Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Effective April 1, I will be heading to Chicago. My new email (After April 1) will be:

Heard a lot of rumors about why I am leaving XM for the Tribune. There is only ONE reason: A remarkable opportunity. I guess I have this thing for danger. Going with FM at a time when FM was literally housed in closets playing Doctors Office music...Going with XM at a time when no-one said people would pay for radio (almost 20 million are FYI)...and now going to a business that some say is on life support. I think Randy Michaels, myself and the people I'll be working with are pretty good media surgeons...with high confidence that we'll do our part to help create a renaissance and a new level of health, happiness, well being and prosperity with the people and brands of Tribune. Lofty words, but that’s the plan. THAT'S why I am leaving XM. It has NOTHING to do with: Mergers, Firings, or any other high drama. The Tribune mission is an opportunity that you just can't pass up.

Leaving XM is hard. There are way, way too many memories (bad, good, strange, whacked and funny) to reminisce in this forum, but I can’t think of a place I've been that has been more memorable and magical. There WILL be a book.

The upside for me is now I can listen to XM as a fan...without a legal pad.

Ad astra per aspera

Monday, March 17, 2008



We signed a 24/7 George Strait Channel. Here’s a strange adventure and how that how that came down.

XM's Eric Logan, a Country music devotee and the guy who admittedly wears the suits around XM (and likes it), comes back from Nashville with stars in his eyes. He spent time with Erv Woolsey, George Strait’s manager and they talked about things we might do with George on XM. That evolves into us going to Cleveland to meet with Erv and George while they are playing an arena up there. problem. I’ll fly, you make the arrangements. We then recruited Sandy Girard. She’s the go-to person here that went with us to Cooperstown and did NOT have a good time babysitting two baseball fanatics who had better hotel rooms. Thought it would only be right to make amends. Gary Hahn from our marketing department was also going to come, but his wife won’t let him fly with me. So, Rob Johnston from XM Research joined the party. This was one hell of a trip.

Early in the morning, it looked bad. Snowstorm in Cleveland and ice all along the route. Every hour I emailed updates with a noon go/no go. At noon, the sky in Cleveland became scattered at 3000 feet. Still a lot of snow between us and Cleveland, but using every weather tool I could call up, it looked flyable. Ice would be an issue but the cloud tops were 8000, so we went at 10000. Upon arrival in Cleveland we’d have to descend through the icy clouds, but the plane has de-icing equipment and up there the clouds didn’t look too thick so it would be pretty easy. Hell, if everything went to shit, I could climb back to 10000 and come back to DC.

We met up at 2:30. Of course Sandy was late…but that’s OK as I calculated the departure time for that. Logan arrives with his cowboy boots. Uh Oh…it’s going to be THAT kind of trip. Departed at 3:15. Nasty turbulence up through 7000 feet. Sandy yipped every time we hit a bump. Lots of yips. Then it smoothed out and a nice uneventful flight with the snow and ice as advertised—well below us. Easy arrival into Cleveland’s Lakefront airport with a waiting Hertz car. Cleveland was polar cold.

Upon checking the tickets. Problem. There were tickets, passes and everything else….for Lexington Kentucky. Wrong date. Logan goes into his road manager routine, starts working the phones and gets things straightened out. I think/know one of the reasons he wanted me to come is to show me the Country world as I am known to be a rocker. He was at his best, working two cellphones and “organizing”. Arrived at the venue way before showtime. The Universal rep met us at the door with passes in hand and we met up with Erv. Erv’s a veteran. Met him ages ago. Has one client. George Strait. Since George has more #1 records than anyone on earth and sells out everywhere, you might say it’s a good gig. Then off to the catering room for dinner. Ran into some people I haven’t seen in years. Food was actually good. I was increasingly impressed with the low key organization backstage. Different from the intense near-panic you see at so many rock shows.

Then it was off to George’s bus. Nice ride. George looking cool and casual in pajamas meets us and is the nicest guy you’d meet. ZERO “I’m a star and you aren’t”….loves XM. Has it in his boat too. Eric did most of the talking as for Eric hanging with George is for anyone else like a private session with (put God-like figure here) . He did his best musical rap and stayed away from corporate speak (He’s a CEO in training). We had a great session though wanted to give him his space so we left him alone after a nice meeting. Then the danger started. We went back to Erv’s “quiet room”, a transportable bar and ultra VIP hang room. Being pilot I stuck with the greenish sludge Diet Mountain Dew. The others did not. An well stocked free bar opened the gates to an intensely alcoholic evening. Lots of hugging and hi fives, but then….a bunch of guys from WGAR showed up and it was like a flashback to a 1985 Radio & Records Convention. I had no clue who they were, but I guess Eric worked with them and it was “Hey Logan dude…whats up dude….” Hug hug chat chat. Logan probably loved it…he was a star to these guys. I thought it was hilarious. A caricature of FM in 2008. Finally they left and the room was simply abuzz with small talk, big plans and good times. Eric’s red cowboy boots attracted the attention of a member of the opening act. They traded boots. The sober me was thinking it was going downhill fast. We then went out to catch LITTLE BIG TOWN. Decent Fleetwood Mac type band. Nice. Caught a few tunes from the soundboard.

Through all of this, an increasingly buzzed Rob Johnston was a deer in the headlights. He’d never been backstage before and we were getting the VIP treatment. It was refreshing to see a research guy letting loose. “Hey whats that!?” (mixing board)…then “What’s in his ear”?! (Monitors)…”Is this food free”?! (yes)and “How do they do this”?! “Is that a REAL roadie”?! He was getting a taste of ‘the life’.

