Monday, June 29, 2009

Just Another Manic Monday

I thought that, after Friday, things could only get better. That'll teach me to ask the rhetorical question "What else could go wrong?"!

Actually, I made it through Friday without power, and made it through my show with the help of a friend's studio. And much to my surprise, on only about 3.5 hours of sleep, I then drove for another 3/5 hours and got to my daughter's camp in time time pick her up at the appointed time of 11am. And we made it back home without once falling asleep at the wheel!

We spent last night at my boyfriend's house, where I overslept. But I got the kiddo to day camp by 10:00 this morning, only to arrive home in time to find my just-months-ago-replaced roof leaking! I kid you not. And this was not a small drip drip drip. This was an entire guest room bed drenched downpour!

The roof guy arrived, only to tell me that "there's probably about 100 gallons of water sitting on top of the flat roof" and "if you don't get the drain unclogged, the whole thing could come caving in." Oh yes, welcome to Monday!

So, as I sit here writing this at 6:32 pm, the workmen are still in my garage, where they had to cut through the drainage pipe and re-direct the water to the side of my house. We all think the drain went right into the ground, which is beyond saturated. Ahh, the joys of home ownership.

Anyone in the market for a house in North Miami Beach?

Now, on to tonight.... This weekend marked the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in NY's Greenwich Villiage, which really signaled the beginning of the gay rights movement in the US and around the world.

As Gay Pride Month comes to a close, President Obama welcomed a gathering of LGBT leaders to a reception at the White House.

Tonight, I'll be joined by Congresswoman Jan Schatowsky, D-IL, who is a Vice Chair of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Equality Caucus, who will give us an update on how far the gay community has come in its fight for equality. She'll be with us live at the beginning of the show.

In our second hour, I'll be joined by Miss Major, one of the elders in the LGBT movement, who was at the Stonewall uprising in 1969 and has been an active participant ever since. I promise you a fun and enlightening hour with Miss Major, and hope you'll call in and speak with her at 866-303-2270.

And, of course, we'll spend some time talking about the other big news events of the day, including the sentencing of Bernie Madoff to 150 years, and the long-awaited Supreme Court ruling on the New Haven Firefighters reverse discrimination case.

So much to do tonight in the short two hours we have together. Looking forward to chatting with you then!

Listen online at

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thank God it's Friday!

It's been a rough day in Nicole Sandler-land. A fitting end to a very strange week, I suppose.

After wrapping up last night's show at 1am ET, I finally fell asleep somewhere in the neighborhood of 2am, with the music of and stories about Michael Jackson emanating from my television. The sleep timer, thankfully, ended the Jacko deluge, and I slept peacefully until 6:00 this morning. That's when my dogs both jumped up, clearly alarmed by something.

Then I heard an odd beep that I'd never before heard. When I realized it was coming from the "uninterruptable power source" I bought last week after Florida's thunderstorms kept knocking out my power in a series of surges, I glanced over at the darkened clock which confirmed that the power was off.

I awakened again at 7, this time deciding to call the power company. They said that they were aware of the problem, and expected power to be restored by 10:45am to the 155 customers who were affected by this outage. At 11:00, the message had been changed to an expected restoration time of 11:45 and, at noon, they said we'd probably have our power back by 4pm!

So, I did what any self-respecting, sweaty South Floridian without air conditioning should do under similar circumstances-- I went to the movies! After enjoying Angels & Demons more than I thought I would, I checked in again with FP&L (Florida Power & Light), who had moved their estimated time of our return to air conditioning and all the other luxuries that electricity affords, to 6PM.

Lucky for me, the theater across from which I sat making phone calls was to start showing The Proposal 15 minutes later! I called a friend to ask if I could use his studio tonight, just in case power wasn't back on by 11pm, and thankfully, he was able to accommodate me. So, I wandered in to watch the sweet, albeit predictable romantic comedy... figuring that surely my power would be on by the time it was over.

That'll teach me to call anyone surely.... (sorry, it's been a long day). When I arrived home at 7pm, the geniuses at FPL said that their new target time was 7:50. I had already decided that 8:00 was my cut-off time. So, when 8:00 hit and it was getting too dark to do anything more at home, I made one final call. That's when the recording said that they couldn't give us a time when power would be back on.

So, I opened the windows for the pups, filled their water and food bowls, and headed down to Coral Gables to the Atlantic Radio Network studios, which is where I'm now sitting, recounting the not-too-pleasant events of the day.

The only positive aspect I can come up with is that I was not subject to another day of wall-to-wall coverage of the fact that Michael Jackson is dead.

