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…


At 8:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee, I haven't commented for quite some time, but let me assure you, I don't miss one Monday Morning "click" to see if you posted yet another witty, no nonsense, "as Lee sees it" column. Once again today I am not disappointed - in fact you reinspired me about XM and its commitment to excellence in the rediscovery of musical genius and sharing that genius with an increasingly large audience. The last several years have been difficult as XM/Sirius came under attack from all directions. Kudos to those of you who have held fast to your fundamental beliefs in the medium. Keep up the Great Work!!

With thanks from,

Richard H. Brown
York, PA

At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the wonderful review of Faith Hill. I love her music rather it's her singing country/pop/gosple ect I love it all. It's a shame that a lot of people focus on why type she's singing instead of how wonderful she can sing.
Case in pint..too many canned her "Cry" before she could put out what I think is her best song "Stronger".
Again, Thank you for showing what she does best..singing! Look forward to the show!!

At 9:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Lee:

I believe that "Dan Mason" comment is attributed to Bill Figenshu.

Always love your stuff. Write about Happy the Man sometime!

At 11:07 PM, Blogger Jay said...

Lee, another enjoyable post from the halls of XM. glad to see Artist Confidential still having momentum.

one comment I have is the state of the Ethel channel and the "operators" and the connection. still in a variety is not there, the jocks are clueless.
an example of this was a comment I heard last week about Radiohead trying to get a record deal and no word on an album. the day before, it was all over the news and internet about Radiohead and their new album. talk about being current and knowing your product.

one positive on Ethel, the push for backstage interviews with the Offsites and Transmission/Submision are great.

thanks and keep up the great work!

At 7:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Faith Hill? and nothing about the new Radiohead album and the creative way they are releasing it

At 10:09 PM, Blogger Murphy said...

Lee, lets be honest. Sirius is FM on SATRAD. What are we going to do with the merger?

At 1:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee, lets be honest. Ethel is FM on SATRAD. What are we going to do about Steve Kingston?

At 5:04 PM, Blogger Pete said...

>> Lee, lets be honest. Ethel is FM on SATRAD. What are we going to do about Steve Kingston? >>

At least it's only one station as opposed to an entire service.

At 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We only met once or twice, beofre our station moved over to Sirius. But I was impressed with both your reputation and your presence. Discovered your blog today and found myself screaming "amen" to the Dan Mason comments. You should listen to the content we provide these days, light years beyond what we ever did with you guys.
I'll be reading.
Playboy Radio


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