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Gerry CagleThanks for visiting my site.  Here you can read a selection of the hundreds of editorials and commentaries I’ve written over the years.

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Top 40

5/16/1996

Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

With all due respect to whoever did that song, none of us has a clue.  If anyone did, that person would immediately be declared Queen or King and would be living in Maui.  And I wouldn’t have a thing to write about.

In the past few weeks, a couple of trade magazines have written articles about the future of music and radio.  I thought perhaps I should bring up the subject so the industry as a whole would be aware of it.

The number of Top 40 stations has been in a free-fall comparable to a Value Jet flight.  In the past decade, that number has gone from over 1,000 to just over 300.  Figures don’t lie.  The Top 40 format doesn’t seem to be the darling of the ’90s…at least not so far.  But before we hoist up the white flag and completely abandon ship, maybe we should look inside those numbers for the real story.

Quite simply, a lot of Top 40 radio stations are doing really well.  There are few examples of formats that can generate the numbers and dollars that a successful Mainstream Top 40 station can do.  When done well, and without a splintering from competing formats focusing on a piece of the pie, Top 40 out performs most others.

It is, however, an expensive format to run.  Just like being half-pregnant, one can’t operate a half-assed Mainstream Top 40 station.  You either do it well or run the risk of getting buried.

Unfortunately, some other factors influence the success of Mainstream Top 40.  Advertising agencies and station sales teams are not forcing cume numbers into the mix. Although cume is a consideration in most buys, it isn’t the main consideration.  In the case of Mainstream Top 40 stations, cume should be.  For the future of radio in general, and Mainstream Top 40 in particular, we should all begin to trumpet the glory of using and buying the big cume…especially when we have it.

Quarter-hour numbers are certainly important, but bringing more of the spotlight on those heavy cume numbers and how they can influence advertisers by generating sales is something we all need to concentrate on.

With the extreme examples of music being sampled by the Mainstream audience of today, Top 40 is sure to grow.  Different formats have narrowcasted specific slices of the American pie into portions not big enough to eat.  In the past, songs were capable of jumping across formats because the fences were so low.  Those barriers have been raised much higher.

There was a time when songs zoomed across those barriers like bats flying through a chain-length fence.  AC/DC and Guns ‘N’ Roses could have huge records in Rock and Top 40.  Michael Bolton  could score big Urban, Top 40 and A/C.  The artist formerly and currently known as Prince hit all of them.

What happened?

I don’t know exactly, but it has a lot to do with too many signals, too many stations cutting into the cake, too many programmers finding a niche that would last a second and too many other choices for the radio audience.

The music certainly had something to do with it.  It always opens the doors for new formats.  Radio doesn’t create the music…it takes advantage.  Album Rock was created by musicians in spite of there being no radio outlet.  So radio created a format.  Disco was a child of the same invention…and the Disco format was born.  The latest on the family tree is Alternative.  And there’s another incubating even as you read this.

That’s the great thing about music.  It can’t read.  It doesn’t know about format restrictions and available airplay.  It doesn’t know from promotions and double-bonuses.  It doesn’t know it can’t possibly fit.  Music doesn’t know it is a part of a corporate entity.  It doesn’t know it’s expected to generate a certain percentage of a return for the stockholders.  Nobody ever asks music’s opinion.  Music never graduated from college.  Music didn’t even take the SATs.  Music doesn’t know any of this.

Neither does the audience.  We make a lot of decisions about our audience.  We put names on formats and restrictions on who will like what simply because we know what it is…or at least we believe we have correctly identified it.  The audience doesn’t know.  They only know if they like a song or not.  That’s it.

Music dictates new formats, but we dictate the decay of the old.  Because as soon as we are completely surprised by a musical shift, we suddenly become experts at identifying and copying the original concept.  Then, we beat it to death.

Of course, the audience becomes bored with specific formats after a while, because (with the exception of Top 40) it all begins to sound alike.

In the beginning, Rock was on the cutting edge.  You heard things on Album radio you couldn’t hear anywhere else.  Then we refined the process to include the obligatory Rock ballad to try and cross formats and bring on the really big sales and it all began to run together.  Disco was the same.  In the beginning it was bright, exciting and pumped full of energy…totally off the wall.  Then we dissected the sound…determined the exact number of BPMs that would coordinate with the heart, mixed and remixed until it all began to sound the same.  Alternative was true cutting edge. The very name implied it.  However, as soon as Alternative began to gain mass acceptance, it wasn’t Alternative any more.  Instead of creating something different, record companies began to sign bands that “sounded like” Pearl Jam rather than acts that broke new ground like Pearl Jam.  And now Alternative songs are beginning to sound alarmingly similar.

Which brings us full-circle as Mainstream Top 40 is now the only format with the capability of generating airplay for acts that don’t fit a specific mode.  Today’s audience seems to want to hear Celine Dion, Tracy Chapman, The Fugees, Hootie & The Blowfish, The Philosopher Kings, Garbage, Coolio, The Nixons, Bone Thug-N-Harmony and Oasis in the same break.  Like the music, the audience doesn’t know that maybe these songs don’t fit the same format.

