Friday, October 05, 2007

Getting a Rock Star on the Phone, or Getting a Doctor's Appointment: Which is Easier? (The State of Healthcare in America)

Hi Everyone,

I just spent about 20 minutes deciding whether or not to post this...

Usually I keep my professional life separate from my politics, so I try to keep this blog reflective of that. But as someone who lives with a chronic illness, the debate on healthcare in America is driving me crazy. I cannot stay quiet, and I will make use of my favorite swear word (in a way that filters will accept, but believe me, I'm thinking it):

It is f'ing ridiculous that in America, using equal time and effort, I can get a rock star on the phone easier than I can get an appointment with a physician with a good track record in treating my immune system disorder. (And that's with a close relative in the healthcare industry. I'm one of the lucky ones.)

In fact, I'll go one better: I can get a meeting with a rock star more easily than I can get the above-mentioned doctor to take my appointment.

For those who may mistake my meaning, that ain't bragging. With all love and respect to my colleagues and contacts, I think it's f'ing disgraceful.

And you know what? Although I can't speak for them, I'll bet Bono, Jon Bon Jovi, and Bruce Springsteen would think so, too.

(I'll spare you the email: No, I don't know them, and no I can't get you tickets.)

I'm half tempted to call one of my media contacts to see if they'd take me up on the challenge. But I already know the outcome, so half of the experiment would be an exercise in exhaustive frustration. And I really need that energy for keeping the CFIDS disease monster in check.

So instead, I encourage you to send the link to this blog to everyone you know, and to every politician you know. And encourage them to really think: Is this the kind of country, and the kind of healthcare system you want?

I love my country dearly, but friends in Europe with comparable incomes who have similar immune system diseases are doing far better financially. Hell, they can even afford really nice vacations to relax, and they're given a paid month off in which to do it!

The above-mentioned physician, a rock star in his field with a proven track record, won't see anyone without verifiable proof of $1.5 million in expendable cash. (Insurance won't approve the tests he needs, and most of the treatment isn't covered.)

Makes you think, doesn't it?

(And because someone always asks--or makes assumptions based on my profession...Before I got sick, I didn't smoke, rarely drank, didn't do drugs, and worked out every day.)

Thanks for indulging me. Meanwhile, never give up on your dreams: you may need those millions to pay for your healthcare!

All the best,
Randi Reed
Founder/Editor in Chief,

(Edited to change to smaller font 3/13/2008)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thoughts on Staind and Lo-Pro Acoustic Show Wiltern LG, Los Angeles August 14 2007

On Tuesday night (8/14) I went to an acoustic show at the Wiltern LG: Aaron Lewis of Staind, with Lo-Pro opening. Powerful vocals happening all around, and I had a great time.

Lo-Pro opened the show. The lead singer has an amazing voice…especially on the first song of the set. Decent songwriting, too…The last song of the set was especially strong. Overall, I liked Lo-Pro a lot. (I’d give you song titles, but it was too dark in the venue to write down lyrics to look them up. If band or management will kindly zap me the L.A. set list, I’ll edit in the song titles. The Email address in the Contact Us section of will reach me.)

Aaron Lewis was great, too. As much as I like Staind, it was refreshing to hear him sing stripped-down versions of the songs. As a singer he really is underrated, and sometimes the production on the CDs hides the excellence of his voice.

A few highlights of Aaron Lewis's set:

There was an awesome version of “Please” with a great vocal that had Aaron hitting that perfect spot in his voice.

“Let It Out” was great, too.

Lyrically the songs are especially strong. His writing is very brave, with lyrics that tear your heart out, and he sings them that way, too. “Something Like Me” was a real standout in that respect, as was “Zoe Jane”.

“Reply” was very touching as well. (Actually in my notes I wrote “AWESOME!!!” in huge letters.)

There were some funny moments, too…A dead-on impression of Neil Diamond singing “Love On the Rocks,” and a verse and chorus of Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection”…in Frog voice.

And, Aaron noodled around on Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” too...which actually suited the mellow side of his voice really well and was a nice surprise (for the audience, too—they got really into it).

Overall, a very cool show, in one of the most beautiful art deco theatres in the U.S. .

Monday, August 13, 2007

Merv Griffin: One of the Last Old-Hollywood-Style Impresarios

Impresario noun. 1. producer or promoter of commercial entertainment ventures. 2. entertainer; showman.

