I was reminded of one of my favorite Blues tunes yesterday. The lyrics came to mind during a phone call from Danny Buch of Atlantic Records. Danny was sharing his excitement about an idea that had blossomed into a great promotion for his company.

After commuting into New York City for who-knows-how-many years, Danny finally had enough of the silence he endured going through the Holland Tunnel. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the drive from New Jersey into the city, if you don’t go through the Holland Tunnel, you ain’t gonna get there. (Unless you go way north over the George Washington Bridge, but that another story, another promotion and another Editorial.) Anyhow, that trip through the tunnel can take anywhere from two to twenty minutes during a regular commute. More, of course, if there is an accident. And while you’re in the tube, you can’t hear anything. It’s like being underwater. You’re cut off from all communication with the outside world. Forget your radio. Forget your mobile phone. For those few minutes, you’re all alone with your thoughts. And for many people, especially New Yorkers, that can be a very scary feeling.

So Danny started playing, “What if?” and came up with some startling ideas. “What if we could somehow play music (Atlantic product, of course) to the people in the cars?” How could that happen? The tunnel shut out all forms of communication, didn’t it? Maybe…maybe not.

Danny had seen all the signs near airports instructing motorists to tune to a certain AM channel for traffic instructions. He wondered, “What if we could do the same thing in and around the Holland Tunnel? Impossible, right?

Danny checked it out and found that he could operate AM transmitters that broadcast in a very restricted area. If the transmitters operated at less than 1/10th of a watt (about ¼ of a mile in reach), the FCC had no jurisdiction. That meant no license to contend with, no rules and regulations to follow and, most important, no format restrictions.

Atlantic purchased the transmitters and produced tapes of their artists. This week, it’s B Tribe. Next week? Another artist. Sexy-voiced Sr. VP Promotion Andrea Ganis announces the song and the artist on the “station” and advises listeners where they can buy the CD at the lowest possibly price.

Atlantic promotion people swarmed the sidewalks on each side of the tunnel wearing sandwich boards advertising commuters to “Tune Your Radio To AM 1510 For Music And Money.” In the future, Atlantic plans to run contests giving away cash and prizes. Listeners will be told to go to specific retail outlets, buy the CD and possibly win thousands of dollars in cash.

Nearly two million people travel through the Holland Tunnel every day. Out of that two million, I’m sure there are many who work for companies that would benefit by some form of advertising to the rest of the moles. When the sandwich boards went up and the transmitters went on, the majority of those two million commuters said, “Holy Cow, why didn’t I think of that?”

It’s a fantastic promotion aimed at the primary, music-buying demographic sought by most advertisers. A cume-building monster. Forget quarter-hour increases, this locks your audience for tunnel time!

It’s designed for radio. It’s on radio. And a radio programmer didn’t think of it. Why?

That makes me want to puke.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m taking nothing away from Atlantic Records. As connected to radio as they are, Danny and Andrea could probably out program half the PDs out there anyhow.

This just points out how sometimes pointless radio can be to the listening public.

Network Forty, countless conventions, newspapers, newscasts and town criers have warned of the impending communications gridlock on the superhighway. With more and more outlets from which to choose, listeners will be tempted to abandon commercial radio. But that isn’t radio’s biggest problem. Radio’s biggest problem is radio. Why is there no creativity that used to make our medium exciting? Why are there no great promotions designed to stimulate the audience?

They ain’t here no more. Why? Because most programmers aren’t up to the task.

Most programmers spend too much time behind a music computer making sure the flow is right. Here’s a news flash: Why not design the format, define the rules and insist that the air personalities adhere to those rules? Give them the opportunity to create their own music flow within the format. If they can’t do it, find others who can.

Most PDs spend too much time in focus groups. Why? With all due respect, f you don’t inherently know who your audience is and what music they like, find another line of work.

Why can’t you make your station exciting? Stop spending so much time researching your audience. Spend more time on developing a market through exciting promotions.

What happened to innovation? Excitement? The guts to do something so off-the-wall that it attracts listeners to your attitude…not your 10-in-a-row format that anyone and everyone can duplicate? More and more, the audience is identifying with that attitude. Music and formatics are important, but with music crossing formatic barriers with listener impunity, you have to do more to make your station stand out from the rest.

What will make the difference? Your talent.

Basically, every Top 40 plays the same hits; what should set a station apart is an aggressive and entertaining promotional presence…a presence that can only be found in the theatre-of-the-mind. Imagine WNCI packing four listeners in a “B.O. Sphere” car or KQHT’s “Turkey Bungee Jumping.” Why are stations such as KROQ, KRBE and KDWB regularly featured on our Promotions Page? Because too many Top 40s simply give away cash and concert tickets to the umpteenth caller.


Because as a program director, you’re spending too much time on other things that aren’t as important. Or because you just aren’t good enough.

Oh year. The name of the song? Delbert McClinton’s “Why? Why? Why?”

You had to ask?



An uneasy alliance has been formed between the record and radio communities. It’s an alliance most won’t speak about out loud and some don’t even know exists. But it is a situation that grow more interesting with each passing week.

We’re talking plays…spins…spikes. Versus adds.


It wasn’t so very long ago that adds were all that mattered. Adds were phat, parallel status was where it was at and a chart could be rigged at the drop of a hat. At the very least, several dozen CD players. Or maybe a late Tuesday afternoon promise of a trip to Hawaii (which one Sr. VP of Promotion still owes me!)

There was a time when promotion people pushed hard for the add. Not that they don’t still push hard today, but airplay is the key.

I’ve heard statements recently that were never thought about six months ago. “I don’t care whether or not he adds it as long as he plays it. “ “I don’t want to push to hard for the add. He’s already playing it and I don’t want to scare him off.” Those are a couple that are in power rotation.

Maybe the entire process needs to be analyzed more thoughtfully. So often, the needs of both records and radio are served by the same purpose. And yet, many times, both industries seem to go out of the way to work against the process, rather than work together to accomplish that goal.

