T.J. Martell

5/28/1993

I never knew T.J. Martell. I never took the time to look behind the name to find out who he was or what the T.J. Martell Foundation was all about. For as long as I can remember, T.J. Martell was a prepaid round of golf with my friends that also included golf shoes, bags and other paraphernalia given to all participants in the contest. I also attended, at someone else’s expense, various banquets in different cities honoring names ranging from the famous to the vaguely familiar.

T.J. Martell? I didn’t know and didn’t really care.

In our business, we are constantly infused with more than a little cynicism. The compound was still on fire in Waco when the first Branch Davidian jokes began making the rounds. Physical and career deaths in our industry are dealt with in the most caustic terms. Someone loses their job and we’re quick to point out what a loser they were from the start. Someone loses their life and except for maybe a brief memorial, the knives are out and waving. It seems like we have to act ugly to prove how cool we are.

Maybe this is the only way we can react to the roller coaster we ride in the entertainment business. The pressure of delivering daily gives us little chance to stop and smell the roses or mourn someone’s passing for long.

And so it was with me and T.J. Martell.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the cynic’s corner. A lot of people did care. And because they did, I thought maybe I should.

So, last week I went searching for T.J. Martell.

It didn’t take me long to find him.

T.J. was the son of music executive Tony Martell. T.J. Martell died of leukemia in 1975, but before he did, he made his father promise to raise money for research to help others with the illness. A father’s promise to his son continues to live and grow stronger. Tony Martell started the Foundation after his son’s death for the purpose of raising one million dollars for cancer research. That figure was reaching in 1979.

Since then, over $65 million dollars has been raised for research at the T.J. Martell Foundation Laboratories in New York and the Neil Bogart Memorial Fund in Los Angeles.

What makes the T.J. Martell Foundation so special? In a business that attracts charities by the thousands, why does the T.J. Martell Foundation stand high above the rest?

It could be the people involved. The Board of Directors reads like a “Who’s Who” of our industry. It could be that those directors and many others involved in the charity serve without compensation. It could be that the Foundation does really good work. It could bed Tony Martell and the commitment to the promise he made years ago.

It might be that this year, the Foundation struck closer to home with the announcement of the first annual Bruce Bird Commitment to Excellence Award. I knew Bruce Bird and am proud to be associated with something that continues his legacy.

It might be all of these things.

And it might be none of them.

It really doesn’t matter. What does matter are my feelings about the Foundation and the people involved. And those feelings have changed a life-long cynic into someone who hopes to be less so.

In the middle of a bed of weeds, a rose grows. Our industry, infected with the arrogance and cut-throat decisions associated with most big business, has actually crated something extremely special. It makes me feel proud of my profession.

The next time you’re involved in one of the many T.J. Martell Foundation fundraisers, be more than just a player. Be a participant. Don’t waste an opportunity by allowing a record company or other business to pay your way. Dig in and make a contribution yourself. Better yet, donate your time. Whatever you give will come back a thousand-fold.

God forbid that anyone reading this becomes ill with one of the many diseases the T.J. Martell Foundation researches daily. But rest assured, if that happens, the best ill be available to you because this industry has been made to care.

I didn’t know T.J. Martell. I know his father only casually. But I want to thank them both for the many millions of dollars they’ve raised for research and for the many lives they’ve saved from serious illness.

Most of all, I want to thank them for making me care.

Put Up Or Shut Up

5/7/1993

For a month, we’ve received hundreds of phone calls asking one question: What’s the big announcement? We were going to debut our new monitoring system, but it’s been put off until R&R gets theirs on line. That should give us at least another five years or so!

For weeks we’ve been doing our best to echo the sentiments of the industry. We’ve identified existing problems and asked for your input on positive changes. You’ve given us your ideas. Now it’s time to put up or shut up.

You’re reading the future. The New Network Forty contains the changes you’ve suggested…so far. We will continue to reflect the evolution of our industry in the coming months. New ideas will be added and outdated features discarded as The New Network Forty becomes your magazine for the ‘90s…and beyond.

Here’s what’s in it:

“The Charts:” The future of Mainstream Top 40 lies in accurately reporting actual airplay. The Network Forty provides the most detailed report of radio airplay through our exclusive Plays Per Week charts. These charts are tabulated from computer-generated music logs from reporting stations across the country.

The national PPW chart appears on page 3. Other PPWs, based on selected format airplay and eight regional breakouts, enable you to chart songs specifically for your format and geographical region. No other source provides this information. The Network Forty charts give you the most accurate compilation of actual radio airplay. Our PPW research monitors the majors as well as key secondaries outside the universe of BDS markets and airplay is based on specific formats. You won’t be confused by airplay reported from radio stations outside your target audience.

Next to the national PPW chart on page 3 is the traditional chart based on a combination of national airplay, sales and requests. This chart is what program directors across the country predict will happen in the coming week, based on their individual information. The Charts page in The Network Forty provides the only side-by-side comparison of predicted versus actual airplay.

The Network Forty has expanded editorial coverage to include industry news that relates directly to our readers. In addition to the “real” news, our “Page 6,” written by the now infamous Chrome Lizard, will be full of rumors and scandalous activities…the truths and near-truths that make our chosen profession so much fun. Plus, we’ll print a weekly picture guaranteed to shock and titillate.

We will provide the radio and record industries the most in-depth promotion information available. Networking with promotion directors and staffs across the country, we will keep you up-to-date on the latest promotions at all radio stations and record companies. We’ll also keep you current on promotional availabilities for your station and market.

A new, weekly twist, The Network Forty Spotlight will feature an outstanding radio station or record company each week. You’ll get a thumbnail sketch of different companies and how they operate. The Network Forty Interview will do the same with individuals. Once a month, we’ll take a detailed look at someone impacting on our business. A periodical “Twenty Questions” feature will deal with others whose expertise is of particular importance.

The Network Forty will continue to provide you with the most detailed music information available today. Each week, The Network Forty staff networks with program directors and music directors across the country to find out what songs and programming features are working best. This information is available to you daily through the networking process or weekly in the music sections of the magazine.

In addition to Mainstream Top 40, we also provide detailed information on Crossover songs. With this issue, an Alternative section is added. It’s like none other in the business. We will chart those songs we believe are ready to cross over into the Mainstream from the Alternative. The Crossover section will provide this information for the Urban and Rhythm stations as well.

The Network Forty is the only weekly publication that researches programmers’ opinions, retail sales, requests, airplay and outside influences (see “Mass Media”) to provide a total overview of music information.

The Network Forty “Overnight Requests” will continue to provide the industry with the only daily request information. This information is available to subscribers on a daily basis as well as weekly in the magazine.

We also debut an extensive “Help Wanted” section with “Gottagettagig.” It includes everything you need to know to find or fill an opening …and most importantly, it’s free!

With all of your help, we’ve created a magazine that reflects your ideas. We’ve also included a page of our own. “The Morning Line” is a prediction page compiled by The Network Forty staff. It’s a guaranteed non-scientific page full of picks by our own “experts” that’s sure to take the industry by storm.

