Who in the hell do we think we are?

Most of us know the answer to this question, but to often, particularly on the radio side of our business, some get confused.

Let’s face it. With the constant hype we get, it’s sometimes easy to think that we are the be-all and end-all of our industry. With record promoters telling us how great we are on a daily basis, it’s not hard to believe what they are saying is true. Trust me. None of us are that good.

It’s a sad fact in our business that many confuse what they do with who they are.

If it hasn’t happened to you, don’t let it. If it has, try and stop it. Although if it has happened to you, even as you read this Editorial, you won’t believe I’m writing about you. It’s the other guys with the problems.

As a program director or music director, your importance has the lifespan of a butterfly. And your professional life is similar. Just as a butterfly begins as a glorified worm, so did most of us who are now in this business. We found radio as an easy place to hide away from the personality traits that made us less accepted in the real world. Behind a microphone, it was easy to be something we really weren’t. We could please the people; be hip and cute; be wanted by members of the opposite sex. In short, we could be everything we couldn’t be.

In most cases, this business brought us out of our shells and allowed us to grow through and rise above the traits that hindered us before. In other cases, monsters were created.

Are we really that important? The answer is easy. Reprise VP Promotion Mark Ratner has an interesting way of summing this up. He says, “Most of us, when we decided to go into radio or records, didn’t have a hard choice to make. It wasn’t like, do I do radio or take that full scholarship to Harvard Medical School?” WE got into the business because we love it…or because we didn’t have another choice. Now, because we program an important station, does that mean we’re better than everyone else?

Sadly, many do believe that. Egos unchecked grow quickly out of control. However, when they burst, the flame-out is total.

Don’t buy the hype or you are destined to fail. Arrogance is fine. You must believe that you are good. But when you think that nobody can do it better, that you are the difference, then you’re in trouble.

I see it all too often in our business. Radio programmers and music directors who have a good book or tow or win a car suddenly become geniuses. They stop doing the things that made them good in the first place and become content with the strokes they’re getting from those who are paid to stroke. They become cocky because they are successful.

Successful at what? Programming a radio station? Please. It ain’t that big a deal. But we begin to think it is.

I got lucky. It happened to me early in my career. I was the youngest program director in KHJ Los Angeles history; the youngest programmer in the famed RKO chain. I was the best. I know, because every record promoter told me. On a daily basis. And they wouldn’t lie. Not to me. They told me constantly, depending on how many records I added the last week.

One company even put my name on a billboard on Sunset Strip. Promoting a record that was rising up the charts, the printed, “Thanks To Gerry Cagle” where everyone could see. I got fired from KHJ on a Monday. Tuesday morning, my name was off the billboard.

Welcome to the world of entertainment. The butterfly was dead, pinned to the pages of a book entitled, “I Am A Genius. I Can Never Fail.”

It could…it will happen to you. Hopefully, in a less humiliating scenario.

Nowhere else is the saying, “The King is dead…long live the King,” more prevalent than in our business. Someone can always do it better.

I took WRKO Boston to its highest ratings. No one could do it better. I left and Harry Nelson took them even higher.

Scott Shannon was the best program director in history. He took Z100 to the top of the market. No one could do it better. He left and Steve Kingston took the ratings even higher.

Jerry DeFrancesco was the best programmer in history. He took KIIS Los Angeles to the top. No one could do it better. He left and Steve Rivers took them even higher.

The list is never ending.

Don’t get confused. It’s who you are, not what you do. Your position can and will be replaced. And in most cases, the results will be the same.

But many in our business see themselves as the important element in the mix. They act too proud, talk too loud and become ugly…with no reason. They are too important to listen. Why should they? They have all the answers. And they buy into the hype.

Who are these people? These people who get front row concert tickets and get to meet superstars backstage? These people who eat at the finest restaurants and never pick up the tab? These people who have dinners thrown in the honor? These people who are flown across the country, kept in luxurious hotels, get free tickets to the Grammys and other award shows?

It’s not who they are…it’s what position they hold…for the moment.

No programmer is as good as the music industry tells them they are. Lose your job and you’ll find out…the hard way.

Drop the cockiness. It’s unbecoming. Do a good job. Be proud of your accomplishments. Enjoy the spoils of the business. But don’t for a minute believe it’s because you’re the greatest. Humble pie tastes like shit. Don’t be forced to eat it.

Michael Spears was the greatest program director in KFRC history. No one could do it better. He left and Les Garland came in and took the cume even higher. He was the best. No one could do it better. I followed Garland. And the cume went even higher. And I was the best there ever was. I left and Walt Sabo took over. Okay, bad example. KFRC went into the toilet.

But you get the drift, don’t you? Or are you the best there ever was?

Book Report


Howard Stern.

Two words that assault the senses like no others…with the possible exception of: gang rape, escaped pedophile, serial killer and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Say what you will about Howard (and most people will say a bunch), he does attract a lot of attention. Syndicated nationwide, his radio show is heard by millions. His syndicated TV show and a later stint on E! cable was watched by a rabid audience. And now, he’s written a book.

“Howard Stern, Private Parts” (Simon & Schuster) is available at your local bookstore…if they carry it…and if it isn’t sold out. Go buy a copy. It’s a must-read for everyone in radio.

It’s the fastest seller in Simon & Schuster history, something I’m sure the venerable publishing company is very proud of. And why should the book be a best seller? Howard has said the secret to a successful radio show is “lesbians.” No less than three chapters pertain to the subject, but there are other, just as titillating chapters, including: My Sex Life; Pig Virus; If you’re Not Like Me, I Hate You; Yes, I Am Fartman; You’ve Been A Bad Girl, Haven’t You and Out Of The Closet, just to mention a few.

With poetic prose like the aforementioned, who can argue? Faulkner, Hemmingway, Stern. It just rolls off your tongue.

