Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Coot: Planned Obsoledge

Like a moth to the klieg lights, the Coot is ready to dazzle the dorks, as it were.

The big one for the Coot is his Bedroom Project, which he’ll unveil on video tomorrow at the NAB.

Instead of that creepy name that no one likes how about telling it like it is….call it your annual hackapalooza.

No, that’s not hack as in computers. It’s the other definition, thank you.

All jokes aside, what revelation will the spinmeister’s study reveal?

That kids are competitive with video games? Does that mean kids weren’t competitive before video games?

That you have all of these other diversions…iPods, YouTube, MySpace, and more blah, blah, woof, woof that take away from radio listening?

That excuse is getting a little old and in the way.

He’ll tell you that the Halo video game outsold any rock album this week though he may backpedal on that statement if he reads this blog prior his dog and pony show tomorrow.

Tell us something we don't know, sir.

I have a question.

Why didn’t the Coot's consultancy set up promotions with Halo for his clients well in advance of its release? Maybe he’ll say Mountain Dew, which is doing a promotion with the video game, beat him to it? Maybe not.

Next question.

So why didn’t he set up a promotional tie-in including Mountain Dew and get a time buy out of it for his clients?

What’s in it for the Coot? He’s already getting his checks in the mail.

He had – what – a year or more to set this up for his clients?

I expect him to trot out every cliche in his How to be a Consultant playbook.

The only thing genuine will be the excuses.

Face facts.

Radio didn’t lose to new media – it drove listeners to it. Radio, thinking in the past instead of the future thanks in part to the Coot and others in his image, lost touch with its audience.

How about the Coot's remodeling of the alternative rock format? He turned it into an active rock format that didn’t play classic rock artists – but his currents were nearly identical. He called it the Edge, convinced that his version was a wedge between classic rock and active rock.

He can take credit for one thing. Killing that format. Today most alternative rockers hover around the one and two shares and deserve those numbers. Among his countless errors was to eliminate nearly all female artists and any music that didn’t sound like his active rock hits; what few there were.

Perhaps the Coot will tell you radio stations need to intensify their marketing and promotion. What he won’t tell you is that radio stations have to improve their programming – and get it back on track – before you invite potential listeners to listen.

He’ll say radio needs “buzz.” It has to do things to get the masses talking about it again.

And that comes from a company supplying active and alt-rock playlists that scream, “The masses are asses.”

One problem. Even asses know when they’re getting kicked.

Sense a pattern here?

Alvin Toffler calls it “obsoledge,” that’s short for obsolete knowledge.

Time for a new strategy. How many times can the Coot suggest a scheme that ends up catastrophic for his clients and blame someone else for his – ahem - guidance?

Is it my imagination or has he taken on the appearance of a crumbling soul trying to put it back together for one final breath?

People aren’t born drained and trodden, they get that way. It’s self affliction.

And let us not forget the Coot's other dog and pony show - his PPM analysis.

He’ll tell you the good news is that unlike diaries, the PPM provides instant response to format changes.

He may even tell you how the PPM showed his consulted station in Philly getting its ass kicked in just a matter of weeks by a new Clear Channel start up no less, but he’ll phrase it differently.

Wonder if he’ll mention WYSP going back to rock. That one has to burn him. He used love taking credit for that station’s success. When they went Free-FM, the Coot successfully peddled himself across the street at WMMR and took credit for improved numbers at the only rock station in town.

Now WYSP is back to haunt him. True, they don’t have Howard but they're back and rockin' and there’s that pesky WRFF. If you get the opportunity raise your hand and ask him how he plans to get out of his new Philly freeze.

Chances are the Coot will bypass the question, claiming there’s a bigger picture to consider…blah, blah, woof, woof.

He’s like a politician on one of those Sunday morning public affairs shows. Ever notice how they – both Democrats and Republicans - never answer the question they’re asked?

Maybe he should run for mayor of Southfield.

Or replace Fumbles at the NAB.

My guess is that he’ll say the jury’s still out on how to read and react to a PPM’s survey results. He’ll give it a name: logical time reaction or something like that.

React. I never really liked that word. I prefer act.

That’s his dillema. Successful programmers need to be futurists –able to spot trends and be fully plugged in to popular culture.

But if you had a programmer like that you wouldn’t need the Coot.

If radio is killing itself with friendly fire is he supplying the bullets?

