Inspiring Passion


This week’s interview is with Jeff Smulyan, Emmis Broadcasting Chairman of the Board.  Make sure you check it out.  Jeff is one of the most successful broadcasters in our business.  He’s also intelligent and articulate.  Spend time with Jeff Smulyan and your topics of conversation will cross a broad spectrum.  If you’re lucky, he might even talk about radio.  In a world of corporate suits, he is a passionate person.

How about you?  What makes you tick?

The business of radio sometimes serves as a fog to dampen the passion we all possessed when we first started.  Remember the feeling?  Whether you were hitting a “post” on the weekend shift, answering request lines, doing research or driving the van, nothing excited you like radio.

But, if you’re not careful, success can poison your passion. The more successful you become, the more you move up the corporate ladder. You become involved in meetings, overall planning sessions, research and problem-solving…all important aspects of your job, but light-years away from what first got you interested in the business.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  If you are as great as you believe you are, find a way to create new and different ways to stoke the flame that was once the roaring fire of your passion.  Some are simple…others more complex.  But you can find a way.

First, you must schedule time for those things that really get you off.  Define the aspects of your job that really make you the happiest and most creative.  Make time for those things, no matter what they are.

Was it being on the air?  When is the last time you pulled a shift?  Do one…no matter how bad you are.  Put yourself on the all-night show one time.  Not only will it stoke your passion, but it’s a great way to find out if all your genius formatic rules actually work.  If you’re really brave, have the jocks listen and hot-line you if you screw up.

When is the last time you were behind the wheel of the station van?  Go out and drive it.  The direct interplay you get from listeners will bring a new feeling to your job…plus, you might learn something from this interaction to make your station sound better.

You should schedule a dinner with your air staff at least once each month.  Get them… and you…out of the station where the atmosphere is more causal.  You’ll be able to find out things about them that can help you in your job…and vice versa.  It’s important that those who ultimately control your destiny see you as someone other than the person who sits behind a desk and doles out criticism.

Creating a truly unique promotion is one of the most exciting aspects of programming.  There’s  nothing like coming up with an idea, putting it together and watching it work to perfection.  Those ideas are hard to come by in sales meetings.  Schedule time each week for brainstorming sessions.  Topics shouldn’t be specific, but general in scope.  If you stumble upon a great idea, then get specific on the details.

One of the greatest opportunities afforded a programmer is the chance to make a difference.  You have, at your disposal, a medium that can reach masses, influence perceptions and change minds.  One of the most rewarding experiences you can imagine is to put together a program on your station that has never been done before…one that will make a real difference in the lives of your listeners.

If you’re content to pay lip service to this concept by joining ongoing activities like Rock The Vote or the March of Dimes Walkathon (both worthy events), so be it.  But you’ll never know the feeling from watching your own conception become a reality.

In my career, I was lucky enough to program many successful major-market stations.  During those tenures, we invented and produced some of the most exciting promotions in history.

But the most rewarding experience I achieved in radio was a promotion that made a difference.  At KFRC San Francisco, we staged the first concert to benefit the veterans of the Vietnam War.  Long before rallies become en vogue, we did ours.  It was longer, more time consuming and more exhausting than any event I’ve ever been associated with.  It taxed the limits of everyone’s patience.

But in the end, it was worth it.  The money we raised was substantial…yet paled by later endeavors. The publicity for the cause we stimulated was welcomed…though a mere drop in the bucket of what came later.

The handshakes, hugs and pride in the faces of those we touched has stayed with me to this day.

Emmis has done the same thing with the “One Nation” concept on Hot 97 New York and Power 106 Los Angeles. Here is a promotion that was conceived not to make money…not to increase the audience…but to make a difference.  I had a conversation with Emmis-N.Y. Director of Programming Steve Smith, the night after the first broadcast.  I don’t think he had been asleep.  He showed me the chill bumps on his arms when he shared the vision.  I got the same feeling just from listening.

“Last night, I think we really made a difference,” Steve said.

His passion was evident.

You have the same opportunity to make a difference…if not in the lives of your audience, at least in your life…and the lives of those working with you.  But you must be bold.

PDs are accused of having inflated egos.  As a group, we are a strange bunch, prone to pontificate on just how cool we are.  Besides, it’s easy to believe the bullshit when a record promoter keeps telling us how great we are.  Those of you programming can take the opportunity to make a difference, or you can go to another sales meeting.  Your choice.

Come on, show us something.

Real Time


You must read “Real Time” by Regis McKenna.  It is the most boring tome I’ve ever read…except for “Inside The Third Reich”…yet it contains some of the most interesting facts available.  Getting through the book is like digging for diamonds…you’re going to have to sift through miles of rock and mud, but you’ll find some gems.

Regis McKenna is an intellect and a computer whiz…the book is published by the Harvard Business School Press.  If that’s not enough to scare you off…let me continue.

This book is about a lot of things…but mostly about how businesses will have to deal with a new set of guidelines that won’t be set up internally, but will be dictated by consumers.  This Editorial is made up of quotes and ideas taken from the book.

“Right here.  Right now.  Tailored to me.  Dished up the way I like it.  If the new consumers posted their expectations on a billboard, that’s what you would read.”  According to the data calculated by Mr. McKenna, the new age of consumers will radically alter the way we do business in the future.  In fact, it’s happening already.

In order to adjust to an ever-changing world, we must think outside the framework of our current “business as usual” outlook.  We must prepare today or be left out tomorrow.

