Rihanna before Rihanna: Farewell to the Gambler. 

On this day three years ago we lost Kenny Rogers, one of the best selling music artists of all time. Kenny was Rihanna well before Rihanna. Not only did he chart 120 hit singles, he was a 360° media and business mogul. He even pioneered hick-hop long before Lil Nas X with his 1998 Coolio collab.

Kenny was in the movie business (Six Pack), the food business (Kenny Rogers Roasters), the TV business (the Gambler series) even the automotive business (Gamber Chassis Co). And his legend has been featured in storylines from Seinfeld to HBO’s Big Love to Geico commercials.

I only had the pleasure of working with Kenny for a short period. We were business partners for a couple years and ultimately created our own 360° experience which included a Festival Line-up, Casino experience with MGM Grand, an Oprah episode… and even a TV Special distributed by BBC. Kenny’s legend helped us secure Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, Darius Rucker, Alison Krauss, Smokey Robinson, Wynonna Judd, Billy Currington, Chris Isaac, the Oak Ridge Boys and so many more.  

When you consider today’s landscape of new and niche festivals across the US… this experience was WAY ahead of its time, just like Kenny. 



Cheers to the cultural contributions of the Irish. From Jonathan Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’ (1729) to Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ (1895) to James Joyce’s ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ (1916) to U2’s ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’ (2000). For centuries, the Irish have provoked and inspired. And who doesn’t love a pint of Guinness. #culture #stpatricksday #artist #irish

12 Books to Read After You Finished Daisy Jones and the Six…

Or perhaps read it BEFORE Daisy 😉 Maybe I’m a little biased but I’m still super appreciative that Liz Doupnik and W Magazine included ‘I’m With The Band’ by the O.G. Pamela Des Barres on their latest list of must-reads. Big thank you!

It’s the TRUE story that so many stories lifted pages from. And I expect that we’ll be sharing some EXCITING updates on the ONE TRUE tale pretty soon. Stay tuned, music lovers!

You can read Liz’s full article here…


An little old-fashioned seaside table read. Getting everyone on the same page… from client to agency to crew to talent… often comes down to a simple table read. This one is from earlier this week, on location at Dockweiler Beach in Southern California.  Big thanks to JACKERY for trusting us with their incredible outdoors brand.

November 2022, for Jackery, Inc.


Whether they be investors, distributors, networks, or brand clients… If your concept can’t hold the attention of your own stakeholders— those stakeholders will never believe your concept is strong enough to hold the attention of your audience. Creative is everything. But presentation helps. Good luck to everyone at American Film Market this week.

Photographed at Quixote Studios in Los Angeles, November 2022


It took me many years to understand that taking a holiday wasn’t counterproductive to living ‘that producer life’ but actually a necessary reset to be even more productive for the long haul.

Producers understand this: When you’re in it… there’s no half-stepping. You gotta be 110% on. But grind for a few years without a proper unplug, and you get burned out. Especially when living that ‘rise & grind’ within today’s hyper-connected social/zoom/media/call-me-on-my-mobile world.

This June is my unplug, so I can come back swinging in July… fully charged. And the Amalfi Coast ain’t a bad place to do it. Let’s be honest.



I love these brand extensions. Like Hall & Oats, Sonny and Cher, and Chico and the Man… it’s during these trying times we can rest a little easier with the power duo of Martha and Snoop for our evening’s numbnation. In their latest “joint” venture, Martha released a wine under the same label as Snoop, 19 Crimes from Treasury Wine Estates. I honestly had no idea about Martha’s entry until I happened upon this glorious end-aisle display at Trader Joe’s in the Marina (dey Rey).

The Australian 19 Crimes caught my eye almost immediately in 2012 when it launched with a brand and label design which included some pretty cool augmented reality, especially for the time. Each bottle comes with a criminal’s tale, a decent blend, and an even more drinkable price. What’s not to love? 

More recently came the Aussie’s first foray into California varieties with Snoop Cali Red in 2020 followed by Snoop Cali Rosé in 2021. A cross-promo collab which is working well for all parties.

Martha’s Chard by 19 Crimes

And now this… Martha’s Chard in 2022. Despite the complete sh*+ show in Eastern Europe, here at home we can fill our tanks for $6 bucks a gallon, then blissfully motor to TJ’s for an $11.99 bottle of “tell me everything is gonna be alright.”

And the reviews seem to be decent too. She’s taking the piss without pouring it. No her name ain’t baby. It’s Martha. Miss Stewart if you’re Chianti. She went on to say “The world didn’t need just another Chardonnay, so I created one that is clean, crisp, and flavorful without being too heavy or oaky. It pairs perfectly with my delicious recipes or can be enjoyed on its own. I hope you love it as much as I do!