Along with “Conference Call,” The Network Forty will continue to highlight important issues through the only “Editorial” section in the industry. The Network Forty has developed a reputation for “telling it like it is” and we’ll continue to do so.

The Network Forty is the only trade magazine that boasts a staff of seasoned radio professionals. Compare us with others and see for yourself. Each editor at The Network Forty holds extensive radio credentials and we’re dedicated to putting together accurate, important information each week that will help make your job a little easier…whether you’re programming a radio station or promoting your record company’s product.

We’re excited about our changes. It’s more than just graphics. It’s a commitment to excellence and a commitment to reflect your ideas in a publication that exists for your benefit and betterment. We couldn’t have made the changes without your help. There were so many consulted that we would have to expand the magazine just to mention the names. But suffice it to say that all of our readers are responsible for the changes. Some more than others. And we ask for your continued commitment to us.

Join us as a weekly reader and partner to help us make The Network Forty your magazine for the ‘90s…and beyond.

More Fish

4/16/93

Under the heading, “How Bad Can It Get?”, this week’s answer is WRBQ.

Less than five short years ago, WRBQ was one of the quintessential Top 40 radio stations in the country of which few could compare. At one point, Arbitron listed the station number one in every demo in every daypart. It was a heritage radio station in every sense of the word.

Conceived by Scott Shannon in the late ‘70s, the station soon became a monster. It was a hothouse for growth and a proving ground for some of the nation’s top talent. As with most legends, it was also the product of a lot of luck. Were it not for a negotiating ploy, Shannon might not have even done an air shift. He and management were a few thousand dollars apart, so Shannon solved the difference by agreeing to do a two-hour shift from 10 am until Noon. He had a good time playing his favorite oldies and before he (or anyone else knew it), a legend was born. Shannon’s show became so successful that he segued into mornings and the rest, as they say, is history.

Shannon was helped immensely by his talented afternoon-drive redneck Mason “Leroy” Dixon and research maven Randy Kabrich. After Scott left for New York, Mason and Randy guided the station into a higher stratosphere.

There was much joy in Tampa/St. Pete-ville. Under their tutelage and a management team that promoted and positioned, WRBQ became the yardstick by which all other stations in the nation were compared. And few measured up.

Then came the frontal assault by the Power Pig. WRBQ underestimated its vulnerability, which caused an immediate audience erosion and a massive shift in direction. Blinded by the napalm carpet bombing of its competition, the once mighty “Q” began to slip. However, its failing was only in comparison to what they once were. Guided by different program directors and general managers, Q105 still managed a healthy share of the Tampa audience.

Its inevitable sale…and the more inevitable debt service…further robbed Q105 of its ability to react competitively. On even ground, its mistakes began to magnify. Some adjustment was certainly needed…but not abandonment.

Q105’s top brass struggled to find a happy medium. Attacking overhead was their first move. Cutting Kabrich loose and letting Dixon and other air personalities leave acerbated the problem. But the final blow came last week.

WRBQ changed formats: it is now “Young Country.”

Are we surprised? No.

A smarter man than I once said that you’ll never be surprised by underestimating the intelligence and long-range planning of radio station general managers. Since then, I haven’t…and I haven’t.

Our industry seems to be infested with people in management positions who blame their lack of success on everything but their own inability to succeed. How can owners across the country be confident that managers and program directors who fail in one format will succeed in another? How can they continue to fall for the “format of the month” extolled by consultants and managers? Is there a plan here…like a five-year plan for success?

Five months maybe?

Would you believe…five weeks?

How about until I get my next check.

Here’s a question: How long will “Young Country” last? When it grows up. Then what? Back to Top 40?

Picture a Vice President of Promotion telling the President of a record company that he can’t promote Top 40 records any more. He can only promote Country records because that’s what the audience seems to be buying now. That would never happen.

What is wrong with this picture?

This is not meant to pick on WRBQ’s current management. Admittedly, they weren’t in place when the erosion began. Maybe they are committed to the long-term success of the station in this new format. Maybe they will stick with building the station no matter how the market reacts or how difficult it might be to compete. Maybe they studied long and hard before they made the decision to change and their reasons are grounded in concrete.

If this is the case, then they’re one of the few.

But there are too many stations changing because those in charge aren’t competent. And they’re not capable of accepting blame and seeking the knowledge to change.

We’ll miss WRBQ…and all it stood for. But we are content in the knowledge that there are others out there striving to be the classic Q105 of the future. We’re with you. And as a magazine that seeks to provide the knowledge that you’ll need to climb the ladder to success, we accept the challenge of joining with you to change the phase of radio.

Top 40 is alive. But many who manage and program the format are brain dead.

In three weeks, we’ll adjust to the needs of those who are alive and alert.

The Network Forty…your magazine for the ‘90s and beyond.

Why On Tuesday

4/2/93

Several weeks ago, I promised to delve into the reasons radio playlists are released on Tuesdays. This promise drew more comments than almost anything else…if you throw out Joel and R&R (and we hope you do!). Everyone…from music directors to program directors to those in record promotion and even record company presidents…wanted to know how this practice came about. Tuesday is probably the worst day of the week to release chart information. So why do we do it?

The question is best answered in the following excerpt from my forthcoming autobiography, “The Boss of Boss Radio,” to be published by Doubleday and scheduled for release early this summer.

CHAPTER SIX

It was late on a Tuesday afternoon. Harry Nelson and I were relaxing in my office, passing ideas back and forth about upcoming promotions. Lanette Abraham, newly appointed Music Director of KFRC, walked through the open door.

“I’m done, boss.”

By done, she meant that we had finished with the music. Requests and sales had been tabulated the day before and sent to the home office. Research results were studied in the three hour music meeting earlier that morning, when records were added and changes made to the playlist. At two o’clock that information was phoned to Los Angeles. Then she updated the recorded music line so local promotion managers could access the results at exactly three o’clock. After nearly two days of frantic activity, the music was finished.

“Are you guys busy or can I ask a question?”

Nelson gave me the chicken-eye. Lanette never asked casual questions. As a relative newcomer to radio (she began working at KFRC the day after she graduated from high school), she was constantly seeking knowledge about this profession. Her questions often challenged our way of doing things and sometimes made me uncomfortable. Unlike most of the air personalities who were aware of my volatile personality and tended to treat me with deference, Lanette thought she was bullet-proof. She questioned every aspect of her job…and many of mine.

“What is it?” I snapped.

Nelson held his breath. If she was in one of her moods, she could set me off. He sunk into the couch, seeking protection from the cushions.

“Why do we do the music on Tuesdays?”

Nelson let out an audible sigh and relaxed. I smiled and motioned for her to take a seat next to him.

“It’s a long story.”

She flopped down on the cushions and tosser her hair back. “Of course it is,” she replied.

I felt a frown tighten my face. “Why do you say that?”

Nelson stiffened again. He had worked with me long enough to know what makes me angry. Sarcasm from subordinates before quitting time was one of them. If she was aware that she was treading on thin ice, she never let on.

“Oh, Gerry, unlike everybody else, things to happen to you…stories do.”