Ed Artzt, chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble, shocked the advertising community by saying, “From where we stand today, we can’t be sure that ad-supported TV programming will have a future in the world being created…a world of video on demand, pay per view and subscription television.  Consumers will choose among hundreds of shows and pay-per-view movies…they’ll have dozens of home shopping channels…hours of interactive video games.  And for many of these…maybe most…there will be no advertising at all. If advertising is no longer needed to pay most of the cost of home entertainment, then advertisers like us will have a hard time achieving the reach and frequency we need to support our brands.”

Brand loyalty based on advertising is becoming a thing of the past.  Today’s customer wants one thing…and one thing only…service.  The new customer is never satisfied.

With all of the information at our fingertips today, the customer relies less and less on advertising as a means to choose what to purchase.  In the not-too-distant future, we will have all the information needed to make an informative choice of what to buy…and where to buy it at the cheapest price.  All of that information…from a paint brush to a car…will be available on the Internet.  Choice gives the customer power.  And choices are growing every day.

How does this relate to you?  Marketing…and your ideas of marketing must change.  You must begin to think outside the box.

PepsiCo supplies an excellent illustration of the shades of interactivity to come.  In the summer of 1996, the company offered the young consumers of its Mountain Dew soft drink electronic beepers, ordinarily priced at around $60, for $29.95 plus six moths of free air time worth $135.  For the six months of the promotion, Mountain Dew paged the 50,000 teenage and Generation X participants once a week and gave them a toll-free number to call.  Over the telephone connection, these young people could listen to interviews with heroes of so-called extreme sports, such as bungee jumping and sky surfing, that are featured in Mountain Dew’s TV commercials.  They could also learn about opportunities to win discounts and prizes from 20 companies whose buyers overlap heavily with Mountain Dew’s so-called “Dew Dudes.”

The idea was to offer customers a product to fit their lifestyle and make them part of a really cool network.  Not only did the beepers give Mountain Dew access to a segment of the consumer marketplace exceedingly difficult to reach through conventional media, but the PepsiCo marketing managers envisaged using the beepers in the future to ask customers their opinions of the product, its advertising and of possible promotions and product ideas.  They foresaw interactive communications initiated with beepers…combined with responses and suggestions made at the PepsiCo web site on the Internet…creating an enormous, nonstop electronic focus group at a remarkably low cost.

Although this marketing is unproven, it is a foreshadowing of future strategies.

The possibilities are unlimited.  But, they are also unimagined…so far.  Unless you think beyond your normal focus, these ideas of marketing and promotion will never occur to you.  This also applies to your staff.  Challenge them to come up with the unimagined.

Get ready to take a lot of heat.  Anytime you make suggestions that fall out of the norm, expect to be laughed at.  Understand that most of the time you’re dealing with the ignorant.  Those who fight hardest for the status quo are those with the smallest degree of imagination.  But you really have no choice.  If you don’t change…if you don’t evolve…you will disappear.

Only one-third of the companies on the Fortune 500 list in 1950 still survive today.  More  than half of the top 20 computer companies in the Unites States were not in business 20 years ago.

Today, market forces move so rapidly, and the warning signs of change are so subtle, that more often than not, we fail to see them or their effects…before it’s too late.

Unless you’re an Oldies station, don’t become a thing of the past.  Buy the book, heed some of the advice.

Instead of letting things happen to you…make things happen.



To quote the old adage, “now that I have your attention…”

Last week’s Editorial caused a bit of a stir in Los Angeles radio…no fewer than three different programmers in three different formats called to complain that I was writing about their station.  Paranoia strikes deep in Hollywood.

I wasn’t writing about any of the PDs who questioned my audacity (it was a Rock station), but from the number of calls I received, both from L.A. programmers and others across the country I must have struck a nerves.

For those of you who missed the Editorial, I said, “Radio sucks.”

Okay, truth is, I said much more than that, but in a business known for and built on hyperbole (look it up), you can usually boil most of our conversations into a key word or two: play my record…hire me…you’re the best…don’t ever change…radio sucks.

This past week brought that quote more into focus than any Editorial could ever do.  Princess Di’s death and the resulting media frenzy surrounding it, forced PDs to deal with a lifestyle event that wasn’t listed on the pull-down menu of their music schedulers.  The insatiable appetite of the audience for information about Princess Di put stations on overload.

Suddenly, jocks had to sound human…they had to act semi-intelligent…they actually had to talk to the audience, rather than reading liner cards at them.  PDs had to develop special programming to meet the demand.  Uncommon questions were asked and answered:  How much information?  When?  What do we do if…?

Music radio even had to do the unthinkable:  Programmers had to find a new piece of music and play it without the hype (or help) of a record company.  It was a world gone mad.

Elton John’s rewrite and ultimate performance of a new version of “Candles In The Wind” became the most-anticipated record of all time.  Never before was so much heat generated by a record.  Forget music radio…and radio in general…information agencies from network newscasts to lead stories in the most-important newspapers in the world blared the news.

PDs stayed up all night to tape the song off the telecast.  “Candles In The Wind” became the most-requested song in the world overnight.

So, what’s my bitch?  It’s that Top 40 radio doesn’t choose to “own” a particular culture or event until forced to do so.  Princess Di’s death and the audience reaction following the tragedy should put PDs on notice.  There are things your listeners care about that you are completely unaware of.  This is why you aren’t performing as well as you should.

What are those things?  I don’t know.  It isn’t my job to know.  And it won’t be your job if you don’t know.

But here’s a news flash:  You have to take the lifestyle things that happen and make them your own.  If I was programming in San Francisco during the present BART strike, I would set up mini-concerts at the ferry landings for all the new commuters during drive time…serve coffee and donuts at the toll booths…make special music sweeps for slow commutes…provide buses (with only my stations playing inside) from certain areas.  That’s not covered under “music scheduling.”  However, a good PD takes advantage of uncommon events and gives the radio station a halo.

