A New Media Newsletter - Vol 2. #38 - 9/24/2004
Commentary - News - Top 20 Albums - Top 20 TV Shows - And More
The Industry's Inside News And Commentary Of Choice
Commentary and One Man's Opinion
“The TUBE's programming focus is MUSIC. Period. We are all about the music consumers who love music and the artists that make the music. The Tube is the only all-music network on television...no reality shows, no awards shows, no game shows...just compelling music television with a unique presentation of the best music of all time by the best artists of all time and the best images of all time. " - Les Garland
A TALK WITH LES GARLAND - PART 2
This week, DISC & DAT offers Part 2 of our interview with Les Garland. Les discusses life after MTV, the country's first interactive music channel, THE BOX, forming his own company (Afterplay Entertainment), making endorsement deals for Stallone and Carson Daly, and the coming of The TUBE MUSIC channel, possibly the most exciting thing to hit your TV in a very long time.
( Having seen a two-hour demo of THE TUBE, I can't say enough about it. In my opinion it will not only attract audience very quickly, it will reinvigorate the music industry by introducing the upper demographics it will appeal to, to the best new music out there right now. If you want to get a DVD demo of THE TUBE, just follow the instructions at the end of the interview.)
Q. After MTV, you and Bob (Pittman) co-founded Quantum Media...tell us about Quantum and that time.
LG: In television Quantum Media developed the 'Morton Downey Jr. Show' and a reality cop show called 'Streets,' which was way ahead of the curve on all the reality stuff we see today. Morton Downey Jr. was a huge hit. Mort was a very talented and gifted communicator and, man, did he hit a nerve with his shtick! We got hung up with a writer's strike that negatively affected 'Streets.'
The Quantum music company was called QMI Music and was run by Dick Williams. The 'Six Flags' deal that Bob put together later was also formulated during the Quantum period. We had an ownership stake in an advertising agency and Lee Abrams and I developed a hard rock radio format we attempted to distribute nationally, network-style, called 'Radio Lisa.' In retrospect, it's clear we were a few beats ahead of the time with some of these things we were doing. That same retro-thinking clarifies why I decided to break off from Bob and Quantum. Let's just call it 'timing.' The timing was off for me. I can tell you it was a very emotional split but as it turned out, it was one of the best career decisions I ever made. I had no clue I'd be leaving New York City (and my home in Connecticut ) soon for the Bermuda greens in south Florida! But please don’t be mistaken...Bob and I are very good friends to this day.
I'd spent most of the 70's fine-tuning my radio craft and I ended the decade with Atlantic Records. The 80's were those incredible MTV years, and I ended that decade with the Quantum experiences. I felt like something new was waiting for me in the next decade. I wasn't sure what it was going be, but I was totally enthused to find out.
This period represented a short self-imposed mini 'retirement' time for me. It's not that I stopped working all-together, though. I wanted to take some time to travel, to hang with family, friends, and to play some golf! I got involved in producing a charity golf event for television with pro golfers and rock stars. Through a crazy chain of events I found myself out on the PGA Tour from time to time with my friend, Tommy Armour 3rd. I wanted to experience big time golf and I wanted to feel it from up close. I also wanted to improve my own game. So what's a guy to do? I did some caddying on the tour for Tommy! We went all over America and to Europe. That's a full chapter of it's own when I finally sit down to write the book! What book you say? I've been asked and one day I will do it. Right now, in my head it's titled. 'Life, just another 4-letter word.' I want it to be biographical, educational, funny, and truthful. It'll be quite a tale about this small time country boy who got real lucky, had some pretty good timing, and a bit of talent. How corny is that!! It's far from finished because I have a lot of balls in my tee box! By the way, in case you're wondering, I got my handicap down to single-digit, but have never won the friggin' Kelly-Baruck. ( That's manager John Baruck and songwriter extraordinaire Tom Kelly's annual "clambake" tourney at Pebble Beach. It's been happening every year now for more than 30 years. I played in it the first time when I was 18! )
Q. In 1990, you again played an integral part of a video music channel when you took an executive post at 'The Box'...the country's first interactive music channel. I remember how much The Box affected sales when I was head of promotion at MCA Records...how many households did it reach at its peak? (What happened to The Box?"