Nelson laughed and I managed a wry smile. It was hard to be angry when she was right. Besides, this was a particularly good story. I sat down on the edge of my desk and prepared to hold them captive for a few minutes.

“Before you start, can I strike a blow for liberty?” Nelson asked.

I checked my watch. It was just past four…close enough. Besides, I was feeling a might squeaky. A little oil could smooth the edges.

I nodded. “Go ahead.”

He leaned over and pulled three beers from the refrigerator. He stared at the bottle of vodka for only a second before passing on that notion…for the moment.

We silently saluted each other with a toast and washed away the taste of a hard day.

“Well?” Lanette was focused. She didn’t want this to turn into a drinking session. At least not until her question had been answered.

I smiled and took another sip. “I like the time we spend together to be educational as well as entertaining.”

Nelson rolled his eyes and barely contained a groan. She looked impressed. Of course, she was young and wanted to learn. Then again, she could have just be placating me. It had been a couple of years since she was hired and in that time, she had learned how to stroke with the best of them.

I ignored the obvious possibilities and warmed to the question. “The very first record chart was compiled by a local stations occurred in 1954 at WHBQ in Memphis, Tennessee. Until that time, radio stations that had begun experimenting with the fledgling Top 40 format used charts compiled by national music magazines.”

“You mean they didn’t do any local research?”

Nelson sighed heavily and thought about the vodka. “Lanette, back then they didn’t know how to spell research.”

“Oh.”

They hit their beers again and I went on.

“As the Rock And Roll craze hit the nation, the sales manager of WHBQ realized that music being pressed and played on local levels in Memphis (such as Elvis Presley on Sun Records) wasn’t reflected on the national charts. He figured, as all good sales managers should, that local sales could be stimulated if WHBQ originated its own chart that prominently featured the hometown records. He could then package this information and sell commercials to the record stores. Since most of the retail business was done over the weekend, the best time to influence potential buyers was the day before the weekend. Hence, the first Top 40 chart originated by a local radio station was done on Friday.”

“To simulate sales,” Lanette stated.

I nodded. “Theoretically.”

Nelson finished his beer and went for another. “It was the first example of a sales-oriented programming feature.”

“But not the last,” I laughed.

“So, how did we get to Tuesday?” Lanette prodded.

 

She was rushing me, but I let it pass for the time being. Nelson tossed me another beer. This time I eyed the vodka.

“Three years later, TV played a part in changing the way radio released their charts,” I continued. “A new show capitalized on the popularity of Rock And Roll. Your Hit Parade debuted Saturday night and instantly shot to the top of the ratings. People across the country got into guessing which songs would climb into the Top 10 and be sung by the Hit Parade singers. This show aired live in New York at 8 o’clock EST and was film-delayed for viewing on the West Coast. A sharp program director at KFWB, the Top 40 station in Los Angeles at that time, got the Top 10 from the film and began a countdown at 6pm every Saturday. KFWB, trumpeted the fact that you could hear the countdown performed by the original artists at 6 pm and Your Hit Parade would copy them two hours later.”

“That guy was a genius,” Lanette said.

 

I would never admit that anyone was smarter than I was, so I ignored her comment. “It worked and radio stations across the West Coast began their own countdowns on Saturdays. A year later, Your Hit Parade was canceled, but the habit had been ingrained. East Coast stations began countdown shows on Saturdays to fill the void and this practice continued for several years.”

I paused for effect, but it wasn’t needed. I had them now.

“Then came research…and the charts changed forever. With the ascension in power of the famous RKO radio chain, accurate charts suddenly became important. The powers at RKO decided that each radio station must compile a list of sales and requests and the charts should reflect this research. Tabulations by national jukebox companies were done on Mondays. Since retail data should reflect the important weekend sales, that information was compiled from local record stores on Monday. The RKO chain began releasing its chart Monday evening and since most other stations in the country looked to RKO as the leader, they followed suit.”

“That’s amazing,” Lanette said.

I love it when I was able to impress others with my knowledge. It made me feel powerful. I glanced at Nelson. He was idly thumbing through the sports section of the newspaper… and I knew for a fact that he hated sports. Had I told him this story before or was I just boring him to distraction? I asked him for another beer and grabbed the paper when he leaned toward the refrigerator.

“To further enhance its power, KHJ in Los Angeles, the nation’s most listened-to radio station, counted down its chart on Monday at 6 pm. This guaranteed increased listernership from the audience as well as the record community. RKO further cemented this by holding up its official chart release until 9 pm. Since all RKO stations operated from the same list, the only way to find out what records were added to the entire 12-station chain was to listen to the countdown.”

“Weren’t you the program director of KHJ?” Lanette asked.

The pride was back. I fought the feeling of puffing out my chest. “Yes,” I answered as humbly as possible.

“That was great,” she stroked.

“For years, the record community was held hostage. Executives from the East Coast called their employees on Los Angeles and had the phones placed by radio so they could hear the countdown for themselves. It was the most important broadcasting event of the week.”

 

“Fantastic!” Lanette exclaimed.

Nelson burped.

I noticed that a number of other staffers had gathered by my opened door and were listening to the story. I sat up a little straighter and spoke with a bit more authority. I had an audience to impress.

“Then, once again, TV played a part. ABC decided to debut an experiment called Monday Night Football. Within weeks, this show garnered the largest audience in television history. Suddenly, record executives were too excited about the football game to worry about the KHJ countdown. They could wait until Tuesday morning for the information. And more important, Paul Drew, the head of the RKO chain was an absolute football fanatic. He was hooked on the TV broadcast himself. Drew was famous for listening to KHJ at all times. He kept a plug in his ear to track the programming even at important meetings. Very few people knew it, but the only time Paul wouldn’t listen to his most-important radio station was when he was watching football games on TV. Having to monitor the countdown while watching Monday Night Football was too tedious.”

“Unbelieveable.” Lanette’s entire face was lit up.

“Six weeks after the first broadcast of Monday Night Football, RKO moved the KHJ countdown to Tuesday and began releasing chart information on the same day.”

“Because of the games…” Lanette whispered. The group nodded knowingly.

I finished the beer and shrugged. “It’s been the same ever since.”

(Reprinted with permission from the forthcoming Doubleday book, “The Boss of Boss Radio.”)

The Verdict

3/26/93

The judge sat stiffly behind the bench and looked around the courtroom, his dark eyes surveying those in attendance. As was the case since the trial began, all the seats were taken and standing room was three deep in the back. But this day, something was different. The atmosphere had changed. During the previous week’s testimony, emotions had run high and a feeling of excitement filled the air. Now, the mystery was gone, replaced by the stench of death. All had gathered to hear the verdict, but the outcome was a foregone conclusion. The gathering had turned into a funeral. Everyone was just waiting for the ax to fall.

He glanced down at the plaintiff’s table. The young attorney lounged casually in his chair with his feet up. His fingers were laced behind his head and his eyes were half-closed. His countenance gave off an aura of self-confidence. He had pled his case well.

The same could not be said of the defendants. They hid behind their table with slouched shoulders, bowed heads and eyes that stared down toward the floor. The old attorney had failed to show up for the reading of the verdict. Indeed, the court had been delayed for almost 30 minutes until the bailiffs found him passed out drunk in a bar down the street.

