Monday, October 5, 2015

The 2015 NAB/RAB Radio Show: Contagious Energy Abounding

The theme of the 2015 Radio Show may have been “Movin’ Up,” but a better moniker might have been “Heads Up!”

With Nielsen’s prominently positioned banner at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis proclaiming “93% listen to radio every day,” it was more than apparent that broadcasters are not only feeling optimistic about the future, but positive about the present.

Total attendance was up from 2,079 in 2014 to 2,170 this year. But those 100 new names don’t tell the real story: It’s about the faces: of youth. There is a new generation of future leaders that are jazzed—not so much about streaming or Pandora or tomorrow’s latest tech gizmo as much as they are—about AM/FM Radio.

The Opening Reception Tuesday was a case in point. In the mix were industry veterans, young guns, students, budding talent and all in between. With Steven Tyler’s backup band Loving Mary providing the tunes, attendees created their own rhythm—and it sure felt like a celebration of good things to come for radio.

Alongside name brands like John David, Erica Farber, George Beasley, Jeff Smulyan and Pierre Bouvard were 22-year-old syndicated on-air host Zach Sang; Tommy Page, who exited Pandora to head Cumulus’ Brand Partnerships; and any number of the 135 college students awarded registration scholarships to participate in the Radio Show.

The packed sessions only fueled the fire. Advertisers and their agencies joined the discussion, FCC officials were integrally involved, and we all talked about programmatic, connected cars, audience engagement, programming & sales strategies, and so much more.

As a trade journalist who has covered the Radio Show since 1988, I will say this was one of the most exhilarating and profound broadcasting conventions I can recall. Radio’s collective tail is no longer tucked. We’re fanning our feathers proudly. And that makes the future sound mighty bright.

Originally appeared in Inside Radio.

Friday, September 25, 2015

New Gig! Contributing To Industry's Leading Trade Pub 'Inside Radio'

Here's the skinny, as reported by Inside Radio. This is good. This is real real good.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The 2015 Grammy Awards: Best & Worst Of The Night

Oh, those Grammys! What a night of yuk yuks! Here are the top 10 most notable moments, according to your humble music journo... Ready or not!

* Best Perf: Annie Lennox performing w/Hozier. Damn! I was actually clapping at the TV. Those pipes, that roar, baby! And she was having a blast.

* Worst Perf: Madonna’s camel toe. Enough with the vag, Madge.

* Worst Perf II: Kanye West. Still thinks he’s a musician, huh? Grandpappy McCartney & Rihanna added nothing to the biggest zero “event” of the night.

* Put some big boy pants on: AC/DC, Pharrell Williams. And what’s up with the bellhop hat, kiddo? 

* Best dressed: Taylor Swift’s stunning swan-like turquoise gown.

* Buzz factor: Sam Smith’s ubiquitous “Stay with Me,” at last "awakened." Thank you, Mary J. Blige!

* LOL: Why is Tom Jones orange? Somebody wrote on FB that he looked like Fred Sanford. Heee. Prince’s afro was right frightful, too.

* Surprise!: Beyonce’s immaculate gospel reading of “Take My Hand Precious Lord.” Wow, my ears didn't bleed!

* Oops: Katy Perry, honey, stick to the pop schmaltz. Your “serious” performance was way too "precious."

* Those we lost: Seeing my hero Casey Kasem as one of 2014's dearly departed got me misty. I owe my career to his impact on me as a kid.

* Zzzzz: Adam Levine & Gwen Stefani were as engaging as beige. Yawn... And boy, she struggled with those notes... "The Voice"? Not so much.

* Swoon: Ariana Grande, showing again that she's a gifted vocalist. Lovely, restrained performance of "Just A Little Bit of My Heart." Love my Ari.

* Swoon II: Tony Bennett & Gaga, singing beautifully & having fun together as pals. She sabotaged her pop career w/too many gimmicks, but Ga sure can swagger.

* WTF: Another inexplicable Album of the Year win... Beck. Obviously a voting split between Smith (shoulda) & Beyonce left us with a lame duck (Just like 2011's Arcade Fire win). Not just an upset, but upsetting for those of us who take pride as NARAS voters.

* WTF2: Obama lambasting the occasion with a grave downer message about domestic violence. Relevant, but here? Really?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

One Year Later... A New Life In Virginia

In “The Book of Questions,” there’s a query that goes like this: “Which would you prefer: a wild, turbulent life filled with joy, sorrow, passion & adventure, intoxicating successes and stunning setbacks—or a happy, secure, predictable life without such wide swings of fortune and mood?”