But you can’t wait until some “act of God” provides you with special motivation.  It is time for programmers to get out from behind the piles of paper, the reams of research, the countless meetings and the endless bullshit and find out who their audience is and what they like.  If you don’t do this…and don’t do this in a hurry…you’re going to find out one thing loud and clear…your audience won’t like you.

Unfortunately, most programmers today don’t live the lifestyles they are trying to reach.  If you can’t live the lifestyle, you must surround yourself with those who do.  And you must, at least, visit that lifestyle from time to time.  Reading a computer print-out about it isn’t enough.

Does anybody out there know why Howard Stern is so popular?  Because he’s vulgar, borders on the profane, does crazy things and might do something crazier tomorrow?

You’re missing the point.  (So what else is new?)  What’s the key word?


Say what?

Howard Stern is the most popular morning personality in the history of radio because he knows exactly who his audience is and exactly what his audience likes.  No single person…and certainly no research firm…can hold a candle to Howard Stern when it comes to knowledge of an audience.  Howard found the equation early:  Lesbians=Ratings.

Oversimplification?  Of course.  Bottom line?  Howard knows his shit.  Howard “ruined” the careers of several PDs who tried to change him.  Howard wasn’t doing it “their” way.  My God, Howard actually talked with his news person.  Howard talked about sex.  We couldn’t have that on the radio.

Instead of reacting negatively to Howard Stern and his new ideas (as many PDs did about my Editorial last week), what would have happened if one…just one…of Howard’s early PDs had stopped and listened…had gone along with the ideas…and accepted Howard’s knowledge of his audience?  Had added to it?  That PD might today be as rich as Howard.

Maybe we are too busy keeping our jobs to really do our jobs.

As I see it, our job is not to suck.  And the best way not to suck is to understand who our audience is, what they want and how to deliver what they want to them.  If we accomplish all of that, then it’s a wonderful world.

If not,  remember the key word.



I had the opportunity to do a lot of radio listening over this long Labor Day Weekend.  I use the word “opportunity” loosely because, basically, I had no choice.  I was recuperating from a short visit to the hospital (thanks for those “get-well” presents) and could do nothing except lie around in a drug-induced (prescription only, mind you) euphoria and tune in the radio.

I wasn’t listening for too long before I realized the stupor I was experiencing wasn’t drug induced. It was the crap I was listening to.

After a long weekend of soaking up radio in Los Angeles, I have only one statement to make: “It sucks.”

Please don’t get me wrong. I’ve always stated that two of the best-programmed radio stations in the country are located in Los Angeles:  Alternative KROQ and Oldies KRTH. Since Dan Kieley’s arrival at KIIS, you can make it three.

These radio stations are programmed with excitement.  What happens between the records is as important as the records.  Promotions are a part of the programming.

Hello?  Is anybody out there taking notes?

I understand that if you’re a baby PD in a tiny market, some programming nuances might be a little difficult for you to grasp.  But if you’ve got the big gig in a big city, may I ask a question?

What the fuck is wrong with you?

One station in L.A. was featuring music from a particular decade.  Not a bad idea.  But there was absolutely no staging…no promotion…no excitement to get the listener involved in what was happening.  Just lame jocks reading lame liner cards twice an hour, saying how the station was featuring songs from this particular decade.


Think of the theater-of-the-mind a good programmer could have created.  News stories of that decade could have been interspersed with important facts to make the weekend fun.

“Did you know that a six-pack of Bud cost only 97 cents in 1981?” “In January of 1971, the first person walked on the moon…and  this song was #1.”

Contests could have been run that would have made the whole weekend.  Furniture and clothing from that period could have been given away.  Maybe a vintage automobile from the decade.  Plus, you could have sponsors roll back their prices to that of 10 or 20 years ago.

It could have been so much fun.

Fun.  How silly me.  Why would anyone want a radio station to sound fun?

Listening to this station made me embarrassed.  I prepared more for my college show in Jackson, Mississippi than this station did for an entire weekend.  What’s the matter with these people?

I can tell you from listening that a lot of time and care was spent assembling the music.  The mix was perfect. So why not let the audience know it?  Why not toot your own horn?

Is it “not cool?”  Are you trying too hard to be too hip?  You think promotions, staging and excitement aren’t cool?

You should be working for the phone company.

Watch television.  Look at the commercials.  Those big companies––going for the same audience as you––are throwing all of their considerable weight behind promotions that make their product top-of-mind.  Why aren’t you  doing it?

Oh, you’re too cool.

Got it.

And what about the lame disc jockeys on the weekends?  I’ve preached forever about the importance of having your best talent on the air during weekend hours.  Why?  Repeat after me, children:  Weekends are prime time to gain new listeners.  Why?  Repeat after me, children:  Most listeners are creatures of habit during the weekdays…they get to work at the same time…come home at the same time…listen to the radio at the same time.  But during the weekends, things change.  More people tune in to different stations.

So you have the opportunity to attract new listeners on a Labor Day weekend.  Yet you don’t do any promotions, produce stagers or anything like that because you’re way too cool.  You would rather let your audience find you “organically.”  And you put on part-time jocks to really make your “new” listeners feel this could be their favorite radio station.

Have you lost your mind?

Please–– work your best talent on the weekend.  Oh, they don’t want to work weekends?   They need the weekends for their own life?

The hell with them.  They’re disc jockeys.  They have no fucking lives…if they did, they certainly wouldn’t be disc jockeys.

Work their asses on weekends.  And not only work them, make them be their best.  It’s in their best interest.  It’s in your best interest. There are new listeners out there.  Charge your jocks with getting them.

If they don’t want to work on the weekends, fire them and find people who do.  This is radio.  Weekends are part of the gig.