I hate to throw cold water on his answer. Success is achieved by planning for a year down the road, not just for a quarter. Ask Steve Jobs, the guy the Coot like to compare himself to. He’s already planned his campaign for what he's putting out a year from now.

Next question.

How could he help bring the Loop and Q101 to such dangerously low numbers? And isn’t Q101 the station that did the programming “on shuffle” promotion?

How quickly we don’t forget.

He’ll bypass the question, claiming…..oh, I said that already.

I don't like repeating myself. That his style.

And on and on and on.

The Coot would get more bang for his buck and more exposure for his consultancy if he sponsored wide screens set up throughout the convention center and adjacent hotels so everyone can watch the HD Radio hour QVC Wednesday night.

Well, maybe not.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Half Dead Radio

You’re Peter Ferrara, president and CEO of the HD Digital Radio Alliance and you put out a press release yesterday, which read HD Digital Radio Momentum Accelerates With Debut on QVC.

You read right. QVC.

That’s where you go when you get rejected by HSN.

QVC = sloppy seconds.

This is the same QVC that was charged with making deceptive claims about weight loss products it was hawking by the Federal Trade Commission. The Justice Department also filed suit against QVC for falsifying those claims.

What’s the QVC business plan? Dazzle the rubes to separate them from their cash.

And how about that? It’s identical to the HD Radio Alliance’s!

Back to the highlights of the press release:

The HD Digital Radio Alliance, a joint initiative of leading broadcasters to accelerate the rollout of HD Digital Radio, announced today that three popular HD Radio receiver models will premiere on QVC, Wednesday, September 26 at 10 PM (ET).

It’s the start of the fall season on the TV networks and PBS debuts the heavily promoted Ken Burns’ World War II series. And, let’s see, 10 PM, it’ll be opposite the new season premiere of CSI-Miami and two heavily-hyped new series debuts, Life and Dirty Sexy Money. Plus you’ll have at least a couple of stations doing their local 10 PM newscasts. Then there’s cable. And sports. Not sure where QVC ends up in the pecking order.

The QVC show will feature state-of-the-art HD Radio receivers to suit a variety of styles and budgets.

I don’t believe anyone has budgeted for an HD Radio in the real world.

Such a shame because the product is such a paragon of quality.

That’s a joke, Peter.

In conjunction with the QVC offer, the HD Digital Radio Alliance will promote the upcoming HD Radio show on QVC with a national radio advertising campaign reaching 100 markets.

We’ve experienced the effectiveness of your previous HD Radio ad campaigns, Peter.

I’m kind of partial to the HD Radio-BMW promo tie-in, which I heard as the final element in a particularly long spot cluster the other day. It inspired me to call a friend at a BMW dealership.

“What’s HD Radio?” That’s what he said.

When I told him about the promo he said, “Oh, yeah…that! We're offering it as a $500 option on the Year Seven series – but there’s far more interest in satellite radio – and we’re getting asked a lot about those iPod docking stations.”

Peter, I feel for you. I'm sure there are days when feel like pulling your hair out – then you realize that you’ve already done that.

"QVC provides a unique retail at-home environment that is ideal for helping even more consumers discover the cool new content and crystal clear sound provided by HD Digital Radio," said Peter Ferrara, president and CEO of the HD Digital Radio Alliance. "When QVC shoppers see the wide variety of stylish HD Radio receivers and discover the benefits, they are going to want to experience the digital upgrade immediately."

Peter, you need some new material. It’s stale and misleading.

Who do you think you are?

Conrad Black?

Johnny Rigas?

Don't send Ferrara The Blackwell Guide to Business Ethics as a Christmas present. It would only confuse him with the facts.

My guess is that those few viewers you may get during your HD Radio snake oil sales hour will be waiting for your pitch to end and Joan Rivers’ artificial overpriced baubles sale to begin.

Peter, the phone didn’t ring. It must be all the American people interested in HD Radio.

What’s the pitch?

HD Radio is just like HD TV without the picture?

HD Radio broadcasting is sweeping the country, available to over 80 percent of the population. More than 1,500 AM/FM stations are currently offering subscription free digital content, including more than 600 HD2 multicast stations offering unique formats and content. All a consumer needs is a new HD Radio receiver; the content is free. The radios are priced for everyone from under $100 from major mass-market retailers across the U.S. Virtually everyone can experience the crystal-clear digital sound on AM and FM as well as the broadcast-exclusive new FM channels.