The judge rapped the gavel sharply several times. It was not needed. He was already the center of everyone’s attention.

He cleared his throat and read from a piece of paper held at arm’s length. “In the case of the People of Radio against Radio & Records, charged with the death of Top 40…” He paused for dramatic effect and glanced up briefly. “The court finds the defendants…not guilty.”

The courtroom exploded with shouts and groans of stunned disbelief. Individual voices cut through the din: “No way…wait a minute…we was robbed…bullshit!”

The judge waited for a few seconds for the crowd to finish its initial outburst. He had been through these surprises before. When it was time, he calmly picked up the gavel and rapped in sharply three times. “The court will come to order.” Five more raps brought the crowd in line.

If the verdict shook the onlookers, the defendants were caught ever more off-guard. They sat as if posed; eyes glassy, jaws slacked, mouths open and one pony tail twitching in disbelief.

If any of them had cared to check out the plaintiff’s table, they would have gotten an even bigger shock. The young attorney hadn’t changed positions. If anything, he looked even more relaxed. A closer look would have caught the shared glance with the judge.

“Order.” The judge said it again, even though it wasn’t needed. He was definitely in the spotlight now. The entire room seemed to be holding its breath. The judge shook his head slowly and took off his glasses. He pulled out a clean handkerchief and began polishing them unhurriedly. When he was satisfied they were clean (and confident that his audience had been stretched to the limits of the patience), he continued.

“The jury deliberated only a short time before handing in a verdict I’m sure any of you could easily predict. However, before I could summon the parties, the plaintiffs’ attorney asked to see me in quarters.”

The judge hesitated and cleared his throat. The young attorney remained relaxed in his chair. He, and only he among the onlookers, knew what was coming.

“We tried to find the defendants’ lawyer and couldn’t. Usually I refuse to hear only one side of an argument, but as this was a special circumstance, I listened. And I’m glad I did.”

He fixed the defendants with an icy glare. “It would appear that the attorney for the plaintiffs is more interested in a truthful outcome of this case than you are.”

Whatever elation the defendants must have felt after the verdict was quickly reversed by the judge’s statement. All eyes searched the floor again.

Once more he cleared his throat and in a clear, authoritative voice he said, “It seems that we have a case of corpus delicti.”

The courtroom crowd began that annoying murmur and he was forced to silence it with the gavel.

“The attorney for the plaintiffs pointed out several facts that were evidently missed by the defense…facts like Z100 in New York having a healthy upward trend…KIIS in Los Angeles showing a strong upward movement in their trend…Rick Dees moving back into the lead among English speaking radio in morning drive…and selected Top 40 stations showing strong improvements, including trend-setting WBBQ in Augusta leading the pack with an 18.1 12+ share in its last book.” The judge consulted the brief in front of him. “And there are others going up, including KKXX, WSTW, Q102, PRO-FM, Z104, WPGC, KTFM, KMEL, KSOL, FM102, KDWB KJMZ, SXKS, 92Q, WXXL and,” he set the papers aside, “the list goes on.”

“It would be difficult to prove that Radio & Records is guilty of killing Top 40 radio when the format is showing marked signs of life.”

The courtroom murmured again and the defendants got busy doing what they did best: hugging and patting themselves on the back.

The judge got a particular thrill from banging the gavel. He liked the sound it made and the sting that pierced his palm when he brought it down. He most liked the rush of power that came with it and as he called the court to order, he thought to himself that he was not unlike the plaintiffs in that feeling. The big difference was that he was voted into his position. He quickly brushed aside that fleeting comparison and continued

“Don’t be so quick to congratulate yourselves,” he barked. “This thing isn’t over yet.”

The startled defendants quickly settled into their seats. A couple even glanced toward the young attorney to get a hint at what was coming, but to no avail.

“You can’t be convicted of killing Top 40 since it isn’t dead, but I am willing to allow you to plead guilty to the lesser charge of attempted murder.”

One of the defendants jumped to his feet and tried to speak, but the judge quickly silenced him.

“Before you put your foot in your mouth…again…let’s review some of the facts: You changed the name to CHR with no input from the radio community, your policies are restrictive, you set rules and regulations with little regard to the radio stations you are supposed to serve, you limit the number of reporters to increase your power, you change the guidelines from week to week and are completely inconsistent in applying those rules to different stations. Even when given the opportunity, you refuse to stand up for the format.”

“But Your Honor,” the largest defendant whined, “I…”

“Shut up, Big Boy,” the judge snapped and added an exclamation point with the gavel.

Big Boy stared angrily at Pony Tail, but the Tail wagged the other way.

“Why, just today, the New York Times published an article entitled ‘The Breakup of Pop Music Audience Leaves Top 40 Radio Tuned out,’ an article that trumpets the rapid decline of Top 40 radio. The editor of Radio & Records is quoted in this article as agreeing with a so-called consensus that Top 40 radio can’t serve a large portion of the audience any more.”

The defendants were humbled once again.

“And before you plead, let me offer some sentencing guidelines. Since it’s a format you’ve attempted to murder, not a person, the court must take into consideration extenuating circumstances. Although we view you as the main culprit, you had many accomplices. Radio programmers across the country are guilty of following your restrictive policies to get the plums derived from a reporting status instead of refusing to play the game. Those who complain the most are usually those left out of the process. Once accepted as reporters, they generally keep totally quiet or just whisper angrily from time to time. Have any refused to report because of the practice? Have any reporting stations been vocal in their disagreement with these policies?”

“And what about record companies? Have they nourished full service on radio stations not in the R&R fold? Do they spend thousand of dollars in time and money on reporting stations in far-away places while letting other, more worthy, would-be reporters wither on the vine? Is alleged airplay more important than actual sales?”

“To R&R, I would sentence you to look daily in the mirror and reflect the wants and needs of those in the radio and record industries, rather than dictating your narrow, restrictive policies. Expand your reporters to include all of those who purport to be Top 40 stations. Only by including all Top 40 stations can you truly serve as a stimulant in the survival of the format. You must realize that if you strangle this most important format, eventually you, too, will die.”

“You’re now the problem. Become part of the solution.”

He paused for a moment and poured a glass of water, took the time to drink half of it, then resumed. “To the charge of attempted murder of the Top 40 format and generally being pompous, all-around pains-in-the-ass, how do you plead?”

The defendants quickly rose and spoke as one. “Guilty.”

The gavel came down with a decisive BING!

“Case Closed.”

Who Killed Top 40

3/19/93

The judge took one look at the packed room, frowned, then banged his gavel down and called the court to order.

“In the matter of the People of Radio against the magazine Radio & Records, are the attorneys present?

A tall, stylish man dressed in blue jeans, a Pearl Jam T-shirt, white sox and tennis shoes stood up behind the Plaintiff’s table. “The People of Radio are ready, Your Honor.”

The judge frowned deeper behind his glasses. “You aren’t dressed in the manner we usually expect in this court.”

The young man smiled. “I apologize if my looks and manner offend you. However, the “style over substance” positioning of the 1980s is no longer acceptable to most in our business.