Now putting artist names on perfume bottles at Walgreens still makes me cringe a little (sorry Glow by Jennifer Lopez). But these mass-market elixirs with “artist names on the bottles” actually feels good to me. So with Snoop Cali Red and now Martha’s Chard, yes, everything is gonna be alright.


This one is obviously inspired by my wife and daughter. But it’s in support of all women who kick ass and inspire… which happens to be almost exactly half of the human population. Despite the recent post-woke rhetoric from some noisy (but completely out of touch) middle-aged-white men, the pendulum has NOT swung too far in the other direction. 

Don’t believe the hype: The stats confirm that it’s NOT suddenly harder to be a white male in Film & TV. In fact, gender equality still isn’t even close in ANY of the key positions of influence. Further, gender equality actually dipped over the last 12 months among producers and editors.

We need to get real with this stuff.

Note: The actual stats are from the ‘Center For The Study of Women in Film and TV’ – but I need to credit Evan Shapiro for including this chart in his recent post, or I wouldn’t have seen the stats or his graphic.


I am. And here’s a pic of ERW from ‘WEIRD: The Al Yankovic Story‘ which happens to be a music biopic that I really want to see. Not only is Al Yankovic simply a lovely guy… but his journey and accomplishments are astonishing.

In addition to the first look of ERW as Madonna, Roku Inc. also announced a few more additions to the cast. Rainn Wilson (“The Office”) as radio DJ Dr. Demento, Julianne Nicholson (“Mare of Easttown”) as Weird Al’s mum Mary Yankovic and Toby Huss (“Halt and Catch Fire”) as Weird Al’s father Nick Yankovic.

Curious… the only biopic that I’m more interested in is ‘I’m With The Band’ from Pamela Des Barres. (based on the NY Times Best Seller) Funny… it was at Pamela’s house that I met Al.

And in terms of #WomensHistoryMonth …Today I celebrate MADONNA


The world keeps counting her out but Britney keeps coming back stronger than ever. Here, Rolling Stone ranks the work of one of THE most influential artists of the past generation by counting down every song she’s ever done — from world-changing hits (Oops!, Hit me baby, Toxic, etc) to cha-ching corporate rock like 2004’s “We Will Rock You” with Pink and Beyoncé for Pepsi (which they rank at #70 btw). 
It’s a great trip down Britney lane. And it commands #MusicIndustry respect because every song from her top 25 is likely more culturally impactful than the top #1 song from most charting-artists.


Every Britney Spears Song Ranked



My secondObserving Music + Medianewsletter on Linkedin focuses on International Distribution trends, and how it will impact creative development here in the US. Snipped below. Click the link to read the whole thing on Linkedin.


Errr…um… Less Impossible Burger. And not actually in China. Hollywood will continue to adapt to their growth requirements the only way it knows how… with the continued “dumbing down” of the arts and culture. Why? Because thoughtful, intelligent entertainment is much harder to scale beyond cultural boundaries. And the commitment to develop thoughtful local content is literally impossible to scale at the level required by studios and big-media streamers like Netflix.





Having spent a fair amount of time traveling the land of network on-air promos… those :05 to :15 second bumps that sell an entire program… I got to thinking about socials.  Hmmm… don’t on-air promos look a lot like a TikTok? And haven’t most TV execs banged out more of these :15 second wonders than Charli D’Amelio on one-too-many Red Bulls?

My tour d’ promo was very east coast. MTV, A&E Networks, HBO, Turner, NBC, ESPN, Hallmark, and lots of trips to down Bethesda/Silver Spring. (Who remembers Discovery in Bethesda?)

One of my mentors was/is Steve Lance who as creative director of NBC (and a host of others in the 70s, 80s, 90s) developed a simple promo-measuring-stick that I still rely on today: On A.I.R. Wisdom.  With A.I.R. standing for Attention, Interest, and Recall.

The Zoom-salon went like this.

GABE: In terms of A.I.R… What’s the biggest difference between a :15 second on-air promo and a piece of TV marketing delivered as a :15 second TikTok or IG Story?

STEVE: Great question. (BTW – a few people even remember Discovery in Landover). The answers would fill a book – and there are plenty of them out there. But if I had to boil it down to an easily-digestible blog, I’d have to say this: A.I.R. still applies, but Big Data and Clever Algorithms (can I put a trademark around that phrase?) have changed the dynamics and ratio of the three elements. Let’s re-visit these three basics in the new “social” environment.

