A Family Affair


The changing landscape of our business has generated a ripple effect that washes over all employees…from the president’s office right down to the sanitation engineers.  Being “well-read” in our industry once was quantified by a familiarity with trade publications.  Now, our majority pours over the Wall Street Journal.  Not long ago, a radio company could only own 12 stations total.  Soon, many will own that number in one market.  Record companies were owned by independent raconteurs who built their labels on a love of music and an astute business sense.  Today, most are owned by large conglomerates.  The music of choice is that generated by bells ringing on the cash register.

It’s big business, baby, and like it or not, we’re a part of it.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Big business brings an entire package.  Pockets are deeper for promotion, marketing, research and development.  In the short term, even the salaries are higher. But there is no free lunch.

Creativity can suffer.  Individualism is harder to maintain.  A Family Affair is no longer the company song.

In a relatively short time, we’ve gone from, “Your loyalty is being rewarded,” to “What have you done for me lately?”

Today, the catch-phrase is “What are you going to do for me tomorrow?”

Remember when we had those “five-year plans?”  With companies changing hands so quickly while stocks rise and fall like a Love Rollercoaster, those “five-year plans” are mostly obsolete.  If you’re lucky, it’s more like five months, or in some cases, five weeks.  And depending on how you answer questions in the department head meeting, it could be five minutes.

Record companies were once looked upon with envy by those in radio.  Where programmers notched their belts and judged their worth on the number of times they were fired, record executives couldn’t relate.  Most had never been terminated.

It’s hard to believe that from a personnel standpoint, radio is more stable than the record business.  More record executives have lost their jobs in the past few years than in the history of the industry.  And it’s not going to get any better.

Conglomerates are buying more stations and record companies.  For this concept to work, operating expenses must be cut.  Don’t believe that this means getting rid of a few computers and phone lines.  We’re talking about people.

This had to change the way we feel about our jobs.  There was a time, in the not so distant past, that people worked for people.  I wrote many letters to new employees that began, “Welcome to the (KHJ, WRKO, KFRC, etc.) family.”  Those words can’t be used today.  It’s all about business.  Family has nothing to do with it.

All of us need mentors.  As baby deejays or fledgling record executives, we need older, wiser, smarter people to teach us the ways of our business.  Those of us who have attained some measure of success can look back on those who helped shape our future.  Then, we can use the knowledge that we gain to pass along to others.

I was lucky.  I had three people who helped shaped my world:  Buzz Bennett, who taught me that creativity was the root of all success; Paul Drew, who passed along his passion for careful planning and execution; and Gary Stevens, who instilled an understanding of the business part of the puzzle.  Without all three of these lessons, my accomplishments would have been much less.  Creativity without planning and execution is a play without words.  Creativity, planning and execution, without a knowledge of how the three combine within the structure of business, is as worthless as a sail on a power boat.

Today, it’s more difficult to find mentors.  Too often, those with the knowledge are too busy moving their company ahead to take time to share and teach.

As for those needing to be mentored, it’s tough in today’s workplace.  There is no sense of family.  The motivating atmosphere is more a fear of failure rather than an excitement to succeed.

We need to understand the business and our part in it.  We all got into this business because of love.  We love music and we love the excitement of the entertainment industry.  That’s what drew us into our jobs in the first place.  Now, we’re driven by a company that is more about profit and loss than a love of music.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s just reality.

We must be self-motivated.  We must continue to nurture the love we have within the framework of a business environment.  We should still work for and derive a great deal of pride from making our bosses satisfied, but the greater pride should come from within because of a job well-done.

If you work only to get accolades from the person in charge, you’re dooming yourself to disappointment.  The boss could be gone tomorrow.

Judge your worth and accomplishments on how you’re fulfilling your own goals.  Take pride in yourself.  But don’t confuse your job with your family.  It’s a job.  A good one, but nevertheless, just a job.

When you’re done for the day, then you can go home and sing all night long…that’s a family tradition.

And The Research Says…


Want to strike fear into the heart of a promotion person?  Mention the IRS?  Bring up a rumor about a significant other?  Talk about the record company going out of business?

All of these are workable.

Try this one:  “I heard your record isn’t researching well.”

Short of a real heart attack, nothing stops the blood flowing to a record executive’s brain quicker.


Because there is very little a promotion person can do to rationalize a bad research report card.

No sales?  “Hey, stock isn’t in the market yet.”  No requests?  “It’s a passive adult record.”  Poor research?  “Ah, um, well…”

What’s a mother to do?

It’s difficult, impossible even, to spin information over which you have no control.  Promotion people are paid to provide answers…to programmers and to their company.  There’s no accurate answer to the question:  Why isn’t the record testing well?

Programmers are constantly searching for pieces of information that will give their station an edge.  There is more information available now than ever before.  Stations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to research everything from commercials to records.  This information is dissected and dissected again until a programmer has distilled all the exact information needed to make decisions that will eventually effect the ultimate success of their station.

Unfortunately, programmers are often looking for excuses…reasons not to do something.  Too many programmers have a difficult time just saying, “No.”  This is particularly true in dealing with record company executives.  If a programmer tells a promotion person a record isn’t right for the station, there immediately follows a lengthy diatribe on the record’s attributes…complete with more information.

However, programmers can stop a promotion person cold with the statement, “It isn’t testing well.”