Isn’t it odd that a format that doesn’t target a specific audience is the one that might again provide the perfect forum for Mainstream music?

Just like music, Mainstream Top 40 doesn’t know any better.

Bruce Hix

I was sailing last week when I heard the news about Bruce Hix. One of my oldest and dearest friends had passed to the other side. I was terrifically sad and a hole remains in my soul. I doubt it will be filled in this lifetime. However, my prayers…and the prayers of his many friends…were answered. He left this world in his sleep. Peacefully and with dignity. No easy task for those suffering with ALS.

I mention sailing because Bruce had taken a keen interest in my recent purchase of a boat. We talked about him joining me on trips to the Caribbean, although both of us knew it would never happen. Now, I’m not so sure. My buddy is freed from his twisted body and his spirit can roam at will. I feel his presence, particularly on the boat, and take no small degree of satisfaction that he will be a silent first mate, helping to keep me on the right course. As always.

I will miss his laugh. His passion. His unconditional love. Yes, his stubbornness. I will miss calling him to share stories of our lives.

But when I hit a nice golf shot, when I feel the tropical breeze blow against my face, when I drink a chi-chi and when I think of the special times we shared, I’ll remember most his big heart.

Mr. Happy is finally Mr. Happy.

Rest in peace, Bruce. I love you dearly.

Toyota

7/26/1996

Several weeks ago, Network 40 sent out “Report Cards” asking our readers for input.  We asked how you liked current features, whether you wanted changes, additions, etc.  As we’ve said since our first edition, Network  40 is dedicated to serving our industry.  We want to reflect your needs, not dictate our own agenda.  Network 40 consists entirely of charts, articles, features and ideas created by your input.

So far, you’ve done a good job.

The response to our “Report Cards” was unbelievable.  Somewhat less than 10,000 of you responded with suggestions and ideas.

Now it’s our turn to make your input and ideas a reality.

Over the next few weeks, you’ll see changes and additions to Network 40, based on what you’ve told us you wanted.  The first new feature appears this week.

Nearly everyone who responded asked for a feature on music and programming research.  Another big request was to include information about programming in specific markets.

The exclusive Network 40 Market Profile debuts this week on page 12, followed by another exclusive, the Network 40 Music Research, on page 16.

In the ever-changing world of programming in the ‘90s, it’s difficult to keep up with stations in different parts of the country.  Call letters and slogans changes with the seasons and even when call letters remain familiar, it’s often impossible to know what kind of a music mix is generating the latest trends.  If you don’t have friends in a particular market you’re interested in, it’s hard to know exactly what’s making a station tick.

The Network 40 Market Profile takes out as much of the guesswork as possible.  It’s the next best thing to being there.

Through a venture with Media Base Research, we’ve compiled a breakdown of selected stations in the Houston market.  In future weeks, other markets will be featured.

On the first page of the Network 40 Market Profile, you’ll find everything you need to know about the individual stations featured in the Houston market…address, personnel, consultants, voice-over, etc.

Media Base also provides additional information such as specific promos, stagers and commercial copy.  If there are other elements you would like to see, let us know.

The second page of the Network 40 Market Profile consists of comparative music hours from each station in selected dayparts: mornings, mid-days, afternoons and nights.  You can compare the music programmed on each station during each daypart.

Some stations are doing special programming during the music hours we use. When this happens, it is noted.  For example, KTBZ was doing a “Menage A Trois” lunch hour during our profile.  You’ll see three songs in a row from the same artist.  KBXX had an Old School lunch hour and a Five O’clock Traffic Jam.  We chose not to list those specific titles because they weren’t part of the normal programming.

Following the Market Profile is Network 40’s Music Research.  We have been working on a music research system for the past several years.  Programmers understand how difficult it is to establish an accurate national music research system.  Musical tastes vary from region to region…and even from market to market.  Even within the same market, music research is difficult.  Each radio station identifies its core audience and tests within the core.  How beneficial a national research system is depends upon your wants, needs and opinions.

With Media Base, However, we have developed a system that will show you the top-testing current releases with a national Mainstream audience.  We don’t profess that it will be absolutely accurate for every radio station, but it will give programmers a broad overview of the top-testing records across the country…for Mainstream Top 40.  It’s another bit of information that will help lead you to the right decisions.

Because each station is different…as is each core…each market…each region, Network 40 will not print specific research information about negative-testing records.  We will share only the top-testing records, in alphabetical order, so you can see the cream of the crop.

The Network 40 music research is unique in that Media Base uses the core audience samples from Mainstream Top 40 stations in the nation’s Top 20 markets.  You won’t have to “guess” as to where the testing is being done.  It reflects the tastes of those in the core audience Mainstream Top 40 stations in major markets.

More important than a national call-out test of new music are the Most-Played Recurrents.  This listing has nothing to do with call-out testing.  It is tabulated from different formats based on the number of plays each recurrent receives.  This way, you can compare your recurrent receives.  This way, you can compare your recurrents with those getting the most play in your format.  We’ve broken the formats into Top 40, A/C, Alternative and Crossover.