Then…the time comes and George takes the stage. It was electric. Erv was saying that there’s no-way they’d sell out the 20,000 seat venue. Times were tough. Huh? I saw two open seats in the place. The crowd was incredibly well behaved, and the usual concert aroma of reefer was nowhere to be found. No Frisbees, no barfing. The organization and politeness experienced backstage extended to the audience. Between songs, there was elated mayhem, but once George and his remarkable smile hit the notes, it was all reverence. The large band was tight as a drum and after a few rough spots sound wise they twiddled the knobs for a perfectly clear evening. Though I’m not a big Country guy(at least post 1970), it was an education. Total respect for what they do. I’ve been humming “Amarillo by Morning” for the past five days. Good thing George sold the show out as there must of been 20 well paid and beyond competent musicians on the stage.

As this was Eric’s night, he said we’d leave after three songs. We stayed about 10 songs. Bering a rock guy I forgot that 10 songs is only about an hour since there are no 20 minute epic or drum solos…just hit single after hit single that the crowd cherished.

We said thank you’s and goodbyes and then made a huge mistake. Rob drove the Hertz to the venue so out of habit, he drove us back to the airport. Big mistake. He and Eric were doing their best Beavis and Butthead after getting too drunk at a Slayer show. Driving 80 mph through Cleveland downtown…making wrong turns…cursing at each other “You pussy—go Left!”. Both the Cleveland police and Cleveland Memorial Hospital were racing through my head. How odd—I was actually the adult! Actually, Sandy was sort of an adult too, but Rob and Eric were 15 again…drunk, driving home from a Crue show where they struck out with chicks and expressing their manhood with dangerous road technique. And Gary Hahn’s wife is afraid of FLYING with me?

Finally found the airport. Rob overshoots it by 1/8 of a mile, then backs up at 80mph. There’s a buzzer and intercom to enter since it’s around midnight. I worked the buzzer. If any of those three did, the TSA would be there in about 30 seconds. Checked weather and filed a flight plan. Paid the fuel bill and the guy saw my all access pass, and asked if we wanted to see George’s plane, as he was hangared there too. I didn’t want to suffer plane inferiority, but Logan went nuts and kept reminding me how George could make it to Texas in the time it took us to go back to DC. Thanks.

Took off into a frozen black night. As the lights of Akron faded into the distance, we reached altitude and the compounded altitude induced effects of the alcohol of my passengers generated discussions that were beyond whacked. Primarily focused on the sexual orientation of every XM employee. Listening (and OK...contributing) to these bizarre and hilarious discussions---while simultaneously talking to the controllers at the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center was…different. Then they had to pee. I wont say who, but the emergency pee bags were brought out and the cabin turned into a giant bathroom. We were doing close to 300mph so the trip wasn’t very long, but I’m still REAL glad I bought those bags.

Upon landing, there was additional peeing by the taxiway…and we all walked away thinking: We successfully organized a big deal with the biggest name in Country music...and survived Rob Johnston at the wheel....This is what it’s all about!

Gotta wonder if I'll be making these flight at Tribune. Yeah....probably!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Me ver 2.0

I love XM. Everybody from the guard I wave to every morning to the people here who have been through the pain and joy (and outrageous parties that literally destroyed my house) that come with building something new…from nothing. But I’m leaving. In upcoming blogs I’ll have some juicy XM stuff (all good), though on April 1, blogging will cease as I take on the ONLY thing that could ever peel me away from this place. An opportunity so profoundly “me” that I can’t help thinking the big guy is looking after my career. A three in a lifetime chance to re-invent (First there was FM, then there was XM, now there’s Tribune). Heading to Chicago on 4/1. I was hired by Randy Michaels. Three advantages there:

He’s possibly the smartest guy I’ve ever met
He MIGHT be crazier than me…at least I won’t have to fear being too out there.
We ARE going to re-write the future of media. He’s the kinda guy you want to do it with.

Here’s the press release:

Tribune Names Lee Abrams Chief Innovation Officer
CHICAGO Mar. 11, 2008 -- The sweeping change underway at Tribune Company today took another giant leap forward as the media giant announced the appointment of music and radio industry icon Lee Abrams as Chief Innovation Officer. Abrams will be responsible for innovation across Tribune’s publishing, broadcasting and interactive divisions, and will assume his duties April 1. He is the first person to hold the position in the company’s 160-year history.
“There is a remarkable opportunity for Tribune to design the future of American media with passion, intellect, and imagination that meets the spirit of the 21st century,” said Abrams. “We have the resources to pioneer a new age of information and entertainment that re-invents and enlightens—and that is exactly what we are going to do!”
Since 1998, Abrams has served as Senior Vice President and Chief Creative Officer at XM Satellite Radio, overseeing the development and programming of more than 100 radio stations. At XM, Abrams developed programming with such diverse artists as Bob Dylan, Snoop Dogg, Quincy Jones, Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis.
“Lee is the most formidable creative thinker in the media business today,” said Randy Michaels, Tribune’s president of broadcasting and interactive. “He invented the modern FM radio format, got satellite radio off the ground when no one gave it a chance, and managed to advise on the redesign of “Rolling Stone” magazine and the launch of TNT Cable Network in his spare time. Lee’s going to pump new life into our content, re-energize our brands, and get people thinking and working together like they never have before.”
Abrams, 55, was the founding partner of Burkhart/Abrams, the Atlanta-based consulting giant, and is credited with inventing album rock, the first successful FM format. He pioneered the radio “morning show” and gave Howard Stern and Steve Dahl their first major market jobs. Abrams has also been a marketing and content consultant to MTV, Swatch and Coca-Cola.
:: :: ::
TRIBUNE is America’s largest employee-owned media company, operating businesses in publishing, interactive and broadcasting. In publishing, Tribune’s leading daily newspapers include the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsday (Long Island, N.Y.), The Sun (Baltimore), South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel and Hartford Courant. The company’s broadcasting group operates 23 television stations, Superstation WGN on national cable, Chicago’s WGN-AM and the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Popular news and information websites complement Tribune’s print and broadcast properties and extend the company’s nationwide audience.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008