Are there any viable responses?

“Ah, you haven’t played it long enough.”  “Well, it’s a bit early for positive research, don’t you think?”  “If you up the spins, the research will turn positive.”

The problem is that promotion people are dealing from a defensive position.  Any time you’re hit first, it makes it more difficult to recover with a snappy comeback.

Columbia’s Charlie Walk is especially tuned in to the research “problem.”  In discussing this subject last week, he stated the importance of knowledge in dealing with a programmer’s use of research as a weapon.

Promotion people should be ahead of the curve.  Too often, a promotion person relaxes when a record is added.  To many, their job is done. Oh, there’s some thought to increasing the spins, but that’s down the road.  In today’s word, your job isn’t done when a record is added…in reality, that’s when your job really begins.

A good record executive will chart the progress of records with all the stations that are playing it—especially records by new acts or acts that haven’t attained superstar status.  These records are in particular jeopardy and need the most special care.

Instead of waiting for a programmer to tell you a record is testing poorly, you should already have a feel.  Find a programmer who adds your record early and also does extensive research.  Network with this programmer to get an early reading on the research.  If, indeed, your record tests poorly out-of-the-box, share this information with other programmers.  Let them know that the record doesn’t test well initially.  Explain when (if you have the story) the record begins to pick up speed in the research race.  This way, a programmer can’t use the research club against you.  You’ve already shared this information before the programmer begins

Programmers believe promotion people have limited knowledge about radio.  In too many instances, programmers are right. Promotion people are sometimes too busy doing their job to find ways of doing their job better.  The more you know about radio, the more interesting you are to programmers.  They expect you to know about your records.  They expect you to bore them about your records.  What programmers don’t expect is a promotion person who has knowledge about radio.

What does this do?

It gives you an advantage when you don’t have a slam dunk.  And how many uncontested layups do we have today?

Do you know what kind of research your radio station does?  Do you know how many records your radio station researches in a week?  How many people are in their panel?  Who prepares the hook tapes?  Is the research in-house or does the station use a service?

How do you find out the answers to these question?  You ask.  Programmers are only too happy to discuss their jobs.  Promotion people should spend more time listening.  A great sales person once told me, “If you’re trying to sell your radio station to the Coca Cola distributor, you don’t talk about your radio station…you talk about soda pop.”

The same is true for promotion people.  Don’t be afraid of research.  Embrace it.  Find out about it.  Then, use it to your advantage.

You can’t always have a good research, any more than you can always have good records.  But with a little work on your part, you can find good answers.

You might even find great ones!




I spent Valentine’s Day with Greg Fry. As two of L.A.’s most eligible bachelors, we can’t have dates for Valentine’s Day because, invariably, the ladies get the wrong idea and we run the risk of breaking hearts. (This is, of course, a nice way of saying that two losers couldn’t score companionship on the most romantic night of the year, so we wound up hanging out with each other.)


Two guys discussing radio…Greg in his earl 30s, me nearly 40. (Why do you have to be in your late 30s to be “nearly 40?” If you’re just past your 40th birthday, aren’t you as “nearly 40” as if you were 38? I think so and since it’s my Editorial, I’m nearly 40.) Anyhow, after several bottles of beer and as many glasses of wine, what did we wound up doing? All together, radio geeks:


Listening to airchecks.


Only people in radio understand. It’s a disease. When two or more radio freaks are gathered together at someone’s house with alcohol involved, we wind up listening to airchecks.


Afterwards, the discussion turned to high-energy radio and why stations abandoned that delivery. The next day, between three-putts, I posed the same question to Scott Shannon and Dan Kieley. Nobody had a definitive answer.


Top 40 radio abandoned its high-energy approach several years ago…not because it wasn’t working, but because PDs just opted to go another way. No high-energy Top 40 was beaten in the ratings by a more “mellow” approach. So, what happened?


Blame the consultants. It’s an easy out…and not exactly accurate…but close enough. Consider my reasoning: Most consultants are hired by management. Very few managers are comfortable with high-energy radio. Too many negatives are associated with that delivery.


Consultants don’t program, they consult. They don’t listen, they analyze research. Most consultants try and reduce negatives from their client stations. Subjective research says the audience hates too much clutter, too much talk and screaming deejays who rap over the beginning of songs.


When the consultant suggests eliminating these negatives, the biggest fan is the manager…who doesn’t like these things either.


There you have it.


Subjective research is extremely dangerous and basing decisions on this information should only be done by the PD. Allow me to shed light on some subjective research: When KIIS, Z100 and KFRC were dominating their markets, what were the biggest complaints from listeners? Too much clutter, too much talk and stupid deejays who rapped over the intros to records.


However, these same listeners were the core audience They like those stations because the stations were fun to listen to.


It’s an interesting point to note that clutter…meaning too many commercials…was always the first thing mentioned, yet no manager cut the commercial load because the audience didn’t like it.


To their credit, consultants also insist that their client radio stations should sound “fun.” But a consultant isn’t programming the station. It’s up to the PD to take the advice of a consultant, then make programming decisions based on what makes the radio station sound best.


