Number 2


Who will the next fool be?

It’s more than just the title of a song, it seems to be the cry of our industry. There was a time when there was an abundance of people in the radio and record industries who were ready for the next step. Wannabe program directors and heads of promotion were waiting in the wings, needing only a vacancy to prove what they could do.

That doesn’t seem to be the case now.

Maybe it’s because the high rate of turnover has used up the talent pool. Maybe there are more jobs than there are qualified people. Maybe the expansion of the industries has created more openings in a shorter period of time than normal. Maybe the radio and record industries as a whole are not attracting young people willing to grow into a career.

Maybe it’s something else.

Because of the increased pressure in both the radio and record industries, those at the top have less time to spend on one of the most important elements of their job: training.

There are several reasons why you should create the opportunity to spend quality time sharing your expertise with those under you. First, it’s part of your job. It may not be spelled out in your contract, but it is certainly expected by those who hired you. Part of leadership is training. You can’t expect talented people to follow your directives blindly unless they know the reasons behind your edicts. The only way they can know and understand is if you take the time to teach them.

Second, it makes your job easier. Sharing your needs and responsibilities with those team members who have the desire to learn will enable you to branch out and accomplish more. Those of us in leadership positions believe that no other person can do things as well as we do. It’s one of the reasons that got us where we are. However, as we take on more and more responsibility, we physically and mentally do not have the time to control every facet of our job. We must delegate. Sooner or later, you have no choice. And you can’t delegate responsibilities to others unless they have been trained. By letting your subordinates know why as well as how, you can delegate and continue to succeed. As your responsibilities increase, so will the responsibilities of those who you have trained and because you have people in place who know what to do, your overall performance won’t suffer.

Third, you owe it to the business. Whether we acknowledge it daily or not, this business has given us the opportunity for success. Call it a payback, but teaching others the ropes is part and parcel of what we are. Someone took the time to guide us. You should do the same.

Fourth, and most important, it makes your promotion easier and will probably hasten its arrival. Many times promotions are put off because the other people in the department are not able or ready to move up. Rather than looking at a number-two person as a threat, look at the competent second-in-command as your ticket to a promotion. If you have someone groomed to take over your job, company heads will be less hesitant to promote you to a new position.

It is a fact that many in both radio and records recognize that there is a lack of talent ready to move into top positions. The question is: Whose fault is it? There are certainly many competent people in the ranks. If those in positions of authority feel there are few ready to move up to take more responsibility, perhaps those in charge should share in the blame. It is up to us to groom our successors. If we don’t do it, who will? There are no college courses that teach students how to program a radio station. There are no college courses that teach students how to lead a promotion department. There are many outlets that purport to teach students the ABCs of the radio and record industries. But how to lead others? It’s an inherent trait that some have and some don’t. But even those who have the ability to lead must be taught the particular aspects of leadership. A general can’t just jump out of the foxhole and charge the enemy, expecting his troops to follow. Those expected to follow must have definitive reasons and beliefs…or they will hang back.

So, how do we go about this on-the-job training? First, as the head of a company or department, e must determine who, of those under our direct supervision, are destined for future success. Training incompetent people will only lead to well-trained, incompetent people. Identify those who seem eager for the next challenge. How do we make that determination? Look for the self-starters, those who are constantly seeking new projects, those who ask a lot of questions (sometimes drawing your ire), those who come to work early and leave late. Avoid those who accomplish the tasks only after you assign them.

Second, you must schedule time for training. It’s one thing to say you’re going to begin teaching. It’s another to actually do it. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Because you don’t always have time to conduct a class, assign your people written projects. Ask the m to prepare brief papers detailing their ideas on specific operations. This way, you can read their reports at your leisure, then meet briefly with them and explain where they are right or wrong and give explanations to help them grow.

After staff meetings, ask individuals to meet privately with you. Question them on the details of the meeting and explain what brought you to the final decision.

Delegate specific projects to them. Watch and comment on their progress and delegate more. Don’t fail to praise them for their efforts as well as critique their mistakes. Demand their input, even by allowing them to challenge your moves. We all make mistakes. It’s healthy if you have some on your staff to privately question your decisions.

Training people to move forward under your guidance is the best thing you can do for yourself. And it doesn’t take much effort or a lot of time. If you choose the right people, they will make the effort and the time spent will just be minutes that add up to increased productivity for you and the ones you choose.

The future of our business…and ourselves…is tired directly to those we train. Don’t hesitate because they might be after your job. If someone under you winds up with your job, you shouldn’t have had it in the first place.

A Tale Of Three Stations


Top 40 radio is dead. Mainstream Top 40 is losing ground. The audience is changing.

The nay-sayers are out in force. Record companies are looking over the horizon for the next format. What will it be? Who will discover it? How will we deal with it? When will it happen?

Top 40 radio has been dad and buried countless times in the past three decades. The format has died and been replaced by…Top 40.

I submit to you (okay, maybe I’ve been watching too much of the O.J. trial) that it isn’t Top 40 that’s in trouble, but Top 40 programmers. To loosely quote Willie Shakespeare, it ain’t the message, it’s the messenger.

You don’t have to look any further than New York City to find the format alive and well. Three different radio stations, all within the definition of Top 40, are all succeeding. Why? Because each is programmed exceptionally and uniquely by people who know what they’re doing.

On a visit to the Big Apple last week, I as able to listen to all three during all dayparts and find something I liked. Evidently, I am not alone. Judging from the ratings, New York is tuning in consistently.

In the early 1980s, Scott Shannon went to work at a radio station in Secaucus, New Jersey. The station went dark, then turned back on as Z100. Many in the industry thought Scott was crazy. (Okay, many still do, but that’s another story). You see, at that time, Top 40 was dead. That was the second time the format had been listed in the obituary pages. When Scott turned on the “Flame Thrower,” there was no other Top 40 in New York. You remember, Disco was the format of the future…then.

It wasn’t long before Z100 was #1 and Top 40 was alive and well again. Disco disappeared in a micro-second and suddenly, Scott had not one, but three other competitors biting into the Top 40 audience that was supposedly nonexistent only months before.