Because recurrents turn over slowly, there won’t be radical changes in the weekly recurrent listings.  However, you will be able to detect the changes as they occur.

Remember, as you check the Network 40 Music Research, the Top Testing Currents are listed in alphabetical order.  The Recurrents, by format, are listed in the order of the plays each receives.

We’re excited about the Network 40 Market Profiles and the Network 40 Music Research.  We’re excited because we’re able to provide some thing you’ve asked for.  We’re excited that we’ve been able to partner with Media Base to give you virtually as much information about specific programming in various markets as you want.

Each week, we’ll profile a different market.  Next week, it’s Philadelphia.  If you would like to see a specific market, just let us know.

This is the first of several changes you’ve requested.  In the coming weeks, you’ll see more.  You asked for it…you got it…

As for the highly educated, sophisticated segment of our audience who asked for more “nekkid” pictures on Page 6…

Send ‘em in…we’ll run ‘em.

Tripping

11/17/1995

I just finished reading Howard Stern’s latest book.  If you haven’t read it, I’ll send you my copy.  Lee Leipsner gave me his.  So I’ll send you his copy.

It’s a great book to read in the bathroom.

Howard’s book has no real point.  He just lashes out at anything and everything that’s on his mind. Like this Editorial.  There’s no specific topic, just a bunch of things I’ve had time to think about while traveling the past month.

So find a topic you like and spend time with it.  Skip the rest.

1-800-MUSIC NOW will revolutionize the radio and record industries.  The most obvious revolution will occur in record sales.  Research shows an extraordinary number of people would purchase more music if they didn’t have to visit record stores.  Being able to order music via telephone will have a dramatic effect on sales.  Radio stations and record companies will have the ability to track immediate sales in specific areas.  This could help programmers determine a record’s strength much earlier in the game.  Just as important (more so for the participating radio stations), is the opportunity for radio to share in the profits of the product exposed.  Forever, radio has bitched because it exposed music that ultimately makes money for record companies.  This aspect of our business has always been a sore spot with radio.  No longer, through 1-800-MUSIC NOW, radio stations share in the record sales generated by their playlists.  It will be interesting to see how this changes our industry.  The bet here is that it will change the way our business is conducted in a huge, positive way.

Every time I go to New York, I get lost.  Each time I mention my plight to a New Yorker, I am ridiculed with the statement, “How can you get lost in New York? It’s the easiest city in the world to get around in.”  Right.  Don’t you hate it when people tell you to go west on 52nd Street? Can I ask a rather simplistic statement? If you are from out of town and the sun is down, how in the hell are you supposed to know which way west is?  You can’t see the North Star because of all of the buildings.  How do you know which way to go?  And please, I don’t want to hear from any New Yorker about how ignorant I am.  Let me take you to Jackson, Mississippi, drop you off at the reservoir and tell you find Capital Street by just heading South.

How smart you are depends on what part of the country you’re standing in when you make a statement.  I left Andrea Ganis’ office and walked to meet Joe Ricitelli.  She told me to go left on 52nd Street.  It was the wrong way.  I missed my appointment with Joey.  I accused Andrea of giving me the wrong directions on purpose.  They both called me a hillbilly.  Of course, when I shared this story with my lifelong friend and fellow redneck, Mississippi-born Harry Nelson, he said, “Whut the hell you doin’ in New York, anyhow?”

Good question.

Speaking of New York, the party that was held on the stage of Saturday Night Live to debut 1-800-MUSIC NOW could have been the show-stopper of the year.  Everybody was there.

It is gratifying to know that the three cities most important to the record business, New York, Los Angeles and Nashville, have some of the best radio stations in the country.

Sean Ross, he of The Monitor, mentioned my name last week.  I guess I shouldn’t bitch, since he spelled it right, but I will anyhow.  In trying to obliquely justify The Monitor’s plans for realigning stations according to The Monitor’s rules, Sean attempted to point out the differences between radio stations that years ago leaned Urban and the Crossover stations of today.  I wrote an Editorial a while back on the subject and pointed out how KFRC was more Crossover than Mainstream in the 1980s and Sean was out to prove me incorrect. Sean said, “Allegedly, KFRC…always leaned R&B to a degree that obscured the boundaries between the formats.  That’s how some folks remember it.  Let’s go to the tape.”  Sean wanted to prove that KFRC didn’t play a lot or R&B music in the 1982.  He cited some “tape” that “supposedly” duplicated an air shift of KFRC playing Kool & The Gang’s “Take My Heart,” Olivia Newton-John’s “Zanadu,” Devo’s “Beautiful World,” Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man,” Rod Stevwart’s “Passion,” Lindsey Buckingham’s “Trouble,” Carl Carlton’s “Bad Mama Jama” (what a great song), Diana Ross’ “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” Quincy Jone’s “Just Once” and The Beach Boys’ “Come Go With Me.”

I don’t know where Sean got the tape…please send me a copy…but it must have been from Dr. Don Rose’s morning show after the Christmas party.  (Rose generally played what he wanted to play.)  If KFRC had played those records in that rotation, I would have (a) been taking all the payola some have accused me of and would be living in Maui and visiting Los Angeles today instead of the other around and (b) been proclaimed a programming genius to have the ratings we produced playing all of these stiffs.  (Of course, Keith Naftaly was the AMD at the time and I do believe he was high on the Lindsey Buckingham…or was that in the alley?)

