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


At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee are a total hoot! I never miss a read. My radio daze began back in college...Lee DeForest had just gotten the Audion to work. Well...I lie. Not that long ago. But AM was king. FM? What's that?
Uncle Ralphie
New Mexico USA

At 1:48 PM, Blogger Paul said...

I hope very much that Mel Karmazin will save IT next year.
What a treat - an historical, and nostalgic trip to songs we remember but never get airplay anywhere anymore.

Paul Stetler
age 52
Columbus, Burlington County NJ

At 7:19 PM, Blogger Tony Clark said...

In between radio adventures, I worked as a computer tech for a Michigan company that shipped us to Spartanburg to do Y2K computer upgrades for the parent company of Denny's Restaurants, which was located there. And yes, while we were there, we ate at the Beacon! Unique place, but I thought I was going to clog my gall bladder with the grease content of most of the menu items there!

Tony Clark
The Michigan Oldies Podcast
Somewhere in a beetfield in Michigan

At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Brooklyn Music Lover said...

Hi Lee. I found this comment very revealing: "5 weeks #1 on the World Music Chart. Not a real important chart…but 95 weeks at #1 is impressive on ANY chart." Well I guess this chart isn't important to you or many of the other XM programmers. Please let go of your Classic Rock roots and remember that XM is all about serving as many musical tastes as possible. It was really disheartening when XM dropped WorldZone and made it available only online. Please bring back WorldZone, there are so many of us who miss it.

At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I commute by train from Baltimore to DC every day, so XM and terrestrial radio don't work. My 40 GB player has every song to make top 20 on the Billboard charts from the 40s to 2000, plus new stuff, country and R&B. IT sounds like the 13,000+ songs I listen to every day.

Should be great.

Programming radio is so much fun, it gives life meaning. Your comments on research remind me that TV news, local and national, has fallen into the same trap - - programming their 30 minutes exactly the same as their competition.

Wouldn't it be fun to re-program a local DC or Baltimore TV news block? You could destroy the other stations.

It's a shame there are no "programmers" in TV.

Ed Graham

At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Channel 247 rebroadcast / fire coverage was excellent, and is a great example of what sat rad can do better than anybody else. I am not even remotely close to the fires but I listened to 247 for two days during the peak of the fires when CNN et al were - literally - talking about whatever Britney is doing now.

Here's an idea - get some emergency preparedness guys (Red Cross, FEMA, US Health / Human Science) to do call-in shows about disaster preparedness /first aid / pandemic flu / whatever on 247 when there's nothing going on. I'll bet you could get this content for very low $$$, and I'll bet you'd be surprised at the positive response.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger harris said...

hey whoa! i done tole you about what happens when your order isnt swift! harris, sc

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Roland said...

Hey, Lee. I'll bet I'm not the only one who would love to hear a Celtic music channel on XM!

At 12:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Please read this thread on the XM board.

We really need you.


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