Be careful of subjective research. It’s dangerous…particularly when used by the wrong people. Consider subjective research used by NBC for the top-rated Seinfeld show. Sixty-two percent of the television audience doesn’t watch the show because they don’t like the jokes and can’t identify with the characters. Thirty-eight percent watch the show because they think the jokes are funny and identify with the characters. A consultant might suggest changing the jokes and characters to attract a larger audience. The head of programming might tell the consultant to get bent.


It’s interesting to note that KIIS and Z100 began losing listeners about the same time high-energy was abandoned. I know other factors were involved, but humor me for a second. Both of these stations employed the top consultants to no avail. Both stations began regaining listeners when Kieley and Tom Poleman re-energized the sound. It’s also interesting to note that WXKS Boston and WFLZ Tampa have continued to dominate their markets over the years by never wavering from their high-energy approach.


Does it work today? Our panel of “experts” says, “Yes.” To those consultants and managers who moan that older demos would desert, may I point out the most successful 25-54 station in the country: KRTH Los Angeles. KRTH is filled with hih-energy promotions like “The Big Kahuna,” stupid phrases like “King Kong Cash” and jocks who talk up every vocal and hit every post. It isn’t just the music, or every Oldies station would share KRTH’s billing.


The audience wants to identify with a station. They…and the station…want to have fun. Consider these factors when you’re studying subjective research. Every successful station has negatives associated with it. The more successful, the more negatives…also the more positives. Weigh the criticism against your programming judgment.


Remember, if 90% of the available audience doesn’t like your station, you’ll have a 10 share, a bonus, a new contract and your choice of teams at the Network 40 Summer Games in Lake Tahoe June 25-27.


Go home, break out some airchecks, then return to the station and kick it up a notch!

Stupidity Is Timeless


I got a note from Mark McKay last week. We worked together at KFRC San Francisco, B95 Kansas City and Y106 Orlando. Mark is on the air in Kansas City and told me he was listening to old airchecks of KFRC to find bits and breaks he could use because, as he said, “…stupidity is timeless.”


It’s the best phrase I’ve heard yet to describe the radio and record business. Nowhere is stupidity more relevant than when analyzing conventions. 

Forever, all of us in our industry have been making the tiresome trek to one convention or another that promises to deliver speakers, workshops and hardware that will make our industrial lives easier. In the entertainment business, where hyperbole is next to Godliness, no statement falls as far from its promise.


Stupidity is timeless. Witness last week’s Gavin convention. Now don’t get me wrong, my good friend Dave Sholin does a great job. The convention is well-attended. It certainly is the only large convention you should attend. R&R’s convention (speaking of stupidity being timeless) will be worthless. But large conventions are becoming more of a pain in the ass instead of brain food that is promised. 

Gavin does a good job. But its success is the very thing that serves to its detriment. It’s just too big.


And can we please have a moratorium on panels? When is the last time anyone said anything worthwhile during a panel discussion? If one of the panelists happened to drop a pearl of wisdom, would anyone in the audience be awake to hear it? 

The Top 40 panel was by far the most interesting, but my legs still went to sleep. And it wasn’t because of the speakers involved. All are knowledgeable programmers who have wisdom to share. But when five people are vying for air time, you wind up with a lot of dead air. Besides, stations and markets are so different now, what is perfect for one successful station in a major market won’t work for another station in a different place. Instead of listening to Tom Poleman and Dan Kieley on the same panel talking about apples and oranges, wouldn’t it be better to listen to Tom Poleman speak for 30 minutes about what makes Z100 successful, then have the opportunity to listen to Dan Kieley take us through the same routine with KIIS? Having both on the same panel (with two or three other successful programmers) doesn’t serve the audience…or the PDs who are involved.


Panel discussions are kind of like programming by committee: There are a lot of good ideas, but by the time the ideas get out, they don’t matter any more. 

The chief complaint about conventions is that panels are boring. Yet most conventionas schedule more panels. That’s like doing call-out research and upping the rotation on songs that are showing the most burn.


Gavin manages the best large convention in our industry. But is it too large to serve the needs of those who attend? Do you not wind up seeing everyone, but spend quality time with no one? 

Can you tell I’m leading up to a point? Ah, yes: The 1998 Network 40 Summer Games in Lake Tahoe June 25-27.


There are no panels. No boring speakers. No meetings you have to doze through. And even more exciting…no awards ceremony that lasts longer than it takes to download The Beatles library on the Internet. 

There are only 200 people…100 from record companies…100 from radio. It’s a ration you can’t find in most radio station lobbies…much less the conventions.


Does that mean you learn less? Hardly. What other setting provides you the opportunity to forge relationships with your peers on a one-to-one basis? Where else can you compete in games of skill and fun with and against others in our industry? 

Would you rather listen to a boring panel discussion or ask specific, face-to-face questions to the PDs and radio executives you only glimpse from a crowd at a convention?


It’s a slam dunk. (We’ve added that to the competition this year!) 

Stupidity is timeless. For two years, we did our research to find out what the industry wanted. Last year, Network 40 took the positives, ditched the negatives and dared to do something never before attempted.


Guess what? It worked. The inaugural Network 40 Summer Games were the most successful and talked-about event of 1997. And we’re “stupid” enough to do it again this year. 

The Network 40 Summer Games is the most exclusive gathering of radio and record people in the history of our business. It’s exclusive for a reason. You can’t be all things to all people. We don’t try. By offering one-on-one opportunities with those in our industry, you have the opportunity to forge new, personal relationships that will last long after the Summer Games become history.