After a long, successful run, Scott left the East Coast to work his brand of magic elsewhere. After a sojourn near the Pacific Ocean searching for a pirate, Scott returned to New York and took the reins of WPLJ, one of the stations that had jumped into the Top 40 format years before. Scott adjusted the format slightly and skewed the focus toward the available upper demos. WPLJ steadily increased its audience and ratings and today, it consistently ranks in the upper echelon of the sellable 25-54 demos.

Scott rebuilt a radio station to fit the needs of the available audience.

When Scott left Z100, Steve Kingston took over the formidable task: maintain Z100’s position as the dominant Top 40 station in New York.

For a while, it worked. Then, as the audience began changing (and the music with it), Steve was faced with a much bigger problem. What to do with Z100 to cope with the changes? For months, rumors swirled around the station and its people. When the sale to Shamrock was completed, many in the industry said Top 40 was dead, Kingston would leave and Z100 would change formats. Instead, Kingston stayed and redefined Z100 to take advantage of the changes in the audience. Kingston took a big gamble and began mixing an Alternative blend into Z100’s music and suddenly, the audience and the ratings began building again and today, the station is the definition of Top 40 with an Alternative blend.

Steve took advantage of what the market had to give and adjusted his radio station to reflect the wants and needs of the audience…still within the Top 40 format.

And then came Steve Smith. When Steve arrived in New York, many in the industry said that his brand of radio would never succeed because he didn’t know the New York audience and had never programmed in such a large market. The Crossover brand of to 40 wasn’t working and Smith wouldn’t be able to bring enough of the audience into his camp to make his radio station successful in the metropolis of New York City.

Steve refocused Hot 97, defining his core demographics and playing specifically to them. Almost overnight, Hot 97 increased its market share until it out-distanced the Top 40 competitors in the 12+ arena and became the #1 Top 40 station in New York.

As a sidebar (not as much O.J. as a publishing term), Emmis purchased WRKS late last year and put Steve in charge of programming a station that, until he too over, had been targeting basically the same audience as Hot 97. Many in the industry believed Smith couldn’t program both stations successfully without one suffering.

Readjusting both slightly, Smith positioned each toward a specific target within the overall demographic and scored big. In the latest ratings, Hot 97 moved 4.8 to 5.4 and WRKS jumped from a 3.8 to a 7.4.

What does this tell us?

First of all, it tells us that “many in the industry” don’t have a clue. Most of those sitting on the sidelines making judgments about radio have no experience in the medium and are about as accurate in their predictions as those doing weather on your local channel.

In also tells us that good programming always finds a way. WPLJ, Z100, Hot 97 and WRKS can all be defined as Top 40 stations. All four stations are successful because each caters to a specific portion of the available audience. One does not beat the other in the classic sense. Each is successful in its own way.

Scott Shannon, Steve Kingston and “King Of The Hill” Steve Smith were not afraid to commit to their particular beliefs. Each had a different focus and idea. Each stepped forward without looking back. None listened to the conventional wisdom of “many in the industry.” Each came up with a specific plan designed for their radio station. They all win.

What’s their secret? All are different. But belief in one’s own ability makes these programmers winners.

And don’t tell me this phenomenon is specific only to New York. Somebody once said, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”

Is Top 40 on life support? Or are many Top 40 programmers simply brain dead?

Perhaps you should consult Doctors Shannon, Kingston and Smith for the answer.

Charlie Minor


The industry lost perhaps its best friend this week with the passing of Charlie Minor.

Much has been made of the almost Shakespearian tragedy of Charlie’s death. It is human nature to want to know details and search for answers…to wonder if there was anything we could have done and ask the question, “Why?” It is much too easy to lose ourselves in the events surrounding Charlie’s death. What we should do…what we must do…is celebrate Charlie’s life.

And my God, what a life.

Charlie Minor left us with wonderful memories and a remarkable legacy. Whether or not Charlie’s legacy lives on is up to us. He did his part. If we can all take a little bit of his love of life, his compassion for his friends, his forgiveness of his enemies and his commitment to his beliefs, then Charlie will live on. We owe it to him…we owe it to ourselves.

To say this Editorial is difficult to write is a massive understatement. Feelings, even detached emotions, are most difficult to put on paper. It’s impossible to know where to start, what to say, when to end.

Charlie and I got into the business at about the same time. He was working records; I was working radio. We moved up together. When I programmed some of the biggest radio stations in the country, Charlie was always in contact. What made him different was that even when I was at smaller stations, Charlie was always in contact. And what made him special? When I was out of work, he was always in contact. He was always calling to see if there was anything I needed…anything he could do. Not just occasionally. Constantly.

We shared a common bond, both being “good old boys” from small towns in the South. But you really didn’t need a common bond to be a friend of Charlie’s. Charlie was the bond. I wasn’t “special” when it came to Charlie’s compassion. He felt compassion for everyone.

I have no idea how many people I met through Charlie. If you were his friend (and you had but to meet him to be his friend), he wanted you to know and enjoy all of his other friends. He was the glue that held it together…the catalyst for each event…the straw that stirred the drink.

And to Charlie, it never mattered who you were or what position you held or how important you were perceived by others…everyone was the same in Charlie’s eyes. Charlie would introduce you to Sylvester Stallone or a parking attendant with equal enthusiasm. Charlie loved everybody…and everybody loved Charlie.

It’s impossible to chronicle the life and times of Charlie Minor. He touched more people in our industry than any other non-performer in history, although to say Charlie wasn’t a performer is to misrepresent the obvious. Charlie was the quintessential performer…he just wasn’t a musician.

How many attended one of Charlie’s famous small dinners with just a few people? Even though there was always a crowd, Charlie made each of us feel we were the reason for the gathering.

Charlie loved to describe himself as just an ordinary country boy from the South, but if ever there was a person made in heaven for a particular job, you needed to look no further than promotion and Charlie Minor. Wasn’t he the best?

Charlie’s unique style of promoting records was a by-product of the real person inside. Charlie was the Muhammad Ali of the record business…the undisputed heavyweight champion. He never met a programmer he didn’t like and he never heard a record he wouldn’t promote. Platinum sellers or instant cut-outs, Charlie championed both with equal ardor. It was his job, but it was more than that. It was his life.

