Low Powered FM Is a Joke

(Note: January 27th is my Media Solutions Lab)

If you’re a radio company and have been opposed to the creation of thousands of low powered FM competitors for the past ten years, you can thank the NAB for riding in on a white horse – in the middle of Congressional debate – to, you guessed it – support the bill.

And you thought Don’t Ask Don’t Tell took forever to pass.

I’m telling you, your NAB is a day late and a nickel short on all the issues radio supposedly cares about.

NAB CEO Senator Gordon Smith is turning out to be an appeaser like Neville Chamberlain, the World War II British Conservative politician who conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to the Nazis.

But not to worry.

This bill so cutely named the Local Community Radio Act is relatively meaningless for a number of reasons.

The legislation opens the radio spectrum to potentially thousands of local independent low powered radio stations (LPFMs) to bring new choices and voices to those poor suckers who can’t get dial-up, broadband, a signal of some kind or anything that conveys news and entertainment.

How can the advocates of this bill talk about choices and voices when American media is under attack from all sides when they actually use their voices? One of the hardest fought freedoms is freedom of expression and to me the era we are living in does not seem to value it.

My definition of freedom of expression is allowing others to say things that may be painful for the rest of us to hear, see or read. At this time in our world, I am concerned about free speech.

The creation of thousands of low powered FM stations is really a disappearing act.

Fight it, and you disappear.

Embrace it, and you disappear.

We’re forgetting the most important thing.

Astounding Radio Ratings

There is only one proven way to attract the maximum radio audience and yet most of the major broadcast groups are employing the exact opposite strategy.  

Critical Audience Trends

(IMPORTANT NOTE:  Just 4 days left to save $200 on my 2011 Media Solutions Lab January 27 in Scottsdale, AZ.  More here.)

If the current holiday season wasn’t a wakeup call for broadcasters, musicians, new media entrepreneurs and marketers, then 2011 will rock their world.

The year 2000 marked the beginning of the Internet age along with the end of the record business as we know it and 2006 began the decline of terrestrial radio with the ascent of mobile media devices and now 2011 promises to be a year of critical change for audiences.

There is no doubt Apple is on a roll and has some surprises for the labels and radio not the least of which could be a streaming music discovery service that would further hurt the radio industry and cede control of the record business further to Steve Jobs.

I am beginning to pick up trends that, while troubling to traditional media, could be useful to those of us who want to remain viable as technology and sociology continue to morph.

Today I am going to touch on 5 of the most important audience trends that are not generally being tracked.

The first one is about a major change in the way young people are beginning to communicate and how that may affect you.

4 Days Left to Save $200 on Jerry’s Media Solutions Lab

This year’s Media Solutions Lab is only weeks away on January 27th at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, AZ.

There’s still time to register at a significant discount if you register before January 1 and discount seats are still available.

You will want to attend this latest Media Solutions Lab to get a solid grasp of the many changes ahead in radio, music and new media in the next 12 months.   I bring my expertise as a recognized expert in radio, television, new media and generational media as a professor at USC and will share the emerging trends you can expect in an interactive classroom format that will leave you with an understanding of the challenges and opportunities ahead. 

Focus on:

What’s ahead for radio  •  Apple’s next move  •  The new “local” media business  •  Make money programming content for 40 million iPads  •  Solving the music royalty problem  •  The new media radio station of the future  •   3 ways to make radio a growth business again  •  The boom ahead for radio personalities  •  The future of the record industry  •  Tracking new competitors  •  Free vs. paid content  •  How to monetize the mobile Internet  •  Evolving social networking and generational media trends  •  Plus Q&A and face time with Jerry

You will also get to participate in individual Innovation Labs to get personal experience brainstorming on the most important issues for the year ahead led by experts in each area.  

Choose to participate in Innovation Labs on these hot trends:

Creating content for iPads (facilitated by Lee Abrams)  •  Dealing with music royalty roadblocks (Sound Exchange's John Simson) •  Inventing the new media radio station of the future (Led by Bonneville/WTOP's Jim Farley) •  Designing hyperlocal media platforms (Public Radio WHYY, Philadelphia's Chris Satullo)

This event in non-commercial with no advertising or sponsor involvement.  It is a one-day learning opportunity that earned a 92% approval rating last year.  It is held in sunny Scottsdale, AZ at one of the best meeting venues in the country.