By and large, record companies have the ability to establish the ground rules of competition. Let’s face it, it wasn’t radio that created the parallel system. And if the system wasn’t exactly created by record companies, most welcomed it as a way to best serve their needs. With promotions and attention, record companies determine who and what is important.

It was the record industry that fostered adds. It was the way they kept score. It was how we found out who were the winners and losers. Under the parallel system, how many stations were on a record was all-important. How many times the record was played wasn’t a big consideration. Few in the record companies made it a priority, so at first, few ver asked. But soon, unfortunately, another practice became common. Because record companies needed a way to keep score and because adds were applauded like touchdowns, getting that add became all-important. So important, in some cases, that airplay wasn’t even mentioned. Many times, airplay wasn’t requested. Occasionally, it was suggested to programmers that airplay wasn’t even wanted. Just the add.

The system became more and more perverse.

A funny thing began to happen on this yellow brick road to terminal bliss. Many records that were most added weren’t hits. Not that there was anything wrong with that. I mean, who really knows what records are hits until they are exposed to the public? So, having a record that was most added not become a hit wasn’t catastrophic. In some instances, it was advantageous. At least you found out whether or not you had a hit relatively quickly.

That’s when funnier things began happening. Records that were getting a lot of adds weren’t getting a lot of play. The records weren’t becoming hits because the audience didn’t hear them. That wasn’t right.

Records that shipped Gold returned Platinum.

The practice eventually led to the downfall of the parallel system and, in a parallel move, to the downfall of those who promoted it. Record companies went “Back To The Future” to determine what made a hit. The bottom line is the bottom line: If it sells, it’s a hit. If it doesn’t, it isn’t.

We always knew that, but over time the words got in the way and our priorities were a little out of whack.

Suddenly, almost without warning, faster than you could say, “Plays Per Week and BDS,” the rules changed. The parallel system and the coveted award of “Most Added” began gathering dust. Neither was important any longer. Today, airplay rules. Whether or not a radio station officially adds a record is becoming a moot point. It is the airplay that matters.

Some programmers want to hold on to the power of official adds. It gives them the opportunity to test records without getting pressure from the record companies to add a specific record into a weekly rotation.

That power is a wisp of smoke.

Programmers have to place to hide. With the advent of Plays Per Week, BDS and honest reporting, record companies know what records are getting airplay…even by daypart. Who are we trying to fool by testing records during the week and not adding them?

Of course, there is a flip side. (Isn’t there always?) If record companies don’t care about official adds, then pressure for additional plays should be carefully guarded. If programmers are going to let what they play be their official list (and those in monitored markets don’t have a choice), then record companies must allow the programmers to experiment with records in various degrees. Playing certain records only in morning drive, adding others in a night rotation and spiking some sporadically throughout the week are ways for radio to research a specific record’s strength. Record companies must understand that a test is just that: a test. If a station is testing a record, record companies must have patience to work with the station. Screaming for increased rotations before the testing is complete can only hurt the record company’s relationships in the future. And it won’t do the tested record a lot of good either.

Record companies must understand that this type of honesty opens up other cans of worms. Sometimes a radio station will play a record only five or six times, then drop it from airplay the following week. Record companies must be ready to argue unemotionally for re-testing or increased rotations. It will sometimes make the job more difficult, but it is the way we will all be doing business in the future.

Both industries are after the same end. Both want to find out what records are hits. How we get to that end is what makes us different. Most record companies are concentrating on plays and spins, not adds. Radio stations should do the same.



It seems that last week’s Editorial about charts and trades struck a nerve.

For the better part of a year, Network Forty has been printing facts about the industry in general and R&R in particular. We questioned the R&R reporter base; it changed. We attacked the “Parallel System:” R&R dropped it. We pointed out the irregularities in the R&R charts; R&R debuted a new series of charts.

R&R made all these changes with no mention of Network Forty. It was like R&R was the old AM station with the big cume and Network Forty was the upstart FM with nothing but an attitude. Ignore them and they’ll go away. Right?

Last week, R&R blinked. To put it in radio terms (after all, Network Forty is made up of nothing but radio people), R&R reacted to Network Forty‘s promos.

R&R Publisher/CEO Bob Wilson sent a letter to R&R‘s radio reporters. In the letter, R&R attacks the credibility of Network Forty and BDS.

First, I would like to personally thank Mr. Wilson for the publicity. Since Bob mentions no other chart (except the Billboard chart derived from BDS information), it is obvious that the Publisher and CEO of R&R believes that Network Forty and BDS are the only competition.

Bob, we thank you for your endorsement.

It is true that Bob believes R&R‘s charts are superior to both Network Forty and BDS. Hey, it’s his publication. We won’t fault him for thinking his stuff is the best. He’s wrong, of course.

A number of his observations are wrong as well. Before writing the letter, maybe Bob should have checked with Joel Denver. Joel is familiar with dogs that don’t hunt. It’s evident that Bob has released another group of hounds that can’t find the rabbit.

To wit: The letter accuses Network Forty of being a mystery because we have “…no reporter list, no playlists, no back-up every shown.” Aw, Bob, you should have done your homework. Network Forty produces a laminated page of all reporting stations each quarter. This laminate is sent to all our subscribers. Since Bob doesn’t subscribe, he didn’t get this laminate. Heck, we’ll send him one anyway. Since it provides phone numbers and contacts, R&R might finally be able to talk with people in radio. That would be a switch.

Selected playlists are reprinted in Network Forty each week. To save trees, we don’t print them all. No one has the time to read playlist info from all of our 267 reporters…a universe that is 50% larger that R&R‘s. As far as back-up, Network Forty provides the only regional break-outs of PPWs. Network Forty provides the only in-depth analysis of record activity with our exclusive “Next Forty” information. Since R&R ripped off Network Forty‘s Plays Per Week label, perhaps R&R would like to steal these ideas, too.

Bob defends R&R‘s refusal to accept faxed playlists by saying that faxed lists are easy to fabricate. Like a phone call to R&R isn’t? Hey, Bob, the truth is, many in radio have been phoning those fabricated playlists for years. That’s why BDS became popular in the first place.