Went to the Doctor for a routine physical. He said that the fact I lost 70 pounds in 5 months borders on medically impossible. He suggested a book. I’m thinking infomercial…Nah. But I will say it does feel amazing. Now I’m going on a major workout program, now that I have the right approach to my passion for the culinary. Doctor says I should take a stress test first since I tend to OVER do everything. I’m on my “merger health plan”…whatever happens, I’m going to need to be in top mental and physical shape (and don’t ask about the merger---you read the same press releases I do)!

Funny thing about losing weight…it’s painless and really just about re-thinking food. A classic re-think. America is being tricked by the silly fads. It’s all SO simple.
Speaking of food, I’m a Food TV addict. My favorite is Anthony Bourdain. Guy smokes, drinks and has total character. Liked him ever since I read his best seller “Kitchen Confidential” which is a must read for anyone who goes to restaurants. I see that Emeril is joining up with Martha Stewart. Poor guy. She is pure evil. An Oprah wannabe, except she’s a convicted felon, a working wasp Leona Helmsley type who works the room better, but still is much more important than the “little people”. Responsible for hoodwinking the American Mainstream into thinking that here elitist lifestyle is attainable and correct. The ultimate Tele-snob.

Then there's William F Buckley. I always liked him. Also kind of a snob, but had a lot of class, intellect and eccentricity. Hey, the guy chartered a yacht so he could go into international waters to try marijuana to see what the fuss was about. Would have loved to see him sparring with Bill Maher--would kicked his uber-left ass. The guy had character that superseded his opinions. I sat next to him on a Pan Am flight to London many years ago. Couldn't understand a single word he said, but a real nice guy. Too bad he's gone. A real original. We need eccentric originals in EVERY area.

On a happier note…

Baseball season is upon us. Once again we are doing the PLAY BALL Channel for a couple of days leading up to Opening Day. It’s a trip. Classic calls, radio drama, baseball songs and plenty of audio from the classic Baseball Bugs starring Bugs Bunny. It’s THAT whacked. An audio nirvana for any fan. Lou Brutus is doing the legwork. Should be an interesting season. Of course there’s Roger Clemens who with each word, digs himself into a deeper hole than Hillary Clinton. They both need to study their presentation better.
Then there are the predictions. I can usually tell who’s going to suck by listening to the official statements from the team brass. Don’t bet on any team that’s:

Going after speed (Translation: No hitting or pitching)
Rebuilding (Translation: Not a prayer this year or next)
Going after youth: (Translation: The established stars are too expensive)
Confident in our Line-up (Translation: We couldn’t make any worthwhile trades)
Got some good live arms: (Translation: Gonna give up a lot of home runs)
The team is scrappy: (Can't hit a wiffle ball, but they try hard)

And for my White Sox? I am conditioned for the worst…

A team can’t really say “man, we suck”…Important to keep the eternal hope component alive and well that’s in the soul of every baseball fan. In media and music, denial is a real bad thing. Some of my favorite published denials:

“Home taping is the reason record sales are down”
(In the late 70’s---when the next year, Album sales hit an all time high…guess no-one taped anymore…)

“You can’t beat local radio’s coverage of local disasters”
(After Katrina when most of the local stations were blown off the air)

“FM?! You mean to say that an “FM “station will ever beat KHJ in Los Angeles in music?...hardly possible”
(at the Chicago NAB convention in 1969)

“The Internet is a fad…you can’t make any money with it”

...the first step in changing anything is eliminating denial. Gotta watch for that at XM.

How about those marketing short cuts called Slogans….In TV & Radio: They are usually ones that slide off the tongue well, but mean nothing. “The Best Hits”…”In it For You”. I doubt if those have any traction, and in fact might significantly contribute to the sameness and lameness.

In Newspapers: Most of them are old…real old “All The News That’s fit to Print”. Pretty harmless and I can’t imagine that they have any impact one way or another.

The Web: THIS is where they may contribute to definition and differentiation. For example, doesn’t say much other than it’s the website for the Daily Bugle. Big deal. EVERY newspaper has a website. Maybe a slogan that’s not hokey, marketing speak or typical, could help define the web strategy. I don’t see any papers doing this…it’s always simply the website of the paper whereas in reality, it’s SO much more.


A “statement” that defines the site. Gives it some “character” and suggests the unbelievable depth of information. NO-ONE is “selling” the newspaper website for the reality of what it is. A slogan/statement” can expedite this…and SET YOU APART.

Making up language: Google is SO perfect because they changed the name search to “Google it”. As new components are added to web sites , you have the OPPORTUNITY to invent words that describe web functions….just as every teen on earth knows what IM is. My point: THINK of words to describe functions.