Those who believe relationships are made through casual dinners with 50 or more people are deluding themselves. And if there’s someone more important than you at the table, you’re totally out of luck. 

The Network 40 Summer Games provides the intimate setting that will make it easier to expand your relationships. Plus, we’ve all heard the stories about your athletic prowess. You can talk the talk…but can you walk the walk?


Stupidity is timeless. 

So is brilliance!

Shout At The Mirror


We live in a strange world…and it’s getting stranger by the minute. Baseball players spit on umpires. Basketball players try to kill their coaches. Everyone seems intent on blaming their problems on someone else. 

In the history of society, never have so many bitched about so much. Passing the buck has become the national pastime.

It’s difficult to find an individual who will admit to a mistake. When is the last time you heard someone say: “I’m sorry. I screwed up.” 

No. It’s never our fault. It’s the mail. It’s our assistant. It’s the other guy. It’s never us.

This concept of blaming someone else has always been part and parcel of the radio and record business. There are too many easy targets. The GM can always blame the PD. The PD can blame Arbitron or the Sales Manager. The record company A&R department can blame the promotion department. Promotion can blame A&R. When all else fails, record companies can blame radio. 

But it’s a fact that somebody is responsible. Identifying that person (or group of people) and getting the person to take responsibility is another story.

The entertainment industry, be it motion pictures, professional sports, records or radio, is filled with those who are quick to blame others for their own inadequacies. Accepting responsibility and affecting change to make ourselves better isn’t something that’s done often. Failure is something that’s always someone else’s fault. These feeling of inadequacy usually take the form of loud griping. Sometimes, lawsuits are threatened or instigated. In a few instances, someone steps way over the line. 

Which brings me to the subject of this Editorial.

Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Vince Neil and Mick Mars, the four mediocre musicians who comprise the group, Motley Crue, have never been hesitant to cross the line. As a matter of fact, this group of posers has gone so far over the line that they’ve almost become an invisible blur across some distant horizon. 

Recently, they’ve set a new record for jumping over the line…and this time, it could be impossible for them to jump back.

Motley Crue was big for about a minute. It’s too bad the group couldn’t just fade away like one of their mid-chart records. But no, they must go kicking and screaming into their good night continuing to be “as bad as they want to be.” The difference is, Dennis Rodman can still rebound. Motley Crue can’t even bounce.

In a recent tirade, Nikki Sick blamed all of the band’s problems on Elektra Records Chairperson Sylvia Rhone. When describing Sylvia, he also used the “C” word. 

Nikki, boy, get a grip.

The Crues latest album, which Nikki predicted would sell around three million, is stuck at the 250,000 mark…a feat considered remarkable by most in the record industry, given the lackluster songs that litter the CD. The majority of those sales came in the first week, stimulated by thousands of dollars in marketing money spent by Elektra. Diehard fans wanted to see if Motley Crue could make a comeback with Vince Neil’s return as the lead singer. 

It seems no one was impressed.

Nikki pretended to be the Pied Piper (who had a better voice) and led a recent audience in a half-full concert venue in the singing of “Fuck Elektra.”

Nikki has never been approached to become a member of MENSA. 

Nikki Sixx has lost his mind. Blaming the record company for lack of sales is past ridiculous. Record companies are in the business to make money. I’ve never heard a label head say, “We’re investing hundreds of thousands of dollars on this CD an we’re really hoping it doesn’t sell a copy. We want it to stiff.”

Nikki wants to blame someone for the lack of sales of Motley Crue’s latest album. So he calls the president of his label a derogatory term and asks his fans to “Fuck Elektra.” I’m sure it made everyone at the concert want to rush out and purchase the CD. Trouble is, Nikki’s fans spent all their money on booze, drugs and bail money. So they fuck Elektra (and Nikki) by not buying the album. 

Through it all, Elektra Chairperson Sylvia Rhone has reacted in her typically classy fashion. As usual, she has remained above the fray. However, let me give Mr. Sixx a warning: I know Sylvia a lot better than you do. Keep using the “C” word and the “N” word and one day you’ll find you’ve made a huge mistake.

Hey, Nikki. Here’s a news flash: Sylvia Rhone and Elektra Records aren’t your problem. Instead of blaming her, why don’t you look in the mirror and at the others in your group and ask why you don’t write better lyrics and play better songs? No record company in the world can prevent a hit from happening (why would they want to?)…anymore than it can make a stiff sell…as illustrated by the latest Motley Crue record. 

Please give all this ranting at the moon a rest. You’re boring. Go back into the studio and cut a hit record. Instead of putting Sylvia Rhone down, seek her input. She knows what she’s doing. And despite what you’ve said, she would love for you to have a smash.

You’ve got two choices: Update your tired act and become a part of the future…or be buried with your mediocre past. 



Do you suffer from long-term memory loss?

We live and work in a business that goes through more change than a toll booth operator.  Unfortunately, we don’t always have our quarters ready.

If you’re in radio, you should always be ready to move.  Losing your job is a fact of our business.  It doesn’t matter how good you are, you are destined to move on.  It’s the nature of this beast.

Why?  There are a thousand reasons.  Maybe you get complacent.  Maybe you start to slip.  Maybe another station signs on in your market and cuts into your audience.  Maybe you get a bad drop.  Maybe a new GM comes in and wants to hire his former PD.  Maybe the popular morning personality hates you.  Maybe your station is sold.