In the letter, R&R has the gall to call Billboard’s Hot 100 suspect because of a mysterious formula of plays and sales. The only thing more mysterious than R&R‘s formula for tabulating charts is the origin of the Black Hole.

R&R takes exception to the fact that Network Forty and BDS use no weighting in formulating charts. Bob says, “Do you actually go along with a play in New York or Boston being given equality to a play in Tyler, Texas?”

We realize more people hear a record played in New York than in Tyler. We also know that programmers recognize the difference. A programmer understands that a record added on Z100 means more than an add in East Jesus, Nebraska. They don’t need a chart to tell them that. In fact, programmers don’t need charts for finite reasons. No programmer looks at any chart and copies it as he own. Each market is different. Good programmers look at “real” charts to see how a particular record is doing and/or make sure they aren’t missing anything. Network Forty has never said weighting is bad. Network Forty did say that the obviously bloated weighting of R&R puts far too much emphasis on major markets. Since most majors play fewer songs than smaller markets, weighting majors in a disproportional manner can cause stagnation and make it harder for new records to get an accurate test. Which, in the end, hurts radio. And records.

The real reason for the R&R letter is obvious. R&R is about to change the way their chart is compiled. Again. R&R will, Bob says, “…install the new formula with the next reporter change in a few weeks.” R&R will also begin accepting faxed playlists as soon as they develop a “fax verification system.” Speaking of mysteries, is this like the RQC (Reporter Qualification Committee) R&R debuted a few months ago?

Once again, soon after heralding its innovations as the best in the business, R&R changes them because the R&R system simply won’t hunt (see: “this dog…). Whatever R&R implements, a short time later, R&R will devise yet another silly formula that Joel will say is the best ever, then try to shove it down radio’s throats. When will R&R notice that radio isn’t swallowing anymore?

R&R wasn’t the only publication that got a little bent out of shape because of the Network Forty Editorial last week. One of the honchos at Hits took exception to my comment that nobody reads Hits. He demonstrated his professionalism and maturity be personally calling to tell me he was going to “stick his dick in my ass.”

I love the guys at Hits and I expected a reaction, but hardly these extremes. I’m going to have to pass on your offer, fella, but I’m sure someone of your obvious talent and personality will have no trouble finding a willing partner.

Even Gavin took umbrage with my comments. Bill called several times, but didn’t leave a number where I could reach him.

As radio pays more and more attention to Network Forty and BDS, it is clear that R&R is resorting to desperate measures to try and hold on to the dominant position it held for so long. Like a ballplayer staying past his prime, R&R tries new deliveries, curves, sliders, tricks and gimmicks to hide the fact that it has lost the fastball.

It once was only R&R. It’s quickly becoming just Network Forty and BDS. Maybe it’s time for R&R to crawl up on the porch and let the big dogs run in the streets.



“I got your chaht right heah! It’s the best chaht in da bidness! Step right up folks and see it shine! Use it and win a stuffed animal for this little lady! Step right up, folks!”

Ah, Charts. Can’t live with ‘em. Can’t live without ‘em. Butu in reality, what’s it all about, Alfie?

In the past year, there have been more chart changes than ever before. We’ve got new charts (R&R), blue charts (Gavin), old charts (Billboard) and no charts (Hitmakers).

We have programmers who like some charts. Programmers who hate all charts. Record guys, of course, love all charts…the thought being that if there are enough charts floating around, you can find your record doing reasonably well on at least one of them.

So, which is the right one?

Network Forty, of course.

Actually, there are two charts (and only two) that are accurate: The Network Forty Plays Per Week Chart and the Monitor charts. All the rest suck. And Network Forty’s PPW Chart is more accurate than Monitor because our reporter base is much larger. We have more information from more radio stations than any other trade. The Network Forty PPW Chart is truly the most accurate, in-depth measure of a song’s success. Period.

Want a taste test? Fine. Put on the blindfold and prepare to ingest the following information:

First, let’s look at Radio & Records. (We’ll wait a few moments for the laughter to die down.) R&R has problems in several areas. First, believability. Few believe that the information R&R receives from radio reporters is accurate. Since R&R takes “guesstimates” on the phone, there is a lot of room for possible manipulation. If the information isn’t believable, how can the chart be otherwise? Unless and until R&R begins taking faxed, computer print-outs from radio stations’ music software systems, their information is flawed.

And, of course, even if R&R finally wises up and begins to take faxed lists, their charts will continue to be screwed up. The weighting system used by R&R has been defined, deleted and redefined. And it remains complex, convoluted, confusing and is guaranteed to cause constipation with use!

R&R’s weighting system is absurd. There’s no way to examine the weighting system as R&R has so far been unable to explain it. Should larger markets be given greater consideration than smaller markets? Theoretically, maybe. Should Z100 count 20 times more than 99X? No way.

R&R also confounds the problem by running raw data through Arbitron ratings. How ridiculous is that? Everyone with half a brain knows that Arbitron does not accurately reflect the actual listening time of the radio audience. Arbitron’s ratings of the Top 40 and Rock audience is even further off. Yet R&R uses Arbitron as a source. Someone over there needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

R&R’s use of Arbitron is one reason the chart is inaccurate. The weighting is incorrect. The method of retrieving information is inadequate. The chart is insane.

Billboard tries real hard. The Hot 100 is also weighted, but the system isn’t nearly as complicated as R&R. It has been around for a long time and has some disciples. Many like the fact that the Hot 100 chart takes sales into account along with airplay. Although the Hot 100 does make SoundScan a part of the process, there is a problem with the Billboard methodology. The airplay and sales are not generated within the same time frame. Wouldn’t it make sense to use the same days to figure sales and airplay if a chart is to be used from the total figures?

The Billboard Hot 100 is also weighted, but the system isn’t nearly as complicated as R&R’s.

There is also a problem in depending on SoundScan to accurately reflect sales. As is the case with BDS, our industry sometimes accepts SoundScan research as the Bible when, in fact, SoundScan monitors less than 50% of actual record sales. Although useful to reflect a national sales picture, particularly with established artists, SoundScan misses break-out records in many regions. We should always remember that SoundScan is a projection, not a fact.