To be the future you must first see the future.

Invest in your career by attending Jerry’s 2nd Media Solutions Lab and until January 1 or when discount seats are all taken, save $200 off your registration.

The Media Solutions Lab program and how to register at $200 off is here.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  See you back here early next week!

Santa Fagreed and Scrooge Dickey – Bonuses and Coal

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Even under fire from Modern Family’s Cumulus with their unfriendly takeover, Citadel CEO Farid Suleman has somehow found a way to capture the spirit of the season and don a red suit and white beard to play Santa for some Citadel employees this year.

Citadel employees are in shock.

Yes, from that, too!

After all they are shaking in their boots right now at the prospect of Lew Dickey becoming their boss.  Gary Pizzati becoming their handler and Gary Lewis their overseer.  Not to mention Other Brother John doing his imitation of Tommy Smothers (“mom always liked you best”).

Christmas at Citadel is not exactly Miracle on 34th Street.

Times are tough. 

After enduring cutbacks, bankruptcy and corporate arrogance, Citadel workers thought they could just settle in as survivors and find a way to hopefully do their jobs as the professionals they are.

Then, this.

An actual Christmas bonus!

You heard me right. 


Real money – not play.  But, I am told the Citadel bonuses only go to people who are the chosen few. 

On Santa Fagreed’s list of nice not naughty.

But over at Cumulus, the Little Engine that could take over Citadel in the year ahead, it is coal in the stocking for Dickey victims.

Here is the true story that will either warm the cockles of your heart.

(And one of Fagreed’s grateful employees sent me his letter of cheer for everyone to read).

Net Partiality

Net neutrality is a hoax.

The American public is about to be fleeced once again by their elected officials, government appointees (The FCC) and big business.

Passage of net neutrality rules by the FCC yesterday paves the way for years of legal battles and uncertainty as technology again leads the way for new media and the public gets shut out.

In a nutshell net neutrality would guarantee that Internet providers would be prevented from interfering with web traffic.

But the proposed rules might accomplish that goal for some forms of Internet access but not others.  And all of a sudden free speech has given way to something more important to Internet service providers as it appears the FCC has sold out to AT&T and Verizon.

For the first time these giant providers would be able to charge more to companies and individuals that want faster service or more capability for delivery of video, games and other services prompting Senator Al Franken to comment, "grassroots supporters of net neutrality are beginning to wonder if we've been had". Franken wondered aloud whether the proposal adopted by the FCC was "worse than nothing."

There are concerns that building in pricing capability for Internet service providers to charge more for better service will create an unfair advantage to others.  The analogy I heard recently is that if power companies dictated what appliances consumers could use by charging more for using some things and less for others, it would be an awful way to manage capacity and demand.

Yet that is precisely what is happening as The Obama Administration appears ready to renege on a promise the president made in 2008 with regard to making the Internet equally accessible to all.

While this argument takes place, more and more consumers will be using the mobile Internet and the devices that they love so much and yet the guarantees of neutrality may only apply in some ways to wired broadband and not mobile Internet. 

Translation:  your iPad may look like it is in your hands, but it will really be in the hands of Internet providers.

AT&T and Verizon have already introduced tiered pricing for the mobile Internet and Comcast is getting ready to jump in once they get federal approval to buy 51% of NBC Universal.

So you can see what a mess this is for consumers, new media content providers, advocates of free speech and those concerned with not creating a hierarchy of Internet access for only those able to pay.

But wait.

There are major repercussions for – of all things – terrestrial radio, the medium left in the dust by iPhones, iPads, Androids and the entire mobile Internet.

Radio is free.

Anyone can access it relatively inexpensively, but consumers are turning away from radio for mobile Internet devices. 

I’ve got an early look at a scenario where the greed of ISPs could actually help revive simple, terrestrial radio if it follows this game plan.


If you think that only the radio industry is dysfunctional, think again.

There are four majors remaining in what’s left of the record business and EMI could lose control to Citigroup very soon – the bank that propped the label up with billions of dollars during hard times.

And it all could happen before the New Year.

The private equity firm of Terra Firma under the management of Guy Hands is already whispering that they may have to turn the label over to the bankers.


That sounds like radio and no good can come from it.

You almost can’t blame a bank for wanting its money back when you’re talking about billions. I get that. What they don’t get is that bankers don’t know how to operate anything.