“Just one of the reasons this complaint should be dismissed out of hand, Your Honor,” a big voice boomed. From behind the Defendant’s table rose a silver-haired throwback to the plantation era. Several inches over six feet tall, the old man towered over the courtroom. His demeanor demanded attention, as did his attire. Atop the silver hair was a panama hat. Below it, the carefully assembled outfit was comprised of a white suit, white shirt and white shoes. The outfit was contrasted by a black string tie pulled loosely around his collar and an expensive, ornate cane that was useless, except as a prop. A stream of ugly, gray smoke curled from between the yellowed teeth that clinched a long, fat cigar.

“I’ll decide what’s useless and what isn’t,” the judge snapped. And there’s no smoking in this courtroom. Get rid of the cigar.”

The old man’s chest rose in defiance. “I object, Your Honor.”

“Object all you want, but if the cigar isn’t out in five seconds, you’ll be smoking in jail.”

The old man’s eyes narrowed and he gave the judge the same look of contempt he had previously served on the young attorney, but the cigar was extinguished…slowly…and with an attitude.

The judge picked up a piece of paper and began reading from it. “The defendant, Radio & Records, is accused of killing Top Forty Radio.” He looked at the old man over the top edge of the paper. “How do you plead?”

A large, red pay slammed down on the defense table. “Not guilty, of course.” The big voice rolled around the courtroom like a clap of thunder.

Behind the Plaintiff’s desk, the young attorney seemed bored with the proceedings. His feet rested casually on the table top as he absently filed his fingernails. The posturing of the defense attorney was wasted on him.

“Then we can begin,” the judge said. He looked at the Plaintiff. “Go ahead and state your case.”

“The case has been stated in past issues of The Network Forty magazine, Your Honor. Radio & Records, through their restrictive reporting policies, has continually forced radio stations to define their format based on characteristics set forth by Radio & Records, not by the radio stations, their peers or the industry itself. These restrictions are arbitrary, ever-changing and whimsical.”

“I object,” the Defense attorney roared.

“Hell, so do we,” the young attorney grinned. “We in radio have been objecting for years, but to no avail. Radio & Records has become obscenely self-important and cares about as much for the wishes of radio as does the Arbitron rating service.”

“You’re comparing Radio & Records with Arbitron?” the old man wheezed.

The attorney for the Plaintiff shrugged. “Both set up rules, determine policies and impose strict guidelines with little, if any, regard for radio’s needs But let’s save Arbitron for another trial and keep the focus on Radio & Records.”

“Continue with your case,” the judge said.

Another shrug from the Plaintiff’s table. “This is really and open-and-shut case, Your Honor. Twelve years ago, Radio & Records, without asking, redefined all Top Forty radio stations as CHRs. R&R invented the term and forced all radio stations to comply.”

A gasp came from the courtroom. The judge banged his gavel and called for order.

“So,” continued the attorney for the Plantiffs, “by their own admission, R&R killed Top Forty.”

The judge nodded and looked toward the defense table. “Do you have anything to say?”

The old man shook his head and said, “Not at this time, Your Honor.”

But that’s not all. R&R killed the term, Top Forty, and they’ve continued to require that reporting radio stations strictly comply with arbitrary restrictions that cause the format, whether named Top Forty or CHR, to be in jeopardy. R&R’s antiquated policies and rules are designed primarily to perpetuate their power. If stations don’t comply with these rules, they’ll be banished from their reporting status. The rules are changed constantly and stations are listed and delisted by mere whimsy. No one is ever sure what is required to be a reporter because the criteria shifts almost from week-to-week.”

“Your Honor,” the old man said as he rose from behind the table, “this is ridiculous.”

“Again, we agree, Your Honor,” nodded the attorney for the Plaintiff, “but up until now, radio had no recourse. To be allowed into the game, you had to play by R&R’s restrictive rules.”

“It is our game,” the attorney for the Defense shouted in outrage. “Of course you must play by our rules.”

“And that part, Your Honor, is the most galling part.” The Plaintiff’s attorney signed deeply. “R&R doesn’t consult the radio or record industry for input when it makes changes. It does so be divine right. The decisions are made by those at R&R who have no expertise in the very industry they claim to represent.”

“That’s absurd,” shouted the opposing council.

The young man threw up his hands. “Again, we’re forced to agree. It is absurd that R&R doesn’t have the expertise to make suggestions to the industry. Those in power are too far removed from the current reality of radio to respond to its needs. If truth be told, they never had that expertise.”

The old man grinned a “canary-eating-grin” and sat down. “We’ve got you now,” he mumbled under his breath.

“Is that all?” the judge asked.

The young attorney nodded. “That’s it, Your Honor.” We accuse R&R of killing Top Forty by arbitrarily changing the name. We also further accuse R&R of choking the format through restrictive rules and policies. And these rules are made by people who have no relevant expertise.”

The judge hesitated for a moment. “Do you have anything else?”

The young attorney sat down. “No, Your Honor. The Plaintiff rests.”

The judge shifted to stare at the Defense table. “Do you have any rebuttal witnesses?”

“Only one,” the old man smiled. “The defense calls Joel Denver.”

The young attorney was immediately on his feet. “For what reason?”

Another superior smile cracked the old attorney’s features. “We’re calling Mr. Denver as an expert witness.”

The young man sat down in his chair. “We object, Your Honor.”

“On what grounds?” the old man raved.

“It’s been over a decade since he’s had any experience in radio. He’s totally out of touch with today’s radio. Joel Denver is not qualified as an expert.”

“That’s balderdash,” the old man roared. “Joel Denver programmed 96X in Miami, KSLQ in St. Louis and KCBQ in San Diego.”

“Successfully?” the young man asked.

The judge jumped in. “What are you getting at?”

“The Plaintiffs will admit that Joel Denver was a good music director at WFIL in Philadelphia years ago when it still played music. However, we’re not ready to accept him as an expert based on his total lack of experience as a program director over the past 15 years.”

“Why?”

The young attorney walked across the courtroom and looked up at the judge. “For several reasons, Your Honor, the most obvious of which is that he hasn’t programmed a station in over a decade. Would you trust the diagnosis of a doctor who hasn’t practiced medicine for the same period of time?”

The older attorney nervously adjusted the string tie and ran a finger around his collar.

The judge returned his attention to the Defense table. “How do you respond to this?”

The old man cleared his throat and stuttered. “Ah, well, Your Honor, ah we…”

“Do you still want to call the man as an expert?”

The old man through about it for a few seconds, then his shoulders slumped in defeat. “No, Your Honor,” he said softly.

The courtroom “oooed and ahhhed.” Two gave “high fives” and another shouted, “He shoots, he scores!” From the back came the sound, “Bing!”

The judge rolled his eyes.

“We’re willing to accept the witness on a limited field of testimony, Your Honor,” the young attorney added. “We would like to ask some questions about Future Hits.”

The judge held up his hand. “You can save those inquiries for another time.”

The attorney for the Plaintiff made a note on the pad in front of him. “We’ll do that, Your Honor.”