So, here we are on a Friday night. During tonight's first hour, I will share some of the emails I received today about last night's show. Actually, they were pretty evenly split... between those who thanked me for being realistic and calling Michael Jackson's actions as I saw them, and those who though I was completely out of line. Wait till you hear some of these comments.

In our second hour, we'll segue into healthy sex (as opposed to talking about grown men with a freakish preoccupation with young boys). I'll be joined by Chrystal Bougon, Chief Toy Officer of and Sex Expert for Better Sex Radio. Chrystal has personally facilitated over 1,000 Pleasure Parties over the last 6.5 years and has talked with thousands of women about their sex lives or lack there of. It is, after all, the weekend...

Join in the discussion by calling 866-303-2270!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Death of an Icon

I was out at an appointment today, constantly checking email on my cell phone (waiting for a potential guest to get back to me), when I got the first tip that there was trouble in Neverland. The alert read "Michael Jackson Rushed to Hospital in Cardiac Arrest". But somehow it never crossed my mind that, an hour later, we'd be witnessing wall to wall coverage of his death.

The cynical side of me first thinks of Farrah Fawcett, feeling bad that the coverage of her death will be upstaged by the death of "The King of Pop."

In all reality, Michael gave himself that title. Not that he didn't deserve it. But, there was that other side of Michael Jackson... the creepy side. The extreme plastic surgery, his affinity for being surrounded by young boys and, worse, the allegations and stories of child molestation.

Recently, my 10-year old daughter has been using the name "Michael Jackson" as a sort of synonym for weird people. When I realized she had been doing that, I asked her what she knew about Michael Jackson. She responded with something along the lines of "Just that he's really creepy" That's when I pulled out the old Jackson 5 CDs.

Tonight, we'll deal with the death of Michael Jackson. I remember being on the air in Los Angeles the morning that the news broke that Jerry Garcia had died. Because my station was probably the only one that actually played the music of the Grateful Dead, we became the de- facto place to go. I wound up hosting a thrown-together memorial at Griffin Park that evening. In fact, I posted the audio from that morning on my podcast a few years ago, on the 10th anniversary of his passing. (You can hear that aircheck by clicking here.)

My friend, music journalist Chris Willman is out in LA and on assignment from Rolling Stone magazine to write a reaction piece. We'll find him as he drives around Los Angeles getting reaction from grieving fans. I'm working on a few other guests as well. But, in our first hour tonight (11pm ET/8pm PT), I want your reaction. Call in at 866-303-2270.

In the second hour tonight, I had already scheduled another friend, who happens work in the music industry as an artist manager. Ron Stone, president of Gold Mountain Entertainment, and has been an outspoken critic of internet piracy, and has influenced legislation on the issues of digital music, file sharing, and musician's intellectual property distribution rights. We'll talk about all of those things, and more, when Ron joins me on the air tonight.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What's Health Care like in Canada?

Click here to find out by listening to my conversation with two Canadians!

If we listen to the Republicans, we'd all believe that in Canada, people wait forever to see their doctors and the system is a mess. But I know better than to believe everything they tell me, so I set out to find some regular Canadian folks and ask them myself!

So, last night on my Air America Radio show, I was joined by two Canadians. Laura Madison lives way north, not too far from Winnipeg, where she works as a criminologist. Andy Krieger lives in Vancouver, British Columbia where the weather is much nicer, and he teaches people how to speak without foreign accents (check out his website here!)

Listen to the hour we spent together last night. I think--especially if you listen to the critics on the right-- you'll be pleasantly surprised at the care they receive, and you'll be shocked when you hear what they pay for it, and when you hear their reactions to what we have to go through to get health care in the US.

Tonight, in the midnight hour ET, we'll listen back to some of President Obama's Town Hall Meeting on Health Care that will air live this evening from the White House on ABC-TV.

I'll start the show with an interview with Ryan Grim of Huffington Post, whose new book "This is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America" was just released yesterday.

And we'll talk to my favorite activist, David Swanson (,, about the Torture Accountability Rallies planned all over the country for tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

One step ahead of Obama

That's how I felt just a few hours ago as I was watching President Obama's press conference.

After taking the first question, which was on the subject of Iran, he called for Huffington Post's Nico Pitney. President Obama complimented Pitney on his live blogging on the crisis in Iran, and asked him if he had a question from an Iranian citizen to pass along.

Here's his question and answer:

Well, just yesterday, I was marveling about his great work at HuffPo, and invited Nico on the air last night. Click here to listen to our interview, and then click on the video below to see the entire press conference, which we will dissect on the air tonight, between 11pm and 1am ET/8 and 10 pm PT on Air America radio.

