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The MAKE IT podcast amplifies the voice of the filmmaker by exploring the filmmaking journeys of actors, writers, directors, producers, and a host of other creatives from across the film industry. We provide a platform for filmmakers to provide advice, lessons learned, personal reflections, and ins… read more


213 - Lee Abrams - How to Succeed with Great Programming

Hello, Indie Creatives!

In this episode, we have a conversation with the Co-Founder of XM Radio and Media Innovator and Legend, Lee Abrams. We discuss why he created the Album-Oriented Rock format for radio, the concept of making people into fans, not users, his latest innovation  'News Movies,' his forthcoming book 'Solutions for a Creatively Starved Planet,' his forthcoming documentary, 'Sonic Messengers,' the meaning of "AFDI," and so much more. Enjoy!

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More About Lee Abrams

Lee Abrams, with decades in the trenches reinventing radio, tv news, and print.  Passionate about the past but focused on reimagining the future. Consultant to over 1,000 radio stations,  12 major print publications, and numerous tv stations and cable networks,  several consumer products, and the designer of XM satellite radio programming.  

In the early 21st Century, Abrams was The Tribune Company’s Chief Innovation Officer responsible for helping re-invent the scores of TV stations, cable channels, and newspapers that are owned by Tribune,  as well as to help create a new and modern innovation-focused culture. While at Tribune,  Abrams re-structured and energized the creative departments for the TV and TV Newsgroup, led and oversaw the redesigning and restructuring of newspapers including The Chicago Tribune,  The Baltimore Sun, and The Orlando Sentinel, helping to return them to profitability during a period of crisis in print.

For 10 years before joining Tribune, Abrams was  XM Satellite Radio’s, Chief Programming Officer.  Abrams joined XM as their first employee in June 1998 to create satellite radio.  Designing the programming,  hiring,  overseeing, and training a large staff with the mandate to re-invent the sound of radio. With 150 stations to develop and program, once again challenged Abrams to reinvigorate the radio landscape. Lee Abrams has been shaping the American radio and media industry for over five decades. During the past 50+ years, he has brought unparalleled ratings and economic success to radio stations in over 400 markets, including 97 of the top 100.  Newsweek listed Abrams as one of America’s “100 Cultural Elite” for his contributions to creating the modern radio. Radio Ink listed Abrams as one of the 75 most important radio figures of all time, having designed many if not most of the dominant radio formats.

In 1989, Abrams joined Satellite Music Network  (Acquired by Disney) as  Managing Director and oversaw the over 11 satellite-delivered formats delivered to over 1,000 stations and was instrumental in the creation and launch of Radio Disney. 

As a founding partner,  in 1973, of Burkhart/Abrams, the Atlanta-based media consulting giant, Abrams invented and built Album Rock, the first successful FM format. He also designed numerous other highly successful radio formats, including the first Classic Rock format at San Francisco’s KFOG; the first FM Urban/Dance format at New York’s WKTU,  among others.  His corporate clients have included every major broadcast group.

Musically, Abrams produced the Grammy-winning CD “Ah Via Musicom” by Eric Johnson—the highest-selling rock instrumental album ever has appeared on several Alan Parsons Project CDs and worked with major labels and recording artists as a consultant executive producer, and label head. Among his clients have been music industry pioneers, such as The Moody Blues, Yes, Asia, Iron Maiden, Bob Seger, Island Records, and Capitol Records. 

Abrams’ other media projects have included the redesign of Rolling Stone magazine, the launch of TNT Cable Network,  MTV, American marketing consultant to Swatch, Disney and advisor to dozens of entertainment companies. In addition, Abrams has been the subject of feature articles in hundreds of consumer publications, including Playboy, Esquire, New York Times, People, The Los Angeles Times, The BBC, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, appeared as a guest on “The Apprentice” series with Donald Trump and is a frequent speaker at Universities and Industry functions.

While at XM, Abrams was responsible for creating programming by signing and developing programming by timeless icons such as Bob Dylan, Quincy Jones, BB King, Wynton Marsalis, Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Tom Petty and others into the XM fold to create passionate original programming.

Abrams's next mission is the culmination of years in the trenches—learning the good, bad…and ugly.  An opportunity to aggressively re-imagine and execute a years-in-the-making plan that will define creative programming and fan creation in this new century,” says Abrams in a recent interview.

Abrams resides in Chicago and is a 9,000-hour Commercial and Instrument rated pilot,  musician and is currently writing “Solutions for a Creatively Starved Planet” (working title) to be published in 2021.







Future of News


The Big Lebowski (film)

Star Trek: The Original Series

Doctor Strangelove… (film)

Eyes Wide Shut (film)

Family Guy (tv series)

1000 True Fans (article)

Black Monday (tv series)


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