Saturday, August 27, 2005

"Talk is cheap, whisky costs money" Joe L Floyd

When another second-generation broadcaster asks for help, I do my best. Further, let me suggest that you help, please - let's get Kevin Metheny out of jail, details are here

Thursday, August 25, 2005

"Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love" Lao-Tzu

I have made donations to the following three efforts, perhaps you will join me in making a donation to one or more. My thanks to John Rook for the reminder on Broadcasters' Foundation (btw, Gordon used to rep my stations).

Wikimedia Foundation is doing such good work - please jump over and give a little here

Broadcasters' Foundation is dedicated to helping broadcasters in need. Please consider a donation or join me in becoming a member, you may find them here

ReelRadio provides an excellent online repository, they are certain to appreciate any donation, find them here

By the way, please help to get the word out about Uncle Ricky, Richard W. Irwin, this gentleman is looking for work, you or someone you know probably knows of a good situation for this talented broadcaster. Broadcaster or cable operator with a website? He also does web work. Check him out here

Allan Stagg seeks a full-time radio station gig. A killer talent - Stagg is the goods, a rock star. Allan would make an exceptional addition to any staff. His Sanctuary program is an audio tour de force. He also does outstanding voice over acting. Need a fresh signature voice? Check him out here (Full disclosure - I provide counsel to Allan, a friend, on his business affairs)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

"Hell, there are no rules here...we're trying to accomplish something" Thomas Edison

Lewis Lazare writing about the business of advertising is about as good as it gets. I have been a fan of Lew's views for decades and highly recommend his writing. Today Lew stands up to the dead tree advocates at ASME (American Society of Magazine Editors)...

Based on our experience the past several days, we would respectfully suggest that ASME, which also hands out the esteemed National Magazine Awards (which the New Yorker, by the way, has won bundles of in recent years), has all but abandoned its watchdog role.

Rules is rules and ASME should police its own, shame on Marlene Kahan. Bravo to Lew for making an issue out of this. You may read Lew's take on the New Yorker/Target flap here.

From Letters to Romenesko, John Higgins writes...

Lewis Lazare calls the New Yorker's "Target" issue "the most jaw-dropping collapse of the so-called sacred wall between editorial and advertising in modern magazine history" and "almost impossible to discern any line of demarcation between Target's advertising and the New Yorker editorial product." So what did this issue contain? A long article on Kinky Friedman's Texas Gubernatorial campaign, a lengthy profile of Billy Graham's son, a short column item on a collection of Osama Bin Laden's speeches.. Where, exactly, was the confusion here? Lazare couldn't tell the difference between the Target ads and a review of recent books on Kim Il Jong?

Seems to me it's all about full disclosure, it's about following the rules, it's about standards. On balance I agree with Lew.

Monday, August 22, 2005

" Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had" Michael Crichton

Attention wine lovers. My friend, Chicago funny person, Larry Wilson, is raving about the Elin McCoy book "The Emperor of Wine." Long a fan of Robert Parker, Jr and holding a high regard for any Wilson suggestion have added the book to the stack.

Fred Jacobs writes...

More than anything else, radio companies need to focus on content and personality development - ingredients that can innoculate (sic) our medium from new technology competitors. We're not going to get there if we insist on saving small dollars by voicetracking. It's not about how consumers receive their entertainment, it's about the entertainment itself.

I like Fred, smart guy, and while I agree with him on the need to focus on talent, I respectfully disagree on two points...

Commercial radio's consumers are the advertisers not the listeners as Fred writes. Fred, please allow me to suggest a reading of Searls and Weinberger. This goes much deeper than semantics. It begins in metacognition.