If none of these situations arise, there’s always “philosophical differences.”  That’s a joke.  There is no philosophy in radio with which to disagree.

However, getting fired isn’t the subject of this Editorial.  This is about what happens after you get fired.  Or more accurately, what actions you take when another gets fired.

Do you suffer from short-term memory loss?

The relationships between PDs and those doing record promotion are nervous at best.  Those relationships must be built on mutual trust.  It takes time.  And it takes consistency.

Do relationships really matter in today’s over-researched world of programming and promotion?  Of course.  Those who think differently have no relationships.

Can a relationship stop a hit record?  No.  Can relationships make a stiff become a hit?  Of course not.  But there are hundreds of records vying for spots each month…records that are unproven.  And relationships can get those records played to find out if they are indeed hits.

Promotion people are paid to establish relationships with programmers so a record can get a shot.  I’ve written several Editorials about how to establish those relationships.  But one important factor seems to be the most overlooked…especially in today’s ever changing landscape.  What happens when the person with whom you’ve developed a relationship gets fired?

Do you suffer from long-term memory loss?

Too many times, you lose contact.  Not because you drift away, but because you stop doing your job.  You do nothing to continue the relationship.

The most important time to call a person, the time when you will make the biggest impression, the time to really cement a relationship…is when the other person is out of a job…or out of your specific format.

A promotion person who doesn’t keep in contact with a programmer after s/he loses a job is a poor example of a record executive.  Not only is this job failure, it’s stupid.

Where do you think these out-of-work programmers are going to wind up?  At the State Department?  Almost 99.99% will get another programming gig in radio.  And each will make you pay dearly because you “forgot” their phone number.  And out-of-work programmers aren’t fooled by that “one-time” phone call.  We’re talking about consistent, “how are you?” calls.  It won’t take much time and will come back in spades.

If, on the other hand, you get amnesia when one of your programmers gets fired, expect  s/he to develop the same malady once another job is landed.

It goes the other way as well. Programmers who depend on record people to supply them with all the freebies should keep in touch if the record person goes down in flames.  Otherwise, payback is a bitch.

Need examples?  How about all those who fawned over APD/MD Bruce St. James at KPWR Los Angeles?  Bruce goes to an Oldies station in San Diego and can’t get a phone call returned.  Guess what?  He’s back at KKFR Phoenix.

Do you suffer from short-term memory loss?

One of the very best in the business is Arista’s Richard Palmese.  When I was in radio, Richard and I weren’t particularly close, yet every time I got blown out (and believe me, it was a lot), one of the first (and last) calls I got was from Richard, inquiring as to whether there was anything he could do.

Are there any of you who have “lost” Steve Kingston’s number since he’s programming Howard Stern?  Is there anyone out there who believes Kingston won’t be programming a Top 40 station in the near future?

Ask Scott Shannon who he talked with today.  It’s those who called after he walked the plank at Pirate Radio in L.A.

What about those who forgot about Bill Richards when he left KIIS?  He’s only one of the largest consultants in the business now…and still not taking your calls.

How many of you called Rick Gillette when he was ousted in Detroit?  Did you really think he would work at Network 40 for the rest of his life?  (Okay, bad example.  He didn’t return my calls when he worked here!)

On the flip side, how many PDs lost contact with Peter Napoliello after EMI folded?  Now he’s running A&M with jobs to fill and promotions to give.

Bottom line:  If you want to be special in this business, you have to be special to those with whom you seek relationships.  Don’t forget about them when they’re between jobs…and that’s what it is…between.  Programmers are like roaches…they will be back.  Keeping in touch is good business…plus, it’s the right thing to do.

Do you suffer from short-term memory loss?

I can’t remember.

Happy New Year 1998


Did you have a nice vacation?  Were your holidays happy?  What did you do?  Do you feel rested and refreshed?  Are you wearing one of the gifts you received?  You look so nice.

Okay, now that we’ve got all of the bullshit out of the way, welcome back, Jack.  Let’s go to work!

The first few weeks of the beginning of a year are extremely important in the continued success of your company…whether it’s radio or records.  We all come back from a holiday break refreshed and anxious to make a mark.  New Year’s resolutions have been made and each of us promised to change some part of our lives for the better.  We’re all new people with new goals and a new resolve to make things different.

For about a month.

It’s up to each of us, as managers, to instill that “new” spirit and make positive changes in how we do our business.  There is no better time than the beginning of a new year to invigorate your staff and make positive changes.  But you’ve got to have more than a list of New Year’s resolutions.  Over the years, how many resolutions have you kept?

That answer alone will tell you that there’s more to making positive, continued change than mere promises to do so.

Careful planning is imperative in making any meaningful changes.  That’s why so many resolutions don’t make it to the Ides of March.  They’re made on a whim.  Most resolutions concern what we want to do or change, but we haven’t developed a plan that will make that “want to” a reality.

Here are a few tips to motivate your staff for the coming year:

First of all, you should have a major staff meeting during the month of January.  Explain to everyone your major goals for the year.  Outline how you intend to accomplish those goals.  Make sure you have at least one major promotion or idea that has no name or outline.  Ask for input from your entire staff on this event.  Maybe give some kind of a prize to the person who picks the most innovative title for it.  This way, even the entry-level people on your staff feel involved.  The meeting will make everyone believe that you feel each member is important to the company’s success.  And you know what?  It’s true.