Because sales figures usually run substantially behind airplay, (and because Billboard’s sales figures are older than the airplay used) the Hot 100 chart generally is slower than most others. It better reflects what happened rather that what is happening.

Gavin? Although threatening to go to a Plays Per Week system, Gavin still prints a playlist chart. If Bill was still alive, I could understand it. He’s not and Gavin should use PPWs.

Hitmakers doesn’t print charts. (Leave off the “charts from the previous sentence and Hitamakers would finally have it right!) With luck, maybe Hitmakers can print the playlist chart when Gavin drops it.

Hits? Nobody in radio reads Hits charts. Nobody in radio reads Hits. And since Hits uses only R&R stations in its data base, what’s the point?

The Monitor? The most accurate compilation of airplay available, with only one problem. The Monitor uses BDS data so the sample size isn’t large enough. Increase the sample size to monitor all markets and the data will be more accurate.

The Network Forty is the only publication that monitors all radio stations in the Top 40 format. We use this information to compile our charts. Because of our process (Network Forty uses computer-generated airplay reports filed via fax) and data base (Network Forty has over 265 reporters compared to R&R’s 173 and Monitor’s top 100 markets), Network Forty’s charts are the most comprehensive and most accurate available.

Although BDS is generally reliable in reporting airplay, the BDS reporter base is extremely limited. How limited? A couple of weeks ago, BDS ranked “All-4-One” as the most-played singles with over 6,000 spins. Network Forty also ranked “All-4-One” number one with nearly 11,000 spins! A lot of airplay out there is being missed by BDS. A whole lot. Depending only on BDS and the Monitor leaves out major pieces of the Mainstream radio pie.

As we see it, Network Forty and Monitor are great. R&R, Billboard, Gavin, Hitmakers and Hits are worthless.

Network Forty and Monitor are the only charts you need. Throw the rest away.





Just The Fax

Welcome to the Hotel PPW.

Now that R&R has finally come to the party, (invitations were sent out over two years ago…it took them that long to RSVP) Plays Per Week have become the standard throughout the industry.

All the charts that matter (The Network Forty, Billboard and R&R) use actual airplay for calculation. However, The Network Forty’s Plays Per Week charts are the best in the business. Bar none.

Why? It’s simple, really.

Billboard uses BDS to determine their charts. While BDS is recognized by many as the ultimate measure of airplay, it is a fact that BDS does not monitor many radio stations that are extremely important in determining the success of a record. Billboard misses many stations that impact record sales. Their chart is incomplete.

R&R’s charts have inherent problems. The weighting system is totally out of whack. (That’s another editorial by itself.) R&R has already dropped the weighting system used on the Alternative chart and most in the industry believe the weighting will soon be dropped from the Top 40 charts as well. R&R’s reporting universe is only slightly larger than BDS and creates the same limited picture. But R&R’s major problems exist because of the way information is gathered. R&R does not accept faxed PPW information. R&R depends upon phone calls from reporters to determine Plays Per Week. That practice opens a window of opportunity for easy alteration by those who would report inaccurate airplay.

The Network Forty has the most accurate and most complete Plays Per Week information available. The Network Forty has the most complete universe of radio stations available. BDS monitors only the larger markets. R&R “allows” only 170 reporters. The Network Forty gathers reports from over 250 radio stations across the country. And it isn’t just the number of reporters that makes The Network Forty PPW system the most accurate, it’s the methodology.

With the help of many in the industry, The Network Forty invented PPWs over two years ago. (Its fine that R&R has begun utilizing PPWs as the basis of their charts. It would also be nice if they gave credit to The Network Forty for the original idea, but we understand that R&R wants everyone to believe they discovered PPWs. R&R has never let facts get in the way.) We recognized early on that the industry wanted a chart based on airplay, not playlists. We also recognized that the most accurate way to gauge actual airplay is to accept computerized print-outs from music scheduling software. Anything less makes it easy to manipulate supposed airplay.

Although everyone in our industry pays lip service to honesty, it is a fact that there are individuals who still “play for pay” for station promotions or other considerations. Without faxed, computer print-outs, manipulation is easy and the industry would be right back where it was before the advent of PPWs and BDS.

By accepting faxed PPWs, The Network Forty guarantees that airplay manipulation is minimal. R&R cannot make the same claim.

The Network Forty verifies our data by spot-checking music logs from selected stations against the computer-generated airplay reports. The Network Forty also monitors selected radio stations by listen lines or actual listening. The Network Forty pays more than lip service to honesty. We take these added steps to ensure the accuracy and integrity of our charts, because that’s what the industry wants. Stations that attempt to manipulate airplay information are warned once, then monitored weekly. Those that don’t comply by reporting accurate PPWs are deleted from The Network Forty reporter universe. Four stations have been dropped this year.

Any trade magazine that doesn’t take these necessary stops runs the risk of printing flawed data. Trade magazines that want accurate charts should insist on computer-generated music scheduling print-outs via fax. It makes manipulation almost impossible.

Take a taste test.

Billboard’s charts give an accurate gauge of airplay. But Billboard doesn’t monitor all markets. The supply is limited.

R&R has too many additives (flawed weighting, add factors, etc.) and can be harmful to your health. R&R takes information from only 170 stations. R&R doesn’t accept computer-generated airplay reports by fax. R&R accepts information only over the phone, allowing reporters to “make up” or “guesstimate” airplay. In other words, there’s no list of ingredients on the label. You don’t know what you’re drinking.

The Network Forty has been producing a Plays Per Week chart for over two years. We have 256 reporters…more than any of the others. And The Network Forty accepts computer-generated airplay reports by fax to ensure that ours is the most comprehensive and accurate data available.

It’s a slam dunk.

The Network Forty is the winner. It tastes great and is more filling…and it is better for you.

World Famous


Programming a radio station is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. The combined talents necessary to be successful stretch from psychological counseling to technical engineering and everything in between. In an industry that increasingly demands more “hand-on” managing, it is sometimes impossible to take the time to have fun. And to create a radio station that draws a young audience, a feeling of fun must be prevalent or the audience will take a hike.