It is also about how listeners receive their entertainment which, as I have said for years is more and more about audio and increasingly has little or nothing to do with radio. The radio business is a romantic notion, it's gone, operators are in the audio business. As my friend, and pioneer media entrepreneur, Larry Bentson says "nothing stops technology". Robert Kaplan writes "the vigor to face our adversaries must ultimately come from pride in our own past and its achievements" he goes on to add the words of Livy "Never mind if they call your caution timidity, your wisdom sloth, your generalship weakness; it is better that a wise enemy should fear you than that foolish friends should praise." The glass, in my opinion, remains more than half full, all that is needed is the hard work of intellectually honest thinking, creativity and some game changing innovation.

Thanks to Joel for forwarding a link to Fred's blog. You may read all of Fred's comments here

Thanks to John Rook for pointing out the obvious - Pat Boone has earned the honor of being in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Get more and support Pat here. This reminds me that Bill Drake and Rick Sklar are not yet where they belong - in the B&C's Hall of Fame, The NAB's Hall of Fame and the Chicago-based National Hall of Fame (We need to get these gentlemen recognized, please join me in writing a letter to each nomination committee). This, in turn, reminds me...the first group to be inducted in the NAB's Hall of Fame did not include...Marconi...that gentleman was inducted in the second year...think about it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

" There is nothing more dreadful than imagination without taste" Goethe

Emmis settles with Eliot Spitzer, agrees to pay $300,000 ending "Smackfest" investigation. I know and respect Jeff Smulyan and this entire matter is totally out of sync with everything he stands for. This goes down as one of the worst examples of local station folk going off the reservation. Lucky for the station people Emmis is one of the few that still goes long on people. On balance, plainly stupid, no excuse.

John Rook takes the long, and in my opinion, correct view...

Thinking back over radio’s history, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to those responsible for programming if many of today’s antics had taken place. Radio was expected to provide entertainment that could survive the scrutiny of the public and the Federal Communication Commission, who in those days…had teeth. The owners of radio past were always on guard for any possibility of being fined by the FCC. Anyone responsible for allowing that to happen would almost assuredly be unemployed and certainly not someone held in high esteem by the industry. Read JR's writing - "Another Slap on the Wrist" - here

My favorite rich person, Bobby Rich, writes about those vogue jockless wonders...

Sorry you cheap-o operators, but talent — even the tracked or syndicated variety — is essential for turning most radio formats into living, breathing life forms. No matter how good your promo voice is -- or how often you freshen your imaging — without “live and local” talent your product will not have a heart or a soul. Read what Bobby and others have to say here

I Love the RAB! If you read the following, from the latest RAB Weekly Sales Meeting, you'll begin to understand why the internet, interactive media, is in my top five priorities for clients again this year. Gregg Murray writes...

I took over as a DOS on September 11, 2001. It was a heck of a morning to start my dream job. We started at $3.8 million and two years later, we ended up at $6 million. (We) had the same amount of representatives, had the same ratings. I am not a very good Sales Manager, so you know there had to be something special going on. Find out what happens here

Got your half time political totals and broadcast toplines, with the extra bump, continue to cannot continue to do the same things and expect a different result, another example of media's leadership problem.

Forbes reports that, according to TNSMedia Intelligence-CMAG, political campaign spending on broadcast and print in the first half of 2005 was $70 million, up from $28 million in the corresponding period of 2001-the last year following a presidential campaign. Most of this spending was generated debate over cabinet nominations, Social Security personal accounts and tort reform. More here

Peter Jennings was a class act, a fine reporter, born anchor and perhaps the very best anchor at ad-lib, this gentleman was built for breaking news, smooth as silk - none finer. Readers today show what they don't have when forced to perform without the prompter, consistently and painfully bad television happens.

Now it looks like the FCC will look into the payola issue. We can only hope congress does the same. Time to clean out the barn.