Identify your primary department heads.  You need two or three close confidants who should be involved in making and implementing the major decisions you’ll face over the coming year.  Outline specifically what you expect from them.  Most  important:  Give them the power to implement those decisions.  Delegation is the key ingredient in the success of any major executive.  You have the final word on all major decisions, but you must give your key department heads the power to move on their own so you won’t be bogged down by minutia.  Delegating the responsibility frees you to concentrate on the big picture and invigorates your key department heads to move your company in the direction you’ve set.  Delegation doesn’t decrease your power…it increases your ability to be a better manager.  It also allows your key department heads to grow with you.  Make sure, however, that you specifically outline the ares of responsibility for each.  Tell them exactly what you expect.  Also, let them tell you what they will need to accomplish your wishes.  Continue this involvement with regular meetings throughout the year.

Schedule meetings with each member of your staff.  Let each know, in writing, the time of your meeting at least a week in advance.  Tell them that the meeting will be about their job duties for the coming year.  Ask them to prepare to discuss what they want to accomplish in the coming year.  Again, in this meeting, be specific with your expectations.  Tell each what you want and need for them in order to accomplish your goals.  Discuss salary expectations.  This lets each person know what’s in store for the coming year.  Don’t make empty promises.  Share reality.  Your staff will respect you for it in the long run.

Give each employee at least one additional duty…something the person wasn’t responsible for last year.  Outline how this job is to be performed and underline the importance of the job, no matter how menial.  Remember, no task is too small in the overall operation.  No matter the firepower, an army can’t win wars unless food is delivered and garbage is removed.  In this meeting, also discuss the goals of each staff member.  Find out what is important to them and what they want to accomplish.  Ask questions about your operation.  listen to their answers.  They might be smarter than you think.  They might have great ideas.  Have you seen the movie, Good Will Hunting?  The janitor solved a problem that was beyond the knowledge of the PhDs.  Listen and you might learn.  At the very least, by listening, you’ll convince your staff members that you care about their input.

Make sure to follow-up with a memo.  Commit to writing each point of the meeting so both you and the staff member can refer to it in the future.  By asking each staff member to outline goals, the employee can be held responsible for not achieving those goals.  Conversely,each employee will have a memo from you with your expectations outlined.

To make positive change, you must institute positive changes.  You can’t get rid of bad habits unless you replace them with good habits.  A turn-around won’t happen just because you will it.  Careful planning and preparation can make your New Year’s resolutions last…and make 1998 a banner year for you and your company.

Happy New Year.

Chain Adds


A chill wind is blowing through our industry, sending shivers of dread up the backs of record execs and programmers alike.  It’s as if Jack Frost slid under the insulation.  Heaters are on full blast, trying to ward off the cold.

It doesn’t matter. Jack’s not going away.

What two words are striking fear into our industry?  (Cue the tymps.)  Chain adds.

Knee-deep in the hoopla, voices are raised in concert, damning the thought…much less the practice…of the dreaded chain add.  No less an authority than Network 40’s own Greg Fry polled programmers in this week’s Hotline for their opinions.

So, what’s all the fuss about?

Like nuclear attacks, chain adds have been used effectively only once in the history of modern radio.  Also like the atomic bomb, chain adds were only used by a super-power.

In the ‘70s and early ‘80s, the giant RKO Broadcasting Company used chain adds effectively in programming its stations.  In its heyday, RKO owned the #1 Top 40 stations in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Memphis.  The chain also had exclusive consulting agreements with the #1 Top 40s in Chicago, Detroit, San Diego and New Haven.  Other major stations moved in and out of the consulting fold, but these were the mainstays.

That’s a lot of power.

Revisionist history has shrouded the reality of the situation.  I was fortunate enough (okay, and old enough, damn it) to work at RKO in the “Glory Days,” so let me tell you how it really was…way back when.

First of all, times were different.  In those days, a company could only own a total of 12 stations…an AM and an FM in each market.  Those numbers pale by current standards. There were other major differences.  Every RKO-owned or consulted Top 40 station was programmed exactly alike. I mean exactly.

Records weren’t the only things that were added chainwide.

With the exception of the call letters and city of license, each RKO station used the same jingle package.  Twice a year, we would custom-make jingle packages for the chain.

The top-of-the-hour IDs were the same.  “Ladies and gentlemen, you’re listening to…”

The same major promotions were used on each station. If a PD came up with a great idea, it was used throughout the company.

Chainwide record adds were one part of the total package. Under those circumstances, it wasn’t a big reach.

Here’s how chain adds worked:  Every Monday, each PD compiled all the local research from the individual markets and forwarded it to the Group PD in Los Angeles.  A conversation between PDs and the Group MD took place that afternoon.  Each PD provided a list of records they wanted to be considered as additions to the playlist.  Rotations were also discussed.

Tuesday morning, each PD received research from the other stations along with national research.  By mid-afternoon, each PD was called and told what records would be added to the chain.

These “chain adds” were taken from a consensus of the PDs. What’s important to note is that even though certain records were dictated as adds to the chain, individual records could be added to a station, depending on local research and the strength of the PD.