Many people in Hollywood think of Merv Griffin as the guy who created Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. I think of him as one of the last old-style impresarios, because of the new talent The Merv Griffin Show spotlighted. A young model/singer named Whitney Houston. A young actor/stand-up comedian named Jay Leno. A bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzensomethingorother. Another was a young stand-up comedian named Jerry Seinfeld (who later did an episode of Seinfeld that had Kramer decorating his livingroom with the old Merv Griffin Show set--complete with Merv’s theme music). If Merv thought you had talent or you were an entertaining guest, he told people, and you got work.

The impresario in Merv didn’t go away with his talk show. As a game show producer, Merv discovered a fresh-faced 19-year old host with a potentially high Q-Rating. That 19-year-old would later go on to host a wildly popular, highly-rated primetime show. His name? Ryan Seacrest, of American Idol.

But the thing I liked most about The Merv Griffin Show was that he had an innate ability to combine the old with the new. In the early 1970’s, many of the stars and behind-the-scenes players from Hollywood’s Golden Era and the Golden Era of Broadway were still alive...and Merv brought them onto his show to reminisce, clear up long standing rumors, and tell great stories about their legendary studio bosses . (David Niven, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Adela Rogers St. John are some of the guests who come to mind.)

I’m glad he invited them, because their appearances on The Merv Griffin Show gave me the passion for Hollywood history I still have to this day. At the time, no one knew this but my parents, because it just wasn’t cool to be watching a show that my grandma liked. But every day after elementary school, I couldn’t wait to get home to see who was on Merv’s show. I can admit it now: It was thanks to Merv Griffin that I knew about the Cocoanut Grove, the Ambassador Hotel, and the Strork Club, that Arthur Treacher wasn’t only a place that sold fish and chips, and that the Copacabana wasn’t just the name of a Barry Manilow song.

Thanks, Merv.

R.I.P. Merv Griffin 1925-2007

Thursday, August 09, 2007

President Bush's Lyme Diease: He Should Follow PR 101


I don't usually get political in this blog, because isn't a political website. But in the wake of the White House's statement about George Bush's Lyme Disease, there are PR lessons here that anyone in the public eye (or who wants to be) can learn. And, as someone who has a disease similar to Lyme Disease, and who deals with PR, I feel qualified to say something.

I have CFIDS*, an autoimmune disease similar to Lyme Disease. Some researchers even believe CFIDS is either caused by, or is a side effect of undetected Lyme Disease. From my own experience with symptoms similar to those of Lyme, and looking at public reaction to the White House statement, Bush should have disclosed his medical condition.

At my worst, I was confined to bed and had neurological symptoms that made it nearly impossible to read, dial a phone, comprehend a calendar, or do anything requiring a series of ordered, logical steps.

My personal opinion is, I think the American people should know if the guy who's supposed to be running the country has the possibility of similar symptoms. (Which, technically, despite the White House statement, could happen. New information is coming in about Lyme Disease every day...including disagreements among medical professionals about the length of its incubation period, and whether or not you're "cured" after treatment or if it will come back.)

This blog entry explains Lyme Disease, and what it can be like to have it, far more eloquently than I can.

My professional opinion is, from a PR standpoint, the White House blew it.

First, the White House statement about Bush's Lyme Disease conflicts with common diagnosis and treatment standards for Lyme Disease. In fact, medical information in the "learn more about Lyme Disease" link which appeared directly under the Bush news item on AOL flat out contradicted medical info in the White House statement. Oops. (No blood tests were necessary? Unless you test the tick--meaning the insect that gave it to Bush, not Bush himself--how can you definitively know it's Lyme without at least one blood test?)

And then there's the trust issue. (i.e., "He lied about the war, lied about his health, what else is new?" Or, "Since they waited so long to tell us, what more aren't they telling us about his health?")

Some conspiracy theorists are even on the lookout for budget cuts affecting autoimmune disease diagnosis and treatment. Or for new bills that would allow insurance companies to further deny coverage for diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune diseases (i.e.,"You don't need a blood test for Lyme Disease. Even the President's doctor didn't think so").

From a PR standpoint, when you don't let people know what's really going on, they tend to think the worst. A statement sooner, rather than later, is always better than waiting. (Even, in my opinion, in a time of war. Losing the Peoples' trust makes you look weaker.)

People respect you for it, and they'll trust you because you've shared something personal with them. People in the same shoes as you will even root for you.

Unless you lie. If you lie, they lose respect for you. Or if they already didn't trust you, they feel their mistrust is justified.

For those who are in the midst of symptoms, I wish you a speedy return to health. Meanwhile, hang in there.