Howard is critiqued and criticized by just about everybody, but whether you like what he does or not (I personally think he’s great), he can’t be ignored. What makes Howard different is his honesty. With Stern, what you hear is what you get. There isn’t any hype or hyperbole. It’s just Howard. That honesty comes across in his book. He is quick to point out that the fame he achieves from what he does for a living never ceases to amaze him. As he describes it, “So here I am at the top of the heap…a heap of shit! When you’re in an industry with Cousin Brucie, Zookeepers and Rush Limbaugh, what would you call your heap?”

Howard Stern is living testimonial to the truth that “it’s not brain surgery, it’s only radio.” (I wonder if brain surgeons, before performing an operation, say to each other, “Relax, it’s not radio…it’s only brain surgery.”) We all have the tendency to take everything too seriously. Take Howard’s listeners…please. Howard’s just having fun…saying things that most of the audience thinks, but won’t voice. Those who get angry are probably taking life too seriously. I mean, it’s only radio.

And just because Howard says it, does that make it mean something?


Unlike most of his listeners, I had the distinct pleasure/pain of being the object of one of Howard’s nuclear assaults. When I was programming WAPP in New York in 1985, Howard was doing afternoons on WNBC. His contract was coming to an end and WAPP’s General Manager Pat “The Rock And Roll Duck” McNally and I thought hiring him to do mornings might be a good idea. At this time, WAPP was behind both Z100 and WPLJ in the Top 40 race, so almost any change would have been an improvement.

This was shortly after I…and just about every other programmer of note…had been approached about the programming job at WNBC. I, with all the others, turned it down without a thought, even thought they offered twice the amount of money I was making. Who in his right mind wanted to be the program director of a station that featured Don Imus doing mornings and Howard Stern in the afternoons? Only someone with limited experience or a career death with! (My worst fears were quickly born out when WNBC finally did hire a PD from somewhere in Virginia. Imus called in sick and the guy had to do the morning show on his first day at work. Stern taped the show and played bits of it back in the afternoon, critiquing each break by the new “hillbilly.” It was brilliant.

Anyhow, back to the story: I had one meeting with Howard. I must tell you, he’s a great guy. The brief time I spent with him was pleasant and hysterically funny. McNally continued meeting with Stern and his agent and eventually offered him a contract. After some contemplation, our offer was turned down. Interestingly enough, the reason Howard gave was that he didn’t want to do mornings.

Gary Stevens, President of Doubleday Broadcasting at the time, wasn’t disappointed. He had been lukewarm to the idea from the beginning. When we were rejected, he declared “…the kid (Howard) would never make it.”

The day after the negotiations ended, I was on my way into the city to meet Stevens. I got caught in a massive traffic jam leading into the Midtown tunnel. Naturally, I was listening to Howard Stern. He began his program by saying he wanted to talk about “…that WOP radio station…WAPP and the punk program director who ran it…Gerry Cagle. There I was, stuck in traffic, being ripped by the master. I hunched down behind the wheel, afraid to look left or right at the other drivers. I knew they were listening to Stern and I felt they knew he was taking about me. It was a humiliating, yet somehow exciting experience.

I was relieved, if only for a moment, because Howard only tore into me for a minute. Then he switched to Stevens…berating him for being everything from a closet Jew who changed his name because he was ashamed of his heritage to being a cheap miser who wouldn’t come up with enough money to pay him. I’m leaving out some of the juicier comments, but suffice it to say that Howard carved out a new orifice or two for good measure. Howard went on to say how he could have saved WAPP from our miserable ratings, but we were too cheap to hire him.

But he didn’t stop Stevens. Next victim: Nelson Doubleday, the chairman of the company. Howard ripped the book company, the broadcasting company and the Mets. And he ended his brilliant tirade by launching into the “real” reason behind his not being hired: Nelson Doubleday’s daughter wanted to have sex with him…or something of that ilk.

It was outstanding…if a little too close to home.

When I got into Stevens’ office (hoping he hadn’t heard Stern’s program), it was evident that he had been listening. He was seated behind his desk, his shoulders slumped, a pale drawn look on his face. “I’m ruined in this town,” he moaned. I wasn’t with Stevens in his meeting with Doubleday. I can only imagine what was said.

Shortly thereafter, Doubleday sold all their stations and closed the broadcasting division. The company line was that it had nothing to do with Stern. I don’t necessarily share that opinion.

The bottom line? Doubleday made millions on the sale of their stations. Gary Stevens made a fortune by brokering the deal. He’s not the most successful radio station broker in the business today, so he wasn’t “…finished in this town.” Pat McNally is the GM of Live 105 in San Francisco. Howard (the kid) did make it.

And me? I never did manage to make WAPP a winner. New York’s largest audience had finally heard about WAPP, if not exactly how I had planned it. But Howard Stern ripped me for a minute or two on WNBC, somehow validating my career and giving me a brief moment of fame in the Big Apple.

Howard, I love you. You make me turn on my radio. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

And the book ain’t bad either.

P.S. Could we have a picture of Robin’s breasts for Page 6?

A Long Strange Trip


The Conclave in Minneapolis: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The initial concept was mind-boggling by itself. There I was, on my way to the Midwest, a section of the country designated as a disaster area because of the worst flooding in history. I’m not particularly enamored with Minnesota under the best circumstances and the weather forecast was calling for more rain. And the only non-stop flight from Los Angeles was on Northworst Airlines.

I was doomed from the start.

But tickets had been purchased, meetings planned, rooms guaranteed and fights picked, so I had no choice.

When I arrived, the hotel was filled with nervous energy. Everyone was expecting fireworks at the first meeting Thursday night when representatives from all the trades debated their validity on the Charts Panel. Unfortunately, there were no knockouts. Billboard’s Michael Ellis chickened out and sent Kevin McCabe in his place. Kevin blamed any Billboard problems on BDS and any BDS problems on Billboard and was the unanimous winner of the “We’re Perfect Because We Say So” award. His attitude and demeanor exemplified Billboard’s recent adaptation of a “Holier Than Thou” posture. And the gum chewing was a nice touch.