There is another important fact to consider:  Unless it was a superstar release that RKO got early, seldom were new records chosen as a chain add.  Most of the records added to the chain had worked through smaller markets gaining sales and compiling positive research.  A record had to be “worthy” to attain the status of a chain add.

Never was a record added to the chain for a promotion.  RKO figured, and rightfully so, that the stations were so powerful, any promotion would be offered to the company anyhow.  And promotions were always offered to RKO first.  What record company or artist would risk the wrath of the most powerful radio group in the word by offering a promotion to one of its competitors?

It’s something today’s companies should keep in mind.  If your programming is powerful, promotions will be offered because it’s in the best interest of both companies.  Adding a weak record for a promotion cheapens the strength of the stations.

RKO was extremely particular when it came to adding a record to the chain.  We wanted to be sure it wasn’t a mistake.  The track record for songs becoming a chain add was pretty substantial.  Most became hits.

Of course,  RKO’s status made it easier.  Such was RKO’s power that a record couldn’t make the top 10 on Billboard without being added to the chain.

Record companies lived and died by RKO’s chain adds.  If your record was added, you took the rest of the week off…sometimes the rest of the month!  If it wasn’t, you hemorrhaged for another seven days.

But times are different.  Stations aren’t programmed the same.  Individual markets call for specific programming needs.  Before chain adds can be effective, a radio group will have to program many of its stations in an identical fashion.  With companies owning hundreds of stations, considering cost effectiveness and streamlining…is this a concept whose time has come…again?

Until then, we have to consider the question:  Are chain adds good or bad?

It boils down to this:  If your record is added, chain adds are great.  If you don’t get the nod…chain adds suck!

Early Warning


In an industry that spends hundreds of millions of dollars to identify a hit record, one thing is missing:

A chart that reflects reality.

Since Billboard’s first chart a thousand years ago, there hasn’t been a definitive chart based on parameters that the record industry and radio stations deemed important.

For 20 years, our industry found itself dependent upon R&R and a chart methodology that defied description.  In some cases, it still does.  R&R adds and subtracts stations from its list of reporters on nothing more than a whim.  Has anyone ever seen R&R’s criteria?  It only exists in the minds of those who decide what stations should be included or excluded.  Stations in tourist locales seem to be added because people working for R&R visit.  It’s a bad habit, but some still look at R&R to determine what stations really matter.

Has everyone gone mad?

To contend that R&R is responsive to the needs of the radio and record industries is a joke.  R&R is, has and always will be concerned only with what’s best for R&R…nothing more or less.

R&R does what R&R wants.  R&R doesn’t ask those in promotion or programming for input. Doesn’t it seem reasonable that the people who depend most on an accurate chart…those in promotion and programming..should be involved in the determination of what makes up the chart?

Evidently, not R&R.

But please, lest anyone believe I’m just picking on R&R, let’s talk about the people who run the Monitor.  What they’ve done with the Top 40,  Crossover and Urban charts in the past few months could be used as the definition of “oxymoron.”  Suffice it to say that it ain’t right.

Monitor is as bad as R&R when it comes to the panel.  If a station is monitored, it becomes a part of the panel.  But who determines what stations are monitored?

I give up.

We have stations in the Monitor panel that are responsible for selling maybe four copies of any song each year.  Others, that are in markets that sell thousands, aren’t included.

So record companies and programmers are at the mercy of two charts that do not seek input from the very industries they leech upon.

How can we stop the madness?

Glad you asked.  Network 40 will debut two new definitive charts on December 4…our Christmas present to you.

The Network 40 Impact chart will be comprised of the playlists of all monitored stations, plus those stations that have an “impact” on sales.  Inclusion will be based on market size and market share.  The decisions of what stations to include will be made by a Network 40 Advisory Panel.  This advisory panel will include 10 programmers, 10 heads  of promotion, two consultants and two independent record promoters.  For the first time in the history of our business, there will be a chart comprised of data from radio stations deemed important by the industry…not a trade magazine.

Who woulda thunk it?

Our aim is to get a correct representative sample of radio stations…stations the industry considers important…to compile a chart that is an accurate sample of what’s really going on.  This chart will take the best of both worlds…stations that are monitored combined with stations that impact sales.  It will be accurate because the industry will dictate its accuracy.

Want to know the criteria?  Here it is in black and white:  market size and ratings.  Want to  know the people who make the final decisions on what stations should be included?  We’ll publish the list of your peers who will comprise the Network 40 Advisory Panel.  How will those on the committee be selected?  By you…our reporters.

Forgive me, but this is so simple.  Why hasn’t it been done before?

A big concern for the record industry is that most records break out of major markets.  This makes stations in smaller markets unimportant when it comes to promotions and promotional dollars.  Network 40 wants to change this trend.


By spotlighting stations in smaller markets that are aggressively programmed, we can make these stations and programmers more important to the industry at large.  Our goal is to prove that records can break out of smaller markets.  If the industry begins watching these “indicator” stations and sees a positive pattern, a more accurate appraisal of a record’s potential can be determined.

These “indicator” stations will be featured in an Early Warning Chart that will be tabulated and faxed to the industry each week on Monday night.  Programmers can see what records are working well on these smaller, aggressively programmed stations.  They’ll will be able to make better educated decisions on music day.  At the same time, record companies can look to the smaller markets to determine if new records have hit potential and make make promotional dollar decisions accordingly.