LG: 'The Box' was that new thing waiting for me in the new decade. I loved 'The Box!' Between 1990 and late '97 we rolled it into more than 25 million homes here and another 20-25 million, internationally. The Box was 'ass-kickin!' Once we got to 10 million homes in the U.S., the music and radio industries were feeling the effects. A viewer-smash on 'The Box' was an early indicator a monster hit was lurking.
A lot of cool things came together at 'The Box.' Technology had been developed that was missing the "entertainment factor." My first assignment was to add entertainment to the mix and create an image and brand. Because it was viewer-programmed we maintained a light commercial spot-load and that made the channel very attractive. 'The Box' technology enabled the viewer to do something that had never been possible before. Let's go way back to 1990. Again, we were well ahead of the curve with 'interactive television.' Viewers could pay $1.99 on a premium phone call to see the video of their choice within 20-minutes. 'The Box' was a simple idea really, but not an easy one to get past the cable television 'gatekeepers.' We created a new model that shared revenue and were quite successful getting it out there. More importantly, was the effect it had on the youth culture as the pioneer channel that delivered Hip-Hop. America was in denial about this new music while it was totally unstoppable. One of the most popular artists on The Box was Luther Campbell and 2 live Crew. His videos were big hits with the audience. He became such a friend to The Box and the people at The Box. We admired and supported him for taking on the government and taking the freedom of speech issue all the way to the Supreme Court where he was victorious. I have fond memories. We really did push the envelop there!
On a market by market basis we were rocking the ratings, too. 'The Box' was a lot of fun, plus it got me out of New York City after ten years and ten more between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The technology had been developed in Miami so that's what took me there in the beginning. We had plans to move it to either L.A. or Manhattan, but fortunately that never happened. My travels had led me to Miami Beach! Who would have known Miami was about to become the hottest spot on the planet! It was there I hooked up with Chris Blackwell. (The founder of Island Records) He came in as part owner of 'The Box' in '92. Chris and I became very good friends. I consider him to be a mentor and iconic music genius! The box was eventually acquired by MTV networks. The distribution was converted to MTV2. End of that story. Following the sale of 'The Box' Chris and I worked together launching sputnik7.com amongst other things.
Q. You launched Sputnik7.com with Chris Blackwell in 1997...tell us about that?
LG: I spent a year between Manhattan and Miami Beach with some of the biggest brains in "digital space" at a New York based company called Viant. We co-developed Sputnik7.com...and again, we were a bit ahead of our time.
This was late '97 into '98. It was a pretty cool experience. Like four years of college crammed into a very short and intense time period. Sputnik7.com was designed to be the next step past what we'd learned at 'The Box' utilizing Internet technologies. A quality 'indy' music space with tons of robust features such as audience voting, chat, interactive audio and visual experiences, personal playlists, seven unique music genres, streaming channels, film shorts, downloading and all that fun stuff. I was awestruck by the power of the Internet. I felt so lucky to have been there with AM radio, then FM, then to music and to TV, then to interactive music on TV, and then to the Internet. I learned there's a huge difference between all those 'mass-mediums' and this new technology that's a 'medium for the masses.'
Q. Tell us about your company, AfterPlay Entertainment.
LG: In the spring of 1999 I got myself into a pretty major car crash down in Jamaica. Jamaica was pretty much headquarters for Chris, so we all went there quite often.
Dennis Hopper and I were on our way to play some golf on Easter Sunday morning when we rounded a blind curve doing about 50 miles an hour. Unfortunately, there was a huge truck coming head-on at us in our lane of this small rural highway. There wasn't a half-second to react before impact. I was evacuated by copter and private plane back to Miami for hospitalization and surgery.
Again it was the end of a decade and I knew something new was out there for me as we approached 2000 and the "new millennium." During the 6-month recoup period I decided to do something I'd wanted to do for a long time. I decided to fire up my own consulting business which would afford me the time for my love of work and time to develop a golf-swing that would work. One of the goals I'd set for myself, while I was recouping from injuries was to play better golf post-crash versus pre-crash. Luckily, I can say that happened! Sometimes dreams do come true. ( Especially when I think about the three doctors that told me my golf days were over) A credit to the power of positive thinking and volcanic rock! By the way, this would be the perfect time to give credit to my longtime executive assistant, Laura Forst, who'd been with me over ten years. She "quarterbacked" that entire healing process and I am forever grateful.
