What to do when you’re a music station and there’s a terror attack in your city

When the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon finish line it was just before 3PM local time, and it was a holiday, Patriots’ Day. For those unfamiliar, Patriots’ Day is in honor of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and the Battles of Lexington and Concord that began the American Revolution. It’s celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine (Maine used to be part of Massachusetts) and two big sporting events are held that day. The Boston Red Sox play an 11AM game at Fenway Park (the only morning start in all of professional sports) and, since 1897, the Boston Marathon has been held. It’s also the beginning of school vacation week. The idea of the morning Red Sox game is that people could take the kids to the game, then saunter one block to Kenmore Square, the 25-mile marker of the race, and watch the runners on the final stretch. Which is exactly what I was doing that day.

So what happens at a music-intensive station on a holiday? Typically, the station is on a Saturday schedule – meaning there are no newscasts and there is no news person around. Especially at 3PM. WBZ-TV and WBZ-AM always broadcasts the race from the starting line in Hopkinton to the finish line at Exeter Street in Boston, so they had plenty of reporters already on hand when the bombs went off. Their sister stations, 98.5 The Sports Hub, 100.7 WZLX, 103.3 AMP Radio and Mix 104.1 all simulcast the WBZ-TV audio. Perfect, and appropriate. Clear Channel’s Kiss 108 and Jam’n 94-5 had updates from Fox 25. Greater Media’s five stations all have music formats and no news people on duty at 3PM any day. Magic 106.7 was busy telling me that they play the Most Music.

I got home via the last outbound train on the T Green Line. When my wife picked me up she asked me what I would have done if I were still the VP/Programming at Magic. I responded that I would have done exactly what I did when the Challenger blew up in 1986 and again the morning of 9/11. Call WCVB-TV, tell them who I am and say I want to run their audio. They said yes two times before and would certainly have said yes again.

I’ve read columns and blogs from some consultants who claim that’s being lazy and letting someone else do the heavy lifting. I disagree 100%. When you’re running a music station your job is to get big ratings by playing the songs your target listeners like a lot – as long as they fit the brand of the station – and play them a lot. You also need to connect with the local community in a meaningful way.

The acronym we all learned in school is PICON. Operate in the Public Interest, Convenience and Necessity. When something terrible happens – especially in your own market – you need to do whatever you can to keep people informed. When your station has absolutely no resources to cover something like the Boston Marathon bombings, you do what you need to do to serve the public interest. In this case, using the resources of an excellent local TV station that has a huge news department and is doing in-depth wall-to-wall coverage is the correct choice. Does it matter if your station gets no credit? Absolutely not. The important thing in a situation like that is not getting credit or worrying about lost revenue or a bad PPM day – it’s about serving the public interest the best way you can.

Classy Move By the Yankees

Forget about them being the Evil Empire.

This was a classy move by the Yankees.

In the middle of the 3rd at Yankee Stadium they played “Sweet Caroline” to show support for Boston. Fans in Yankee hats even tried to sing along. As a native Bostonian, I’ve disliked the Yankees my entire life…which dates back to the days of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, but this was a very classy move. Thank you, New York.

He Scares Me

Joel Hanrahan, the new closer for the Red Sox, scares me.

Before I forget.
Huh? Forget what? Actually, that’s the title of the song that Hanrahan chooses as his intro. In case you don’t know it, don’t worry. Most fans at Fenway don’t. It’s by Slipknot. Came out in 2004 and named by AOL (AOL??) as one of the top ten metal songs of the 00’s. For what that’s worth.

As we hit the top of the 9th it comes on the Jumbotron, nice and loud, as we see a black-and-white shot of Hanrahan that morphs into a graphic that says, “The Hammer.” Yeah, he puts the hammer down, man. You can’t touch this. Except that they seem to touch it a lot.

It’s supposed to make us forget the crowd singing along with “Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkicks while Papelbon high-fives the cop in the bullpen and sprints to the edge of the infield dirt.

Here’s the problem.
It’s overdone for a guy who has yet to pitch well at Fenway. Hanrahan has had three appearances in the Friendly Confines, and yes, the Red Sox have won two of those three despite the shaky performance of Hanrahan.

He’s gone a total of 1.2+ innings, meaning he didn’t get through his one inning of duty in two of the three games (he got 3 outs on Monday, only two on Wednesday, and none today). In that time he’s given up six runs on three home runs (two solos and a 3-run), a double, a single, four walks and a run-scoring save-blowing wild pitch. Fourteen batters, nine base runners, six of them scoring, while retiring only five. That’s not The Hammer, that’s the guy getting hammered.

The Streak Is Over

Sellout ends
from Don Kelley on Vimeo.