Not that it matters today, but in the 1980s, KFRC was leaning heavily R&B…and I do mean heavy.  The station was programmed to Oakland.  We had to be heavily R&B to win.  Check out a playlist and then add another 25%.  We kept the “White” superstars on the list longer to appease some nervous sales geeks.  Sean also listed tapes from other Mainstream stations of their day to prove, I assume, that KMEL and WPGC aren’t Mainstream stations.  Let me put to you in a way you’ll understand:  Network 40 will continue to define radio stations based on the definitions supplied by the individual radio stations.  In other words, let’s go to the tape and take the title of another Irving Azoff triple-bonus record of the 1990s by Jack Mack and the Heart Attack:  “Call It What You Want…I Don’t Really Care.”  Find me the tape of that one!

No mater what manager Arthur Spivak says, I still want a date with Tori Amos.

The working color for this fall is salmon.

Cigar smoking, almost dead in the 1970s and 1890s, has made a miraculous comeback.  Today, it’s more important to know your cigars than your wine list.

I’ll have a Tampa Jewel.

Turkey Shoot

11/28/1997

It has become a tradition…a Thanksgiving Commentary on the state of the business…and the people who are in it.  It’s that time of year again, brothers and sisters. The leaves are changing colors (unless you’re in L.A. where we have no leaves), the weather is turning cold (it got down to 68 here last night…brrrr) and Christmas sales are beginning (unless you shop on Rodeo Drive, where the prices actually go up for Christmas).

However, we do have a lot to give thanks for this year, don’t we?

First, we must give thanks to the resurgence of Top 40.  Right on schedule, it came back with a vengeance.  What’s funny is that our industry finds it hard to believe.  What wise man first said that to predict the future, one only had to study the past?  It’s true in this particular case.  Top 40 has been counted out more times than Rocky Balboa, and has made as many “comebacks. “  Rock killed Top 40…then Disco…then Dance…then Crossover…then Alternative.  Hey, sports fans, Top 40 came back to conquer each one.  To exist, everything must have a center and Top 40 is the musical center.  Let’s all give thanks to its “comeback” and not be so quick to dismiss it when the next new fad hits.

And while we’re on that note, let’s all give thanks for three Top 40 programmers in particular.  Although there are many who deserve accolades, Tom Poleman of Z100 New York, Dan Kieley of KIIS Los Angeles and Todd Cavanah of B96 Chicago deserve particular recognition for bringing Top 40 to the head of the parade in the nation’s three biggest markets.  Tom and Dan breathed new life into monsters that were on life-support while Todd has continued to build B96 into Chicago’s preeminent powerhouse.

Can we also give thanks to Hanson and the Spice Girls?  These two pure Pop groups defied the odds and made Top 40 cool again.

And let me not forget the Rolling Stones.  With all the talk about “old school” being out and “new school” being in, leave it to the Stones to put everything in perspective.  Touring behind their most successful album in some time on the 30th (that’s right, 30th) anniversary of their first hit, the Stones still prove they can’t get no satisfaction.  With all the bullshit aside, the Stones are still the goods. While we’re giving thanks, perhaps we should give some to Mick.  All these years we thought Keith was looking a little tired.  Now that Mick’s catching up, he should be thankful for Keith.  Standing next to Keith takes 20 years off Mick’s appearance.

Can we all give thanks to Andrea Ganis, Danny Buch and the incredible team at Atlantic Records?  Presidents change, A&R changes, but the one thing that doesn’t change is Atlantic’s position: the #1 label three years in a row?  Unprecedented and well-deserved.

Let’s all praise Clive Davis.  Through all the format changes, the attacks on Top 40, the “new” flavors of the month, Clive has consistently found the sound that makes hits.  How many can say they signed Janis Joplin and Puff Daddy and all the other acts in between?  Only one.  Clive Davis is the man.

A special turkey leg goes to Jerry Clifton.  He’s one of the few programmers who have gotten into ownership…well, a few of us have, but not to the extent and certainly not with the success of Jerry.  I remember when he and I were the only RKO programmers who wouldn’t wear a tie.  We both knew we were right, Clifton!

What a year it has been for Network 40.  We have to give thanks for the most innovative and successful convention in record and radio history.  The Summer Games in Lake Tahoe was the first of an annual event that is being locked on everyone’s calendar for next year.  The camaraderie and competition opened doors between record executives and programmers that have long been closed.  It’s an event all of us can take pride in.

And on that note, we must also give thanks to the AIR team for setting the tone of the competition and giving all of us something to hate…if only until the Holyfield-tyson fight!  Hopefully, Kevin Weatherly and Greg Marella can share a turkey in the near future.

What would a Thanksgiving Editorial be without a big “thank you” to R&R for being so lame and making Network 40’s job much easier?  It’s tough to not get it, but R&R proves, year after year, that it’s possible.