And in an age where record promotion more and more means, “What can you do for me if I add this record,” Charlie stood apart from the crowd. He built his considerable reputation on relationships. It was always, “Come on out to the beach house,” or “Give it to me because it’s my birthday,” rather than, “Buddy, let’s do a big promotion.”

And more often than not, Charlie got the add. It was nearly impossible to say no to Charlie, because in every way that really mattered, Charlie never said no.

Where others were quick to say, “If you’re in Los Angeles, call my office and we’ll set you up with Lakers tickets,” with Charlie, it was, “I’ll pick you up at the airport.” Because he wanted an add? No, it was because he liked you and wanted you to like him. Instead of spending his money on people, he spent something much more valuable. His time.

In a business where everyone is quick to criticize, Charlie never had a bad word to say about anyone. I have known Charlie over 20 years. I’ve been with him when people treated him despicably. He was never critical…never negative…never down. Goodtime Charlie never had the blues. Can the rest of us say the same?

And the personal side was no different. Those of us who knew him well enough to share the quiet moments when he talked about his hopes and dreams, his deep feelings for his family and his unlimited love and devotion for his daughter knew we had been touched by a special person.

Though he came from humble beginnings, Hollywood never had a better ambassador. If you wanted to see the sights, you called Charlie. If you wanted to dine at the best tables at the best restaurants, you called Charlie. If you wanted to get in the most private of clubs, you called Charlie. In Beverly Hills, where half the restaurants have unlisted phone numbers an there’s a six-month waiting list to be put on the three-month waiting list, there was always a table for Charlie. All you needed to say was, “I’m with Charlie,” and you were immediately waved inside.

I saw Charlie at a party last week. I saw Charlie at a party almost every week. This meeting was no more special than others. As always, he said something that made me smile. It was a typical Charlie Minor comment, similar to those many of you who are reading this have heard him make.

“Cagle, you and I show up, don’t we? It doesn’t matter what the occasion, we just show up. It’s what we’re good at.”

Charlie, no body showed up better than you.

Last Sunday, Charlie showed up in heaven. We all know there was a table waiting.

Adding It All Up


How many did you get?

The question of the week for record promotion people everywhere. Every Tuesday. Every week. Of every year.

And the answer to that question determines the climate for the rest of the week. If you have a lot, “It’s gonna be bright, sunshiny days.” But, “Ain’t no sunshine when there’s none.” Or not enough. Of what do we sing?


In the past two years, actual airplay has radically changed the face of the radio and record industries. It wasn’t long ago that radio stations were still making up weekly charts based on what they thought were the hottest and most-played songs on their stations. Records went up and down depending (in some cases) on the combination of sales, requests and rotations. More often, however, the number on a station’s “chart” was done on the whim of the program director or music director…and a plea for help from the local record promoter didn’t hurt either.

Now all that has changed. The guesswork has been taken out of the equation and the cries and whimpers from the LPMs don’t matter. It’s all “plays,” Bud, and begging and pleading doesn’t cut it anymore. There isn’t a programmer in the world who will increase your “plays” unless he or she believes in the record…no matter how pitiful the wail from a record company.

Honesty is the best policy. Has it really been 200 years since Ben Franklin said that? It seems like only yesterday. And like it or not, things aren’t going back the way there were…even if Barbra was as smooth as “buttah” in her comeback last year.

Wasn’t it only yesterday when “paper” adds were not uncommon and, in many cases, expected? Not anymore, Bud. If it don’t get played, it ain’t an add. Simple as that. And lunar rotation? Used to be you could appease your local friend by playing his record once a day between three and four in the morning. No longer. Monitored airplay made that game of “add-and-cheat” impossible to play.

What is played is what we get. Plays. Rotations. Spins. The old playlist is dead. Nothing remains from the decaying carcass of “how we once did it” except…adds.

How many did you get?

Kind of makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it? Unless you got a lot. Which happens occasionally, but not often enough to cure that epidermal condition most often associated with the lack of adds. Rumor has it the mysterious, flesh-eating disease that’s constantly in the news began at Columbia Records when not enough adds were reported and Donnie took it out on a national guy.

So, although we have new ways to monitor actual airplay, although the days of the program director or music director struggling to come up with a station “chart” are long gone, although we have a new, “90s” way of looking at the relationship between airplay and sales, one thing remains from yesterday.


From a program director’s standpoint, most will agree that, as far as adds are concerned, their favorite song is, “I Believe In Yesterday.”

Most programmers want the freedom to test records from time-to-time without committing to an add. In the “old” days, a PD could put new records on his radio station and test audience reaction for a couple of weeks before deciding whether or not the record should be “added” into regular rotation. Now, it’s not a test.

BDS doesn’t differentiate between “adds” and “spins.” Neither do most of those in the record industry. “I don’t care whether he adds it or not, as long as he’s playing it,” is a refrain heard more and more often from VPs of promotion.

But they sure care about “drops.” Whoa. That’s a totally different ballgame, Bud.

It’s easy to explain that a PD is playing the record even if he didn’t add it. But try explaining that a station “dropped” a record when it was never an official add to begin with. It gets a bit hairy.

So, what is the answer?

Record companies, for the most part, still look at adds. How many they get is how they keep score. But it’s more than that. It is also an important indicator that they can use with other PDs to show that a record is real. If all these stations are adding it, there must be something to it.

Conversely, drops are also important. Although every PD wants you to believe that he adds and drops records depending only upon how the records are doing in his market, the fact is that how a record is doing nationally also makes a big impact. If a PD sees others dropping a record, the PD may decide to wait on the record. If all those other radio stations are dropping the record, there must be a reason.

Adds and drops are, for the time being, the most accurate barometer of how a new record is being received by radio…next to actual plays. If a record is getting a lot of adds, it must mean a lot of programmers like it. If a record is getting a lot of drops, it must mean a lot of programmers don’t believe in it. If a record gets a consistent amount of adds each week, a promotion team can paint a picture of a record that is growing. It’s hard to use those brushstrokes if the record is getting dropped after a couple of weeks of play.

