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“If some Alternative or Rock stations are playing too narrow a mix of music to win big, then they have the opportunity to open the aperture a bit without blowing up the brand—something we’ve had great success doing at stations like WYSP and WBCN.”

TALKING RADIO WITH ROB BARNETT

A Guided Tour Through the Crowded Mind of Infinity’s Programming Prez
In February, Rob Barnett, then Infinity Broadcasting’s SVP Original Programming, was named President of Programming by Chairman/CEO Joel Hollander. Barnett was instrumental in developing Infinity’s Street Date marketing initiative, which thus far has helped launch new albums from Lenny Kravitz, John Mayer, Jimmy Buffett, Duran Duran, John Mellencamp, Brooks & Dunn, Bon Jovi and Kenny Chesney. Along with overseeing programming at Infinity’s 183 stations, Barnett handles talent recruitment and emerging technologies. He’s got a big talent hole to fill when Howard Stern jumps to Sirius, but have faith: "Anyone who knows Rob can attest to his creative vision, strategic insight and business acumen,” Hollander says. Too bad his acumen didn’t extend to avoiding this Q&A.

How is Street Date Going? Has it changed since your promotion?

Street Date is one of the newest successes at Infinity. We’ve found a very effective way to put the national power of our radio stations together to, first, get compelling programming and promotions into our hands, but then we move it into the hands of the local radio stations, who execute the individual programming and promotions. I’ve recently appointed the former Music Director of WHFS, Patrick Ferrise, to be my new point man on Street Date, and he’s working with the format VPs and the music community to prepare a second wave of artist events—though I’m not ready to give you names, because we’re still negotiating.

Do you have any updates on what you may do post-Howard Stern?

It’s way too early for us to make any official statements about this. It’s March, and Howard is an Infinity broadcaster until Dec. 31. Let’s talk later in the year.

Okay, here’s one you can answer: Evian or NYC tap water?

Tap.

Boxers or briefs?

Both.

What’s up with Alternative and Rock radio?

Stations are forced, after a period of years, to reassess the mixture of current to recurrent to gold. The oldies format at Infinity has gone through some changes at many of our key stations recently just through the simple math of aging, and we tweaked the music lists accordingly. We do this with all of our music formats. If some Alternative or Rock stations are playing too narrow a mix of music to win big, then they have the opportunity to open the aperture a bit without blowing up the brand—something we’ve had great success doing at stations like WYSP and WBCN.

Is HD Radio going to be able to compete with satellite?

We’ve decided as a company to make the investment to convert a number of radio stations to digital. It’s early, but Columbus has left Spain and is seeking to land on a shore where music fans and new and talk listeners will be able to have a great deal more content from their favorite brands. We’re spending the appropriate amount of time developing ideas to make the most of this future reality.

Universal Music Group recently started charging for videos, and there’s talk they may do the same with audio. Has this affected your label relationships?

We recently appointed a new VP of streaming media, Matt Timothy, who has been leading the effort to launch streams of our radio stations. Just in this last week, every Infinity news station went up live, and there will be more coming soon.

What’s your favorite team?

Yankees.

Wanna enter our NCAA Tournament?

No.

But we’re giving away an iPod!

Can’t you give away a radio?

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WORLDWIDE GROOVE
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?
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