On a personal note, I would like to give thanks to Rick Gillette, whose biting commentary has actually made me look like the “nice guy” at Network 40.  Who woulda thunk it?

Let’s all give thanks that there hasn’t been an O.J. trail in months.

I would also like to give thanks to all of the programmers and record people who helped Network 40 design a new chart system that will debut in a couple of weeks.

Thanks to the Lakers who have won 11 in a row and finally shut down those posers from the Midwest.  All of us in the entertainment business must give thanks to Marv Albert.  Marv gave us a lot to talk about plus he’s done more for women’s lingerie than Victoria’s Secret.

And can we thank Ellen for coming out of the closet?

What about Howard Stern?  He’s the only radio personality to star in his own movie, proving that he is indeed, the King of All Media.

Those who have been purchased by Hicks Muse can be thankful, so can the few who haven’t.

Thank God for Saddam Hussein. He gives us all one person to hate.

Thanks for Elton John, whose personal tribute made Princess Di’s legacy live long after her tragic death.

And on a real personal note, I must give thanks to the staff of Network 40 who make me look good week after week.  It’s an impossible job, but they do it.

Gobble gobble

RIP Paul Drew

5/17/2013

This is going to be a tough one.

I lost a mentor and friend yesterday with the death of Paul Drew. His passing has left me feeling mortal, melancholy and full of memories.

I first met Paul in the early ‘70s. I was programming KRIZ in Phoenix at the time and had accepted Buzz Bennet’s offer to put Y100 in Miami on the air. I had already packed my bags and the moving company was due to pick up my furniture in three days when Paul called. He asked that I fly to Los Angeles to talk with him about programming WRKO in Boston. For those who weren’t in radio at the time, it’s difficult to describe what it felt like to get a phone call from Paul Drew. It was every PD’s dream to program one of the powerful RKO stations. It was like hitting the lottery. I was no different. I explained my dilemma to him and he agreed to fly me out the next day.

I met him at KHJ. That was another chest-tightening moment. Here I was, a young boy not long out of a small town in Mississippi meeting one of the most famous programmers in the business at one of the most famous stations in history. Hollywood couldn’t have written that script. I can’t begin to describe the emotions that were running through me.

I was escorted into the program director’s office (KHJ was without a programmer at the time and Paul was acting as PD until he found someone) and told to wait. Five minutes later a short, bald gentleman wearing an American flag in the lapel of his suit walked in. I assumed it was the sales manager and didn’t get up.

“Hello, I’m Paul Drew,” the short man said.

Somehow, I managed to stand and shake his hand.

As we only had a couple of hours, we left immediately and walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner. He was peppering me with questions the entire time. Truthfully, I didn’t have any good answers. I wasn’t expecting such a detailed interview and the explanations of my programming philosophy rang shallow, hollow and self-serving. I felt out of my league.

As the meal drew to a close, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. I used the cover to call my wife back in Phoenix. I told her the trip was fun, it was great to see KHJ, but there was no way in hell this guy was going to hire me. Other than the fact that I thought I was fumbling the interview, I also had hair down to my waist. The comparisons between us weren’t complimentary. There was no way I would fit into his plans. I returned to the table, resolute and relaxed, glad I had Y100 to fall back on.

When we returned to KHJ, we talked some more in his office while I waited on the cab to take me to the airport. At one point, an uncomfortable silence filled the small room with tension as thick as soup. I didn’t know what to say and he seemed not to know either. He stared right through me for several long seconds, then stood and held out his hand. I did the same. The interview was over and I was headed back to Phoenix. I actually felt relieved.

Then he said the words that changed my life. “I would like to hire you to be the program director of WRKO in Boston,” he said. “If you would like to work for me.”

As if.

There began an odyssey that colored the fabric of my life.

Working with Paul Drew wasn’t always the most pleasant of tasks. But it wasn’t without rewards. His tenacious pursuit of excellence drove all of us who were in his army to achieve success unparalleled in radio history. With the RKO chain dominant in markets across the country, we ruled the business. At the height of our success, a record couldn’t make it in the top ten unless the chain was playing it.

At the risk of sounding egomaniacal (something I’ve never been accused of), you really couldn’t appreciate Paul Drew unless you worked for him as a program director. The special group that Paul nurtured, tutored and drove relentlessly is an elite club with a bond that exists past space and time. As disparate a group that ever was, we existed in a special world that few attained or understood. We hated him and loved him, but strove to please him in ways that made us better…even if we didn’t know it at the time. Through the ups and downs, there was an immense amount of respect that never wavered, whether we were being praised or penalized. Paul held us all to higher standards, thereby making each of us better than we dreamed we could be.

Paul didn’t make me who I am today, but he molded me into the person I became.

There were two kinds of programmers in those days: Those who worked for Drew and those who wished they did.

I was one of the lucky ones.

On Turning Fifty

4/30/1999

A hundred or so of my close, personal friends surprised me last Saturday on the anniversary of my 50th birthday. It was a wonderfully disgusting exhibit of overindulgence… a perfect example of the Hollywood atmosphere that sometimes pervades both my professional and personal life.  It was definitely the party of the season, despite the fact that it was held in my honor.  There was expensive champagne and hors d’oeurves served by tall, mysterious Asian men who bowed and smiled and said “Yes sir,” and “Right away, ma’am.”  Indirect lightening shot lasers of strobes from the assorted diamonds, baubles and beads adorning the heads, shoulders and the occasional tooth of those in attendance.