Programmers who want the freedom to experiment and test records should be allowed that freedom. Trade magazines that publish charts and airplay information should let individual radio stations determine what is an official “add” no matter how many times a record is played. At Network 40, we don’t list a record as an add until the radio station informs us…whether or not the record is being played. Like it or not, there is a difference between “playing it” and “adding it.”

So, if the question is, “When is an add an add and when is a drop a drop?” the answer is, “When the radio station says so.”

Where is it written that because a station is monitored or because it supplies the industry with an accurate description of actual airplay, it must comply with certain rules it had nothing to do with writing? If we, as an industry, are going to put weight on adds and drops, should we as an industry let determination be made by the radio stations?

What do you think?

The Beautiful People


Hold everything.

“You couldn’t get a limo? Only a town car?”

I sighed heavily. In Tinsel Town, where style is all that matters, I was caught in a major dilemma. We had good tickets to the American Music Awards, but Burt called too late to get a limo.

This was a tough call.

“They said they could go to an outside vendor for a limo or send a town car.”

I frowned. It was imperative that the driver be familiar with the ugliness that would take over the AMA parking lot when the show ended. An outsider could be mobbed, or worse, put in the back of the line which would stick you at the Shrine for hours. I was only going with Burt because I couldn’t arrive with my “real” date. She was appearing on the show and I couldn’t meet up with her until later.

“Okay,” I made my decision. “Let’s take the town car, but for God’s sake, can we get there early so no one sees us?”

That was what led us to be outside the Shrine Auditorium an hour-and-a-half before showtime, nodding and saying hello to all of the beautiful people. (It was another unforgivable L.A. faux pas. In this town, you’re never early.) And they were there in force. Also many of those featured on “The Lifestyles of the Not So Rich And Famous.”

Anyhow, I digress. I’m standing outside with my good friend, who has just moved here from New York, and I must listen to what all the people who just moved to California from New York say. It’s all about the weather and how wonderful it is and about the stars they see and about how nice everyone is. Give Burt a couple of months and he’ll get over it. It’s another perfect day, just like all the rest. California does rock…and not just from the earthquakes. That’s why God makes the ground shake and gives us floods, mud slides, fires, killer bees and civil unrest. If it weren’t for those minor inconveniences, everyone would be moving here.

Being unfashionably early turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We got to see almost everybody who was anybody. By the time the show started, we had no reason to go inside, except to witness Dick Clark hyperventilating about time and space.

Anyhow, a few of the awards you didn’t see on the broadcast went to Epic’s Neda Tobin for “Most Outstanding Dress,” Tony Novia for “The Person Most Proud of His Wife,” (Maty made the cover of a ladies’ magazine. I told Tony we would be proud to have her on the cover of Network 40, but I’m sure he was afraid Erica would flip out in a jealous rage. I countered by offering Erica a cover, but Tony refused to discuss it.) When will ABC wise up and team Tony with his wife? He would be better than the slug who is with her and a lot more effective than in the job he’s got. One of the largest rumors is that Novia is only an inch away from a programming job here in L.A. and no, I didn’t start that one.

Once inside, the sun was gone, but the lights were brighter. Virgin’s Phil Quartararo was showing off his chest hair in a new “cutaway” tuxedo. Warner Bros. veteran Dino Barbis was busy bragging about his parking spot. And everyone’s favorite, Eddie Money, left his tickets in his car.

The actual broadcast went about as expected. Country music played a bigger part than ever. Besides Michael Bolton, who always says the right thing, only the Country artists thanked radio for their awards.

The classiest woman in the building was Elektra Entertainment’s Sylvia Rhone. Anita Baker won an award and thanked many. What the industry knows is that Anita could have shortened that speech and mentioned only Sylvia. Her commitment to Anita’s last record was the reason for the award. 550’s Polly Anthony could have tied Sylvia, but she had Keith Naftaly on her arm. Baumgartner’s partner also precluded his inclusion. It made me wonder, between Keith and me, how many Sony acts did we break out of San Francisco? Evidently many, because we were still front and center. It also made me wonder if the number of favors I had done for Burt were about even. Hmmm. He hadn’t offered me any Grammy tickets. Maybe I should remind him about “Jenny Jenny.” On second thought, that’s how I wound up at the AMAs.

The classiest male performance was put in by MCA’s Richard Palmese. He and his lovely wife graced the front rows with quiet dignity. Have any two people other than Al Teller and Richard done more for a  record company with less chest-beating and fanfare?

As the show drew to a close, I moved to the front to be with my “real” date. I had decided it would be best if I didn’t actually accompany Madonna to the AMAs as it would cause too much of a commotion. Making eye contact, she made it clear that I shouldn’t approach her yet. There would be the party afterwards when we could spend some time alone. I gave her my special smile. She pretended she didn’t know me.

Columbia’s Jerry Blair orchestrated a wonderful dinner that brought out the best and worst of Hollywood: Dana Keil turning down Kevin Costner’s advances, Charlie Minor telling Burt “the new Dionne Farris record is so good, even I couldn’t screw it up,” KPWR’s APD/MD Bruce St. James loaning Wild 107’s Michael Martin his cellular phone and Bolton and Louis Levin hounding me for a deck of cards. Sharon Stone was there and was only the sixth most beautiful woman in the room. Number one on my list was Deborah Castillo.

One of the most beautiful was a pretty, young thing who was being accosted by two older “producers.” While in the bathroom, I overheard the two “dirty old men” discussing their plans for the young lady, who had just arrived from Wichita.

Upon returning to the bar, I eased next to the damsel in distress and shared with her what I heard. Instead of being shocked, she smiled and ran my hand under her dress where I felt a decidedly unladylike bulge. Leaning forward, she whispered, “Honey, they aren’t producers and I’m no Dorothy from Kansas. I guess they’ll find that out when they travel the Yellow Brick Road I just took you up, but by then, I’ll have had dinner and drinks.”

I sat back contentedly. In Hollywood, there’s always a good ending. Besides, with the revelation, Sharon Stone moved back into the top five.

I went off to find Madonna.

Tractor Pull


My daddy said, “Son, put your guitar down. We’ve got to build some fence, got to plow some ground.” I told my daddy, “Try and understand, this John Deere tractor don’t fit my plan.” And I hit the road, chasin’ down a dream and I need a little help. I’m trying to get to New Orleans.