Over the next three years more fun things came my way. I discovered one of the most talented artists I've ever met in London, Peter Lawlor. His band, The Joneses, is fantastic. I worked with Pink Floyd producer Bob Ezrin on an Internet play called 'Enigma Digital' which was sold to Clear Channel. I worked with Peter Kauff on The College Television Network, a music and lifestyle channel in 2500 college locations across America. CTN was purchased by MTV Networks and is now MTVU.
We worked with Cisneros Television on the development of HTV (Hispanic Music Network). We worked with AOL Latin America, the Dick Clark Company, and a number of other media companies. My longtime friend Don Wasley found this little film at the Mill Valley Film Fest called 'Tribute.' It was executive produced by Steven Soderbergh ('Ocean's Eleven,' 'Sex, Lies, and Videotape,' and 'Erin Brokavitch') and was a very good documentary on the phenomenon of "tribute bands." We tried to get theatrical distribution, which is very difficult for documentaries, so we ended up selling it to Showtime. For eighteen months Randy Phillips, now CEO of AEG (Anshutz Entertainment Group), and I managed pop stars, Dream. They were four, really talented teen-aged girls, with a great first album. That was an eye opening experience into the modern day music business, for sure! We sold nearly 2-million units which represents... what almost $20 million in billing? Yet, we ended up owing the label a couple of million!
Q. Was it during that time that you also secured endorsement deals for people like Sylvester Stallone andCarson Daly?
LG: Yes, those endorsement deals were done through AfterPlay.
I was asked by my friend Jeff Mordos at BBD&O to secure the services of Sylvester Stallone. I'd known Sly for many years. In fact, we were part owners of a really hot club on Miami Beach in the 90's called BarNone. This was only a voice/over...no on-camera stuff. BBD&O was producing that award-winning HBO spot that you might remember with the Chimps in trees watching all the film classics on HBO. As the spot goes, the chimps had developed speech and were reciting classic lines. They wanted Sly to say those two famous words from Rocky, "Yo, Adrian"...just those two words. I can't tell you how much they were willing to pay him, but I can say it was quite a lot of money.
I was playing golf with Sly one afternoon on Miami Beach and at the perfect time I say to him, " Sly, you're one of the biggest movie stars in the world and you have one of the best agents in Hollywood. What's the most amount of money he ever got you, per word?" He looked at me like I was a kook and I repeated the question. He shot me a quizzical look and then I made this sizeable offer to him for uttering just two words! He agreed to do it, so the next day we headed over to Emilio Estefan's (Miami Sound Machine founder and producer) studio. We rolled in, the engineer flipped on the microphone, Sly says it only in the way he could say it in his 'Rocky' voice, "Yo, Adrian." They asked for a second take, he does it just like the first one and off we go for more golf! I was reminded of a lesson taught to me by my father. He told me it was more important to "work smart than it was to work hard." Hard work with no results is worthless work.
Side bar: One more funny Sly story: Craig Lambert, one of the top music promotion people of all-time, has been a longtime friend…as you know, his nickname is ‘Lambo.' I once had a golf game set with Sly, another friend , and Craig down in Miami Beach. I’m standing with Sly by a golf cart as Lambo approaches from atop the hill off the parking lot. I introduced them saying, “Rambo, Lambo. Lambo, Rambo." It got a pretty good laugh. You had to be there!
The Carson Daly deal was a simple one. 'Mr. Coffee,' which is owned by Sunbeam, was celebrating their 25thanniversary and they needed a hip man and woman for a mini print campaign. Carson was the hands down choice for them. I made a call to him and a call to Paul Schindler (his attorney) and the deal was done. I've not had the pleasure of playing golf with Carson, but I hear he's very good.
Q. Is AfterPlay still active? What are you doing now?
LG: Yes, AfterPlay is still active, but I'm spending a great deal of my time right now developing a new company called AgU Entertainment.
Michael Solomon is the Chairman of the Board. AgU is an acronym that comes from "all grown up." The concept is that AgU will create and distribute entertainment for people with "grown-up tastes." There's not a lot of music on television anymore so we decided it's time to launch a channel that brings music back to TV. That's 'The Tube Music Network.' One of our agencies came up with a great slogan that we're using. "Think of it as MUSIC TELEVISION, only with music." I think that's brilliant. We released that line in some industry trade-ads that hit this week in Brandweek, Adweek, MediaWeek, Broadcasting & Cable, Multi-channel News, and Billboard. If you were in college when you first saw music videos on television, you are now 45 and smack dab in the middle of our target!
