IT DON'T MEAN A THING...Later that evening, I went into the bedroom, and our master bathroom. Gone was the beautiful 100 year old mirror, a rack on the wall that held some of Karen's pretty magazines. The magazines weren't there next to the toilet for reading; rather for their color and beauty. She is always a master of Form before function. She didn't care if the TV worked, as long as it looked good. She wanted a stereo and the music that came out of it as long as she didn't have to see the stereo, the speakers, the wires, any of it.
YOU'D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO. But yesterday (Saturday, January 24, 2010) it hit me. I helped Karen and Ron Householder put up a shelf in Karen's new space in her store, Bungalow Antiques. Like me, Ron is an antique husband (not because of our ages, but Ron is married to Marion Householder, one of the partners in Karen's antique store). The partners each have a space, the store has space, and they lease the remainder to other dealers with taste and merchandise that matches the store's. Karen has taken a second space, and I realized yesterday, it was to sell our stuff. Karen has searched for and collected that stuff, as long as we've been married. And that stuff, while truth be told, is just stuff, it is the stuff that turned our house in Los Angeles, a serious step down from everyplace we'd lived previously, from a house into a home.
L.A. IS MY LADY. Our move to L.A. was one we debated for a long time. I remember being scolded by Clear Channel President John Hogan when he realized Karen and Bailey were still living in Boise and I was commuting from work in L.A., back home, almost every weekend. Radio can be a very flaky business (never more so than now). We didn't know how long the L.A. assignment would last. Karen was born in Boise. Her Mother, Father, 2 sisters and brother all lived there. She owned a successful, well-respected antique shop there. We really didn't want to pull Bailey out of school in a town where she had made lots of friends ... and move her to L.A. if I was going to be transferred again. Everyone said the only way to insure Bailey gets the same quality of education (and safety) was private school. We surely couldn't afford a home at L.A. prices AND private school. In late 2002, I was asked to stay in L.A. to program and do the morning show on the station we'd just launched, Fabulous 570 KLAC. So in August of 2003, Karen, Bailey and me moved into our new home in Woodland Hills, CA, primarily so we could put Bailey in the district with the highest rated public high school in L.A. We would hope for the best.
AS TIME GOES BY. Fast forward to January 26, 2006. I'm in the hospital (that's a LONG story for another blog). I get a call that the station has been sold and our last day on the air is January 31. We knew it was coming, just not when. Clear Channel was being pressured to reduce its radio holdings and one way was to force it to count stations with transmitters in Mexico toward the legal limits on the number of stations in each market. This had never been the case before. Fabulous (XETRA) 690, my station, whose transmitter was in Rosarita, BCN, Mexico was a partnership between Clear Channel and a Mexican broadcasting company. Clear Channel had 8 stations in L.A., it owned 7 of them outright. They owned 37% of the one in Mexico. It had to be sold. Bailey was a sophomore in high school. Two and a half years to graduation. We had to stay put. As I told a friend at Clear Channel who was trying to create a corporate position for me in Atlanta, we've moved our family all over the country for my radio career and have 4 grown-up children who were really struggling adults. Then there's Bailey. We want to shoot for a little better outcome for her. So no more moving till she graduates.
THE SECOND TIME AROUND. So the idea was to take what I'd developed for Clear Channel and refine it, making it compatible with a little broader audience than the audience that seemed to be willing to listen to music on AM. The challenge with AM radio seemed to be that no one under about 50 had EVER listened to music on AM. Advertisers tend to shy away from radio stations whose average age is over 57. So we had to broaden the format, making it more palatable to a slightly younger audience, along with the audience that had made this music popular the first time around. We set out to do it on the Internet as an example of what we could provide to broadcast AM and FM radio stations struggling to be the #3 or #4 rated station in one of the mainstream formats, Adult Contemporary, Country, Top 40, etc. We believed then, and are even more convinced now, that we offer a programming alternative that will make stations A LOT more money than being an also ran in one of the Me Too formats that dominate music radio today. We spent most of Q1 and Q2, 2006, trying to raise capital to begin streaming. No luck. Then Roger Schlesinger, our "Mortgage Minute Guy," who offered us a spare office from which to operate, offered to invest enough money to allow us to begin streaming.
