Saturday, April 09, 2011

Matt DuBiel

Matt DuBiel has been in the news recently because of his Save The Loop campaign. I previously interviewed Matt when he was the program director of The River.

Rick: First of all, it's been three years since I last interviewed you and you've done a lot of different things since then. Could you get us caught up on what's been going on with you in the past few years, and what you're doing right now?

Matt: Man how time flies, huh Rick! If you believe what you read on the internet, I am "unemployed." I could bore you with the inconsequential details of my career I suppose...but the Reader's Digest version is simple: I am free from the shackles of corporate radio!

Over the last 3 years Mike Noonan and I built a nationally syndicated show from scratch, hosted by Donny Osmond. We built the network to 75 stations including WLS FM in Chicago and sold the show to McVay Syndication last year. Building a business is an experience in and of itself, but selling one is a wild ride!

I’ve been experimenting a lot with my personal and professional life over the last year or so especially and chronicling some of it at You could almost define the last year more by what I am NOT doing.

For the last 3 years (even as early as my 9 FM days), I have immersed myself in the fusion of audio entertainment and internet marketing. I stopped listening to radio people and going to radio conventions and started paying attention to the people trailblazing the internet media movement. I have been studying and engaging with people like Leo Laporte, Chris Pirillo, Alex Jones and Gary Vaynerchuk. I have put lots of what I have learned into practice, and the results are paradigm shifting.

We’ve cracked the code for making money on the web, powered by radio. Leo is doing it. Alex is doing it. We know how to do it, and the weird thing is, no one cares. They’re still caught up in paying Arbitron ridiculous amounts of money, to define the rules of radio advertising, and then suffering at the hand of those very rules, which in the long run are killing radio.

Meanwhile Arbitron is realizing profits and radio is transferring wealth to Groupon, Google, Youtube and Facebook.

Rick: You were in the news recently because of the "Save the Loop" campaign. Robert Feder wrote a column quoting Loop GM Marv Nyron. Nyron outed you and your partner Mike Noonan as the brains behind the operation. I've seen a few quotes from you since that story came out, and you kept saying it wasn't just the two of you. Who else was (and is) involved?

Matt: Well now…in fairness to Marv, I don’t think he used the word “brains." I KNOW Feder didn’t. (laughs) This whole Save The Loop thing blew my mind. Here’s Emmis openly saying OUTLOUD, “We’re not cutting it in Chicago…we’re gonna move on….we’d like the industry and the world to know we’re totally open to selling WLUP and WKQX”. They weren’t pussy-footing around the issue at all. It was in corporate conference calls and reports…industry trades, you name it. The Loop and Q101 all but had shiny for sale signs in their front yards!

We happened to launch the video online right after they did a format tweak at The Loop. Incidentally, we bought over a year ago! Naturally, we knew some folks would be disenfranchised by the format change. The timing was right. We finalized the script, the audio, and the video and pushed the button. Within a week we had thousands of people signing up. We documented everything by the way. We knew we were going to get bombarded with naysayers and a negative response, but we also knew we’d get some buy in and we might make some good contacts or start some interesting conversations.

Unfortunately, somehow…someway…Marv and a few others took this as a negative and an attack. The tenor of this was nothing but to elevate and edify the institution that is WLUP Chicago. You don’t want it Emmis? Cool…no sweat. We think it would be radical if we could put together a group of Chicagoans to make this a Chicago thing. We spoke to some radio pals and we had some buy in from some names we thought would resonate with Chicago.

The plan all along was to appeal to real Chicago people who are passionate about WLUP, if in fact anyone is passionate about an FM radio station anymore in 2011. The fans were the coolest. Some of the radio folks were the coolest too, but sadly many of the radio people who said “I’m in!” never made good on any follow up whatsoever.

Two people made good on the videos as promised. I don’t want to mention the first name because I don’t want to ruffle any feathers at his day job. The second was Jeff Schwartz. Those two guys are men among men. They just get it.

As far as who else said they’d be on board, and who else said they’d talk and so on… It would be sour grapes for me to name them and list them as they did not come through. I will say this, throw out a name of a person who you wish would have consider this and we either heard from them…once, or they heard from us and declined.

No matter though…and here’s why, the list of people who have opted into the email list for is growing every day. The people, or “folks” as Bill O’Reilly would say, are responding favorably. They believe in the concept. So do a few merger and acquisition experts we’ve met with.

Rick: Are you still working on it?

Matt: We’re going to continue to engage with the people who are part of the community for sure. These people are awesome. The open rate of the emails we send to them is better than 70%. These people are plugged in. They will decide how far goes.

I will say, I expect Emmis to hold out longer now that their finances are looking up. Combine that with the fact that those stations aren’t worth what they want to sell them for…and I think Emmis is going to be in Chicago for a while.

Rick: A few years ago you programmed the first "we play anything" station in the Chicago area, 9-FM. That same general format was used by CBS for "Jack-FM". In the light of Jack-FM's demise, I'm curious about your opinion of the entire format/genre.

Matt: Here’s the hi-comedy. Radio kills oldies. Radio gives birth to variety hits. Radio kills variety hits (even though listeners love it if done right). Radio revives oldies? It should be noted I missed the Jammin Oldies birth and death in there too. The bottom line, radio knee jerks at different paces like clockwork.