From Record Company President to Activist

Last night on Air America Radio, I had the chance to interview Howie Klein.

During my days as a rock jock in Los Angeles, I had met Howie Klein on numerous occasions. He was then the president of Reprise Records. Although I always knew he was a nice guy and was loved by his staff, I never really had the chance to sit with him for an in-depth conversation.

Howie retired from Reprise in 2001 and, since then, has been making his views known online. He currently edits the blog DownWithTyranny, and takes it a step further as president of Blue America PAC.

Yesterday, I read a piece he wrote on DownWithTyranny called "Why is Health Care Reform Stalling?" Of course, health care reform is one of the biggest issues before us today, so I called Howie and invited him on the show.

Eventhough he's leaving for a month-long trip to Asia today, he spent some time with me on the air last night. Hear our interview by clicking here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Postcript on last week....

Excuse me for not posting these sooner, but my daughter is away at sleepaway camp, and I took the weekend off!

So, better late than never, here are a couple of interviews from Friday night that I promised to share with you...

I spoke with Congressman Barney Frank about two bills he introduced in the past week, both dealing with marijuana-- one on the medical front and the other dealing with personal, recreational use.

I have a feeling he didn't realize that this was for broadcast, though his aide who set it up certainly did. Hear my explanation of all of this before the interview, along with the interview itself by clicking here.

In that clip, you'll also hear the explanation of President Obama's "Shout Out" to me by invoking the phrase "Nick @ Nite." Notice the spelling I used there, vs. how I refer to my show (Nic@Night)... I posted what I figured everyone would realize as a joke on Facebook about the alleged shout-out, only to receive an onslaugh of congratulatory messages.... Rest assured, not only did Obama NOT single me out, he has no idea I exist....

I wrapped up the week of my late night fun on Air America by interviewing an old friend. Jeff Kravitz has the best job in the world! He's a photographer who is hired to shoot every major event in the music and theatrical worlds... The part I'm jealous of is the music access. He just returned from his 8th Bonnaroo Festival, and we talked about that and other things... Check out his pics here, and listen to our interview here!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tonight on Nic@Night

It's Friday, so we'll wrap up the week with some fun. Actually, last night was a lot of fun too, so if you didn't have a chance to listen, head over to the podcast and check out my interviews with Jack Tempchin and John Fugelsang.

We talked a bit about marijuana prohibition last night. Earlier in the day, I found two bills that Barney Frank quietly introduced in the House. The first one, introduced last Friday (6/12) is HR 2835, the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act. This bill would would change marijuana from a Schedule I drug, classified as having no medical value, to a Schedule II drug, which would recognize marijuana's medical efficacy and create a regulatory framework for the FDA to begin a drug approval process for marijuana. The act would also prevent interference by the federal government in any local or state run medical marijuana program.

Then yesterday, Frank introduced HR 2943, the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2009! Seriously. This bill would remove penalties for possession of up to 3.5 ounces of marijuana and the not-for-profit transfer of 1 ounce.

When I hit the air last night, I didn't see a peep about either of these bills anywhere in the mainstream media. I found them while doing show prep. Knowing we were going to talk about prohibition, I checked out the Marijuana Policy Project's website, where I found notices about both of them.

This morning, I called Barney Frank's office, and lined up an interview with him today. I'll start the show with it tonight at 11pm ET.

That'll be followed by an interview with Robert Kenner, director of the new film Food Inc., which opens nationally today. The line they use to promote the film, "You'll never look at dinner the same way" is definitely true!

And, since it's Friday, we'll have some fun too... I did rock radio in Los Angeles for almost 15 years. An old friend of mine from those days is one of the premier music/celebrity photographers working today. Jeff Kravitz is NOT a paparazzi. He's hired to photograph the biggest stars and events.

He's been at the Bonnaroo Music Festival for the past eight years, and this year was no different. His pictures and the stories he told from last weekend's festival are amazing, so he'll join us for a bit in the second hour tonight. You can check out his Bonnaroo highlights here and see his spread from the festival in Rolling Stone magazine by clicking here!

Pot, Politics, Music and Humor

Last night on Air America Radio, where I'm hanging out (at least this week and next), weeknights from 11pm-1am ET, I talked about all of those things with two wonderful guests.

In the first hour, musician and songwriter Jack Tempchin joined me. He is responsible for some of the Eagles biggest hits, and recently posted a new song to his MySpace page called Light a Joint. So I called him to talk about the marijuana laws in the US... and we talked about music too.

Hear our interview by clicking here.

