Saving American media and music…from itself


Here are some things I believe to be true that few seem willing to come to terms with: Idealistic and Unrealistic are terms I hear often. Maybe, but I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who REALLY disagrees,  especially once you step away from the Industry and start to talk to the streets (And I don’t mean focus groups):

The Big Solution in declining media (and music) relevance is in re-jiggering the leadership mentality. The 21st Century Music industry is owned by Apple for a lot of reasons. I’d say a big one is their mentality or lack of “old” mentality is creating barriers which are rampant across American media.

TV, traditional music, radio and news have yet to experience that.  Here are a few denial busters focusing on the problems with the mentality and misplacement thinking of its leadership.  The good news is that the issues are SO obvious, they are correctable for those with the courage, willingness and vision to correct. There IS a lot of that thinking out there that needs to be liberated:

RADIO:  Traders and bankers dominate, which is why stations are commodities rather than entertainment vehicles. Trading and banking is the American way, but when that is the sole focus the product suffers as it clearly has. I’ve never seen an industry in such denial.  You’ll read about who’s buying who, but when can you recall discussion about creating great sounding stations?  Maybe I’m being romantic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.  This business is in the “check the box” mode.

TV:  General Mangers (Salesmen) control TV which is why there’s no focus on creative. That’s OK when there’s no competition,  but those days are over, and TV still lives in those days.  Just watch your local news.

Ironically, an amazing TV product would be easier to sell, but as long as the marketing buzzword driven, Ad Club luncheon mentality controls and snuffs new thinking, there will be an ongoing relevancy decline. Revenue is of course the bottom line (literally) but it’s like cars.  Build a better one. Market and price it right–it’ll sell.  TV doesn’t seem to want to build the better car, just sell it.

And I cannot imagine a media product being harder to sell when it’s in synch with the pulse of 2011 and not the 1990’s focus group, refreshingly different and better.

1. Moguls who made money the old way. So why change and, in fact fight it as it’s unfamiliar turf?
2.  Criminals who like the sexiness and allure of the business. Back in the 60’s it was Roulette Records, now it’s the Hip Hop bigwigs.

MUSIC: There are no musical leaders as everyone is following the old have a hit single and play club gigs 70s model. Futile.  It’s over for musicians who aren’t fashion-driven or have deep histories…unless they create a new model that isn’t about record companies, radio, endless club dates and the old way…and I’m not talking about social media which borders on cliche. I’m talking about the music and its presentation. The late 60’s were a time of experimentation.  We need that now.

You see it in films…why not music, on 2011 terms? Musicians need to be liberated from the old model and create the new one.  Universal or Sony ain’t going to do it.

NEWS:  Journalists who may be good at writing it but have few clues on presenting it.  Writing may be in their DNA, presentation rarely is. Why would a TV News Director be overseeing (often with a GM in tow) creative presentation? This is not 1938…journalism needs to be presented in synch with 2011. I see where networks and stations “re-invent” things like Morning shows and Newscasts.  Hilarious.

Watch this: Onion News on the Today Show.  I get the feeling the Today show people just don’t get it.  Sad, but amusing. Check the video.

POLITICS: Then of course…politicians. Think the nation is getting tired of politics?  Well, guess what? They’re tired of bad media too. In the SAME way they’re tired of bad politics.  The B.S. the cliches, the mindlessness. Well, it’s not different from media/music leadership woes.

The solution is easy: recognize these points. It’s pretty clear…not easy, but clear…that’s the start. Don’t listen to anyone who says “…you don’t understand our business…”  Chances are THEY are the ones who don’t understand it in this age of change.

Media revolution needs revolutionaries passionate about designing the  Sign up.

— Lee Abrams, former Tribune Chief Innovation Officer