It’s a question that has remained in my mind’s eye since I discovered the book in 1987. Ultimately, when I moved to New York City in 1995 for my dream job at Billboard magazine, I experienced the former. Life was crazy cool: so many highs amid a career that allowed me to prove my moxie as a writer in a forum that mattered—and apparently made a difference to the many artists I supported.

Among my roles there, my calling card was Singles Reviews Editor. I was the geeky pop guy that championed acts that seldom garnered kudos from the mainstream press. From Celine Dion and Jim Brickman to those 90s’ pop boom acts (‘N Sync, BSB, Jessica Simpson, 98 Degrees, Christina Aguilera, BBMak, Hanson), I became the de facto champion of “great melodies.”

I also had the opportunity (and the real estate) to amp newbie artists that deserved press from the industry’s “music Bible.” I recognized the power that BB’s team of veteran journalists possessed in an era when the mag still mattered—and man oh man, was it paid forward—through a lifetime’s worth of awesome memories (not to mention a robust Starfucker wall of grab & grin photos).

In 2009, when Nielsen was looking to sell the company, the recession presented an ideal excuse to excise Billboard’s veteran writers and lean up its bottom line. One by one, the talented scribes were laid off. March 25 was my D-Day. I was called in, fired—and yet had two interviews scheduled for the afternoon: a video
interview for with Ashely Tisdale and a phoner with Lionel Richie.

Buck up, baby! I walked around Billboard’s East Village neighborhood for an hour after getting canned, shared the news with my work besties Kristina, Christa & Donna, whimpered a bit, and then put it aside to get on with business.

After the Lionel interview, I got an email from the label’s publicist that went something like this: “I don’t know what just happened, but Lionel said he had one of the best interviews of his career with you. Obviously, you got him—and he surely got you.” Well, then, a fitting finale.

The point of all this is to define life since then… and the details matter, because life was profoundly different in the years following. Suddenly, I was a “freelance journalist.” I know meeself: Give me an assignment and a deadline and I’ll deliver. I’m the ultimate minion. As a self-starter, um, not so much. I’m a fine writer but unfortunately, a less enterprising entrepreneur.

Thankfully, the U.S. Census came to my rescue. For nine months in 2010, I had the time of my life working with wickedly smart folks and learning to love my Brooklyn in a brand new way. I was there long enough to gambol through snowdrifts and then trod the streets with a summer flop sweat. Indelible. I also met Suzanne, a lifer friend.

In 2013, I finished renovating my Brooklyn Heights apartment. It took more than a decade and suddenly, I was… listless. Meanwhile, I tossed my own 50th birthday party the year before and recognized that… the times are a’changing.

Folks move on, lives change and friendships fade. Not to mention that NYC was no longer my bounty: no more wining & dining, free concerts, countless glamorous events or… most important… a concrete reason to be in the most expensive city in the nation. It didn’t help that my 10-year relationship came to a rather disastrous end in 2011.

And so: What the hell am I doing here?

In the summer of 2013, I began fantasizing about a new chapter. I sniffed out Las Vegas, Austin, San Diego, parts of Florida… I wanted warmth (the endless New York winters were exhausting) and space and a car and the ability to stretch out both arms without smacking a wall (in my 950 square foot apartment). I wanted my doggies Abby & Spencer to be able to RUN.

When I came to Hampton Roads that fall with life-long pal Trix in tow—staying with 20-year friends Bill & Mary—I was only “exploring” the area. I never expected to FIND MY FOREVER HOME. On September 13, 2013, I walked into this house in Norfolk and said: “I want to die here.”

On January 15, 2014, I began to LIVE here. That was one year ago today. And this is where I return to “The Book of Questions.” Highs and lows, indeed. First, this house is ridiculous… a 4,000sf mid-century modern “estate” that has maintained its aesthetic since it was built in 1962 (the year of my birth!). I am madly in love.

As soon as I hit Hampton Roads, I got busy: I’ve gutted two bathrooms, replaced all windows & sliding doors, installed a new HVAC system, ran a gas line, filled in a huge but sadly decrepit concrete pool… oh, and painted the front door red. That was among my only DIYs (I’ve learned over so many years to depend on the experts; I can’t cut a straight line with scissors).