And those in attendance were the creme de la creme.  Hell, most of my friends are never on the “A” list of parties, so all walked tall and haughty with their chests thrown out, pleased to be recognized (if only for this one night) as a part of the chosen.

It was freakdom at its finest.  There were ruby lips and shapely hips, powders and poofs and everything loose, glistening eyes and shimmering thighs, deep tans and pales, eyeliner, rouge and fake fingernails.

And then there were the ladies.

it was a glorious evening right out of the ’80s.  A step back in time when, for one night only, Disco reigned supreme and I could dance.  We did everything, all the time and I didn’t hate anybody.

What a night.

How do I feel at 50?  No different than at 49 or 40 or 30 for that matter.  How am I perceived at 50?  There’s a question you must ask yourself.  What do you think of me? (By the way, you can keep all negative opinions to yourself.)

In our business, perception is reality.  Although it’s an easy cop out to use, age has nothing to do with it.  (You generally find people who say, “Age has nothing to do with it,’ as being young or old…never in the middle.)  It wasn’t long ago when I was the youngest, most successful programmer the world knew.  I was always the new kid…always the baby in the group.

Now, I’m surrounded by a group of people who look at the Gold records on my wall and say, “Hey, that was my mother’s favorite group.”  (That’s right, bitch.  I broke “Double Dutch Bus!”)

Worry not, I also have Goo Goo Dolls and Eagle-Eye Cherry on the hardware on the walls.  And not a week goes by when I don’t remind my staff who was the first person to quote, “When you come to my town…bow down.”

It wasn’t so long ago that I remember the “new” format that was to replace Top 40.  Alternative was the “be all and end all” and if you weren’t 20-something with a shaved head, an earring and a tattoo, you were  (God forbid) “Old School.”

Suddenly, anyone with 10 years of experience is “Old School.”  It is said with distaste and a rolling of the eyes by the post pubescent posers in radio and records.

It didn’t take long for that circle to become full.  With ratings free falling like Tom Petty’s old tune and record revenues going south, a return to the glory days was championed by those who who had, “Been there, done that” and were doing it again.  “Old School” is back in vogue.  Just in time for my 50th.

The truth is, age has nothing to do with anything except senior citizen discounts.  It isn’t how many, but how much.  Those who criticize the older people in our business are too stupid to realize there is a reason why we got here.  I’ve heard people referring to others in our business (and probably me behind my back) as an old fool.

Trust me.  You don’t get old by being a fool.  There are a lot young guys whose careers are dead as a doornail.

There are plenty of people who are younger in years than me who “retired” from our business because they couldn’t keep up.  Another group of guys older than me are still going strong.  Age has nothing to do with it.  People say that to continue to be successful in our industry, we must stay young.  That isn’t the case.  And besides, it’s impossible.  Hey, I know I still look good, but I don’t look young.To continue to succeed in this business, you have to stay current.

No matter what your age, you must constantly reinvent yourself or you will become a recurrent, then a Power Gold and finally, off the playlist.  Once you’re off, you won’t get back on without a remake.  If you aren’t moving forward, you’re falling behind.  There’s no staying the same in our business.

So, how does it feel to be 50?  I was walking with my daughters last month in Las Vegas when I saw my image in a mirror and did a double-take.

I’ve grown up to be what I most admired when I was younger: A good looking, older man with money…and two young, beautiful women on his arm.

Never A Horse

1/29/1999

It was over one of those infamous dinners at The Palm last week that we were discussing the various ramifications of the Universal/PolyGram merger.  Little else has been on the minds of those in the industry.  Perhaps the most painful time in anyone’s professional existence is that spent waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I’ve never really fully understood that expression.  What does a shoe have to do with losing your job?  Anyhow, whether or not you agree with the analogy, most of us know the feeling.

More people were “let go” in the music business last week than in any other time in our history.  Four labels lost their independence:  A&M, Geffen, Island and Motown.  500 people were given pink slips.

Ouch.

There are two kinds of people in our business: those who have jobs and those who don’t have jobs.  No other classes.  So, right now, you fall into one f the two categories:  You’re in or you’re out.

If you’re reading this Editorial, you probably still have a job.  If you were fired last week, there’s a good chance you aren’t getting the magazine.  Because we’re mostly radio people here at Network 40, we try and get the magazine to those who lose their jobs.  We’ve been there before…often.  We know it’s important to keep a hand on the lifeline, no matter how tenuous the hold.  But last week’s terminations were so vast that it has been hard for us to input the new addresses of friends who now have no offices.

Because so many people find themselves out of jobs today, we’re dedicating this issue to the problem.  Our feature focuses on those who are out of work and ideas on how to get back to work.  Hopefully, everyone will find something to take with them.

