Monday, October 29, 2007



IT is on. IT is the chronological history of pop music. Literally every song to hit the charts from the 1930’s to today. Starts on our 40’s channel then moves to the chain. It’s pretty remarkable. SO many songs, not just the obvious chart toppers. Plus it’s interspersed with tons of audio clips that give the thing a musical documentary sort of feel without getting over wrought with spoken word. 840 Hours long (!) Kurt Gilchrist and Larry Whitt have especially contributed a ton to this. It sort of makes those “Memorial Day Top 500” countdowns look pretty lightweight. It breaks rules…but the rule that you have to play the same songs to always play, except in order, deserves to be broken. There are naysayers…a small percentage. Some say it’s too much of a departure. Others say “why don’t you play ALL of these songs EVERY day." Well, I don’t think there’s a big audience for “Puddin in Tain” by The Alley Cats or “Floy Joy” by the Supremes on a regular basis… and as far as a departure—yes, it is! It's OK to liberate yourselves from "the format" now and then...the Gods of the radio rulebook will NOT strike you down.

Esteemed band manager Cliff Burnstein called and told me he has severe sleep depravation because of “it”---a good sign.

Bob Dylan in a Cadillac ad. Bob’s not the type to lend his name to many things. I think his love for the Caddy is based on its history as THE Rock n Roll car. Elvis drove one…all the early R&B and Country guys drove one once they “broke” and of course the criminals behind many early Rock n Roll hits would give their artists a Cadillac instead of royalties if they sold a million copies. Bob’s Cadillac themed show that ran last week was of course brilliant. It should be noted that Bob had planned a Cadillac show WAY before there was any talk of an ad.

From U-Tube: Found old Buggles videos. They looked kinda goofy and that drum machine was annoying, but they were REALLY inventive. Trevor Horne went on to be THE cool UK Producer. They were very “clever”. But then I discovered Celtic Woman doing “The Voice” Wow! It is amazing. Ethereal. The Buggles and Celtic Woman are staples of XM, mainly on the Fine Tuning Channel, but watching Celtic Woman perform was transforming. Kinda reminds me of the Carpenters. I loved them. In fact, when I was running Z-Rock, it was insane to see how most of the hard core Metal head DJ’s also loved the Carpenters. Something about those angelic, pure and incredible voices. Celtic Woman is of course from Ireland—which is and always has been a hot bed of musical talent. If there was a music genre stock market, I’d buy heavily into Celtic influenced. It’s just a matter of time before it reaches a higher level of popularity--not with teens perhaps, but with the older demographics. So much of it is of remarkable quality and originality. Beyond the obvious U2.

I did some research into Celtic Woman. 95 weeks #1 on the World Music Chart. Not a real important chart…but 95 weeks at #1 is impressive on ANY chart. Then, I see they’re playing pretty big arenas. Sort of like Riverdance. (I liked Riverdance---even though it got a bad rap...but it IS well done) and Huge…but if you only listened to FM radio and watched Network TV, you’d never know they exist. Another reason that FM and Networks are big because they’re “there” and available like a utility, but SO vulnerable. Just gliding along…living in the world that if it doesn’t “test” well, it doesn’t matter. They need to test the tests. The problem is EVERYONE tests everything so it all cancels out and everyone is the same. I remember in the early days of radio research---you'd KILL the competition that didn't do any. All of my early consulting work was heavily balanced with was golden. Since about 1980--most every station did it...and there was a cancellation effect. The advantage of being the station that has data on its side diminished--EVERYone had the same data on their side. This cancellation effect created stations Average and in sync…with each other. Of course research is knowledge--A good thing. It's all about WHAT you are studying, HOW it's being conducted and HOW it's used in the equation. Not too many have figured that out, and the result is often---the cancellation effect.

In any case, if I were in the music business I would have scouts all over Ireland much like major league baseball covers the Dominican Republic.

Tom Petty’s book “Runnin’ down a Dream” is good. Fantastic photos. There’s one cover of Rolling Stone with Tom & Bob Dylan on the cover. Since Tom and Bob both do shows for XM, it was kinda cool to see. His movie is also supposed to be amazing. I was supposed to go to the premier in New York but couldn’t make it. One of our new marketing guys Jeff Frank went up and said it blew him away.

Jimmy Carter was here at XM doing an interview with Bob Edwards. Never cared for Jimmy. Even though I lived in Atlanta when he as Governor. I guess coming off Nixon and Ford, he rode that whole Born Again Southern, I’m NOT a crook thing. I just remember him as the guy that had a drunk racist brother selling cheap beer, was impotent on the Iran hostage front, made us drive 55 and drink less coffee (oh that was effective) and America wasn’t buying his particular folksy down home brand of liberal. May have had some interesting ideas, but was out of sync for that era…the Reagan came in, totally IN sync with the mainstream. I still don’t think Ketchup should be considered a vegetable on school menus…but the hostages were released immediately. I guess Carter meant well…but just didn’t have any traction with the mainstream back then. Can’t really compare to today and all the problems—that was almost 40 years ago…

Of course today’s White House isn’t exactly burning up the approval polls (!) I think the future is in “Independent” thinking. No room for two parties in today's media saturated environment. Sat next to a Senator once on a long flight to London. As he became more an more inebriated, he started saying he was a Democrat, but really thought like a republican…Huh? It’s like we have two choices…then maybe a spoiler in the mix. Imagine if there were no parties and you voted on the individuals POV rather than the party line…that would make things so much better...and keep religion out of it.