RR :)

*CFIDS is sometimes called CFS. Many people who have it, including myself, prefer the name CFIDS (pronounced "SEE-fids") because the "I" and "D" refer to Immune Deficiency--which is the main problem and causes most of the symptoms. Without the "I" and the "D" people tend to get it confused with narcolepsy or just think you're tired. When people misunderstand and think it's about being tired, it's a lot more difficult to get research dollars!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Poor Man's Copyright Myth

I've written about this before, but we're getting a new batch of questions/arguments about it, so it bears writing again:

If I could set just one music industry myth straight in my lifetime, it's the myth of Poor Man's Copyright (mailing or emailing yourself a copy of your work). Unfortunately, it's something that many musicians, even famous ones, believe. (But famous musicians don't administer their own copyrights; they hire someone to do it for them. So they get a partial pass. :) )

As we have said many times on the website (see the Q&A's, and the opening page of, center column)...

Despite what you may have heard, been told by musician friends, or even read elsewhere on the Internet, a Poor Man's Copyright is not valid in a court of law. Not even if it's timestamped, wrapped in plastic, hermetically sealed, and buried in a safe for a decade.

The Court's position is, if your copyright was important to you, you'd go through the formal registration process to protect it. Thus, if you have not registered your copyright through the U.S. Library of Congress Copyright Office and someone steals your song, you cannot sue for infringement, because the Court will not hear the case. Not ever, no exceptions, nada, nyet.
Please trust me on this. I'm not an attorney, don't work for the Copyright office, and have nothing to gain by lying to you.

But I have had a lot of clients whose past copyright ownership messes cost a lot of $$$ in legal fees to be straightened out because they believed the myth of Poor Man's Copyright. So don't let it happen to you!

Feel free to pass this along, spread the word, shout it out, yell it from the rooftops if you like. (They'll probably argue with you. But it's the truth.)

Thanks for reading!
Randi Reed
Founder / Editor in Chief,

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Sanjaya Effect, & What the Media Isn’t Telling You: What Happens if Sanjaya Malakar Wins American Idol? (And Do Howard Stern & the Saboteurs Win?

Warning: For those who don’t know, I have two interchangeable uniforms: the jeans and tennis shoes of a former musician-songwriter, and the suit of an agent-manager-business person who’s worked with enough non-artistic business guys to know how they think when they’re wearing their suits. This entry gets into the head of someone in a very tight suit and does not reflect my musical sensibility… nor my artist development philosophy.

Over the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of media buzz about what happens if Sanjaya Malakar wins American Idol Season 6. For those of you who’ve been in temporarily stranded on a deserted island, Sanjaya Malakar is a 2007 American Idol contestant with teen idol looks and charisma, but with a voice that doesn’t quite live up to the hype. DJ Howard Stern and several American Idol-hating websites are encouraging people to vote for the least talented contestant. (More backstory on Stern angle.)

Currently, though American Idol producers insist otherwise, it’s contributing to Sanjaya’s continued stay in the competition…as singers with better voices get booted off.

“So if he wins, what happens?” the media asks in a panic. “Will it take down American Idol?” “They have to give the winner a recording contract, right?”First off, Sanjaya is unlikely to win, because the producers probably have backup plans to prevent such things. To borrow an oft-used phrase from Ryan Seacrest’s radio show, this isn’t their first barbeque.Secondly, although I haven’t seen the American Idol contract, the recording contract is probably a “first look” deal rather than a binding recording agreement. (A first look deal means the label has “first dibbs” on the artist and can then sign or pass the artist at their discretion.)

But, just for fun, let’s say Sanjaya actually does win the competition, and that the recording contract is a binding recording agreement. Here’s what will likely happen:


What the media isn’t telling you is, a recording contract is simply that: a recording contract. A recording contract in no way, shape or form implies that a record label ever has to release a CD it deems unacceptable. At the label’s discretion, a whole project can be scrapped and written off as tax deduction.

In other words, if Sanjaya wins and has a binding recording agreement, they’ll weigh the costs of releasing his solo CD vs. taking a tax deduction…a situation nearly every major label artist finds himself in at some point.

Should the American Idol artist development team decide to go for the CD, a decent vocal is easier to get than ever, thanks to Pro-Tools technology. And, like it or not, Sanjaya does have a cult following of tweens, because he’s “cute.” So speaking from a financial standpoint, the AI team could do OK by making a low budget CD, selling them mainly via download instead of hard CDs, and focusing on Tween-oriented merchandising, personal appearances, and acting...Which is essentially what occurred in the 1970’s with the recording careers of Tiger Beat teen idols like Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garrett, Tony DeFranco, Scott Baio, and Kristy and Jimmy McNichol. (Thanks to regular appearances in Tiger Beat magazine and his starring role in a popular TV show, Shaun Cassidy was actually a major concert draw with a string of sold-out arena shows.)

