John Tyler

Just like we have thick accents on the east coast, Texas has bigger accents to match or exceed them.

John Tyler, the founder of Satellite Music Network that he subsequently sold to ABC for many millions, had that big Texas drawl.

He started SMN in a garage so he was exactly the guy I wanted to pitch when I had a cockamamie idea for a new radio publication to run past him.

In the early 90’s I had been toying with the idea of taking my weekly trade publication Inside Radio daily.

But wait, that was before the Internet.

I had this idea to send out the daily radio news by fax machine but back then no one really used fax machines other than for junk and most of them used thermal paper that was stuffed into them in large rolls.

The printing was ugly and nothing about this seemed like a good idea for my publication that was getting $400 a year for subscriptions as a weekly newsletter if I just maintained the status quo.

We did a research project for some $30,000 that told us that, in fact, we would lose 85% of our paid subscribers if we tried to pull this stunt.

Tom Taylor, who worked as my editor at that time, returned to my office after the researcher ended his presentation and he said, “You’re going to do it anyway, aren’t you?”

Tom and my excellent President Steve Butler now at KYW in Philadelphia were doing dry runs just in case.

But the big hang up was that I couldn’t find an advertiser willing to commit to this concept.

Until I talked with the best entrepreneur I knew, John Tyler.

Previously, I must have pitched a hundred advertising prospects and most said no and some said they’d throw only a few hundred bucks at it – not enough to get started.

But John heard me out. Let me go through my pitch and when I ended he said in his Texas drawl, “I’ll take one every week for a $1,000 an ad”.

I almost passed out.

Then John added, “I want a three year contract”.

I’m flabbergasted at this point.

“And I want page one”.

Satellite Music Network provided enough revenue to pay for the distribution costs of faxing Inside Radio and set a standard for our ad rates – the ones John established for me. Without John, the idea could have never happened.

From then on when I went to pitch an advertiser on Inside Radio, they could argue all they wanted to about price but if they wanted to be in with SMN they had to pay what their competitor was paying or sit there and watch him succeed.

John, Marty Raab and Marianne Bellinger then pioneered a new kind of daily advertising that allowed SMN to “announce” new affiliates almost as fast as they got them as if we had invented the Internet of its time.

It was a great relationship, but when the three year contract was up, I called on John not knowing what he would do next and he said, “Jerry (and you should hear my name pronounced in thick Texas-ese), you need to start charging a premium for page one and he went on to tell me how before he added this.

“I’m going to pay the old price for another three years and I’m going to be on page one. But for the other four days a week, you’re going to charge everyone else a premium”.

John saw a vision of providing quality programming with live personalities in real time to markets where that was not feasible. He and SMN were a huge success because he made all the right decisions.

Finally, John sold SMN to ABC and in the period of time where they had John remain on to transition the company from quick think to corporate think, John hated every minute of it.

He left and was done with the corporate world.

As I am writing this I can think of a handful but not a lot of radio entrepreneurs who had the balls to shake things up and innovate.

John did it.

He showed me how to do it.

And as he rests in peace I can pay John Tyler the highest compliment.

A true radio entrepreneur the likes of which we could really use today.

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