The Sellout Streak is Over.
The consecutive game sellout streak at Fenway Park ended last night – to no one’s surprise. Sox brass predicted it in early February when they admitted that season ticket sales were off by 10%.

It’s official.
Whether you believed it or not, it’s in the record books. 820 consecutive games – that includes playoffs which were obviously sellouts – that’s a record in all of professional sports. They’d send season ticket holders souvenir baseballs commemorating the 500th, 600th and 700th sellouts.

So what was it like last night?
Raining. Pretty hard at times. The tarp was on the field for 43-minutes. You can see in the video that two ticket windows on Lansdowne Street were getting little or no action. On a typical night the line for the Day-of-Game tickets would stretch down the sidewalk under the Monster Seats all the way to Gate C. Not last night.

The bad news.
Joel Hanrahan imploded in the 9th, blowing a 5-3 lead and leaving us with an 8-5 loss, but I’ll spout off on him in another blog.

The good news.
Opening Day always sells out, but the second home game of the season is a notoriously tough sell everywhere. Despite that, the Red Sox had 31,800 people there on a cold, rainy night. Only four teams in Major League Baseball drew more than that, and they all had gametime temperatures in the mid-70’s. The Red Sox drew more than 25 other teams and had more fans last night than Kansas City, Miami and Seattle combined (and two of those even have a roof).

Ryan Dempster had a quality start (5 innings, 3 hits, only 1 earned run). Lester and Buchholz look teriffic. They’re in 1st place, and after the strong start season tickets are only off by 8%. We could see a new streak start sometime in May.

We Got Punk’d on "Sweet Caroline"

Opening Day 2013 from Don Kelley on Vimeo.

Opening Day at Fenway
What a great day. Sunny and 65, not a cloud in the sky. My new seats in the red section have substantially better legroom.

The players, new and old, line up on the foul line. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia get the expected huge applause, as do Lester and Buchholz. Very big applause for John Farrell. Jackie Bradley Jr., who is not in the starting lineup, gets an impressive applause. The Jimmy Fund Chorus sings the National Anthem…perfectly. No improvisation, no taking five notes and three octaves to sing “brave.”

The game is great.
The Red Sox are in 1st place, the Yankees are in last place. Clay Buchholz throws 7 innings of shutout ball, only 3 hits and 8 K’s. Andrew Bailey has a 1-2-3- 8th.

Then what?
A week ago today, Opening Day in New York, the Boston Globe ran a story saying that the Red Sox were dropping “Sweet Caroline” and replacing it with “At Fenway” (what?) by Brian Evans (who? huh?). There was a quote from Neil Diamond who was very upset about this. I blogged about it. Got numerous comments, most saying that it was a Fenway tradition and didn’t like the change. One comment came from my daughter Caitlin Kelley, who lives in NYC but would never root for the Yankees. She said, “That’s weird. What do you think about the date?” It was last Monday, which was April 1st.

Middle of the 8th.
Nick Markakis flies out to Ellsbury for the 3rd out and we immediately hear…”Sweet Caroline.” Here’s the clip:

Sweet Caroline on Opening Day 2013

from Don Kelley on Vimeo.

So it turns out that we all got punk’d on April Fool’s Day. But today was a great day at the old ballpark.

Wellesley is back in the Majors

My hometown of Wellesley, MA is once again represented in Major League Baseball.
We’ve had many ballplayers who lived here while they played for the Red Sox: Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Mickey Vernon, Mike Torrez (the day after Torrez threw the home run pitch to Bucky Dent in the 1978 Red Sox-Yankees playoff the Wellesley Board of Assessors met and decided to raise the assessment on his house just to teach him a lesson – at least that’s what I heard), Bruce Hurst, Bill Mueller, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Carl Crawford among many others. But now we once again have someone who grew up here playing in the majors. Nate Freiman.

Nate played in Wellesley Little League and at Wellesley High School. He was in the same class as my daughter Kara Kelley (2005). He was 17-1 as a pitcher and hit .500 his last two years. In the shot above he’s playing for the Orleans Cardinals in the Cape Cod League. He played his college ball at Duke and spent time in the Padres farm system.

In December Major League Baseball held the Rule 5 draft. That’s where teams get to draft players from other organization’s minor league teams and it’s done in reverse order of that team’s MLB record the previous year. The Astros, who were much worse than the Red Sox in 2012, got to go first in the draft and picked Nate.

In March the Oakland A’s claimed him off waivers and last night he made his Major League debut playing first base. Went 2-for-3 with an RBI so the stats have him batting an impressive .667.
Nate is the first MLB player from my home town since Jack Sanford.