There’s a new Rock Station in NYC. Hope it does well. the fact that there really isn't a rock station in NYC is symbolic of how radio has helped unwind music appreciation in America. Rock radio in particular has shot itself in the foot. Bowing to “laws of programming” that are insane. New CD by major artist comes out---you hear “the single”. Cool new sound comes out—Uh Oh…can’t play it because it didn’t “test well”. Let’s ‘trick’ listeners with marketing slogans about how we “really rock”! I sure still get a lot of heat for over sciencing radio…but when I was a consultant, it was really more about common sense than the “police-state” radio that exists now…plus there were always alternatives. I look around at how vanilla and junk culture it is now, and it’s sad…then again, it’s opened up the floodgates to amazing new technologies like satellite radio, Internet and I-Pods. BUT---in a hundred years, no doubt that radio’s creative death will be part of the study of American cultural downfall. I blame MANY (though of course not all) of the people running the stations. Sheep. McDonalds radio? No—McDonalds always innovates intelligently...most doesn't. Hell, they don't even WANT to.

Airplane wise, took John Stevens our production guy/musician who is always amusing to fly with as he looks like a cross between Satan and an Al Qaeda veteran. Also brought Liz Speer from our HR Department. Went to Phillips seafood overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. They drank heavily. Being the pilot I was doing straight Diet Coke. Enroute back to DC, they claimed they smelled smoke...twice. I had a little stuffed nose going, so culdn't smell anything. But the idea of smoke is enough to pay attention. I troubleshot every possibility...triple checked every gauge. Nothing. Nome base wasn't far, so I opted to trudge on and leave the plane with maintenance to have them look it over. They did. They kept it for three days and ran every imaginable test. Nothing. I chalk it up to the effects the alcohol had on them at 10,000 feet. Glad they bought lunch since the diagnostics far exceeded the lobster costs.

XM podcasts on I-Tunes are a hit. Just hit the millionth download mark. I do a “Green Room” feature that goes behind the scenes for Artist Confidential and tells the story of the signings and craziness that often goes into these. But I’m guessing that the vast majority of the downloads are for Opie and Anthony.

Sat in on Opie & Anthony show via phone for awhile. They called on me to comment that "the revealing Science of God" by Yes was voted the all time #1 long song that should be shorter. I went into my strong defense of Yes' early music and reminded them that Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed or Interstellar Overdrive by Pink Floyd is more worthy of that award, though Interstellar Overdrive is SO out there, it's cool. Lou Reed? Never liked him. Don’t get it. One of those Rock n Roll Hall of Fame types that the critics like as well as a few New York club types, but that's it. Nothing against the guy, he had an interesting song or three about 40 years ago, but he symbolizes the Patty Smith factor which in turn is why the Rock Hall is and always will be a dismal and sad reminder of how the "boys club" that oversees the thing is corrupt...they actually BELIEVE the Bullshit they put out. I guess you see I have a problem with many rock critics. SO disattached...a "club" that you are in...or not. Most people are not. Then there's the Maxim writer who reviewed the Black Crowes CD without listening to it. You see, the Black Crowes were doomed because they aren't in the club. And you wonder about the music business? It used to be amusing because it was successful. Now it's just plain sick. Savable...but it ain't gonna happen from "the club" members. Oh yeah, back to O&A. I always like going on their show. I can say Fuck...and they always bring up crazed but interesting topics. I'm really trying to get them into early YES and get them in my plane. Ain't gonna happen. DO check out Rick Wakeman on YouTube with his Grumpy Old Men skits. Hilarious. He came by XM many times and did “Rick Wakeman’s Keyboards n’ Komedy”---despite his image of orchestral music and capes, he’s actually one of the funniest guys on the planet…in a kind of John Cleese Brit way.

Inside the Actors Studio. What a great show. So non junk. we model Artist Confidential after it to a certain degree. Gives you a chance to get a feel for the talent and intelligence of some really great actors instead of what you see in the tabloids or watch on most TV shows. I was impressed by John Cusack. He was on the other night. What a shock--the guy had some very smart and insightful things to say. The junk culture merchants are helping ruin the film business too--s-l-o-w-l-y. that’s how junk works. It's a slow torture. Moments of titillation but in the long and big's a slow burn...out. You'd think that all of Hollywood is mindless, self absorbed and with significant mental issues...but when you see a real intelligent person who treats it like an art rather than a way to get laid and go to's pretty cool. Paul Newman and Robert DiNiro remind of that...and they're still very much around. There's a reason they are...and it's not salad dressings

Monday, February 25, 2008



The number one song in New Zealand over the Holidays was one that only Dogs could hear…right—humans couldn’t hear it. Well, it’s certainly a very creative approach to the shrinking CD market.

Big week for Celebrity Crimes Against Humanity:

*Lindsey Lohan posing nude as a modern Marilyn Monroe in New York Magazine. The thing here is that junk culture is SO bankrupt, it again needs to look BACK to create a stir. Let Marilyn rest in peace…

*Sharon Stone is a mouthpiece for American affairs in the Dubai papers. I guess that they see Pop and Junk Culture as being our primary export so she must be credible. Kinda like how 100 years ago they’d want to talk to Henry it's Sharon Stone. That’s a problem though. She’s a fucking MOVIE star…she’s cute…big deal.


*Bullet hits a bullet. Nice to see that he missile intercepted the satellite. Impressive creativity and mastery of technology that went into that one. Some say it’s “horrible” that space is being used like this. Guess what? It’s the high ground. This is just the beginning of military applications in space. I’m glad we are on top of it since we’re getting clobbered in so many other areas that involve tech and creative. Then there are the conspiracies---It didn’t really happen. Get a life. It happened..OK? Interesting to see how many though it was going to fail. “Oh, the government…they’ll screw it up”. 180 degrees from the macho we can do anything Captain America attitude of the 50’s. I think we have a confidence problem.