Of course, having your disc jockeys on edge when they’re on the air means you have to have a little edge for yourself.  No promotions?  No production?  No special Programming?

No energy.

When is the last time you had a meeting with your promotion director to plan something that would sound really good on the air?  When is the last time you had a meeting with your jocks to critique their sound?  When is the last time you had a meeting with anyone to discuss what your station “sounds” like?

Are you listening?


Neither is your audience.

A Crazy World


It’s a crazy world, but I live here…

Mac MacAnally, a friend and songwriter of some note, penned those words several years ago.  Since then, nothing has happened to prove him anything less than prophetic.  I was reminded of Mac this week when I read an article about the MIssissippi Sovereignty Commission.  Mac and I grew up near the shores of Ol’ Man River and shared many common experiences.

From the mid-1950s until 1972, an agency called the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission existed to protect the people of the state from “subversives.”  Actually, that’s a nice way to say the state government spied on its citizens to make sure they were living the good, clean, segregated life.  The commission was a secret…whispered about by many, but known about only by a chosen few.  Several years ago, under the Freedom of Information Act, the commission was officially acknowledged.  Bits and pieces were made public.  Some of this information was used to convict the murderer of Medgar Evers…documented in the movie, Ghosts of Mississippi.

All of the documents kept by the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission are about to be made public…including the names of those “sympathizers” who were spied upon and the informants who provided information.  Every person mentioned is being notified before the documents are made public.  Why are you reading about this in a Network 40 Editorial?

Because my name is supposedly listed in the documents as one who was sympathetic to the Civil Rights movement.  I was spied upon.

I find it amusing that anyone would bother spying on my “activities” as an elementary school child and teenager.  When I found the reasons why I was listed as a “sympathizer,” it became downright comical.

My parents, as most middle class families in Mississippi in the 1960s, had a house-keeper.  Lela Maye Woodson most definitely “kept” our house.  More often than not, it was Lela Maye whose approval I sought instead of my parents.  To say she “raised” me is not much a stretch.

Lela Maye had two sons and two nephews that she often brought with her to my home.  Nearly every afternoon, I was in the side yard playing some kind of sport with the Woodsons.  They played hard.  In that yard, the Woodsons didn’t teach me the difference between black and white.. I learned black and blue.  All four went to college on football scholarships and two made it in the NFL.

I recall several of the neighborhood boys objecting to playing with “coloreds.”  I didn’t.  I was always on their team and we generally won.  It was by ball…my yard…end of discussion.

I was branded a possible future subversive by the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission at the tender age of eight.  I wonder who turned me in?

Probably my brother.  He hated to lose.

In hindsight, I guess the commission was accurate in their assessment.  Who knows why…maybe through Lela Maye’s constant singing…but I was drawn early on to R&B music.  I used to lay awake late at night under the covers in my bed, tuning my little transistor to WLAC in Nashville and listening to the latest R&B songs spun by Big John R.  After he signed off, I spun the dial to XERF in Del Rio, Texas and the famous Wolfman Jack.

Something must have happened.  Years later, I was working the night shift on WRBC in Jackson.  The “RBC” in the call letters stood for Rebel Broadcasting Company and the station signed off every night with “Rebel Rouser” so you can understand it was no favorite of the Civil Rights movement.

I didn’t care.  I just liked R&B music.  So I played it…a lot of it.

My generation loved the music…of course.  I was a favorite on the campus of Jackson State University…the all black college located a few miles…and 100 years…away.

The Ku Klux Klan, however, wasn’t amused.  I got calls nearly every night from some redneck who objected to the type of music I was playing.  I wasn’t  worried.  I was young, cool and bulletproof…until one particular Friday.

The station was located on the outskirts of town, isolated in a huge field.  The control room was a fishbowl…I could see out, but others could also see in.  Since the station signed off at 1 am, I was alone in the building.

Just before midnight, I go another crank call from a particularly intelligent inbred who identified himself as an official member of the K.K.K. I asked what Kate Smith song he wanted to hear, then hung up.  He called right back.  “Boy,” he hissed, “if you don’t stop playin’ that music, we gonna fix you up.”  I told him to take his sexual aggressions out on his favorite farm animal and turned up Aretha.

A short time later, I noticed a glow coming from outside.  There, on the front lawn of the station, was a burning cross.

I called the police…who probably set the fire to begin with…and waited.  In the meantime, I went on the air live and described the scene.  Fortunately, a large group of Jackson State students came down to the station in a show of support. We even roasted marshmallows before sousing the flames.

This, according to the official who called, is duly noted in the documents set for release.  I was contacted because those who are mentioned may petition to keep their names from becoming a part of public record.  I don’t have a problem being labeled as a supporter of the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi, proud of it in fact…though I like the term “subversive” much better.

And I wondered why I didn’t get elected when I ran for Congress.

“It’s a crazy world, but I live here and if you can hear me singing, so do you.  I’m turning on my nights lights feeling satisfied that there’s nothing anyone of us can do…no there is nothing any one of us can do.”

A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing


I had one of the most interesting conversations in the past five years this past weekend.  I got the opportunity to spend almost six hours with the PD of an L.A.station, and the information we shared was informative and enjoyable.  The first question you’re asking yourself is why would anyone spend six hours talking with me?  The obvious answers would be: my wit, my charm, my intelligence.  Of course, it was none of those.  The poor  fool agreed to go for a car ride and after the first red light, there was nowhere for him to go.  Trust me on this one:  There are no exit signs in a Porsche going 110 miles-an hour through the California desert.  He wouldn’t ask me to slow down…especially after I showed him the loaded revolver I keep in the glove compartment.

In the course of our conversation, we got around to the problems concerning the radio and record industries and how the two relate to each other.