Just because it’s available to 80 percent of the population doesn’t mean anyone wants it.

Crystal clear digital sound? Those side channels I’ve heard sound like a poorly processed FM – that is, when you can pick up those side channels.

Exciting formats? Is there something I don’t know?

Can’t wait to see how you botch AM radio.

I did learn that in HD Radio’s case QVC is a destination station.

It’s where you go when the HD Radio campaigns at Radio Shack, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart crash – or in your case, Peter, failed to launch.

I checked back at both Wal-Mart and Best Buy this week.

Hadn’t been there since just before Father’s Day when the clerks – who were in your target demo - didn’t have clue about what I was talking about and directed me to the HD TVs and satellite radio displays.

Guess what? Wal-Mart and Best Buy?

Neither store has them, knows of them, or had any inquiries about them.

So, Peter. Where are they?

Shouldn't you and Ibiquity be doing a major marketing and promotional roll-up to the Christmas shopping season?

Oh, that’s right. You are.

And Radio Shack? They said “turn off the…..” what? “And come to…." where?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Radio: Fumbles’ Fractured Follies

NAB Chairman David Rehr doesn’t need a repeat of last week’s fumbles and turnovers.

How does it feel to be known as the guy who always pulls defeat out of the jaws of victory?

He may look like David Johansen but he has the luck of Charlie Brown.

Let’s be nice and call the NAB Chairman formerly known as David Rehr: “Fumbles.”

Most in media believe the XM-Sirius merger is a done deal and though the Justice Department’s between three and seven weeks from a decision - Wall Street’s posturing like its already in the can.

XM and Sirius hired an independent third party study of who stays and who goes when the merger is completed. They have to ID those assured “hundreds of millions of dollars in savings.” They're moving forward while Fumbles remains frozen in time.

None of this is good news for the NAB and, as we know from past performance, when the pressure’s on – Fumbles write letters. That’s his m.o.

He sent a “Dear John” to John Simpson, executive director of the RIAA’s SoundExchange division, replying to a “Dear Fumbles” from Simpson a day earlier. In it he expressed “extreme disappointment” in waiting more than three months for a reply to his letter regarding the Internet radio royalty dispute and the proposed royalty “tax” on music played on terrestrial radio.

In a week when everything was going south for Fumbles, it was capped by the arrival of Simpson’s letter, which politely told him to pound salt and provided detailed instructions on where he could stick his proposal.

“The NAB proposal was designed to resolve the very serious issue of the harmful Copyright Royalty Board rate increases,” Fumbles wrote. “Your letter comes over three months after our initial meeting, and the brief response mischaracterizes the offer made on June 6, indicating a lack of understanding with what we presented. NAB participants left the June 6 meeting with the feeling that you understood the proposal and that you would represent it to the SoundExchange board. Certainly, if asked, we would have promptly responded to any questions or need for clarification."

Whining is not becoming of a NAB leader.

It gets worse. He wimped out in his close, “Your letter suggests that a next step may be for NAB and SoundExchange to sit down at our earliest convenience. We have awaited that opportunity since June 6. NAB is happy to host any members of the SoundExchange board to ensure that our good faith proposal is fully understood and considered."

Come on, Fumbles. Wait at least a month or two or, preferably, three to respond. Show them the same respect they’re showing you. Those too eager are too easy. Meet with them at our convenience? How about saying “at my convenience” – and meaning it?

You’ve got to get tough! You’re dealing with the music business. Some of these labels are run by ruthless thugs that deem their artists indentured servants and those are the good ones.

SoundExchange is creating new revenue streams for the RIAA and the labels it represents and identified radio – and you - as an easy mark. You’re dealing with an organization best defined as the labels’ goon squad.

Grow a pair and get a backbone transplant or you’ll end up losing another one that you were supposed to win.

A week ago Fumbles summoned his loyal foot soldier and Joint Board chair Jack Sander to do the tough talking for him at the Media Institute’s bash in DC. His assignment was to make a plea to keep terrestrial radio royalty free.

Sander did the usual blah blah woof woof: music shouldn’t be taxed – and that the NAB is “confident that the majority of American people are on our side.”


The American people are on your side?