In the second hour, I was joined by comedian, social commentator and all around smart, funny, nice guy John Fugelsang. We started off where the conversation ended with Jack Tempchin, talking about pot... and it moved from there to a frank and often funny discussion of the day's news.

Hear my interview with John Fugelsang here.

Interestingly enough, I spoke at length last night about two bills recently introduced by Congressman Barney Frank, about which I had seen absolutely not one piece of press.

The first, introduced last week, on June 12, is H.R. 2835, the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, which would make marijuana available through a doctor's prescription nationwide.

The bill, which was co-sponsored by 13 bipartisan Members of Congress at the time of introduction, would change federal policy on medical marijuana in a number of ways.

Specifically, the Act would change marijuana from a Schedule I drug, classified as having no medical value, to a Schedule II drug, which would recognize marijuana's medical efficacy and create a regulatory framework for the FDA to begin a drug approval process for marijuana. The act would also prevent interference by the federal government in any local or state run medical marijuana program.

Then yesterday, Congressman Frank introduced H.R. 2943, the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2009, which would eliminate federal criminal penalties for possession of up to 3.5 ounces of marijuana, and the not-for-profit transfer of an ounce of marijuana.

I have a call in to Barney Frank's office who, when I asked why there had been no coverage of these two bills, told me that they were planning a press release sometime today. I've requested an interview with the Congressman, so hopefully will have him on the Air America show and the Radio or Not podcast sometime in the next few days.

Perhaps there is a light at the end of the joint... er... tunnel.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A day late, and more than a dollar short!

After years of doing morning radio, I thought that being on the air late at night would be easier. Unfortunately, I was mistaken!

Don't get me wrong. I'm having a blast hosting Nic@Night ... Ok, it's really The Nicole Sandler Show, but I couldn't resist the name suggested by listener Brian Davis for my show (for the next couple of weeks, anyway) on Air America Radio weeknights from 11pm-1am ET/8-10pm PT.

Also unfortunately, there's been a problem with the archiving system at Air America, so I haven't had access to the show audio... yet. As soon as I do, I'll post some of the highlights.

I do, however, have this interview from yesterday, as I recorded it before I went on the air.

Yesterday was the 37th anniversary of the Watergate break-in. Richard Ben-Veniste, who served as the chief of the Watergate Task Force of the Special Prosecutors Office back in the day has a new book out -- The Emperor's New Clothes: Exposing the Truth From Watergate to 9/11 -- so I called to ask if he'd come on the show, and he did!

Click here to listen to that interview (run time 14:39).

Tonight, I've got a couple of great guests lined up. In the first hour, a guy whose name you don't know, but whose work you definitely do! Jack Tempchin wrote or co-wrote some of the Eagles biggest hits, including Peaceful Easy Feeling and Already Gone.

I met Jack in February at a music industry event called Sunset Sessions. (I'm producing a great video of the conference, which I'll post here when it's done.) He performed, and I had the chance to interview him.

He has a new song on his MySpace page called "Light A Joint", which sparked my interest. So, we'll chat tonight about music, pot, and more...

In the second hour, I'll be joined by one of the funniest guys around, John Fugelsang who, funny enough, also has some thoughts about marijuana!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Stoning of Soraya M

I had the chance to speak with a wonderful actress yesterday. You might not recognize the name Shohreh Aghdashloo, but you'd probably know her by her photo, and definitely by her voice.

She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her first Hollywood role, in House of Sand and Fog. Most of us know her from her appearance on "24" in 2005, in which she played a terrorist.

Her newest project, The Stoning of Soraya M, is a controversial film, and one that's difficult to watch due to its subject matter. Aghdashloo plays the aunt of a woman, Soraya, whose husband wants to marry a younger woman. Since Soraya won't give him a divorce, he accuses her of adultery, and she is stoned to death by the village.

I spoke with Shohreh by phone yesterday about the film, and the events unfolding in her native country of Iran.

Click here to listen to our interview (total runtime 12:50)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday Nic@Night

After years of doing mornings on the radio, it's a bit weird to be on late at night... but I am on Air America all this week and next, from 11pm -1am ET/ 8-10pm PT.

Yesterday, in the midst of my obsession with following the events in Iran unfolding via Twitter, I took a break, of sorts, to watch the new film, "The Stoning of Soraya M".

It's based on the true story of a woman in a remote village in Iran who was falsely accused by her husband of committing adultery, and stoned to death as punishment. Iranian actress Shoreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog, "24") stars as Soraya's aunt, who has the courage to find a journalist and tell the story of what happened. Tonight, Shoreh will join me on the show to talk about the film, and give her thoughts about what's happening in the country she fled 30 years ago on the eve of the Revolution.

