Friday, August 31, 2007

ON A TOTALLY DIFFERENT NOTE: REBUTTAL!

ON A TOTALLY DIFFERENT NOTE: REBUTTAL!

There was a nice get together for Hugh Panero at the Capital Grille here in DC. Small group of long time employees from the early days as well as Nate Davis of course (who is actually a ‘long time employee’ since he’s been on the board from the start, though just recently assumed the helm—along with Chairman Parsons) and most of the senior executives. Low key…lots of stories. A real nice evening. Event ace Stephanie Mantelmacher once again out did herself putting the small group together in a wonderful environment. Hugh got some nice sentimental gifts including every Artist Confidential and Bob Dylan show in a nice personal set. I felt good about that since those were two quality ideas I spearheaded that mean a lot to Hugh and XM. I CLEARLY remember the early days of putting those together—right down to Business Guru John Dealy and his protégé Dr. Joe Verbrugge, helping (forcing) me to make sense of the idea—at least make it presentable beyond my typical “We gotta do this—trust me” rant. As a consultant I could get away with that. Present an idea, and with support of the ownership/management it would be expected that the local station would execute. Here at XM I had to learn to channel the ranting into something that normal business people could understand as I can’t present an idea and head out of town!. I still have trouble with that...but I think I’m getting better. I still prefer: “Here’s an idea—Lets AFDI it—no meetings…let’s just do it”…but there ARE procedures to getting things to happen…as XM is poles from a locally consulted radio station! I need to learn patience and procedures…drives me nuts sometimes—but that’s life. An interesting highlight of the night was that Gary Hahn had a glass of wine. He’s usually too buried in his Blackberry to do anything much less have a glass of wine. I noticed that because he was unusually animated—must have been the wine talking. Then, James Carville drops by as he’s dining at this DC power hub. A few kudos for Hugh…a pithy comment about Senator Craig…and he’s back to his power steak. Hugh reminded me that he still reads these blogs. He may be off premises...but he’s still “here”.

There’s a content renaissance at XM. Called XMX—Channel 2. Suddenly millions of people are literally discovering Quincy Jones shows…Bob Dylan...Tom Petty...Wynton Marsalis and scores of other amazing content that has been buried within our 100+ channels. Now it breathes…you can hear it. A renaissance! The emails are pouring in with people discovering these and other exclusive shows we produce. This channel is really revolutionary. Not in concept, but in the reality that it is exposing some pretty amazing musical content to people who may have ‘heard’ about these but never really absorbed them. XMX makes it EASY to experience these incredible shows where the ARTISTS are truly in control.

On a totally different note, A few weeks back I wrote about a trip to Cooperstown with a focus on how upset XM’s Sandy Girard was putting up with Eric Logan and me. She wasn’t too happy about the reporting, and wrote a rebuttal.

From Sandy Girard (who incidentally is kind of the go-to all business type person as a liaison between XM programming and….pretty much every other department):

I do not read blogs. It may be a reflection of my personality and personal preference to communicate directly, which usually involves face-to-face conversation and a little eye contact (but not the uncomfortable kind). My aversion to blogs is due primarily to the fact that I already feel like my day is cannibalized by powerpoints, meetings, conference calls, firedrills, negotiations and other madness, so I have little time or inclination to read about what someone else is thinking as trying to process my own thoughts has become increasingly more challenging. I also find that many bloggers come across as self-absorbed, ego maniacs desperately seeking attention by claiming they have some critical insight or knowledge that the rest of us could not figure out for ourselves (see Perez Hilton). And lastly, the other danger I associate with the blogosphere is that many people who read blogs, believe that if it's written and published on the world wide web, it must be fact. This last point explains why I am writing this

My exception to my blog boycott is the Lee Abrams Blog. This is because Lee is quite the opposite of the Perezes of the world. He is not self-absorbed, nor is he an ego-maniac and he has a bottomless treasure chest of incredibly amusing and insightful stories about the music business and of course about XM. I don't get to read his blogs as often or as quickly as Lee would like, but I do get to them and I am almost always chuckling about one of his many "big fish" stories. However, after being questioned, consoled and hearing so many chuckles from our coworkers about his Aug. 6th "Musical Lulls and a Travelogue to Baseball Land" blog that included my name, I knew I had to quickly get up to speed and do some reading. After reading Lee's depiction of our trip to Cooperstown, I didn't chuckle when I realized that I was the big fish in that day's blog and after a face-to-face (and a little uncomfortable eye contact) with Lee he invited me to post a rebuttal. I have decided to do so in the interest of clearing my reputation as the "Cooperstown whiner" and also to ensure that Lee's blog continues to present entertaining truths and not unfounded gossip.

These are the facts:
1. Yes I did go to Cooperstown with Lee and Eric (after a lot of peer pressure from both and promises of "we'll work out the hotel room. It'll be great!")
2. We did eat at Rednecks (not my choice)
3. It was about 100 degrees there and you probably up the temperate at least 20 when you're inside one of the unairconditioned giftshops exceeding the store's max capacity by about 200 baseball fanatics
4. Yes we did meet Cal and he was as gracious and impressive as his fans would attest
5. Yes I did get dumped at the Super 8 and it was complete with hookers, roaches, mildew, etc.

Now where facts get distorted and the rest of the tale may be missing critical details:
1. "Sandy was still upset that we stranded her on the street while lusting for memorabilia."

Yes, it's true that I sat outside while Eric and Lee sprinted back and forth, across, into and through every single store with reckless abandon. However, much like the mom who sits holding the kids' stuff while they squeal and get ready to ride the roller coaster, I held every bat, mug, card, tshirt, button, baseball cap, shotglass and sticker without one word of complaint and did so with a (sweaty) smile.

