Satanic Books


Long ago and far away, an idea was born. Radio, with no knowledge of what the future would bring, fed and nurtured this concept. Little did we know that we were creating a monster. The monster grew to dinosauric proportions until it controlled and threatened our professional lives. Jurassic Park? Nope.


The fact that radio spends untold millions of dollars each year to continue a methodology that became obsolete years ago boggles the mind. But we do. Asking people to keep a diary to record their radio listening habits is ridiculous. Daring to suggest that the information recorded is even close to accurate is insane. Paying a company to provide this “research” is ridiculously insane.

With the possible exception of meteorologists who seldom get the forecasts right (but do provide some comic relief), is there another example of such a massive waste of money on information that is patently inaccurate? Other than R&R’s Parallel System, none comes to mind. Arbitron will argue that their methodology is the best available.


Television, which is much more diary-friendly (it’s easier to fill in the blanks when you’re sitting down watching a long program), distrusts this type of research and is expanding their “people meter” data as quickly as possible. The Neilson ratings, which have been constantly criticized for the small sample, at least can guarantee that the people surveyed are actually watching what they sample…or at the very least that the TV is indeed turned on.

But Arbitron’s radio methodology? It’s a crapshoot at best. And you can get much better odds in Las Vegas. The methodology is inept. The sample, however, makes the methodology look positively pristine. How many of your friends have ever been asked to participate in an Arbitron survey? Have you met someone who has been a part of one? Distance yourself from your vocation for a second and think about whether or not you would participate if asked.

Arbitron could better screen their participants by asking one question. Do you have a life? If the answer is no, then they would make the perfect diary recipient.

Let’s just pretend the following “example” is accurate:

Foregoing the difficult screening process Arbitron uses to select participants (“You’ll do it? Oh, thank God.”), let’s say that Mom has agreed to play along. She’s also volunteered for her family. Besides her, there’s Dad, a 20-year-old son who’s home from college, a 17-year-old daughter who is a senior in high school, another daughter who just turned 13 and the grandfather, who is 65.

On Thursday, Mom reminds everyone to fill out their diary. Dad mumbles something about having to make a living and tosses his in the general direction of the trash. Mom, of course, picks it up. She’s pocketed the six dollars already and feels obligated. The son tells anyone who will listen that it is another form of “Big Brother” and an attempt by a sinister government organization to censor his mind. The 17-year-old things it’s cool and can’t wait to tell her friends. The 13-year-old will fill hers out meticulously because it’s the first time in her life anyone has asked her opinion about anything. Grandpa sits down in front of the radio after the family leaves and carefully outlines his listening habits, making many comments in the space provided. The fact that he normally never listens to the radio doesn’t matter. He has nothing else to do and this is like working again. He’s missed that part of his life since his retirement.

Friday comes. Mom and Dad leave for a weekend trip. The diaries remain at home. The son is already out of the mix. The high school senior has dates Friday and Saturday nights and will spend the daytime hours water skiing at the lake. The youngest and the oldest continue to record their listening habits.

The following Thursday, Mom is reminded to return the diaries. She panics. She has forgotten the promise she made the week before. But she already spent the money. And then what happens?

If she works, she probably asks her co-workers what radio station is playing in the office. She then writes in her diary that she listened to that station during her working hours. She asks Dad if he filled his out. He curses and turns on the ballgame. The son is out casing a nearby 7-11 store and his oldest sister is with him. Mom either copies what she’s written in their diaries or (more likely) gives the diaries to the youngest daughter or Grandpa and has them copy their listening habits. Then she mails them back with a clear conscience.

Absurd? Hardly.

Exaggerated? Only a little.

The radio industry (and by association, the record industry) is being held hostage by Arbitron’s methodology. And we compound the mistake by paying them for it.

The fish are in the trees.

If every radio station put the money it spends on Arbitron in a trust account and gave the NAB a mandate to come up with a better system, it could be done simpler, more accurately and cheaper. With that money, we could cross-reference a telephone, diary and personal interview system. Or we could develop an electronic monitoring system. BDS does it for airplay. If that’s an invasion of privacy, we could get the cooperation from households that would allow their homes and cars to be digitized to detect radio listening. Or we could research other avenues that would be even more accurate.

So why don’t we?


How Long?