Now if you flip around the dial in Chicago you have Rewind, K-Hits, The Drive, The Loop, and WLS FM. You can even throw in Lite FM, The River….all shades or degrees of Classic Hits. K-Hits and Rewind remind me a lot of 9 FM. When I left 9 FM, the cume was 750,000. Newsweb killed it anyway. Anyone want 750,000 cume, raise your hand? WSCR? WMVP? WIND?

Everyone’s got the PPM sweats and it’s sad. The problem is what’s good doesn’t matter. What matters is which format can appeal to the 2,500 people carrying PPMs in Chicago. It’s crazy, because it’s directly counter to what serves advertisers.

So radio’s target is satisfying 2,500 PPM carriers, while their sales reps are talking to advertisers about targeting hundreds of thousands, even millions. The kicker is, advertisers don’t actually need to reach millions of people who will ignore them. They would MUCH RATHER reach thousands or just hundreds of people who will buy, or at least engage.

Now radio managers play this shell game with stations and formats to make it feel like they know what’s going on, and Robert Feder calls me a hoaxster!

Steve Dahl, Mancow, Brandmeier, and Mike North should all be on the air daily in Chicago. Don’t fire the talent, fire Arbitron and cultivate sales talent who can sell personality based radio. Chicago retail needs it. Suburban retail needs it.

Rick: Do you think there's a hole in the Chicago radio market that still needs to be served?

Matt: Well I think we’ve got classic hits pretty much locked up. (laughs)

I am 34 years old. I am a “professional” Gen X husband and father of 3 living in the suburbs. Sports radio isn’t my thing. I’ve got nothing to listen to. There is no rock station. There is no station super serving men 25-54 or 18-49. I am at the age where men cross over to talk radio. It’s too angry for me. It’s too left vs. right for me.

I’d be less worried about format and more worried about generation programming. The Drive programs to a generation. It’s a station for Boomers. They own it. XRT used to say they were growing old with their listeners, but I am not sure they have it on lock down like The Drive.

The Mix is the closest thing to a generation station for my g-g-g-g-generation….but it’s not made for me. I think that’s why their male numbers are higher than you’d expect for a Hot AC.

There’s a hole for a Male driven format in Chicago, especially targeted to Gen X, whether that be music or talk. I think there’s room for another country station in Chicago, especially male leaning. Noonan and I have long believed our Blue Collar Radio format would do very well in Chicago.

Another non-format specific niche is no one owns the suburbs like they could. The suburban stations don’t own the suburbs, and the Chicago stations don’t own the suburbs. There’s a lot of money out there, but they don’t care about ratings. They need to move the register.

There’s a hole for rock now of course. I also have long been a believer in the Movin’ format which Rewind dabbled in for a bit but never really jumped all the way in on. At some point I think a business talk station with regular Bloomberg updates and financial talk mixed with real estate talk would do very well.

If I had an underperforming suburban station I’d throw Jack FM on off the bird asap. CBS spent millions marketing that station over 5 years and people know what it is. It wasn’t a bomb, it just wasn’t good enough for CBS. That’s what people don’t realize. A lot of these shows and formats are NOT failures. Steve Dahl is NOT a failure. He just doesn’t fit into the formula corporate radio is forcing themselves to use. The mind job is this: Corporate Radio can change the formula anytime they want. Someone needs to shake them and say YOU DON’T HAVE TO FOLLOW THESE RULES. Make your own like Google did, and Facebook, and Groupon, and Craigslist and Drudge.

Rick: People that haven't seen you in awhile may be surprised by your appearance. You're a shell of your former self. How much weight have you lost and how did you do it?

Matt: Well that’s sweet of ya Rick. I'm blushing. I recently lost 70lbs. When I did afternoons at WLLI my on air name was Fat Matt. It was a playful name given to me by Rob Halford (Singer of Judas Priest) off the cuff, but at the time I was about 205. From there I ballooned up to 240!

It was pretty disgusting frankly. I was a fat mess. (Photo: Matt before weight loss)

Last fall, I lost 30 lbs in 40 days. Then I took a break and lost another 30 in 40. Over the last few months I’ve paired down another 10-15 and I weighed in at 168 this morning.

The secret….is women’s urine. I am serious. If I took a pregnancy test right now I would fail. Dr. Oz just did a whole show on the HCG Diet, and that’s what I did. In fact, Nina Chantelle from Kiss did it too, although she did the holistic drops which don’t actually have any hormone in them. I did the injections which are much more effective and require Doctor supervision.

It sounds like a pretty radical undertaking, and it is somewhat. But when you’re 30 pounds overweight or more, you need to do something radical. I did it with a local Doctor and it has changed my life forever. No more heartburn. No more high cholesterol (they wanted me to take crestor!). My jeans are a 32 inch waste and they are hanging off of me!

There’s a certain larger than life radio guy I turned onto the diet recently who’s doing very well with it. His results are going to be very exciting.

If radio personalities want to talk to Dr. Tom about how the diet works, drop me an email. I might even be able to get you “taken care of” if you’re willing to do a testimonial for their website! It’s life changing!