Posts Tagged ‘radio’

Irony & Ecstacy

I was running errands this weekend and listening to the audiobook of Michael Chabon’s “Manhood For Amateurs” when I was surprised to hear Chabon talking about KFRC-FM, San Francisco and how its format change which essentially eliminated the Motown-British Invasion-Beach Boys music from the station’s playlist had affected him.

Chabon pointed out that most of the songs which he listened to on KFRC were already on his iPod but he observed that his reaction to the music in that context just wasn’t the same. “No medium is so sensuously evocative of the past as radio.”

That particular observation caused a low-level ecstatic reaction within my soul since the majority of my career has been invested in radio broadcasting. The irony, of course, is that I wasn’t listening to the radio in my car. I was listening to an audiobook which was talking about the radio listening experience.

But the real surprise for me was when Chabon mentioned that, while living in the Washington, DC area in 1972, his mother’s favorite radio station was WMOD-FM (“Stereo Gold”). I was an “on-air talent” on WMOD, (OK, a “DJ”) at the time.

In this chapter of “Manhood For Amateurs”, Chabon talks about how he listens to music radio virtually every day and about how that experience impacts his life.

For some reason, I feel grateful


Conversations I’d Prefer To Avoid Over Breakfast

On weekday mornings during the school year, my teenage daughter and I are in the car between 6:30-7AM when I drive her to meet her school’s shuttle bus. While she’s struggling to gain consciousness, we’ll usually punch back and forth between the two CHR (aka “Top 40”) stations in the market. The morning team on one of those stations is locally based while the morning show on the other is The Elvis Duran Show which is syndicated by Clear Channel out of New York City.

One recent morning at about 6:45, my daughter had punched out of the commercial break airing on the local show over to Duran’s show where Elvis and his crew were interviewing Doctor Oz. I’m not familiar with Doctor Oz but gather that he’s buddies with Oprah,has both TV and radio shows,and apparently has a strong following.

In any case, the next thing I heard coming through the car’s radio speakers at 6:45AM was Doctor Oz explaining to Elvis Duran how Chlamydia and other STDs can be transmitted by oral sex.

Elvis and his colleagues then proceeded to share their opinions and experiences with sexual encounters of the oral variety but my finger had already pushed the button. Really. Not a conversation on which I’m interested in eavesdropping with my 16 year old daughter at any time of the day and especially not during breakfast time.

Look, I understand that our kids are exposed to sex education in elementary school and that they’re probably a lot more sophisticated in their knowledge of human sexuality than we were at their age just as we were more sophisticated than our parents when we were in our teens. Nevertheless, I have noticed a disconcerting trend on the morning drive shows of allegedly family-friendly radio stations to use language and venture into topical territory which seems inappropriate for the early adolescent and prepubescent crowd.

The term “ass” as in I’m going to kick yours is a common term heard during these shows. I’m not sure why. Is it to make the talent sound more authentic, real, or “street”? I suspect that most parents who might use that term in conversation with their friends and colleagues would feel uncomfortable using it in front of their young kids.

Other terms that I’ve heard pop up during conversation on radio morning drive shows include: penis, vagina, camel toe, and BJ. Although these terms obviously provide some “titter” entertainment value for immature audiences (Excuse the pun but I couldn’t resist), I’m not sure that their use helps the radio station in its quest to attract and maintain listenership among the 25-49 year old female cohort that advertisers covet.

As a radio programmer, I’ve certainly had to deal with my share of calls from parents who were offended by a song lyric or something a DJ said while they were listening to my station in the presence of their young children even though it’s doubtful that those children a) noticed the transgression or b)comprehended its meaning. The most important issue was that the adult felt uncomfortable with these words or topics while the children were present. This was true even if the parent would feel comfortable using this language or discussing these topics when the kids aren’t around.

I also recall seeing some research stating that even young adult females who aren’t mothers feel uncomfortable hearing inappropriate language and/or topics discussed when children are present.

Oral sex with your Cheerios? [ Insert your own punchline here].

Buzz4Boomers March 17,2011

In a recent blog, radio consultant Fred Jacobs notes that advertising agencies may finally be readjusting their thinking about the value of consumers aged 55-64 year old.

“The demographic targets may finally be reacting to the Baby Boom generation. If that sounds totally counter-intuitive, the fact is that agencies essentially stopped thinking once they cemented the 25-54 target in place more than two decades ago.