New Orleans…it’s more than a place. It’s a feeling…with atmosphere so thick you can almost touch it…a total sensory experience.

New Orleans…Gay ’90s hackney coaches minded by sleepy, ancient handlers who guide the old mules almost as well as they tell tales that weave the real history of the Vieux Carre with the legends handed down through generations and sometimes made up on the fly to fit the mood of the clientele.

New Orleans…Jackson Square and the flagpole in the park that marks the meeting place of pirates who once visited this mystical place years ago and now where lovers circle hand-in-hand in a ritual mating dance in between the winos who stagger or sleep at will. The Cathedral of St. Louis, King of France, looms over the entrance as it did when Walt first visited and later modeled the Disneyland Castle after its architecture.

One can lean against the huge, bronze statue of Andrew Jackson and breathe the very lifeblood of the French Quarter…the damp smell of the river that wafts across your face with the ocean breeze that seems to blow constantly, except in the late summer, when nothing moves. With the breeze comes the exciting aroma of Cajun cuisine that boils daily…the sweet basil, thyme and oregano accentuated by the bit of the red, white and black pepper…and the ever-resent Tabasco Sauce that’s made on an island just around the corner. There’s the crisp, mouth-watering scent of the special donuts made at the Café Desmond and covered with enough powdered sugar to induce an instant diabetic coma to even the most healthy individual. Add a strong cup of chicory coffee and you’ll have a rush that can last for weeks.

The most powerful smell, of course, is of stale beer.

Past the café is the famous market in the French Quarter where you can purchase almost anything. It was started long ago by the French and Spanish, then continued by the Cajuns for generations. Now it is almost exclusively the territory of Indians and Arabs…the international traders. It is one of the few places, however, where you can still thump a melon before you buy. If you don’t know the benefit of that practice, never mind.

Sidetracked up in Illinois, I’m not that smart, I’m an innocent boy. She called me baby, she called me Honey, she called a cab and took away my money. On the road again, somewhere south of Moline and I need a little help, you see, I’m trying to get to New Orleans.

New Orleans…home of the French Quarter…possibly the most unique place in the world. A leisurely walk across the cobblestones and you’re immediately transported into another world…or perhaps all the world wrapped into one. The lilt of different dialects filters through the air as tourists and natives amble down the sidewalks. Artists of all kinds fill the streets. Those with brushes paint pictures of Elvis in front of a wrought-iron fence, houses surrounded by wrought-iron fences and just wrought-iron fences. All are hung for potential customers on the wrought-iron fences that line the streets.

There are mimes of all kinds, jugglers, clowns, magicians and bums with attitudes. These are, after all, French Quarter bums who demand a noble acknowledgement of their status.

Don’t know why I gotta go. If I don’t try I’ll never know about e’touffe and Cajun Queens. I need a little help, you see, I’m tryin’ to get to New Orleans.

And the sounds. Ah, the sounds of the French Quarter. The bleeting, billygoat grunts of the barkers enticing the tourists inside to see all kinds of abnormality set the natural rhythm of the music that spills out of nearly every doorway. In the French Quarter, Jazz rules…and Dixieland Jazz is King. The famous Absinthe House, where Louis Armstrong learned his trade is the central point, manned by great, mostly black masters nearly as old as Satchmo. The Duke of New Orleans coaxes magical sounds out of his sax outdoors in the Mediterranean Café, his tempo measured by the house-drawn carriages that clip-clop down the narrow street.

Past the Jazz is the thrill of excitement and danger. Venture too far down Bourbon Street and the beautiful, painted ladies aren’t ladies. Venture further into the darkness and, if you’re lucky, you can view a pagan, Voodoo ritual and watch a live chicken being sacrificed. If your luck turns, you’ll be the chicken.

It is on the far end of Bourbon Street, deep in the bowels of the Vieux Carre, where one can find the den of the famous Miss Rudolph…Queen of the Witch Doctors. Richard Prior paid homage to her on one of his early albums. As one who can testify from experience, you don’t want to go there. Miss Rudolph is a hefty woman of unknown age with the tattoo of an eye on one, huge breast. After you drink one of her potions, that eye will wink. She has a three-legged monkey that bothers everyone who enters…except Miss Rudolph. The fourth, withered monkey-foot dangles from her neck. Miss Rudolph will tell you she can grant you magical, sexual powers. Trust me. She can, but the downside is a bitch. I suffer from spells ever since she scratched me with that monkey-foot at age 16. Years later, I still see the blinking eye.

If you go to New Orleans, you need to remember a few, loose rules: Don’t kiss anyone you aren’t absolutely, positively sure about…remember, this is the place where the Queen of the Mardi Gras is a King. No matter what they say, six raw oysters are enough. Don’t throw Hurricane glasses into the fans at Pat O’Brians. Don’t attempt a morphine buy, no matter what the girl says. And steer clear of the Voodo dens and panel discussions. The ultimate sacrifice isn’t worth it.

I hocked my watch, bought a burger and fries, tried to pretend it was red beans and rice. Midnight in Memphis, hello to Graceland, next stop…Louisiana. I’m on the road chasin’ down a dream. And I need a little help, you see, I’m tryin’ to get to New Orleans.

Can You Relate?


Last week’s Editorial dealt with relatability…specifically how to get your air talent to to relate to their audience in a positive way. All of us want our talent to be perfect. All of us want to spend the time needed to make the talent perfect. And all of us think we have the ability to communicate with our talent in a positive way.

But do we?

Lorna Ozmon heads Ozmon Media, the industry’s premiere talent development firm. She has developed coaching techniques based on the theatre arts and psychology disciplines. Her clients include program directors, morning show producers and air personalites.

I received a newsletter that outlines her objectives in coaching air personality development. She’s given me permission to share those ideas.

