Monday, September 24, 2007



First off--Tom Petty is back on board for a new season of shows. Like with Bob Dylan, Tom is totally engaged in his show. He scours his personal library for some real gems that touch everything from the Ventures to Van Halen. His style is very…Tom Petty. I love guys like this on the air because they have NO radio baggage. They just talk. Not trying to impress anyone with their tightness or big voice. It's so damn refreshing to hear pure talk and killer songs. No jive.

So… All American should convert to Islam? No taxes. No roads either. While terrorism is a threat, a bigger one is stupidity.

It just seems to be getting worse. Being a news addict, the percentage of inane stories to more critical ones is appalling. Now, I DO think the junky stories are interesting, as long as you are in on the joke and don't take them seriously. That’s the blur as they are often treated as real news; the line between important and junk is more blurred than ever. Some will say that that's just the way it is and to live with it---but it's scary in that it's an incredibly effective dumb down device. It's almost like the media is being controlled by a foreign force to "beat" America, not by bombs, but by dumbing down the culture to the point of irrelevancy and/or illiteracy. Media is the great teacher--the average Joe actually thinks the latest Britney caper is enlightened information. It's funny's candy...but the sheep conditioned to sugary media doesn't know the difference. Blindly accepting junk. Being dis-respected...and not knowing any better. "Hey these dummies like this stuff, lets keep feedin it" might be the thinking.

People aren't born dumb-we're just doing our damndest to make them a time when that’s not really a good idea.

Even in music: It seems that that stupid "red carpet" is more important than the notes themselves. I say BURN the damn Red Carpet. And politically, the big news here in DC was a Cindy Sheehan "die in" where the attendees interviewed had the savvy of Miss Teen South Carolina. "Like, war is bad…I mean, people like, get hurt and stuff." was the norm. Clueless. News has become a big game show. Music is no longer America's great export…it is treated with the integrity of a Mars bar. And Hollywood is doing more to undermine the potential of any liberal thinking than just about anything. It's ironic that liberal biased media plays up to the Hollywood factor when in reality it’s making a sham out of liberal thought. It's hard to respect fashion driven celebrity. While they might be "caring"--The Sean Penn's have little to offer beyond the average citizen, but of course he MUST be smart--He was in a movie! It's transparent and fleeting.

It's all dangerous. To those who believe media fed stupidity is not a factor. I strongly believe you are wrong. Media has never been more omnipresent and powerful and you can under estimate the immense impact is has on…everything. I'm not suggesting that Britney's issues don't have a place. It’s candy. Won't kill you. And going elitist ultra hard news probably won't cut through. But there's a place-a middle ground that has SOME degree of intellect and enlightenment…a Point of View and is CLEAR in its mission instead of the great blur. There's money and numbers in that too. Big time. Look at the successful smart products: Sopranos, Pink Floyd, Simpsons, the Beatles, Whole Foods, Wall Street Journal, GPS, R&B, Macs, Bob Dylan, 60 Minutes,BB King, NPR (I was in NPR denial when I was in FM Radio-in fact, many NPR stations have enormous listener ship). The great thing about smart products is THEY LAST vs. the quick hit 1-5 year hit of junk culture. Smart products RESPECT themselves, their integrity and their audience.

We need to export smart stuff. Starts with creating more of it. The dumb stuff fades…North Americans have way too much going on to junk down our potential.

If a foreign power wants to destroy America---they should just sit back and let junk culture do the job. But imagine with the talent and infrastructure of entertainment, media and music in North America, what would happen if suddenly there were throngs of people focused on inspiration, intellect and quality-WOW. Not the elite kind—but the mass appeal kind that really hits Main Street. It would be a National renaissance that could literally save the planet. I think the people that take charge and deliver smart products, and market them with unbridled originality, RESPECT and HONESTY are the next generation of culture leaders.

Here's a comment from Rupert Murdock on his new Financial Channel vs. the competition:

"They dwell too much on failures and scandals and politics," he said. "We want to spend a lot of time on innovation, successes and people who are making money."

I'm a big Murdoch fan. There's never any "blur" with his stuff. You know exactly what you're getting. Blur-free is good. I love TMZ--pure trash, but they do it well and you KNOW what you're getting. Or Opie and Anthony—you KNOW that their show is satirical…No blur there.

It’s the blurred stuff that's the problem...when people hear and see the junk, but it’s presented as serious business without a "wink". WE FORGOT HOW TO RESPECT OURSELVES! WE FORGOT HOW TO GIVE AND GET RESPECT! The root of junk culture...the root of social ills is NO RESPECT. Show respect one-on-one AND in mass media, and things will change.