Then—we’d just have to ban those revenue generating but dumb political ads that are usually junk culture at its “best”. And the clichés!! Damn! "This ad was approved by.." Eat me. There’s a TV station web site in the Midwest, WQAD, owned by Randy Michaels’ TV group that had this interactive poll where you answer questions and then it tells you who your ideal candidate is. I believe they licensed it from Minnesota Public Radio. Interesting results…gave me the candidate I least liked. Maybe this is a good way though as it cut through the perceptions I had and gave me a “scientific” result. Still ain’t gonna vote for that person.

Now, Speaking of Southern, Jim Mc Bean, his Wife and daughter and I flew to Spartanburg South Carolina to check out the Beacon Drive In. Wow! It was like being in a different Country. Food was fair at best, but the experience was crazy. There’s an old African American Blind guy who must be 90, who takes the orders and screams them to the cooks. In some strange language (that is posted at the entrance). Kinda Soup Nazi. We got yelled at because we didn’t order fast enough. “orrrrdfer 2 evelpopz, maaaaham… rrrrranga…yeeaaaaa”...then” “Move my line! Move my line!” he bellowed. Oddly enough in about 12 seconds our order was delivered exactly as we asked. The crowd was right out of “Cops”. You know—those “domestic disturbances”…and they do 5,000 covers on a typical day. The place is a gold mine. Based on reviews we ordered the chili hamburgers “aplenty” meaning they are covered in greasy onion rings and French fries. We brought back three gallons of sweet iced tea. Basically hummingbird fuel. Jim video's the whole experience.

Bill Maher kicks heckler out. They’re screaming that Bush commanded the 9/11 attacks. Even Maher found that absurd. A lot of conspiracies out there. I think it’s fueled by the low credibility news has. You can’t completely rely on TV News for the REAL story on the BIG Global and National issues, so it leads more people to make up their own stories. Many know that it’s all about ratings rather than completely straight forward reporting. Of course it IS a rating game, but you’d think the quest for ratings can be accomplished in a more transparent way to viewers. I listen/watch 6 different news services and about 20 on line—I’m informed---but confused. Like when 9/11 happened—One service said Bomb the bastards, another said We need to negotiate, another said we deserved it. Imagine a TRUE middle ground, non PC service that HAD a point of view, but one that was in sync with the mainstream rather than trying to skew it to where it’s all about what people WANT to hear/see rather than what IS. Somewhere in there is a balance of POV and reality.

The Production Department here held a Chili Cook-off…called POOPUS, a friendly take off on POTUS, our Election Channel. Tony Masiello, Mike Abrams (no relation) and myself were judges. The chili ranged from incredibly bad to tolerable to a few good ones. Matt Wolfe won—his was actually excellent. You can tell a few of the producers never cooked. One guy took 8 cans of Hormel, added a six pack of beer and created a truly poisonous brew. And that entry actually scored better than some. John Stevens claimed that he spiked his with illegal substances. Didn’t matter. No-one could handle more than a teaspoon of his concoction. The production staff did an amazing job of turning this thing into an “event” that was a nice touch on an otherwise normal Friday.

Got to credit Eric Logan for his rapid fire response to the Southern California fires. We were in New York yesterday. Met with O&A, went on their show, did a “testimonial dinner”, visited the NYC offices, flew home (more on that next week---bizarre and fun trip) and he was completely focused on covering the fires in a timely and big way. Watched him burn the phones—lawyers, press, technical—everything. And within hours we were re broadcasting stations in those areas affected on Channel 247—our Emergency Services channel. Pretty impressive, A little known fact is that in World War 2, The Japanese sent hundreds of weather balloons across the Pacific geared to land in US Forests and start fires upon their landings. Many made it and actually started fires…though most didn’t or the fires were snuffed out by damp trees…but the plan was for them to hit fire vulnerable areas and start wildfires. Opie thinks the fires are terrorist related…hmmm….

Another little known fact: Eric just got a souped up Corvette that idles at 80 mph. I don't blame girls who think we guys with our machines are pathetic. Every time we take off in my plane he brags that his Vette will take the aircraft 0 to 80. It’s a very cool car…but not a prayer

Monday, October 22, 2007



We’re doing A LOT of Country Artists for Artist Confidential lately. Not sure why, but hey—it’s good. They’re usually great to deal with and have extremely passionate and long term fans. Last week it was Trisha Yearwood. While George Taylor Morris usually hosts, Lou Brutus and BK Kirkland have done a few and Bill Anderson will often pick up the reins with Country stars. Bill is a Country legend himself, an expert interviewer and he really connects with the artists. Bill also does a show on XM where he interviews Country legends. Of course Artist Confidential is a little different in that there’s a performance…a band…a packed audience and a lot of things to juggle. I actually bought a Bill Anderson 45 back in ’63. A song called “Still”. On Decca Records. Trisha was great as was her small band. Like so many Country stars, there was very little pretension or drama. Just a good time.

Flew up there with Jayme Karp, and both Ray Knight and Jay Thomas from our Country channels. It was absolutely the worst flying day in recent memory. Of course I wouldn’t fly on days where there was a safety issue. This particular day it was just miserable. Not unsafe for the aircraft or passengers...just miserable. In the rain and soup from takeoff to landing…plus pretty bouncy. On the flight home at around 11pm, we had to wait in line for a long time at Teterboro as there were backups all day and the domino effect was happening as flights scheduled for 4pm were just now departing. Dozens of jets in front of us and a ground controller shooting out orders at break neck speed. It was pretty twilight zone-ish on the way home as the wing strobes created an eerie effect bouncing off the dense clouds and rain we were in. Kinda like the scene where William Shatner saw a little man on the wing.