The Boomer train continues to move, and those over 55 are abundant and a whole lot different than fiftysomethings of just a generation or two ago.

As David Poltrack, head research maven for CBS, points out in a recent Hollywood Reporter article, “The fact is an affluent 58-year-old is certainly more valuable than a 22-year-old who is just getting by.”
As TV demos age – the primetime average is now 51 – there’s a certain logic to advertising targets aging with them. As the Hollywood Reporter notes,Tom Selleck and Kathy Bates are winning in prime, while Classic Rocker Steven Tyler is reinventing American Idol.”


I remember having conversations with agencies about older consumers back in the early 1980s. Historically, the agencies used young adults in their early 20s to make decisions about the value of older consumers and there was a tendency to attribute irrelevant information about the buying habits of previous generations to modern consumers. Thirty years later, now that those 20-somethings are now 50-somethings, it’s nice to see that agency thinking is starting to change.

You can read Fred Jacobs excellent blogs at

Supporting New Zealand, Skype Improvments & More!

Here’s some information that I thought you’d find useful or at least interesting:

BrandSavant, Tom Webster tells us that some radio friends in New Zealand are asking for our help. They’re not looking for monetary donations but are instead asking that we send voice messages of encouragement and support which they can play over the air to help boost the spirits of their countrymen as they cope with the devastation caused by last week’s earthquake.

All you need to do is record a quick MP3 file that gives your name, where you are from, and a short (5-10 seconds) message of hope, to tell the people of New Zealand that we are thinking of them during this very dark time. Please email those .MP3 files to Tom at a special email address he’s set up at : Tom will make sure he gets them, and that your voices ring out across the Land Of The Long White Cloud.

Skype simplifies cheap overseas calling from any phone.

Linkedin Tool Visualizes Profile Updates in Your Network

How music can boost your immune system

All Worked Up

Just so you’ll know, I’m not employed by a radio station nor an individual or company which owns radio stations, I am not related to anyone who works in radio, and I’m not a shareholder in any company which owns radio stations. Although many years of my career were spent in radio, I am not a water bearer for any company which owns music-oriented broadcast radio stations.

That said, I find AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka’s remarks at a recent musicFIRST Coalition press conference on Capitol Hill pretty offensive.
Trumka said: “The reckless greed that drives Wall Street is the same as the unconscionable greed that drives the handful of conglomerate corporate radio executives that control 75 percent of our nation’s radio stations. If you care about music, if you care about the right of Americans to get paid for their work, if you care about doing what is right, be a part of the good fight for our performing brothers and sisters.”

“The unconscionable greed that drive the handful of conglomerate corporate radio executives that control 75% of our nation’s radio stations”? Nice rhetoric, Mr.Trumpka but what about the unconscionable greed that drives the handful of foreign-based record companies that abuse their relationships with their artists?

Lets review some facts. There are a little over 11,000 commercially licensed radio stations in America. Around 20%, of those facilities are owned by companies which control 100 or more stations. Clear Channel’s controls 11% and the remaining 9% is split up among 7 or 8 other companies. In other words, 80% of American broadcast stations aren’t owned by companies which Rich Trumka and musicFIRST could describe as “conglomerate corporate radio”.

Chairman of the House Labor and Education Committee, George Miller (D-CA) said: “The important thing to remember is this: Passage of the Performance Rights Act will stop corporate radio from continuing to exploit the labor of working Americans – Americans who spend decades passionately honing their craft to produce works that resonate with our inner angels.”

Chairman Miller appears unaware that these radio stations which he accuses of exploiting musicians are actually investing millions of dollars in air time to promote the careers of musicians and providing FREE commercials by exposing those artists’ music to the audiences that these stations have invested millions of their marketing dollars to aggregate.

At this point, some reader will ask: “But don’t those radio stations limit the number of artists and songs that they play and isn’t that unfair?”

The stations limit the number of artists and songs that they play based on what their listeners want to hear. Research has shown that most radio listeners prefer a limited number of songs on a station’s playlist. The particular songs may change over time but the aggregate number of songs remains relatively constant. It’s even been noted that iPod and Pandora users eventually limit their playlists after their initial enthusiasm for discovery wanes.