It’s hard to sound like you’re having fun when you’re not.

Face it, most of us got into radio to listen to music and meet members of the opposite sex. If those two items weren’t high on your list in the beginning, you’re lying…or should be in another line of work.

Many got the first chance at programming because the former PD was blown out quickly and the GM didn’t haven an immediate replacement. Or because the GM was convinced that someone else could do a better job. (In other words, the PD got stabbed in the back.) Some were promoted from the MD or APD position.

The point I’m trying to make is that most of us ascended to the job because of the right ambitions, but we were ill prepared for the reality.

Format clocks? Stop sets? Music rotations? How do I find out if I’m doing it right?

Jock meetings? Aircheck critiques? Promoitons? You mean I have to come up with promotional ideas? Liners? Production? Jingles?

Daily meetings with the sales department? You mean I have to have an ongoing dialogue with the sales manager? I hate sales. Public affairs? What is that all about?

Record promoters? I have to see all these guys every week? They’re calling every hour! I can’t play all their records.

The GM is thinking about hiring a consultant? I don’t want a consultant. I don’t have time to talk with him.

All I wanted to do was drink beer, play music and have a little fun. Now, I’m to busy to have fun. Hell, I don’t even have time to listen to my radio station.


How does a baby programmer learn to do it right? In the days of AM, you could just DX a major market and copy. No longer. Even if you visit a large city, there’s no guarantee you’ll learn anything. Many of those programming in major markets are clueless when it comes to creating great radio stations. Oh, a lot of them can pick the right music. (In today’s information-heavy environment, who can’t?) Some believe they can create a good vibe. (Until someone invents a “vibe meter,” it doesn’t matter.) But very few know how to program a great radio station. Why? Nobody ‘splained it to them.

Enter The World Famous KROQ.

KROQ is the best sounding radio station in the United States…bar none.

Now, I know some of my good friends and fellow programmers might take exception to this statement. I make it with no particular ax to grind or apples to polish. I know KROQ’s GM Trip Reeb and PD Kevin Weatherly, but we’ve spent no real time discussing programming in-depth. I spoke with neither regarding this Editorial. I write it as a listener.

KROQ is my station of choice. I like a lot of the music they play, but the same could be said of every other station in Los Angeles. It’s not the music that makes them my favorite. In the dynasouric demonology of Arbitron recall, it takes a lot more than music to make your station someone’s favorite. It ain’t KROQ’s music. It’s their presentation.

Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, every break KROQ rocks. And rocks hard.

Why? It’s hard to cite one specific element that makes KROQ stand out above the rest.

I’ve heard better air personalities. As a matter of fact, in the strictest sense of the term, KROQ’s air talent doesn’t fit the normal expectations of the breed. And maybe that’s what makes them, as a whole, great. There are no “big” voices, no rhyming wizards, just competent people who share the personalities. And their expertise. KROQ jocks offer current, hip information about artists and appearances. They don’t just read liners.

Kevin Weatherly manages to make this menagerie work for the benefit of the station. Many programmers hire off-the-wall jocks and let them fly on their own with decidedly different results. KROQ allows the jocks to express their individual personalities, but within the structure of the format. Kevin came from Top 40 and he’s brought to KROQ a structured format that makes the flow smooth, but allows the differing elements to keep the station fresh.

The positioners and sweepers are the best in the business. You don’t hear any staged hype. Many programmers are quick to “borrow” from other stations. KROQ’s are unique and absolutely off the wall. Like their slogan, “World Famous,” the stagers often have little to do with a specific event, but paint a picture of controlled mayhem.

The time spent producing each of these little “Oh Wows” must be monumental, but will worth the effort. Every element sounds as if it was written and produced to be the best. And each comes off that way.

And every weekend, KROQ does something special. The weekends are different for the listeners and KROQ program to the difference. No promotion or contest is every thrown away.

How do they do it? Time and attention to detail is, I’m sure, the first element. But more important is the commitment from each person involved. The staff at KROQ really loves what they’re doing. They sound like they’re all having fun, because, I suspect, they are.

Kevin has evidently found a way to do all of the time-consuming “no fun” things about his job description without letting it affect the sound of KROQ. He takes the time and makes time to listen. And it sounds like he’s having fun doing it.

If you want to know how to do it right, listen to KROQ.

There are a lot of reasons a programmer can give to excuse a poor on-air presentation. But in the end, that’s all they are…excuses.

Never forget the reasons for the beginning of your quest. Hey, through all of the tedious, emotionally draining, time-consuming elements that you hate, remember that programming a radio station beats working.

And ask yourself (and your staff) this question at least three times every day: “Are we having fun yet?”

The audience is listening.




Radio stations across the country received letters from R&R this week describing the new Plays Per Week reporting system set to go into effect with the next issue. Just what Top 40 needs. Another “Dear Joel” letter.


R&R has made many blunders in the past year as it has gamely tried to dictate to radio, but these latest edicts may very well be the worst ever. This editorial space always tries to reflect the opinions prevalent in our industry. Sometimes the opinions are offered by a few. This week, the industry as a whole seems to have reached a breaking point with R&R.

Joel Denver’s letter to all reporters opens with the following statement: “After years of planning and months of exhaustive testing, R&R’s dynamic new music information gathering system is ready to go! We’re convinced that it will provide the industry with the most comprehensive and accurate national airplay information.”


I guess what Joel is trying to say is that he’s been reading The Network Forty for the past two years. That’s how long we’ve been producing and printing Plays Per Week. We gave the term “Plays Per Week” to the industry to use. And now R&R wants the industry to believe that R&R has spent years developing a “dynamic new system.”

All together now…Bullshit.

R&R’s latest system has a lot of problems, not the least of which is their decision to break Top 40 into two subformats: 12-24 CHR/Top 40 and 18-34 CHR/Top 40. Radio stations are once again being categorized by R&R based on what R&R decides. Top 40 radio faces enough problems trying to sell their audience to advertisers without R&R diminishing its importance by placing “stigmas” that have nothing to do with the individual station’s own positioning. Why is R&R doing this?