They aren’t on anyone’s side. They don’t know about this – and if they did, given the state of radio over the past decade, do you think they’d care?

I haven’t locked myself in a room with eight televisions turned to every newscast to monitor coverage on this issue – but, I’ll tell you, for an organization that’s supposed to serve broadcasters – I haven’t seen nor heard a single mention of this on anyone’s air – TV or radio. And I use media more than most.

Sander also claimed – and rightfully so – that, if approved, the royalty rate could end up costing radio upwards of $2 billion a year. He added that it “would severely limit the ability of stations to serve their local markets.”

Local? That’s where Sander lost them. It couldn’t have been said worse.

Q: What’s the first rule of broadcasting? A: Don’t believe your own hype.

Fumbles, I know you hate it when I bring up Mel Karmazin’s name. You get that look on your face like you’ve just been bitch-slapped by Katie Couric.

But while you were doing your aw shucks, golly gee whining to the RIAA, Mel told the labels that if terrestrial radio doesn’t pay royalties – neither will he. “Terrestrial radio doesn’t pay anything, and our view is we compete with terrestrial radio,” Mel told ‘em, “and we shouldn’t have to pay SoundExchange any money either.”

Sirius and XM have been paying 2 to 3 percent of its revenues to the RIAA. Sirius is in negotiations with the RIAA and the Copyright Royalty Board, which wants between 10 and 20 percent. Mel is holding firm at a reducing his recompense to a maximum 1% to 2.5% of revenues.

See, Fumbles, the RIAA had something more important to do over the last three months than to write you back.

Fumbles, if you blow this one and lose radio its music tax exemption status, you’ll kill music formats on terrestrial radio.

Those that aren’t news and talk will go full-time per inquiry.

Moving right along.

Remember how confident Fumbles was with the future of HD Radio when Radio Shack said they’d test market units in their stores?

Fumbles sounded like the late Carl Sagan doing his “billions and billions” routine.

He said “thousands and thousands” of HD Radios would be sold.

Radio Shack didn’t even sell “dozens and dozens.”

Most had difficulty receiving HD Radio signals in their stores. The majority of Radio Shacks didn’t even display them. That shelf space was better utilized for Sirius and DirecTV displays. Those sell.

Radio Shack is the electronic store McDonald’s. There are more of them than there are any other stores offering similar products. When it comes to electronics, if you can’t make it in Radio Shack, you can’t make it anywhere.

Now Radio Shack, which was praised by Fumbles earlier this year for their dedication to HD Radio, is running a new ad campaign.

The spot says, in part, “Turn off the commercials… come to Sirius” and it’s running on radio stations throughout the U.S. right now – and they don’t have much of a choice.

The buy was made through the Clear Channel-owned Premiere Radio Network, which distributes syndicated programming and full-time formats. Clear Channel can’t afford to turn the business away and stations that depend on Premiere for its programming must carry the spots.

Fumbles, that’s a radio spot that asks listeners to turn off their radios.

Even worse –it’s working. Or maybe it’s just poor programming and too many spots, interruptions, and voice-tracking gone wild that resulted in radio losing over 4.5 million listeners in less than a year.

Radio revenues fell 1 percent in July, too.

Where’s the good news, Fumbles?

For a few years, the NAB convo was the backdrop to the latest deals and mergers. Now, it’s the milieu to the latest deals that fell apart.

I can’t stop repeating myself. We await your address to the troops at the con-fab next weekend in Charlotte.

We have expectations.

We expect a sad spectacle

It’s going to be a tough crowd.

Please don’t open your speech with “People are worried about the future of radio - or at least those of us who work in radio are.”

Fumbles, do you look back and miss the days when you were a door-opener for former Representative Vin Weber?

If that’s not enough – get this - Fumbles has still another new campaign to botch for broadcasters.

The FCC is deciding whether spectrum adjacent to that controlled by TV broadcasters should be used to offer wireless broadband and other services.

In one corner, you have the White Spaces Coalition made up of Google, H-P, Microsoft, and others ready to bid on the spectrum, and an assortment of community groups and Internet activists. They’re pushing for wireless broadband transmission of the Internet.

They’ve lobbied the FCC to allow use of the vacant spectrum, which sits in between the band used by TV broadcasters. Currently, this spectrum is not being used.

In the other corner, it’s the NAB coalition of major television broadcasters, television manufacturers, along with the major pro sports leagues.

