Bloomberg

I’m not sure whether this works or not.

Not quite a year ago, before the circus began, I said that if Bloomberg ran, he’d win.

But he didn’t, run that is.

That surprised me, since you don’t become a billionaire, certainly on Wall Street, without an ego. Didn’t he have the law changed so he could run for a third term in New York City? That takes chutzpah. I figured Michael had skeletons in his closet, or believed he was just too old.

But the story today is he believed Biden would win, so he stayed out. How delusional is he? I knew Biden had no chance, first and foremost because he’d blow himself up, he has a long history of this. Furthermore, we know there are Biden fans in Scranton and Delaware, but anywhere else? He’s like an opening act, a favor for the agent, someone tolerable if you come late, who you don’t mind missing.

Now in tech, where Bloomberg made his money, there’s a first-mover advantage. The key is to run so fast, as Mark Zuckerberg once said, “move fast and break things,” so no one can catch up. Bloomberg owns the terminal space, even when it was discovered the company was spying on its customers, despite there being talk of an upstart, nobody challenged the behemoth.

So…

Getting in late is kind of like RFK in ’68. Yup, RFK didn’t think he could win, but then when Gene McCarthy was getting all that traction, he felt it’d be easy, like taking candy from a baby. Unfortunately, Kennedy was shot, and ultimately in a year of unrest, where the convention itself was a site of protest and police overreaction, the candidate was Humphrey, and Hubert lost.

Biden isn’t even Humphrey. But the lesson of ’68 is there are incalculable grass roots, disaffection with the status quo, that the inside players and the media aren’t in touch with.

So that brings us to George McGovern. 1972 was not 1968. The younger generation was licking its wounds, the mass protests were over, it was the wrong time. Which is the lesson the DNC does not get, it’s not 2016 anymore, it’s 2020, and people have changed.

Which brings us to Dukakis. That’s the paradigm the DNC is afraid of. It believes Warren is Dukakis, but it’s not 1988 anymore. Sure, it’s important to study history, but also not to be blinded by it. If history repeats at all, it’s with a twist.

And the history we’re talking about is 2016, and the twist is now. Trump tapped into discontent. The DNC and its cronies believe it was all white supremacists, hogwash! I know three people right off the top of my head who voted for Trump, all friends. One a famous musician, from one of the bluest states. Trump pointed out the flaws in globalization, the raw deal for the rank and file. And Hillary was damaged goods, the right had defined her.

And now the right has defined Adam Schiff. They pushed back and Schiff shut up. WRONG! Anybody will tell you you stand up to the bully. As for this newfangled b.s. that you need to campaign without mentioning Trump’s name… THAT’S NOT THE WAY HE PLAYS! Get into the street fight!

If the Democrats had balls, Trump would go, long before the election. If they stopped being such wimps and went on every TV show and sold their position, spread it online, it would help the cause. Instead, the Dems allow the pundits, the media, the usual suspects, to say that there’s no way Trump gets convicted in the Senate. WRONG! You’ve got to shame the Republican Senators. Make it about the vaunted Constitution. Paint them as traitors to subsequent generations. Declare them enablers. Trump is like a five year old with crumbs on his lips who says he didn’t raid the cookie jar. Just because the evidence is in plain sight, that does not mean they’re not guilty.

So these same wimps in D.C. have a fantasy that the public wants a centrist. Huh? What Trump taught us was just the opposite, you play to the disaffected, you speak truth, you bring the voters to you, and not vice versa. If Bloomberg had gotten in early and attacked Trump he would have run away with the race. Now he looks like an opportunistic billionaire, when everybody hates billionaires except the people themselves and those sucking on the tit of them. I know I’ll never become a billionaire, I don’t think there should be billionaires, I’m sick of the billionaires pontificating, thinking just because they have money they’re right and we should listen to them. And Bloomberg played right into the hands of Warren and Sanders, who both pushed back today. Once again, Bloomberg is too late.

