On television’s biggest day and on music’s biggest stage… I’m most excited for the Queen of Hip Hop Soul… Miss Mary J Blige. With 9 Grammys, 4 AMAs, and 12 Billboard Awards… Come On! Do we even have to ask ‘What’s the 411?’ It’s Mary J.

Would you like to see another side? Here’s a piece she did for Vogue breaking down 11 looks from 1994 to present. Now please pass the guac. GO RAMS!


From Royalties to Rogan… it may be time to make a decision. But I’m not sure leaving Spotify is actually better for the artists.

…in the shape of an L on his forehead

Like most media executives, I’ve long hated how much the artists and stakeholders actually make from their Spotify streams. Usually less than $3K per million… which means a manager’s 15% is only $450 bucks per million. And let me be clear, for non-celebrity working-artists… one million streams is a LOT.  And the music-business has collectively accepted this. Not because we like it, but because Spotify is currently (perhaps) the most important tool for artists to leverage in order to sell tickets and tee shirts – which still make money.

This is not a hard concept. If people aren’t listening to your songs, they’re buying fewer tickets and tees. There is a direct correlation.

So here’s the real question: 
Are artists willing to give up their (largely free) ticket and tee shirt “marketing support” from Spotify in order to take a stand for fair royalties? The days of CDs are over. And tickets and tees are the foundation of many. Heck, even before CDs went away, artists like #IronMaiden made more from tee shirts than anything else. Merch isn’t a side-business. It’s the business!

Plus (fair shout out to Spotify) I do love the #SpotifyForArtists tools. I love the analytics – which we leverage for our direct-to-fan efforts and routing strategies. And I love programs like “Fan First” which is an efficient DDM (digital direct mail) tool. And I love the listing options, artist picks, playlisting, etc.  If you’re willing to accept that Spotify is primarily marketing for your artist (not the product, itself)… Spotify is a solid tool.

For many music executives, accepting the low streamer-royalties is an unspoken approved transaction from both sides. We give #Spotify the music for a song (haha) and they give the artists reach and tools to sell tickets and tee shirts. Done.

The shift came when Spotify dipped their toe in #FoxNews Light. They essentially paid $100 million to reposition themselves from ‘agnostic music platform’ to an opinion network. And #JoeRogan (albeit funny and socially likable) can be boiled down to MMA-culture meets #Hannity. Hannity! For many, the mere association is enough to boycott. And it’s undeniable that Spotify endorses this “opinion” because they paid $100 million for it.

#MileyCyrus and many others have given Rogan interviews knowing EXACTLY who he is. But she used the platform for her own media needs. Do we judge Miley now too?  She’s more than “still on Spotify” …she’s actually appeared on Rogan.

Boycott Rogan and Boycott Stupidity. But until Spotify’s subs ACTUALLY migrate to #Apple, #Amazon, #Deezer or #Tidal… let the artists be without unfair judgment.

One closing tid bit. Something I’ve never heard a music executive say… “I SURE LOVE NAVIGATING APPLE FOR ARTISTS”


If you’re working the DSPs this week to support your artist… and they don’t happen to be playing halftime… which will get your artist or campaign the most pick up… Jock rock or baby making? 

Common wisdom says go with the biggest media event of the year. 9 of 10 of the most watched TV broadcasts ever were Super Bowls after all.  But with so much Super Bowl media-noise this week, unless you’re over-spending, perhaps the smarter play is to go where corporate media isn’t.  Go Valentine’s Day.

(MASH btw. The one TV Broadcast in the all time Top Ten that wasn’t a Super Bowl was the MASH finale)


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 


After Netflix missed a key growth forecast, it’s been quite the week for the largest SVOD on earth as international sub-growth slowed after its huge 2020. Apparently William Ackman’s hedge fund Pershing Square sees it as a temporary dip. But a $50 Billion market cap dip is… well… Succession worthy.  Wait, that’s HBO.



Originally Posted to Linkedin



Music merch is having a pretty cool renaissance with several movements happening at once, and each informing the other. On one end of the spectrum we have indie artists leading their own charge by taking advantage of on-demand printing… which allows them a wider array of designs without breaking the bank and forcing the artists to sit on inventory. 

And on the other end of the spectrum we have the likes of #JohnVarvatos releasing higher-end exclusives, like his new Pink Floyd collection. Which I do happen to like… though $500 for a denim jacket isn’t quite within reach for most fans.

And of course live shows simply happening again is part of the merch renaissance – which makes the concert tee momento that much more important.