I refer you back to radio.

Terra Firma lost a court battle not long ago with Citigroup where it basically said that they were lured into buying EMI – that’s fraud except that the courts didn’t buy it. 

$6.7 billion later, Terra Firma is in quicksand despite cost cutting almost certainly guaranteeing that one of the big four labels will be up for grabs when the bank takes over.

It would be as if Citadel filed for bankruptcy and then Cumulus wanted to steal it as it emerged. 

Hey, wait a minute! Didn’t that already happen?

There are serious repercussions for the music industry if Citigroup takes back EMI and eventually sells off the small parts.

Cumudel — What Happens When You Cross a Cumulus with a Citadel

You've heard of the banking concept called too big to fail?

The proposed merger of Cumulus with Citadel is too failed to be big.

Everyone thinks Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey is forcing a merger with the recently bankrupt Citadel to grow his media empire.

Well, don’t fall for it.

Dickey is trying to save his own neck as I will go on to explain. The last two radio groups anyone would put together is the red ink drenched Cumulus with the fresh from having screwed their investors Citadel.

Two radio groups behaving badly – only a desperate radio CEO could come up with this idea.

And make no mistake about it, Lew Dickey is desperate.

Cumulus has failed to turn around local sales even with the Atlanta-based national sales system that even a dummy can follow. Unfortunately for Cumulus, their salespeople are not dummies – at least not all of them. And those poor suckers hired from other industries with no experience are probably more naïve than stupid.

Face it.

The best part of watching Lew Dickey try to engineer an unfriendly takeover of Citadel is seeing Citadel CEO Farid “Fagreed” Suleman sweat and “Tricky” Dickey beg – in public.

Go ahead, admit it!

But the prospect of Cumudel is a not-ready-for-primetime maneuver born more of necessity on the part of Cumulus than the need of Citadel to sell out for $31 a share.

This battle is a Christmas present to all the screwed employees of radio. It has everything a drama could ask for – greed, jealousy, power and sex. Okay, three out of four ain’t bad.

I feel like I know these two pretenders like the back of my hand and believe it or not I know how the desired merger of Cumulus with Citadel is going to end and what it is going to mean. 

Music Media Predictions for 2011

Today I have 12 predictions for you about the year ahead in music and media, radio and the mobile Internet. Most of you who have been reading me for a while know we’ve had a pretty good record of seeing the music and media future. 

Here’s a taste of my predictions (counted down in order):

  1. What I think Apple will do to impact music and radio in 2011
  2. The Performance royalty for radio – yes, no?
  3. One major label will go bankrupt in the year ahead – we name it
  4. The future of Pandora
  5. The most endangered radio group CEO (take a guess)
  6. The hostile takeover of Citadel
  7. The first radio company to derive 10% of total revenue from new media
  8. The biggest new media business not on radio’s radar screen (but should be on yours)
  9. What’s next after Facebook and Twitter
  10. The future of paid subscriptions
  11. The unseen obstacle to providing content to 40 million iPads
  12. Clear Channel’s secret preparations for their big move in 2012

As low as 38 cents a day to subscribe to Inside Music Media. My 12 Music Media Predictions for 2011 might be a great way to get started.

Check out the options to subscribe (monthly billing or one year discount) by clicking “read more” then let me know what you think of these predictions. 

Radio Royalty Revolt

This piece is about real alternatives to the damaging music performance tax that is ready to be imposed on radio stations either by law or by concession.

There are real alternatives but you wouldn't know it from what's being discussed.

Just yesterday, there was some last minute maneuvering in Congress to get the performance rights tax for radio ready for House passage with an eye toward later Senate approval. Sooner or later, the music tax is coming to radio. I’m betting sooner.

There is a discussion in this article about the snowball effect on radio’s capitulation to the music industry even if it is initially at 1% of a station’s revenue. This piece outlines the latest behind the scenes machinations and the threat to music in new media.

Today’s piece also reveals new options going forward for radio stations and individuals who want to negotiate their own deals instead of having the NAB do it for them. There is precedent. A little known action as recently as a few weeks ago. I’ll fill you in.

Then, the “plan”.

Four steps that are completely legal and in your hands that can lead you to a livable deal with record labels.

The stakes are high.