How long will we as an industry continue to subscribe to an outdated system of measuring the success of our product? The radio and recording industries are made up of some of the brightest and most innovative thinkers in the world. Yet in this instance, we continue to be the dog wagged by the tail.

The recording industry is driven by hit records. Whether or not a song is a hit is ultimately measured by sales. Although different influences are now combining to move CDs and tapes (see the current article in “Radio & Retail in this issue), the primary force behind selling records has been and continues to be radio airplay. How long will th e recording industry continue to spend millions of dollars promoting records in markets that won’t sell 10 copies?

How long will record companies allow R&R to dictate what radio stations are important? Since record companies will show profits or losses based on their ability to move product, should they participate in deciding who’s important? We need some sort of measurement to plot the success of specific records. But this plotting must be based on some measure of reality…not a vague gauge made up to fit within the parameters of a magazine.

How long will the record industry allow a trade magazine to dictate the parameters? Isn’t a trade magazine’s responsibility to accurately reflect and report the facts? Only tabloid journalists make up facts to fit a story. R&R’s tabloid charts reflect a record’s success about as much as Arbitron accurately reflects radio listeners. We know they’re bogus, yet we as an industry continue to accept their results and pay for them.

R&R’s charts do not accurately reflect the success of a record. They do not accurately reflect airplay. They don’t reflect sales.

R&R’s sample base does not even pretend to be scientific. No one can explain why certain radio stations are included in the sample base and others aren’t. God bless his pointed little head, not even Joel can do that.

The Network Forty includes all radio stations that fit the format criteria. All. And why not? If you are a Mainstream Top 40 radio station and we are dedicated to reflecting Mainstream Top 40, we want the information. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that the larger the sample, the more accurate the research. We also weigh each station according to total possible detections. A reporter in New York will get a heavier weighting than one in Butte, but both reports will be accepted…gladly. R&R could do the same. But it doesn’t.

In addition to The Chart, which we look at as a program director’s prediction of music popularity based on anticipated airplay, sales and requests for the upcoming week, we also compile The Network Forty’s exclusive Plays Per Week Chart and regional breakdowns. What is the PPW Chart? As a medium market program director explained to his RCA rep last week, “It’s BDS for the rest of us.” From reporting stations’ computer-driven music software, The Network Forty compiles a listing of the number of times each record is played during the past week. We exhibit these two charts side by side so you can immediately compare our “projected” chart with an actual compilation of the past week’s airplay.

To compile these two charts, it’s more costly and time consuming for both us and the participating radio stations. We want accurate information. R&R obviously doesn’t care about accurate information…and why should they? They’ve been calling the shots for years now…but they may be running out of bullets.

Is our PPW chart as accurate as BDS? Yes. Compare the charts in the limited number of BDS markets. The results are almost exactly the same. The Network Forty PPW chart may reflect a slightly higher number of detections for titles that were occasionally dropped from actual airplay because of time restraints. The same can be said of the BDS computers that credit airplay from songs used in promos.

And the PPW chart is the only chart reflecting airplay in the many markets not served by BDS.

Is it possible for a program director to manipulate music software to show bogus information? Of course. But it’s complicated and time consuming. If he will go to that much trouble, he’ll also play songs six times during overnights to boost the BDS play. Dishonest people will find a way to manipulate any source of information.

There are only two accurate gauges of actual airplay: BDS and the exclusive Network Forty PPW. If we as an industry are interested in accurate, reflective information, why to we continue to “play the game” with R&R? There is no longer a reason.

How long will this bullshit go on?

Indecent Promotions

In the past several months, as the numbers continued to erode, the Top 40 format has been assaulted on all fronts. From “not playing enough new music” to “causing a hole in the ozone layer,” the format and those programming it have been accused…justly and unjustly…of countless faults.

Top 40 radio always stood head and shoulders above the other formats for its unwavering ability to be on the cutting edge with information, music and bigger than life promotions.

The proliferation of cable and satellite broadcasting took the information niche away. Entertainment shows and MTV are generally first with music news now. The music industry has become such a big business that even the network news organizations cover those stories. By virtue of the sheer amount of information being disseminated and gathered by other top sources, Top 40 is no longer on the cutting edge.

