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Record Promotion - Mix Shows
January 07, 2003

The State of the Mixshow
By: Roderick T. Head

The mixshow's roots can be traced back to 1985 to a University of Maryland student referred to as "Sir Charles," known to the urban music community as Charles Dixon, Senior Director, National Mixshow Promotions, TVT Records. Inspired by Grandmaster Flash and the music in a local club called Odells, Baltimore's equivalent to NYC's infamous club, the Garage, Charles started doing parties around the campus. He eventually began to work at a record pool and started spinning at the Dome. Dixon later became assistant pool director, reviewing and adding to the computer the charts of 75 of the hottest DJs in the Washington, DC area. He created a format which would eventually change his life and the sound of Washington, DC, encompassing the top records from every format including hip-hop, R&B, classics, Go-Go, high energy disco and whatever was number one. Dixon's new format attracted a diverse crowd from rich to poor, black and white, Latino, Middle Easterners, Nigerians and Asians.

In July 1987, Dixon's groundbreaking activities impressed the new MD of WPGC, whom felt if Dixon could bring the same melting from the club to the radio waves, they could take over Washington, DC. In three short years, by 1990, Dixon helped take WPGC from number 22 to number 1. Dixon's show was the first primetime mixshow on a commercial radio station, 7 p.m 'til midnight on an Arbitron-rated station. "Our consultant, Jerry Clifton, put mixshows like mine on 20 of his consulted stations, and the rest was history," said Dixon.

As with any new innovation, growing pains are expected, but the mixshow has undergone changes to the point where its viability poses many questions. Many people will say that the mixshow has gotten out of control. Various programmers will hold the mixers responsible for the issues, while many mixers are quick to blame programmers for mixshow problems. While fingers are quick to be pointed, everyone involved with mixshows are to be held accountable for its overall treatment.

Many hit records have debuted in the clubs, trickled to mixhsows, generated a high number of requests, moved to regular rotation and continued building until street date when the album posted high sales numbers. The mixshow has evolved to the point that some video programmers won't consider video adds unless serious steam exists on the mixshow level. Remember, a good street record isn't always a good radio record, and a good radio record isn't always a good street record. "The current state of mixshows is at an interesting crossroad. In its infancy, it was considered niche programming with little or no value. Over the years, mixhsows have become a major staple of programming. The playlists have been regulated and controlled, and the mixers have lost freedom of decisions.

Everyone wants to claim I broke the record; when in actuality, it won't matter when the accolades are passed out. You know things that happen in the street. Now, you must learn how to translate them to the airwaves," affirmed Harold Banks, Mixshow Coordinator/Production Director/Evenings, WHXT-103.9 FM, Columbia, SC.

With today's current research-oriented programming and the continuous conglomeration of radio, it has become increasingly difficult to break new records. This even threatens the existence of record pools because many of them have mixshow DJs on their rosters. "Mixshow DJs are vital in breaking new records and artists. Without them going with their gut reactions, some records won't catch a programmer's attention. For example, if I'm going for an add, some of my programmers won't even consider it if the mixers aren't supporting it in the mix and in the clubs." stated Marlo Martin-Jackson, CEO, Double M Entertainment. Too many promotion executives are wasting money on "paper adds" via independent promotions, one of "Ten Ways to Kill a Brand (Impact: 6/8/01)."

"The only problem I have is when you have a PD that has no clue of the mixshow's importance. That's when you become disposable. We have people that either have never spun a record in their lives, never go to a club to see what's hot or inherited their Arbitron ratings. They feel that the mixshow isn't a necessity for their station. Mixshows add a certain level of diversity toward programming. Where would DJ Red Alert, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl, Kid Capri and Funkmaster Flex be without mixshows," remarked Big Dose, WBHH-92.1, Norfolk, VA. By the time a station's callout research is compiled, it can be weeks old and inaccurate. Many programmers have indeed lost their gut instinct and do nothing but manage administrative processes.

"Mixshows gave programmers a place to tryout new music and dump the record rep. 'Holler at my mixer' was the theme for many programmers until they felt the mixers were getting too much credit for the records that got broken and threatened the programmer's job, pride and pockets. Programmers started saying that mixers needed to let them know what's going on with records, which is correct, but that they could only mix the records they wanted them to mix. This power move started to kill the effective power of mixshows to break new records," asserted Michael "DJ Shadow" London, veteran mixer, sales, promotion and programming talent, and CEO of Montgomery, AL-based SNA Entertainment, whose holdings include SNA Record Pool, SNA Promotions and SNA Studio, a full digital production studio and advertising agency.

According to Damon Williams, Director of Programming, Music Choice, mixhsows have become like the blue suit and white shirt executives wear to work, a tried corporate mandate and have become a slave to BDS spins, Time Spent Listening and Quarter Hour Shares of radio listening. With all the problems that have been presented, Damon's proposed formula presents a formidable solution to the issues affecting mixshows:

· PDs must hire mixers they trust and respect. It's more than scratching.

· Mixers must understand the corporate radio environment (e.g. ratings, sales, etc.).

· Both must realize that good music is good music.

· Sift through the hundreds of garbage records you get, and find the next big thing.

Source: Wendy Day
::Leonard's Notes:: David Leonard - JMA


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