What idiot at Epic records greenlighted the off-site showcase run during (i.e., in conflict with)Conclave College this year? You owe Tom Kay, The Conclave and the industry an apology, another example of stupid with no excuse.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

"Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think it's important" Eugene McCarthy

Saturday morning in Minneapolis, waiting for my guest to join me for breakfast, I'm reading the New York Times. There it was - the carefully managed leak about Eliot Spitzer's Monday announcement. Days later, Don Henley and Ann Chaitovitz offered Mr Spitzer their thanks. Henley saying "payola hurts recording artists." I am not able to offer an opinion on Mr Spitzer's findings, don't have all the facts. What does come to mind - beaten into me during my days as a street reporter - is that old city news bureau editor's injunction "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." I rather like the idea of a politician looking into the radio and records relationship. Nothing like a motivated pol to look where few others would dare. So my hat is off to Mr Spitzer. This Harvard grad has become a one-man dirt devil, a man on a mission, a man able to gin up the New York Times into giving him a Saturday coming attractions trailer. I'll admit it, I was sucked in by the promo, a settlement with Sony - WOW.

Truth be told this stuff is all old news. Eliot, your announcement is a late bulletin for those in the business. From my first music director job through my years as a PD, a group PD, a GM and a licensee, the temptations were always there. But better than the reality, richer than any truth, there were the stories. The stories of who was getting what. As my Georgia relatives would say "something bad wrong" here.

Looking back on it now I can recall my last station job - Infinity in Dallas. More than one Infinity colleague said "come on Dave, everyone does it, it's totally cool." Because something may be legal, according to the reading of one or more lawyers, does not make it right. By the way, our Dallas cluster never joined the club during my watch. To my knowledge Infinity was not in the pay for play game but rather the state-of-the-art, cleared by legal, independent promoter game. Further, my understanding is Infinity is now no longer "in the game."

There appear to be two flavors of the poor conduct under investigation - the corporate endorsed and off the reservation. In the case of the former we may expect the lawyers to take some heat, maybe even fresh, new lawyers employed. Then the blame delegated down the line in classic double-secret-probation, ugly letter in the permanent file ritual dance plus a select group of "leaving for personal reasons." In cases of the latter, terminations followed by outrage may result, thereafter psychics and bloodhounds may be employed to sweep each questionable office or facility "clean". Just no good excuse for using one's post at a federally licensed facility to run a morally and ethically bankrupt scam. A scam that perhaps some lawmaker might soon refer to as a money laundering operation. Any group execs who turn out to have been involved in any sketchy stuff should be made to feel especially ashamed; perhaps their boards might require them to donate a bonus to charity or cash out their stock options and donate the funds to a good cause. What about those proven dirty but no longer at the helm? Let's hope lawyers working for any accused company, if the former employer of the proven dirty, throw any such former officers to the wolves. Truth will out. The humanity. The greed. The stupidity.

"Booze, Broads and Bribes" Front page headline, The Miami Herald, Nov 25, 1959, coverage of the second annual Disc Jockey Convention

Growing up the son of a broadcaster I recall the days when uniformed federal employees delivered records to our home. Back in the day, disc jockeys were promoted individually because they alone selected music played on their "shows." It was not until later that the "closed" music system was introduced and management took over selection and sequencing of music. My father, a bigger-than-life personality who got his start in 1940s black radio, told me stories of colorful, creative promotion executives and local distributors with amazing powers of imagination. Mind you these stories were from the days long BEFORE there were any prohibitions against payola/plugola. The days when you played your own records. Years later, while at WBZ, the legendary talent and uber-cool Dave Maynard also shared stories. One involved the suits from New York. The Group W attorneys had come to Boston in 1960 to "prepare" Dave for his testimony before congress. These public hearings were to be the first on the issue of disc jockey payola, not yet against the law, the first witnesses were from Boston. Dave, while driving the attorneys to lunch in his very hip new car, was asked "what is the largest gift you've accepted?" to which Dave told me he replied "we're riding in it." To be fair to Dave he also told me he promoted records at off-air events and was never involved in "pay for play" and I believe him. Representative Oren Harris lead the charge for reform and others including Tip O'Neill created a frenzy. Allan Freed, arguably the disc jockey who invented the term "Rock and Roll", admitted getting payments from record companies for "consultation", payments he did not consider to be payola. Freed pleaded out, two counts of commercial bribery, he got a fine and a suspended sentence. Having lost all chances of ever working again in radio he drank himself to death.