“Let’s move along,” the judge said. “Would the Defense like to present other witnesses to the court?”

The old man took a deep breath and sadly shook his head. “No, Your Honor. The Defense rests.”

The judge banged down the gavel. “Court is dismissed.”

 

 

The Big Bing Theory

 

3/12/1993

 

Since its inception, music radio has been chronicled by a myriad of newspapers and magazines. Each focused on different aspects of the business, but most, if not all, were primarily concerned with either (1) how records were performing, (2) what records were being considered for airplay…or both. Over the years, these entities have included, in addition to The Network 40, other publications such as Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, The Gavin Report, Bob Hamilton’s Radio Report, Friday Morning Quarterback, Radio & Records, Bobby’ Poe’s Pop Music, Ron Brandon Report, Hits, Hitmakers and many more.

 

With all of the competition for readership and advertising, one magazine always rose above the rest. The industry always chose one magazine as the definitive. All others were measured against its popularity. Each one of these so-called Bibles lasted for a while, but in the end, they fell from grace for one reason or another: they got too big and just didn’t care any more; they made mistakes; they were dishonest and reported incorrect information; or time just passed them by.

 

Right after World War II, it was Cashbox. In the 1950s there were over 500,000 jukeboxes in the United States. Cashbox got its power and name from the coin-operated boxes. It was possible for a record to be certified “Gold” from jukebox sales alone.

 

As radio airplay began to replace jukebox play as the best way to sell records, Billboard became the giant. For years, record companies and radio stations looked at the “Hot 100” chart as the final determination of a record’s popularity. Billboard was always short on editorial information, but built its reputation through news, both national and international, and the all-important charts.

 

While Billboard maintained its popularity, Bill Gavin began the first trade publication solely dedicated to providing radio stations with informative “tips” on what records might become hits. The Gavin Report accepted no advertising and relied only on subscriptions to stay in business. A little later, Bob Hamilton created The Radio Report. This magazine combined the best of Billboard and The Gavin Report to provide its readers with radio information, industry news, charts and record information. For a brief moment in the sun…or maybe the stars…The Radio Report was the Bible.

 

In the mid-‘70s, Bob Wilson created Radio & Records. In the beginning, Radio & Records was dedicated to reflecting the wants and needs of both the radio and record communities. With no small degree of hard, accurate journalism and a big help from the powerful RKO Radio chain (we’ll discuss why playlists are done on Tuesdays at another time), Radio & Records became the Bible of the industry. For a while, it was worthy of the title.

 

Over the past several weeks, editorials on these pages have outlined the problems confronted by Mainstream Top 40 radio stations and have advocated some changes, suggest by our readers, as solutions. Many of these problems have been directly attributable to the policies of Radio & Records. Hundreds of interested parties, from record company presidents and local promotion managers to radio station owners, managers and program directors have responded to these editorials. With few exceptions, most have agreed with what has been written.

 

I believe, along wit the majority of our readers, that radio in general, and Mainstream Top 40 in particular, is in trouble today because of the many restrictive policies of Radio & Records. It is tough enough just to survive in the competitive radio business without having to justify your existence to a publication with restrictive policies. Particularly when these policies are made by out-of-touch regulators who have no knowledge of the problems of today’s radio and no solutions to offer. Yet they impose nonsensical rules solely to magnify their own diminishing importance. We believe these policies are antiquated at best and dangerous at worst.

 

Does the saying “…living in a subjective dream world of adolescence where you can’t comprehend your own environment…” ring a bell?

 

Bing!

 

If we accept Radio & Records as the Bible of our industry…and for the sake of this argument, we will accept this absurd fact as a reality…the we depend on the information provided by Radio & Records to be accurate and without manipulation. It must beor we are allowing our business to be guided by decisions made on information that is patently wrong. For the moment, we won’t ask why radio stations in the same city that don’t share on current song on their respective playlists are categorized the same. We won’t question why radio stations in certain markets are given priority reporting status while stations with similar playlists and bigger ratings in larger markets aren’t. We won’t be stupid enough to ask someone…ANYONE…to explain this week’s reporting status and apply it accurately to all stations within and without the reporting corral. And we won’t even try and discuss the researched, mathematically calculated formula that restricts the total number of reporting stations under a certain figure. (If we did, we would ask, “Do the words ‘outdated computer system’ ring a bell? And then we would say, “Bing!” But we won’t say any of that.)

 

Just for the sake of argument, we’ll accept the premise that the information reported by Radio & Records should we accurate and without manipulation. That is why it is the Bible. We must assume that the information is pure. And what happens, boys and girls, when we assume something? Do we make and “ass” out of “u” and “me”?

 

BING!

 

Picture, if you will, a radio station with a P-3 status reporting aiplay regularly to Radio & Records. We know this information is accurate, because Radio & Records keeps a careful watch on all its reporters. We know this because some stations are “de-listed” from time to time because they fail to comply with the rules and regulations demanded by the powers-that-be. What if a radio station reported incorrect information, but the information fell within the rules and regulations? Radio & Records, the Bible of the industry would not allow that to happen.

 

Or would they?

 

BING!

 

For the sake of this argument, let’s assume that there is a radio station in Wheeling, West Virginia called WOMP. Let’s further assume that this radio station is a “CHR P-3” reporter. Let’s take it one step further and assume that on January 22, R&R reported that WOMP was sold to Associated Communications Corporation, which also owns WRKY in Steubenville, Ohio. The parent company decided to simulcast WRKY’s signal on WOMP. WOMP is an R&R reporter, but WRKY is not. If all of this happened two months ago, Radio & Records still wouldn’t list WOMP as a reporter, would they?

 

A call to WOMP was answered by the receptionist. She told us she was the only one there. According to her, WOMP only originates the morning show from 6-10am, Monday through Friday. The rest of the programming is simulcast from WRKY. Another call to Steve Kline, program director of WRKY, verified her assertion.

 

Radio & Records continues to list WOMP as a P-3 reporter with no stipulation that its programming is simulcast from another station…a station that had a decidedly different lean. Although WOMP broadcasts its own programming only during morning drive, none of the playlist is stipulated as “dayparted.” WRKY, a station with no reporting status, is broadcasting its playlist on WOMP 20 hours each day.

 

Yet WOMP has continued to be classified as a P-3 reporter. Should WRKY have this listing?

 

What’s going on?

 

Has Radio & Records gotten so big that they just don’t care any more? Did they make a mistake? Are they knowingly reporting incorrect information?

 

Or is time just passing them by?

 

BING!

Fish In The Trees

2/26/1993

Two weeks ago, an editorial appeared in The Network Forty. We pointed out the problems facing our industry and outlined some ideas for change. We also asked for your input.

Your response has been overwhelming.

From record company presidents to local promotion people, from radio station owners and managers to weekend personalities, the letters, faxes and calls have been 100 per cent positive (if we throw out the pony-tailed guy across the street who keeps calling and trying to disguise his voice). We’re happy you share the passion.

With your calls of support have come suggestions to help implement change. We asked that you participate in the process and you’ve stepped forward with literally hundreds of suggestions about how The Network Forty can better serve our readers. Keep talking; we’re listening.