Joel Denver wouldn’t fight…and who could blame him? He did bring another excuse to the table. Joel first stated that he granted reporting status solely on ratings. Since everyone knew that was bullshit, Joel quickly switched tactics and stated that reporting status was determined by a committee. A committee? What committee? Does R&R bus in a group of radio professionals every month to cast secret ballots on which radio stations will make it? Give me a break. The “old boys” just go to the back room, crack open a bottle and decide who they’ll beat on next.

Joel did an admirable job selling the company line on their vaporware. With a straight face, he predicted R&R’s monitor system would be up and running this fall in three markets. Joel was the only contestant in the “Beat A Dead Horse” category, but he would have won going away, even with the competition.

Hitmakers’ Barry Fiedel was eloquent as usual. Barry has such a command of the English language that it takes you a while to realize he isn’t really saying anything. Barry exemplifies his “Conference Calls.” The idea sounds good at first, but the end result produces nothing but hype.

The “Will Rogers Award” went to Dave Sholin for the 10th straight year. As soon as he leaves Gavin and joins The Network Forty, he’ll go smiling into the Hall of Fame.

I was confused. In this group, that was to be expected. Neither Billboard nor R&R could explain how they decide who reports in what formats and why. After their feeble attempts, I was still confused. So was the room. Evidently Billboard is still confused as well. They added 10 stations into their Mainstream Format right after Kevin defended their exclusion in Minneapolis. Is it just me or does this sound suspiciously like R&R’s many flip-flops? Could Joel Denver and Michael Ellis be the same person in different disguises? Think about it. Has anyone ever seen Joel and Michael in the same room at the same time?

After the meeting, all of the participants sponged free drinks at The Network Forty suite and vocalized what they wished they had said. No one was listening.

Friday brought on more meetings, more discussions and gambling at the nearby Indian reservation. Sholin lost $40 and cried all the way back to the hotel. Wayne Coy’s favorite number is 14. Tom Barsanti kept searching for the guy wearing feathers from the Village People and Joe Ianello still doesn’t understand why he couldn’t hit on 20.

A luncheon concert by Lisa Keith was well received as were the opening remarks by Rick Stone and the newly appointed Perspective VP Promotions Randy Spendlove. Nighttime found half the attendees avoiding the bowling tournament (the other half brought their own balls). The best-attended dinner was Steve Leavitt’s reserved table at one of Minneapolis’ finest restaurants, T.G.I. Fridays.

KWIN’s Bob Lewis hosted a simulated music meeting featuring input from both radio and record people. Although many points were made, the most notable was Bob’s remark that “this is why we don’t take record calls.” The reason? The session lasted over two-and-a-half hours.

Saturday morning’s Top 40 Format Breakfast was packed with people and questions. A funny thing happened at this meeting. We actually heard some answers. WKSE Program Director Brian Burns gave an effective explanation of how to conduct aircheck sessions; KDWB PD Marke Bolke told us how to successfully plan and execute promotions and WNVZ’s Wayne Coy went through the audience, giving jocks the opportunity to impress the programmers with their ability to do a break using what they had in their pockets. I think two of the guys were hired.

The least-attended meeting was “Time Management.” Most people couldn’t find the time to go.

Saturday afternoon, Dave Sholin and Joel Denver did a radio show on KDWB-FM. Dave did it for kicks. Joel did it because it was the largest market he ever worked in.

Most gratifying was an independent survey commissioned by The Network Forty. Mainstream radio people attending the Conclave were asked by an independent contractor, “What is your favorite trade magazine?” Respondents were allowed to choose more than one, which explains the percentages, but we sure liked who finished first:

The Network Forty                  74%

Gavin                                      51%

R&R                                        37%

Hitmakers                                13%

Billboard/Monitor                   08%

Hits                                         03%

Absent from the Conclave was the usual hype present at most other conventions. The good part was that most of the panels were well attended and well presented. The down side? A lot of heavy radio programmers didn’t show. But is that really bad? Most people at the Conclave are on their way up. They’re anxious to learn…willing to be trained. They aren’t afraid to ask questions. Quality time is actually possible. Friendships made in the congenial atmosphere will last. And many of those at tiny stations today will be in the majors tomorrow.

The bottom line? This was my first Conclave. It won’t be my last.

Gone Fishing


A while ago in this column, I used the phrase, “The Fish Are In The Trees.” It was a joke…a euphemism. I used it to describe, among other things, the reporting system used by R&R.

I only intended on using it once.

Other anomalies occurred and I was forced to follow shortly with another editorial entitled, “More Fish.”

I swore that was the last time.

Suddenly, there’s an outbreak of fish hiding in the leaves. Every time I walk under a tree, I have to brush scales off my shoulders. There’s a shark tree in my front yard, a bass tree across the street from the office and a tuna tree in my bedroom. (And everyone knows you can tune a guitar, but you can’t tuna fish. Yada yada.)

For months, The Network Forty has echoed the voices of our industry by questioning the methodology behind R&R’s reporting criteria. We’ve asked why the total number of stations is limited. We’ve tried to find out what exact criteria constitutes a reporting station. We’ve asked why certain, more deserving, aren’t included in the sample. We’ve asked what determines a station’s status in a particular format and many other seemingly easy questions.

These editorials aren’t the sole opinions of The Network Forty as a magazine or mine as the author. They’re reflections of the feelings of our industry as a whole.

We applaud R&R for their consistency: They’ve refused to enlighten the industry they serve with any explanation whatsoever.

And just when we thought the disease was confined to only one publication, disturbing information indicates the virus is spreading.