Yeah--that's the key: RESPECTING THE INTEGRITY OF YOUR PRODUCT WHO YOU ARE PRESENTING TO. Instead of feeding people crap...

Examples of No respect include a radio station delivering a cheesy promo that is "good radio" (circa 1965) but in reality is some fake voiced bozo hyping something silly. A product that is all about me!...or
A talented artist who puts passion aside and goes for a 'radio record'. TV news that is a parody of itself... ALL of these and countless more are about disrespecting themselves and their market. A great film maker RESPECTS himself enough to create something that is so well done that he or she can walk away from it feeling good--and knowing he or she didn't dis-respect the art form, himself or the people who are going to view it.

I guess if everyone respected everyone--the world would be in pretty good shape. Tall order.

One of my favorite people, Marty Stuart was here in DC for an Artist Confidential. He's quite an amazing person. An American treasure filled with stories of music, life and Americana. In a prior blog I wrote about his amazing collection of memorabilia. A priceless archive that makes The Hard Rock look like Disneyland. He's incredibly diverse as his repertoire ranges from bluegrass to the blues. A very spiritual guy and a joy. During the last song, his beautiful wife Connie Smith joined in to sing a song. Spontaneous! Me and Eric Logan are soon flying down to Tunica Mississippi to join Marty and check out a discovery of his at a small Church. The next Aretha Franklin he says. Looking forward to that!

Then---Early the next morning, I flew up to NYC with Jayme Karp and Aaron Lee for the Gloria Estefan Artist Confidential. I Love the Latin Confidential was a good way. Intense Cubano American pride with a blazing set of music that had the crowd frothing with delight. Percussion sections...horns...the works. Jesus Salas hosted, though Gloria was 150% personality once on the stage whose presence eclipsed everything within a mile. It was a festival of sound and spirit that made it much more soulful than simply an interactive interview and performance. Gloria was inspirational and touching and sheer energy.

Big star turnout from Bernadette Peters to half of Sony...and ex-Sony head Tommy Mottola in attendance with his bodyguards. A wild and incredible night.

Before we departed Teterboro Airport, ran into Ludacris who of course does a show with us. Had a VERY large jet. Airplane envy. Eric Logan suggested that my plane could fit into his luggage compartment. Not as big as my friend Frank Wood's (former owner of WEBN, head of Jacor and an overall great and smart guy) Citation X, buy big nonetheless. Meridian, the terminal I use at Teterboro is pretty star studded.

Between Marty and Gloria over two days, you really appreciate the artistry of these shows. THEY RESPECT WHO THEY ARE AND WHO THEY SERVE.

Monday, September 17, 2007



Les Garland is a guy I've known forever as he was Program Director of the famous CKLW in Windsor/Detroit. Later he was a key part of the MTV launch team. I was hired as a consultant back then and we've stayed in touch ever since including a wild and short lived ride as part of Quantum Media, Bob Pittman's company. Recently he sent around an article about how MTV is trying to return to their original glory. Huh??!! That is absurd. That would be like Santa Fe railroad saying that their once famous Super Chief train will once again dominate the Chicago-LA travel corridor. Ain't gonna happen.

MTV like FM Top 40 Radio (the way it’s presented) is irrelevant on the streets. MTV gets talk…but for the wrong reasons. FM Top 40 is SO in touch with 1995 that it’s perplexing just HOW out of touch it’s become--as if these stations are programmed and marketed for radio trade papers and other FM's...completely out of touch with reality... A great number if not the majority of people under 30 view MTV and Radio in general as pretty useless. Self inflicted. They listen and watch…but are NOT fans. Simply users. These guys running these things need to read Blender, put the industry mags aside for a sec, actually move in with their audience and lose the denial that commands their thinking….oh, and think like a person, not an industry guy. Get re-attached to REALITY not “the industry”.

MTV IS one of the world’s most recognizable brands. But that doesn’t mean anyone actually likes it. A few years ago we looked at their ratings since they promote that they are in____million homes. That’s like saying a New York radio station is in 8 million homes. It is. But of course 8 million homes don’t actually listen to it. In real ratings I thought MTV numbers sucked.