For radio and TV, it’s competition. It’s actually friend not foe. The Internet access can only help cross-promote their product. Ever hear of Heroes or Lost? Streaming? Interacting?

The sports teams joined the NAB fray claiming wireless Internet would cause problems with wireless microphones used in entertainment events and pro sports leagues.

They didn’t mention whether the interference would cause problems with Belichick’s digital camera.

Both broadcasting and sports want the White Space Coalition removed from the bidding process. *

We now join Fumbles in progress.

"Unlicensed devices do not meet even a minimum of credibility. The bottom line is this: Millions of Americans will suffer if unlicensed devices in the TV band threaten their ability to watch TV.”


There are those who are proficient at taking anything, no matter how troubled, and molding into a symbol of something that’s more successful than it really is.

Fumbles is not one of those.

When he became the leader of the gang at the NAB, he talked of becoming good buddies with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. After all, they share the same politics and kiss the same butts. Fumbles never expected to find himself in routine opposition to him.

The FCC wants the spectrum used. In addition to convenience – and not being tethered to a router or hot spot – use of that spectrum would provide broadband access to rural America and poor urban areas.

Responding to Fumbles’ comments, Scott Harris, who reps the White Spaces Coalition and is managing partner of the DC law firm Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis replied, "It seems to me an attempt to prove if you talk loudly enough you can drown out any intelligent discussion."

If Fumbles could only come up with lines as clever as that.

It wasn’t brought up at the meeting – but we’ve all heard stories about those living in the vicinity of radio towers hearing radio signals coming from their washing machines and even tooth fillings.

Those things happen. Interference exists. Propagation exists. Overmodualation exists.

You’re going to lose the wireless Internet battle and that’ll put you at 0-3 so far this season on getting your projects through.

I remember hearing about a station manager in Detroit who received a complaint from someone who was receiving one of his stations on the stove. His response? “Buy a new one…or move.”

Maybe Fumbles is hoping that those radio signals bleeding on to household goods will provide additonal cume?

But will a PPM detect it?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Radio: Mel 1 Rehr 0

You are David Rehr and it appears that you’ve already lost the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) its biggest battle.

You couldn’t block the XM-Sirius satellite radio merger.

Rehr’s day went to Hell on Wednesday when analyst group Cowen & Company bet on the XM-Sirius deal getting approved by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The final decision is roughly eight weeks away but one C&C analyst predicted the DOJ could make this one a done deal in just four.

The FCC has to sign off on the merger, too, but it’s unlikely that their decision would differ from the DOJ’s.

The Motley Fool also predicted the merger’s a given and suggested that its followers should invest accordingly.

Even former FCC commissioner Mark Fowler is backing it.

What happened, David Rehr?

The NAB is supposed own the FCC – past, present, and future.

Rehr blew it badly. The merger plans, which would result in one company with a combined total of roughly 15 million subscribers, were laid out for the world to see back in February.

That gave him close to a half a year to rally Capitol Hill to his side.

There were no secrets. XM and Sirius claimed the merger would not be a monopoly since they compete with terrestrial radio, Internet radio, and MP3 players. That’s what they focused on and never deviated from that claim.

In response, the unfocused David Rehr who looks like David Johansen impersonated still another David – David Byrne and danced around the merger issues like Byrne did on the Talking Heads video, “Once in a Lifetime.”

It’s taken him just two years to go from the NAB’s hopeful hero to a hopeless zero.

Sometimes it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

Rehr had all the charisma of dead fish when he pitched Capitol Hill. And Mel Karmazin was Mel Karmazin. No contest.

The NAB argued that the satellite radio merger would create a "state-sanctioned" monopoly, which would be bad for consumers, and would harm local (and he emphasized local over and over and over again) radio stations nationwide. "Monopolists have the ability to raise prices and discriminate," he said. His argument was as believable as anything Gen. David Petraeus told Congress.

XM, Sirius and the NAB hired lobbyists to defend their positions. Sirius spent $650,000 between January and June and XM tossed in $580,000 and, combined, had total 13 different lobbying firms doing their influence peddling. The Palmetto Group got the bulk of XM’s cash - $70,000 – while Wiley Rein, the lead dog lobbyer for Sirius, received $420,000. Other lobbyists employed by XM and Sirius included Mehlman Capitol Strategies, run by former GOP National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and Quinn, Gillepsie & Associates, led by Jack Quinn, the former chief of staff to former Vice President Al Gore.