Jack pitched for the Phillies, the Angels (the year they changed their name from LA Angels to California Angels) and the A’s (during their final year as the Kansas City A’s), but he’s best known for his seven seasons pitching for the San Francisco Giants – the biggest highlight being his complete game shutout of the Yankees in Game 2 of the 1962 World Series.
Just for the fun of it, here they both are wearing A’s uniforms:

On Monday, April 23rd the A’s come to Boston for a series and we’ll be cheering Nate when he steps to the plate at Fenway.

No More Sweet Caroline at Fenway?? Really?

Sweet Caroline Fenway Mix from Don Kelley on Vimeo.

It’s been a tradition in the middle of the 8th inning for years. They play “Sweet Caroline” and the crowd has a great time singing along. A few years ago I made a special mix…crowd noise I had recorded over the years mixed in with Neil singing. We’d play it on the radio on Magic 106.7 every time the Red Sox won. (In 2008 I had to rush in on a Friday night and edit out the “Man-ny, Man-ny” chant.)

One Saturday a couple of years ago Tom Werner was on the way to Fenway and he heard it on the air. When the song ended the DJ, Candy O’Terry, said, “This special Fenway version of ‘Sweet Caroline’ was put together by our Program Director, Don Kelley.” On Monday Tom Werner called me at the radio station and said he really enjoyed it and can he have a copy? Sure thing.

Last year, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fenway, I put together a video of Fenway shots accompanied by my “Sweet Caroline” mix. I picked a poor year to do it, and today it was announced that they’re dropping the song and replacing it with “At Fenway” by Brian Evans as of next Monday’s home opener. I think I get the reasoning, but nobody will sing along to Brian Evans because nobody knows him or the song. Not yet, anyway.

So if you think you’ll miss hearing the crowd singing to Neil Diamond in the middle of the 8th, click on the video above to remember how much fun it was.

The Most Common First Names in Baseball

Here it is…my annual Opening Day listing of the most common first names in Major League Baseball.This is based on the 25-man roster of all 30 teams. When I ask people to guess they typically come up with Jose and Carlos as likely candidates. Neither makes the top five.

#5 (tie): Jason. Castro, Frasor, Grilli, Hammel, Kipnis, Kubel, Marquis, Vargas. There are also two Jaysons…Nix and Werth.

#5 (tie): Justin. Masterson, Maxwell, Morneau, Ruggiano, Sellers, Turner. Upton, Verlander, Wilson. (Note that none of them have a last name starting with A through L.)

#4: Josh. Beckett, Collmenter, Donaldson, Edgin, Fields, Harrison, Johnson, Reddick, Rutledge, Wilson. All spelled the same way.

#2 (tie): Matt and Ryan. So Matt wins on an alphabetical tiebreaker…unless you do it in reverse order. The Matts are Adams, Albers, Belisle, Cain, Carpenter, Dominguez, Guerrier, Harrison, Kemp, Latos, Reynolds, Thornton, Tuiasosopo (does he have a fake girlfriend?) and Wieters. Ryan (last year’s winner) includes Braun, Cook, Dempster, Doumit, Flaherty, Hanigan, Howard, Jackson, Ludwick, Mattheus, Pressly, Vogelsong, Webb and Zimmerman.

#1: Chris. Capuano, Carter, Coghlan, Davis, Denforia, Getz, Iannetta, Johnson, Leroux, Medlen, Nelson, Parmalee, Perez, Resop, Sale, Stewart, Valaika, Volstad, Young.

John would have been 3rd if you counted all the variations (John, Jon, Jonny, Johnny, Jhonny). There are also 20 players who use initials: AJ Burnett, AJ Ellis, AJ Pierzynski, AJ Ramos, AJ Griffin, AJ Pollock, BJ Upton, CC Sabathia, CJ Wilson, JC Gutierrez, JD Martinez, JP Arrencibia, JJ Hardy, JJ Hoover, JJ Putz, JP Howell, RA Dickey, TJ McFarland. AJ is clearly the most popular combo. 18 of the 20 have J as at least one of the initials.

Apropos of nothing (stolen from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe)…Homer Bailey is not a good name for a pitcher. JJ Hoover, also a pitcher, should be a 3rd baseman with that name. JB Shuck makes it sound like he doesn’t care. Jake Peavy sounds like someone who’s always in a bad mood. Aaron Harangue sounds like someone who just won’t shut up. Mike Leake sounds like he needs to excuse himself for a moment. Justin Turner sounds like someone who needs to wait in line. Doug Fister? Make up your own punch line.

Oh, on the Tom, Dick and Harry front…there is one Tom, but no Dicks and no Harrys.

Back from Spring Training…How Do They Look?