On the other side, we have a music company that just recently released "Bridge to Havana" in DVD and CD formats. This project is a collaboration of Cuban artists with well-known artists such as Jimmy Buffet, Gladys Knight, Mick Fleetwood, Bonnie Raitt, Peter Frampton, Joan Osborne, Montell Jordan and others. The film DVD rolls out to PBS stations across the country in the next few weeks. We're looking for that exposure to spike the sales big-time. We have an outstanding release by Chaka Khan coming through Sanctuary Records in October. It's Chaka doing standards like "To Sir with Love," "Hey Big Spender," "My Funny Valentine," Patsy Cline's "Crazy," "Goldfinger" and more. This is the ultimate dinner time CD! She'll be doing a DVD version, too. The lead track off our upcoming Lala Hathaway release is blowing up at radio right now, too. So we have a lot of reasons to be upbeat with where we are in such a short period. This company is not even a year old.
Like I said, though, a large amount of my time goes into doing what I personally love the most. I like to put music on television. I like to do it for a lot of reasons. And, I don’t believe those who say that it won’t work!
And, one more thing. We've all felt the pain of the music sales downturn in the past few years. Clearly, we're in the midst of a monstrous paradigm shift. Be a part of it or get the hell out, right? I have more desire today than ever before in my life to take the knowledge and wisdom of my years and apply all that to AgU and this shift.
Q. From the two-hour preview I've seen, I can honestly say that THE TUBE is simply the most exciting thing to happen to music and video since MTV first hit the air. It's wonderful to watch videos by John Lennon, The Rolling Stones, Beatles, Aerosmith, The Eagles, Springsteen, The Police, Led Zeppelin, Queen, U2, and others, side by side with new hits by artists like Dido, Lenny Kravitz, Blue Man Group, Alicia Keys, Jet, The Killers, Coldplay, Seal. Tell us how the whole concept of THE TUBE came about?
LG: Thank you very much, Steve, I'm so pleased with where we are with The Tube! It feels like my career has made that full-circle in many ways. I certainly never dreamed I'd be building a music video channel that would feature the music that lured me into this game in the first place. All those classic acts and classic songs mixed with today's quality artists such as the one's you mentioned. The early feedback we’re seeing from those who have seen The Tube is amazing.
The Tube is a little bit KYNO, a little bit K-100, a little bit CKLW, a little bit WRKO, a little bit KFRC, a little bit original MTV, a little bit VH-1, a little bit The Box, a little bit sputnik7, a little bit Drake, a little bit Drew, and a lot of Garland. We launched The Tube as a wholly owned subsidiary of AgU. The research on this project began two years ago when I met Mike Ruggiero who now heads up our distribution efforts. It was then that I learned about the new frontier of television distribution known as 'multi-cast.' To put it simply, hundreds of television stations across America are switching to a digital broadcast signal. By doing so, there will be added bandwidth for additional channels to be born. The Tube is one of those new channels.
The Tube is currently live on satellite and is scheduled for a 'hard launch' this fall. We are projecting delivery into 10-million homes by the end of ‘05's first quarter. The Tube programming focus is MUSIC. Period. We are all about the music consumers who love music and the artists that make the music. The Tube is the only all-music network on television...no reality shows, no awards shows, no game shows...just compelling music television with a unique presentation of the best music of all time by the best artists of all time and the best images of all time. The on-air branding, image, and 'look' is created by the award-winning creative team at @Radical Media and is a pretty bold departure from the way music has been presented on television. We mix just-released music videos by emerging acts alongside the best of all time from the Beatles, Tina Turner, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Elvis, Cocker, Annie Lennox, The Eagles and on and on with one superstar after another. That's The Tube music network. Hey, have you heard this new Ray Charles duets album? I hope there's a video for one of the songs because it's perfect for The Tube.