I do respect and understand the difficult job of those who work in music promotion. As Bill Gavin once taught me "be nice to those who are paid to be nice to you." Of course, Bill stopped way short of taking money, as usual, he led by example. Bill set the standard for integrity.

I vote for congressional and FCC investigations while we're at it. Moreover, let's get each of the AGs to crank up an investigation in their state. After all why should Sony get off paying only in New York when what they may have done is potentially much bigger than poor judgment in the Empire state alone. Let's run the weasels, thieves, rascals and pigs out of the business no matter what their business card. The majority of folks working in the radio dodge have no notion of what this fuss is about, they are honest, hard working folk who deserve to have the gonifs outed and thrown out. Perhaps an analyst will waylay one or more CEOs on a quarterly call and ask "what do you know?" and "when did you first know it?" Let's just get all of this behind us, finally get this over, so we can get on to the work at hand.

Daniel Gross writing at Slate says Spitzer's crusade is pointless, read his take here
My sense is, related to broadcasters, Mr Gross may not fully nor properly appreciate the concept of public trust nor the standard setting ideals of qualified trustee/licensee. The bigger problem Daniel is NOT play for pay, it's indie promotion gone wild.

John Rook continues speaking truth to power, he tells it like it is...

The Attorney General of New York has performed a valuable service in uncovering the illegal activity initiated by two foreign owned companies, Sony of Japan and BMG of Germany. To my way of thinking a ten million dollar fine is chump change for the right to operate in the United States after having violated our laws. Sony and BMG fraudulently attempted to control the music industry and prevented many talented artists from having their creative endeavors heard over the public airwaves. The expense for having to pay for airplay has forced smaller record companies to close their doors and cease operations. The willingness to pay is at the root of the problem.

With more than fifty years invested in radio, it pains me to know of those in the industry who don’t appreciate the music furnished by the recording industry without expecting payment for programming it. Take away the music provided free and radio would be naked. The fee broadcasters must pay to music licensing organizations for programming music is still a fraction of what they would have to pay in replacing the free entertainment value provided by the recording industry.

It is unfortunate the deregulation of radio ushered in a management controlled totally by former sales managers. Under their direction an attempt was made to legalize payola. They got away with it for several years until legal eagles responsible for their actions began to warn of license revocation. By then the seed had been planted that spawned a new generation of programmers who’s bosses encouraged them to eat freely from the payola trough by accepting free bee’s meant to be used as listener prizes that would deliver more operating cost to the revenue bottom line. With the genie out of the box it isn’t surprising to find some “prizes” became the personal possessions of radio’s programmers. This was not unknown in radio’s past but in the past ten years the taking of payola has been epidemic. Read all of JR's comments here

Claude Hall writes weekly - highly recommended, you'll find it is worth your time. Not only does he set the record straight on any number of issues but he favors us with his pov PLUS his serialized novels alone are worth the jump. From this week's right column...

Other factors are influencing radio ratings and will impact them more so in time to come. Satellite broadcasting and iPods. Various variations of either or both. Changes are en route. On the way. Nothing you can do about it except adjust. The competition in radio is going to be ferocious! Good, entertaining and informative local radio to which listeners can relate, in my opinion, will survive on some level. But it may have to return to some of the elements that made local radio worth listening to. If you do not know these elements, talk to George Wilson, Jack Gale, or Ron Jacobs. Chuck Blore. Jim Gabbert. Kent Burkhart.