One of the biggest areas of confusion is a result of the changes taking place at radio.  With stations being bought, sold and traded faster than Marvin Gardens on a Monopoly board, programming has adjusted accordingly.  To quote a phrase:  “It ain’t like it used to be.”

Many of the executives in record companies today worked their way up (or at least are familiar with the process) through the promotion ranks.  Although relationships still drive promotion, the way business is done has changed drastically.  Couple the buying and selling frenzy with the advent of BDS and SoundScan, and PDs have an entirely different set of criteria to judge music in the ‘90s.

Although most music executives pay lip service to the new criteria, many don’t know how the changes have affected the way promotion people deal with radio today.  it might taste like chicken…but it’s definitely frog legs.

Promotion people spend a lot of time explaining to their bosses why a record didn’t get added at a radio station.  The reasons are often quickly dismissed as excuses, when, in reality, those asking the questions don’t understand the answers.

I know someone who had a solution. Gather round the fire, my friends, and let me tell you a story.  Some of it is even true.

In the mid-‘70s, Mo Ostin was President of Warner Bros.  Records.  Although already a legend in the business, Mo wasn’t spotted at many conventions.  Programmers knew who he was, of course, but most had never met him. Mo let his lieutenants do their jobs.  He was occupied with signing some of the greatest acts in history. He didn’t have time to personally deal with radio.

Mo wanted each executive of Warner Bros. Records to know what was expected of the people under their supervision.  To know what to expect, you have to know the job.  And to really know the job, you have to do it.

Mo told each Warner Bros. executive to “work” a new release.  This meant the executive, not a promotion person, had to visit a radio station, talk to the program director and try to get the record added.  Mo chose the record.  Each executive was given a major Top 40 station to visit.  To make sure every executive knew the edict was serious, Mo even went out himself.  Once.

To my knowledge, I’m the only programmer ever promoted on a record by Mo Ostin.  I was the 17-year-old (I told you only some of this was true) PD at KHJ Los Angeles at the time.  When the local Warner Bros. Promotion person asked if Mo could come down and talk with me, I quickly agreed…not knowing what the conversation would be about…and not caring.  Meeting Mo was quite enough.

Mo came to my office and we spent over an hour talking about different aspects of our business.  I learned more in 60 minutes than I had up to that point in my career.  I’m sure Mo will tell you he learned as much from me.  (I told you not all of this would be true!)

At the end of the conversation, he told me of his plan.  He asked if I would listen to the record he had brought with him.  I did.  He then asked if I would add it.

At that time, KHJ was the flagship station of the successful RKO chain.  On a great week, we added maybe three records.  Usually, it was one or two.  Nothing…absolutely, positively nothing out-of-the-box.  If we really believed in a record, we would put it on one of our smaller stations first, then chart its progress before even thinking about adding it at KHJ.

So what did I do?

Added it right away.

Did I know it was a smash?  No way. I added it for two reasons.  First, I figured if Mo Ostin was asking, who was I to say no?  He had never personally asked for a record to be added and it was doubtful he ever would again.  I wasn’t worried about setting a precedent.  And besides, I figured if Mo Ostin can ask me for a favor and I say yes, maybe one day the favor would be returned.

Second, I knew that my adding the record would make the life of every other executive and promotion person a living hell.  I could see Mo going back to his office, picking up the phone and saying, “I got on KHJ, how did you do?”

If Mo could get the record on the tightest, most important station in the nation out-of-the-box, what excuse could any other person use?  I couldn’t wait until the local and regional people were working other records later to give Mo excuses.  I could hear him say, “You need me to go down there?”

It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up…an opportunity more record executives should option.  How often do you get to teach and learn in the same meeting?

Oh, did the song Mo worked become a hit?  Oh, yes.  The artist?  I won’t tell you…but I think he could dance.

Making Friends


The past few Editorials and last week’s Hotline have dealt with the importance of relationships in our business.  How are relationships formed?  Through life experiences.

While programming KFRC San Francisco, one of my jocks was on vacation, one was laid up drunk, another was in rehab and the one scheduled to work called in sick.  I was not happy to go on the air.  My top-of-the-hour ID went something like this:

“KFRC San Francisco, it’s eight o’clock, I’m Gerry Cagle and if there are any local promotion people listening, you should call me immediately.”

Burt Baumgartmer, then working as a local for Columbia Records, called from a hot tub.  He dried off, picked up a bottle of Tequila and came to the station to “help” me make it through the shift.  He didn’t have to call.  It would have been easier…and a lot more enjoyable for him and his girlfriend…to pretend he never heard me.  But to show my appreciation…and probably because the Tequila had begun to have its effect, I allowed him not only to play the current stiff he was working, but to introduce it on the air.  We taped the whole thing and sent it to his boss.  We’re still calling each other from the tubs.

While in San Diego, a baby deejay visited in hopes of getting a job.  I listened to his tape and said he wasn’t ready for a large market.  I advised him to try something smaller and let me know how he was progressing.  (He will tell you I told him the tape was terrible and to get out of the business.  How the story is remembered isn’t important…that the story is remembered is.)  He kept in touch.  Some will even say he got better.  Ric Lippincott wound up programming WLS Chicago and now heads up promotion at Curb.

When I was programming KHJ Los Angeles, a PD from a smaller market came by for a tour of the station.  Afterwards, we sat in my office and talked for a long time.  Scott Shannon and I still do.

While heading to a Bobby Poe convention some time ago, I missed a flight and got in too late for the golf tournament.  The local Columbia rep went out of her way to pick me up at the airport (we had never met) and get me to the hotel.  She even carried my golf bag! I still talk with Lisa Wolfe every week.