As for Bernie, there’s no doubt that he would have beaten Trump in 2016. But he was an outsider who didn’t play the game so the DNC got behind Hillary, saying it was “her turn.” When I hear that crap I cringe. It’s nobody’s turn, nobody’s earned it, that’s what we’ve learned in music, in Hollywood, where there are feuds and the only people who sustain are running on fumes, playing their old hits, because the younger generation doesn’t care and the old fans don’t want to hear new music.

Warren is today’s Sanders.

But it gets worse for the DNC. They may have a dozen people at the debate, but there are only three candidates, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg. Biden is done. Klobuchar has got no chance. As for Harris, the media built her up but there was no there there, she didn’t really have any fans. As for Buttigieg…he was the great gay hope ten months ago, then he couldn’t control chaos in his own city and moved to the center and lost his credibility. It’s not that he’s gay, but because he’s got a bad track record and no one can get excited about his new stances.

So I can’t get excited about Bloomberg, I just saw him as somebody who could win. And then the media said Warren had no chance when she came from behind to be the frontrunner. Showing you how much these pontificating nitwits know. Warren is tapping into mistrust, a feeling of being screwed over, those who didn’t have the money to pay Rick Singer to get their kids into an elite college. I mean I jumped through all the hoops and now I’m a loser, a chump? That’s how I feel when I compare myself to the billionaires. The government used to be on my side, and then Reagan labeled it inefficient and needing to be pruned and the right stayed on message and the media bought it and now the biggest crime in Presidential politics is saying the word “tax.”

Which undercut Warren. She was sailing smoothly and wouldn’t answer the question directly. I winced, was this her Billy Squier moment? At least she finally released a plan, who cares if it’ll work, it’ll never be enacted, but it illustrates her heart is in the right place. And Warren keeps fighting back! Something Hillary didn’t and Biden choked on Ukraine, let the President define him, and Bloomberg wouldn’t even enter the race.

It’s about passion people. Kids believe in Billie Eilish. With the baggy clothes hiding her body and…

If you talk to kids today, they chastise you when you use a plastic water bottle. But somehow the right owns this issue, making California a laughingstock with its banned straws. If you run with the climate crisis it will energize those who’ve given up hope, those who say the game is rigged.

Yup folks, this is the same DNC, the same insiders, who got it wrong last time and are still getting it wrong today. It’s almost like they want Warren to lose to make a point. That you play their game or you’re out.

Of course Warren can win. The worthless polls keep telling us that. As for Trump, everybody said he couldn’t win. But even those on the left, even the “New York Times,” thought he was not really a crook, and that he was smart. Now we know he’s a narcissistic buffoon, you think that people aren’t aware of that? Look at last year’s elections, and last Tuesday’s, do you see the blue surge?

But the funniest thing is writing about the Democrats I’ll hear from the Republicans, defending Trump and laughing at those on the left. Where are the people on the left working the refs? Everybody on the left is so worried about offending somebody that they don’t take action.

As for identity politics…a minor story involving few people, ignore it. Candidates should say these are issues that need to be addressed once they’re elected, that they want to support minorities, but that without power there is oppression.

And it’s not even about stretching health care, but making sure coverage doesn’t shrink.

And the tariffs and sale of public lands and everything people are passionately against…crickets.

So Bloomberg will come along and satiate the DNC, but other than that organization and some rich people, maybe even left wing billionaires, nobody will get excited. We’re not looking for daddy to save us, we’re looking for someone ready for a knife fight, a leader, who will attack the other side. For Bloomberg to win, he’s got to come out punching…but no, he’s a quiet mastermind, the wrong guy for the time.

So, the DNC and its cronies are alienating their base. I know it sounds impossible, but they are, the same people who voted for Jill Stein last time around, the same people who are new voters, they think they’re being ignored. They want to send a message, that it’s not business as usual, they want to storm the asylum, and the DNC wants to bring the asylum back?

Who are these mysterious centrists? Are you really telling me African-Americans won’t vote for Warren?

Statistics and polls will tell you where you’ve been, not where you’re going.

It’s no longer business as usual. It’s closer to 1968 than 1988. The youth are restless. And Trump will do his best to scare those who voted Democratic and then switched to Republican last time. And what will the Democrats do? Have a circular firing squad.