I’ve worked the land, growing tomatoes, planting bulbs and harvesting sunflowers, I observe geese, seagulls, raccoons, squirrels, so many birds… and have witnessed sunrises & sunsets that foster a physical reaction that’s so warm & fuzzy you’d think I was experiencing my first kiss. Oh, yeah, and there’s that, too. I’ve even reignited that pitifully lacking aspect of my life (here in lil’ ole Norfolk). I've met new friends… and lost 25 pounds. (I’m particularly fond of the latter.)

Over the past year, there have also been challenges (here come the lows). Losing my beloved Schnauzers Abby & Spencer within three months, in August and October—with different illnesses—is the most difficult life event I have ever dealt with. I cannot understand it. My heart is still broken and I continue to cry.

In addition, when you’re 50, it’s not so easy to connect with newbies. And god knows when you work from home, it’s pretty much impossible to connect (duh). I’ve worked to put myself out there (I could do better, but couldn't we all?)—and there are a handful of wondrous new friends—but everybody has their established lives. I get it.

The good thing is that I am a writer. Is there any career that is more solitary? I think fellow journos will understand this: We are the ultimate extroverted introverts. Writing is wholly solitary. All of my life, that has been joyful. It’s just me and my beautiful words. We get along fine. And so… if I occasionally feel isolated in my new life here in Virginia, I step back and say to myself (not out loud… I haven’t reached that point yet)… “Damn, Chuck, you entertain the hell out of yourself.” So I guess we’re... uh... I’m happy enough. I happen to enjoy my own company immensely.

In all, ONE YEAR LATER, I am filled with joy each day to wake up with the sun rising through my bedroom window (drapes? hell, no!). Over coffee every morning (in the winter months), I open my iPhone weather App and compare Norfolk & NYC and utter a big “heeee.” Blissful weather!

Getting in a car on a whim and going anywhere… wheee!! Freedom! Taking a road trip to the Eastern Shore or Williamsburg… wowsah! Sniffing around Walmart, Dollar General, Big Lots, Dollar Tree and gargantuan grocery stores and paying next to nothing compared with $$$ in NYC... rah rah!! Even though I left NYC, I still live like a "depression baby."

And I have family here: my beloved Francie, and Mary & Bill, and that handful of new friends that I adore (more to come in 2015? I’m a fun guy, right?). My parents are now a 4-hour drive away.

Yes, I am fortunate to have this crazy cool home that I dig, indulge and truly treasure as a blessing. It's just plain fun. I know this is the kind of place that will "never be done," which, to me, is a beautiful thing. God knows I love a project. And right alongside, I am still in the midst of the grand evergoing project known as life. This still feels like a new beginning, with all hope for so much good to come. *

"Now my story has been told, time for the future to unfold..."—Junior Turner

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Taylor Top 40 for 2014!

What a stellar year! In 2014, pop melodies returned in full force, at long last. I actually listened to the radio for the first time in a decade (having a car again was a major contributing force, mind you) and I packed my playlists with quirky, cool uptempo POP songs.

For the Ariana Grande haters, the girl can deliver live. Her a-capella version of “Love Me Harder” removes all doubt… and she’s damn adorable. I’m a major follower. So there!

Top Female Vocalist: Ariana Grande (2 top 10 songs)
Runner-Up Female Vocalist: Taylor Swift (2 top 20 songs)
Top Male Vocalist: Junior Turner (second consecutive year)
Runner-Up Male Vocalist: Richard Marx
Best New Artist: Ariana Grande
Album of the Year: “Water and A Flame,” Celine Dion

* Worst Songs of 2014: “Anaconda,” Nicki Minaj & “All About the Bass,” Meghan Trainor
* Please just go away: Beyonce, Iggy Azalea, Lorde
* Fallen from grace (It's all about the melodies, not your celebrity): Lady Gaga, Madonna
* The acclaimed act I just don’t get: Sam Smith
* Album of the Year: No such thing in 2014. Come back, Adele!
* Hottest Act of 2014: Nick Jonas (mercy, I thought Joe was the sexy one)
* Discovery: Thank god for Shazam. I first heard 2014 hits from Shawn Colvin & Paramore while shopping at Home Depot!
 * The Billboard 2014 Hot 100 and the Taylor Top 40 share 5 songs: "Shake It Off," "Bang Bang," "Story of My Life," "Habits (Stay High)" and "Boom Clap."