The NAB spent a staggering $4.3 million for lobbyists during the same period. It spread the business out to ten firms, with the lion’s share going to – and you’re not going to believe this – the Ashcroft Group, headed up by former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Let’s back up for a moment.

John Ashcroft representing the National Association of Broadcasters? What was Rehr drinking?

The same NAB that’s backing CBS-TV’s argument over the $550,000 fine levied by the FCC for Janet Jackson’s nipple slip during the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show hired John Ashcroft?

This is the same John Ashcroft who spent $8,000 for drapes to cover the exposed right breast of the 75- year old Spirit of Justice statue in the Justice Department’s Great Hall. He dropped an additional $2,000 on consultants to assure that the statue’s nipple wouldn’t indent the drapes.

(A second statue, the male Majesty of Justice, with its sculptured strategically-draped cloth, was not considered offensive by Ashcroft.)

Ashcroft deflected all questions to a minion who issued a statement that said it was done for “aesthetic purposes.”

This is one sick puppy.

You have to question what kind of lifestyle a conservative Republican who plays the family values card really has.

John Ashcroft. Rhymes with Larry Craig? Or is it David Vitter? Maybe Mark Foley?

So Rehr who’s claiming he’s just alright with Janet Jackson’s right breast and ornamentally enhanced nipple teamed up with John Ashcroft whose Jesus is just alright – but the Majesty of Justice’s right breast and non-ornamentally enhanced nipple is not.

From Nipplegate to Nipplehate.

Rehr also called in a favor for a quote from outré-conservative Senator and Presidential candidate Sam Brownback (R-Kan). He claimed the deal would "not serve the public interest."

How does it feel to be David Rehr?

He outspent XM-Sirius’ lobby expenses by over $2.7 million – and lost? Who’s Rehr’s accountant? Tom Noe?

Rehr can’t read the room. He turned over the NAB’s entire lobbying budget to the conservative wing of the GOP when polls show their integrity locked in the sub-basement.

He has tire tracks up and down his back from all the times Mel’s crew has thrown him under the bus the past seven months.

While Rehr tanked whatever influence the NAB had on Capitol Hill, XM shares rose 70 cents to $14.32, and Sirius was up 16 cents, or 4.8 percent, to $3.47.

When the going gets tough – Rehr fetches David Wharton, his executive VP of media relations to cover his ass. “In Mel Karmazin's world, elevator music is competition to satellite radio," he said. "Get real. It doesn't pass the laugh test.”


All Whatron confirmed was that he wouldn’t even be considered for an audition to NBC’s Last Comic Standing.

$4.3 million. Money for nothing. Mark Knopfler should rewrite the lyrics just for you, Mr. Rehr.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Commit the crime, do the time. Hey, that rhymes.

Most believe that the music business is about alienation.

They put themselves in that position.

It’s bad enough the RIAA is out to create criminals out of high school and college students with its downloading witch hunt.

(There has to be a Circle of Hell reserved for anyone connected with the inner workings of that organization.)

Why do newly released CD cost as much or more than most newly released DVDs?

(They wonder why record store clerks are lonelier than the Maytag repair man.)

The list goes on and on.

Then what about this other organization – the National Music Publishers Association? NMPA, for short.

Here’s what happened. I got a few e-mails on the NMPA’s threat to launch legal action on web sites that print song lyrics – as well as - get this - any search engine that links to them.

A few terrestrial and Internet radio stations I work with have links to these gray area lyric sites and wanted to know if I knew whether they’d be considered accessories to the crime.

In March, the NMPA filed suit against XM satellite radio for refusing to pay compensation for songs distributed through its digital download service.

They don't screw around.

What was the added value to Sgt. Pepper, one of the greatest albums of all time? It included the song lyrics, which made its listening experience even more memorable.

I frequent those sites to check new music lyrics – and occasionally those from an oldie or classic rock song. The video hadn’t come out yet – and I wanted to verify that Tori Amos referred to herself as a MILF on the track “Big Wheel” from her new album so I checked one of the lyric sites. She did.

How about that Bob Dylan? No other artist’s lyrics have been scrutinized more than his.

And few artists benefit from a better music publishing deal than Dylan has with SESAC.