Although I’m no longer involved with the radio industry, I did spend many years programming stations and being “worked” by record industry representatives to increase exposure on those songs which were most important to their labels. Increased exposure meant and still means increased revenues for the foreign-owned record companies who are, to quote Chairman Miller, “continuing to exploit the labor of working Americans.”

Resolving The Radio/ RIAA Impasse

In his blog today, Jerry Del Colliano offers his solution to the radio/RIAA Performance Rights Act standoff:

“1.Agree upon a very, very small fee for radio stations and guarantee the rate for the next seven years. Of course, you’ll never get the seven years but start low and give an increase — a small one — at one or two points along the way.

2. Local, independent operators (mom and pops), the real heart of local radio, should be totally exempt from any fees. I believe this can be negotiated in. Local operators are helping their communities and local and regional economies, they deserve a break. This is the strongest argument for local radio — where local radio actually exists — and this is the workaround.

3. Radio groups operating under 30 total stations should get an additional break no matter what market they are in because 30 stations constitutes a small group by today’s consolidated radio numbers. The number 30 can be 40, or 50 — it’s negotiable.

4. Large consolidators like Clear Channel, Citadel, Cumulus and others should pay the highest fee — but even that should be comparably low. Remember, the music industry just wants to get rid of the performance exemption so it can raise these percentages as soon as possible. Their compromise might have to be accepting pennies on the dollar for the first seven years.

5. This is a must and only a fool would knowingly agree to pay additional music royalty taxes for terrestrial radio without it. Radio stations would be exempt from paying these charges for their podcasting or online streaming of programming that is separate and apart from their terrestrial radio signal. The future is mobile Internet and as a result, this is the concession that radio operators need to get a leg up on the new frontier. The radio industry can argue, okay — you get some music royalties for terrestrial radio under certain circumstances but you give us music in this new space for free while we take the next seven years to build the podcasting and mobile and streaming businesses. It will be worth even more to you when we use our know-how to build these platforms and you can get a royalty on them as well later.”

You can read Jerry’s full blog at

musicFIRST Misleads Again

musicFIRST is at it again.

Yesterday, Dionne Warwick was in Washington trying to persuade Congress to pass the Performance Rights Act. According to Dionne, “This is a critical issue for not only those of us who have made music our careers, but for those who are trying to make a name for themselves in the business. Performers from every genre of music should be fairly compensated for their art. Thus far, radio is the only medium that fails to provide artists with fair compensation for the use of their music and we feel it is time for radio companies to join Satellite, Internet, and Cable music distributors in giving musical artists what they have worked so hard to earn.

I’m sorry, Dionne but could we review your tax records for the past 45 years? I would suspect that a lot of money has flowed into your personal account primarily because of the FREE exposure and promotion you received from radio stations playing your songs in high rotations and on-air personalities reinforcing your brand by praising your talent. I’m sure that your contract with your record labels was designed more in their best interest than yours but that’s not radio’s fault. What all that FREE exposure on radio did for you, however, was increase audience awareness of your talent, increase your TV exposure, increase demand for your live performances and increase the fees you could demand for those performances. Seems to me that you profited nicely from all that FREE exposure.

And before someone posts the same lame comment about radio gets free use of our airwaves and we the people own the airwaves, it would be useful to remember that radio stations are granted short-term licenses to access those airwaves with the promise to operate in the public “interest, convenience and necessity”. Then, companies must invest millions of dollars in order to build their facilities, purchase the equipment, pay the electric bills (which can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year), pay the personnel (on-air staff, engineers, support staff, sales people, management), pay a large
percentage of gross advertising revenues to music rights companies (BMI, ASCAP, SESAC) and pay local, state and federal taxes. If times are good and the station does a good job of serving its listeners, it can earn a nice profit. If times are tight, it can lose money even if it’s doing a good job of serving its audience. So, saying that radio gets “free” use of our airwaves is a bit misleading.

It amazes me that the artists who support musicFIRST’s efforts don’t understand that if the RIAA gets its way and forces radio to start paying for the right to play songs then fewer stations will choose to continue playing music and those stations that do continue to play music will become more selective about what they play. If a station is paying for songs, its budget will dictate that it choose the most cost-effective tunes which will be obvious hits by artists with established track records. Consequently, playlists will become even tighter. I’m not sure that’s the goal that the musicians supporting musicFIRST are trying to accomplish.