Tyler is the guy who put it together. At Burkhart/Abrams, we consulted them from the start, and then I came aboard in ’88 as a consultant—but it was such an enormous undertaking that I moved to Dallas to consult full time. Pretty sweet deal as each affiliate was worth a certain dollar value based on the # of listeners they had which translated into national ad dollars and I got compensated based on the channels under my direction—and here were quite a few. Plus I was coming off of 14 years of NON STOP…like every day…traveling so having all the channels and the staff under one roof was great both from a travel and an operational standpoint.. John was a tough, no BS Texas style businessman. Could be meaner than hell…but also could be very engaging. And he was smart. ABC had tried satellite radio and acquired a total of three affiliates, so they bought SMN. The vibe and quality immediately went to hell. ABC had some great people, and our CEO under ABC (John Tyler didn’t last long…his unwinding was making up a fake station in Palau that was being attacked by terrorists and including that in an official monthly report…plus he was 180 degrees from the ABC style), was David Kantor, a remarkably bright guy who now has a company with Tom Joyner. We broke David in by inviting him to one of the famous Z-Rock pool parties at my house, upon which he was instantly thrown into the pool. But the rough edged spirit of SMN that gort them to 1000 affiliates was now under the control of a media giant that, well, ABC ized the place. A John Tyler meeting lasted 3 minutes…and everyone walked out with the plan engrained, and a feeling that you better get it done or you are fired. ABC meetings would go six hours and the paperwork would outweigh the mission. But under Tyler or ABC, it’s was a pretty interesting and cool operation, though very much focused on small market middle America as big city group owned stations would rarely turn over their keys to a satellite. I always thought it COULD reach more large markets. Now Citadel owns it, so we’ll see…

The XM group is geared up for LIVE EARTH on 7/7/07. I wonder if WABC is doing anything? Pretty big line-up. There’s no doubt our coverage will be the best. Between
Live Earth, Bonaroo, Willie’s Picnic ad the dozens of other events we cover, we have it down to a science. I find most others do a nice press release, but the execution goes to hell. We execute. For us, these are Superbowl events. The integration between the operational, engineering and programming side as are like a well orchestrated ballet. The New York gig is at Giant Stadium. I may fly up to Teterboro with a producer and hang out there to get sound from artists since that airport is 5 minutes from the Stadium, and the place that many artists will fly in with their jets. Teterboro is an interesting place as about every 30 minutes, some VIP is arriving. I’m shocked the paparazzi hasn’t discovered this yet. Of course, they’d probably get arrested as the place is pretty secure.

Another broadcast that was brilliant was Bobby Bennett’s coverage of the Stax anniversary in Memphis. Magic. Bobby was at his best. Another passionate guy, a Soul version of Kilroy—sorta. Live it. Knows it. And delivers the passion on Soul Street. An invaluable resource in XM’s quest for quality and authenticity. Soul music is a National treasure—and Bobby preserves it with class and integrity.

Rush are on tour. I repect those guys. Been around forever and still crankin it out. Able to cross a cerebral thing with the power of an AC/DC. As long as they tour and make CD’s, the Rush cult will be out in force. They kinda get a bad rap from some quarters. But they’re amazing musicians, sincere people and deliver the goods. Plus they have a sense of humor. Last tour they had washing machines on stage, this year it’s rotisserie chickens. Loud, heady and funny all at the same time. I also found out that Geddy Lee’s name comes from his old world Grandmother calling him “Geddy”—A n Eastern European take on his real name—Gary. Good trivia question. These guys are a model of stability. Same line-up and manager since the 1800’s. The sound has steadily evolved but has stayed rooted in a kind of hard prog rock direction. They epitomize a band with a cult following. A big cult, and as long as they continue on their course, they’ll sell out arenas and do more than decent CD sales. They’re pretty normal guys too. Whatever “Wave” we go through…Rush will be there…delivering. Pink Floyd are kind of like that too, but more on a grandiose and global scale…of course Pink Floyd have their share of internal drama…they have musical stability at least. Pisses me off about Yes. They had it all during the early 70’s…but screwed it up in every imaginable way. Individually brilliant…they get on stage and they can still blow you away…but if they only had the stability and consitancy of Rush!

There’s a book coming out by Random House that I did some writing for…called Icons of the American Marketplace: Consumer Brand Excellence Comes out in late July. Buy one.