On the way to the airport the driver was listening to the smooth jazz FM station, CD 101. Music was pretty nice for a rainy New York evening…but then---OUCH. An indescribably annoying commercial for some product that helps severe snoring and sleep apnea, featuring a screechy voice and intense snoring effects. It completely wrecked the mood. And as this channel is a “mood” channel, it became apparent that it’s not only quantity of ads, but style of them that really puts a damper on the FM experience. I mean this ad was B-A-D. Even the driver who was more or less in a trance, slapped the radio and said “Shit!”---and tuned over to Newsradio.

Heard a great old interview with Jack Webb of Dragnet fame. All about how he despised “over acting”. A reason Dragnet was so deadpan. He had a lot of points applicable to radio. In fact the interview was done in reference to his then radio career. I think most DJ’s over act. On some XM channels, acting is part of the shtick—as on the 60’s on Six. Other channels, over acting just makes channels sound hokey. By acting I’m talking about….acting. Putting on the radio voice…talking like an “announcer”…announcing…’moving right along’. I get shtick, that’s cool, but where shtick isn’t required, why can’t people just Talk? Some National TV ads are eons beyond radio in this respect. They just talk vs. 1950’s style “Hey Mom? Kids getting you down? Try Ovaltine”! Then again there are those Arby’s ads with some CHR puker shoving cheap food toward you.

Production ace Jim Mc Bean likes to go to sleazy diners and weird “joints”. Did some research and found a place called The Beacon Drive Inn in Spartanburg South Carolina. Fits the bill. Checking that out on Saturday. Food Network did a special on it. Definitely gotta go to this piece of Americana.

Gordon Ramsay the rebel British chef and entrapaneur has a show on BBC America (and a highly sanitized-for-your-protection version on Fox) called “Kitchen Nightmares”. He goes into a dying restaurant and drills it into shape and profitability. He’s brilliant. So reminiscent of radio a few years back when Mom and pops owned stations. Gordon goes in and beats up the chef (PD), has a reality check with the owners, does one on ones with the cooks and waiters (DJ’S) etc…His profanity laced lashings usually do the trick. You want to hate him, but he’s always right. Of course, it IS TV and not completely reality, but anyone faced with a challenge of fixing something should watch the show. Quite entertaining and informative. The guy is a brilliant whack job.

TMZ is a huge hit on TV. Its next generation Entertainment Tonight. It’s junk but it makes no bones about it. Much better and more successful for all to segregate this stuff so it can live on it’s own rather than having these stories BLUR “real” news. Junk Culture is like Junk Food—It can kill you…but it’s popular. Just keep it in its own junk zone rather than pollute reality. It’s when “real” news goes into the junk turf…then EVERYIONE loses…

POTUS PARTY. We rented out swanky watering hole “DC COAST” and had a launch party for our Election Channel. A lot of politico-press types buzzed on free wine and canapés. Full house. I wish we’d do these kinds of events when we launch music channels since we’re all about music. In any case it was quite a happening. I was recruited to find a star comic who could talk politics. That was easy. Lewis Black, George Carlin or Lenny Bruce. Well, George was on the West Coast, Lenny is dead, so Lewis Black looked possible as he was nearby. We are HUGE Lewis fans and I know he loves us too. He performed at our party for ONE million subs. He graciously agreed and was typically brilliant. Tough crowd. Chatty with wine highs in a room designed for lobster more than laughs. Lewis pulled it off with a classic Lewis set. I left right after his thing knowing there’d be a two hour wait for my car if I left when everybody else did. Successful event.

I’m not sure I’ve witnessed change faster than what is happening in the music business. The Radiohead thing is pretty brilliant. Says a lot about the band. But historically, great bands had bizarre ideas. Nowadays it’s sometimes easier to execute on those bizarre ideas. I remember when the Grateful Dead wanted to give their album away…label didn’t care for the idea. Today, they’d probably just do it. I think Pink Floyd wanted to release an album recorded completely on kitchen utensils. I watch how the Music business unfolds with great interest. There’s a new development every day. Tremendous friction, freak out and movement. Fascinating. A lot of new players and a lot of old players scrambling for answers. I DO think fidelity will be a secret weapon in the future as portability becomes omnipresent and there’ll be an undiscovered thrill of hearing music with incredible fidelity that’s big and surrounding. Out of fashion at the moment perhaps…but just wait. I recall in the late 70’s, a reason UK Punk had trouble on American radio was that it was engineered for AM as FM hadn’t made it big there yet. The engineers and artists had never heard those slick compressed American FM’s. And of course American records like Journey and Foreigner were made for American FM. I predict resurgence in the critical importance of Sound Quality. Why? Because it’s there…and it SOUNDS AMAZING. You can’t stop quality. That message will hit the mainstream in time and the REAL sonic quality EXPERIEMCE will once again be a key ingredient to musical success. One answer in the music business I think is in 40+. Imagine if that audience was educated and introduced to the digital world---We’re talking billions of dollars. Guess what---90+ percent of the populous “upper demos” love music and are completely clueless about how it works today. What’s available…how to acquire it…how to embrace it Hell, people in the MUSIC business itself are confused by all that’s going on— Not an easy challenge, but there’s platinum in them upper demographic hills…just WAITING to be mined. I’m talking about a major venture and initiative to tap in here, not a new label that re-packages oldies or a one-off. Here at XM, you’d be AMAZED at the volume of people in that demographic re-discovering music. Someone in this demographic may have given up on music radio—opting for News/Talk and Public stations…after all, there’s not much interesting music in most FM markets. But if exposed, look out. They are voluptuous consumers who have no problem spending a few hundred bucks on a concert. They are just OUT OF THE LOOP with the Recorded Music Industry…or the music industry is OUT OF SYNC with them…but they are there—LOT’S OF THEM and with rich musical histories that can be re-ignited. Maybe it’s catalog, eclectic and established artists more than newly emerging ones…but that’s better than their current level of engagement which in terms of recorded music is near nil. And unlike the young end which has an overwhelming variety of choices, prefers free and may even prefer gadgets to sex, this older end does not think that way. It’s NOT a sexy or cutting edge thing---it’s just old fashioned locking into a demographic and pullin’ out the stops. Few know how to reach this demographic from a musical perspective. Just remember those god awful Fidelity ads shilling Mc Cartney and the Stones. Then again, Sting sold a few Jags. There's new un discovered music there too. So many artists that AREN'T doing some offshoot of alternative or Hip Hop aren’t pining for a label deal or fame. there is SO much experimentation and quality that doesn't have a prayer on pigeon holed FM radio or in the system...but is making some amazing music. there's an unbelievable opportunity in re-thinking the marketing of music to 40+. Wide open. that's the gold mine...the untapped one. It’s not the long term future—new, young emerging artists are---but for the next 10-15 years, I see a massive opportunity in pulling out the stops to reach this group—non traditionally and powerfully. Scenario:

