Saturday, July 21, 2007


The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

New York columnist Jimmy Breslin wrote the book in the late sixties about some not-so-wise guys loosely based on mobster Joey Gallo and his gang. The movie version came out a couple of years later, launching the careers of Robert DeNiro and Jerry Orbach.

Gallo? He checked out when he took five to chest at his 43rd birthday dinner at Umberto’s in New York’s Little Italy in 1972.

For nearly forty years The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight's been linked to Gallo. But now that title’s up for grabs.

Who are the contenders? Too many too name.

Let’s start with a couple.There’s Mitch Bainwol and his pit of serpents of the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA). They’re incapable of delivering a direct aim. Given the opportunity, they’ll always opt for jackboot tactics.

How about their illegal downloading law suit against Tanya Anderson, the handicapped 44-year old African-American single mother from Oregon? When the RIAA was proven wrong, they sheepishly dropped the law suit and claimed it was an honest mistake. Facts schmacts.

But Anderson didn’t acquiesce and now she’s countersuing the RIAA for Oregon RICO violations, fraud, invasion of privacy, abuse of process, electronic trespass, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, negligent misrepresentation, the tort of "outrage", and deceptive business practices. Her counterclaim also demands a trial by jury. Can’t wait for that one.

One of the stunts the RIAA pulled was calling her eight-year old daughter’s elementary school, claiming to be her grandmother. I hope there’s tape.

Imagine Bainwol asking his RIAA minions, “Which one of youse guys can do a convincing granny voice?”

Is it just me or is there something really creepy about this organization trying to set up an eight-year old kid?

Then there’s that illegal downloading lawsuit the RIAA filed against Deborah Foster of Oklahoma City. When she denied involvement, the RIAA expanded their complaint to her daughter, Amanda. Since she didn’t defend herself, the RIAA won a judgment against her by default.

It didn’t end there. When the RIAA refused to stop harassing Foster she got influential lawyers involved. Since then, U.S. District Judge Lee West dismissed the law suit against Foster and ordered the RIAA to pay Foster nearly $70,000 in legal fees.

No great loss. The labels represented by the RIAA easily blow $70K a day on expenses, which they charge against artist royalties. Breakfast’s on Bon Jovi, lunch is charged to Linkin Park, and dinner’s covered by Nelly Furtado.

On Thursday, the RIAA made more lawyers wealthy by sending pre-litigation statements to 23 universities in their effort to quell illegal music file sharing on college campuses. It gives students opportunities to resolve copyright infringement claims at a discounted rate before formal law suits are issued. That’s called a dollar chasing a dime.

There’s more.

Negotiations between SoundExchange, the collection wing of the RIAA and Internet radio, represented by the Digital Media Association (DiMA) are dead in the water. The RIAA believes the definition of “negotiation” is that opponents must nod heads and say in unison, “Anything you want, sir!”

I doubt that Congress will run interference much longer, which is what the RIAA is counting on. And if they do anything of substance – by the time they get to it, we’ll be talking off-shore.

Our next candidate for The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight slogan goes to – you guessed it - Clear Channel Communications.

They’ve been straight with absolutely no one.

Clear Channel’s a great example of an imperial overstretch that was predestined for ruin and disgrace.

First, there’s the recent incident in the Cleveland market.

John Lanigan has been a fixture on morning drive since 1972 – and for most of that time he’s dominated the top spot in both ratings and revenue.

A couple of weeks ago Lanigan started hearing from friends and listeners who had qualified to take part in a phone survey about local radio.

Among the questions:

“Would you listen to WMJI if Lanigan wasn’t on?”

“Would you listen to Lanigan if he was on another station in afternoons?”

“Would you listen to (co-host) Jimmy Malone and (news director) Chip Kullik if Lanigan wasn’t on the show?”

“Would you listen to WMJI in the morning if Jimmy Malone wasn’t on the show?”

Lanigan put the callers on-air, which, in turn, spawned comments from listeners appalled by Clear Channel’s latest fiasco.

I heard that the pampered poodle spent that day locked in his office, hiding under his desk.