*My Fair Lady. Heard that the other day. It’s really good in a British kinda way. Not a big Showtunes guy, but I like that one. Not sure why I mentioned his, but I can’t get some of those Verrrrrrrrry British songs out of my head.

*Geldof praises George Bush for his efforts in Africa. I commend Sir Bob for that. Refreshing in that you’d expect him to say “Screw Bush” but he gave credit where credit is due. Of course the media, except for Fox, underplayed and under reported it because Bush isn’t fashionable. More interested in Lindsey Lohan I guess.

*A major new network (hint: It wasn't Fox) spends about an hour covering an “emergency”. It was absolutely ridiculous. There was no emergency. An American Airlines MD 80 had a landing gear door stuck and diverted to Miami. Routine, but they treated it like some huge disaster in the making. The misinformation, “Oh my God” timbre of the newscasters and sheer misinformation was frightening. A dis-service. Horrible sensationalism. Finally they had an American Airlines Captain on the line who said “Nothing against your network, but this really is no big deal”…of course the plane landed without incident, though it was covered with the ferocity of a major disaster. Junk culture personified. The payoff was that it was a big nothing.

There are times I get bummed out by the state of our culture and the LACK of the ultra powerful media doing anything about it. I’m not talking the shut down of the mainstream…but INVENTION. Stimulation. I always like to borrow from some great thinkers….a reminder that inspiration is timeless…and can be cool again:

"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."
— Niccolo MachiavelliThe Prince (1532)
"The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades."
— John P. KotterLeading Change
"Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times."
— Niccolo Machiavelli
"People don't resist change. They resist being changed!"
— Peter Senge

"It is a bad plan that admits of no modification."
— Publilius SyrusFirst Century BC
"The most successful businessman is the man who holds onto the old just as long as it is good, and grabs the new just as soon as it is better."
— Robert P. Vanderpoel

"Every generation needs a new revolution."
— Thomas Jefferson

"Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."
—John F. Kennedy
"He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.

"Capital isn't so important in business. Experience isn't so important. You can get both these things. What is important is ideas. If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and there isn't any limit to what you can do with your business and your life."
— Harvey Firestone
"Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart."
— Mencius (Meng-Tse), 4th century BCE
"Doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results, is the definition of crazy."
— Unknown
M. A. Rosanoff: "Mr. Edison, please tell me what laboratory rules you want me to observe."Edison: "There ain't no rules around here. We're trying to accomplish somep'n!"
— Thomas Edison
"Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know. Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted."
— George Kneller
"It isn't the incompetent who destroy an organization. The incompetent never get in a position to destroy it. It is those who achieved something and want to rest upon their achievements who are forever clogging things up."
— F. M. Young
"It's easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out of date."
— Roger von Oech
"We all operate in two contrasting modes, which might be called open and closed. The open mode is more relaxed, more receptive, more exploratory, more democratic, more playful and more humorous. The closed mode is the tighter, more rigid, more hierarchical, more tunnel-visioned. Most people, unfortunately spend most of their time in the closed mode. Not that the closed mode cannot be helpful. If you are leaping a ravine, the moment of takeoff is a bad time for considering alternative strategies. When you charge the enemy machine-gun post, don't waste energy trying to see the funny side of it. Do it in the "closed" mode. But the moment the action is over, try to return to the "open" mode—to open your mind again to all the feedback from our action that enables us to tell whether the action has been successful, or whether further action is need to improve on what we have done. In other words, we must return to the open mode, because in that mode we are the most aware, most receptive, most creative, and therefore at our most intelligent."
— John Cleese
"The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas."
— Dr. Linus Pauling
"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought."
— Albert von Szent-Gyorgy
"To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science."
— Albert Einstein
Without the playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable."
— Carl Jung
"When Alexander the Great visited Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for the famed teacher, Diogenes replied: “Only stand out of my light.” Perhaps some day we shall know how to heighten creativity. Until then, one of the best things we can do for creative men and women is to stand out of their light."
— John W. Gardner
"To be creative you have to contribute something different from what you've done before. Your results need not be original to the world; few results truly meet that criterion. In fact, most results are built on the work of others."
— Lynne C. LevesqueBreakthrough Creativity
"We shall not cease from exploration, and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
— T. S. Eliot
"Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future."
— James Bertrand
"There's a way to do it better—find it."
— Thomas Edison
"The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail."
— Edwin H. Land
"Creative activity could be described as a type of learning process where teacher and pupil are located in the same individual."
— Arthur Koestler
"There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns."
— Edward de Bono
"Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found."
— James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)
"The things we fear most in organizations—fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances—re the primary sources of creativity."
— Margaret J. Wheatley

"The achievement of excellence can only occur if the organization promotes a culture of creative dissatisfaction."
— Lawrence Miller
"When the 'weaker' of the two brains (right and left) is stimulated and encouraged to work in cooperation with the stronger side, the end result is a great increase in overall ability and ... often five to ten times more effectiveness."
— Professor Robert Ornstein, University of California

The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away."
— Linus Pauling
"To have a great idea, have a lot of them."
— Thomas Edison
"Companies have to nurture [creativity and motivation]—and have to do it by building a compassionate yet performance-driven corporate culture. In the knowledge economy the traditional soft people side of our business has become the new hard side."
— Gay MitchellExecutive VP, HR, Royal Bank
"That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of our time."
— John Stuart Mill
“Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate profits.”
— Edward de Bono
"Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport."
— Robert Wieder