Q: Do you like music?
A: (from 40-50+ something): Yes! I already have my James Taylor tickets I paid $3,000 for
Q: When did you last buy music?
A: Oh, 1980 or so.
Q: Do you download?
A: My kids do that…how does that work again?
Q: You like James Taylor eh? Have you bought any of his last CD’s?
A: You mean he did something after Fire & Rain?

…you get the idea. They are SITTING there waiting to be engaged on THEIR terms…not on the traditional “lets go after the kids” terms.
It is do-able.

Oh, and Paris Hilton is going to Rwanda to help starving children. I’m all for saving Africa, but I kinda think these celebrities might consider saving America first…but I guess that isn’t the “cool” thing to do…Actually Paris should just MOVE to Rwanda

Monday, October 15, 2007



There was a 100 foot ceiling and ¼ mile visibility leaving DC. In about 30 seconds we climbed over the overcast to remarkably blue skies. The West Virginia Mountain tops were breaking over the cloud tops and once it cleared up a bit, the fog laced valleys were punctuated by shafts of rain that created incredible rainbows. But the real magic was once we landed. In Evansville Indiana with Chuck Dickemann who heads up our baseball operation, to visit a guy who has tens of thousands of tapes of full play by play Baseball and Football games. The guy is remarkable. His basement is a warehouse with literally thousands of tapes. Meticulously organized. This is the guy that Sandy Koufax will call if he wants a tape of one of his no hitters…or Fox News will call for baseball audio. It was Baseball nirvana. And it’s in a guy’s basement in Southern Indiana. He’s been collecting for about 50 years and has an immaculately cataloged collection that ranges from genuine complete broadcasts from the 30’s with Babe Ruth to the latest playoff games. All the great announcers. The ultimate in theater of the mind. Really captures the romance of baseball as nothing else can. As the world changes, the magic of calling a ball game remains the same. I remember the transistor under the covers. Bob Elson and Don Wells calling a Chicago White Sox night Game…every ad was for “Friendly Bob Adams” with Household Finance. They took you right there…an indescribable magic that combined tension, joy and a sense of security and warmth that said “all is OK with life”…especially since we have Hoyt Wilhelm warming up in the bullpen.

Most Local TV News is pretty average...or worse. Opie and Anthony watch it before going on the air…for inspiration. When a comedic morning show uses Local TV news for material, you know something is up. Watched a few different local newscasts this week. Maybe this stuff works…I tend to think it’s vulnerable as (at least in media saturated, ethnically diverse and relatively sophisticated areas like the Northeast Metropolis) it’s just kind of “there” on a slow path to irrelevancy. I'm not in that business so I don't know...but I can assume there is the same addiction to cliché as in radio. One way to look at it is that all the stations' presentations are all SO similar they cancel each other out. Haven’t seen anyone breaking the mold. There's a fascinating site that is an incredibly rich vault of data--most of it indicating a NEED for old media especially to do some mold breaking ...Some casual observations from my local TV news watching:

*All the newscasters look the same.

*Mature looking anchor with Female sidekick…jocky Sports guy…eccentric weather person….or “meteorologist” (we used to have ‘meteorologists’ on stations I consulted…of course they knew nothing about meteors or weather, but what the hell….

*All the slogans are the same. Eyewitness, Action, Leader, etc…

*There sure are a lot of fires and shootings

*All the “intro music” is the same

*The “format” of the newscasts is all the same.

*All their websites look the same. Color content, look and layout

*The banter is annoying and cloying and soooooo fake.

*The wording is Journalism 101---which becomes more dated by the day.

*All the sets look the same.

*Everyone is too damn happy

*Everyone is too damn clean cut and “TV” looking. A parody of itself.

*News people try SO hard to be “loose” that they come off uptight.

*The jokey back and forth ISN’T funny…it’s goofy.