Some years back, Bobby D. fell on hard times. He blew out his voice, recorded a few dreadful albums, and his lackluster concerts were drawing barely half a house.

Then Bob Dylan reinvented himself. He put together a new band, started writing better songs and instead of playing the irritable recluse, became affable and accessible.

First, he poked fun of himself and his career in the film, Masked and Anonymous and followed that with the Martin Scorsese biopic on PBS and DVD.

Who would've believed that Dylan would play DJ on a weekly satellite radio show? These days he’s back to playing full houses and his new albums aren’t just selling – they’re among the best of his career (even if, like Clarence “Frogman” Henry, he’s croaking the lyrics).

Part of Dylan’s reinvention was Internet driven. His handlers created a web site that, among other things, allow users to read the lyrics of every song he’s written. It also has the option to type in a lyric line to one of his songs to learn its title.

The set-up works well enough that I have to believe it moves a few Bob albums over the course of a month.

So it made little sense that the NMPA would launch an attack against sites that contribute to promoting music until you read the fine print.

Digging a bit deeper one learns that the NMPA is rolling-out what they call “official on-line lyric” sites through RealNetworks, Rhapsody, and Yahoo through deals with licensed lyric aggregators Gracenote and Lyricfind. The NMPA identified MONEY in Internet lyric sites.

Stations with links to those lyric sites? Sorry. They'll have to go.

We don’t know, yet, how well these new sites work but, all things considered, they should be an upgrade from the preponderance of lyric sites whose byproduct is a never-ending number of vexing pop-ups.

So, take note. Here’s a rare case where the music business could actually be doing its customers a favor. That is, unless oned looks up the lyrics to the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps.”

Just ask Alanis.

Friday, September 7, 2007

NAB: It's Your Party

Something big is supposed to happen at the end of the month - The National Association of Broadcasters convention.

You’re David Rehr and it’s your party.

You see, before you left beer for broadcasting, the NAB was a wild, big ticket event.

It was the kingpin media con-vention where major chains revealed their newest acquisitions.

Now, it’s all about shortfalls.

You’re David Rehr and it’s your party.

No one will argue that the single most important mission in the history of the NAB was deregulation and – glory, hallelujah - it got done.

But the NAB was so focused on radio deregulation in the 1996 Telecommunications Bill that it missed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was signed into law two years later.

You’re David Rehr and it’s your party.

Hope you were clued in on that AFTRA problem that temporarily crippled terrestrial radio streams.

While VC’s were shoveling money at anyone who wanted buy radio and the NAB was popping cases of Dom, AFTRA pulled off a deal to bonus talent in commercial radio and TV spots that were also simulcast on an Internet stream.

The rules went into effect in October, 2000 but the NAB missed it because it was engaged in political in-fighting that rivaled Eastern Europe after the wall came down.

Stations were unknowingly charged for simulcasting spots on their stream. Talent on those spots had to be paid $220 for the creation of the spot, and an additional $660 for Internet rights for one year.

Clients insisted the liability was radio’s since it was their stream.

Those six dreaded words: That was not in the budget!

(TV was another headache starting with $1,500 bonus to talent for spots shown on their Internet streams for one year.)

You’re David Rehr and it’s your party.

And wouldn’t you know it. History repeated itself.

While you’ve been focused on funding lobbyists to outwork Mel and stop the XM-Sirius merger, the RIAA’s gotten a whole lot closer to collecting royalties for airplay of songs on terrestrial radio.

Let me rephrase that. The RIAA wants to tax your music. What started out as a non-issue has become a very real threat. And it shouldn’t have gone that far.

They claim radio no longer breaks new music.

The RIAA has their choice of quotes from the heads of Clear Channel, CBS, and so forth – all saying they’re not in the business to sell music.

It’s equal opportunity thrashing. Tit for tat. Rat for rat.

You’re David Rehr and it’s your party.

You have to wonder if the RIAA will exempt Grey’s Anatomy from royalty payments. It’s broken more hits than radio this year.

We used to joke that if the records weren’t free we’d be all news.

Now, it’s no joke.

You’re David Rehr and it’s your party.

Your members are crying out for leadership in the radio industry.

Some believe that we haven’t had a leader since Randy “Ben Homel” Michaels.

I don’t disagree. If it weren’t for Randy, a whole lot of real broadcasters wouldn’t have been able to sell their stations at highly inflated prices.