In Kansas City several years back, I found myself in a bar with Jefferson Starship and RCA’s new regional promotion person.  At two o’clock, we were singing Country songs.  At three, we were in a suite holding hands, trying to communicate through mental telepathy.  (It was a Grace Slick thing…you had to be there.)  Anyhow, Brenda Romano and I are still holding hands.

A promotion person was working me on the Go-Gos’ “Our Lips Are Sealed” at KFRC.  I wouldn’t add it.  He was relentless…he wouldn’t give up.  The record went #1 nationally and as it was coming down the charts, I added it and the new one, “We Got The Beat,” giving him the first (and possibly only) real double in history.  Michael Plen is still relentless in his pursuit of songs he believes are hits and he never fails to remind me of the one I missed.

When I was OM of WAPP New York, I inherited a music coordinator from the Midwest.  He was famous for pizzas with “evvvverything” on them.  He became PD after a few months (turnover being commonplace at my stations).  Steve Ellis and I kept in touch through his radio jobs and move into records.

When I became PD at WRKO Boston, Jim Elliot was a great deejay there.  We had only one problem: I wanted him to work Sundays and he wanted to watch football.  So we compromised.  I let him off Saturday and Sunday…and the rest of the week as well.  We parted company, but not ways. Our paths crossed often…and they still do.

I forced John Fagot to attend a Willie Nelson concert with me in New York.  John was not happy…neither, come to think of it, was Willie.  Too much booze was consumed and John couldn’t drive home.  I let him use my limo.  It was the start of a long, strange trip that continues today.

I used to visit Lake Tahoe almost weekly.  The head of promotions took care of me, always comping everything…including the best suites.  One day, Jim Parsons asked if I could help him get into the record business.  I set up an interview and he got a job, first for Zoo, and now at WORK.

I used to have Wednesday breakfasts with a manager/record executive on La Cienega Boulevard.  I still remember an insurance story he shared.  We haven’t had breakfast in while, but David Geffen has come to my rescue on more than one occasion since.

And maybe the best story is about someone you’ve never heard of.  I worked as a baby deejay with a guy named Michael Jay in Daytona Beach.  I left to program many stations in major markets. Michael never got out of Daytona Beach.  But at every stop, I got a letter or a phone call from him.  More than anything, Michael wanted a shot in a major market, but he wasn’t good enough…and he never asked. When I went to New York…I hired him.  He still wasn’t good enough, but since Ellis was the PD, how good could the station be? Michael’s selling phone books now, but because he kept up a relationship, his dream came true.

What’s the moral of all these stories?  The relationships you make…the relationships you maintain…will live with you and help shape your life and your livelihood.  Everyone one is important.

Work on them.

Back To The Future


A funny thing happened in San Diego last week.  According to one programmer, a Jacor power play prevented an act from participating in his promotion.  The PD, who doesn’t work for Jacor, had contacted a record company and made a deal for an act to perform for the station.  The record company first agreed, then cancelled after Jacor threatened to drop the artist…and other artists on the label…from not only the Jacor station in a competitive format…but from any or all of the six Jacor stations in the market.

All of this information was given by the PD at the competing station.  I didn’t contact anyone with Jacor to see if the story was true.  It isn’t important for this Editorial.  The point is, the general scenario will be.

Welcome to promotion and programming in the ’90s.  Promotion executives are going to have to get used to dealing with radio chains.  PDs are going to have to get used to programming within the framework of a chain…or against the strength of a chain.

You will see more chains flexing their collective muscles.  Whether or not the story about Jacor in San Diego actually happened doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that this will happen in the future…by any or all of the major chains.

I had the opportunity to work for the greatest radio chain in history…RKO.  (I know what you’re saying: “Oh, no… here he goes again, down memory lane…I don’t know if I can stand another story about the good old days.”)  This isn’t a story about how it used to be so much as it is an example of how it will be in the future.

RKO owned and/or consulted top-rated stations in 12 large markets.  Because the company chose to operate the stations as a chain, a record couldn’t break into the top 10 without airplay on the RKO chain.

This gave RKO unbelievable power.

Many of the stations were programmed identically.  The Top 40s in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Detroit, San Francisco, San Diego and Memphis ran basically the same clocks, jingles and stopsets.  The same IDs and voicers were used on all.  Chain promotions were done at least once each quarter with identical elements on all stations.

Because the programming was similar, if not identical, every station shared research.  On Mondays, sales, request, call-out and other research were reviewed and a music conference call took place between all PDs.  This was after each PD met with the individual music directors to prepare their music suggestions.  And you needed to be prepared!  After the national picture was given, each PD “suggested” records to add to their stations.  Then the music call ended.

Tuesday morning, the RKO music coordinator would tell each PD what records would be added to the chain.  PDs could pitch for specific records for their stations…and often you could win, but chain adds were played by every station…no exception.

The RKO chain got every exclusive…every promotion…every concert…and anything else record companies could come up with.  If you were a PD in the RKO chain, you had your pick of everything record companies had to offer.

If, however, you were on the other side, the opposite was true.  Everything was brought to the RKO chain first.

Bill Drake, and later Paul Drew, the VPs of Programming for the chain, were both honorable.  If a record company offered a promotion and RKO passed, the company was free to offer the promotion to competing stations. What happened when this protocol wasn’t followed?

Now, it’s storytime.

After I left KHJ Los Angeles and the comfort of the RKO chain, I consulted KYA San Francisco…the direct competitor of RKO’s KFRC.  I came up with a fantastic promotion based around a new release by Chicago, “Another Rainy Day In New York City.”  You’ve never heard of it?  I wonder why.