If the industry works together, we can make these new charts the definition of accuracy.  We all know that monitored airplay is a staple.  We also know that some stations that aren’t being monitored deserve recognition.  These new charts take care of that.  Programmers and promotion people will provide input into a system that reflects their reality…not a trade magazine.

Input and reality.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

For the first time in history, Network 40 offers a chart system that you, the people in our industry, design and define.

Are you ready?

Mickey Mouse


A funny thing happened last week.  They gave a convention in Orlando and nobody came.  Oh, there were many people in Orlando.  But at the convention?  Nah.  There were many places to run into a few people…as opposed to a few places to run into many people.

Seems like everyone is saving themselves for next year’s Network 40 Summer Games in Lake Tahoe.  (Hey, I bust you people for not promoting and cross-plugging…the least I can do is practice what I preach!)

Spending time with a group of people in the record and radio business can be trying… especially on a rainy weekend in Orlando.  The breadth of our conversation seems to be no wider than the moat at Disney World…and the depth about the same. Boys and girls, we need to all understand one thing:  The world (nor the topic of conversation) does not…and should not…revolve around you.

Radio programmers are particularly guilty of one-topic conversation.  Here’s a news flash:  Record promoters pretend to hang onto your every word and proclaim your ideas as fantastic.  It doesn’t mean the normal person wants to hear you pontificate about you or your radio station.  Remember, those record people are paid to be nice to you.  Do you really think you’re that great?  (If you answered yes to the previous question, you can stop reading right now…the rest of this Editorial won’t sink in.)  When you tell most people you work at a station in a big city, they think you’re pumping gas at the Exxon on the outskirts of Philadelphia.

Here’s another tip worth remembering:  When someone asks if you’ve read any good books lately, they aren’t talking about the Summer Arbitron.

Anyhow, for what it’s worth, here are some observations from a Mickey Mouse convention:

Bill Richards can’t sing. Neither can his brother Dan.  Fortunately, A&M’s Amy Grant passed the audition.

Sean Ross is the only person who can make Michael Ellis look cool.

Two things our industry needs less of:  Cigars and Golf.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again.  If you don’t play golf, please don’t start.  It’s difficult enough for those of us who are avid fans to get tee times.  We don’t need a bunch of wanabees clogging up the links.  And if you insist on playing, like at the Bill Richards Golf Tournament for the T.J. Martell Foundation, get some dressing tips.  But not from the sales people in the pro shops.  Those ugly paid outfits are only for idiots.  Don’t think that’s how it really works.  Shirts with collars.  And no jeans.  Also, you can’t play well, so play quickly.  You can take ten practice swings, study the distance, stall over your stance as long as you want, you’re still going to duff it only ten yards.  Hit the fucking ball!

Also, when you hit the perennial bad shot, don’t ask us what you’re doing wrong.  We don’t have enough time.  And we don’t care.  Take lessons.

Can’t we be ahead of the curve on the cigar thing?  I swear, there were ten of us who smoked cigars ten years ago…now, everyone is an aficionado.  Give it a rest.  Most of you don’t know one cigar from another…just because you paid $20 for a stick doesn’t mean a thing.  Please stop trying to impress us with your knowledge by showing us your collection.  You simply display your ignorance.

One of the hot topics of discussion was the changing ownership of stations. Programmers were moaning and groaning about how they were out of the loop, merely pawns on a chess board.  It’s reality.  Deal with it.  But instead of whining about major companies buying and selling stations without regard to your future, why haven’t you done something about it?  If you’re so smart, why didn’t you invest in the companies you accuse of controlling your destiny.  For example, had you purchased 500 shares of stock at the first of the year, your return would be as follows:  Emmis:  $8,000;  Chancellor:    $11,000;     Jacor:    $11,500;     Evergreens: $18,000;   SFX:   $25,000.  Put your money where your mouth is, or spend it on a good wine.

During the Top 40 panel discussion, PDs talked about “playing the hits” and tried to determine what constituted a hit.  Previous performance, sales and research were cited.    There was also talk of the need for a super group or two. Although this case could be made for other records, if this is what Top 40 needs, why isn’t everybody playing the Spice Girls?  The last three records were hits, the previous album sold nine million and the current single is uptempo.  If this doesn’t meet the criteria, could we be setting our standards a little too high?  Put it on…then let the audience tell you if it’s a hit.  I’m concerned that the biggest stumbling block for the future of Top 40 is PDs who think too much.  Take the advice of the panel:  Play The Hits.

Jump Ball:  Sean Ross and Michael Ellis.

Atlantic’s Danny Buch is one of the world’s best promotion people.  But keep him out of A&R.  He can’t sign the band he was leading.

Winner of the most talented, Most Beautiful and “the person who you would like to sit next to on an airplane” award:  Capitol’s Meredith Brooks.  (Check out next week’s issue.)

Best Speaker:  Arista’s Clive Davis.

Most boring panel:  Take your pick.

Who are the members of the “Cool Women Only Promotion Club?”

Winner of the “Damned if you go, damned if you don’t go” award:  Rick Stone.

Greg Thompson, Todd Cavanah and Dave Shakes got on an elevator.  Who refused to ride with them?

For everyone who thought the convention was boring.  I have two words for you:

Summer Games.