Is this arrogance contagious?

Billboard is now manipulating their reporting stations to serve their needs.

(Editor’s Note: You can relax, Joel. This one isn’t about you…entirely.)

The entire industry has welcomed BDS as a method to accurately reflect radio airplay. It has taken the guesswork out of the charts. But why does Billboard have a problem defining reporting stations? In his infinite wisdom, Michael Ellis, as Joel before him, has determined he and he alone is competent in pigeonholing stations. Forget how the stations position themselves: it is the “Almighty Michael” who will now make the ultimate determination.

Cloning Joel, Michael began his manipulations with WPLJ and other AC-leaning stations. To his credit, shortly after making these changes, Michael reversed himself and put these stations back into the mainstream…for the time being. He got the message quickly from industry leaders. Joel has also heard the natives. Those stations are being added back into the list of R&R’s mainstream reporters. If they have room.

My question is: “Why did you do it in the first place?”

Can I make an observation? Guys, it ain’t that difficult.

The Network Forty accepts playlists from all stations that want to report. Every radio station featuring current music is eligible. All these reports are compiled into our “Mainstream Chart.” After using that entire universe, we then break the information into specifics. Stations whose audience skew younger and those who skew older are prioritized for our “Target Charts.” Those stations that fragment musically are used to generate our “Alternative” and “Crossover Charts.”

Bottom line: We use all the available information. We don’t manipulate data. We let the universe determine the outcome. It’s the first rule of generating accurate research.

The audience listens to music…not formats. Why do we feel the need to specifically define particular stations? To serve our own needs? Bing!

In 1974, when radio was less fragmented, Paul Drew, then Vice President of Programming of the powerful RKO Radio chain, offered a cash incentive to the PD who could come up with the definition of Top 40. This came at a time when the entire industry looked at the RKO chain as the definition of Top 40.

The cash is still waiting to be claimed.

Any radio station that plays current music should be welcomed by our industry and given all the tools to make it grow and prosper. Those who make the criteria for success harder are the only cutting their own throats. When radio stations featuring current music are denied the opportunity to gain popularity, receive promotions and increase profit by their inability to attain needed publicity and accolades, we’re all doomed.

Do you get it? Magazines don’t play music. We don’t create formats. We can only reflect the attitudes of our industry, accurately report available information and increase the visibility of successful records and individuals. If you manipulate radio stations for your own advantage, how do you expect them to trust you when you report a particular song is a hit? Or format? Or promotion?

We should all champion all radio stations that expose new product. To do otherwise only exposes a thinly disguised attempt to increase our own importance.

News flash, Joel and Michael: The future of our business…our future…is new music. Without it, music radio dies…record companies die…entertainment magazines die…only K-Mart remains to sell the oldies…for a while.

And guys, I, for one, don’t want to spend the rest of my life announcing the “blue light special” on aisle four.



Observations On The Bobby Poe Convention

This convention was more confusing than most. It was listed as the 23rd Annual, yet I have a flyer, reprinted on a later page, that lists the 2nd annual as happening in 1959. But as Bobby himself said, “Aw, Gerry, don’t confuse me with the facts.” (Bobby actually had no affiliation with this other convention…it was before his time.)

Attending the Poe Convention always brings back great memories. No other convention shares the glorious history of the Poe. It was the first real convention I attended as a “Baby Program Director,” and, in fact, it changed my life…well, at least the way I chose to live it.

I learned at those early Poe’s, among other things, that one could stay drunk for three days running. Indeed, it was a badge of honor. I learned the proper method of packing a sheet of toilet paper in one’s backside before lighting the other end and streaking the lobby. I learned how to play poker. I met my first hooker…a platonic meeting, of course. I learned to argue my point. I witnessed the famous escalator incident. (There were no more than 20 of us, yet since that time, at least 500 people claim to have been involved.) Most of all, I learned to network with my peers.

It’s not as much fun as it used to be. (Is anything as good as we remember it?) But it staill ain’t half bad.

There were some disturbing signs. The highlight of the convention was MCA’s showing of Jurassic Park. It emptied the lobby on Friday night. The thought of program directors and promotion people leaving the Bobby Poe Convention to see a movie seems somehow out of whack. The fact that so many of the alleged cutting edge programmers hadn’t seen the #1 movie in the country is scary enough. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt: Maybe, in typical radio fashion, they were just waiting for a free showing.

Whatever the case, it ruined a good poker game.

The meetings (the “beady-eyed stuff,” to quote Bobby) actually began on time. That wasn’t fair to those of us who are accustomed to everything running hours late. It wasn’t so long ago that Bobby actually locked the doors to the meeting rooms and declared the bar open at nine in the morning.

The most boring panel? The consultants panel. I know. I hosted it and I almost went to sleep. Benson and Vallie tried to be funny, but it was a tough room. In my conversations with them before the meeting in The Network Forty suite, I became convinced that they (and John Gorman) are committed to putting the flash back in Top 40 radio. However, the panel didn’t sparkle. All I heard was that we should continue to get 20-35 year-old females. Hell, I’ve been trying to do that most of my life!

Almost as boring was the talk by the Arbitron reps. Do these people really believe the drivel they spout? All they proved was that anyone can manipulate “figures” to make their case. At that point, arsenic seemed inviting.

The VP/Promotions panel was the most interesting…that is, when host Michael Ellis would allow subjects other than BDS to be discussed. And that wasn’t often. Was it just me (it probably was) or did Michael sound suspiciously like someone else I’ve criticized in referring to BDS problems being fixed “in the near future” and advances “coming in just a little while?”

I found it interesting that many Promotion VPs are using research data to convince reluctant radio programmers to add their records. It wasn’t long ago that these same people were bemoaning the fact that PDs were citing research to keep many records off their playlists. I hope we, as a business, don’t forget that a record can “sound” good. Let’s not lose our passion for music. If a promotion person can’t tell a PD, “Listen to this song. It sounds like a smash,” then we’re in trouble. “Computer-friendly” cannot become the criteria for a hit song.

