That Mo Fo Brandmeier

When I was the PD of Nine FM we had a morning show issue.  We had to get rid of a morning show that didn’t fit the direction we were taking the station in but my GM wouldn’t allow me to cut bait until we had a solution.

Serving Chicagoland from the suburbs, we had the hurdle of being suburban stations which were held to Chicago standards.

I pitched an idea I thought would work brilliantly, especially since our variety format was geared toward gold pop-rock hits from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.

I told Harvey Wells (the GM) I wanted to reach out to Jonathon Brandmeier’s “people”.  He laughed.  He didn’t laugh because Johnny was a bad idea, but because he and I both knew we didn’t have $2million a year to pay Johnny B.

At the time, Brandmeier was on the air in LA and just doing ok.  In fact as I continued to pester Harvey (I don’t give up easily) things changed and Brandmeier was off in LA and rumors were swirling about his return to Chicago to be near family.  I argued Brandmeier would be back.  If LA didn’t work, Chicago was going to work AND I’ve long felt that the rise of Eric & Kathy in mornings was directly related to Johnny B’s absence in morning drive in Chicago during E&K’s rise.

None of that mattered.  I didn’t want Brandmeier to do a live morning show.  I wanted his “best of” shows.  I wanted to play his best of shows in between the Cars songs and other pop-rock 70s & 80s songs we focused on.  These were the songs that were popular when Johnny was at his height.  I wanted to hire a team of interns and producers to cut up these “Bits of Brandmeier” so we could fit them in between songs in morning drive and eventually afternoon drive.

The Portable People Meters were on their way and I believed (and I still do) that stations with star talent should build their stations around those stars.  Music stations have nothing unique.  Anyone can play Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Greenday, and EVERYONE did.  Top 40, Hot AC, Modern Rock, Rock, AAA, Alternative, AC and Variety WERE ALL PLAYING THE SONG.  The only formats that weren’t were Urban or Country!

So my plan was to convince Brandmeier’s “people” to license his “best of” shows to 9 FM so we could boast BRANDMEIER MORNINGS.  Then when the PPMs came I would also run BRANDMEIER in Afternoons.  Needless to say, Harvey didn’t buy into it.  While a smart radio station in Chicago did bring Brandmeier back….they failed to build a station around him and the audience he brings.

The result was, The Loop didn’t fit Brandmeier, and Brandmeier didn’t fit The Loop.  You would think the folks at Emmis would have know this since they watched this same movie play out with Mancow.  Your morning star has to be the star of the station, not just the star of mornings.

This all centers around my theory that if TV Land played re-runs of Johnny Carson’s tonight show opposite Leno and Letterman, TV Land would show huge numbers.  Upon further reflection though I’ve changed my tune and I believe Carson would have to air earlier on TV Land.

So if there was one PD willing to run the “best of” a top tier morning show that once was….is there one more?  Perhaps not.

The bigger question is:  Steve Dahl, Mancow Muller, Kevin Matthews, Danny Bonduce, Wendy & Bill, Eddie & Jobo, Drex, Eric & Kathy;  Where is your 24/7 stream of your “best of” shows?  Where is your flashback podcast?  I’d listen to commercials on a podcast to hear Steve & Garry from the 80s.

Heck, I’d even pay $5.95 a month.  I bet others would too.

P.S.  We ended up hiring Steve Fisher and pairing him up with Joey Fortman for mornings and they worked very well together.

My Predictions for Radio in 2009

Here are some of my predictions for the radio biz in 2009 and beyond:

1)  Sirius/XM will add another name to their merged moniker in an effort to stay alive.  (I’d really like to see Google gobble them up).  Someone will or they will merge yet again with another company.

2)  Ryan Seacrest will realize even more extreme national radio clearance the likes of which we have never seen….which will set the table for Howard Stern to return to terrestrial radio to larger affiliate clearance than he saw during his hey day….and a Rush Limbaugh pay-day to boot.  American Idol will have RECORD numbers this January….blowout record numbers.

3)  Nights will be the new overnights as stations and groups cut back.  Instead of experimenting with new ideas and formats at night, companies will continue to opt for jock free delivery post 7pm.

4)  Syndicated voicetracks (ala one of John Tesh’s delivery options as well as Seacrest’s) will sweep the nation allowing owners to get top notch “jocks” without Rush Limbaugh rates and ridiculous amounts of barter.  Look for the midday jock at name-your-hot-ac in Denver to be doling her tracks out to 10 other stations nationwide with custom tracks just for that station.  Stations who want to know more about this email me.

5)  MTV & VH1 styled repeats will hit PPM markets.  You know how Rock of Love is always on VH1….well look out because radio in PPM markets will become very similar.  Instead of burning non-music content once and never re-purposing it again, look for music stations to re-purpose and repackage their non-music content for repeat at various times throughout the day.  This will mean morning shows in the afternoon, countdowns repeated and much more.

6)  Shorter talk shows.  The days of the 5 hour morning show or 5 hour talk show are going to be numbered.  Just like repeating content will be more common place, so will more content and smaller doses of content.  Talk stations are going to embrace the 2 hour show, and probably run it twice.

7)  Weather will be the #1 local content/feature/benchmark for radio.  Weather is practically the #1 talking point of all time.  When in doubt, talk to someone about the weather and you have an instant conversation.  It will only increase as a “hot” topic for radio in 2009 based on the populations heightened awareness of climate issues, and radio’s lack of other “local” elements as time passes.