The rant about MTV is based on a disappointment for how they let that thing go to hell. Greed, ignorance or just forgetting what they mean and/or mis-evolving. They seem to be re-jiggering for every 5 year generation—but inconsistently-- with the result being confusion...WHAT do they stand for? Reality/Lifestyle channel? Or is it just going for the quick junk culture hit of the moment at the expense of their future. Classic example of FORGETTING what put them on the map. A jagged evolution. Trading the edgy icon and guiding beam of “pop culture” for the Celebrity Volleyball crap that drives the Junk Culture dumb down of America. Part of it was trading Main Street for Madison avenue...Yeah, they had and probably still have smart edgy people on staff, but they changed their mission...and my God, the elitist attitude they put out...I know they are far from dumb…but the mission is WAY out of whack. A parody of itself. Making money? YES! But so was practically every iconic AM station in 1968. They used to change culture now they mock it.

NOW--Bringin it back? Ain't gonna happen with a Brittney Spears event and a VMA that is more joke than anything. Maybe a Mud wrestle between Brittney and Paris...or better yet why not a Tiffany reunion concert? They've blurred their purpose in life SO far that the Britney bandage will just further their sink into junk culture oblivion that is more fodder for comedians than anything that touches a nerve in our society..

On the radio side, I do admire stations that have evolved well. I haven't actually listened in awhile, but KQRS in Minneapolis or WDVE in Pittsburgh (both former clients) continue to prosper...seem to making the right moves.

Personally I view the negative state of many former icons like MTV as a positive. MORE OPPORTUNITY. I love helping revolutionizing things…and there’s no shortage of things to change these days! The best candidates are those who WERE huge…and still make a lot of money, but are so disassociated and vulnerable that they are golden targets. Kinda like AM radio was in 1970. Making a ton, but man, was America ever ready for FM! And then in 2000 there was FM...and America ever ready for NEW radio…

The inherent problem in evolving a young end medium is the 16-20 factor. Those who got into MTV during the 16-20 years loved it and rightly so, but they failed to evolve with those listeners OR establish a musical beachhead with the next generation of 16-24 opting for a pop culture approach. Now I know those guys have fooled advertisers for years into thinking MTV was golden. In fact if they spent that money on Morning Drive radio stars they'd have been infinitely more impactful. I'm sure MTV makes a ton of money---but I predict that the reality of what they "mean" will creep out over time and they'll plunge into the cesspool of junk culture...

Music is Timeless: There’s a huge dichotomy between the way the "Industry" thinks and the way the streets think about music. In the Industry, it’s all about "now". Breaking the next star. Normal civilians could care less. I recently saw a survey showing Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin ranking high among the Top 20 artists among TEENS. Meanwhile there's all of this scouring for the next Alt band that'll last two years, or a replacement for Paris Hilton since it looks like she WONT be the next Madonna after all. I get asked a lot: What new stuff do you like? Well---How about Chet Atkins. But he's dead I am told. Fine, but to ME, I just got turned onto a song by him and it's NEW to MY ears. I know the music business needs new talent to grow. BUT--in the real world, music is timeless. You don’t really NEED something chronologically new when there are millions and millions of amazing songs people have yet to discover. The point here is that there are two things that the Industry as a whole doesn’t seem to get:

1. Timelessness. The average Joe could care less WHEN something came out if they think it’s good. really doesn’t matter to a civilian (non Industry related) individual

2. Age. The forty year old James Dean "Rock is for the kids" thing is SO over. Age is irrelevant. It's all about cool. Hell, Tony Bennett is 70 and he's COOLER than some 18 year an 18 year old. A lot of it has to do with artists really haven’t changed much in the last 40 years. In 1970 if you looked back at an artist from 40 years earlier you'd get Al Jolsen. I guess he'd be cool if you were taking enough drugs. But to anyone reasonably normal, Al was hardly cool. But an artist from 40 year ago today?--Dylan, Hendrix, Morrison, Charles, Cash...and those guys REMAIN cool.

Ben Harper has a good set out. The DVD was recorded in the XM Performance Theater. It's about the 30th or so session released that was recorded at XM.

Went to LA to meet with USC students on a project they’re doing for us. I always get nostalgic for the LA that was once a hub of creativity in music. The cool house that Elektra Records had on Sunset as their headquarters, guys like Neil Young hanging around in clubs, the studios jammed with inspired artists, cool parties in Laurel Canyon. Well, LA certainly had its drawbacks, but it’s kinda sad to see the music scene a shell of what it was. Not a BAD thing, it was a pretty slimy place too—but it had character… just sad as I recall so many outstanding days and nights there. Productive and otherwise. Now—I guess Las Vegas is the center of things. I guess that sorta says it all about today’s music scene in the USA.

