Friday, October 06, 2006

"Slowly, music on radio is disappearing into talk, a trend we've seen for the past two years...In ten years it will be clear, when we get through the messy part, what the business model looks like." Dave Goldberg

Dave is Yahoo Music's VP/GM and speaking at the Digital Music Forum in Hollywood this week he also said music will disappear from CDs. Dave would seem some years behind Mark Masters the first to offer the FM as spoken word medium proffer. Ten years is so far out that I have to disagree with Dave. Provided the velocity we know today as a given - certain to be an error of serious significance - it is not at all likely that anything will be clear. Kudos to Laurie Sullivan, she provides a nice recap of the DMF event via TechWeb here. What do you want to bet Dave gets a phone call from Walter Sabo? Check that. How did the conversation go Walter?

Before someone emails again about Walter's claim that he invented AC and then invented FM talk radio. Let me address the second first.

Talk on FM radio was first introduced in 1949 at KPFA. Lew Hill was an FM radio pioneer. He invented spoken word radio on FM, listener-sponsored non-commercial radio, and progressive, (anti-war, anti-draft) FM talk radio. His was the first FM to win a Peabody in 1957 and went on to win a second in 1961. His second station KPFK invented counter-culture talk and during the sixties spoken word artists included the then unknown Firesign Theater. Lew's Pacifica was the wellspring of those who first created the community radio movement. Lew featured children and young adults on the air in programs including "Voices of the future" and "Tomorrow's leaders today." Imagine any program or format you wish, no less than a bite-sized version of it was probably on the air at one of the Pacifica stations prior to 1975. In fairness to Walter the Pacifica stations were not then and are not now 24 hour talk stations. Should you be a scholar of Pacifica please do post or email to disabuse me of any of these notions.

In the last century I recall Reid Reker presenting me with his idea for a "guy talk" format on FM, he called it "The Package." Reid went on to program WCKG, during his second tour of Chicago. He also launched the CBS talk FM in Dallas where he served as GM.

Walter did introduce his version of a 24 hour FM talk format in New Jersey. He remains a highly visable champion of the format. My take is Walter is one of the modern day architects of the format.

With respect to the first - who invented AC radio? My guess would be Ted Atkins (WTAE) and Ron Chapman (KVIL) with honorable mentions to Bob Hughes (WASH) and Don Kelly (KIOI and WFYR). Was Walter the first to lead and convert a group of major market FM AC stations (NBC)? My sense is yes, those would be achievements he may well have captured before any other. Ron Fell is the person who would know, he would be my first choice as subject matter expert on early AC radio. After all it was Ron who first coined the term Adult Contemporary along with Bill Gavin. Right Ron? Please favor us with a post.

Doc Searls six suggestions for public radio...

Second, quit copying commercial broadcasters. This means, a) relying more on listener relationships and contributions than on "underwriting" that amounts to advertising, and b) simplifiying complex websites that ape the worst of what commercial broacasters (and, for that matter, newspapers) do — which is put up craploads of internal links that trap the user in a maze and exposes them to advertising along the way. Look into River of News approaches to what the station is doing. Think about how people listening to radio in cars also have mobile phones and iPods. Add that up.

Bravo Doc! Read all six of Doc's suggestions here

Ending the meeting: The question to ask at the end of your planning meeting.

"What are the five things that could go wrong, and what would we do about each?"

Thanks to Harvey MacKay via Tom Peters.

Google Radio Division = 1,000 = game changing innovation ahead

"Schmidt said Google's plans to being (sic) placing radio ads by the end of this year remain on schedule, contradicting recent talk within the industry that the company had postponed the project. "The tests are going extremely well," said Schmidt, who added Google eventually plans to employ about 1,000 workers in its radio division." More via AP @Business Week here

The Departed: Folks are saying Scorsese knocks the cover off the ball, again. The year's first must-see

Wine of the week: Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa. Drinks like a $40 wine, you'll find it priced under $10. Cheers.

Fall colors are peaking here - beautiful, crisp mornings. Go METS! Have a great weekend.


Ron Fell said...

I am absolutely certain that Bill Gavin coined the phrase Adult Contemporary. That's not to say he created it as a format. Bill was looking for a handle on a format that seemed to represent a growing cadre of Gavin reporting stations.
The stations might have been labeled Chicken Rock, or Easy Listening, which to Bill were negative designations. He felt that many of his former MOR stations wanted to attract contemporary adult listeners. Simple as that.
The premise at the stations and in Bill's head was Rock and Roll/Top 40 had been around long enough by 1973 that there were plenty of listeners who'd grown tired of being treated like a teen, yet were not ready for the standards and schmaltz of Middle of the Road.
Bill hadn't a clue what he'd done with such an annointment, but it lead to many adult-leaning pop stations adopting the moniker or handle.
The format has never been a big factor in music sales as nothing could compete, nor can it compete with the musical appetite of teens and the very your adult. But A/C offered a sancturary for those "contemporary adults" who still appreciated the new and now.
I played only a small part in the development of the format when I replaced Bill as his A/C editor in 1975 and anchored the format at Gavin until 1998. I had joined Bill and The Gavin Report following three years programming the NBC O&Os in SF (KNBR AMFM. I witnessed A/Cs search for respect and identity within the larger music community as the phrase competed with R&R's chart label of Pop Adult and Billboard's Easy Listening.
I think the format was stiffled early on and remained suffering because programmers in the format did not see the connection between "adult" and "new." I was frequently disgusted at format leaders who couldn't find more than a dozen truly new songs to play, and who couldn't find more than two opportunities per day to play each new song.
For decades it also seemed Top 40/CHR had a bold contempt for anything A/C and yet in the late '90s what becomes of many non-urban Top 40/CHR stations? They adopt the handle of Hot Adult Contemporary. How hilarious?
I left the business in '98 without seeing A/C radio get its props. I also noted with some sadness that programmers felt and feel that only extreme treatments of current music can satisfy the contemporary adult. Those treatments are what I'd prefer to identify as either a mix of re-current and oldies, or a too-hip-for-the-room mix of non-hits. Good golly Miss Molly there must be something in-between.
But that's why they invented the Walkman and later the iPod.

Thanks for the invite, David. I will now slowly, if not gracefully, crawl down off this soap box one last time.

Ron Fell
San Francisco