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.

What the Hell Does Robert Feder Know?

Randy Michaels (Tribune CEO) put out a list to his company chronicling 100 words that “shall not be named”.  It’s my understanding this list was intended for Tribune writers, WGN TV presenters, and WGN radio hosts.

“The real goal here is to avoid using words that make you sound like you’re reading, instead of talking — that shatter the image you’re speaking knowledgeably to one person. By not using ‘newsspeak,’ you enhance your reputation as a communicator.”

Robert Feder wrote a scathing review of this memo and Randy’s practices at WGN.  Once you get on Mr. Feder’s bad side you’re doomed.  That’s not to say Rob (not Bob) isn’t objective.  But the bigger issue (as Feder’s pointed out in his column) with this regime and others (Ahern’s CBS 2) is the fundamental culture schism.

The new bosses at Tribune came in and pissed all over everything THEN tried to establish themselves as credible and respect worthy management.  Now, they’re looked at as the bulls in a China shop when all they really want is to fix a company mired in “we’ve always done it this way” which is killing newspaper across the US.

I had lunch with a friend and fellow radio programmer yesterday and we laughed because the “list” of words not to mention is not too far off base.  Million dollar TV and Radio hosts have gotten lazy.  Their management has been reluctant to shape and mold them, or perhaps incapable because the managers didn’t have the chops or command the respect to do so.  Either way, it’s time to catapult Tribune into the 21st Century for sure.  There’s no doubt about that.

Anyone who says YOU ALL or YOU GUYS is NOT relating to an audience of ONE, which is what your audience ALWAYS is.  But tell that to Oprah.  Sometimes, she even calls the audience……AUDIENCE!

I think Mr. Feder recognizes these things even though he admittedly has not programmed a radio or TV station.  He get’s it.  He also gets how the Tribune Company will rot from the inside out if this stuff continues the way it’s being done.

Mr. Michaels is indeed attacking the messenger.  That’s what his staff is doing as well, because of the way he executed this initiative.  Memos like this are meant for telling all staff the parking lot is going to be painted on Monday and please park in lot B.  Phone calls, one on one development meetings and good old conversations are the way to motivate and inspire real change on the scale they need at the Trib.

Randy, you need to get those people walking with you NOT 20 steps behind you in fear.  I recall the signs all over the inside of WGN Radio which boldly stated:  “YOU own this place now” referring to employee ownership.  If the employees own the place, why aren’t they being treated with as much or MORE respect than you’d offer to Sam Zell?  The employees actually have SKIN IN THE GAME.

Also noted by Feder is how Michaels bagged on bloggers.  Funny.  Bloggers are good enough to anchor ChicagoNow.com AND take up precious airtime on WGN CHICAGO!  So what does Robert Feder know?  I think he’s seen enough over his 30 years covering Chicago media to know when something’s off.  He’s also smart enough to know the web is the future for all writers and darn near everything…..but then again, What the hell does Matt DuBiel know….?

(In full disclosure, I reached out to ChicagoNow about blogging for them a while back.  I began “blogging” in 1997, and then started podcasting in 2004.  Admittedly, it wasn’t a weekly effort on my part.  Either way, I pitched ChicagoNow on a blog concept coming from the perspective of a 30 something dad in the suburbs.  I got a response.  I was told to lay out some examples, which I did, and I then never heard back.  The more I thought about it afterward, the more I questioned why anyone would blog for ChicagoNow or anywhere else UNLESS they are getting paid.  Blogs are cheap and easy to set up and when you control your blog you control your message, your brand and your relationships.  Anyone blogging for ChicagoNow for free should blog on their own website and let ChicagoNow refeed it.  Don’t just blog for ChicagoNow or any other site for free.)