2. "Stopped at Wendy’s (Eric’s favorite) and headed back to our Hotel—The Ho Jo. Pretty lame and overpriced, but clean."

While they feasted on double cheeseburger meals and frostys from Wendys, someone else was left to forage for herself (without a vehicle) and since the Super8's one vending machine wasn't working, I decided to brave it and walk to the gas station and treat myself to some Dasani and sunflower seeds.

3. "Kept getting nasty emails from Sandy about the roaches, odors and general disgust at her room at the SUPER 8."

Now, this inaccurately portrays me as some kind of whining, high maintenance princess. Although I will confess that I did send Lee and Eric a message giving them updates about the exciting activities that I personally witnessed in my room, including the roach that was crawling on the wall by my bed (probably to meet his large and extended relatives under the bed) and what I'm certain was the prostitute working hard for her money in the room next door, I did so without complaint. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer I lived in an apartment without running water for nearly 4 weeks during a "record hot summer" and I never once complained. If I wanted to live in a filthy space with bugs and other sketchy characters, I'd sign back up to return to my post -Soviet apartment in Ukraine and not agree to attend a business trip with my "friends" Lee and Eric.

Thanks Lee for giving me the chance to respond. Even if this doesn't make the official Abrams blog, I already feel slightly vindicated.

---OK that’s the word from Sandy….

Finally…The Pink Floyd masterpiece “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” is coming out soon—re mastered. A must listen for anyone who missed it back in ’67. A study in early psychedelia that had a profound influence on the British progressive music scene back then…a pivotal time in late 20th century music.

8 Comments:

At 12:17 PM, Blogger David said...

1. XMX has quickly moved to the top of my list of channels to check out each time I turn on XM. XM has so much great material that if you missed it, you missed it -- until now. I think it was a great idea, whoever dreamed it up.

2. Your comments about "Piper" are right on. Many, many people have no real awareness of of Floyd before "Dark Side". But Piper was groundbreaking and ought to be heard by all fans of Pink Floyd.

 
At 8:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you say people are discovering these shows on XMX as if they hadn't heard them before and the truth is this is the way the shows SHOULD HAVE BEEN PRESENTED TO THE PUBLIC IN THE FIRST PLACE... On a channel that show cases them all the time rather then a channel that played music five times a month, if even that.. So I'm happiest that these shows are this way.. and that XMX has a line-up the way it is..

 
At 6:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does channel 75 still say to tune in to 45? Isnt that wasting bandwith?

 
At 7:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is Steve "FM repetition" Kingston still the PD at Ethel.

Come on.,Lee---it's getting ridiculous.

 
At 1:43 PM, Anonymous Uncle Freddy said...

Lee,

The positive reception of XMX makes me once again want to put forth the concept of an on-line spotlight channel that would rotate between Music Lab, World Zone, Luna, Special X, etc.

One of the reasons some XM execs have rejected this idea in reply to my e-mails was that “the inconsistency of providing a different format on the same channel on certain days may get a little confusing.” Yet this same inconsistency seems to be OK with XMX. While I understand the bandwidth limitations, I would urge XM to look at adding a channel like this as soon as feasible. The on-line channels are niche formats that listeners are used to going out of their way to find, and while shows exist on current channels to service some of the formats covered, others, such as World Zone and Special X, have no such specialty programs. Having one’s favorite channel available for a day or part of a day a week is heck of lot better than not having it available at all. I think such a channel would make a great addition to your Lifestyle neighborhood.

Thanks for listening, and thanks for your efforts to make XM something special!

 
At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know who Steve Kingston is, but Ethel sure is repetitive--just like FM.

Lee, I'd love to know why Ethel has the EXACT same repetition as FM. Is this working? Is this helping XM get more subs?

XM should be way better and different than FM--not the EXACT same thing as FM. Not sure that there's a lot of money in offering pay FM with bad sound quality.

I am praying that the merger gets quashed--it seems as if this is the only way XM can return to the service I fell in love with 2 years ago. I fear the merger will only increase the FM-ness that has seemed to creep into the XM philosphy.

 
At 8:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to echo the suggestion of a "rotation station" that would play a few genres on different days of the week. A couple of days of WorldZone, Special X, etc, etc.

WorldZone is so great, and there's nothing like it on XM. Please bring it back to the satellites, even if only for a couple of days per week.

 
At 6:09 PM, Blogger Reginold said...

Ha ha ha...I love Sandy. Don't let the skirt and pleasent smile fool you, she's a pitbull and will set you straight if any portion of your version of the story is anything but an acurate recounting of what took place.

I'm glad to hear HP got sent off with some pleasentries.

Keep working with Joe and the others upstairs to help refine the "business justification" skill set. You see an MBA (or PhD in Joe's case) tends to rob you of some of your creative vision and free wheeling "let's just see if it sticks" entrepeneurial attitude ... it's the sad but true tradeoff you have to make if you really want to get heady into business and finance.

Only a few possess the ability to span the gap and retain both qualities/abilities (Sir Richard Branson, Steve Jobs).

It's hard to talk creative language to someone who only has been trained to see things in a quantitative, dollars and cents way.

But trust me, if you can make them "feel" what it is you're trying to say even if you can't hit the exact touchpoint language and B-School buzzwords they need to hear, they take risk, Lee.

Business people by nature are nothing but calculated risk takers anyway. They want to feel the rush of a big win on getting over on something no one else saw just as much as you or anyone else.

 

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