Got to agree with you Claude, being brilliant on the basics is what is needed. I would add the names of others to your list to include Bob Henabery, Paul Drew, Jon Quick, Jack Swanson, Kevin Weatherly, Scott Shannon, John Rook, Lee Davis, Eddie McLaughlin, Jerry Clifton, Buzz Bennett, Bob Pittman, Dave Hamilton, Les Garland, both Bob Hamiltons, Jeff Smulyan, Jay Mitchell, Chuck Tweedle, Ron Chapman, Dean Sorenson, Dave Logan, Mel Phillips, Jhani Kaye, Phil Hall, John Duncan, Ed Salamon, Gerry Cagle, Ken Dowe, John Sebastian, Bobby Rich, Jim Harper, Jerry Boulding, Diane Sutter, Lee Abrams, Drew Horowitz, Pat O'Day, Dick Rakovan, Kevin Metheny, Ron Fell, Lee Arnold, Dennis Constantine, Herb McCord, Norm Winer, Bill Clark, Jerry Lyman and Roy Shapiro. To read this weeks writings from Claude, click here.

Tom Evslin offers some fine comments on decision making - decide first, spin second...

Leaders have to make decisions and leaders have to sell decisions – that’s what leadership is all about. You don’t make the right decisions if you worry about how you’re going to sell them before you’ve made them. You can’t think clearly about substance when you’re thinking about spin. Conversely, you can think more clearly about selling and positioning a decision once you know you’ve made it for what you think are the right reasons.

Managing public companies for quarterly results is an example of decision making dominated by spin just as much as making political decisions by watching the polls. Neither result in good governance. Both are huge temptations. Read all of Tom's comments here

The Conclave was simply outstanding. Very impressed with the program, the speakers and most of all impressed with those attending. This event remains a unique and special professional gathering. Please allow me to thank Joel Denver (AllAccess) and Bill Troy along with Jonathan Little (Troy Research) for their sponsorships of my talk. Here now are some random notes from the gathering...

Joel Denver made an excellent observation. In response to something said in my talk, a reference to Paul Drew's observation "the radio station is an extension of the program director's personality" Joel said the reality of the matter goes much deeper. "It goes to the DNA, to the individual's essence, to the psyche" Joel told me. He's right it does go to the totality of the id, the ego. Joel, I'll continue to use Paul's quote while also adding yours - thanks!

Thanks to Mark Bolke. He gave me the tour of his very cool windows based software. If you are involved in scheduling music you should check it out, amazing stuff! You can get started here

Art Vuolo remains in rare form. His ability to produce an identical copy of any signature and do so at will is but one of his special gifts. Art is alive and well on the web, jump over to his site and buy a video here. One of the best lines delivered from the stage at The Conclave was Mancow's spot on remark about Art - "you would think after all the years he has been doing this that the video would be better, it's not."

Great to see Andy Bloom, media's loss is the 3rd district of Ohio's gain, for now, I still say stay tuned. Of course Andy is working for a member from the state that every political junkie is now talking about - Ohio. Clearly, the result of the special congressional election in Ohio makes it the most talked about political race so far this year. Leave it to Andy to, again, be right where the action is.

Spent some time catching up with the legendary Marc Kalman. Marc is consulting, writing and building a network radio and publishing business. After a career of doing fine work for others Marc is now blazing his own trail - bravo! Good luck Marco.

Fun to see Steve Perun on the run. He deserves lots of credit, credit he is not yet getting, for his role in taking KIIS to #1.

Paige Nienaber is about as good as it gets. A keen intellect, Paige's pov and raw creative talent make him a MVP in whatever situation he chooses to play in.

Rick Thomas of the Journal Wichita operation has exactly the right mindset; I salute any person who puts "Ghostbuster" on their business card. No need to take ourselves too seriously. What did Fred Allen say "It's called a medium because nothing is well-done"

Ran into CMI's Alexander Court at B&N on the mall. Readers are leaders - watch for this guy.

Chris Krok is impressive, the Hubbard folk are the fortunate employer, lucky Ginny.

Finally, please meet my "perky" neighborhood blogger, here