Checking through the breakouts, R&R seems to have decided that all radio stations playing a heavy mixture of Urban or Dance music automatically qualify for inclusion in the 12-24 category…regardless of demographic dominance. This means that a station like WPGC in Washington D.C. will be listed in R&R’s 12-24 category even though WPGC is #1 25-54! And a station like KSFM in Sacramento, ranked #1 18-34, will be listed by R&R in the 12-24 category!

What is wrong with this picture? The fish are definitely in the trees!

Who in our industry wants two separate charts, broken into these demographics? There isn’t a radio station in the world that wants its advertisers to believe they appeal only to the 12-24 year-old audience. There certainly isn’t a Top 40 station anywhere that wants its competition to have a national magazine identifying it as a 12-24 station. The format is hard enough to sell as it is. Do we need R&R further diluting Top 40’s sales picture by incorrectly defining a station’s format and downgrading its influence in the upper demos?

Say it again…Bullshit.

How can R&R misread the concerns of radio so badly? How could R&R announce these changes without first researching radios’ reaction?

To quote a programmer, “R&R is like AM radio and the latest attempts at change are like AM stereo. Nobody’s listening anymore.”

Radio’s response to R&R’s latest dictates have been immediate and harsh. Many radio stations that have been classified as 12-24 area seriously reconsidering the value of reporting PPWs to R&R. All radio stations should do the same.

The Network Forty believes that all trade magazines owe a debt of gratitude to radio stations because radio provides the information. All trade magazines should reflect the needs and wants of the radio and record industries. If any trade magazine does not reflect a constructive position for your radio station, why give it information?

The Network Forty is dedicated to helping both the radio and record industries discover new and innovative ways that will ensure a successful future. The Network Forty has championed Top 40 radio since our inception and will continue to do that.

The fact that R&R continues to apply restrictions and arbitrary judgments that are detrimental to Top 40 specifically, and radio in general, is appalling. R&R does not ask the industry what the industry needs, it tells the industry what R&R needs.

What’s that smell? Bullshit.

There are other problems with R&R’s “new” and “innovative” system. R&R will only take PPW information over the phone. This allows too much room for manipulation, something that R&R seems reluctant to discourage. The Network Forty accepts only computer-generated PPW information via fax. This makes The Network Forty PPW information harder to manipulate; and our additional checks against computer-generated daily music logs makes manipulation impossible. Simply put, despite R&R’s hollow claims, The Network Forty’s PPW information is the most comprehensive and accurate barometer of actual airplay available.

No bullshit.

Joel’s letter also states that “Maintaining R&R status is more important than ever, since only our reporters have access to R&R ONLINE.” Access? Didn’t R&R promise five computers and software to all reporters a while back? Is R&R now only offering access?

How long will radio continue to pander to a trade magazine like R&R? R&R continues to make promises it doesn’t keep.

Radio deserves better.

At one time, R&R status was meaningful to radio. It isn’t any longer. It’s time for radio to decide whether or not to continue to provide information to a trade magazine that doesn’t serve radio’s best interests.

If you, like many other programmers, believe that R&R’s latest demands aren’t in your best interest, the answer is simple.

Don’t report.

It’s my guess that R&R will change its terminology when radio refuses to participate in the latest “innovation.” This won’t be the first time R&R has proposed a “new” system, only to have it show down by radio. Remember the initial R&R PPW pitch? Top 40 was to supply predicted plays for the upcoming week. That dog didn’t hunt, either.

The bigger question is: When will R&R consult with the industry it claims to serve before instituting new procedures? How many mistakes will R&R make before the industry turns its back on them completely? And how long in the future will it be until radio flatly rejects R&R as a positive influence on its livelihood?

The future is now.

Capitol Improvements


To quote Bob Dylan, “…the times they are a-changing.” Over a year ago, The Network Forty predicted the changes that are now affecting the radio and recording industries. Gone are the Parallel Systems, the dependency on station playlists and the dictatorial rules of R&R. Going soon are paper adds, chart manipulation and the way record companies have been doing business with radio.

Record companies are struggling to determine definitive compensation due radio (i.e. promotions) and independent promoters for their work with specific stations. As actual airplay and retail sales have become the true bottom line, record companies search for a benchmark that can be used by everyone. Though all agree that some new method must take the place of the old 7-4-3 Parallel System, defining the compensation package has been difficult.

What radio station are important? How is that importance determined? What factors should be weighed in making final decisions?

Those are some of the questions. The answers vary. But one answer is definitive: record companies will determine the importance of specific radio stations. No longer will R&R dictate the status of stations simply by making them part of its reporting base.

Acknowledging the change is easy Acting on an alternative has taken longer. Although the old Parallel System was unfair and inaccurate, it was an easy way out for record companies. Coming up with an innovative system to reflect the new order is a lot tougher.

Late last year, Arista Sr. VP Promotion Rick Bisceglia quietly moved away from the Parallel System and began categorizing radio stations based on airplay and record sales. Columbia Sr. VP Promotion Burt Baumgartner fired the first broad salvo last month when he innovated a new system of compensation for independent promoters based solely on airplay. Using BDS as a monitor, Columbia began compensating for actual spins, not listings. This system drastically improves on the old, but could leave many non-BDS-monitored stations in limbo. Last week, Atlantic Sr. VP Promotion Andrea Ganis went one step further. Compensation is provided using BDS and The Network Forty’s Plays Per Week for those stations not monitored by BDS. Although each plan varies according to specific records, one thing is common: airplay, not listiings, is the criterion.

All of these systems are innovative, but left unanswered are the questions of how to place importance on particular radio stations and what measures should be used to determine their importance?

Enter Capitol Sr. VP Promotions John Fagot. John commissioned a research report to determine the answers. Capitol researched markets nationwide to find out: (a) The top 100 stations ranked by 12-34 cume. The 12-34 demographic is used because previous research indicates this group is the primary source of record purchases…particularly with new releases. (b) The Current/Recurrent/Gold ratio of these radio stations Radio stations that are Current-based are more important to record companies…particularly in showcasing new releases. (c) The top markets nationwide ranked by actual record sales.