And now some of those sellers will get to buy them back for a fraction of the price they sold them for.

The greater fool theory lives. Just ask Clear Channel.

$500 million’s a lot to drop if that deal with BainCapital and Tommy Lee unspools.

Once the quarterback; now the tackling dummy.

You’re David Rehr and it’s your party.

It’s still a great convention. Small market owners get to ride elevators, stuff like that.

You’re David Rehr and it’s your party.

It was a lot easier when you were beer lobbying and Heinekin was the enemy.

Now, who is it?

The iPod?

Satellite radio?

Or did Steve Jobs just put satellite radio out of business with his new iPod?

And did Steve Jobs cross Internet radio into the mainstream?

And is that good or bad for terrestrial stations that stream?

(Hint, hint: Content, content!)

Were you really awestruck when Jobs didn’t add an HD radio to his new iPod?

I hope not.

You’re David Rehr and it’s your party.

You’re running an industry that keeps making the same mistakes over and over and over.

Think of all the meetings and seminars over the past decade on how to do radio right.

So why is radio still using those slogans and sweeps from ten years ago?

And still using the same consultants?

(We’ll save that one for another time.)

Your David Rehr and it’s your party.

Did you hear about the radio account executive who died and went to Hell? He became an HD Radio salesperson.

One more? Did you hear that Radio & Records is changing its name to Streaming & Downloads?

Don’t laugh too loudly. That may not be a joke.

You’re David Rehr and it’s your party.

There’s the session where that coot will claim inside information on how kids use media in their bedrooms.

He even gave it a creepy name – The Bedroom Project.

I wonder if Chris Hansen will be in the audience?

Hate to clue the coot in. If you don’t already know how your kids are using media – anywhere, anyplace, and at anytime - you’re too late. Five years too late.

Let me predict the future. The coot will come up with excuses; there’s more “things” competing for their time; blah, blah, woof, woof.

Your David Rehr and it’s your party.

You have quite a cast of characters lined up.

There’s Steve Sinicropi. We can’t wait to see his act.

It’ll help if he stands on his tip toes and a half dozen phone books.

We wondered what became of him when his buddy Jeff McClusky shuttered his indie promo company’s doors.

He was like Oates without Hall, Messina without Loggins, Sonny without Cher.

Now, he has new reason to live. Comic relief.

First, he resurfaced as VP/GM of Cox Radio’s FM two stations in the bustling metropolis of Greenville, S.C., market rank #89.

He wasn’t comfortable in large markets.

Then he became the Chairman of Arbitron’s Radio Advisory Council. His job is to yell, “Down here, down here,” and throw temper tantrums at Arbitron for any perceived shortcomings of its new Portable People Meter.

I know people who want to go to the NAB just to see the little guy rant and rave about the Arbitron PPM. He makes a lot of noise for a tiny person.

They say he loves his new role.

He promises to keep his head firmly to the ground – as opposed to the grind - because he’s closer to it than most.

How about that quote Sinicropi gave Arbitron CEO Steve Morris about Arbitron providing a deduction in their monthly bill if the company falls below the minimum threshold of it’s 6+ metro sample size target for the panel?

“This is step one in a marathon, Sinicropi said. “It’s a big long step, but there’s a lot of work to be done before it’s all finished.”

There’s a joke in there somewhere. Maybe a dozen.

You’re David Rehr and it’s your party and you can cry if you want to.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti

Let's see how many terrestrial and satellite radio stations are creative enough this morning to play Bono, the Edge, Brian Eno, and Luciano Pavarotti performing "Miss Sarajevo."

Any contemporary station could find a way to play it. Wonder if any of them will? My guess is slim to none.

When I was at the Three Tenors concert a few years back I was surprised to see the large number of young to early middle-age people in attendance. The same ones you'd see at a U2 concert.

It's the perfect tribute to Pavarotti for most contemporary radio stations. But does it test?

Here are a couple timely videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj3oQkgzX-I ("Miss Sarajevo")

http://www.nowpublic.com/schuberts-ave-maria-pavarotti-bono-u2-live ("Ava Maria")

Now, let's consider paint-by-number radio programming in the male gender. Here's a fact - if a squirrel crawled up the inside of a pant leg of your typical passive radio programmer, it would starve to death.