Over the coming months, you will watch the changes you suggest become a reality. Some will take time. Others can happen quickly.

After talking with Scott Shannon, Mason Dixon and Lorrin Palagi and listening to their suggestions, we’ve decided to make an immediate change. Effective this week, their stations (WPLJ, New York, WMTX, Tampa and WRQX, Washington, D.C.), along with a list of others who program in a similar fashion, will be added to our Mainstream chart.

It is our belief, one shared by the likes of the aforementioned programmers, that the distinctions made by other trade magazines between formats are suspect at best and dangerous at worst. Arbitrary, ever-changing rules made by people who have no recent programming experience should not be the criteria on which music ratio station should be judged. Does the station’s presentation strive to reach the contemporary audience? It is music-intensive? Does it feature new music? Is it selling records? These are the criteria on which music radio stations should be judged.

Also effective immediately, The Network Forty will no longer publish an AC chart. Those stations that are oldies-based do not need a chart to help them program the limited number of new titles they add each year. The Network Forty will concentrate on helping those who program to the contemporary audience with an emphasis on contemporary music. That’s it.

Will it make our chart more Mainstream? Yes. Will it realistically reflect the musical tastes of the contemporary audience? Yes. Will it be a more accurate barometer of actual record sales? Yes. We can live with all of those answers.

To make themselves more important, those at the other trades began dictating rules regarding reporting and status. Those very rules have been not only oppressive to the radio stations seeking acknowledgement, but are directly responsible for the diminishing impact of contemporary radio in today’s marketplace. For the past several years, many radio stations have been forced to program not to their audience, but to editorial trade panels that determine their reporting status…and thereby their ability to get priority record service and promotional consideration. The result is evident across the country, as stations with primary reporting status change formats because their audience share diminishes with each passing rating. So now you have radio stations with primary reporting status that can’t attract enough of an audience to make money and stay in the market. What is wrong with this picture?

The fish are in the trees.

In the mid-‘70s and early ‘80s, I had the opportunity to program some of the largest and most influential Top 40 radio stations in history, including the RKO radio chain. I applied current “rules” to the music policies of KHJ and discovered that the quintessential contemporary giant in Los Angeles wouldn’t qualify today as a reporter. There were too many oldies and recurrents on the chart. KFRC, San Francisco’s legendary “Boss Of The Bay,” would barely slip by. This is ridiculous.

In an effort to better serve the needs of radio stations and record companies, The Network Forty announces the rules for our reporting stations: Send your playlists. That’s it. I’ve never heard of a record company asking a radio station not to play its latest release for any reason. Why should a trade magazine refuse to report that airplay…for any reason?

We will weight each chart based on the size of the market and audience reach, but we will accept all playlists…gladly.

Instead of telling you what you aren’t (as in, “you’re not a Top 40 station)”), we’ll tell you what you are: A reporter and partner in The Network Forty, the trade magazine for the ‘90s and beyond.

Empty Exaltations

2/19/1993

I knew it would be a bad trip when the plane to San Francisco was delayed an hour, but tickets had been purchased, hotel rooms booked, meetings planned and besides, I had no choice.

So, with much trepidation, I boarded. I sought solace from the hour-long trip, hoping to use the time alone to compose my thoughts and plan my actions for the weekend, but it was not to be. I was loaded and strapped in between two MCA employees who proceeded to bitch and moan about the state of the business and their employer in particular. They spouted noble notions and shared visionary ideas about the future of their company, replete with comments such as “All should do this” and “Rich should know better.” As neither was old enough to order cocktails, I wondered what had come over my friends, Misters Teller and Palmese, to trust their careers to the likes of these? I finally bit my tongue and asked the cretin on my left what he did for MCA. When he replied that he was in charge of calling 500 retail stores each week to compile data, I realized that the hype of the convention had begun already. I immediately ordered another drink and sought refuge in the back of the plane, knowing most “industry types” avoid this section because it is beneath their station. I fell between two gentlemen who resembled Teller and Palmese and began drinking heavily.

As planned, I arrived too late for the KSJO party (didn’t everybody?), but just in time to join in the “training sessions” that would prepare one for the suite parties the following night. Drinks abounded and although I saw many familiar faces and shared more than a couple of nods, the mood was different. I quickly passed it off, thinking it was me and continued into the wee hours.

The next morning broke with a flurry of furious phone calls. I showed quickly and got ready to brave the registration process. I even had enough time to practice my “whenjagitin” line in front of the mirror for several minutes. Satisfied that I had it down, I moved carefully out of my hotel and down to the St. Francis.

Years in the business usually add up to nothing more than old men with older stories, but the experience pays big dividends in certain situations, like getting registration badges without standing in line with the salmon who don’t know better and were actually looking forward to the process. I managed my first confrontation with the masses without a scene.

Being a member of the working press and not a P-1 reporter who could turn his nose up at such triviality, I ventured into the meeting rooms for the first time in years. Long ago I had given up on the panels as endless hype about the size of one’s penis (I mean ego). The non-stop posturing by the peacocks with their preening and shrieking usually goes unnoticed by the members of the audience. This year provided no exceptions. All of the panels I attended were more boring than usual, with most participants expostulating on the company line. No fireworks were set off and except for two rap groups threatening to hold Ron Fell hostage for more badges, nothing out of the ordinary occurred.

Thursday night began the free-for-alls. Every record company has a party at the same time, each competing for the limited number of important radio people and settling for what they get. Sony Music commandeered the third floor of the Pan Pacific with Burt Baumgartner and Polly Anthony holding court. Everyone flowed smoothly through their glow during the night. PLG lit up the Great American Music Hall. The joint was packed, possibly due to the outstanding hospitality of Rick Dobbis, Johnny Barbis and Joe Riccitelli, but more likely from its location next door to the every-popular Mitchell Brothers’ Theatre. Interscope cornered the market wit the best food at the Corona Bar and Grill. It’s always fun to watch Bill Brill direct and Mark Benesch act gracious. Afterwards, it was hanging in dimly lit bars waiting for the ballerinas to free up.

Friday hit with gale force. Those who weren’t in, were, and hype-a-cane warnings were posted along the perimeters. The lobby of the St. Francis Hotel was to be avoided at all costs. The mood of the convention was somber. There was not the usual tomfoolery and gaiety as in past years. Perhaps it was the state of the industry. Most likely, a state of mind.

I was mulling this and other thoughts over when I came out of my coma and realized I had taken a wrong turn. What an amateurish mistake! Quickly, I fought back the momentary surge of panic and headed back. I was out of luck. Streaming down the stairs was a group of wannabe’s who had just finished attending a session how to be. I spun around and headed for the hallway, but it was blocked by the same rapper and posse who had kidnapped their limo driver the night before and had just been released from jail. The bile was building in the back of my throat as I realized I had no choice. I had to walk the gauntlet through the lobby.

I took a deep breath, vowed to be brave, dropped my head to avoid eye contact and began pushing through. I was in the belly of the beast and only luck would get me out unscathed.