Music? What’s the joke? What with all the testing that’s done, by the time Top 40 gets around to adding a song, most of the audience already knows the words to the chorus. There was a time when being first to play the latest song by a known act was a big deal. And it still should be, if not playing it, at least talking about it. The best things about MTV are the promos. By the time you see the new video they’re hyping, you think you know it already. Top 40 radio should do the same. Music is not exclusive. Every radio station has access to all of it. How we set it up has separated Top 40 from the other formats forever. Whether or not you like the new George Michael is not important. If you sell the action to your audience, they will be excited whether they like the song or not. You don’t have to play any selection a lot. But if you’ve got new music by a known star and you’re excited about playing it, your listeners will feel the same way. Then they can decide. If it sucks, at least your audience knows that you gave them the chance to make that decision before anyone else. Besides, the majority of your audience won’t remember the lousy song as much as the many promos you did about always premiering new music first. And they will appreciate you for it.

So what’s left? Promotions. I can almost hear the groans and excuses. Always #1: I don’t have the budget. #2: I don’t have enough time. And good old #3: Less than 10% of my listeners every play a contest.

All valid reasons…for getting out of programming.

Listeners won’t remember your station because it plays the best songs. Hell, every station plays the best songs. Since very other station is building its reputation on the repetition of “favorite” artists, you must do something different to make your call letters stick out in their mind.

The fact that a minority of your listeners actually participate in promotions isn’t reason to stop airing them. The percentage of people who participate in Wheel Of Fortune is miniscule compared to the viewing audience, but wee all enjoy watching it. Radio audiences love to hear others make fools of themselves to win contests. If they are prepared correctly, no one will tune out. A successful promotion cannot be duplicated by your competition or others sources, It’s yours…exclusively. And in this world of nonexclusivity, we must create our own exclusives.

You don’t have time? Make it. Creativity is inbred in all of us. Get out from behind that music scheduling computer. It doesn’t take any time to be hip. It takes an attitude. If you’re programming, you have it. Or had it. To make your radio station stand out from the others, you have to create. Its part of…and important part of…maybe the most important part of your job.

You don’t have the budget? You don’t need a budget. Many promotions that make you shine don’t cost anything at all. Others can be funded by record companies or clients.

Jack McCoy’s The Last Contest, one of the biggest (and many say the best) radio promotions ever done, offered millions of dollars in prizes and cost the radio station he programmed not one penny. The American Revolutionary Bicentennial Contest (the ARB contest, get it?) trumped on the front page of R&R back when it meant something as possibly the ultimate radio contest, cost nothing.

The promotion is the key. Not the cash.

Listeners are offered tens of millions of dollars to play the lottery. It’s impossible for you to compete with that kind of a grand prize. But you can out-promote everyone else. If you take the time to do it.

Create promotions that make your station special. One of the best promotions is to tie in a contest with a particular song. If the promotion is innovative enough, it will make the song synonymous with your call letters. Every time your competition plays it, it makes the audience think of you.

Use ideas from the news. The Power Pig in Tampa does the creatively. Their recent “I Wanna Bet Like Mike” promotion (spotlighted on pate 10) is a perfect example.

You don’ to have to have big bucks to have big ideas.

Top 40 programmers have to stop blaming other formats, outside influences, changing demos and music diversities. The biggest problem facing the format is that Top 40 has become boring.

And it’s your fault.

You can’t change the music. You can’t change advertising trends. You can’t change budgets. But you can change presentation.

Jerry Clifton provides each of his stations with in-depth promotional ideas. He even has a Vice President of Fun and Games. Is it any wonder he’s successful? He works with the same music. The same pool of talent. The same stations. Maybe he creates it better than the others.

Study the promotional page in The Network Forty for ideas. Then come up with your own. Ask your staff. Be exciting. The audience expects nothing less. And wants a lot more.

You want to be like Mike? You’ve got to take the shot.

Conventionaire’s Disease


With convention season upon us, The Network Forty provides you with a primer for attending…or several good reasons to stay home.

Rule #1: Make note of the people who are most important: record company executives who pay for all of it; major market program directors and those on the way up; and small market program directors who add at least seven records a week and aren’t claimed by an independent.

Rule #2: Your status is in direct proportion to your method of payment. If you have a small amount of cash, you’re immediately identified as a fringe player at best and are shut out of the best seats and places TBS (to be seen). A personal American Express account will upgrade your seats and TBS level while the company Gold Card provides all access and highest status: TBSW (to be seen with). Editor’s note: Companies trying to limit expenses should consult Charlie Minor on how to stretch those convention dollars by sticking others with the tab.