They call this disruption. The DNC should read Clayton Christensen’s “Innovator’s Dilemma,” institutions super-serving the usual suspects are overthrown by enterprises that appear to be fringe and then go mainstream and take over.

All this b.s. about infrastructure. A man with Bloomberg’s money and relationships can build it in a day, or close to it.

But will the hoi polloi buy it?

They just might not.

Richard Griffiths-This Week’s Podcast

An agent, a publisher, a label majordomo and now a manager, not only has Richard Griffiths worn all the hats, he’s a seer when it comes to careers. Richard and his partner Harry Magee and their firm Modest! Management were honored with the 2019 Music Industry Trusts Award on November 4th in London. Modest! has steered the careers of One Direction, the Spice Girls, 5 Seconds of Summer, Olly Murs, Niall Horan…

iheart

spotify

apple

stitcher

Lee Abrams On Radio (and more…)

THE BIG TEN

Radio is in an undeniable position of strength in terms of accessibly, but as a fan of the medium, it has the potential for long term extinction in its current form. Overly dramatic maybe, but there are a lot of red flags that need to be addressed:

1. MERGERS, WALL STREET, THE ECONOMY AND ACQUISITIONS:

If you observe the radio business, the conversation is focused almost exclusively on the economic side. That’s great…this is America. But—when was the last time you heard or read about a radio content war, or a station that’s tearing up a market with a new sound. Content brilliance needs to be part of the conversation. If the excitement in radio is all about the deals, where does that leave the listener who could care less about who owns who. Death by deal is a real possibility as media’s eye is SO far off the content ball, that we simply can’t compete to win in the Google/Apple era. The business side is what makes it rock, but content is what makes it roll, and you need both. Deals will be done, but it’s the magic that comes out of the speakers and screens that’ll move things forward, and that needs to be the conversation every bit as much as the economics.

2. THE PLAYBOOK HASN’T BEEN UPDATED IN 40+ YEARS:

I heard a “new” Rock station recently and they presented;

–A “big voice” yelling at you about how hard they rock (that worked in 1979 when rock stations needed to re-enforce their manhood against the disco invasion….but that’s over)

–Star Wars laser sound effects complete with ‘man in the box’ filtered effect. (The Empire was destroyed in the 70’s…time to move on..if radio is “theater of the mind” I heard theater of the lame)

–Blocks, Two-fers, commercial free sets (Another relic of the 70’s. That was 40 years ago)

–Lunch. Not sure if it was a retro lunch, an electric lunch or whatever, but it was a “lunch”

–A station van. Cool in ’71 when hippies carried their pot and guitars in vans, now a soccer mom symbol that defines not cool drives a van

–DJ’s selling Free Bird. (What can POSSIBLY be said about Free Bird in this day and age?)

The station was on 70’s focus group auto pilot. We’re in the era where competition from other music sources is on steroids, but radio is in the “K108 plays more variety era. The Simpsons and Onion parody this stuff.
Stations should install cliche buzzers—three buzzes and you’re fired. That should thwart “new” ideas like “The _____ Lunch”

Of course this station was raving about how cool they were. Embarrassing.

3. THE STARS OF RADIO:

50’s- Deejays
60’s- PD’s
70’s- Consultants
80’s- Researchers
90’s- Group Heads
00’s-beyond —- Bankers

God bless bankers, but we are in a creative crisis as much as an economic one. Time to recruit, enable and inspire creative content stars, and not just Talk hosts… but content creators. Radio seems to hire based on purely operational aptitude, driving those with heavy creative aptitude to other industries. That 19 year old creative star will probably look at TV and Radio as the last place they’d want to be. This is a problem IF media has any interest in entering the content war. We have to make our media a creative oasis for thinkers to thrive. Read a job posting from any major traditional media company. Sounds like HR hell. Then read the Apple postings. Wonder why they get the future stars?

4. BALANCE NOT BULLSHIT

It is a content war out there and Apple/Google seem to have the advantage. But Radio and TV have the eyes and ears. Without a balanced people/function configuration, you’re doomed to lose. Need STARS in;

-Business
-Revenue
-Technology
-Operations
and Creative.