Flight back from LA was hellish. Plan was to leave at 4pm and get into DC at midnight. Plane left at 8pm and got in at 4am. As we are a frugal company, we flew coach—kinda hard to justify a first Class seat as we are building toward profitability. Of course coach was packed. I was supposed to fly to NYC with George Taylor Morris and Aaron Lee for the Artist Confidential with Lyle Lovett. Woke up after two hours of sleep and was WAY too tired to command a flight into the Nations busiest airspace on a crummy rainy day. SO—we went on the Delta Shuttle. Got to the airport and it was cancelled! Finally got there. I just can’t stand to fly commercial anymore. Been doing it too long and the unreliability and general service quality is just too low. But the Artist Confidential was great. The audience was mostly music students and Lyle was a joy to work with. He and his and band were fantastic.

Reminded me of a flight a few years ago. We had our Burkhart/Abrams convention in Orlando. Huge event. Over 1500 in attendance. Immediately after there was an Industry convention in LA. The Album Network, a big trade magazine back then, bought out the entire coach section of a Delta L-1011 for convention attendees to fly to LA. It was insane. Open flasks at the seats…and beyond. Sex with Flight attendants…you name it. Mike Bone, a guy with Mercury Records commandeered the PA and started making announcements. The Captain walked back and threatened to call the FBI and land the plane. Somebody offered the Captain a joint. Bad idea. Upon landing the plane was met by Federal agents. Actually, I was pretty mellow on that flight being entertained by the crowd…lets say you wont see those kind of plane rides anymore—at least not on Delta!

Got word from George Carlin's people that his 90 minute special that was recorded here will be included in his Boxed Set! The audio AND video. It was a remarkable hour...that went 90 minutes. George walked through his career. The guy has always impressed me as a timeless master of the culture, but hearing his whole story gave me a whole new level of respect for his controlled insanity. Hung out with him for awhile after the taping---He's a great guy. Didn't go into the post performance mind snap. Really impressed with him.

He’s old…but I challenge anyone to find someone more in touch…and relevant. Greatness is not defined by age...but agelessness.

Friday, September 07, 2007



Held a "bootcamp" with about 50 members of our ever expanding marketing department. They’re a busy group. Most of the people I spoke to in our two hour session are relatively new here. The idea was to give them the creative Kool Aid so they could drink it. as XM gets bigger it's easier to forget the core values aka the soul of the thing, as everyone is focused on growing the subs. It's easier to grow if you know about the seed I reckon. My boot camps are definitely not traditional...probably a little scary for some, but I think that's why they are effective. No slides (well--one), but an evangelical presentation that’s all about the passion and the WHY we need to approach and execute things a certain way...and putting it all in historical, current and future terms.Making this thing go isn't a's a mission. Understanding the psyche of North Americans and translating that into action...a deeper more intellectual approach to delivering the creative goods to a quality starved population. I find that taking a deep breath and looking at what we do and how we do it--certainly from a look, feel, smell-creative side-- and how important it is, can help motivate people to higher personal levels of excellence and achievement...that all gets clouded sometimes when things are moving so fast…and things are moving fast. If the bootcamp helped motivate even ONE person to go the extra mile---it was a success.

A friend of mine, Jim Citrin, is a powerful Executive Recruiter...sort of a Beatle in the world of big time recruiters. If America dropped the electoral system and used a guy to recruit a new President—He’s be the guy. He’s written several extremely successful books that are maps-to-greatness driven and motivational in nature—but very real world and with zero BS. He has an incredible touch for understanding what drives successful people. His new one is really outstanding. It's called The Dynamic Path. Definitely worth checking into. It has interviews with everyone from Moon Man (and one GREAT pilot) Buzz Aldrin to Terry Bradshaw talking about leadership. Inspirational stuff. His other books are great, but this one takes his approach to a new level. Jim is a huge LOFT fan FYI...Check his book at <

Speaking of Buzz Aldrin, I’m kind of worried about NASA. One astronaut had an attempted murder rap, and recently there were reports of astronauts getting tanked before flights. In internal NASA report cleared them (duh), but makes you wonder. They need to watch The Right Stuff a few times. Bad time to have shaky space pilots considering that other Nations are taking Space pretty seriously. Intriguing Space stuff on Discovery and History channels lately. A lot about how the Universe is going to rip apart and all matter will disintegrate. They call it The Big Rip. We have about 50 billion years though, so we're cool for now...of course unless a rogue black hole sucks us into infinity. I gotta stop watching that stuff...