*They tell you about a weather emergency then make you wait 20 minutes

*The weather emergency really is no big deal after all.

*There is NO point of view. Strictly vanilla.

*There’s this standard timbre and style that everyone has.

*You can just smell the focus groups.

*Everything is colored blue. Must "test" well.

*It’s so “formatted” it’s surreal.

*There’s an arms race with snappy hi-tech weather graphics.

*The big blur. No defining lines between important stories and junk stories. Junk is fine, but I’d think it should be separated. How can anyone have any cred when they report on Paris France AND Paris Hilton.

*It’s all cliché hell.

…in the “average” department, it’s actually WORSE than local radio….and ‘average’ sucks.

Fake News. A big trend. Been happening for years. I’m noticing more and more people who like fake news better than real news. Major newspapers should print lampoons of themselves…probably would be very successful limited editions. Fake news has entertainment value. Like The Onion. It’s actually more intellectual than real news in many ways in that it makes you THINK.

News Aggregators---Fark, Drudge, Breibart----Every Newspaper should study these guys. I'm sure there's this "that's not real news" thing. Well the reality is---Joe public doesn't care. They are providing the TARGETED, scannable and relevant information. Oddly enough, much of it COMES from newspapers and traditional print. They've just learned to format and "select" it better. Newspapers seem locked in 1938...the milkman and paper boy era. I think the concept of a newspaper is timeless---it just needs to compete on 21st century terms. Like discussed a few blogs ago: Getting in sync! It's not about lowering's about....getting in sync.

Been overwhelmed with “help me get Hannah Montana ticket” requests. It’s a clever TV show in a Disney kinda way. Easy to see why it’s so successful. Let’s hope Miley keeps her personal act together. The thing I like about the show is that it doesn’t pretend to be anything its not. Pure kid fun. A.D.D.TV. Harmless and giggly. TV Land showed the original Leave it to Beaver pilot. Interesting as June, the Beve and Lumpy’s Dad were the only cast members who made the cut to the regular production, though Lumpy’s dad played a TV Station executive. Kind of creepy to see a guy other than Hugh Beaumont kissing June…and Dad also smoked a lot on the show. Wally was kind of a jerk too. I think they sensitized him with Tony Dow and then went the pure jerk route with Eddie Haskell. Good move.

Cubs swept in playoffs. No shock. Being from the SOUTH side of Chicago, I am not unhappy about their loss. Of course my White Sox had a pathetic year, but that’s OK. They’ll be back in ’08. As a Sox fan--The problem with “The Cubbies” is that whole Yuppie thing. Even that nickname “The Cubbies”—so lame. Leave the bank job early, nurse a few Corona lights and then boo the “Cubbies” when they lose... They White Sox on the other hand are a real working mans team…industrial…bad ass. Hard core fans that are born Sox fans. The team has character…always has-from the Black Sox of 1919 through Bill Veeck to Ozzie Guillen. Plus they have a Jewish owner, a Black GM, a Hispanic manager and a Polish catcher. Now THAT’S what Chicago is all about. Sox are AC/DC. The Cubbies are Kenny G.

Plus Wrigley field is highly over rated…it smells bad, serves crummy food and is a magnet for baseball fan wannabees. I am impressed that Wrigley is still called Wrigley instead of Microsoft Field. Of course US Cellular is STILL Comiskey Park…The old Comiskey Park was a classic. I got to go in the clubhouse once as a guest of Dennis De Young and Tony La Russa. Former associate Jon Sinton and music mogul Danny Goldberg came with. It smelled like 70 year old cigars. In the training room where coaches “study prior games” The Andy Griffith show was playing loudly to the chuckles of several players and coaches. Jim Leyland was chain smoking and Tom Seaver (then a White Sock) was sleeping. The ceiling was leaking. THIS is the White Sox Club house? I then realized that maybe a new stadium was a good idea.

The Ventures are being nominated into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. About time. I can’t think of a single group that influenced a generation of GREAT guitar players more than these guys. Learning Walk Don’t Run was a rite of passage. If you were a REALLY good guitar student, you’d learn the original Walk Don’t Run as done by Johnny Smith which was quite a bit different. In any case, the Ventures popularized an accessible approach and sound to the electric guitar. The EARLY Ventures were the best…before they started doing covers of hit songs. Unfortunately the Rock Hall remains a bit of a joke. Tremendous potential, but they just can’t get it right. And of course they are incredibly biased toward a certain sound. Yes for example will probably never make it in there as they were the scorn of most rock journalists who seem to command the decisions. Most artists revere the early Yes because of their originality and musicianship….but the hall isn’t about that. Their highly skewed "hip rock critic" bias is undermining the potential of the Hall as a tourist attraction, money maker and beacon of relevance. A shame. They don't get it. WAY too elitist for something as Middle America as Rock n Roll....

Dermot Hussey who runs the Joint, our Reggae Channel turned 70. Had a little party for him. I thought he was 50-something. Low key guy and the real deal…hails from Kingston. He’s seen a lot…he gets it. He’ll probably be around another 70.

