Remember the days when MTV revolutionized the record industry? Well, get ready for another uprising--it's time for . . . Radio Lisa.
The brainchild of ex-MTV kingpin Bob Pittman and influential radio programmer Lee Abrams, Radio Lisa is a proposed nationwide, 24-hour heavy-metal radio network that--if it gets off the ground--could radically change the face of rock radio.
The still hush-hush project would be aimed at radio's most active listening audience--the 12- to 34-year-old rock fan--who worships bands like Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Motley Crue, but can't find a local radio station willing to play them. The network would be a headbanger's delight, featuring splashy, MTV-style contests; world premieres of songs; high-octane deejays as well as live concerts and superstar interviews.
Pittman, who now runs Quantum Media, a firm which produces such TV fare as "The Morton Downey Show" and "The Street," was reluctant to discuss any details of the venture, saying the idea was simply "in the active hopper."
"We don't even have a tentative schedule yet," he said. "But this is an idea whose time has come. We're always looking for a hole in the market. Radio is a lot like the '70s these days. Heavy metal is being treated the way Top 40 stations used to treat album cuts, which were only played at night. But we believe that heavy-metal has real appeal and deserves its own format."
While Pittman would not confirm any specifics, Pop Eye has learned that Quantum Media plans to broadcast Radio Lisa live on AM radio, since it may be difficult to attract a broad spectrum of FM affiliates.
A prospectus sent to record company execs makes Quantum's strategy clear: "Radio Lisa will take advantage of the gap in current local radio positioning, that gap created by conservative, aging AOR programming and mainstream commercial CHR (Top 40) stations. Radio Lisa will be an entirely new format with the progressive values of early AOR, the intensity and party atmosphere of '60s CHR and the national clout of MTV."
Needless to say, that formula has record execs breaking out the bubbly, because it would provide record labels with a national forum for new hard-rock groups who sell large quantities of albums but have been ostracized by today's Top 40 and oldies-rock radio.
"How much would we support Radio Lisa?" asked Geffen Records A&R exec John Kalodner. "Try 125%! It would be a godsend for record companies. Our band, Guns 'n Roses, has sold almost 2 million albums with almost no airplay! Radio doesn't play new music unless it absolutely has to. But Radio Lisa could be the first assault against the virus known as classic-rock radio."
Of course, there are still many hurdles for Radio Lisa to clear:
Can it round up enough major-market affiliates to get off the ground? Can it lure its audience to the AM dial, terra incognita for most teen-agers? How long can it afford to lose money before establishing its ratings-credibility with the business community? And will national advertisers spend big bucks on a network with predominately teen demographics?
Since Pittman couldn't volunteer any answers, we asked Norm Pattiz, president of Westwood One, the nation's largest radio syndication firm. A potential friendly rival, Pattiz wasn't as optimistic about Radio Lisa as its record-biz cheerleaders.
"I'm pulling for them because we're old pals, but I wouldn't want to be the guy who's breaking ground in that area," Pattiz said. "We actually had some discussions with Lee Abrams, but it's not something we'd invest our money in. The fact of the matter is that radio is a local medium--and I don't see it going back to the days when it was predominately a national medium.
"The problem with something like this is that you have to invest a whole lot of money--and spend an awful lot of money--to keep the network going long enough to achieve the kind of rating points needed to attract national advertising. Actually, there are several national formats out there already, like the Satellite Network's Z-Rock format and (New Age Music network) The Wave. But the record hasn't shown any of them to be such a huge success yet."