The “Programmers’ Hotbox” produced the buzz of the convention. Mark Driscoll used an unfortunate choice of words in describing WPGC. Driscoll was wrong. He has faxed an apology to the industry. But I wonder how many of those who are currently nailing him to the cross have been guilty of similar comments in private? I’ve known Mark for years. He can be justly accused of being many things…a racist isn’t one of them. Instead of vilifying Driscoll, let’s use his mistake as a reminder that stereotypical comments are unacceptable in any form or forum.

The hottest record suite? Sony had it cornered Friday night by turning two meeting rooms into a gambling casino. If you won big, you could swap your chips for Sony products. Atlantic put their suite next door and shared the overflow. Motown raged on Saturday.

The winners? As always, there were many. The Bobby Poe Convention is unique for one reason: Bobby Poe.

He’s been a friend and character to our business for years and years. Right or wrong, he can never be accused of not caring. He is passionate in his beliefs and in his determination to share them with anyone who will listen. We go to the Poe convention because we love Bobby. In two years, it will be the 25th Anniversary Convention.

I wouldn’t miss it for the world!



There was an interesting article in a recent edition of USA Today. The feature outlined the difficulties facing the advertising community in effectively reaching the new demographic where everybody loves to hate: Generation X.

Putting aside any ill feelings one has for the typical dreck Madison Avenue shoves down our throats, the fact is that radio, like every other business entity in this country, has suddenly come to the realization that (1) many of the 47 million 17-28-year-olds have credit cards and most importantly, (2) they know how to use them. Make no mistake about it: with a spending power of $125 billion, Generation X is the “in” demo cell of the day. So it makes perfect business sense for programmers to curry the “X Factor’s” interest and favor.

The USA Today piece claims that attracting the baby busters is anything but easy, as Madison Avenue is quickly finding out. “There’s no question we ain’t got it right yet,” one ad man admits in the story. “It’s the same mistake advertisers made when they first discovered working women, portraying everyone in a business suit and carrying a briefcase. All of a sudden, Generation X is speaking obnoxiously and wearing a baseball cap turned sideways. Thinking they’re all the same is a deadly mistake.”

What becomes a Generation X’er the most? To reiterate what others have noted in the past, they are a contradictory species. Just as many are unemployed as are on a career track. Some are optimistic; others cynical. Unlike the baby boomers, the X-clan doesn’t believe that they’ll get their share of the American dream. For every B-buster full of rebellion, another one has angst in his/her pants. (The preceding pun courtesy of the Mael room.) Worst of all, generally they hate being stereotyped.

Adds another ad man, “It’s incredibly difficult to get under their radar. They’ve been so saturated with ads that they almost tune out everything. The know they’re being sold to and most want nothing to do with it.” From that, the writer concludes, “It’s no wonder one of X’ers’ favorite musical groups is the Spin Doctors.”

No, we don’t know what that means, either…except to convince us that the USA Today writer knows not of what he reports.

A prime example of advertising missing the boat is the Subaru Impreza TV spot, one that was produced specifically X-rated for the psychographic. The commercial has a hyper, 20-something dweeb favorably comparing the new Impreza to Punk Rock. Just like the way Punk Rock woke up the music scene, he postulates, the Impreza is waking up the doldrums of the car scene. Uh huh. Reportedly, sales of the car are 50% below target.

So the Generation X’ers didn’t like the commercial…who the hell did? Outside of the fact that no one in their right mind would buy dental floss from that guy, let alone a $10,000 car, the whole message is blatantly false. Now we realize that the phrase “truth in advertising” carries as much significance as “military intelligence” and “we’re considering if for next week,” but Impreza Geek would have a more convincing line if he said it was God’s favorite car.

Fact: Punk Rock wasn’t greeted as a refreshing change of pace when it first hit back in the late ’70s. Except for a small, vocal minority, the music business in general and radio in particular hated Punk Rock. The EBS spots got more rotations than all the pre-’80s Punk Rock songs put together. It wasn’t until Nirvana hit that Mainstream radio realized it was safe for Top 40…and only by calling it “Grunge Rock.”

Nevertheless, as a public service, The Network Forty has a few hints in dealing with Generation X, since over half of our staff is that age. But regard these with a few thousand grains of salt. Only half of the half agree that these hints are accurate. The other half…the apathetic and arbitrary ones…either didn’t cared or denied everything. So, some of the do’s could be don’ts to half your listeners…or vice versa.

Liners: The key to remember is that you can’t impress a Gen X’er with boasts of “more music” and “less talk.” Do: “Coming up, one of my favorite new cuts…” But you have to mean it. Don’t: Next up, another 10-in-a-row.” By and large, this audience is interested in specifics, not vague generalities.

Slogan: Above all, an effective GX slogan must exhibit the proper attitude…highly suspicious and very anti-cutesy. GX doesn’t mind being dissed if it’s done with a certain amount of class. Do: “WGNX, The Sound of One Ear Listening.” Don’t: “WGNX, Eat Shit and Die.” A bit too much.

Air Personalities: This is the easiest to figure. As Impreza Putz vividly illustrated, you can’t be the hyper, uptempo, weasel heard on many stations after dark. On the other hand, the cut-but-teasing, naughty-but-nice, won’t-you-be-my-neighbor mid-day jock won’t fly either. Above all, the talent must be into the music. They have to be knowledgeable. The audience will quickly know if they aren’t and will tune them out. However, if they connect, they’ll be there constantly. Do: “I’ve got free tickets to see Pearl Jam and I’ll sell them to the 3rd caller.” Don’t: “I have free tickets to see Pearl Jam and I hear she sings real good.”