"Discoveries are often made by not following instructions, by going off the main road, by trying the untried."
— Frank Tyger
"Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction."
— Picasso
"If you do not the expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail."
— Heraclitus
"The organizations of the future will increasingly depend on the creativity of their members to survive. Great Groups offer a new model in which the leader is an equal among Titans. In a truly creative collaboration, work is pleasure, and the only rules and procedures are those that advance the common cause."
— Warren Bennis

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats."
— Howard Aiken
"Some men look at things the way they are and ask why? I dream of things that are not and ask why not?"
— Robert Kennedy
"In every work of genius, we recognize our once rejected thoughts."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The human body has two ends on it: one to create with and one to sit on. Sometimes people get their ends reversed. When this happens they need a kick in the seat of the pants."
— Roger von Oech
"Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things."
— Theodore Levitt
"Innovation is the process of turning ideas into manufacturable and marketable form."
— Watts Humprey
"The innovation point is the pivotal moment when talented and motivated people seek the opportunity to act on their ideas and dreams."
— W. Arthur Porter

"Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions"
— Albert Einstein
"I roamed the countryside searching for the answers to things I did not understand. Why shells existed on the tops of mountains along with the imprints of coral and plant and seaweed usually found in the sea. Why the thunder lasts a longer time than that which causes it and why immediately on its creation the lightening becomes visible to the eye while thunder requires time to travel. How the various circles of water form around the spot which has been struck by a stone and why a bird sustains itself in the air. These questions and other strange phenomena engaged my thought throughout my life."
— Leonardo da Vinci
"Slaying sacred cows makes great steaks."
— Dick Nicolose
"In the modern world of business it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesman."
— David M. Ogilvy

"A person might be able to play without being creative, but he sure can't be creative without playing."
— Kurt Hanks and Jay Parry

"[I]in 1913, the first assembly line was implemented at Ford Motor Company. The process grew like a vine and eventually spread to all phases of the manufacture of Ford cars, and then through the entire world of heavy industry. There can be no doubt that a powerful revolution occurred at Highland Park—but it was not the assembly line itself that provided the power. Rather, it was the creation of an atmosphere in which improvement was the real product: a better, cheaper, Model T followed naturally. Every man on the payroll was invited to contribute ideas, and the good ones were implemented without delay."
— Douglas BrinkleyWheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and A Century of Progress
"Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties."
— Erich Fromm
"It's the same each time with progress. First they ignore you, then they say you're mad, then dangerous, then there's a pause and then you can't find anyone who disagrees with you."
— Tony BennBritish politician, in the Observer
"The world is but a canvas to our imaginations."
— Henry David Thoreau
"Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything."
— George Lois
"If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original."
— Sir Ken Robinson

Tuesday, February 19, 2008



Bill Hutton is a very inventive guy here at XM. He's an Audio Andy Kaufman. He had an idea for a live "request show" for Saturday nights on our LUCY channel. OK fine. A few days ago he asked if I'd listen to a tape with him. He was fearful no-one would "get" his show. So...we listened. Wow! This show is COMPLETELY whacked. It makes NO sense...which is why it's great. It really represents the kind of show a person would do if they never owned or even heard a radio before which is the way I wish EVERYone would think. It's truly a "show" and not a 'shift'. It's not that it's revolutionary or a "sure ratings hit" (it might even be a disaster)'s just refreshingly out there and different. If everyone in the radio business had his "no fear/no baggage" approach, radio as a medium would be electric with invention and promise. It's not the kind of show you'd tape and play to someone as an's just him. And---He USES SOUND! What a concept. He doesn't rely on standard “promos and sweepers" or those other relics that supposedly make "good radio", he uses SOUND and not necessarily 'radio sound'. I'm not saying his Saturday show is going to change the won't...but it's a small step in the direction of liberating from the traditional and trying something new. I don't even know if the show will work, but it's different, and he's stepping up to the plate. Might strike out, but you can't hit home runs without stepping into the batters box. I commend him for doing that.

We can make the world a better place through electronic media. I’m not talking about content…I’m talking about how content is presented. I think that XM gets it right a lot of, but not all of the time…terrestrial radio often shoots itself in the foot via adherence to circa 1980, TV ads often get it VERY right, TV stations have the terrestrial radio’s out-of-date problem…and the web hasn’t yet discovered the secrets.

Of course a lot of these secrets may never be discovered if the mindset continues to be marketing voodoo and PowerPoint’s instead of trying to understand the heartbeat of the product and then delivering the goods around that and having a balance of people who "get" that to work in harmony with those that have to navigate the treacherous non creative waters.

I’m talking about stimulating the eye, ear and brain. Forget the actual content itself for a second…I’m referring to what frames it. Eye candy...ear candy and brain candy. Audio and video that stimulates.

..In radio land which SHOULD “own sound”--it doesn't. Usually things like:

*Oldies station production that sounds 2008, not the era...lack of bites from the era...lack of authenticity...

*Slogans or statements that are featherweight and look right in the focus groups, are snappy slogans to clueless "radio" guys

*Clogged and cluttered with so much “stuff” so you couldn't understand the verbal message

* Direction & Vibe Out of sync with the target audience.

*No closing statements.....Sonics left hanging

*Weak "impersonations" and specialty voice work.

*Some of it sounding, frankly, dumb.

*Not using all of the tools available. Over-reliance on certain tools that create a sameness

*Weak...or nonexistant WRITING/SCRIPTING. Even a 5 second bit needs to be written. Soundtrack & Script = Amazing

*Not THINKING deep enough. Details often missing.