The return of terrestrial music radio to a healthy place is on the line and without this approach, you can pretty much forget about harnessing those 40 million iPads that analysts say will be in the hands of consumers by next year at this time.

If you’d like to access this story, check out the options under “read more”.

Have a great day! -- Jerry 

Massive Radio Firings Ahead

This piece focuses on how the three major consolidators – Clear Channel, Cumulus and Citadel will reduce their number of employees over the next 12 months. It is my best projection and I name percentages and the most endangered positions.

There is a discussion about the mentality of venture capitalists who run today’s radio groups to get an idea of how they think on cutbacks and downsizing and there is a projection of what’s ahead for each group.

Clear Channel: The two biggest areas where personnel will be dismissed over the next year. The changing severance package likely to be offered. I’m predicting the eventual selloff of hundreds of Clear Channel stations due to the inability to pay off $19 billion in debt and how this will impact employment. How much smaller Clear Channel will be next December compared to today expressed as a percentage.

Cumulus: Lew Dickey is not really going to complete an unfriendly takeover of Citadel but he is going to continue his unfriendly takeover of Cumulus. The jobs most likely to see turnover even while Dickey is hiring wet behind the ears replacements. Some of his clusters will be running on empty so we’ll discuss the strategy, as we understand it. Cumulus’ workforce will be reduced significantly over the next 12 months. Don’t count on using the company copying machine to print resumes or much severance pay, for that matter.

Citadel: This odd-duck company is cutting workers for a reason different than Clear Channel and Cumulus. There is also a new influence to reckon with for employees there. This article discusses where the cutbacks are coming from and who will be wielding the axe going forward.

All in all – 2011 will have a deleterious effect on radio as we have known it and I’ll project where it will all end up in the next five years.

If you’d like to access this story, check out the options under "read more".

3 Media Monopolies To Fear

Yesterday, Nielsen announced it was giving up on the radio ratings business in the United States after several frustrating years. With that word Nielsen becomes the umpteenth radio ratings company that failed to upend Arbitron.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Arbitron is fresh off of its own announcement to mark the one-year early renewal of Clear Channel as its biggest radio client to re-up for Portable People Meter (PPM) ratings through 2015.

That’s a half billion dollars from their monopoly to Arbitrons.

At the same time, there is growing evidence that the Evil Empire of the new media world is Google with new concerns arising that Google’s vast search empire is buying up businesses in non-search areas making it pretty hard for the Feds to stop them.

Google matters to media companies because what Arbitron is to radio, Google will be to whatever businesses such as radio become in the digital arena.

There is a third monopoly that could have as big an impact on the media business as both Google and Arbitron put together. More on that in a moment.

First, what’s up with Nielsen dropping radio ratings?

I talked to some very nice Nielsen people at the NAB Radio Show in Philadelphia a few years back and told them that I was skeptical about their chances of penetrating Arbitron market share. Of course, they were predictably optimistic.

One thing about monopolies, it takes one to know one and in the case of monopolistic type companies, they suck the air out of other businesses often with the help of other companies that suck the air out of other businesses.

Take the monopoly Arbitron being supported by the monopoly Clear Channel to the tune of $500 million. Is it any wonder that Nielsen pulled up stakes the day after Arbitron’s whopping Clear Channel renewal became public?

Nielsen said all the right things like we were making money, had 51 markets including some Cumulus small markets and 17 Clear Channel cities. They had Maverick Media, ESPN but it didn’t have a half billion from Clear Channel.

Lew Dickey, who championed Nielsen as a cheap alternative to Arbitron, is left holding the bag of money he can now spend on that Citadel takeover (Ha Ha). Cumulus is as cheap as any broadcaster and what Nielsen needed was a real monopoly – the kind that spends what it doesn’t have.

Like Clear Channel.

It’s interesting that Nielsen will continue doing radio ratings in 11 other countries presumably where Arbitron does not dominate.

So what’s going on?

Radio is stuck with one ratings service with flawed drive-by technology that consolidators just happen to love because it over reports listening to stations that mostly play music.

New media is afraid of Google which is under investigation in other countries and even here in Texas for allegedly punishing search clients who become rivals of the many companies Google is acquiring.

And then there is this blockbuster. 

Clear Channel Becomes Cumulus

What kind of screwed up industry is radio when the largest radio group initiatives another of its many rounds of cost cutting while simultaneous signing an early Arbitron renewal contract for half a billion dollars?