Using this research, John is able to more accurately define the ratio stations that can play an important role in the success of Capitol Records. The same is true for the record industry as a whole.

John is willing to share a good bit of this research Some of the highlights are interesting.

Many in radio believe that success is dependent upon a tight playlist. Recurrents and Golds are often thought to be the key to higher ratings. Although The Network Forty has provided research and insight that shows the raido audience is changing and wants to hear more new music, a lot of programmers cling to the belief that being late on new music is the safest way to go. This may have been an accurate assumption in the past, but current trends indicate that stations on the cutting edge of music programming are achieving greater success than those that are slower to react. Some of the most successful ratio stations in the country are also some of the most Current-based: WBBM Chicago, WPGC Washington, D.C., Power Pig Tampa and WLUM Milwaukee, just to name a few.

Jumping off the pages are the sales stats. One-half of all records sold last year were sold in the top 20 markets. One-half. And it gets more interesting. 81% of all records sold were sold in the top 75 markets. At first glance, it would seem to indicate that if you aren’t programming in one of the top markets, your station’s influence on record sales (and the correlation of your importance to the record industry) is negligible. However, a closer study reveals that, taken as a whole, markets ranked less than 100 comprise 12.38% of total record sales, higher than any other individual market.

Record companies that concentrate exclusively on large markets miss the biggest market of them all. If you are programming in a small market, your influence on record companies depends on your ability to influence record sales. Radio programmers in smaller markets who depend on record companies for promotions (and who doesn’t?) should be developing relationships with retail outlets in their home town right now. Prepare research that documents your station’s ability to influence record sales. In the past, your status with R&R determined your importance to record companes. Now, it’s up to you.

Another interesting facet of the report is found in the sales figures. Many markets outperform their population in record sales. And some do much worse. In almost all cases, markets that are ranked higher in sales than population have two things in common: They are dominated by aggressive Current-based radio stations and/or have colleges located within the ADL. Some of the best? Sacramento ranks 21st in population, but 13th in sales; Las Vegas ranks 91st in population and 42nd in sales; Springfield-Decatur-Champaign ranks 75th and 46th respectively; Austin is 71st and 56th. Others that perform signigicntly better than their population figures are San Diego, Portland, Salt Lake City, Providence and Madison. Conversely, some of the markets who perform poorly with record sales in contrast to population are those with radio stations that aren’t as aggressive or Current-based. The “leaders” in this category are Dallas, ranked 7th in population and only 14th in record sales and Buffalo, ranked 38th in population and only 61st in sales. Other markets that perform under their population figures: Cleveland, Jacksonville, Birmingham, Tulsa, Syracuse and Shreveport.

The most interesting thing about this report is the person who commissioned it. John Fagot is one of hte most respected Sr. VPs of Promotion in the industry. He has also been in the business of promoting records for nearly three decades. It would be easy for him to cling to the way he’s done his job in the past. For John to recognize the changes taking place in our industries and enlist innovative research to define his record company’s goals better is positive proof that Bob Dylan is right.

And am I the only one who recognizes the true, poetic justice in this report? For years, radio has concucted iternal research to determine the fate of records. Now, record companies are using research to determine the importance of radio.

The times are changing. We have a choice to stand pat and continue to be a part of the past. Or we can be bold and become a part of the future. Individuals like John Fagot, Rick Bisceglia, Burt Baumgartner and Andrea Ganis and record companies as a whole are taking charege of their destinies. They are defining the future.

It’s time for radio to do the same.

Where’s Bill


Another year, another Gavin convention.

If you missed it…wait a second…I don’t think anybody missed it. Except Steve Kingston and Scott Shannon. And nobody missed them. Except me.

It was the largest Gavin convention ever with over 3,000 registrants and at least that many uninvited gangstas in the lobby of the St. Francis Hotel.

The highlight of the convention was Capitol Records President Gary Gersh’s Keynote Address. The speech, as Gary, was thought provoking, futuristic and right on the money. Those who didn’t hear it should try and get a copy. It would make a great Editorial in The Network Forty.

One of the downsides to this year’s convention was the unpredictable San Francisco weather. It was rainy and cold, driving many inside to the numerous panels. Unfortunately, the less-than-stimulating discussions drove many back into the streets.

Maybe it’s me, but these panels at different conventions seem to be identical in shape and scope, from the topics and the lack of give-and-take to the same people not discussing the same things. But what’s the answer? It isn’t like everyone hasn’t tried. And the folks at Gavin did the best they could. Perhaps it’s the forum.

At next year’s convention, how about no panel discussions? Let’s face it, very little is accomplished with five or more people on a forum. The talk is disjointed at best and boring most of the times. Nobody wants to say something that might put him at odds with his peers on the dais. So, let’s have shorter talks by individuals with a limited amount of time for questions afterwards. If these panelists, most of whom are intelligent and well-respected, have time to prepare a presentation on a specific subject, we’ll all be better off and might learn something.

Or if we’re stuck with panels (I understand the Gavin mindset of trying to involve as many people as possible), how about having specific questions prepared in advance for individual members on the panels? This would give each an opportunity to make points on certain topics and would generate a wider range of discussion than the hit-and-miss of panelists reacting to each other.

How about a real hot seat? Not where a programmer or promotion executive is asked provocative questions, but where, for a nominal fee donated to charity, participants could throw ripe fruit at the guest of honor? Or maybe a dunk tank? One of the elements missing at the convention was humor. We need a sideshow like this to put everything into perspective. And I know the first person we should put in the tank. Gavin could have made a fortune!

The different record company parties and showcases were well attended…too well attended for most tastes. A common complaint was that there were too many people at this convention. But what are we supposed to do? Criticize Gavin for being successful?