8)  Talent development and non-spot revenue will be lead by brokered programming.  Radio stations will broker more and more airtime that is off peak and even peak to pay the bills and get local programming at the same time.  This will be a tremendous opportunity for business savvy wannabe talent/programmers as well as business people who know how to use radio to get results for their business.

9)  The next revolution in radio will be the introduction of a Hamburger U type sales training academy for radio sales people.  Radio is being crippled by the drought of sales talent and this is an opportunity for either various broadcasting schools or a major broadcasting company.  My bet is on either TRN or Triton Media to lead the way in training and mentoring the next radio sales superstars.  They are the ones who can revive this business.  There has never been a talent drought on the programming side.  Great talents have come and gone with great radio stations because of an inability to sell.  Radio groups will invest in sales consultants and eschew programming consultants.

10)  Arbitron will become a measurement system for the exclusive purpose of bragging rights and programming adjustments.  The sales teams of the future will not be selling 40,000 AQH, but will instead be delivering 40 car buyers per month.  Reach will be replaced with results.  The new sales talent will design programs that sell results for their clients based on real numbers….not guess-timates.

11)  Direct Response advertising will be the model for 80% or more of the spots running nationally, and locally while 60% of radio revenue will be non-spot, non-sponsorship related.

12)  All the programming talent that fought off joining “sales” for all these years will reconsider their stance as they see opportunity in brokering time, selling radio campaigns that work and producing their way back on the air as quality production and stellar writing become even more important.

13)  More and more AM stations will simulcast on the FM.  FM Sports, and various forms of FM talk will thankfully put the 5th lame rock station playing Boulevard of Broken Dreams off the dial in your market, USA.

14)  Radio Disney will migrate to FM and claim their tween-ers and once they do, competition for the 6-12 year old demo will expand to include Nickelodeon and others….which will in turn spawn a revival in what was thought to be a lost demo for radio.

15)  Streaming and websites will both get better and worse.  All the bad websites will only get worse.  The streams of the same station you can get on the FM or AM dial will make less and less sense as time passes unless supplemented with additional options for customized personal listening.  Any radio company with a radio station website will be doomed.  The winners will have lifestyle websites for their audiences.

16)  Westwood One will get gobbled up by Triton Media (if the feds will allow that and it doesn’t seem as though they’re disciminating against much lately) or somehow, someway….Sirius XM will find a way to make a play for them which would set the table nicely for Howard’s triumphant return to terrestrial radio and Mel’s ability to leverage his Sirius XM content elsewhere.

17)  In Chicago, either WLS AM or WGN AM are going to have a better year…and the other one is going to choke.  Bonneville’s 3 stations will continue to dominate and grow.  CBS’s balance sheet will look better, but audience share and revenue share will suffer dramatically…and the tough question will be deciding which of their properties NOT to blow up as they’re all going to look pretty rough.  Emmis is in trouble.  There’s so much opportunity and I don’t expect them to discover how to capture it on 2009…..but Marv and Tisa…I’ve got some ideas…I know what you’re thinking…why would you listen to me?  My queston is why would you listen to the same consulting company you’ve been listening to for years, for yet another year?  I’d like to see someone get wise and program and sell a station to the suburbs….a chicago stick.  I mean forget about the city and the miracle mile….oak street beach….yada yada yada.  Design a station around the people who live, work, and spend their money in the suburbs…and you’ll make a mint.

That’s enough for now I think.  Happy New Year!  Please feel free to add your predictions below and we’ll see what shakes out in 2009.

Here’s 3 Ideas for WGN Radio 720 AM

Here’s 3 ideas for WGN Radio…

WGN Radio

A radio friend of mine recently said to me, “Take away the Cubs and ‘GN is WKRS.”  That may or may not be true…  Take away the Cubs, Spike O’Dell, Kathy and Judy and Paul Harvey though, and WGN is vulnerable.  Unfortunately for WGN, 3 out of the four are almost inevitable in the short term.  What to do?

Here’s 3 ideas for WGN…

#1 Start courting Jonathon Brandmeier today.  Johnny’s a perfect fit for WGN (not so much for WLUP anymore, but that’s a future post)….and Johnny B’s already courting WGN in his own way.  The time is right to get Brandmeier on WGN Radio, and TV.

#2 & #3  Lure Eric & Kathy to WGN Radio.  Their core audience is getting into WGN territory (demo wise) anyway.  Ten years ago E&K’s audience was 34…..and now those women are 44.  Move over “Girlfriends” Kathy & Judy and welcome gal pals Eric & Kathy!  The timing will soon be right for E&K to bolt from music radio and bring their Chicago Show to the last Chicago radio institution that will honor and keep safe such shows.  This is the niche for WGN Radio to satisfy moving forward.

Eric & Kathy

#4  This one is a bonus….and many who agree with #1-3 won’t agree with #4.  Bring in Steve Dahl.  Imagine a Chicago radio station with Johnny B., Eric and Kathy, Bob Sirott (The New Paul Harvey by the way) and Steve Dahl….oh and weather with Skilling.  Think about it.  WGN is the last Chicago Radio Station….or could be.

Steve Dahl

Naysayers will mention the staff would be expensive.  Yes it would.  But WGN bills $40m now making it the #1 billing station in Chicago.  They can afford it.  No one said winning was cheap.