A company that values Bob Pittman’s $5 million stake in Clear Channel as entre to his new position as head of entertainment and new media while preparing to initiate more draconian cutbacks that will make your hair curl.

And this from a radio giant that owes $19 billion in debt – due within two years – with no known way to pay for it other than bankruptcy (which means, not paying for it).

Howard Stern’s Big Mistake

How can a guy who has already made well in excess of $500 million in satellite radio make a mistake signing on for millions and millions and more?

From the money perspective - you go, guy!

A new five-year mega deal with SiriusXM sounds like a great move for Howard Stern. After all, Stern gets what he says will most likely be his last radio contract, lots more money and more time off.

While Stern can take the money and run, if you place the bet he just did on the future of radio, you’ll most certainly lose without the benefit of Stern money.

Howard Stern made a big mistake and he’s not alone because media companies are making the same one right now. 

Radio December 31, 2011

Cumulus tried two unfriendly takeovers of Citadel this week.

Local radio is being replaced by syndicated programming and voice tracking.

Owners think new media is streaming a terrestrial station online.

To them, social networking is texting in to win on-air contests.

Something very important is going on right now that portends what will happen in the next 12 months.

There’s new technology breaking.

Another palpable change in consumer media behavior.

And an x factor that not one radio broadcaster sees right now even though it could spell the end to their monopolies.

Direct radio is the future and you don’t have to be a big radio group to get in on it. Just smart enough to know what it is. 

It isn't broadcasting.


If you want to know how to do it right, look no further than Netflix.

From mail order operator to digital powerhouse without all the missteps and reservations you see the record industry, broadcasting or publishing obsess over.

And because Netflix is a media company that got it right first, all other competitors now coming out of the woodwork are disadvantaged as being potential also rans.

Netflix is becoming a major player not only in the movie business but poised to shakeup television, cable and get in the face of the biggest competitor to date – Amazon, which announced yesterday it wants what Netflix is having.

In radio, an entire local broadcasting business has been hijacked by venture capitalists and opportunist CEOs. That’s why if you compare radio today with radio before the digital revolution, it is just about the same. Not very different.

Meanwhile consumers have changed.

Technology really has changed and is coming at us exponentially – every new product offering new ways to get content and marketing literally in the hands of consumers.

Therefore while a “mail you a movie” business morphed into your digital best way to watch video content ramps up for growth and puts cable, phone, TV and satellite businesses in jeopardy, radio threatens no one.

Same could be said about the record business, which is essentially the same thing it was in 2000 as it is today – CD driven with reluctant forays into digital. Half-hearted efforts to actually encourage entrepreneurs to use music (i.e., draconian streaming licenses) and stingy “try before you buy” strategies to fuel consumer passion for music.

The music industry, therefore, threatens no one – but its own existence.

Publishing has been dying for decades stubbornly unwilling to accept the role consumers cast them in when television news and now the Internet came along. Extinction is the penalty for not paying attention.

What’s more pressing is that media companies cobbling their plans together for 2011 are, in my view, getting ready to do just the opposite of what Netflix did.


A business that delivers movies by mail and that is dead if mail goes out of style that becomes the standard by which other companies are judged.

So here is what radio, records, publishing and television should learn from Netflix.

Dickey’s Tricky Takeover

Now it’s war.

Mano e mano.

Cumulus against Citadel.

Lew Dickey vs. Farid Suleman in the heavyweight championship of the deal world.

Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey has been feeling very impotent lately when it comes to putting his man pants on (to borrow a political term) and doing a deal to acquire stations he keeps promising he will buy.

For all his talk – outright bragging about a billion-dollar acquisition fund for such a purpose -- Dickey has come up limp for years.

But yesterday, it was reported that Dickey tried to engineer not one but two unfriendly takeover bids in recent days against Citadel. Both were rejected in the name of not being good for the shareholders.

Hold that thought. I’ll come back to it.

In other words, radio’s poster child for what Wall Street can do to trash a perfectly good industry launched the “nucular” option. Radio people know that there is no love lost between Dickey and Suleman – two birds of a feather in some ways.

You might ask yourself, how does a twerp of a company like Cumulus go after a mess such as Citadel in this economy?

But first, ask yourself this.