I’m not talking about Morning Shows. I’m talking about creative leadership that, though actions and execution, create a creative priority that is equal to revenue priority. Working in sync to win the battle.
I recall waking into a TV station and seeing a mission statement in the lobby. It included lines about being cutting edge, innovating, leading, etc…. I asked the GSM if this was true. He smirked and said—Nope compete BS. Those statements exist throughout media. When you hear “Content is King”…run! It’s not king. Revenue is. Content drives revenue.
Speaking of Bullshit. Stop with the old school slogans. No one believes them. Like in TV News–EVERY station is “Best, First, On Your Side, In It For You, Accurate….etc….. America is too BS savvy to buy that anymore.

5. DENIAL & ARROGANCE:

You hear a lot of;

–Spotify only has a small share of listenership. Ha Ha

–Radio is great. When a tornado hits, you don’t go to Spotify (Maybe not yet, but then again, what about the 358 non tornadic days?)

–We’re #1

STOP! If you’re talking to Agencies and Wall Street…OK. BUT—internally….STOP!

This stuff sounds like General Motors in 1980.

We are at the most dramatic crossroad in Media History and to be self congratulating with denial and arrogance is frightening. It’s NOT OK…it’s war. You gotta pull out the weapons, kill the denial and start creating content that’ll win on 21st Century terms. The denial and arrogance is deafening. It’s worse in Radio/TV than newspapers where they still think it’s 1935.

6. THE DIGITAL EXCUSE

Digital is now…and the future. Pretty obvious. But–it’s often an excuse. A short cut that undermines the REAL issue—Dated and tired 80’s rooted content. If a station is tired and dull, a new App won’t magically make it great, but that’s the thinking out there.

You constantly hear how a product is “moving forward” and entering the digital space. Well, that’s simply survival. What is being avoided like the plague is the core product…the brand itself. Fix the product first. I recall being at a newspaper and they were raving about their innovations and it was stunning. But when I asked about the printed paper, I got blank stares and a “we can’t touch that…it’s sacred” response. Same thing in radio and TV. WHAT COMES OUT OF THE SPEAKERS OR SCREEN is the problem that won’t be fixed by migrating it to online/mobile. Take TV News. It’s laughably dated with the Ultra Doppler super action weather, NORAD sets and big haired modern Ted Knight anchors. Will migrating that to Ipad save the day? Of course not. Fix the product first. Get the product in sync with 2020 before you start praying the delivery system will save you.
Then there’s “interacting” with your radio. That’s great, but not at the expense of the listening experience. Listen first…then interact. No one wants to interact with something tired and increasingly irrelevant.

7. THE SECRET CONSPIRACY

Seems there’s some secret law that says a Technology company can innovate daily. Version 2, Version 3, Upgrades, White IPhones, etc… Radio? Same playbook with new slogans. Even TV and Fashion has “New Fall Seasons”…radio is on innovation autopilot at a time when, to prosper in the Google/Apple era you need to innovate DAILY. American media is getting beaten by the Phone and Cable companies in terms of innovation.

That’s wrong.

Radio has become a stagnant commodity hoping a new App will fix everything at a time when Tech companies have embraced the 21st Century. This ain’t 1975 where you plug in a format and go. It’s a new world requiring constant updating.

8. BUT WE’RE LOCAL!

No you aren’t. Well, the WGN and WLW types breathe local, but most stations are generic. When I was a kid, we’d drive from Chicago to Miami on Holiday. Indy, Louisville, Nashville, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Miami. Every city had stations with character. Maybe it was the Southern accents on WQXI in Atlanta or the undeniable pride that permeated every break. Make that same trip today and it’s a generic wasteland. Everyone sounds the same. Again, you’ll hear the denial. we have a local morning show…we do a blood drive every summer. Big deal. Stations should do a “local audit”…audit their sound and marketing and you’d find hundreds of missed opportunities. In Chicago, there are several billboards and outdoor vehicles, I’ve yet to see ONE that says “Chicago’s W—-“….
Incidentally, “local” can be an excuse too. We are becoming more Global by the minute. But if you commit to local…then DELIVER in EVERYTHING that you touch.