Just got back from Florida.
It felt much more like Spring than what I hear happened in Boston, but if you scroll back a few posts on my blog you’ll see that I picked March as my least favorite month because it is not trustworthy. It was a great time down there. I took in four spring training games…three in Ft. Myers and another in Dunedin. All were sellouts and it was 82 and sunny every day. Everyone at every game seems to be having fun. I rented a convertible and had a blast tooling around wearing sunglasses.

So how are things looking?
The Red Sox look better than people projected. Especially the pitching. Team ERA is the lowest of all teams. I saw John Lackey face Cole Hamels and the Phillies and he looked very good. Went 5-1/3 innings giving up only one run. The next day I saw Alfredo Aceves as a starter. I have very little faith in him, but he did okay, especially considering that he was facing R.A. Dickey and a regular Blue Jays lineup and his offense was all minor league guys.

Jonny Gomes will not be part of the Legacy in Left at Fenway. He might be DH for a few weeks, but when David Ortiz is healthy (fingers and eyes crossed) Gomes will be expendable and Nava will fill that role. Shane Victorino hit a game-winning bases-clearing triple on Thursday night, but that might be his only hit this whole spring. No one is going to confuse him with Dwight Evans. Lyle Overbay was famous as a rookie for never getting a single. Every hit was for extra bases. But that was then. The Red Sox already released him and the Yankees picked him up as a potential spare part because they have major injury problems.

Ryan Lavarnway was sent to Pawtucket because he only hit .150 in spring training. Not great, but it’s three times what David Ross hit (.050). Ross, who was briefly with the team a few years ago but was cut because he couldn’t catch Tim Wakefield, is the backup for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I doubt that will last the year. Pedro Ciriaco seems to be a forgotten person.

Pedroia looks great as always, Middlebrooks looks good, Iglesias (everyone wants to pronounce it Inglesias but there is no n in the name) is very capable in the field and, while still a long way from being your cleanup guy, at .250 is hitting about 100 points higher than last year.
.250 is also what Ellsbury is hitting. Ells has made some nice catches in center as we expected, but in his one attempt at stealing a base he twisted an ankle. It’s a contract year for him and if he wants that big payday in the fall he needs to play like he did in 2011. Especially considering who’s breathing down his neck. Jackie Bradley, Jr. is for real. Speed, great defense, hitting something like .450. If he doesn’t start the season In Boston, he’ll get a callup within about two weeks. He’s still wearing #74, but his favorite number, 19, is available since Josh Beckett is history.

Come September you will not see Gomes in left or Victorino in right. Stephen Drew will be like his brother JD and miss more games than he plays. Iglesias will get the most starts at short. If Iglesias doesn’t hit you might well see Xander Boegarts playing short. I’m worried about Daniel Bard. He was such a great 8th inning guy, an obvious successor to Papelbon. The heinous attempt to make him a starter ruined him and he’s having a tough time getting it back. They sent him to AA Portland. I’m rooting for him.

Bottom line:
When the real games start next week the Red Sox will look better than everyone expected, and by May they will be very hot.

How to Balance Music and Information on a Music-Intensive station

Say you’re a music-intensive AC station. You’ve learned all about how PPM is unforgiving and listeners will flip as soon as they hear someone start talking. This, of course, is not true. People in focus groups and on research panels are quick to say they just want music from their music station. They understand that over-the-air radio is free, but comes at the price of listening to commercials. If you keep your spot load reasonable and your production level as high as possible most people are okay with it. If you’re hitting them with 18-20 units an hour and the 1-877-KarsForKids jingle is an hourly intrusion, it can easily come back to haunt you. Especially when the Pandoras and Spotifys of the world actually do play the most music.

But Commercials aside, what about information? That’s where over-the-air radio stations can turn listeners into fans. Just yesterday, I posted on a LinkedIn discussion about the best term to use for listeners in this day and age. My choice is Fan. In response to a comment about which is more important on a music station – music or info – here’s what I said:

To Thom’s question above…for a music station it’s both. You have to be playing the right songs and a lot of them, but the information, entertainment and personality are what turn a listener into a fan. Pandora doesn’t tell you if Rihanna is canceling her concert tonight due to laryngitis, or if we’re getting two feet of snow, or who’s not coming back on Downton Abbey, or if the Patriots re-signed Wes Welker or if we have a new Pope. The balance has to be just right.

Interestingly, my wife heard the answers to two of those questions just yesterday, without knowing what I had posted. She was listening to a music-intensive AC while at a hair salon and heard between songs that Wes Welker had signed with the Denver Broncos and that white smoke was seen coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. True, the white smoke break sent to her to the TV as soon as she got home, but she found out listening to the radio.