Can you imagine working at Citadel, perhaps the second worst people-friendly radio company (Cumulus is the worst) and hearing the news that Uncle Lew wants you! How more depressing can your job be at starvation wages, mean management and now this?

Happy Holidays.

Published reports in The New York Times say that Citadel received an unsolicited letter from a third party in early November proposing a merger transaction.

The offer was rejected quicker than Farid Suleman would turn down a coach seat on Southwest.

Then on November 29th, Dickey upped his lowball offer.

Rejected again.

Bankrupt companies must be in great demand these days. Or big egos need to be fed. Somehow in the back of your mind are you thinking what I’m thinking that Dickey never really thought Citadel would accept the offer and if they did, he would have said, “oh shit!”

So now we’re left to figure out whether this weak attempt to purportedly buy a main competitor was for vanity or necessity.

It begs the question where would Dickey get the money? You realize investment funds are not exactly flowing around Wall Street these days.

What’s the end game?

Will Dickey try again and can Suleman defend himself against Cumulus if the offers get better?

These are some of the questions we’re going to answer right now


No one radio consolidator gets more dimes dropped on them than Lew Dickey’s Cumulus Media.

The company was voted the worst in a poll of thousands of media executives conducted in Inside Music Media a year ago. And I sense things have not gotten any better as Dickey has become Dr. Death to so many promising radio careers.

Don’t get me wrong. For the past four years I’ve been getting tons of email from current and former employees of almost all radio companies giving a revealing look at how they’re operated behind the scenes.

Almost always, what these consolidators say and what they do are in sharp contrast.

What’s always amazed me is from the first day I called Lew Dickey “Tricky”, Farid Suleman “Fagreed” and John Hogan “Slogan” these companies had Inside Music Media blocked from their corporate mail.

That’s fair. Why let your employees read someone who isn’t ever going to put you on a cover or invite you to keynote a convention? They have a right to control what their employees read about them and their companies – at work.

There are others who went down that road as well – usually the ones criticized the most for helping to tank the radio industry.

In spite of it all, these control freaks forgot that almost everyone has a personal email address and wouldn’t you know they simply signed up there to continue reading what I am saying here away from work.

But now, in the spirit of WikiLeaks I got some disturbing news from inside Cumulus that will never be read in the happy talk press. You know, the place where everything is beautiful in radio as long as you don’t talk about what is going on behind the scenes.

Seems like Dr. Dickey has come up with a public option of his own that deleteriously affects the health care plans of his long-suffering employees.

So I am going to out him right here and even do a little document dump – the first of many I am sure -- as Dickey’s employees fight back by shedding light on a company that is far from employee-friendly and for that matter not all that friendly to shareholders.

But where shall I begin? 

Taylor Swift vs. Black Ops

You’ve got to hand it to the record labels.

On the rare occasion that they sell a million albums these days, they break into a rendition of “Celebration”.

Except the times aren’t good for the labels.

And there is very little to celebrate.

Take the tale of Taylor Swift and compare that to the video game “Call of Duty: Black Ops” for a little perspective.

Taylor Swift sold a million albums in the first week “Speak Now” was released.

“Call of Duty: Black Ops” video game broke sales records when it sold over 10 million copies at $60 for a total net of $650 million in its first five days on the market – and may sell a record 20 million units by the end of the year.

This is not about whether Taylor Swift’s album is good or bad – not a critique. Taylor Swift has a passionate young audience and she is a legitimate star. It’s about a shrinking record business that could learn a thing or two from the video game business.

What record label execs are proud to point out is that Taylor Swift sold 769,000 old school CDs in the process and are saying the CD isn’t dead.

In their dreams.

Taylor Swift transcends radio formats. She’s as popular right now as any recorded music star. Popular with teens. Men think she’s beautiful. Women want to be her.

So is it fair to compare Taylor Swift, the best the record industry has to offer right now, with a vids?

The real issue at hand is not whether CDs are dead or video games are better than recorded music.

The real issue is what does it take to fuel a growth business.

Black Ops is the seventh in a series of big hit video games. It’s an addiction. The latest offering is set in Vietnam and Cuba and trades on Fidel Castro and John F. Kennedy images in its fictitious plot line.

For Taylor Swift, she was knocked out of the top spot on the Billboard 200 by Susan Boyle almost as fast as she got there – not uncommon for music these days. A big hit is a short-lived hit even if radio stations didn’t get that memo because they keep playing big hits after they quickly peak.