9. YOU CAN’T ABBREVIATE MAGIC

New station launches: “We have AM Drive, billboard, a tested library, some promos and an App—we’re good to go”

HUH??!! You can’t design the future until you understand the past. Look back to KHJ, KCBQ, THE LOOP, KFOG and scores of other ground breaking stations. They created a plan—completeness. Schwartzkopf style planning…a mission. Right down to how the receptionist answered the phone. Some say this/I’m old fashioned and you can’t do that today. Why? Is media so full of itself that a great game plan that REALLY reinvents is old fashioned? I’m one that believes ANY old media product can reinvent itself and kick ass in any market. Money? Imagination is free. In fact, the most passionate and gifted people are the ones you want in there, and they’re not about money. Of course media is driving them away. Winning media wars is hard. It takes emotional and managerial command. Media has to stop living in the Ad Club world and create teams that fight for brilliance…and deliver.

Todd Storz had a timeless line: “First program…then sell.”

Media is entertainment…not utility. In some cases both, but always entertainment. The environment is too cluttered to think call letters, history and an abbreviated game plan will win.

10. MEDIA & INFORMATION IS THE NEW ROCK N ROLL.

Rock and roll is arguably on life support as is music radio. It’s may not be apparent yet, but when it starts looking backwards, the best days are behind it. But that’s OK, you can learn from it and build on the NEW Rock n Roll. By Rock being dead, I mean as a driver of culture. Whereas Elvis drove culture, nowadays it’s Facebook…and News. The world is having a nervous breakdown and that’s what s moving the culture. I doubt if a new Beatles will emerge that make everything right…culture is all about media and information. BUT–The M.O. of Rock n Roll is timeless and we need Rock n Roll THINKING, regardless of format or style. The characteristics of Rock n Roll thinking include:

ECCENTRICITY…ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK
INNOVATION AS A DRIVER IN EVERYTHING YOU DO
ATTITUDE…A SPIRIT
SWAGGER…A SENSE OF CONFIDENCE
NEWNESS…THE STRUGGLE TO BE FIRST
BIG—MASS APPEAL
RE-INVENTION…A DESIRE AND MOTIVATION TO
CREATES FANS NOT “USERS”
POWERFUL…CULTURE MOVING
CHANGING…ALWAYS PUSHING FORWARD
COMPETITIVE…FIGHTING FOR SUCCESS
ARTFUL…CREATING COMMERCE THROUGH ART (ART IS NOT A BAD WORD UNLESS IT’S BAD ART)
INSTINCTIVE…NOT RELYING ON YESTERDAYS INFORMATION
REBELLIOUS…AGAIN, A FIGHTING SPIRIT
INTELLIGENT…IN A MASS APPEAL WAY
NON ELITIST…FOR THE MASSES

SUMMARY:

Get back to the roots. What a listener/viewer hears and sees from the speakers, the screens and on the streets. Stop with the excuses—Everything will be fine when the economy improves…we have a new App…We’ve been here since 1942….we’re local because our tower is here. Radio has one incredible thing going for it—Reach. Everyone has a radio. Radio and TV are in a position of strength. Just imagine if EVERYone had a Mac. Do you think Apple would call it quits? Radio and TV have, as mediums, given up the content fight at a time when THE MAGIC OF WHAT COMES OUT OF THE SCREENS AND SPEAKERS is more powerful than ANY technology. Combined with technology, it’s untouchable. Time to get on war footing and start to create the magic on 2020 terms.

Ken West

He was inspired by Christo.

Like I said, I’m working hard for the money. Which is cool, since Felice is not here, it’s good to be occupied, but I’m wondering whether it should have been labeled the “Bob Lefsetz Festival” instead of “Australian Music Week.” I quoted them a price, my standard overseas fee, but they kept adding on obligations, like a podcast with Ken West.

I didn’t even know who the guy was. They told me he started the Big Day Out. That I was familiar with. I said yes, but I was worried, there was little biographical information online, I like to talk to people whose work I know by heart, having studied it for decades, so I was wary.