And how about that awards banquet? Is it time to give out some of the awards at other, earlier function? This bad boy goes on forever. I know better than to suggest we cut down on the number of those up for awards. But could group presentations be way out of line? There’s no room to mention all the winners (this week’s Gavin will have a “supplemental pull-out” for that), but I’ll take one deep breath and get the first paragraph in: Record Company of the Year: Epic; Independent Label of the Year: Interscope; Record Executive of the Year: Jimmy Iovine; Sr. VP Promotion: MCA’s Bruce Tenenbaum; VP Promotion: Columbia’s Jerry Blair; National Promotion Director: Reprise’s Nancy Levin; Small Market PD and Station: Ed Lambert/Z104; Medium Market: Pete Cosenza and KLUC; Large Market: Jimmy Steal and KKRZ/Power Pig (tie); Major Market: Steve Rivers/Kiss 108. Another highlight? Mike Joseph receiving the Bill Gavin Heritage Award. Many in the audience were unfamiliar with Mike Joseph and his historical programming record, but his acceptance speech galvanized many of those listening…especially when he beseeched his fellow programmers “not to forget the teens…they’re our future…and never stop playing the hits.” Hey, it worked for him.

As is usually the case, the overall feeling of most of those attending was that the convention was good. And who can be overly critical of the never-tiring Dave Sholin and the always-smiling Ron Fell, the two institutions who make Gavin what it is today?

Gavin must solve one major problem that could hurt attendance at future conventions. Something must be done about the posers hanging out in the lobby of the St. Frances. Saturday night, after some threats and confrontations and many complaints, police moved all the furniture out of the lobby and restricted entrance to those who were registered at the hotel. Holding the panel discussions and speeches at another venue (like the nearby Moscone Center) could restrict access to only registrants, something that can’t be done at the public hotel. This could keep many of those who are just “looking for a good time” out of the way of those who have paid money to attend. Security must be beefed up so those attending functions in the hotel won’t feel threatened. Although this would take a show of force that might inhibit invited guests and convention registrants, most would swap that feeling for the fear that permeated this year’s event.

Admittedly, most of the gangstas in the lobby of the hotel weren’t invited. They just “dropped by” for a good time. However, some artists still insist on traveling with an entourage. Perhaps Gavin could outlaw entourages.

Unless Elvis comes back. He can have as many people with him as he wants. And we’re sure Bill Gavin will be on his arm.

Ask Joel


After operating without controversy for several quiet months, R&R pulled out their gun, took careful aim and shot themselves in the stump last week. (They don’t have a foot left, having fired so many bullets into it that it was amputated at the ankle.)

R&R dropped 13 reporters from the Top 40 panel, using as their criteria this week, the new rule that all reporters must be in markets that have over 100,000 people in the metro population. In other words, if you’re little, you don’t count.

After all R&R has been through in the past year, we thought those in charge would learn. Alas, we were wrong. They didn’t. R&R still feels it can dictate its best interest to radio and radio, like obedient sheep, will fall into line. Not only was the timing odd, but R&R sent a fax to the record companies that could only be read while wearing hip boots. According to the fax, R&R has formed the Reporter Qualification Committee to further define reporter status.

Excuse me? The Reporter Qualification Committee? The RQC? Give me a break.

Hey, Joel, it’s a stupid idea to begin with. But at least have the balls to say you did it. Don’t try and hide behind some made-up, bullshit committee to save face.

R&R calls itself a friend of radio. More bullshit. How does cutting the number of qualified reporters jive with that statement? Especially since Joel has told many in the record business that the reason they’re cutting the list is because record companies asked them to do so.

So, which is it, Joel?

Historically, various record companies have feuded with radio stations and have, at various times, asked trades not to accept reports for one reason or another. Most trades take all reports and let the record company executive decide what stations they want to include. Not so R&R. Those in charge at that trade are so confused they don’t know whether to kick the baby or feed the dog.

Does the term “shit from shinola” ring a bell?

Or could the real key be something else?

It’s been two years since R&R first promised that all their reporters would be given free computers and the mega-hyped vaporware. And since that first promise, R&R has been steadily decreasing the number of reporters until the total now stands at only 179. In comparison, The Network Forty has 265. Is it possible that R&R may be shaving the number to keep from having to purchase more computers? That’s what one PD says Joel told him. (See this week’s Conference Call.)

And where are those computers? Radio Shack? An advertisement in R&R says they are available for reporters right now. The same ad says they’ve gotten great reaction from their select preview panel. How does that square with the fact that at least two record companies returned the machines when R&R asked them to pay for the service.

So, if you’re one of the radio stations that R&R dropped from the list, you have reason to feel disappointed. Like those dropped before you for no good reason, you’ve done nothing wrong. You’re the same station you were two weeks ago. R&R just decided to arbitrarily change the rules. They didn’t ask you…or anyone else in radio. They just decided what was best for R&R (in other words, what the record companies demanded) and dictated to radio.

So, what else is new? There aren’t as many people listening.

If you’re not one of those who were dropped, don’t breathe easily. If R&R plans to eventually monitor all the markets currently monitored by BDS (and they’ve been promising this for months), where does that leave you? BDS only monitors the top 125 markets. Is there any reason to believe R&R won’t continue to trim their reporter list based on what’s right for them? After all, 125 computers are cheaper than 179.

Where will it end? If a record company complains to R&R that you don’t add enough of their music, is it too far a stretch to believe that you might get delisted? You just can’t tell what that omnipotent RQC is going to do.

Since R&R seems to be running for reelection constantly, I’ve provided a list of the Top 10 questions that Joel needs to answer before we trust him again. When you see him at the Gavin convention, run a few by him. See if you’re satisfied with the answers.

#10:  Who came up with the idea of the RQC and why hasn’t that person been pistol whipped?

#9: Who, exactly, is on the RQC?

#8: If radio is so affected by the decisions of the RQC, why aren’t any radio people on it?

#7: Once and for all, what is the criteria for reporters to R&R?

#6: When will your vaporware be available? I’m serious. Stop laughing.

#5: How many other stations will you be dropping?

#4: Do you think KTRS Casper is honored to be considered the same as WPLJ New York? Neither is allowed to report to R&R.

#3: Are you guys really this stupid or do you do these things just so The Network Forty has something to write about?

#2: What’s the real deal with that pony tail?

#1: Will the RQC remind the last person leaving R&R to turn off the lights?