I’m not sure Ye’s (Kanye’s) Yeezy collection counts as music-merch since it doesn’t directly connect to the music beyond its owner/creator being in the biz. But it’s certainly a movement in its own right considering just yesterday #RollingStone announced that Ye’s 2021 income of $250 Million was largely due to the collection… and not his latest album.

So what’s a super-fan to choose? Despite the array of new offerings, my dream piece most often still doesn’t exist– so I still make them myself like I did back in high school. Here’s my hand-painted Van Halen leather MC. The jacket is a vintage Harley-Davidson Motor Company MC that I picked up at a Buffalo Exchange Trading Co and the camouflage was inspired by the band’s slightly weird 1981 PR Shot with a Tank.



I work at the intersection of Madison Avenue and the Sunset Strip. Get it? Music Marketing. I just met a colleague who works at the intersection of Productivity and Purpose. And just yesterday I met a colleague who works down the street where Strategy meets Creative. Kind of interesting how very quickly this approachable, friendly take on the Venn diagram has changed the way we market and brand ourselves. When did Google Maps infiltrate all of our bios?

#branding #marketing

Originally posted to Linkedin



As reported in Variety (link below) another platform & partner which traditionally supported original music programming is no more as YouTube shuts down its Original Content Group. There is such a CLEAR opportunity for a music-centric cabler, VOD or IPTV to emerge to relevancy with “television-style” programming and original content, but will it happen? The obstacles to success shouldn’t be insurmountable. Yet ’16 & Pregnant’ syndrome is still very real with today’s programmers.

#music #content #opportunity #programming #television



Absolutely gutted. Rest in peace, Ronnie. You changed it all. The original bad girl who paved the way for EVERY rock ‘n roll rebel who followed… from Miley to Rihanna to yes… Amy. Love to Jonathan, so sorry for your loss. RS… You’ll forever be our baby. And for now, we’ll sadly be walking in the rain. xxx

(photo credit: ray avery) #RonnieSpector

UNITED STATES – JANUARY 01: GOLD STAR STUDIOS Photo of Phil SPECTOR, w/Ronnie Bennett of the Ronettes (Photo by Ray Avery/Redferns)


I received a smart D2C promotion from Spotify over the weekend designed to inspire parents & kids to create playlists as a family activity… and it immediately reminded me of Hasbro’s ‘Family Game Night’ campaign.

Earlier in my career I worked at the NYC ad agency Griffin Bacal Advertising. And at the time, it was the leading kids + family agency behind lots of industry firsts. While I was there, Hasbro was a big client and one of their campaigns was #FamilyGameNight – which eventually even became its own TV game show and video game franchise. I think the original campaign was created by then president Paul Kurnit… but if I’m wrong, he can correct me here in the comments 😉

IMHO the ‘Family Game Night’ campaign supported a brilliant strategy which effectively targeted multiple age groups (both parents and kids), supported a “full line” which included several classic games at once for subsequent purchases (#Monopoly, Sorry, Life, Clue, Operation, Mouse Trap, etc), and most interesting to me, it created family “traditions” while subtly instilling brand loyalty with kids that they would embrace until they’re eventually the parents.

Enter Spotify.

A couple weeks ago I read an article in Bloomberg in which Spotify’s founder and CEO Daniel Ek acknowledged that his youngest generation of listeners (Gen Z and younger) aren’t big Spotify users. He summed it up by saying “We could be doing better in that group,” right after he cited a quote from Intel’s legendary CEO Andy Grove – “only the paranoid survive.”

Seems like every non-gaming media company except #TikTok is having similar realizations.

With this recent news in mind, I wondered what promotional tactics (or even strategies) Spotify might begin testing (besides adding TikTok-like features) in order to better-appeal to younger listeners. And that’s when their own ‘Family Game Night’ landed in my inbox. Family Playlisting!  

Spotify’s message went like this:
Let’s face it, finding an activity that keeps the whole family happy is borderline impossible. You’ve tried cards, you’ve tried board games and the less said about what happened when you suggested charades the better.  So how about a collaborative playlist instead? 


So far I’ve only seen this promotion as a D2C newsletter, so I don’t yet know if it’s being fleshed out into a full campaign, but I do love the thinking. What better way for Spotify to inspire teens to embrace Spotify than to target them while they’re still tweens… and have their Spotify-obsessed Gen X Parents do the heavy lifting for them?

Bonus feature: no brawl for the aux cord next dinner time.

Blast from the past… I’d love to hear what my kids-marketing co-conspirators of years-past think about this Spotify promotion. Pete BregmanBob MarksHeather EyrichStacy LewisJulius Weil…what do you think?