I didn’t need to be.

That’s what the newcomers don’t understand, the ethos and viewpoint of the oldsters, who were inspired by the music and built the business, before the corporations, before it was fully-formed.

So Ken West went to art school. Which was kind of funny, because it was a good ten years after everybody in the U.K. did. He testified about the oddballs, those are the ones who used to make music, the fringe, those that couldn’t fit in anywhere else, they couldn’t be brands because not only did they not know anything about corporations, that’s not what they cared about.

Ken didn’t care about money, he cared about art. I told him he’d been pushing the envelope…he said he’d thrown it away.

But you need money to live. Ken didn’t want to be on the victim end of it, he said he was not a self-promoter, he did not want to be dependent upon other people buying his art, listening to Christo, he saw another way, events, spectaculars based on great art.

Now the Aussies have accents. And my hearing is not great. Was Ken really talking about Christo? The guy who sets up umbrellas and gates and encircles islands? This is the first time I’ve ever heard anybody in the music business mention him.

But it got even better. Ken started talking about the danger in events as they got bigger. How the tendency is to play it safe, but you shouldn’t. Three people lost their lives with Christo’s Umbrellas installations. Ken decried the Gates in New York, it was too safe. But Floating Piers, those 24/7 walkways in Italy? Where people in wheelchairs could roll off and die? That rang his bell.

So Ken hired a band because they came with a PA, and he wanted the band he was managing to play, and it was cheaper to hire this band with their equipment than hire a PA by its lonesome.

And then his friend Nick Cave… Whoa, how did Ken get here?

Well, he flew to England and convinced New Order to tour Australia, when they hadn’t even performed ten dates. Their soundman was held up at the border, he filled out his visa form wrong, they hired a studio engineer who got it all wrong and the first night sucked. Live is a crapshoot.

And Ken becomes friends with the Violent Femmes, they’re big Down Under, they ask him to be their tour manager in the States, which he does, $250 a week and he had to get himself over the ocean. He learned people were the same everywhere, but he’d rather live in Australia.

The Femmes wanted Ken to be their manager, but that’s not his interest, but inspired by Lollapalooza, Ken started a festival, to sell more tickets he booked Nirvana to open, just after “Smells Like Teen Spirit” broke. He had them for $5,000, but he gave them $4 per head on the merch, they walked out with 38k. It was the right thing to do, no contract said Ken had to.

And now Big Day Out is rolling, all over Australia, even New Zealand. But when you have a success, money is attracted, but Ken credited his TLC with keeping Big Day Out going. Then again, he was thinking about it 24/7, it took over his life.

Now if you know your history, the Big Day Out ultimately cratered, went kaput, even though C3 got involved. And Ken’s been sitting on the sidelines for five years.

Is he coming back?

Probably not. He’s following the scene, but he believes science is driving the culture. That you can make mistakes off the radar, make breakthroughs that can change the world.

Ken laments the fact that acts can no longer woodshed in private. He says sampling killed the music, now you can’t tell whether a track was cut in the seventies or today.

And I’d like to explain both of these concepts to you, but I’m not sure I fully grasped them. The mics were turned off, but we kept on talking, because it’s these personalities who built the business. Not MBAs, not pencil-pushers. Alas, one of Ken’s initial tours was funded by a dope dealer, who got his 30k back a year later.

And every Big Day Out was a roll of the dice, where Ken had his entire fortune at risk. Was it worth it?

His partner said no, took money off the table.

But money is not what excites Ken, he wants to wow people, catch them off guard and impress them. He wants to change the culture. He wanted the bands to hang during Big Day Out, get to know each other.

It was a traveling circus.

But they put Ringling Brothers’ out of business. They don’t do that no more.

And they not only don’t make the Big Day Out anymore, they don’t make people like Ken West in the music business. Where the money is secondary to the effect, where you want to transport people to somewhere they’ve never been, where you want them to remember to the point they keep coming back.

You’re born with it, I tell you.

And it’s these limit-pushers who are changing the world.

Are you one?