“Effectively managing creative people differes greatly from managing people in task-oriented jobs. A person who is hired to do physical labor or perform clerical services needs only to understand the specific tasks he or she is paid to perform and do them well. Creative people, such as actors, musicians and radio personalities must put part of themselves at risk personalities must put part of themselves at risk in order to succeed. Successful creative people use personal experience and perspective as stimulus for their creative process. This blending of the person into the professional makes directing the effective on-air performance of radio personalities a complex process which should not include antiquated industrial management techniques. Here are seven ways to help you more effectively coach air personality performance and development:

1)     For every “don’t,” have a “do.” Many radio personalities are managed exclusively by a daily dose of don’ts. Don’t talk so long. You don’t edit well. Don’t dominate conversations with callers. Don’t! Don’t! Don’! While creative people need to know the boundaries, they also need direction as to what to do within those boundaries. Every time you tell an air personality what not to do, always give them an alternative as to how it might be done in the future.

2)     Separate the person from the performance. Avoid attacking the motives you perceive the talent had for doing something you did not like. Focus only on the behavior you wish to change. If you want an air personality to edit better, talk only about the process of editing. Steer clear of language and issues which will be interpreted as a personal attack by the personality.

3)     Don’t take things personally. All radio personalities do what they do on the air because they think it is the right thing to do. Radio personalities do not spend time plotting to do things on the radio just to annoy you. When approaching a problem with an air personality, ask questions before you make accusations. For example, “I heard you put a caller on the air this afternoon and since we don’t put callers on the air in this format, I’m curious as to why it happened.” By opening the conversation with a question, you allow the jock to plead his case before he is judged. In the end, you may find that his reason for doing the unexpected on the air makes sense and paves the way for positive change.

4)     Focus on the future, not the past. Most radio personalities are fully aware of what did not go well on their show on any given day. So, it is counter-productive to pour salt into the wound by spending excessive time talking about what went wrong. Make the corrective part of your critique sessions the first and shortest part of each meeting. Once you have made a corrective point and receive confirmation from the personality that he understands and accepts your position, move on. Do not over-explain or belabor corrective issues. Spend the last and the majority of each meeting discussing areas of professional growth and brainstorming for future shows and promotions. Your primary goal for each critique session should be to motivate and inspire future performance. Yesterday’s show is history!

5)     Be assertive, not aggressive. The difference between an assertive and an aggressive statement are two words, “you idiot,” that can be added to the end of an aggressive statement. Aggressive statements lead to unnecessary conflict. “Why did you go on for over five minutes this morning at 7:20 (you idiot)” is an aggressive statement. “Were you aware that the 7:20 break was excessively long this morning?” is an assertive statement. A little thought about how you say something to an air personality can make a difference between just getting it said and getting it to happen on the air.

6)     Don’t lie. When confronted with questions you are not able to answer for whatever reason, don’t lie. If you cannot tell an air personality the whole truth, explain that you can’t. Don’t fabricate a story. This most-often asked questions managers don’t want to answer are about future employment and contract renewals. It is better to tell a personality that you cannot make any guarantees at this moment than to say, “everything will be fine.” Once an air personality discovered you lied, you lose the trust that is critical to keeping air talent open to your input.

7)     Encourage questions. Give your air personalities license to question anything and everything! Empower them to scrutinize everything that happens at the radio station. Reward them when they discover an error or oversight in your memos and other communications. When you discourage air personalities to challenge or question your directives, you instill a sense of responsibility for the station’s overall success and prevent the myopic “my show” mentality on your air staff. You also build in safety nets to catch the occasional human error before it can do any serious damage.

Effective talent managers have the qualities of good parents. They set their own egos aside and openly approach each problem or challenge that faces their professional families. Air personalities respond best to and respect managers who are fair, honest and consistent. In the final analysis, the most effective way to tap the maximum creative potential of a radio station’s air personalities is by improving the quality of the creative support environment. When your air personalities trust you and feel safe exposing parts of who they are to you every day, you have succeeded in constructing a healthy support environment. Only then can you truly begin the process of effectively coaching maximum air personality performance.”

R.I.P. Churban


Are we witnessing the demise of Churban radio, even as we don’t listen?

In more and more markets across the country, the format seems to be undergoing a directional change (at the very least) and a complete overhaul (in extreme). So, what’s up?

Those programming Churban radio stations are quick to say that the format is alive and well and doing better than ever. From a strictly 12+ Arbitron rating perception, in many cases this is true. But many more are finding problems with the format…both in its ability to draw audience in the salable demographics and in its ability to attract an audience that is attractive to advertisers.

The Churban format was born when Top 40 programmers wanted to separate their stations from the strictly Mainstream competition. Playing more R&B (remember that term?) and Rap was one was to set yourself apart. As radio stations became successful with this type of programming, the dichotomy became more complete. Suddenly it wasn’t just playing more R&B and Rap, it was playing only R&B and Rap. Churban, once known for establishing a bridge between Mainstream and Urban, evolved from a hybrid into a format that stood on its own.

It wasn’t a long time ago when there were two Churban stations in a lot of markets. Now, it’s sometimes hard to find one. The reasons are varied, but they break down along ethnic and economic lines.

No one understands the format (the positives and the negatives) better than i do, although a lot of people program it better than I ever did. Not to take away anything from those who are successful (particularly the guru, Jerry Clifton), but I submit that the very first Chrurban radio station in the country was KFRC. The format was born out of two necessities…ethnis and economics.

When I arrived in San Francisco in 1980, KFRC was losing to Urban KSOL in the ratings and behind about 10 other station in billing. It was evident that KFRC was (a) not satisfying the core audience and (b) not attracting ethnic listeners. Since San Francisco is such a diverse ethnic city, it was a no-brainer to move the music to an ethnic mix catering to that audience.

And it worked. Brilliantly. And that’s when the economics kicked in. National business went through the roof, but local sales lagged behind. Our increased ratings were being countered on the local sales scene with the vague whispers that KFRC’s audience was mostly ethnic and therefore the listners had less disposable income. Fortunately, our numbers were so strong that we were able to overcome that counter-sales tactic. Plus, although KFRC leaned heavily Urban, in those days, we were still able to play enough Mainstream music to more than balance it out.

Today’s market is much different. The lines are more clearly drawn.