As we launch the "new season" of Bob Dylan theme Time Radio Hour shows, Anne Taylor Adams of our PR group had the idea to create a poster to celebrate the show. No one objected. Great idea. So Bob's guys brought in Coco Shinomaya and Jaime Hernandez and they created a poster that is absolutely spectacular. Only an accomplished Underground Comix kinda guy could have created this. Perfectly captures the romance and mystery of the show in a way that is seamy, steamy and real. No slick stuff over branded stuff here. Where’s Waldo meets the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Real subtle...real heady...for what the show is all about--It’s perfect. Got an underground feel. I'll post it here soon.

Me, Jesus Salas, DJ Leony and Richard Nivar from our Latin group hopped in my plane for a trip to NYC to record Daddy Yankee doing Artist Confidential. Interesting signing. Jesus had to translate the negotiations as Daddy's crew often spoke only Spanish. The flight was also interesting as I suggested that if the three were yapping in Spanish and I had no clue what they were talking about, they better be nice as certain aerobatic maneuvers were always a possibility.

Daddy Yankee was amazing. The event was more like a Latin festival than a taping. People yelling and dancing. Had some drunken guy that Daddy’s bouncers had to eject. The guy is amazing… a real artist. Love Daddy Yankee's website. It'll drive you nuts because it's SO intense, but the sound a visual quality and animation is so's exciting. The thing I like about it is that it's an experience. I’ve passed it along to some people as an example of how sites can be exciting.
I gained a new respect for Daddy Yankee and the movement he’s spearheaded after seeing him in action. No 200 person posse…no elite thing…just a straight ahead modern Caribbean hip hop vibe that explodes with energy.

Labor Day Car-B-Q was another whacked three day channel we had over Labor Day weekend. Lou Brutus put the music together. Car songs. Maybe we should have called it a "No trains" weekend. Sorta fits into that FM "No (put annoying music style here)" weekends. Never understood the "no" thing. Adult Contemporary stations used to brag about "No rap or Metal". Well, seems kind of obvious. Though I guess when something is SO average, it’s hard to find accolades to link to your mission.

I gotta tellya, our content is really hitting stride…coming up:

Austin City Limits Sat. (9/15) & Sun. (9/16) – XMX (XM 2) & XMU (XM 43)
Hispanic Heritage Month Begins Sat. (9/15)- Specials on XM’s Latin Channels (XM 90 – 94)
Stand Up and Sit Down with Lewis Black (XL)- XM Comedy (XM 150)
Artist Confidential: Smashing Pumpkins- Ethel (XM 47)
Harlem Features The Story of Etta James- 50s (XM 5) --- MATT THE CATT ROCKS!
Release Day Rest Stop with Kenny Chesney- Highway 16 (XM 16)
The King Biscuit Flower Hour: Aerosmith- Deep Tracks (XM 40) --- TMELESS
Live from the Toronto International Film Festival- Cinemagic (XM 27)
A Conversation Between Old Friends George Jones & Bill Mack- America (XM 10) ---AMAZING
LiVE @ The Verge with The Russian Futurists- The Verge (XM 52)
Toto Channel Take Over- 80s (XM 8)
Patty Griffin on The Village (XM 15)

..And that’s just in one week. Unfortunately the challenge of making people AWARE is tough. Working on it. XMX Channel two REALLY helps!

Along the lines of meaning nothing, if there's ANYone who hasn't seen Miss Teen South Carolina's gaffe--definitely worth a look on YouTube. Better yet is the written transcription of her response that MSNBC has on their site. It's SO bizarre. I'm impressed she kept a nice smile during a complete and massive brain freeze. Now of course, she's a celebrity. This video DEFINES “junk culture”. Two Youtube musical favorites: Genesis-Fountain of Salamcis featuring a very young Peter Gabriel and Howlin Wolf doing Shake Me. Both incredible.

An interesting (long) article from the New York Times about how Rick Rubin is being brought in. Check the New York Times site if you haven’t read it. Good gig—probably makes a ton and doesn’t have to show up for work, though I can’t see how a guy who I assume views himself as a star can actually change anything long term at a giant like Sony—without getting INTO the trenches 24/7—DIVING INTO THE FRONT LINE, and putting an imprint on the soul of the place. Then again--Nice to see that a music guy is being brought into a music company. What a concept. Hope he doesn’t get smothered and can actually make some noise. If he doesn’t he’ll agree to exit terms and walk with 50 million. Good gig indeed. Interesting read.

Marlin Taylor one of our ace programmers celebrated his 71st Birthday. I wish all programmers half his age had the wisdom, passion, attitude and energy he has.