Rule #3: If you have a good job in a major market and you’re considering going to a convention, you have to ask yourself one question: Why? The only answers: You’re chairing a panel and want to show everyone how smart you are; you’re about to be fired; you’re looking for a better job; you need an excuse for a few nights away from home; you’re being paid to attend. (Throw out the last one. It doesn’t happen.) One reminder: Don’t forget how you felt when you were a baby program director. Take time to talk with those who seek your guidance. Try to avoid the “holier than thou” attitude. After all, it’s not you they’re impressed with. It’s the job you hold. When in doubt, hum the old Blood Sweat And Tears’ anthem: “What Goes Up, Must Come Down.”

Rule #4: If you’re in a smaller market looking to move up, conventions are the place for you. In one long weekend, you can meet and impress those who might remember you for a future opening. You can certainly cement your relationship with various record executives. Just don’t let them see you sweat. Before you make the trip, determine your objectives. Seek out those in both industries who can help your career. Ask questions and state your case as briefly as possible. Remember, you’re one of hundreds seeking an audience. At the convention, keep a log of the people you see and what you talked about. One week later, follow up with a short letter. If it’s someone from radio, send them an air check. If they are in the record business, be persistent. If they don’t answer your first calls, try freezing the play list. That will always get a call back. If you aren’t employed, don’t call anyone in the record industry.

Rule #5: Never talk bad about someone without first checking to make sure he’s not right behind you. If this happens to someone you know, the key word is “Jaybow.” When you hear that word, immediately stop your conversation and check your surroundings.

Rule #6: When shaking hands with people, never look them in the eye. Always stare over their shoulder to see if you can spot someone more important.

Rule #7: Never glance at their name tags. It’s the amateur’s way out. If you don’t know who they are, slap them on the shoulder and tell them how good they look or tell them not to move, you’ll be right back. Another good ploy is to take along a date who isn’t in the business. Have her introduce herself to people whose name you can’t recall. Cover yourself by saying, “I’m sorry. I thought you guys knew each other.”

Rule #8: Don’t drink to excess. Throwing up in the lobby went out of style right after Randal Strasson blew chunks in the lat Rick Sklar’s lap at the Billboard convention in 1972.

Rule #9: Don’t take every dare issued by the guys at the bar. Only Jim Davenport can streak a hotel lobby with a lighted string of toilet paper between his butt cheeks and still be classy about it.

Rule #10: Do not remove articles of clothing in the hotel lobby. This act was officially banned after the 1975 Bobby Poe convention when several naked bodies descended on the escalator.

Rule# 11: Don’t approach women in the halls and ask them, “How much?” They could be a record company president of a VP’s wife. If it’s hookers you’re looking for, try and make the next Tailhook convention.

Rule #12: Always return with some promotional idea that you can use immediately. This way, you can justify the cost to your boss.

Rule #13: Don’t bother kissing Joel’s ring. It’s not politically correct anymore. (Reference: Blood Sweat And Tears’ “What goes up…must come down.”)

And the most important rule of all: Just have fun. Remember, it’s not the conventions that are a waste of time, but the people you choose to hang with.

T.J. Martell


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It didn’t take me long to find him.

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

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

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

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

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

It might be all of these things.

And it might be none of them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Put Up Or Shut Up


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

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

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

Here’s what’s in it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why On Tuesday


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

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


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

“I’m done, boss.”

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

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

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

“What is it?” I snapped.

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

“Why do we do the music on Tuesdays?”

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

“It’s a long story.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded. “Go ahead.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


They hit their beers again and I went on.

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

“To simulate sales,” Lanette stated.

I nodded. “Theoretically.”

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

“But not the last,” I laughed.

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


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

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

“That guy was a genius,” Lanette said.


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

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

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

“That’s amazing,” Lanette said.

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

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

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

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

“That was great,” she stroked.

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


“Fantastic!” Lanette exclaimed.

Nelson burped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Big Bing Theory




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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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


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




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


Or would they?




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


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


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


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


What’s going on?


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


Or is time just passing them by?



Viva La Revolution!

(1st Editorial To Appear In Network 40)

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

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


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

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

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

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

This must end.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Viva La Revolution!