Some of the reasons sound is a throwaway include a disconnect between the product and the person creating sound for the product...not being IN THE STUDIO WORKING WITH THE PRODUCER...Great sound and vision doesn’t happen through osmosis. You gotta get in there and teach the Producers every nuance about the format...the they understand it...feel it...see it. Autopilot production will result in autopilot sound. OR- Buying packages. How disconnected can you get when everyone is buying the same package.



And there’s a style of thinking:

You are in a theater......its dark.....your eyes are closed....your senses are nailed with this stunning, chilling sound. You can "feel" the can "see" the sound. That is "Cinematic Sound"......That is the kind of sound that we should be producing. Sound Movies not Ads for Stations. It's a way of thinking...a way of producing.

Another word for it is "pictorial"...creating mind pictures. Anyone can create sound.....the genius is in sound that people can see. The best was Carl Stalling (The Looney Tunes guy). He would create the sound for a cartoon before it’s drawn, from story boards. In many ways, that’s what YOU are doing. The story board is the format outline. You are literally creating the soundtrack for the channel. That's why this stuff is so damn important. Go beyond titillating the ears...go for the (closed) eyes

Do you know who you're producing for? Beyond the research and latest voodoo psychographics. Probably not as most entities are programming in marketing-speak.

Sound and vision is a way to define the POV. POV creates fans. POV appalls non-target joyous to target listeners.

INTELLIGENCE: Smart sells. For some reason there’s this perception that smart means not mass appeal....elite.

Sound and pictures can do that. Where does that piece you created take you? Sound can do that if you let it.

Audio Disneyland: That secret place in the mind that turns sound into've all been there. Aka Whackyland.

Scenes: On America you picture a Cowboy on a horse on the prairie at Sunset...on Fine Tuning, it's a Cathedral in Europe....PRODUCTION creates this.

This isn't airy/fairy's the reality of transporting listeners through sound. Easy? Ah no!

Still tied to earth? Escape! There's a world of sound:

Natural: Thunderstorms

Human: Running...panting....sleeping...crying

Electronic: Phasing, Backwards songs, repeat echo, STEREO panning

Created: Get out your audio brush and paint!

Musical: Bagpipes on A Rock station sounded great! Harps, Oboes, Strings, Ukulele, Banjo,'s all there to use

SFX: Close your eyes. Listen. Office Sounds, Traffic Sounds. Sounds of Life

Media: Old TV, audio archives, TV themes, jingles. Sounds of culture

Crazy: Our Liquid Metal used Square Dance caller calling Metal lyrics is priceless and brilliant.

Use sound....all of it.

...and this use of sound isn't limited to radio. ANY MEDIUM THAT DELIVERS AN AUDIO SIGNAL FOR ENJOYMENT, NEEDS TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF "SOUND"---Why is that so hard to understand?


Big radio voices....why? It's dated. Try foreign accents, real people voices, whacked voices, regional accents etc....
The "Big Radio Voice" is by most accounts dead. Big voices are the radio equivalent of Ted Knight on the old Mary Tyler Moore show.

Without good, succinct writing, a piece can be useless. The line "XMs fine Tuning...adventurous music for a creatively starved planet" is cool...America's (the channel) promo targeting the Steel Worker is wonderful. Writing dramatically, clearly and intelligently is of critical importance. Every piece needs an end point...a reason. It can be as simple as station name, OR it can paint a sound and word picture that colorizes the name.

SHARING: Between us at XM, or any organization, there’s an incredible arsenal of sound. Get in there and share. Share the challenge to discover that "special" sound or vision.

Audio and video Production should be powerful. But powerful does not mean loud. It means gripping...compelling. Anyone can create loud sound....but there's brilliance in creating power and drama subtly. My point: There's a place for loud AND subtle. Pink Floyd are powerful but subtle. When you rock you rock...but when you roll.
Production can be:

IN YOUR FACE--powerful via rhythmic...body shaking
IN YOUR HEAD--powerful via Technicolor, lush, dreamy, sensual

Let’s not forget the POWER OF SILENCE where in your head is as powerful as in your face.

Float Like a Butterfly...Sting like a Bee

Short, medium and long. Mix em up.... There should be flexibility enough to use long pieces, but they need to hold up.

You gotta be able to UNDERSTAND the verbiage, there are cases where there's SO much going on, and the name gets blurred.

Stuff should be so original; stations in Europe will want to license it from you. Original may not have meant much 20 years ago, but its CRITICAL today to cut through.

Now…this is just radio. One day, print, TV and other media will explore the opportunity in exciting the senses. Then again, maybe they won’t. It depends on to what degree people who “get” this are allowed into the club.

Monday, February 11, 2008



Fever & Chills...really sucks. A lot of it going around the office and I got nailed with it Wednesday. Uh oh--my annual cold. First step was going to Bad idea. By the time you are done there, you are convinced that it's NOT a cold, but something far worse...maybe a rare smallpox that masks itself as a cold? Brought on by the Thai Food from the prior weekend? WebMd is is and some of those other sites, BUT--it's imperative you DON'T read too much into those as even the strongest willed mind will collapse to the "Hey...they might have a toe IS bigger...that must mean...oh" So, putting the web aside, I had two options. A) Infect all of XM and do sub-par work as I felt like shit or B) Go home, lay in bed, aircheck my DirecTV and thank god for blackberry, not be too disconnected from my chronic email addiction, now that Cingular put up a new Cell tower near my house. Of course, half the company was at the Grammy’s, so I picked a good day to be out sick since the building was relatively quiet.