That’s when I knew the mood had really shifted. In past years, the lobby was a drowning pool, watched over by the bottom feeders searching for the sharks. When they spotted the approach of anyone pretending to be important, they went into a feeding frenzy. It was an ugly scene. Blood and pulp flowed freely. But this year, the hounds were penned. Oh, there were several groups of coyotes who hid in the corners, but they were content merely with barking and snarling among themselves rather than forcing a frontal attack. The attitude was wait-and-see, though few knew who they were waiting for and most were blind.

The lobby, sans wolves and whales, was, as in previous years, full of those with no jobs looking for any job and those with bad jobs looking for better ones. And as in previous years, no one found what they were looking for. Except for me. I found the front doors.

Friday night began with the infamous cocktail party, known for the lack of cocktails and party atmosphere, followed by showcases in various suites. For the most part, security wasn’t needed and the masses were able to visit as they pleased. Veterans, of course, stayed away. Saturday, with the exception of the exceptional Paul Drew presentation, the beast began its death throes. It belched out some awards. Among the winners: Burt Baumgartner, Jerry Blair, David Glew, Ed Nefuer, Gene Johnson and Greg Lee as well as MCA and Arista as record companies. On the radio dial, Shakes and Albie D., McCartnery and London, Newman, Thomas and Scot and Mr. Ed and Lauren with accolades to stations KISS 108, WXPL, WZEE and KDON. The first annual Bill gavin Heritage Award was presented to the dapper-hatted Paul Drew and that about did it.

Awards generally accepted, but now officially acknowledged, were: Biggest Rumor: Keith Naftly as VP for both The Beat as well as KMEL; Biggest Mystery: What is Charlie Minor doing? Best Line: What do sperm and consultants have in common? One on 100,000 will become a human being. Good Timing Award: The banquet was over early so most New Yorkers caught red-eyes to the East Coast. The tailwind bonus cut the flight time to just over four hours for most.

No matter the particulars and my specific gripes, The Gavin Convention always comes off with a lot of class, something of which the English should, but probably won’t take note. My hat goes off to Dave Sholin, the Will Rogers of the Industry (he never heard a record he didn’t like). The only way it could have been better is if we had done it ourselves.

Maybe next year.

Viva La Revolution!

(1st Editorial To Appear In Network 40)

Long ago and far away, in a land of unlimited Hitbounds and Shotgun Jingles, all record companies were successful, most radio stations were number one and every record was a smash. Each year, massive bonuses were awarded to ever-expanding record companies, programmers garnered huge incentives every six months with the publishing of Arbitron ratings, several friendly trade magazines published weekly, and the hits just kept on coming every day.

Back then, promotion and radio people actually hung out…discussed music…spent time together. Record companies wanted to sell records and build acts. Trade magazines were interested in reporting news rather than making it. Information from any music radio station was openly courted and gladly accepted. Radio stations were concerned with staying one step ahead of their audiences’ tastes. It was the age of Aquarius, when peace ruled the planets and love steered the charts.

Right.

After a while, it turned ugly. The entertainment business became more business and less entertainment. Promotion people stopped hanging out and programmers started hanging up. Record companies made cutbacks and radio got monthly Arbitrends. The incentive was just keeping your job. The friendly trades became more cut-throat. Deregulation altered radio ownership from long-term investments to short-term financial windfalls. Budgets were slashed, priorities were switched almost as often as call letters, consultants were the rule and, as research became the buzzword, programmers were reduced to being music mixers.

Then it go mean. One trade magazine garnered power and became a “restraint of trade” publication as it renamed formats, demanded strict adherence to its tyrannical policies and turned into the “Big Brother” of the industry. Suddenly, “Breakers” were more important than sales. Field staffs were cut and independent contractors added. A little radio station in East Jesus, Nebraska…a town with no record stores…became famous overnight because of its reporting status…a status that was not earned, but anointed. And two airline companies added daily flights to East Jesus to answer the increased demand.

Formats have fragmented and Mainstream Top 40 is being squeezed, not just by the music, but by a system that demands playlist additions dictated by rules and regulations that have nothing to do with audience tastes. To make data simpler to process and easier to control, radio has been reduced to the lowest common denominator. Innovation, imagination, creativity and style, once characteristics most sought in our business, have been stifled because there’s no chart for them. We can’t make them a “Breaker.”

We’ve all, in one way or another, become victims of this archaic process.

This must end.

Record companies must discontinue the practice of rewarding chart adds and focus instead on actual airplay and sales. Paying bonuses for paper adds is like an oil company compensating a contractor for drilling a well that hits water. In the long run, they’re all wet. So, too, could be some relationships. Private conversations with individuals close to the Federal Communications Commission told The Network 40 that the promotional arrangements made between radio stations and some independent promoters will come under close scrutiny in the Clinton administration.

Programmers must begin making playlist decisions based on what’s right for their audiences (instead of promotional considerations) or suffer long-term damage. Sales executives have to find innovative ways to sell the younger demos. If radio just continues to follow the boomers up the demographic scale, in another 10 years, we’ll be hearing nothing but ads for Geritol and Depends. Commercials during the Super Bowl, which sold for $28,000 per second, focused almost exclusively on the young and young-at-heart, from Pepsi, Nike and McDonalds to the automobile manufacturers. To super serve the 25-54 demo, radio has lost the automotive, soft drink, beer and fast-food franchises to TV. If radio spent more time creating specialized campaigns for these advertisers to entice them back to radio, medium as a whole, and particularly Mainstream Top 40, would be healthy again. In the advertising world, where youth and sex are used to push almost every product, it’s amazing that Mainstream Top 40, which epitomizes these traits, consistently abandons its strengths in a vain attempt to be older and more mature. Mainstream Top 40 is the perfect vehicle for advertisers. We have to sell this fact.

And industry magazines must begin to report the news, not make it. We need to accept radio’s definitions, not force them to conform to ours. We are the product of the radio and record industries. We must serve their needs, not dictate our desires to them.

For years, the complaints have been mounting. Everyone is griping, but no one has done anything about it. Now, however, the mood is different. The climate is ripe for change. A new administration has taken over based on its promise to alter the status quo. It is time to find innovative and improved ways of accomplishing our goals.

With the mandate for change comes responsibility. It is one thing to sit on the sidelines and complain about the way the game is being played. It is another to become a player and influence the outcome. To affect change, you must participate in the process. You have only two choices: to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution.

We at The Network 40 are dedicated to affecting change. And we seek your help. We want to reposition our magazine within the framework of the radio and record industries according to your definitions. We need your input. Write or call toll free at (800) 443-4001 and tell us what you want and what you don’t want. Tell us what you like and what you don’t like. Our measure of success depends on you. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the coming weeks, you will watch the suggestions you make become a reality. We will become the industry magazine you design. Together, we can make a difference. The Network 40 makes this commitment to excellence…to supply, our readers, with accurate data and important information to enable you to do your jobs more effectively. We ask for your help and trust. In return, we promise to reflect your interests…not dictate our desires.

We will join those who want to be a part of the solution. Those who continue to perpetuate the problems need to know they belong to a minority that is quickly shrinking. The tide is turning. The time to act is now.

Viva La Revolution!