Taylor Swift has sold 13 million albums worldwide during her brief career.

While music doesn’t have to sell as many units as, say, video games, there is something quite telling going on right now.

Here’s how the Black Ops playbook could actually help sell music. 

Ryan Seacrest — Clear Channel’s Face of Firing

If the overpayment of Ryan Seacrest to continue as the face and voice of Clear Channel is representative of the second coming of Bob Pittman to the radio industry, then we’re all in trouble.

Pittman’s first official act was to announce the rehiring of Ryan Seacrest for double the pay he was previously getting -- $60 million for three years.

And if that doesn’t rankle you, then you’re obviously not one of the thousands of Clear Channel professionals who made a lot less and did a lot more before you were fired from live and local radio.

So, Pittman throws lots of Lee and Bain money around in his current role as chairman of Clear Channel’s media and entertainment division.

It seems so easy.

The cutbacks that occurred for years – once over a thousand in one day -- are erased by a venture capital poster boy who clearly doesn’t get it.

Or does he?

Does Pittman know how to run the largest radio group ever put together on the face of the earth or do you?

And does it even matter when Clear Channel is head over heels in debt that can only lead to bankruptcy?

Pittman is likely to be the heir apparent to Mark Mays as Clear Channel CEO when Mays steps down next year so he had better know.

But paying Seacrest more than Glenn Beck and less than Rush Limbaugh shows you how easy it is to play monopoly when the venture capitalists are the bank.


Because $60 million is chump change to them even if $60,000 is called a living to their thousands fired employees.

This is not a slap at Seacrest who is a good and talented guy, but a criticism of how stupid radio consolidators are when they come up with crazy cutback plans, overpay their CEOs (are you listening Tricky Dickey and Fagreed Suleman?) and are quick to pull the plug on the one thing Apple, Pandora – the entire Internet cannot compete with – live and local radio.

I get that Seacrest will be a busy guy – helping Clear Channel not rehire local talent in markets as he continues to replace them with his syndicated work so to them his salary is a bargain.

I get that Seacrest will do some developmental work with Clear Channel – whatever that is. And in the scheme of things – doesn’t really matter.

But there is another side to this story that may well show you what 2011 is going to be like at many other consolidated radio groups.

Three things.

So, sit down and remove any sharp objects from sight while I lay it all out. 

Fagreed Suleman – The Energizer Bunny

I’m about to be sick.

Farid “Fagreed” Suleman is going to sell a half billion in bonds to unwitting financial institutions so he can lower Citadel’s debt to a pittance of only $262.5 million.

Stop for a second and think about this.

Radio is one of the few industry’s that remains standing where its biggest leaders are doubling down on debt while innovating nothing and virtually ignoring consumer preferences for mobile media.

Fagreed always manages to take good care of number one – that would be his bad self. Meanwhile he seems satisfied to have seven-year-old news cruisers at KGO in San Francisco. Happy to go without managers, program directors and live talent at many of his stations.

The Wizard of Odds bet that he could learn on the job to run Citadel and he lost.

I mean he won.

While Fagreed never learned how to run radio stations, he did learn how to play stupid Wall Street tricks such as filing for bankruptcy and raising debt for a sketchy company.

So this hopelessly inept radio group leaves its shareholders with nothing, other investors with next to nothing and its big lenders get the company back in lieu of getting their loan payments back.

Then bankruptcy – pre-fixed, or should I use a nice term like pre-arranged – that sounds so much better. And presto out of bankruptcy comes the company The Wizard of Odds bet the ranch on, lost and eventually lived to see another glorious day.

Meanwhile in the real world …

Google is getting ready to spend up to $6 billion dollars for the coupon site Groupon within the next few days.

You know what Apple does – makes consumer products and defies the economy.

News Corp will likely sell MySpace to get out of the way it mismanaged that half billion plus acquisition.

But in radio, it’s not about trying and failing. It’s about failing without even trying.

Let’s take a look specifically at the big three – Clear Channel, Cumulus and Suleman’s latest trick at Citadel. They are all in debt trouble.

But something wondrous is going to come out of their pain – lots of radio stations are about to go back on the market at bargain basement prices.

Let me give you the details and timeline for each. I’m going to give it to you straight – you won’t get so candid a prediction anywhere else.

Let’s start with Citadel.