Fast-forward to 1990. I was programming KWOD in Sacramento against KSFM. I say against, but a check of the dictionary would tell you that to be against something, you have to be close. KWOD wasn’t. KSFM was then, and is now, a tightly formatted, highly professional, extgremely competitive radio station that, quite frankly, kicked our ass. We weren’t even close.

To counter KSFM’s programming (and to disguies the face that we couldn’t beat them in a format I thought I knew better than anybody), we changed formats to a Mainstream/Alternative. It worked to perfection. Although KWOD never approached KSFM’s 12+ ratings dominance, we managed to sell out the available commercial time by focusing on the salable 18-34 demographics. KSFM’s target was 18-34-year-old Hispanic females. KWOD’s target was 18-34-year-old, upper income (read White) males and females. We never managed more than 10% of KSFM’s national billing, but locally, KWOD did extremely well.

Few owners or GMs will admit that race plays a part in deciding on a format. the reality is much different. Major market radio station that perform well in th ratings won’t have a sales problem. National advertising will take care of that. In smaller markets, because the majroity of the sales are made up of local contacts, who listens is often more importnat than how many. This is one of the problems facting the Churban format.

Another, possibly more important reason is that most Churban stations just aren’t performing as well as in times past…no matter what the ethnic breakdown. There aren’t as many programmmers who are competent in their trade…and there’s a reason for this. Chuck Field, PD of KSFM, says that the biggest problem with the Churban format is that it is regionally diverse. No other format depends on the specific market research that drives the Churban format. There are very few national automatic Churban record adds because each market is different. Because Arbitron weights Hispanics, but not Blacks, in Sacramento, KSFM’s core is Hispanic females. But in Orlando, Arbitron weights Hhispanics and Blacks and the core is different. It’s hard for one Churban station to relate to the success of stories on another because the numbers are different.

No less than consultant Jerry Clifton, the God of Churban, has been tinkering with many ofhis stations. In several cases,he has begun adding Alternative music to the mix and in some instances, he has changed the format to a more Mainstream/Alternative stance. When it is programmed correctly, the format can still be formidable. The proof can be found in New York at Hot 97 and in Los Angeles at KPWR and in Chicago at B96 and San Francisco at KMEL…just to name a few. The key is to narrow-focus on the music. Too many Churbans try to be too hip for the room and wind up playing too much new music. Most Programmers agree that more than one new song an hour can put the format in jeopardy. Also, smart programmers rely on the heritabe of the format and feature a lot of Old School (Oldies) music.

Most agree that Chruban is facing a serious identity crysis. The format began as a niche and could wind up niching itself out of existence. Good programming cures many ills, but many see the Churban format becoming less liable in the future. As it is cut from above by Mainstream stations with an Alternative edge and from below by Rap and Urban stations, Churbans are being squeezed out of the large piece of the pie.

What’s in the future? If I knew that, I would still be in radio.

Wake-Up Call


The evolution of Top 40 radio continues. And as our listeners’ habits and attitudes toward our radio stations change, so must our programming philosophies.

There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, when Top 40 radio stations built their audiences backwards. Since the teen audience is the most active, programmers put their energy and promotional dollars into the 7-12 midnight slot to draw that active audience quickly. Once the teens found the station after dark, the energy and promotional dollars were extended back to the other dayparts. The last day-part considered was the morning show. As a matter of fact, many successful Top 40 radio station did quite well for years without a high-profile morning show.

During the late ’60s and early ’70s, most morning shows on successful Top 40 stations were mainly hybrids of afternoon drive. Music was still the main element. News and weather reports were broadcast and maybe a couple of one-liners were thrown in to fool the audience into thinking that a personality was involved, but the biggest difference between the two drive-times (and often the only difference) was the reading of the school lunch menu of the day.

This all began to change in the late ’70s. As the top 40 format began to draw a larger portion of the older demographics, a higher profile became imperative to attract and maintain that audience in morning drive. This point was driven home by several morning talents who became as big, if not bigger, that the radio stations where they worked.

The success of Rick Dees at WHBQ in Memphis was particularly important in changing the way the format viewed morning personalities. Dees was the most phenomenal deejay in the history of Memphis radio…and the city had many. Rick transcended the format and became the primary reason people listened to WHBQ. It was not something that was ignored by the powerful RKO chain, owners of WHBQ, and stations in every major market. Paul Drew, VP/Programming for RKO, was quick to see the value a high-profile morning show added to a successful radio station. He moved Dees to Los Angeles and set about hiring high-profile morning shows for the other RKO stations. And the trend began.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the trends. It didn’t work everywhere. In many instances, the process backfired.

High profile, marketable, listenable morning talents succeeded on the RKO stations because the programmers still controlled the morning shows. Formats were followed, music was still the main ingredient and the morning deejays were forced to work within the structure of the stations’ overall sound.

It wasn’t that way everywhere.

More than one station found out that although a great morning show can take your ratings through the roof and set you up for the rest of the day, the opposite is just as true.

There isn’t a Scott Shannon, John Lander or Rick Dees hanging out in every station. These guys can do a five-minute bit before the commercial break and the audience will stay with them and enjoy their entertainment. The same can’t be said for bad imitations.

Morning shows are like fine Ferraris. They must be tuned to perfection. If only one element is out of sync, the entire show won’t work.

If you have the budget to hire a proven morning talent, you probably won’t have to dial the show in as much. But it, as is the case in most situations, you work with a limited budget, you can’t afford a true, expensive free agent. You’ll have to make do with what is available.

That is why the support team is so important. In simple terms, if Scott Shannon, Rick Dees and John Lander need a group of professionals around them to make sure the  morning show operates smoothly, isn’t the same doubly true for those with less talent? Too often, stations spend the entire available budget on talent and have little or none left over for a supporting cast. I’m not talking about the news person or a sidekick, I mean the prodders…the person who makes sure the morning show runs smoothly and consistently.

Consistency is the key to a successful morning show. Almost any competent deejay can amuse and entertain the audience when things are going right. But most days, everyone needs help. This is why a producer is so important to the success of a morning show…to make sure the show is consistent day-in and day-out.

It is a given that most of us in radio started at the bottom. We were all “gym rats” to some extent. Not only will a good producer make your morning show sound better and operate smoothly, but it’s alto an excellent proving ground for your next programming assistant…or music director…or program director…or, if you’re really lucky, your next morning talent.