I was so moved by that story of the film, that I began searching for information about how women are treated in the Muslim world. I found Fatemeh Fakhraie is an editor, writer, and blogger who writes about issues from her perspective as Iranian-American Muslim woman. She writes about Islamic feminism, Islam, and race for several online and print outlets, including Racialicious, Bitch magazine, and AltMuslimah.

In 2007, Fatemeh founded Muslimah Media Watch, a website dedicated to critically analyzing images of Muslim women in global media and pop culture. She currently serves as editor-in-chief of the website. She'll join me at around 11:30 ET tonight.

In our second hour tonight, we'll lighten up the mood a bit, and take a look at political humor. Did David Letterman go too far with his joke about Sarah Palin's daughter? Is there a line in political humor, and when is it crossed? Lisa Derrick, who writes the La Figa blog at will be my guest, as she also holds court online in a live chat. Talk about multi-tasking!!

Your calls, comments and jokes are welcome at 866-303-2270. And listen in at

Monday, June 15, 2009

Join me tonight for Nic @ Night!

I will be live on Air America radio this evening from 11 pm- 1 am ET/ 8-10 pm PT. If there's no affiliate near you carrying the show, you can certainly listen online at And please feel free to call in at 866-303-2270.

I'll be doing this show all week, and am in the process of lining up some great guests and topics for the week... but am open to your ideas and suggestions too. Just shoot me an email!

Tonight, we'll continue on the topic that I've been following all day... the presidential election in Iran. I've been following it on Twitter. And today, for the first time, I can honestly say that I get Twitter.

Until this point, I didn't really get the point... But all day today, as I've found people tweeting live from Tehran, right in the midst of all that's going on there, I haven't been able to peel myself away from the computer.

If you want to see what went on over the past couple of days, just check out the twitter feed of one who goes by the name of PersianKiwi. Fascinating.

Here's some of what went on in Tehran today, courtesy of Sky News:

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Story of John Walker Lindh

Click here to listen to today's Radio or Not podcast... The Story of John Walker Lindh (Runtime 34:36)

Remember that name? Vaguely?

Some whom I've asked responded quizzically, "Wasn't he the shoe bomber?" Nope. This is the guy who was dubbed "The American Taliban." Do you know what happened to him? Most don't. So don't feel too badly that you have no clue. We'll answer the question today, and what you hear will likely enrage you.

Not because John Walker Lindh didn't deserve punishment. What you'll learn is that he was a naive, young man who was in search of something... but he was also a victim of terrible timing, and a government who doesn't seem to understand basic human rights.

A few days ago, I received an email from a long-time listener. In it, she mentioned that John Walker Lindh is the grand-nephew of her best friend. She asked me to read this piece by Michael Teitleman at, "Why Closing Gitmo Starts in Indiana: Obama, Torture and John Walker Lindh." I did, and immediately contacted the author to invite him on Radio or Not with me.

Next week, I'll be hosting a show on Air America radio from 11PM-1AM ET/8-10PM Pacific. I've put out calls to a few other people involved, including John Walker Lindh's father Frank. Hopefully we'll spend one evening delving deeper into this story.

Click here to listen to today's Radio or Not Podcast, runtime 34:36

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The GOP Energy Plan- A Giant Leap Backwards

Hear today's Radio or Not podcast, an interview with Harvey Wasserman, by clicking here... runtime 13:04

In 1976, a group of musicians and anti-nuclear activists formed MUSE - Musicians United for Safe Energy. In addition to staging one of the best concerts ever, and spawning a wonderful film and album, they collectively helped start the No Nukes movement which, 33 years later, is still fighting to get rid of nukes!

Harvey Wasserman was one of the powers behind MUSE, and he's still doing his part to spread the truth about the dangers of the nuclear industry, and promoting clean energy.

I first met and interviewed Harvey a few years back, when he released the book Solartopia: Our Green Powered Earth, and worked with MUSE members Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash and others to found

This morning, I awoke to a new piece by Wasserman on Common Dreams, entitled "The GOP's 100-Reactor/Trillion-Dollar Energy Plan Goes Radioactive."

Read the piece, and listen to our conversation about it on today's Radio or Not Podcast (runtime 13:04)

Tomorrow, we'll look into the case of the man we've come to know as the "America Taliban" John Walker Lindh. I'll speak with Dr. Michael Teitleman about the piece he wrote for Counter Punch, "Why Closing Gitmo Starts in Indiana: Obama, Torture and John Walker Lindh"

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

today's show

When I guest host a show on Air America, I usually just podcast a segment or interview or two. Today, I decided to share the entire thing. I hope you'll listen, and enjoy...