Mix Shows: In this case, it’s not how the songs are mixed, it’s how they’re edited that counts. Some great music will alienate the GX listener, so some major revisions are in order. Do: Re-edit the Who’s “My Generation” so Roger Daltrey sings, “I hope you die before I get old.” Don’t: Play anything that’s a House or Dance Mix, unless you’ve learned the art of scratching CDs.

Contesting: A GX listener would rather masturbate with a cheese grater than participate in a “53rd caller wins tickets” ploy. Also remember, this generation can read and write. They will participate heavily in “write in” contests as long as you ask them their opinion, not just their name on a postcard or fax. A savvy promo whiz has to consider their individualistic, distrustful nature in staging events. Do it for a cause, not just to win a prize. Helpful hint: Anything related to ecology will work big. Do: a promotion where the winners get to have their favorite trees planted at their house or in front of their apartment. Don’t: Boast that all the drummers who play on the records you broadcast use drumsticks made from trees that died a natural death.

That’s just a few ideas that may or may not work. This generation makes us think. Interestingly enough, they are ever-changing and they will not fall for the same old same old. Innovation, thought and genuine care will produce a bonanza. What’s out today may very well be in tomorrow, so don’t throw anything away. Tomorrow, you may well ue it for the landfills of their minds.

“Bell-bottom blues, you made me cry…”

Indecent Promotions

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

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

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

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

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

All valid reasons…for getting out of programming.

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

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

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

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

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

The promotion is the key. Not the cash.

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s your fault.

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

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

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

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

Why On Tuesday


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

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


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

“I’m done, boss.”

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

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

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

“What is it?” I snapped.

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

“Why do we do the music on Tuesdays?”

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

“It’s a long story.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded. “Go ahead.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


They hit their beers again and I went on.

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

“To simulate sales,” Lanette stated.

I nodded. “Theoretically.”

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

“But not the last,” I laughed.

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


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

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

“That guy was a genius,” Lanette said.


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

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

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

“That’s amazing,” Lanette said.

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

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

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

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

“That was great,” she stroked.

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


“Fantastic!” Lanette exclaimed.

Nelson burped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Verdict


The judge sat stiffly behind the bench and looked around the courtroom, his dark eyes surveying those in attendance. As was the case since the trial began, all the seats were taken and standing room was three deep in the back. But this day, something was different. The atmosphere had changed. During the previous week’s testimony, emotions had run high and a feeling of excitement filled the air. Now, the mystery was gone, replaced by the stench of death. All had gathered to hear the verdict, but the outcome was a foregone conclusion. The gathering had turned into a funeral. Everyone was just waiting for the ax to fall.

He glanced down at the plaintiff’s table. The young attorney lounged casually in his chair with his feet up. His fingers were laced behind his head and his eyes were half-closed. His countenance gave off an aura of self-confidence. He had pled his case well.

The same could not be said of the defendants. They hid behind their table with slouched shoulders, bowed heads and eyes that stared down toward the floor. The old attorney had failed to show up for the reading of the verdict. Indeed, the court had been delayed for almost 30 minutes until the bailiffs found him passed out drunk in a bar down the street.

The judge rapped the gavel sharply several times. It was not needed. He was already the center of everyone’s attention.

He cleared his throat and read from a piece of paper held at arm’s length. “In the case of the People of Radio against Radio & Records, charged with the death of Top 40…” He paused for dramatic effect and glanced up briefly. “The court finds the defendants…not guilty.”

The courtroom exploded with shouts and groans of stunned disbelief. Individual voices cut through the din: “No way…wait a minute…we was robbed…bullshit!”

The judge waited for a few seconds for the crowd to finish its initial outburst. He had been through these surprises before. When it was time, he calmly picked up the gavel and rapped in sharply three times. “The court will come to order.” Five more raps brought the crowd in line.

If the verdict shook the onlookers, the defendants were caught ever more off-guard. They sat as if posed; eyes glassy, jaws slacked, mouths open and one pony tail twitching in disbelief.

If any of them had cared to check out the plaintiff’s table, they would have gotten an even bigger shock. The young attorney hadn’t changed positions. If anything, he looked even more relaxed. A closer look would have caught the shared glance with the judge.

“Order.” The judge said it again, even though it wasn’t needed. He was definitely in the spotlight now. The entire room seemed to be holding its breath. The judge shook his head slowly and took off his glasses. He pulled out a clean handkerchief and began polishing them unhurriedly. When he was satisfied they were clean (and confident that his audience had been stretched to the limits of the patience), he continued.

“The jury deliberated only a short time before handing in a verdict I’m sure any of you could easily predict. However, before I could summon the parties, the plaintiffs’ attorney asked to see me in quarters.”

The judge hesitated and cleared his throat. The young attorney remained relaxed in his chair. He, and only he among the onlookers, knew what was coming.

“We tried to find the defendants’ lawyer and couldn’t. Usually I refuse to hear only one side of an argument, but as this was a special circumstance, I listened. And I’m glad I did.”

He fixed the defendants with an icy glare. “It would appear that the attorney for the plaintiffs is more interested in a truthful outcome of this case than you are.”

Whatever elation the defendants must have felt after the verdict was quickly reversed by the judge’s statement. All eyes searched the floor again.

Once more he cleared his throat and in a clear, authoritative voice he said, “It seems that we have a case of corpus delicti.”

The courtroom crowd began that annoying murmur and he was forced to silence it with the gavel.

“The attorney for the plaintiffs pointed out several facts that were evidently missed by the defense…facts like Z100 in New York having a healthy upward trend…KIIS in Los Angeles showing a strong upward movement in their trend…Rick Dees moving back into the lead among English speaking radio in morning drive…and selected Top 40 stations showing strong improvements, including trend-setting WBBQ in Augusta leading the pack with an 18.1 12+ share in its last book.” The judge consulted the brief in front of him. “And there are others going up, including KKXX, WSTW, Q102, PRO-FM, Z104, WPGC, KTFM, KMEL, KSOL, FM102, KDWB KJMZ, SXKS, 92Q, WXXL and,” he set the papers aside, “the list goes on.”