The Tube is not targeted to a specific demographic. We've identified and targeted an audience with 'attitude.' We want the audience that loves quality music. No doubt this is an audience that is over 30. The 35-64 age group accounts for more than two-thirds of all consumer spending. Every year five-million more Americans turn 50 and another five-million turn 55. We’re looking to attract a small segment of the 80-million ‘boomers’ out there. We recognize that this audience is under-served. I'm so proud of the 'look' we've created with our in-house creative team and the “radically thinking, creative, radicals at Radical Media”! The channel has evolved into what some have described as "the deconstruction of music television." The 'feel' is clean, sophisticated, intelligent, and slightly irreverent with a little sense of humor. Our mission is to play more and better music than anyone on terrestrial radio and television!
I met Michael Solomon in the early 80's while I was at MTV. Michael sold some of our content globally while he was creating Telepictures which he went on to build into the largest U.S. television syndication company. Michael merged Telepictures with Lorimar and it was eventually purchased by Warner. He built the biggest TV distribution company in the world. I call him the real 'Big Poppa' at AgU!
Q. I think when people see The Tube, they'll embrace it. Finally Les, what are your thoughts about the problems facing the music industry today? (A lot of them such as downloading and file-sharing we've discussed here in DISC&DAT) Do you see a healthy future for the industry?
LG: Wow! We’d probably need to do part three to this interview for me to attempt to answer that question in great detail, Steve! But, let’s not forget what Hunter S. Thompson said, “…the music business is a cruel and shallow money trench. A long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free…and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” (laughs!)
But, like I said earlier, we’re in the midst of this shift aren’t we? And it’s not ‘revolutionary.' It really is ‘evolutionary.' From my perspective, I don’t see ‘problems’ facing the music industry today as clearly as I see ‘opportunities.' A time of incredible opportunity is in front of us. Because of all the technology at hand and being developed, it is now possible to deliver more music to more people than ever before. In the past ten-years the average American household has doubled what is spent on media. That includes music, cable/satellite, movies, home video, internet services, newspapers, magazines, books, and phones. The average monthly per-household is now somewhere around $275-dollars and music accounts for only about $15-dollars of that total. Lots of room for growth!
Besides signing the talent, one of the biggest challenges for the music companies is how to generate new revenue streams. Like Coke and Pepsi, we need to find new ways to sell our products. I’m so tired of hearing that music is in trouble. That’s just not true. Forty-Million concert tickets were purchased last year! That’s more than baseball, football, basketball, and hockey combined! Music is more popular than ever! Music is everywhere we go. The funny thing is that music is everywhere except on television.
The consumer has jumped all over new technologies driven by the enormous popularity of music. Whether it’s the Internet, satellite radio, DVD, the iPod, or whatever…the magnet of music draws in the consumer. I believe there’s also a bit of a disconnect right now. It’s intriguing the acts selling most of the tickets are the acts that have been around for a longtime. Prince, McCartney, The Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Elton John, The Stones, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Jimmy Buffet, etc.
At the same time, I believe we need to explore new ways to promote, market and make music available to people. It seems to me there will be multiple ways of putting music in the hands of fans as we move forward and that’s the opportunity ahead of us. It’s high time for change. The consumer is demanding it. I loved how Prince made his new album part of the cost of a ticket. Why not? We’re seeing free downloads to the consumer as promo opportunities. Even television commercials are breaking songs these days. And, what about the seemingly forgotten upper demos? The 30+ audience buys more than fifty-percent of the music.Time to make more music for them!
I’m rambling a bit, Steve, because what we’re talking about right now is what gets the juices going! I look to the past and the present to see the future. We must remain “modern” to attract audience! I like this quote from Le Corbusier: "What does it mean to be modern? To be modern is not a fashion, it is a state. It is necessary to understand history, and he who understands history knows how to find continuity between that which was, that which is, and that which will be."
Look how far it’s all come in our brief careers. From a solo, dominant, AM radio station in every market to the completely fragmented world of 2004! In just a few years we’ve witnessed the evolution of new entities, new technologies, new words like “interactive," “download," “Internet," “file sharing," brands like “Napster," “iPod," “satellite radio," “XM," “Yahoo," “eBay”, “peer to peer”, “vod”, “hdtv”, “dotcom’, “google”, “mp3”…my God, man, we could rattle off hundreds of them! I feel like the luckiest man on the planet. I love the life I live and I live the life I love! I hope I live to be 120 so I can be a part of all this!!
Steve, I want to thank you for this opportunity to speak with you in DISC&DAT. It’s been a pure joy. The feedback I’ve received since part-one last week has been pretty amazing. And there ya' go…the power of the internet! I wish you continued success. Thanks.