Click here for today's program (runtime 1:52:40)

Doing Time for Ron Kuby today

Ron Kuby will be out, so yours truly will be sitting in the Air America host chair once again today, from noon-3 ET. The phone lines will be open at 866-303-2270, and you can listen live from anywhere in the world at

If you want to join in the live chat during the show, just click here!

We've got a busy show on tap for today...

In the first hour, I'll be joined by Ali A. Allawi, former Minister of Trade, Defense and Finance in the Iraqi Postwar government. He's the author of the 2007 book, The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace, and his new one, The Crisis of Islamic Civilization.

In the second hour, we'll examine the question I've long tried to figure out... is it really necessary to improve on an orgasm? OK, that's really the sidebar to the story of David Carradine, who was found dead, hanging in the closet of a Bangkok, Thailand hotel room. Just a few months ago, Chris Willman (former LA Times/Entertainment Weekly writer) blogged on HuffPo about a weird encounter with the star, and he'll join me today to recount the events of that evening, and speculate about how Carradine met his demise. Along the way, I'm sure we'll delve slightly into the dark world of auto-erotic asphyxiation.

And in the wake of the murder of Dr. George Tillman, and the pronouncement by his alleged murderer that more will follow, I'll be joined by Frank Schaeffer, at 1:30 ET. Frank was my guest on this program last month, and it was one of the most interesting interviews I've had the pleasure of conducting, and the one that elicited the most response as well.

Frank grew up the son of the founder of the Religious Right movement, and details his journey to sanity in his latest book, Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of it Back. And, of course, we'll chat about the news of the day, and take your calls too...

And as I was leaving NYC on Sunday, waiting for the bus to take me from outside of Grand Central Station to JFK airport, I saw a group of protesters picketing outside of the Grand Hyatt Hotel. So, naturally, I went over to see what their signs said and find out what they were all about.

They were picketing a giant foreclosure sale that was going on inside, and their signs read "Bail out People, not Banks" and "Stop Foreclosures Now" and they were chanting "Give the people back their homes." You get the idea.

It is 2009, so the picket signs included the url Of course, I had to get them on the show today! If you're interested in finding out more, or if you're in danger of losing your home to foreclosure, visit the website, or call 212-633-6646.

Check back later for audio highlights of the show!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Radio, a postscript

Click here to listen to today's Radio or Not podcast, runtime 15:02

I'm back from a quick jaunt to New York, where I attended Talkers magazine's New Media Seminar. I'm back in front of the Radio or Not controls with a new-found exuberance and excitement over all that is to come.

I have to believe that my feelings are akin to what the early pioneers of FM radio experienced when they were playing songs that went on for 8 or 9 minutes... which would have been a crime on the hit-laden AM band.

Those of us who are doing our thing on the Internet sometimes feel a bit lonely, but after hearing my thoughts echoed throughout the weekend's events from voices far more esteemed than mine, I've been feeling vindicated.

I predicted the rise of Internet radio many years ago. I wrote about it almost a decade ago, when I detailed the move of my then-radio home, Channel 103.1 to the 'net, as, in a piece for the (now defunct) trade publication Totally Adult. Unfortunately for me, I was just too early then. If all the experts I commiserated with this weekend are correct, the technology has finally caught up with the ideas, and the time has arrived.

Tomorrow, I'll be back on Air America radio, filling in for Ron Kuby from noon-3 ET. I hope you'll listen, and listen to today's Radio or Not podcast, with a postscript on the state of radio (runtime 15:03)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The End of an Era!

Just a few days ago, I wrote of the Dawning of a New Era in Radio. Today I’ll spend a few moments eulogizing the end of one.

Just before leaving for the airport yesterday, I checked my email one final time… only to be shocked by an alert saying that the venerable industry publication Radio & Records would be shutting its doors this Friday.

Other trades have disappeared over the past few years. First there was the Hard Report. Then Gavin, whose annual conventions died along with the publication.

After the sale and demise of one of my former radio homes, KSCA/Los Angeles, I went to work at The Album Network as Rock Editor, and contributed to their sister publications, Totally Adult and Virtually Alternative.

The Network Magazine Group, I was assured when I took the position, was family-owned and not in danger of being swallowed up and closed down. But it was sold soon after my return to radio. SFX became the new parent company, itself later swallowed up by Clear Channel, who finally shut the whole operation down.

When Gavin folded, their "Triple A Summit", an annual gathering of programmers, label reps, and musicians was picked up by Radio & Records. John Schoenberger, who had earlier departed Totally Adult to become R&R’s first and only Triple A Editor, kept the Summit going. Boulder, CO was the site at which this conference continued, until now.

