If you think about the business world in 2018, if there was ever a time to do things differently, to try alternative ways to succeed, and go against the grain – it's now. Never in our working lifetimes has the status quo been so totally disrupted.
Perhaps the Industrial Revolution diminishing the agricultural economy in this country was on a par with what we're witnessing now. But however you measure these things, we're living in the here and now. And whether you're in the department store, razor, medical, or automotive fields, your world is being rocked by the change that is all around us.
The phrase, “The way we've always done it” now signals a Cro-Magnon management style. Whether you're in the corner office, on the asssembly line, or in the air studio, you just know the world around you will never be the same.
And that's certainly the case in the music industry where every norm and every standard has been debunked, turned on its head, or simply tosssed to the curb.
A recent story by Tim Ingham, originally published by Music Business UK highlights the odd but rapid rise of Carl Hitchborn on the music management and record label landscape.
Oddly enough, Hitchborn is a former bakery owner who launched his company, High Time, in 2015. In that short span, he's notched impressive gains – big metrics for his artists on Spotify streams, huge increases in Facebook followers, and robust concert ticket sales.
Three simple initials that you should know – DTC – explain Hitchborn's success. Direct-to-consumer is the same model used by Harry's razors, Casper, The Honest Company, and the many other new enterprises. These new startups have engineered elaborate workarounds, eliminating owning factories, hiring hundreds of employees, paying ad agencies, and all the other expenses associated with launching mass appeal consumer products.
The head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Randall Rothenberg, took on this topic earlier this year at Gordon Borrell's Local Online Advertising Conference. He walked the audience through the process of optimizing the Internet economy that's allowed upstart brands to disrupt heritage companies like Gillette, Sealy, and countless others. It used to be that the “little guy” (or “gal”) had no chance up against the big conglomerates, but that's not the case today.
In Hitchborn's case, his entire business plan is about upending the music industry standards, mores, and rules. And in the process, he reached this profound conclusion:
“I realized very quickly that nobody in the music business knew what they were doing.”
And yet, he had Hitchborn had no experience in the music industry. Instead, it was his experience working for his parents' bakery in Norwich that guided his business philosophy:
“Spending years as a baker made me so product focused. Working in that environment teaches you that a great product is simply a product lots of people want to have. We've taken that approach to music.”
Reading this story reminded me of my client, Larry McFeelie, PD and on-air talent at the mighty KUPD in Phoenix.
Larry has an unusual radio background. First, he grew up in Phoenix and has lived there his entire life. And second, his only place of employ has been KUPD, working his way up the ranks to lead the Hubbard-owned station to dominance, book after book. Larry's recipe was simple and methodical. He started doing fill, then overnights, nights, middays, and became music director, before being named PD in 2005.
When I make my visits to the market, not only does Larry warmly greets me with a bagful of fresh-baked bagels. And let me tell you, they are delish.
It turns out that Larry's dad, Arnold, was the owner of a Phoenix culinary institution – Karsh's Bakery – until the business closed in 2014. The family owned this famed Jewish bakery for the better part of 45 years.
Larry was around wonderful baked goods his whole life, but it was only recently he took up the bagel baking craft, as well as other delicacies, with the guidance from his father.
And like Hitchborn, Larry is a perfectionist. You can tell as he walks you through the complicated and meticulous process that making fantastic baked goods requires. And he brings that same discipline and focus to programming the radio station.
KUPD has operated like a fine-tuned machine for decades, and while the station no longer has a direct music competitor, Larry's expectations are high. He is all about great execution, bigger than life promotions, and personality radio unique to the Valley of the Sun. And he gets it.
Promotion genius Mark Randall lives and breathes this radio station down to the detail, morning pro John Holmberg and his team are the market standard, and the entire place is under the watch of savvy market manager, Trip Reeb.
But radio stations take on the personalities of their program directors, and in this case, Larry's grasp of the market ethos, his penchant for brand excellence, and that baker's quest to create the perfect braided challah keep KUPD sharp and on-track.
Carl Hitchborn and Larry McFeelie live more than 5,000 miles apart but they are kindred spirits, both bringing that baker's sense to their entertainment franchises – a fast-rising British music company and a market-leading American rock station.
Pass the cream cheese and enjoy their work.
You can read a great story about the closing of Karsh's here.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.