Judging artist popularity in regards to programming songs sure has changed. Way back, a station would call record stores and ask what was selling. That was one of my duties back in Miami. I remember finding out the stores that our competition called and giving them dozens of clean Albums we’d gotten for giveaways as an incentive to report the WRONG information to the competition. It worked. They’d have some song at # 7 that sold ZERO copies. Today you’d call that “industrial sabotage”…back then it was called ‘kicking your competitors ass’. We’d also do things like call the weekend jock on their hotline pretending to be the “National PD”—we’d tell him to change the rotation immediately…add three album cuts an hour, etc….We’d screw up the station till Monday when the real Program Director would discover the problem. We used to bug the PD's office and rifle through their trash. Never really got any significant competitive advantage out of it, but it sure pissed them off when we'd do a "Beatles weekend" exactly a week before they did.

Nowadays, you can’t really call record stores for data. A bit more complicated – funny how most radio stations don’t use the tools available and still look exclusively at trade papers or rely on promotion people to see what the other guy is doing. It’s called the blind leading the blind …A vicious circle…and kind of silly when there is so much info out there…if you look for it...It's OK the be on the curve instead of right behind it musically. Might make a few mistakes, but the benefits of being ON the musical curve long term far outweigh the negatives. It's about using ALL the resources to make musical decisions rather than relying on the old fashioned low hanging fruit. sure to check out Marty Stuart's amazing "American Odyssey" show on XM. It really is an outstanding production and celebration of American music.

Monday, October 08, 2007



Sometimes I get depressed about XM. Not about the service or anything like that, but at how there are so many issues to deal with that really aren’t about what comes out of the speakers. Yeah, those issues are part of reality. I know that. But every now and then an event so purely XM and so purely about the mission happens…and it’s truly therapeutic. That event happened a few nights ago. Brought back the essence of what XM is all about. It was the Faith Hill Artist Confidential we had in the fabulous Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center. A remarkable night that defined what XM is. This wasn’t some FM styled label promo event. This was a full scale production. From Network TV coverage to a packed room of fans and VIP’s and press. The backdrop was a four story glass wall overlooking Central Park. Magical. I wish EVERY employee and listener of XM could have been there to experience the boundless potential and quality of XM at it’s best. Intelligent, of extremely high quality, yet inspiring in a both mainstream and musical way.

It was very challenging to put this together. Faith’s people are demanding (a good thing for the artist), and our crew was stretched to the limits--emotionally and logistically. But it all came off brilliantly. Our Artist Confidential team is good…real good. There are only about 5 or 6 of us that really oversee these but I think we are the best. I’ve been living in this world since I was 15, so I kinda get it. But the others that put these together with me are in some cases, relatively new--but really do it right. Incredibly high standards that artists appreciate and fans respect. Dealing with demanding managers and stars with great grace. Low freak-out or stress factors (the sign of professionalism I think) I went to a similar show that a big online company did and they had over 100 people with walky talkies. It was mayhem. Complete dark side self important stuff. Uptight and nervous. We are a small tight group that gets it done…with grace, consistency, speed, integrity and class. Three qualities that are hard to find these days in the music business.

Faith was a JOY to work with (as most Country and Soul/R&B artists usually are). What a nice person…and pro. No posse…no star bullshit. Her band is unbelievably talented. Other than Faith and her band, the star of the show was George Taylor Morris. XM has some amazing interviewers, but on this night George really pulled out the stops. He avoided any “junk culture” references and focused on the music and life of Faith. She responded with a flirty, genuine and absolutely stunning interview, audience Q&A and performance. George cut through the tabloid bullshit and got right down to her musical self. It was inspired. It was what XM is all about…and got out what Faith is all about. That’s the magic of Artist Confidential. It is about the art of music...not the trash. Artists and listeners respect that.

We also did Artist Confidential with Ann Wilson...along with Nancy Wilson and Heart. Cool show. Then on Sunday I saw a major Cable Network do an interview/performance with them. The host of the cable Network show was standard issue Network late 30's Female. Attractive in a tight ass straight laced clue about who she was talking to. It was so transparent. Lines like "Wow...that really rocked"----yeah sure. Sorta like Rachael Ray analyzing the cultural implications of the Beat Poetry movement...

Credit where credit is due—From CBS Radio honcho Dan Mason is a quote (below). Of course, great words—but can it be executed? I doubt it…but Dan has the right idea. Most broadcast groups are run by “operators”. They ‘operate’. Talented, but they could be successfully running anything, like a group of Wendy’s franchises. When things get tough competitively, they have nothing to fall back on. It’s ALL about ‘operation’ which assumes the product is solid. Take Wendy’s—if they suddenly had food that the public hated, those operators would be in deep shit. That’s how many radio operators are. Disattached from the creative product. I was impressed with what Dan said---I really don’t know if they can pull it off—Hell, it took 18 months to get the XM programming mindset focused on change when we started and we only had 100 people at the time.

"The leaders of radio companies are looking very tired. Seven years of creating no value for their stockholders and investors is taking the toll. Other than DAN MASON, radio companies need to put operators in charge again. It will be a hard decision for current CEOs to give up some power, but until creative people start to run radio companies again, with a vision beyond sales and revenue, there will be more of the same. Revenue is important, but we are being challenged creatively, and have not responded effectively. "Radio is good at serving its communities every day. Radio is bad at positioning itself. Radio people are great at positioning their stations, bad at positioning themselves." Continuing to point out his peers problems, "The press has created stars out of financial operators. We have made company leaders personalities, who now believe they can operate radio from the budget line, not the content line. Senior executives with creative content ideas, on-air and online, will be the trend in 2008. Not bankers. "Radio must start paying attention to trends of young people. On-line and on-air, they are telling us about song repetition, format diversity and lack of local content. We talk about it, but we don’t go far enough. The content must get better. In 2008 and beyond, it will be about quality, not quantity."