“Attention” is really promo-writing 101. How fast can you toss out a hook to keep eyeballs? The folks writing :15-second spots for YouTube, TikTok, etc. [skip commercial in :05…] need to learn from good promo creators. Most of the current :15, :10 and even :05-second ads try to sell the product or message, not hook the viewer. Great promo writing is about hitting someone in the gut or tugging at their heart, not selling them something. No matter what the platform, for writer/producers, the most important part of every promo has to be the first three seconds. And that should be the domain of the creative people, not the marketers. If I were running a promo department today, I would ask all the writer/producers to show me their click bait opening.

“Interest” is where all the new buzzwords reside. Research, big data, data targeting, blah, blah, blah—it’s all a media planning conversation. There’s important information for the creatives here, but it’s not an end in itself. The job of marketing is to determine the target and opportunity. The job of creative is to turn those numbers into an emotional experience people can connect with. That’s a non-conversation to a marketer or media planner, so creative gets smothered under a pile of analytics and there’s no heart to the message. I’m always bemused (and annoyed) by the algorithms “If You Watched This You’ll Love This…” because they’re genre decisions which don’t embrace the intangible emotional experiences I have. Sadly, creatives will have to accept that marketers will continue to harass and annoy them into producing emotionless drivel after the first three seconds.

“Recall” as we’ve discussed before, is almost immaterial. There are no shortage of links, buttons, lists and platforms we can use to make sure a person can find a show again or recommend it to their friends. So a case can be made that “Recall” can now be refined to something closer to “Motivate the click-through.”  Fortunately, A.I.M. is a decent acronym too.

GABE: If all this is true, what’s really changed?  If “attention” and “interest” are still paramount, have SVOD viewing habits actually impacted how we should message and market programming – regardless of TikTok versus On-air as the platform?  It seems like perhaps fans are still fans, and they’re largely still responding to the same cues. Simply on a mobile versus in the living room.  

STEVE: The biggest change, perhaps, is Tentpole strategy. Back in the ancient days of CBI (Cable Before Internet…can I trademark that, too?) smart marketers and programmers knew the best way to utilize resources was a Tentpole Event. This would be a high-visibility, high-E special even that would bring casual viewers as well as hardcore fans to the network. Shark Week was a Tentpole event. For eight days before the traditional Fall new season premieres, Discovery would pump up viewership and use that event to build interest in other programs. We still see it with Disney+ and HBO Max and the other “bonus” programming packages. “If you want to see the world premiere of [XX], sign up now for our PLUS offering.” In this case, it’s the promise of the program rather than the program itself which is meant to serve as a tentpole. 

GABE: Agreed. And beyond immediate tune-in, tentpoles also served as a pillar of the network’s brand foundation. We used to inherently know that Shark Week was Discovery, ‘Must See TV’ was NBC, and Sopranos was HBO.  But today… and perhaps because of the shift in Tentpole strategies… no matter how popular the show, we always ask… Is that Netflix or HBO or Amazon?  

It’s got to be more than shifts in Tentpoles and Fall season premieres.  What are today’s Networks doing wrong regarding owning their content as their own?

STEVE: The final element has been completely shredded the past ten years: Branding. Chris Moseley, former CMO of Discovery was a champion of branding. Whatever people say about the Discovery brand, they owe it all to the work Chris did. HBO built itself by being a brand that stood for something (It’s Not TV, It’s HBO). Promotion delivered the promise of Programming. Discovery, as well (Explore Your World) brought their world-class programs to life. And, of course, countless time slots and programs like Must See TV and SNL

The truth is that marketers, creatives, media planners… just about everyone in our side of the business have largely given up. The accepted “wisdom” is “Young people don’t care what network/channel/device it’s on.” 

That’s simply, well, I don’t know what the young, hip term is for “bullshit.” 

Branding still matters in entertainment the same way it matters in Tech, in Footwear, in every area of peoples’ lives. Is it harder than ever to establish and maintain an entertainment BRAND? Absolutely. Is that a reason not to try? Absolutely not.

GABE: Preach!  Branding still matters!

STEVE: Yes.  And I hope that helps.  Stay safe. Stay sane. And stay smart! It’s the people who ask and think about those questions who’ll thrive in the coming years.

Steve Lance

Steve Lance now leads workshops, trainings and webinars on Taming the Approval Process–giving creatives and marketers 20 tools and tips they can use to get the approval process under control. Yes, it’s possible. Connect with him on LinkedIn or psinsights.com