I’d been reminiscing about some of those old publications and their contents recently, as I’ve been updating my website with press clippings and some of my favorite written pieces.

I was already mourning the passing of that era when I wrote my latest piece. Today, the logical follow-up comes with the true end of an era.

I couldn’t help but notice the timing of yesterday’s announcement. At about 1:30PM EDT, I got an alert from the one trade left standing ,which happens to be the online-only entity All Access, that the Performance Royalty Bill had been blocked, with opponents of the bill garnering 218 votes, enough to kill the new legislation which would require terrestrial radio stations to begin paying for the right to play music. The announcement of Radio & Records demise arrived by way of a similar alert, just 30 minutes later.

Before drawing my logical conclusion about the connection between the two announcements, let me offer a bit more background.

Most other civilized industrialized nations compensate artists when their music is played on the radio. Currently, the US is in the same company as Iran, China and North Korea with no radio performance right.

In addition, artists are losing out on millions of dollars every year when royalties collected for American music played in other countries are withheld because we do not have a reciprocal right in the U.S.

It should also be noted that the one major hurdle to the true dawning of the new era about which I wrote the other day are the fees levied on internet radio, from which terrestrial radio is immune.

Independent, forward-thinking, creative programmers who seek to build their own online radio stations are required to pay high music licensing fees, forcing many of them out of business or keeping many from ever beginning their ventures because the costs art too prohibitive, while the big broadcasting behemoths are paying nothing for the content that defines their stations.

While I understand the realities of this economy, and the fact that additional fees on radio stations would put the industry in even greater peril, some compromise can and should be worked out to compensate musicians for airplay of their works, to compensate record companies for their products, and to take the burden off the small webcaster and end the free ride that terrestrial radio has long enjoyed.

Record companies do deserve payment for the use of their products, and unfortunately, they’re having a tough time right now. Much of the blame lies within, as they ignored the effect the internet would have on their bottom line for too long. Perhaps thinking it would just go away, the former money machines are now hemorrhaging what they seemingly printed for so long.

These record companies supported the afore-mentioned trade magazines with their advertising dollars and paid them lots of money for independent promotion. They supported the conventions by bringing artists to perform, and sponsoring panels and lavish dinners.

And those of us who’ve been around the industry long enough remember the parties. Radio & Records used to hold their annual convention in Los Angeles at the Century Plaza Hotel, and the late night parties in the various label suites were legendary. In fact, if memory serves, the hotel finally said, “No More!” Ahh, the good old days.

But with the rise of music sharing online came the drop in record sales, and record company revenues. We can probably live without the parties and dinners, but unfortunately, with the lack of advertising budgets comes the death of the industry trade publications.

So I can’t help but wonder if the news of enough votes in the House to kill the Performance Rights Act was the final nail in the coffin of Radio & Records magazine.

Either way, it’s another sad day in the industry that I’ve lived and loved for three decades.

Tomorrow, Talkers Magazine kicks off their annual New Media Seminar here in New York. Not reliant on advertising from record companies, the Talk Radio industry’s trade magazine is in better shape than its musical counterparts. But the actual radio landscape is still suffering, as is just about every business these days.

Let’s hope that our industry can regroup and come back, as the new era dawns.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Dawning of a New Radio Era

In an alternate reality I'd be writing that, since things are going so well, it's time for a vacation, and I'm leaving for a week of fun, rest and relaxation. Alas, that's not why there won't be any new Radio or Not podcast episodes for the coming week.

I am headed to NY tomorrow to attend and participate in the New Media Seminar, an annual event put together by Talkers Magazine. Click on the link to see that this is the talk radio industry event of the year.

It'll be interesting to read the mood at this conference. Radio is having a particularly tough time in this truly difficult economy. Stations already running on skeleton crews before the economic crisis hit have been cut even further.

Many of us were warning about what would happen to local radio back before President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 into law. We knew that relaxing ownership rules as this law did would lead to massive job losses, and the commitment to serve local communities would become an antiquated missive.

And we were right. In the years following the Telecom Act, consolidation was the name of the game. Previously, one company could own one AM, one FM and one TV station per market, with 40 being the maximum number of radio stations one company could own.

With this legislation, companies were now allowed to own up to 8 radio stations in each market, and the ownership cap was completely lifted! Clear Channel soon emerged as the biggest radio company in the US, with a portfolio of some 1200 stations.

Unfortunately, this radio empire was treated as a portfolio rather than as a group of local radio stations. The jobs soon became consolidated as well. Each radio station previously had its own Program Director and unique staff; now "clusters" of stations shared not only support staff, but programming and air talent as well.