SOCIAL SYNCHRONIZATION--THE KEY TO UNDERTANDING: Why the President of Iran came off like a dope? I have a theory that it’s not about right or wrong…it’s about BEING IN SYNC. The third world is out of sync with our World…or vice versa. If our culture was in sync with Third World cultures, all would be fine. They are in a different time era than we are. You CAN’T suddenly evolve them to 21st Century American culture. Ain’t going to happen. The UK, Japan, Israel and even Dubai are relatively in sync with our culture so there’s an easy rapport, but a people that is literally centuries away in cultural thinking requires a different tact. Take Reagan—He was so IN sync with 80’s mainstream thinking that his popularity was off the scale. Another example of social synchronization was Nixon in the early 70’s…he was so out of sync with the emerging baby boom-helped bury his presidency. (Along with a few other big mistakes that over shadowed his generally solid International moves).People mistake out of sync with bad or wrong. That’s not the point. Relative to our way of life there is some pretty hideous stuff…but they/we are out of sync with each other culturally. Iran’s President is probably pretty smart as most Presidents of things are, but his thinking is SO out of sync with ours that it came off crazy. I mean they hang Gay people there. They probably think it is their God’s way. As insane as that is, I believe they live in a time SO out of sync with ours, that they don’t see the hideous nature of this. You know THEY are convinced that Rock n Roll is the work of their Satan. The attitude can be bomb the hell out of them—that’s the quick way but has a few issues around it—then there is understanding and intellectually figuring out how WE can understand the synchronization challenge and work from that. Global EMPATHY. Cheaper than bombing. Can’t suggest change without the first empathetic step. Of course, maybe violence is the only language some of these guys understand…drives me nuts when it’s always “America’s fault”. Any 'enemy' of the USA would be in much better shape if THEY used empathy toward OUR ways too. It’s a two way street in this new world.

Whether its media or world affairs---those in sync “get it”. I believe the far left and far right candidates for President should save their money and back out. The far lefties have Hollywood and campuses...the far right have the hard core fundamentalists and the Soldier of Fortune crowd. In the middle is this massive mainstream that's the big prize. The trick is getting in SYNC there. Our POTUS channel offers some interesting insight on who's in and out of sync.

IN SYNC (not the band) is a far reaching concept. In marketing and advertising all you have to do is be in sync with the target. Most products AREN'T--they’re slightly behind because they are driven by either committee so the whole thing is compromised by a clash of opinions...or over reliance on data which too often tells you what happened yesterday...or most commonly--living in a PowerPoint corp speak world instead of the real world. In radio, the classic out of sync is programmers living in the trade paper, record company driven "radio" world, and not in the real world so stations are in sync with each other and not the listeners.

More under the heading of CELEBRITY CRIMES AGAINST MAN: A London newspaper reported that Tom Cruise is building a 3 million dollar bunker to protect him from the alien landing that is scheduled later this year and earth will get blown up. I’d assume that those nasty alien bad guys will figure a way to take Tom’s bunker out. I think he needs to reconsider his stand on psychiatry…

Monday, October 01, 2007



POTUS means “President of the United States”—A new XM channel geared to deliver 24/7 unbiased coverage of the upcoming election. It was Hugh Panero’s idea…
Even though he’s not on site, he’s all over the thing. I think it’ll get a good head of steam as we get closer to the election and evolve into a pretty cool one stop shop for election info from the windbag to the cerebral. I'm especially excited about the use of classic election sound from the Roosevelt era. The channel takes advantage of theater of the mind—taking the topic from boring to soaring.

Celebrity Crimes Against Man: Brett Michaels has a show on one of the MTV offshoots. The skankiest circa 1986 girls on the planet vie to be his girlfriend. This show is actually worse than the Captain & Tennille show or the Alan Thicke Show for those who remember. It is a new definition for television garbage. Some shows are so bad they're effectively amusing. This one doesn't even go there. I'm sure there's some "buzz" but like with all junk culture, it’ll be short lived and at the end of the day more of a stain than a positive contributor to the channel's image and future.
Brett should hang more with Nikki Sixx. Nikki wrote a book. On the Times Best seller list. If you haven't had a big hit in 20 years, there are other ways to circulate your history. Of course little kids and the terminally stupid will watch this and find some cheap pleasure in it, but most North Americans have SOME junk filter where you watch it with a wink and an eye roll. I'm Amazed at how something tragically awful actually makes it into the National airwaves. EXPLICIT LYRICS ARE NOT THE "PROBLEM"...EXPLICIT STUPID is infinitely more dangerous. I'm always into presenting the public with what they want---But this ain't it.

New You Tube competitor coming on line soon. HULU. Sounds pretty whacky, though actually it’s a joint venture between Fox and NBC Universal. Interesting how “hip” meaningless names are. I think it’s a GOOD thing. A few years ago everything was very straight forward…and dull. Nowadays the most traditional companies are going for names that feel right though may be nonsensical. United Airlines has Ted, Air Canada has Jazz, then of course Google and Yahoo. Throughout my radio career I’ve been a proponent of station names that simply sound cool, in sync with the target and are easy to remember and produce. Usually got a “you cant do that”. Even at XM there was pushback on names like Fred, Squizz and America. Reminds me of the time John Lennon was asked why they called their label Apple. He replied that they liked it better than Orange. More people need to think like the Beatles.

Names come under testing the untestable. I really doubt if Google tested that name. If they had, I’ll bet it would have come out “MegaSearch” or something average like that. That’s the problem with testing untestables—you end up with Average. And Average sucks.