If you have a job, now is the time to reach out to those who are in need.  All research tells us that the stress of losing a job is second only to the death of a family member.  No matter what the circumstances, getting blown out is traumatic.  You must be supportive of those less fortunate than you.

You need to be supportive for two reasons:  Number one, your friends need your help, and, number two, it will happen to you.  If you are arrogant enough to believe you will never be fired, get ready.  Your demise is probably already being plotted.

If you have bee loaded in the cannon and blown out…don’t freak.  Although being fired is a shock, the effects soon wear off and an equilibrium can be maintained.  You’ve lost your job, not an appendage.   Jobs can be replaced.

The first thing that generally happens after being terminated is a loss of self esteem.  You think of yourself as a failure.  Your ego takes a tremendous beating.  In our business, these feelings will work to make you a better person.  Chances are, your ego was out  of control.  Maybe you were thinking too much of yourself.  It happens to all of us.

In the case of the latest layoffs, there probably wasn’t a whole lot you could have done to save your job.  It wasn’t like you got a warning.  You were probably laid off because of numbers.

The fact that it wasn’t personal doesn’t make it any less painful.  Although one tends to wallow in the pool of self-pity after being fired, you must eventually raise your head and know there is life after termination.  As a matter of fact, being fired is less a black mark today than ever before.  It’s more like a badge of courage…a combat ribbon to be bragged about during late-night conversations with your peers at a bar.

There’s no stigma attached to termination like in your parents’ days.  Most everyone in our business has taken gas at one time or another and have not only survived the ordeal, but profited from it.

Are you feeling particularly sorry for yourself right now because you’ve been fired?  Do you find it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel?  Consider the group you’ve joined.  Check the list of people in our business who have either been fired or forced out of the business at one time or another and have since returned…with a vengeance.  You’ll find the club isn’t that exclusive.

Mo Ostin, Clive Davis, David Geffen, Doug Morris, Richard Palmese, Burt Baumgartner, Craig Lambert, Bruce Tennenbaum, Ron Geslin, Ray Anderson, John Boulos, Ken Lane, Mark Gorlick, Time Burris, Chris Lopes, Marc Ratner, Denise George, Johny Coppola, Ray Carlton, Vicki Leben, Linda Murdock and Felicia Swerling…just to name a few.

That’s not had company.  They’re all great people who succeeded in spite of the loss of a job…or in many cases, because of it.  So will you.

If you’ve been fired, don’t be too down.  If you’ve got a job, don’t be too high.  Remember: Ain’t never a horse that couldn’t be rode and never a rider that couldn’t be throwed.

Mailbag

February 11th, 2000

Sometimes my audience fools me by reading the Commentaries.  Other times they fool me more by proving they can write a response.  This is one of those times.  Evidently, the last two Commentaries dealing with the change of times in our industry rang a few bells.  The readers write:

Dear Gerry,
Now, try convincing those executives that buried themselves in their own call sheets for 20 years…rising up the ladders…only to find that they did not think outside of the box ONE TIME during all those years….(alternately, there are many DID/DO and will benefit from it).

Leverage acts, big money and proven hits are still crucial tools and those who have them WILL survive to a point.  However, charming personalities and nose to the grindstone work ethic doesn’t always pull off the result anymore.  Bottom line doesn’t care much about personality.

Entrepreneurial thinking is what got most of the real successful people in business where they are….thinking outside the box is the only way to go in ANY business.

It’s a very scary time, but also exciting for those who want to view it as an opportunity rather than doom..those who want to stop clutching on their big offices for dear life and start thinking anew.

The problem is there are a lot of highly paid mouths to feed and thinking outside the box is very, very scary for some people…or a luxury they can’t afford themselves…until they are eventually left with no choice.  And how can you balme them , really.  The times ARE a changin’, indeed.

Just my opinion.  Everybody’s got one.

Cathy Burke
Blackbird Records

(Yeah, Cathy, but yours is generally better than everybody else’s!)

Dear Gerry,
“With one click, you accomplish demand, supply and fulfillment.”  Great editorial.  As my little brother, Shaggy (Network 40 Managing Editor Gregg La Gambina), will attest, this is a subject with which I am obsessed.

i have one thought with regard to the above quote.  I realize you are speaking abstractly, but I believe the demand portion will of the economic cycle will remain at the mercy of the traditional venues, at least for now.  As with any product/service on the web, traditional marketing is still necessary because you need to draw the consumer to the site.  This is evidenced by the abundance of million dollar dot-com ads during the Super Bowl as well as the pages of colorful ads in mags like Red Herring and Business 2.0, et al.  Even magazines specifically targeting the denziens of e-commerce know they can’t reach everyone with traditional marketing.  Radio stations will need billboards and vans touting their web address and labels will still need touring and street teams to create demand for a CD available on their website.

If you don’t agree, feel free to take it out on my brother.

Peace,
Doug LaGambina
VP Promotion, Immortal Records
(Peace? You call yourself cutting edge, but use an outdated ‘70s term as your salutation? et al? You’re lamer than your brother.)

Cags,

Are you sure you’re money is where your mouth is?  Since the AOL/Time Warner/EMI mergers, et al, here are some more you can expect to see:

Polygram Records, Warner Bros. and Keebler Crackers become Polly Warner Crackers.

Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fukker Brush and W.R Grace merge to become hale Mary Fuller Grace.

3M and Goodyear merge to become MMMGood.

John Deere and Abitibi-Price become Deere Abi. 

Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Dofasco and Dakota  MIning merge to become Zip Audio Do Da.  

Honeywell, Imasco and Home Oil become Honey I’m home.

Denison Mines, Alliance and Metal Mining merge to become Mine All Mine.

Federal Express and UPS become Fed Up.

3m, J.C. Penny and the Canadian Opera Company become 3 Penny Opera.

Knott’s Berry farm and the National Organization of Women will merge and become Knott NOW.

Peace and Love,
Danny Buch
Sr. VP Promotion
Atlantic Records

(Hey, Danny. Not NOW! The hottest rumor is the merger between Noah’s Ark, Hits Magazine, Atlantic Records and All State. The new company? No Hits At All!)

LOFT

11/13/1998

Three beginning golfers were playing a round with the head pro.  The first golfer hit his drive.  It went straight up in the air ad fell to the ground about 50 yards down the fairway.  He turned to the pro and asked, “What was wrong with that shot?”

The pro shrugged and said, “Loft.”

The radio and record industries are a wonderful world of dress-up, play-acting and make-believe.  I know of no other profession that rewards its employees as much as ours.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are many other professions that provide an opportunity to make more money…or at least as much.  Wall Street, investment banking and the medical and legal professions are just a few that provide an opportunity for extravagant prosperity.  These professions, and others like them, are filled with successful people who studied and worked hard to reach the realm of fame and fortune.  Let’s face it.  To succeed in most businesses, one has to have a great deal of knowledge.  By and large, this knowledge comes from extensive college education and training.

The radio and record business?  It’s not a part of the educational curriculum.  How many of us attended college?  How many actually graduated?  With Honors?

There is no real blueprint for achieving success in our business.  Although some colleges offer classes in radio, it’s mostly spinning records on the campus station before an audience of six.  Has anyone actually failed a radio class in college?  As far as classes on the music business are concerned, they are mainly limited to a seminar or two, lead by whatever star power the college can guilt into speaking for an hour.

Most of us get into this business because of short-term goals.  If you’re working for a record company, you probably loved music, but couldn’t sing or play an instrument.  If you’re in radio, you were probably looking to get laid.

The second golfer hit his shot.  It didn’t get airborne, but rolled down the fairway about 50 yards.  The golfer turned to the pro and asked, “What was wrong with that shot?”

Again the pro shrugged.  “Loft,” he answered.

This is not to say that we’re any less intelligent than our peers in other industries.  It just means that we don’t have exact training for this exacting job we’re asked to do.  We have nothing to fall back on when things aren’t operating smoothly.

Instead, we tend to overemphasize our success and failures.  Since we don’t know exactly what makes a record a hit or a radio station pop up a couple of points in the ratings, we accept that what happens is a direct result of our ability and work.

And boy are we quick to boast.  We’ll take all the credit and none of the blame.  It’s almost a motto.

If a program director fails to move the ratings in a book, it certainly has nothing to do with his or her ability.  That would be blasphemy.  The other station has a bigger promotion budget.  The competition spends more for talent.  The sales manager was to blame for putting too many sales promotions on the air.  The general manager was at fault for allowing too many commercials to be programmed.  It’s absolutely, positively ABM…anybody but me.

The third golfer took his place on the tee.  He squared away, stared at the ball and gave a mighty swing.  His follow-through was full and magnificent.  Unfortunately, he missed the ball,

“What was wrong with that?” the golfer whined.

The pro began waling down the fairway.  “Loft,” he muttered.

What about the promotion executive who can’t bring the record home?  It certainly isn’t his or her fault.  The programmers are to blame.  They won’t take calls.  They don’t listen to music.  They don’t get it.  Neither do the music directors.  The research is skewed.  The sales department didn’t get product in the stores.  The company didn’t allocate enough money for independents.  It’s absolutely, positively EBMF…everything but my fault.

Many of the things students learn in college are important.  The most important?  Learning to accept blame.  We’re all going to make mistakes.  It’s how we react to those mistakes that makes the difference between winners and losers.  When programmers are asked about a recent down trend, they have a myriad of excuses.  Have you ever heard anyone say, “I just screwed up.”

When records don’t make it to the top of the charts, do presidents or promotion executives ever say, “I blew it.”

Nope.  Do you know why?  Because we’re perfect.  In this dog-eat-dog business of ours, we’re all about how great we are.  We’re seldom looking to learn.  We are too busy p-and-b-ing…patting ourselves on the back and blaming others.  We might not know why it isn’t right, but we can rest assured it isn’t our fault because we’re all geniuses.

Do you want to know why we often fail?  Can you accept the truth?

One of the golfers caught up with the pro.  “Three of us just hit different tee shots, all of which were bad.  When we asked what was wrong, you told us it was loft.  How can loft be the cause of three, totally different shots?”

“Loft is the reason,” the pro said, never breaking stride.  “lack of fucking talent.”