IT HAD TO BE YOU. So along the way, it's been a struggle. Thanks to a small handful of friends, our Unintentional Volunteers, all of whom started out as listeners, we've managed to staff the radio station and keep it running these past 3 1/2 years. They are energized by an ever growing audience, an audience of loyal, devoted fans of The Greatest Songs Ever Written ... YOU! Combined with a few friends (also listeners) who threw in $35,000 each (and some serious credit card debt), and 5 listener support campaigns, we've somehow managed to keep the lights on, streaming bills paid, and rent paid. I never said I would be able to get to people with a LOT of money, and raise enough capital to fully fund the business. That's what I needed partners and investors for. And believe me, they've tried. My part of the deal is to create the product. I can do that. The only collaborators I need there are our listeners - song and artist requests, suggestions and complaints have helped tweak the programming, growing with our audience.
THE GOOD LIFE. Through the struggles, I've endeavored to let you know that we're all in this together. The economy started heading south (we got there first), and made things more difficult for everyone. I would often relate to you, hopefully in as humorous a way as possible, that like you, we're not getting our hair and nails done as often (yes, I used to get my nails 'Done'), we're drinking well vodka instead of the good stuff, and we're staying in for dinner when we used to go out. A lot. Back then, we had a great income, savings, a house that was rapidly escalating in value. I have joked over the last coupla years about how sushi is no longer in the budget, nor vacations, or fixing our furnace that's been broken for months. When I share stories like this, it's not to make anyone feel guilty, or to evoke pity. It's to tell you that we're all in the same boat. We not only FEEL your pain, we're living it. I've been accused of trying to inflict Guilt Trips on you, and I feel horrible that my attempts at humor could be taken that way. Years ago, I learned a lesson from a very famous L.A. based radio personality. When he first came to L.A., a Mercedes dealer offered him a car in exchange for doing their commercials. This personality did those commercials and talked about his Mercedes on the air. Research showed that 99.9% of his audience could not afford a Mercedes, and couldn't really relate to him as a result. He changed his strategy and began endorsing a Toyota dealership. That taught him that he needed to walk in the shoes (and drive in the car) of his audience for them to see him on the same level as themselves. Now, this is a personality who for most of his career in L.A., was making millions of dollars a year. I'm not in that position, but I've wanted all along to assure you that as YOU struggle with this economy, we do too.
WHAT KIND OF FOOL AM I. So why did I share the comment in Facebook yesterday about us being very close to losing our house to foreclosure? It wasn't to bring about pity, sympathy or make someone feel guilty. It WAS to say this: WE ARE COMMITTED TO MAKING THIS WORK. We are so convinced that we are on the right track, that we're willing to give up everything we've worked for, to make it work. We know we're close - the audience is growing, thanks in large part to YOUR efforts to spread the word about MartiniInTheMorning.com. Every day we hear from people, even folks who listened to our old radio station here in L.A., who say "I didn't know you were on the Internet. I love listening!" So we know there's an audience and that eventually this will all pay off. That is the ONLY reason I shared the comment about losing our house. So you'll know we believe, we have faith, and we're willing to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to make this work.
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME...13-million Americans lost their homes to foreclosure in 2009, so while it's painful, we know we're not alone. So many people are struggling. I've always heard that if you can make a thing work when times are tough, you'll be way ahead when times are good. That's what we believe will be the case with MartiniInTheMorning.com. We'll make it - it hasn't been easy - but the business will make it. We'll survive this difficult time. The economy and fear of losing everything has kept so many people on the sidelines (perhaps the more sane ones). They will come out of hiding when things turn around. We will already be up and running, and will go from surviving to THRIVING. We will be miles ahead of everyone else.
WHO'S SORRY NOW. I'm sorry if my candor and attempts at humor have made anyone doubt the future of the station. Someone told me about a listener who thought, "Why should I support the station financially when it's going to go away soon?" I'm afraid that maybe my comments might have scared away some potential investors. But come on, we're 4 years into this! If we can make it this long on a wing and a prayer, with a little bit of funding, we'll be around for a long, long time. Our listeners, their support, prayer, encouragement, love, faith and determination, have gotten us this far. Together, we're quite a team. Together, we'll be victorious.
So now, anyone got one of those big refrigerator boxes? I'm betting Karen's decorating skills can do wonders ... a picture here, a plant there. Home, Sweet Home.