“It would be difficult to prove that Radio & Records is guilty of killing Top 40 radio when the format is showing marked signs of life.”

The courtroom murmured again and the defendants got busy doing what they did best: hugging and patting themselves on the back.

The judge got a particular thrill from banging the gavel. He liked the sound it made and the sting that pierced his palm when he brought it down. He most liked the rush of power that came with it and as he called the court to order, he thought to himself that he was not unlike the plaintiffs in that feeling. The big difference was that he was voted into his position. He quickly brushed aside that fleeting comparison and continued

“Don’t be so quick to congratulate yourselves,” he barked. “This thing isn’t over yet.”

The startled defendants quickly settled into their seats. A couple even glanced toward the young attorney to get a hint at what was coming, but to no avail.

“You can’t be convicted of killing Top 40 since it isn’t dead, but I am willing to allow you to plead guilty to the lesser charge of attempted murder.”

One of the defendants jumped to his feet and tried to speak, but the judge quickly silenced him.

“Before you put your foot in your mouth…again…let’s review some of the facts: You changed the name to CHR with no input from the radio community, your policies are restrictive, you set rules and regulations with little regard to the radio stations you are supposed to serve, you limit the number of reporters to increase your power, you change the guidelines from week to week and are completely inconsistent in applying those rules to different stations. Even when given the opportunity, you refuse to stand up for the format.”

“But Your Honor,” the largest defendant whined, “I…”

“Shut up, Big Boy,” the judge snapped and added an exclamation point with the gavel.

Big Boy stared angrily at Pony Tail, but the Tail wagged the other way.

“Why, just today, the New York Times published an article entitled ‘The Breakup of Pop Music Audience Leaves Top 40 Radio Tuned out,’ an article that trumpets the rapid decline of Top 40 radio. The editor of Radio & Records is quoted in this article as agreeing with a so-called consensus that Top 40 radio can’t serve a large portion of the audience any more.”

The defendants were humbled once again.

“And before you plead, let me offer some sentencing guidelines. Since it’s a format you’ve attempted to murder, not a person, the court must take into consideration extenuating circumstances. Although we view you as the main culprit, you had many accomplices. Radio programmers across the country are guilty of following your restrictive policies to get the plums derived from a reporting status instead of refusing to play the game. Those who complain the most are usually those left out of the process. Once accepted as reporters, they generally keep totally quiet or just whisper angrily from time to time. Have any refused to report because of the practice? Have any reporting stations been vocal in their disagreement with these policies?”

“And what about record companies? Have they nourished full service on radio stations not in the R&R fold? Do they spend thousand of dollars in time and money on reporting stations in far-away places while letting other, more worthy, would-be reporters wither on the vine? Is alleged airplay more important than actual sales?”

“To R&R, I would sentence you to look daily in the mirror and reflect the wants and needs of those in the radio and record industries, rather than dictating your narrow, restrictive policies. Expand your reporters to include all of those who purport to be Top 40 stations. Only by including all Top 40 stations can you truly serve as a stimulant in the survival of the format. You must realize that if you strangle this most important format, eventually you, too, will die.”

“You’re now the problem. Become part of the solution.”

He paused for a moment and poured a glass of water, took the time to drink half of it, then resumed. “To the charge of attempted murder of the Top 40 format and generally being pompous, all-around pains-in-the-ass, how do you plead?”

The defendants quickly rose and spoke as one. “Guilty.”

The gavel came down with a decisive BING!

“Case Closed.”

Who Killed Top 40


The judge took one look at the packed room, frowned, then banged his gavel down and called the court to order.

“In the matter of the People of Radio against the magazine Radio & Records, are the attorneys present?

A tall, stylish man dressed in blue jeans, a Pearl Jam T-shirt, white sox and tennis shoes stood up behind the Plaintiff’s table. “The People of Radio are ready, Your Honor.”

The judge frowned deeper behind his glasses. “You aren’t dressed in the manner we usually expect in this court.”

The young man smiled. “I apologize if my looks and manner offend you. However, the “style over substance” positioning of the 1980s is no longer acceptable to most in our business.

“Just one of the reasons this complaint should be dismissed out of hand, Your Honor,” a big voice boomed. From behind the Defendant’s table rose a silver-haired throwback to the plantation era. Several inches over six feet tall, the old man towered over the courtroom. His demeanor demanded attention, as did his attire. Atop the silver hair was a panama hat. Below it, the carefully assembled outfit was comprised of a white suit, white shirt and white shoes. The outfit was contrasted by a black string tie pulled loosely around his collar and an expensive, ornate cane that was useless, except as a prop. A stream of ugly, gray smoke curled from between the yellowed teeth that clinched a long, fat cigar.

“I’ll decide what’s useless and what isn’t,” the judge snapped. And there’s no smoking in this courtroom. Get rid of the cigar.”

The old man’s chest rose in defiance. “I object, Your Honor.”

“Object all you want, but if the cigar isn’t out in five seconds, you’ll be smoking in jail.”

The old man’s eyes narrowed and he gave the judge the same look of contempt he had previously served on the young attorney, but the cigar was extinguished…slowly…and with an attitude.

The judge picked up a piece of paper and began reading from it. “The defendant, Radio & Records, is accused of killing Top Forty Radio.” He looked at the old man over the top edge of the paper. “How do you plead?”

A large, red pay slammed down on the defense table. “Not guilty, of course.” The big voice rolled around the courtroom like a clap of thunder.