Speaking of the Beatles, I rediscovered their Anthologies. Especially the early and demo versions of their classics. A real lesson in music production as you hear the songs in their early stages. I then listen A/B with the final. Fascinating stuff. Any radio producer, musician or fan should go through that exercise. Inspiring. Timeless—pure musical brilliance. As time passes, you forget about how completely amazing they were. Everything fired on all cylinders. Practically a musical fluke.

Another timeless thing is that there’s a “new” Bob Dylan Greatest Hits package out, called “Dylan”. Not really into greatest hits packages since I have all of the ‘greatest hits’ on the original release anyways. Come to think about it, “Greatest hits’ is pretty goofy in itself. Very K-Tel. In any case, this is a really good collection for anyone who needs Dylan101. Any ANYone who hasn’t experienced Dylan music beyond the “radio songs” should listen. I mean, Hendrix used to carry around Dylan lyrics in a book for inspiration, and I have yet to meet a single artist of stature that doesn’t look to Bob Dylan as a songwriter and poet of the ages. I DO run into people who know “Lay Lady Lay” and not much beyond that. If you know of that person---give him or her this CD. Even those who “don’t like his voice” but haven’t really experienced him will find this package enlightening.

Sex Pistols are re-uniting. Big deal. They stunk then and I imagine they’ll stink more now. Saw them live when they first came out. God, they were pathetic. Of course radio got blamed for their lack of success in the USA, but in reality, everything they stood for was 180 degrees from the American music mainstream. For example:

PISTOLS: Tell Led Zeppelin to step aside. They’re old farts.
REALITY: we worshipped Led Zeppelin

PISTOLS: We can’t play a note---Musicianship is bullshit
REALITY: America cherished great players. Hendrix was still a God.

PISTOLS: Long hair is for wussies. Kill a Hippy.
REALITY: Long hair was cool

PISTOLS: Anarchy! Kill the Queen
REALITY: Why? She seems OK. Peace and Love

PISTOLS: Rough…back to basics. Screw the slick shit
REALITY: FM Radio made the rough stuff unlistenable

…you get the idea. Punk can be cool—I thought they were simply …bad.

Went on another pizza Flight to New Haven with Rob Johnston and the lovely Trinity who oversees our Jazz Cluster. Pepe’s. The place rules. Saturday I visited Potomac Approach Control. A “Tracon”—an Air Traffic Control Facility. Went last year. They have an open house for pilots. Fascinating place...Reminds me of NORAD as portrayed in War Games. A lot of civilians think the Air Traffic System is scary. In reality it’s incredibly organized and efficient. The volume of air traffic that is seamlessly handled is astounding. You really get blown away by the whole scene at this facility. Very professional and extraordinarily organized. Pilots---especially around Washington like to whine about the FAA, but those guys are just doin' their job--and well. They are faced with more bureaucracy, BS from their appointed administrators and politics than any of us will experience in a lifetime

One thing I wish is that ALL radio took the same attitude toward new artists as in the past. Nowadays, it’s generally fed by trade papers, flawed and dated research techniques and assumptions instead of grooves. Actually--it's really laziness--lack of attention. Being satisfied with what the trades, the labels or 'the other guy' is doing...
While I’m completely burned out on some of these, I remember with great vivivity, the discovery of certain artists that went on to great fame:

BOSTON: A guy named Paul Ahearn played me a Boston demo cassette in a hotel room. They’ll be big he said. I wanted to go downstairs...he said...NO! Wait! He was right.

ROD STEWART: A DJ played a whole side of Rod Stewart Album on the all night show so he could hit the john. Next morning there were 200 requests for the album cut Maggie May.

YES: Heard an AM Underground DJ names China Valles on WGBS-AM/Miami play Yes. Even on AM—blew me away. That was an odd station. Middle of the road all day…then suddenly they’d go “underground”.

POLICE: While in the UK for 3 months kept hearing the Police. Came back to the US saying (to often deaf ears) that this WASN'T some no talent band riding the New Wave thing —but an incredible group. Melodies, great musicianship, all the tools.

GENESIS: Heard “The Knife” from their second album on BBC Short Wave. Worse than AM…through the static, it sounded great. I guess amazing music sounds good under any conditions. A long time friend Roy Thomas Baker produced an army of Classic albums as well as the latest Smashing Pumpkins. Great guy---amazing producer. I once spilled Red Wine on his unbelievable expensive white carpet at his Hollywood home. Thank God we played a lot of Cars music—so he didn’t get too pissed off. Anyways, he once said he’d audition projects by listening to demos on a terrible mono cassette player and if they sounded good on that, it made the grade.

SKYNYRD: Tried to pick up some redneck girls at the pool at the Imperial House Hotel in Metairie, LA where client WRNO was based. They kept talking about “Free Bird” over and over and over. Listened to it—I didn’t get it---but what the hell, we played it—almost wish we hadn’t!

Back then you could also listen to regional stations and hear new stuff that hadn’t broken Nationally yet. I remember hearing “Journey to the Center of the Mind” on CKLW and importing that…or local band Heart getting action on our client KISW and importing that around the country. Yeah, I know—it’s nostalgic to think like this…but it was healthy.

The point is simply letting discovery happen. TRYING to discover. Never know what you might find.

Was on Opie & Anthony show the other day. We started talking about TV News. Those guys look at local TV news before they go on air…for material. Kinda says something about local TV news.