TV, as always, was a mixture of education and pain. From a purely personal viewpoint, I found:

TBS & TV Land to be fun. Oldies TV. Ranging from the timeless brilliance of Seinfeld (A Seinfeld Twofer on TBS every night)! to the pop culture schmaltz of the Beverly Hillbillies which was SO blatantly stupid, it was fun...Unlike many of today's shows which are stupid but masquerading as "important".

JUDGE (put name here) shows. I like the smart/dumb balance here. The Judges being smart and practical and the "contestants" (hard to call them things like defendants) incredibly stupid.

INFORMERCIALS. These are frightening. Partially because I end up thinking "Hey--I could use some of that super-duper putty" to 'YOU FOOLS! You aren't going to make 5 million dollars with this sleezebags' book & DVD set!" I wish more channels had "real" programming instead of Infomercials...could be a great incubation area for "interesting" not ready for primetime programs. Call it "the incubator". Probably wouldn't make economic sense...

POLITICAL ADS: OK, WHY, WHY, WHY is EVERY candidate framing their ad with "I'm Citizen Cane and I approve of this ad". WHY? Can't any of these geniuses say it differently? I'll bet if Obama simply said "I'm Obama and the ad is cool by me" it would give him another state or two. Are these people SO focused grouped out that they can't see something as basic as this?

AIRLINE: Southwest Airlines is featured as the bad guy...canceling flights and not allowing drunks to board. More brilliance from the last of the great American Air Carriers. They consistently come off as the good guys. I'll bet the other carriers didn’t want to touch this show with a ten foot wing. I respect Southwest.

HBO; Quality. Sure--some bad movies (most movies ARE bad)...but minute by minute, they set the standard.

ROBERT DI NERO: Quality. A reason I detest celebrity worship in general. You don't see him New Aging out or working the tabloids. He just delivers. A role model.

60 MINUTES: More Quality.

LOCAL TV NEWS: I've addressed this before. It is SO bad it's actually funny. Grab some friends, turn the volume down and make up the dialogue---it's a great game. OR--keep the volume up and play "Count the clichés"....or buy a buzzer and play "Bullshit"--when ever they bullshit you, you hit the buzzer. You can have a lot of fun with Local TV Newscasts...maybe that's how they are programmed? To entertain, and create material for comedy writers. If so--they are doing a great job.

A&E: In our house we call a zone of channels "The smart zone"...Biography, A&E, science Channel types. My only problem is in a recent shift to sensational UFO discovery shows. Yeah, I watch them, but they're skewing just a little too game show for me, but if that helps attract a larger audience---hire Wink Martindale to host the next show about a meteor scheduled to blow up Earth in 2011.

Anyways, I get INSPIRED by all of this...It IS reality and kind of like the state of the government—A huge opportunity to get better. You can kind of see through the creation of the shows--which ones came from focus groups, rip offs of other concepts, play-offs on mass stupidly...and then you can ALSO see the ones that work…and have for a long time...and WHY. More TV programmers need to catch bad colds and aircheck the TV dial.

Went to my Doctor Friday. Diagnosed with an ear and upper respiratory infection (bad cold). Malaria.

Back to bed for TV and cinematic fever dreams that would have inspired Freud & Jung...and impressed Kubrick if I could have taped them...

...just when you are awash in self pity over a bad cold, there’s some very sad news. Greg Gillispie recently worked at XM on Deep Tracks. I also was his consultant when he was a PD at stations like KAZY in Denver and WDVE in Pittsburgh, and he was an associate at Burkhart/Abrams back in the 80's.

Media Consultant Mike McVay sent out this note:

Greg Gillispie Needs our help
Well known consultant and longtime programmer Greg Gillispie announces his retirement due to health. Gillispie, a 36 year media veteran, has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Greg has been battling the tumor for more than two years, while working at XM Radio and consulting radio stations on Programming.
Greg programmed radio stations in markets as large as Washington, DC.Denver and Pittsburgh as well as “touched” hundreds of Rock stations in 46 states during his time with Burkhart Abrams, Burkhart Douglas and later as President of the Rock division for McVay Media.
Gillispie is hopeful that with prayer and medical attention he will be able to return to work. He remains positive and is grateful to everyone who has been supportive to him, his wife Cathie and daughter Sara.
This was part of a press release sent out earlier today. Greg Cathie and Sara need our help!!! It’s a terrible thing as to what is going on in our country with healthcare. It’s a scary thought that any one of us could be knocked down with some type of sickness or disease that could wipeout our whole Life savings!!!. Cathie reached out to several old friends, last week, asking for advice and guidance. She told me she reached out to George Cappellini, Lee Abrams, Dave Lonaco and Neil lasher, as well as myself. After brainstorming all weekend, we came up with the idea of presenting a series of fund raisers to help with the hospital bills. Greg cannot get insurance at a reasonable rate because of his condition. Well we are working on that!
But in the meantime we are asking all of our friends and friends of Greg to send Cathie one hundred dollars($100.00) to help with immediate relief. To most of us this nice dinner out on the town. To Greg and Cathie it will help pay for an MRI.
This could happen to any one of us on. Greg isn't your responsibility. He isn't ours. It is however our opportunity to show how much we really care ... and do more than "say nice words." Let's show the Gillispie family that we care ... with action. We ask you to send a check to Cathie, and forward this E-mail on to anyone you think might know Greg and would be willing to help her work through this horrific situation….
Make Check's Payable to Cathie Gillisipe and mail them to her at:
Cathie Gillispie
361 Teague Dr NW
Kennesaw, GA 30152