Behind the Plaintiff’s desk, the young attorney seemed bored with the proceedings. His feet rested casually on the table top as he absently filed his fingernails. The posturing of the defense attorney was wasted on him.

“Then we can begin,” the judge said. He looked at the Plaintiff. “Go ahead and state your case.”

“The case has been stated in past issues of The Network Forty magazine, Your Honor. Radio & Records, through their restrictive reporting policies, has continually forced radio stations to define their format based on characteristics set forth by Radio & Records, not by the radio stations, their peers or the industry itself. These restrictions are arbitrary, ever-changing and whimsical.”

“I object,” the Defense attorney roared.

“Hell, so do we,” the young attorney grinned. “We in radio have been objecting for years, but to no avail. Radio & Records has become obscenely self-important and cares about as much for the wishes of radio as does the Arbitron rating service.”

“You’re comparing Radio & Records with Arbitron?” the old man wheezed.

The attorney for the Plaintiff shrugged. “Both set up rules, determine policies and impose strict guidelines with little, if any, regard for radio’s needs But let’s save Arbitron for another trial and keep the focus on Radio & Records.”

“Continue with your case,” the judge said.

Another shrug from the Plaintiff’s table. “This is really and open-and-shut case, Your Honor. Twelve years ago, Radio & Records, without asking, redefined all Top Forty radio stations as CHRs. R&R invented the term and forced all radio stations to comply.”

A gasp came from the courtroom. The judge banged his gavel and called for order.

“So,” continued the attorney for the Plantiffs, “by their own admission, R&R killed Top Forty.”

The judge nodded and looked toward the defense table. “Do you have anything to say?”

The old man shook his head and said, “Not at this time, Your Honor.”

But that’s not all. R&R killed the term, Top Forty, and they’ve continued to require that reporting radio stations strictly comply with arbitrary restrictions that cause the format, whether named Top Forty or CHR, to be in jeopardy. R&R’s antiquated policies and rules are designed primarily to perpetuate their power. If stations don’t comply with these rules, they’ll be banished from their reporting status. The rules are changed constantly and stations are listed and delisted by mere whimsy. No one is ever sure what is required to be a reporter because the criteria shifts almost from week-to-week.”

“Your Honor,” the old man said as he rose from behind the table, “this is ridiculous.”

“Again, we agree, Your Honor,” nodded the attorney for the Plaintiff, “but up until now, radio had no recourse. To be allowed into the game, you had to play by R&R’s restrictive rules.”

“It is our game,” the attorney for the Defense shouted in outrage. “Of course you must play by our rules.”

“And that part, Your Honor, is the most galling part.” The Plaintiff’s attorney signed deeply. “R&R doesn’t consult the radio or record industry for input when it makes changes. It does so be divine right. The decisions are made by those at R&R who have no expertise in the very industry they claim to represent.”

“That’s absurd,” shouted the opposing council.

The young man threw up his hands. “Again, we’re forced to agree. It is absurd that R&R doesn’t have the expertise to make suggestions to the industry. Those in power are too far removed from the current reality of radio to respond to its needs. If truth be told, they never had that expertise.”

The old man grinned a “canary-eating-grin” and sat down. “We’ve got you now,” he mumbled under his breath.

“Is that all?” the judge asked.

The young attorney nodded. “That’s it, Your Honor.” We accuse R&R of killing Top Forty by arbitrarily changing the name. We also further accuse R&R of choking the format through restrictive rules and policies. And these rules are made by people who have no relevant expertise.”

The judge hesitated for a moment. “Do you have anything else?”

The young attorney sat down. “No, Your Honor. The Plaintiff rests.”

The judge shifted to stare at the Defense table. “Do you have any rebuttal witnesses?”

“Only one,” the old man smiled. “The defense calls Joel Denver.”

The young attorney was immediately on his feet. “For what reason?”

Another superior smile cracked the old attorney’s features. “We’re calling Mr. Denver as an expert witness.”

The young man sat down in his chair. “We object, Your Honor.”

“On what grounds?” the old man raved.

“It’s been over a decade since he’s had any experience in radio. He’s totally out of touch with today’s radio. Joel Denver is not qualified as an expert.”

“That’s balderdash,” the old man roared. “Joel Denver programmed 96X in Miami, KSLQ in St. Louis and KCBQ in San Diego.”

“Successfully?” the young man asked.

The judge jumped in. “What are you getting at?”

“The Plaintiffs will admit that Joel Denver was a good music director at WFIL in Philadelphia years ago when it still played music. However, we’re not ready to accept him as an expert based on his total lack of experience as a program director over the past 15 years.”


The young attorney walked across the courtroom and looked up at the judge. “For several reasons, Your Honor, the most obvious of which is that he hasn’t programmed a station in over a decade. Would you trust the diagnosis of a doctor who hasn’t practiced medicine for the same period of time?”

The older attorney nervously adjusted the string tie and ran a finger around his collar.

The judge returned his attention to the Defense table. “How do you respond to this?”

The old man cleared his throat and stuttered. “Ah, well, Your Honor, ah we…”

“Do you still want to call the man as an expert?”

The old man through about it for a few seconds, then his shoulders slumped in defeat. “No, Your Honor,” he said softly.

The courtroom “oooed and ahhhed.” Two gave “high fives” and another shouted, “He shoots, he scores!” From the back came the sound, “Bing!”

The judge rolled his eyes.

“We’re willing to accept the witness on a limited field of testimony, Your Honor,” the young attorney added. “We would like to ask some questions about Future Hits.”

The judge held up his hand. “You can save those inquiries for another time.”

The attorney for the Plaintiff made a note on the pad in front of him. “We’ll do that, Your Honor.”

“Let’s move along,” the judge said. “Would the Defense like to present other witnesses to the court?”

The old man took a deep breath and sadly shook his head. “No, Your Honor. The Defense rests.”

The judge banged down the gavel. “Court is dismissed.”