Monday, October 22, 2007

MORE COUNTRY MUSIC...RANDOM THOUGHTS AND THE BIG MILLION DOLLAR OPPORTUNITY IN THE RECORD BUSINESS

MORE COUNTRY MUSIC…RANDOM THOUGHTS AND THE BIG MILLION DOLLAR OPPORTUNITY IN THE RECORD BUSINESS

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

5 Comments:

At 8:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a 60+ listener who loves musicians like James Taylor; I wish XM had a channel that played that type of music. The Blend just doesn't fit; was thinking more like the music played on Escape but with vocals.

 
At 3:02 AM, Blogger robert said...

Have you tried "The Loft" ch.50?
Mike Marrone and crew do a wonderful job on that channel and the love and commitment to stellar music makes it a "must listen" for me everyday.

 
At 9:25 AM, Blogger harris said...

the beacon! caveat emptor: have your order ready by the time you reach the front of the line, or else youll get a old-fashioned tongue-lashing. thanks for the great radio and interesting blogging, harris, south carolina.

 
At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Eric said...

So, Lee, did you check the wing of your plane to make sure there wasn't any damage? Yikes. You're going to give me nightmares remembering the stuff that scared me to death when I was growing up. . .

 
At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You right a lot about the downfall of FM radio. I am always suprised at the way a pop song sounds on FM after I am used to listening to the song on XM. Can you wright a little on how FM radio speeds up the songs to fit more music on their channel. Sometimes they speed it up so much the song sounds stupid.

 

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