Monday, July 02, 2007

BLUE MEN, SATELLITES AND STALE BEER

BLUE MEN, SATELLITES AND STALE BEER

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 http://www.randomhouse.com/crown/abpicons/index.html Comes out in late July. Buy one.

5 Comments:

At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is what happens when a cult band charges ticket prices above and beyond a cult fan's reach...

The following are some of the early RUSH "Snakes & Arrows World Tour" concert grosses, as reported by Billboard magazine:

Artist/Event: RUSH
Venue: HiFi Buys Ampthitheatre
City/State: Atlanta, GA
Date: June 13, 2007
Gross Sales: $505,255
Attendance: 8,998
Capacity: 15,949

Artist/Event: RUSH
Venue: Sound Advice Amphitheatre
City/State: West Palm Beach, FL
Date: June 15, 2007
Gross Sales: $492,908
Attendance: 9,432
Capacity: 19,238

Artist/Event: RUSH
Venue: Ford Ampthitheatre
City/State: Tampa, FL
Date: June 16, 2007
Gross Sales: $605,896
Attendance: 13,434
Capacity: 19,508

Artist/Event: RUSH
Venue: Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
City/State: Charlotte, NC
Date: June 18, 2007
Gross Sales: $408,908
Attendance: 8,287
Capacity: 18,700

 
At 11:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every time some newbie tries to tell me about how radio used to be live & local, I tell him about Satellite Music Network. And TranStar. And Bonneville. And all the companies that used to bicycle reel to reel tapes of radio programming to stations.

 
At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember SMN. I listened to satellite radio all the time in the 90's when I had my 10 ft. dish. The music was great - so was the sound, there were few commercials, and it was free! Didn't realize Pat Clarke was there. Was he on the Oldies format?

 
At 5:43 PM, Blogger Barry said...

Dude, in today's concert market, those Rush numbers aren't bad at all. I'm going to see them Labor Day Eve in Cincinnati.

 
At 1:53 AM, Anonymous Discount Blue Man Group Tickets said...

i love it . I listened to satellite radio all the time in the 90's when I had my 10 ft. dish. The music was great - so was the sound, there were few commercials,

 

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