Bob Sherwood, then VP promotion for Columbia, respected the idea, gave me the promotion and I jammed it up KFRC’S call letters.  Paul Drew was not amused.  He gave Sherwood the opportunity to pull the promotion and give it to RKO, or the record would never be added to the chain.

Sherwood held strong.  He said the promotion was my idea, not Columbia’s…RKO had no right to ask for it.

Drew accepted Sherwood’s answer.  The RKO chain didn’t add the record.  It peaked at #64 on the charts.

Did the power of the RKO chain keep the record from being successful?  Who knows?  Maybe it wasn’t a hit.  It certainly didn’t get a lot of airplay…none in most major markets.

The singles released before and directly after “Another Rainy Day In New York City.”  (with promotions gladly given by Columbia) and played by the RKO chain peaked at #5 and #1 respectively.  Coincidence?  Right…

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Bob Sherwood…or any other Sr. VP Promotion…never gave RKO’s competition a promotion again. Who wants to find out the hard way your record won’t be a hit?

This power is too much for radio companies to ignore.  Companies are now buying multiple stations in the same market to dominate local sales.  It’s only a matter of time before a chain makes the decision to program many of its stations (in multiple markets) in identical formats to dominate sales and promotions nationally.  With the ownership limits greatly relaxed, a chain today can be even more dominant than RKO.

Strap yourself in.  It’s going to be a wild ride as we go back to the future.

It’s Who You Know


Gather around children and let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, an important, influential person in our business…okay, a very important, influential person in our business…all right, who am I kidding…an absolute icon in our business was asked by the Dean of the UCLA Film School to give a lecture to the film students at the university.  This icon, whose modesty in matters like these precludes me from giving his name, politely declined.  Why, he asked, would film students be interested in anything he might have to say?  But the Dean of the UCLA Film School was a fool…and persistent.  He asked again…and again…and again.  The icon kept declining until to continue to do so began to draw more attention than if he accepted.

Reluctantly, he finally agreed.

When word go out that the icon was going to speak to the film students, the demand for seating was so great that the lecture was moved to a different, much larger auditorium.  Since the icon was speaking, more time was needed than for a normal lecture.  Three hours were set aside.

As the time approached for the icon to speak, the mood on the campus was electric.  The auditorium was “standing room only” and even the admission tickets were being scalped.

The hour drew nigh.  The auditorium was packed.  The introduction hushed the crowd.  When the icon entered, the room erupted into a standing ovation.  Once everyone finally took their seats and quiet was again restored, all eyes were on the icon and each ear was pricked to pick up the first words of what had to be an incredible lecture.

The icon walked to a blackboard behind the podium.  Taking up a piece of chalk, he wrote the following:


Returning to the podium, he looked out across the sea of faces.  “Are there any questions?” he asked.

So ended the lecture.

In once sentence, the icon had summed up the essence of our business.  Or had he?

There is no doubt that who you know is important.  But in today’s atmosphere, it’s not enough.  Actually, it’s not nearly enough.

I submit that it’s not who you know, but who knows you that ultimately makes the difference.

The parking attendant at the White House knows President Clinton.  The more important question is:  Does President Clinton know the parking attendant?

Admittedly, this is taking the premise to the absurd, but there is merit to what I’m saying.  It’s who knows you…and knows about you.

In today’s climate of corporate take-overs of gigantic proportions, it’s not good enough just to do your job.  It’s not even good enough to do your job well.  It is important…no, imperative to be acknowledged by your peers and the industry as a whole as someone who is a cut above the rest.

There was a time when one could make their magic in a vacuum.  No longer.  Renegades once “did it their way” and let the chips fall where they may.  Today, you need everyone pulling for you.  And why not?

No matter who you are…and how big you are…why do you want to be known as an asshole?  Is arrogance so important?  Careful, or you’ll be known as that “out-of-work jerk.”

There is a saying:  “Be careful.  The people you meet on your way up are the same people you’ll meet on the way down.”  Today, it’s more apropos to say, “You’ll meet the same people on the up that you meet on the way up.”  Think about it.

Fortunes have a way of turning quickly.  Why antagonize those today who may be needed in your camp tomorrow?  Does the name Newt Gingrich ring a bell?

In the past year, there were several occasions in radio where programmer A was beating programmer B in the same city in similar formats.  Programmer A didn’t care who knew it.  He only cared that he knew it.  He was to busy beating his chest, returning no phone calls and declaring himself a genius to be bothered with anything else.

A funny thing happened on the way to the MENSA meeting.  Programmer B’s company bought programmer A’s station.  When the stations were combined, guess who was put in charge?  Programmer B, of course. What happened?  Programmer B knew the owner of the new company.  What is more important, the new owner knew programmer B.

So, how does this relate to you?

In today’s world, you have to do much more than market your record or your radio station.  You must market yourself as well.  Of course, this has always been the case.  But it is truer now than ever before.  How do you do this?  By taking the same marketing tools that work with your record or station and apply them to yourself.

Network with your peers.  Call your fiends.  And even more important, call your competitors.  Tomorrow they may be your co-owners.  You may not like them…hey, you might not like yourself…and maybe they don’t like you, but that’s never stopped you in your job.  Don’t let it stop you in your personal life.  You need to expand your horizons.  Embrace new friends and ideas.  Broaden your universe.

It’s not enough to try and get next to the icons of your industry.  Hell, we all want to know David Geffen.  It’s a given he doesn’t have the time to know all of us.  So we must get to know others who can introduce us to others…who can in turn take us one more step up the ladder.

It’s who you know?

Nope.  It’s who knows you.

And the more people who know you, the better chance you have of becoming an icon.