At least Lanigan, Malone, and Kullik know the ID of their future assassin.

The real slaughter isn’t in Fallujah, it’s taking place at Clear Channel.

They did another round of management whacks this past week. And, as usual, they did 'em with such class.

Betcha didn’t know that they even categorize them by name.

Here’s one’s called the Fredo Corleone maneuver.

Let’s drop in on Clear Channel radio’s Minneapolis manager. He’s on a fishing vacation with one of his top clients. He’s gets an emergency call. The voice on the other end of the line tells him that the fish aren’t the only ones getting the hook.

Wonder how many “sleeps with the fishes” jokes were conjured up by the brass in ol' San Antone?

Clear Channel’s done more whacks than Lizzie Borden.

Moving right along.

You have to admire their consistency as a company comprised of scofflaws when it comes to the rules and regulations.

Remember that mea culpa Clear Channel promised after then-New York state attorney general Elliot Spitzer’s office and others connected the dots and followed the e-mail trail on the company’s pay-for-play schemes?

Among the many promises the company made to the NYAG’s office and the FCC was that they would make every effort to expose new material on independent labels to create a level playing field for all artists and labels.

Clear Channel set up an on-line application for local, independent, and unsigned artists to submit music for airplay and promised to dedicate 1,600 hours of the programming dedicated to this genre.

Here’s the catch.

The requirements included a licensing agreement, where the artist had to relinquish all digital recording rights to Clear Channel. They could've said it in three words: We own you.

Clear Channel created the digital version of Lou Pearlman.

Its airplay scheme, which like pay-for-play, provided airplay consideration to only acts willing to sign away all rights to Clear Channel.

There is no honor among thieves, or Clear Channel, but I repeat myself.

When the non-profit Future of Music Coalition picked up on Clear Channel’s latest penny-bending vig and took it to the FCC, the boys from San Antonio quickly backed down, claiming (cue the violins) that they never intended to harm independent artists.

You can’t fault Clear Channel. They were sidetracked by another one of their revenue generating schemes. You know the one about e-mailing prospects on receiving $30 million from a deposed Nigerian diplomat.

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

The title’s up for grabs and we’ve only covered the first two candidates. Believe me, there’s more where they came from. Lots more.


Reston said...

I heard Lanigan talking about this on the air. How dumb can Clear Channel be!

Anonymous said...

I would NEVER listen to WMJI without Lanigan. When I was starting out in radio in the late 70's, he was one of two that actually took some time to talk to me and advise me on some points. The other was at WKDD when they had their "Mellow Rock" format. Both provided valuable assistance in what to expect. Even though I'm out of radio now {but wouldn't mind getting back into it once some true broadcasting type people take back the stations instead of the money grubbers}, I still remember how kind the were to me and will always appreciate it.

John Hawkes said...

You missed this one. Instead of the Gang that couldn't shoot straight you should have borrowed the name of the band Fun Loving Criminals because that is the true definition of Clear Channel and the RIAA. Both are blatant thieves who think alike and act alike. No one is listening to the radio. No one is buying CDs. It's over. The world changed you didn't change with it.

Anonymous said...

Why hasn't the DOJ investigated both the RIAA and Clear Channel?

Anonymous said...

Because birds of a feather flock together. Same as snakes don't eat their own.

Anonymous said...

I would pick the RIAA because they may be around a little longer than Clear Channel. Then again you never know.

Anonymous said...

Clear Channel deserves the slogan

Anonymous said...

The village blacksmith analogy applies so well. I was still in radio at the time when our company told shareholders and employees that radio was something that people HAD to listen to and were a captive audience to in cars. That was also the excuse for the beginning of downsizing and voice tracking. Now they are tyring to discredit satellite radio. You may be right about internet radio. They may survive on contributions instead of advertising.

Anonymous said...

I used to listen for a short time. With all of the spineless comments from Kullik, and Lanigans non stop commercials, it became painful to continue. Especially after meeting Kullik, he seemed so full of himself yet quite submissive to his girlfriend's orders!
It was so funny to watch, tough guy on the air,pet Gimp at banquets!

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