My relationship with Lee Abrams has always been a little odd. As a PD, I never had a consultant. As a consultant in the early years, I found myself competing against Lee and his group for many years. As he gravitated to Z-Rock, and eventually XM, we have stayed in touch.
Lee has been kind enough to participate in our Summits, as well as contribute to JacobsMedia.com. I always find it interesting that many radio people have negative feelings about him, either because he "defected" to satellite or because they believe he's all talk and no action. Others continue to respect him for what he did for radio back in the '70s, and what he's doing today.
I fall in that latter group. While I think Lee is personally more interesting than XM at times, I believe his observations are always worthy of attention. Terrestrial radio continues to crib ideas from the "Abrams Playbook" three decades later.
From an even greater distance, Lee's views about radio and radio programming are very salient today. With a little help from Bill Jacobs, we have compiled some of "Lee's Greatest Hits" from his blog (and there's a lot there). Like Cliff's Notes, we've saved you a lot of time because Lee is always a vociferous writer. If you'd like to read the "album version," journey over to http://leeabrams.blogspot.com as Lee has new material every few days.
AFDI: (Actually Fucking Doing It)
The battle call. The center of our programming universe. Instead of researching EVERYthing, committees and "we can't do that"...the idea is to actually EXECUTE on the ideas that are created.
The way we carry ourselves on and off the air. An air of confidence based on AFDI and collective ego. Radio has been beaten up by other media - time to fight back.
MINUTE BY MINUTE:
The musical bottom line. Forget Depth. Forget Tight. If you, at any given point in time (minute by minute) are playing a cool song, you will win the music battle.
Re-claiming artists. Bringing them back to radio. XM Radio.
Radio has given up on trying to own artists...given up to MTV, Print and Cable. XM must bring artists back to radio.
It's the evolution of "Imaging"...it's the SOUND of your channel. Don't think bumpers & promos. Think beyond that.....it's all about a whole sonic environment you create.
Wanna mess up the competitor's mind: Run a Top 500 three weeks BEFORE Memorial Day. You will screw up their system...
24 HOUR MORNING SHOW:
There is no morning. We don't shut down at 10am. We are always on.
JUST DO IT!:
No bragging...no cheezy claims . No "Most Music" "Best Mix" "Never a Bad Song"... Those claims have no credibility. Just deliver the goods and our fans will know.
To Sales, they're listeners... To Marketing, they're customers... To us: They're Fans. Treat listeners like Fans. Think like a Fan. This is show business. Relating to listeners as numbers is fine - for the sales people.
BIBLE OF MUSIC:
Your station is the center of your music's' universe. You have the chart. You have the answers. You are in command. You must deliver. You must deliver. You must deliver. MTV, Rolling Stone, Spin... Fine entities, but YOU must own the charts, the info, etc... Listeners must come to YOU to know what's going on musically.
The sound of your station is more like a wide screen movie soundtrack than a radio station. You should close your eyes and your sonics ignite with cinematic brilliance. Even News....Even Classical...no format is exempt from creating cinematic magic between the songs.
Bigg-ER... Badd-ER... Intense-ER. Think like Walt Disney did in the 50’s... "ER." Rides were fastER, parks were cleanER, etc...
Subtle sucks. Want to cut through the Internet, AM/FM, print, TV, etc....well, you ain't gonna do it unless you do everything OTT
CREATIVE BATTING AVERAGE:
% of ideas you come up with that work. 300 Average is All-Star. Ya gotta take some swings to get hits.
Three buzzes and sayonara. But the real cliché buzzer is in your head.
Using the World of Sound. Not some damn production package or pre-cut promo factory CD. USE SOUND! Thunderstorms... static... busy streets... short wave radio tuning....sample a TV Newscaster and repeat "In Todays News... In Todays News... over and over. Discover the world of sound. Use it.
It's only natural, and often correct to bring in people you know and trust. But, it's also natural to bring in people who are convenient. We must hire only the brilliant.
MOOD/RELIABLE: Mood listeners tune you in when they're in the mood...Reliable listeners never tune you out. That's the secret to rating success (or satisfaction in our case). The only way to achieve this balance is to never compromise....stay pure....play "your" hits...don't fear tune out. In other words: Do your thing, but do it brilliantly and consistently.
THE LETTERMAN FACTOR:
Disco Demolition, Hit This Plane & Win $5,000, Snow Sharks, and other stunts are pure America. People love it. The more radio versions of "Stupid Pet Tricks" we create, the better we'll be... on the RIGHT channel of course...
YELLOW PAD: Everyone should be filling these up with ideas. Document your dreams.
AS ACCESSIBLE AS POSSIBLE WITHOUT LOSING LISTENER CONFIDENCE:
The goal shouldn't be how "deep" can I go. It should be how "far" can I go WITHOUT LOSING listener confidence. It's a magic zone where you reach the most listeners and satisfy them all simultaneously. Too commercial and there goes satisfaction...too deep and there goes the volume of fans.
WHACK FACTOR: "Where in hell did these guys come up with that!"....that's what listeners should often think.
EMPATHY: Walking the halls, I'll often hear how "Stairway to Heaven" and Creed really suck. Well, if those aren't part of your potential playlist...cool..they suck. BUT---if these belong on your list, you need to learn empathy, because these are major. In 1970, I was a hard core Prog Rock fan, but worked at an early FM Top 40 where we "celebrated" Donny Osmond. I learned there, the importance of empathy. I hated that shit, but learned how and why it worked, and never whined about a song again.
THE RECORD BUSINESS & MUSIC PRESS ARE LOST:
There are some smart people and there are some clueless people. That's why I constantly impress the need for you to study the genre you serve....know your genre beyond passion. Passion is easy... but balance that with knowledge and that's what makes you dangerous. The reason college radio has never been a factor is because it's all passion....but find a college radio person who balances passion with understanding--and there's a positively dangerous person--that we should hire! We must continue to absorb REALITY and not simply feed off the industry and press.
They enhance your image...recycle listeners and create buzz.
Run them prime time (NOT 11pm Sunday Nights). Build them. Think about them.
Hourly, Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly. Go OTT. (Over-the-top) Repeat them. The classic cliché is taking a cool program and burying it because it varies from the song/dj/song format.
XM must celebrate life in North America. The good, the bad and the ugly. That's why we love TV themes, old commercials, homeless guys doing promos, heavily accented people doing IDs, bagpipes in bumpers. Celebrate America by DELIVERING THE SOUND OF NORTH AMERICA.
There is ALWAYS something coming up on XM. We program forward.
Sell the Music...sell the programming...sell the specials, etc...Selling is a lost art.
I'm not talking about selling Used Cars...I'm talking about ridding ourselves of the Radio Inferiority Complex and selling the shit out of the cool stuff we're doing. This isn't bragging, because bragging is generic, bordering on lying. Selling is talkin' it up and DELIVERING. If we sell AND deliver, credibility will occur!
This is a mission...not a gig.
We participate in many monitors and brainstorms with stations, and I believe that Lee provides us with a template or yardstick by which to judge our progress, especially as the media world moves at an increasingly faster pace. I would love to hear your comments and feedback about this blog entry (just click the "comments" link below), and I thank Lee for having the balls to speak his mind and still provide leadership and creativity from his desk at XM.