My hunch is, if Sanjaya wins, financially, the American Idol artist development arm actually comes out better than if he doesn’t win, because in their eyes, they’ll have the best of both worlds: a musically credible artist with a non-fickle demographic (in the form of one of the stronger-voiced contestants, a la 2006’s Chris Daughtry), plus, in the form of Sanjaya, a manufactured teen idol with the preferred tween demographic and all its inherent merchandising possibilities. (Young girls buy their idols’ stuff).

Musical sensibilities aside, these two musical entities have co-existed in the industry since the late 1950’s. As a microcosm of the music industry (or as a mini music industry unto itself, for that matter), why would American Idol be any different?
Regardless, the American Idol show will be fine. From a publicity standpoint, the Sanjaya Effect is probably a good thing for Idol: after several years of success, every fan base tapers off and needs new blood, and the media attention is bringing a new crop of viewers to the show (via curious former non-Idol watchers tuning in to see if “that Sanjaya kid” is really that bad after all).

And, I’m guessing that new rules and voting procedures for next year are probably being drawn up as we speak.

In effect, from American Idol’s point of view, financially the Howard Stern / Internet Sanjaya Sabotage Plot may actually turn out to be the best thing that could have happened in several seasons. Now wouldn’t that tick Howard off?

Copyright 2007 Randi Reed and All rights reserved.

Backstory on Howard Stern’s anti-Idoltry.

Aside from whatever Howard Stern’s official reason is for encouraging his fans to thwart American Idol’s system of choosing the winner, I have an additional theory: Professional jealousy.

For years, New York-based Howard Stern, the self-proclaimed “King of All Media,” was the most visible radio personality. In addition to his syndicated radio show, Stern was visible on E!,late night talk show appearances, award show appearances, movies, and God knows what else. Aside from ticking off the FCC now and then, he was pretty much untouchable in broadcasting.

Meanwhile, in the late 1990’s, at a Clear Channel station out in Los Angeles, a young DJ from Atlanta named Ryan Seacrest starts gaining visibility. Nothing too major, just stuff a hardworking DJ does to make a living in an expensive city…An appearance on Beverly Hills 90210 here, a talk show pilot or game show there, lots of voiceovers, and taking on lots of extra projects at the radio station. Then, celebrities start tuning in to Seacrest’s radio show because he’s gaining a reputation as a good interviewer, in addition to having a fun radio show. He switches from the evening shift to the more visible Afternoon Drive, picks up a sidekick named Lisa Foxx, and the buzz gets bigger as more celebs tune in while they’re stuck in traffic on the way home from the studio or picking up their kids from school. The ratings follow suit, Seacrest moonlights on the TV show Extra and on E!’s Talk Soup, and the buzz in the broadcasting biz really starts taking off.

Then Seacrest auditions for—and gets—a job cohosting a new TV show called American Idol. The show’s a hit and is picked up for the next season, but with Seacrest as the sole host. His afternoon radio show ratings soar, he starts getting ink in national magazines, and he and radio partner Lisa Foxx start winning awards, including the radio industry’s prestigious Radio Personality of the Year award.

Meanwhile, the FCC is coming down hard on Stern in the form of fines. In addition to the Infinity-owned stations that carry his show, Stern’s show is carried by some Clear Channel-owned radio stations. Stern’s thinking of leaving Infinity, but his contract isn’t up yet. Meanwhile, fines at the Clear Channel stations are exceeding Stern’s Clear Channel worth. Cut to Clear Channel hot shot Seacrest: He’s pretty agreeable, has a more family-friendly audience, and seems really happy to be there. Hmmm…Casey Kasem and Rick Dees shows need new hosts. What if…?

So, Clear Channel has Stern exactly where they want him and turns their focus soley to Seacrest. (As American Idol’s success continued, soon Seacrest was in talks for a TV talkshow, too, with opportunities for cross-promotion.)

To add insult to Stern’s unhappiness, some of the media begin referring to Ryan Seacrest as “the next Dick Clark,” “the real king of pop” and “the new king of all media.” Ouch. Seacrest appears on Stern’s radio show to promote one of his projects, and is a good sport when Stern starts ribbing him about the “new king of all media” title. Except Stern doesn’t sound like he’s joking as he defensively points out that Seacrest isn’t the “king of all media” because he doesn’t have a movie or a book. Seacrest is still a good sport.