A good producer can surround your morning talent with a support staff that makes everyone sound better. It makes the main deejay’s job easier and keeps him focused on entertainment. It also makes your morning person easier to deal with inside the station. The talent can concentrate on the personality aspects of the show. The producer handles the formatics, guests, hot topics and schedules the rest of the week.

There’s another reason a good producer is priceless. If you have a great morning show that is hosted by a morning talent, you have less risk of losing the audience if the talent decides to leave. Particularly in smaller markets, losing your morning talent, especially if the talent is good, is always a distinct possibility. A good producer can maintain the momentum of a morning show without having it hinge on the personality of the main morning talent.

If the ultimate success of your station depends on the performance of your morning show, I suggest you take all of these suggestions and more into consideration. Maybe you will discover something that will make your radio station better.

Isn’t that what we’re all here for?

By The Time I Got To…


Woodstock ’94 started out a little different from the original. I was booked on that special United flight into New York…the one full of industry people wanting to be hippies just one more time. The flight was delayed, so I sat down in the padded chair in that fancy room they reserve for first class passengers. That’s when it all went to hell.

A buttoned-down steward (certainly not sporting the Woodstock look) approached me with a frown. It seems I was the only passenger in first class who hadn’t ordered the special vegetarian plate and he was worried that others might be offended at the smell of my well-done steak. I flipped him half the peace sign, closed my eyes and thought back 25 years ago.

It started out as just another balmy, breezy morning in Coconut Grove. A bunch of us were living in the park. On the beach. A stone’s throw from downtown Miami. In between my regular job as a deejay on WFUN, I told fortunes in the park. I can steal read a palm with the best of them.

I was also partly responsible for cooking the evening meal we all shared. I say partly responsible because none of us were really responsible.

Anyhow, one of my brothers (we called all of our friends brothers or sisters in those days) named John Joseph Henry Billygoat Night-timer Sweetdaddy Fox approached me grinning like a mule eating  briars.

“Pete,” he says (everyone called me Pete in those days because…aw, hell, just accept it without an explanation) “how would you like to go to Woodstock?”

I had no money. I had to work that evening. I had absolutely no idea where Woodstock was or why we should be going, so I had only one answer: “Of course.”

He waved over a thin, tender looking guy with long, stringy, blonde hair who was wearing bell-bottoms, a tie-dyed shirt, love beads and a headband with a peace sign in the middle. (Weren’t we all?)

“This is Electric Brian,” Sweetdaddy said.

I gave him half-a-dozen of the handshakes that were in vogue at the time, finishing with the two-palmed clasp that showed I really meant it.

“Hey, man,” I asked, “where’s Woodstock?” In those days I wasn’t afraid to make a fool out of myself by not knowing everything.

Electric Brian gave me a thousand-mile stare. “It’s where Bob Dylan lives, man.”

I said, “Far out.” Could I have really had any other response?

I chugged the cup of herbal tea Sweetdaddy offered and asked, “Who’s going?”

“Me, you and Gappy Lucy. Brian’s paying for all of us.”

“Far out.”

Gappy Lucy got her nickname because one of her front teeth was false. When she got stoned, she would take the tooth out and put a cigarette in its place. It was the sexiest thing I had ever seen.

When Sweetdaddy asked me how I liked the tea, I should have known things were about to get really twisted. You see, in those days, I was determined to keep my body and mind pure and clean and refused to do any drugs. My brothers and sisters were constantly trying to get me high and I should have heard a warning signal. But I didn’t. I guess I was too pure.

We jumped into Gappy’s VW van and headed for the airport. About half-way there, we ran out of gas. I’m pretty sure we became the first people attending Woodstock to abandon a vehicle on the side of the road and continue walking.

Inside the terminal, Electric Brian asked us what airline we’d like to fly, but I couldn’t answer. I was too busy dodging the giant winged alligators that materialized out of nowhere and were dive-bombing my head. I started to ask Sweetdaddy if he saw the alligators, but he looked to peaceful. I decided to wait. I knew he would see them soon enough.

When Electric Brian got us four seats on Bahamian Airlines, I should have said something. I had found out that Woodstock was in New York and I was pretty sure that New York wasn’t in the Bahamas, but I was too busy trying not to step on the snakes that were gathering at my feet. At least the alligators had disappeared.

The flight seemed to take only a few minutes, but I really can’t be sure as I was definitely not into space and time. I managed to gulp another cup of herbal tea and stepped down the stairs into a tropical paradise.

“I don’t know Woodstock was this beautiful,” Gappy said.

Sweetdaddy told her Bob Dylan lived there. I didn’t know what that had to do with anything and didn’t care. The alligators were back and they had turned nasty.

Somehow we made it to the hotel, though I never remembered the room. Electric Brian kept pulling out his credit card to pay for everything. I spent two days and nights in a hammock by the pool, drinking rum and pineapple juice…and more herbal tea. I really couldn’t leave the pool area. I was the only one who could see the giant octopus and keep it away from the children, though as time went on, the tourist families began to give us a wide berth.

I met John and Yoko. I asked him how he liked Woodstock. He said he didn’t really know and I thought that was cool. What was cooler was that he also saw the flying alligators.

By midnight of the second day, I began to wonder where all the bands were, but it really didn’t matter by then. Gappy Lucy had scared some children when she accidentally dropped her tooth off the diving board. Sweetdaddy took one of those kerosene tiki torches to try and illuminate the bottom. He lost his footing, fell in and set the pool on fire.

Electric Brian thought it was really cool, but hotel security disagreed. At least we got a police escort to the plane. As we got off in Miami, someone from Elektra Records grabbed Electric Brian and took away his credit card. That’s when I figured out how he got his name.

It wasn’t until a year later when I saw the movie that I realized I never quite made it to Woodstock. Or maybe I did. That special herbal tea was a bitch. And I don’t know anybody who can prove I wasn’t there.

The steward tapped me on the shoulder and brought me back to the present. He said it was time for boarding and offered me some herbal tea. I changed plans and jumped the next flight to Hawaii.

Woodstock ’94? Just like the original, baby. Far out.