Yes, through the magic of LANs and WANs and technology, the concept of voicetracking was born! One radio personality could sit in a studio in City A, and through the intranet, pull up the music log of another station in City B, complete with empty slots into which he/she would record the break-- the talk that comes between the records, or between the song and the commercials. The jock then hits the button, and the log scrolls to the next empty voicetrack slot, and so on. An entire 5-hour air shift could be tracked in a 20 minute session, and the voicetracks transmitted right into the computer log at a station anywhere else in the world!

The next time you listen to your favorite music station, try to figure out if it's live or if it's.. not Memorex, but a digital recording, sometimes tracked days in advance! You probably can't.

Instead of a full-time salary (which for most jocks is minimal at best), many "full-time" radio personalities these days are paid a small piecemeal fee for each show, and long for the days when they were actually getting benefits too.

On the talk side, gone are the days of 24/7 local programming. In many cases, gone are the days of any local programming! Syndication has become big business, and many owners choose to fill their entire broadcast day with shows off the bird. Some are actually "virtual" stations, without even a local studio from which to do a show if, perhaps, there was a local emergency!

One of the things that attracted me to radio when I started in this business 30 years ago(!) was the immediacy of it. One person, alone in a studio, could flip on the mic and be talking to her community, relaying important information, or entertaining the listeners with the magic of words and music.

The radio station always has been, and still is, licensed to operate in the public interest, convenience and necessity. But now, when there is often not a live person in the radio station for at least a few hours of the day, does the radio station still serve that end? I'd say not.

Now Clear Channel, facing possible bankruptcy just a year after going private, is making further cuts and offering it's stations "premium choice" offerings. Just a fancy name for more syndicated programs and voicetracking options. Less community involvement, less localism, fewer jobs.

So what are people like me to do? I've already re-invented myself. I went from an "expert" in Triple A radio (Adult Album Alternative, an eclectic musical format that exists in only a few lucky cities), to a talk show host. I'd always listened to talk radio, and even got my first post-college job producing talk radio. But just as I was completing my first year in the morning host chair at WINZ/Miami, they downsized me (the only local show on the station) and replaced me with Imus. On a "progressive" talk station, no less.

Well, we blaze new trails. The giant behemoths that grew out of the Telecom Act of '96 are exactly what's wrong with radio today. Just as new territory was forged in the 60s on FM, the truly creative are leaving the antennas and transmitters behind, and betting on broadband and wi-fi instead.

In the last week alone, I've seen three newspaper pieces on internet radio and the coming revolution to your in-dash receiver. I'd bemoaned the fact that I had the G1 (Google) phone instead of the iPhone, until just two days ago. That's when I downloaded the free application "StreamFurious" from the Market (Google's answer to the App Store) and, with a little effort, soon began streaming one of my favorite internet stations, through my phone.

Now, I just have to figure out how to get the audio through my car's speakers, and I'm all set. We're on our way.

So today, on the eve of my trip to NY for the New Media Seminar, I have mixed emotions. Part of me longs for the good old days, when I'd get up early in the morning and go into the radio station, populated with a large staff all working together to win the ratings race. We were a team, being creative and having fun. It is radio, after all.

The other part of me is excited about the future, as new methods of communicating seem to appear almost daily! My Radio or Not podcast is growing, though never as quickly as I'd like.

But I do believe the time is ripe for the next generation of radio now. I'd been too early for it once before. Back in 1999, during the height of consolidation, Clear Channel had just swallowed up Jacor, and put Triple A Channel 103.1 (KACD/KBCD Santa Monica/Newport Beach) on the air. I was brought in to help launch the station, and act as MD/afternoon host. After about a year, Clear Channel was set to merge with another radio monolith, AM/FM. The resulting company would own more than the allowed number of stations in Los Angeles, so had to divest itself of a few signals.

Since ours was a niche format anyway, and we counted as two stations (two small signals simulcast, both at 103.1), we were the first on the chopping block.

Whether it was due to my lobbying, or just similar thinking, Clear Channel decided to stick with us and move us off the air and onto the net seamlessly. I detailed the history making transition in a piece for the trade publication Totally Adult (read it here), but our success was short-lived. The dot-com bust got all of us forward thinkers.

But it's almost a decade later, and the technology has finally caught up with our dreams.

What is on the horizon? I'm sure I'll have some ideas and even some realities to share with you when I return from NY next week.

Until then, I hope you'll browse through the archives at, and check out some of my past interviews and podcasts.

Thanks for listening... Radio or Not!