Bah, Humbug


‘Tis the season to be…so let’s.  Everybody’s singing…it’s Christmas time.  Christmas is my favorite time of year.  Memories of Christmas are as deep as the snow in North Dakota…the state, not the movie.  Who can’t smile when thinking of Christmas holidays past?  My favorites?

A freezing sleigh ride in Tahoe when the idiot driver pulled under a tree to quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  My response to his reading wasn’t quite a poetic.

The San Francisco hot tubs with a secret Santa who I can’t talk about.  Bruce Hix would have details.  So would Bob Galiani, except he passed out and smashed his head on the floor.

But my favorite would be 1985 in New York City.  Big, wet snowflakes fell on Christmas Eve.  With Harry Nelson behind the wheel, we drove to Rockefeller Center.  I hung out of the window, yelling Merry Christmas greetings to all we passed on the sidewalk.  This greeting sent most diving into doorways.  People don’t make eye contact on the streets of New York, much less shout out Christmas cheer.  After the third pass around the ice rink, I saw a shadowy figure run toward the car.  Without warning, a snowball hit me right between the eyes.

“Merry Christmas, motherfucker! The not-so-secret Santa wished.

It was the best  Christmas I ever had!

My trip down memory lane done, let me pretend to wish some of you a happy holiday.

To Andrea Ganis: poached salmon, the Pacific Ocean on her right and two of the most beautiful blue eyes.  Let Danny Buch have a one-track mind.  Okay, if that’s asking for too much, how about a three-track mind?  Burt Baumgartner needs a lake closer to home, so he could use that new boat more.  Of course, that would mean we would have to share it with more people in the business, so better leave things as they are.  Bring Justin Fontaine a crying towel.  Make it a big one, Santa.

No moving vans for Lori Anderson, Santa.  She likes it fine just where she is.  Richard Palmese needs someone to move into his house in Palm Springs.  Network 40 could make a deal and use it as a “theme park” for the industry, but deciding on the “theme” might get us all in trouble.  Ken Lane needs nothing now that he has the perfect job.  Jim Elliot is comfortable where he is.

What about Phil Costello?  A nice hat would be the trick.  And Ritch Bloom?  Another nickname besides “Kong.”  Jeffery Blalock needs some NFL experience.  Ric Lippincott needs a LeAnn Rimes for Top 40.

How about giving Jerry Blair a new house?  Also maybe more quality time with Kiki.  And give Charlie Walk anything he wants because he’s such a saint, he looks up to everybody.  Let Lee Leipsner get out of the office more.  Season’s tickets for the Rangers to Jim Burruss.  And don’t forget Jerry Lembo just because he always forgets me.  Give Greg Thompson more golf time this year.  No one deserves it more.  MMM (More Minutes in Maui) for Bill Pfordresher.  Coddington?  A scale so he’ll know he isn’t heavy.  And for Mike Whited, a suite at the Hard Rock in Vegas.  We’re going to be there a lot in 1997!

Peter Napoliello could sure use another album like The Artist.  Ditto Michael Steele.  Craig Lambert needs bigger house upstate.  As for John Boulos, how about a map of Epic’s offices and a book matching pictures with promotion department’s names?  Let Dale Connone spend more time with Charlie Walk, Santa.  It makes him look bigger.

For Bob Catania, a bigger budget.  He’s going to need it.  For Steve Leavitt, a better haircut.  Craig Coburn needs to be called “C.C.”  Give John Fagot hit records, Santa.  No one deserves it more.  And Tim Burris? A Chauffeur. The man can’t drive, Santa.

Don’t bring Brenda Romano a damned thing, Santa.  She had such a great year, what more could she ask for?  Ditto Paula Tuggey.  Let’s concentrate on the more needy.  Joe Riccitelli wants people to stop calling him Joey.  Vicki Leben wants people to stop calling her Vic.  And Linda Murdock wants people to stop calling her.

Give Jack Satter more respect, Santa.  99% of the industry knows he deserves it.  Bankrupt the other 1%.  Skip Bishop needs a clone to attend the meetings he’s been in.  Mark Gorlick needs a tattoo and a naval ring.

Steve Ellis needs to be able to forge David Leach’s signature.  Chris Lopes got the best girl in the world…what else could he need?  Marc Benesch needs to get his Priorities straight.  Ditto Sean Lynch.

How about Butch Waugh, Santa?  Well, how about him?  Bonnie Goldner gets whatever she wants.  Let Rich Fitzgerald shoot consistently in the low 80s, Santa.  We know he won’t be satisfied, but that’s okay.  And Steve Tipp?  Let his entire family be perfectly healthy.  Give Marc Ratner two good years in a row.  It would be justice.  And give Bob Weil a personality.

Cancel Mike Becce’s Hits subscription.  What?  He already did it himself?  Then give him two Network 40s.  Steve Leeds needs less tension and more Universal happiness.  Monte Lipman wants a weekend bartender’s job.  Michael Plen needs a little spice in his life.  For Jeffery Naumann, an introduction to all the Top 40 PDs.  (Never mind, it wouldn’t matter.)  Santa, convince Al Moinet that he’s pronouncing Kilgore and Easterling’s names wrong.  And for Mike Easterling?  A little class.  Never mind, Santa, no one would notice.

Stu Cohen wants a string of hits.  And Barney Kilpatrick needs four kings.  Don’t give him aces, Santa.  Save those for me.  End the craving for Rick Bisceglia.  For Lisa Wolfe, a staff and more trips to the West Coast.

Give Val DeLong more Enclavage.  And for Bruce Schoen, Mark Kargol and Ron Geslin, good jobs.

Let Nancy Levin have a year of biting ants who spoil everyone else’s picnics.  Debby Peterson already got her wish by leaving Network 40.

And me?  How about that dream I’ve been working on?

Merry Christmas to all a good night!