Not long afterward, Seacrest replaces Rick Dees as the host of influential pop station KIIS-FM’s morning radio show and drops Stern’s syndicated show from their remaining 6 Clear Channel stations. Stern’s show on E! goes bye-bye, too. Stern makes a deal to take his show to Satellite radio. Much later, Seacrest joins E! as News Editor and anchor.

So…if Stern was a little ticked at Ryan Seacrest and wanted to take down American Idol, it would be a little understandable. Also pathetic, because Seacrest was just working his butt off, doing his own, very different thing, but a little understandable. But mostly it would just be pathetic, because Howard Stern and Ryan Seacrest are both damn good at what they do.

Copyright 2007 Randi Reed and All rights reserved.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Did Hollywood Kill Anna Nicole Smith?

While the definitive cause of Anna Nicole Smith’s death probably won’t be in for weeks, regardless of the autopsy result, anyone who saw her recent interviews on Entertainment Tonight could see she was obviously impaired by substance abuse. (When someone’s eyes are going in two different directions…) So, I’d like to talk about the addicted celebrity client.

Did Hollywood kill Anna Nicole Smith? Speaking as someone who grew up around chemical addiction in a small-town, non-showbiz family, I really don’t think so. I think the addiction gene or addictive personality (whatever your belief happens to be about the root cause) is either there, or it isn’t.

But, also speaking as someone who’s been in the role of agent, artist manager, and prior to that, as personal assistant, do I think Hollywood contributed to the death of Anna Nicole Smith? Absolutely.

When you have people making money from whatever the celebrity’s status quo is at a given moment, someone in the mix will have an interest in keeping the celebrity in that money-making status quo…Even at the risk of a self-destructive celebrity. (The same status-quo dynamic happens in non-showbiz families too, by the way, but because the motivation is usually more about fear of change than about big money, it’s less overt and is more subconscious.)

It comes down to the kind of people the celebrity surrounds him or herself with. If a celebrity with an addictive personality (or the addiction gene) is surrounded by “yes” people who tell them what they want to hear, that celebrity is going to be in trouble.

I’ve heard some managers and agents say, “It’s none of my business.”

I disagree. It is their business, and getting help for a troubled client is part of being a good manager or agent.

If you work in the industry long enough, you see first-hand that creativity is often borne of pain, and that many clients had troubled childhoods or estranged family relationships and seek fame as a way to fill a void. So to make money off that client and then ignore their need for professional help when that pain gets out of hand is not only irresponsible, it’s inexcusable.

If you have signing privileges (i.e., power of attorney) and can sign your clients’ name on contracts, it’s your business. If you travel in the immediate vicinity with your client (reports say at least 6 people were staying at the hotel with Anna Nicole Smith) or are privy to the details of your clients’ day to day life, it’s your business. If you have keys to your clients’ home, it’s not only your business, you have no excuse not to get them off to rehab ASAP. More than once if necessary.

(And I’m talking hard-core, real-deal rehab like-Betty Ford or Hazelton…not Rehab Lite.)

I’ve heard a lot of people comparing Anna Nicole’s death to that of Marilyn Monroe. I disagree with that as well. Marilyn died in 1962, pre-Betty Ford Center, when very little was known about addiction or even about the addictive nature of some of the prescription medications she was taking.

This is 2007, and we all know better.

Meanwhile, the headlines surrounding the death of Anna Nicole Smith are getting stranger by the minute…The latest, courtesy of MSNBC, is that Zsa Zsa Gabor’s 9th and current husband, Prince Frédéric von Anhalt, says he could be the baby’s father. And it gets even more bizarre: In his press conference today, Prince Frederic (who allegedly essentially bought his title) said Anna Nicole told him she’d always wanted to be a princess, so he’d tried to make that happen for her by attempting to adopt Anna Nicole. But, Prince Frederic said, Zsa Zsa wouldn’t sign the adoption papers. (I kid you not, folks. I saw him say this in the press conference with my own eyes.)

That all these people are coming out of the woodwork with press conferences after her death just proves my point: Anna Nicole needed someone to protect her. If not a good family, then at the least, by very good management…

Very good management does exist, by the way. But unfortunately it doesn’t usually make for very interesting headlines.

Copyright 2007 Randi Reed and All rights reserved.