Friday, April 10, 2009

The Shocking KMHD Story You've Never Heard

In the past few weeks I've hinted around about KMHD's "toxic assests." Now I will let you know why the vast majority of KMHD DJs are in favor of the move to OPB.

The number one toxic asset is Greg Gomez, KMHD's music director, often called "music preventor." His job is to have a good relationship with labels worldwide and musicians here in Oregon; to make sure he gets everything that's released in the jazz and blues world, listen to it and then make available to the DJ's the new albums he deems the station should play. After a suitable period in the "New Releases" shelves in the studio, his job is to add albums to the station studio library and the computer database so DJ’s can find them on the shelves.

These things he has not done.

Two of his biggest failures are keeping the station library stocked with music and not just having poor relationships with jazz labels, but having hostile ones.

The fact is that over two years went by without Gomez adding even ONE album to the station library.

I know that sounds unbelievable. Believe it. Below you will read his own admission of that fact.

When I started at KMHD in April of 2007 I assumed that when he removed albums from the "New Releases" shelves a percentage of them would be added to the library, at least the ones deserving. For instance, Portland trombonist Stan Bock had a wonderful new album in the new release shelf when I arrived at KMHD. After a month or so, it disappeared and never showed up in the main library. I kept wondering why.

Not long after I got there I was unable to find a lot of albums I knew had come out in the past year or so. I never understood why. I searched for the Grammy-nominated album by Portland's Nancy King and pianist Fred Hersch. It wasn't in the library…a year after its release. After talking with several DJs, I found out that there had been no new additions since 2006.

Yeah, it blew my mind.

A DJ told me, "Oh, I think he just keeps them in his office."

Just before last year's Mt. Hood Jazz Festival, I found Gomez had put some festival-related albums for airplay in a box in the studio. When I went through it , I found the Nancy King album, with the new release sticker still on the cover.

I began to inquire why it was in that box and not in the library and available for us to play

There is a KMHD email listerv, pretty much the only way KMHD DJs can communicate since, with the exception of Calvin Walker, Gomez and Mary Burlingame kept their distance, never communicating on any meaningful level. On August 6, 2008, I sent this:

Is there a good reason why the Nancy King/Fred Hersch album was not available to us for nearly two years and then suddenly showed up in the MHJF box? It was released in 2006, and according to your email, after three months was locked away in your office and unavailable for us to play.

I think we're interested in how your department works.

I don't have to go into detail about what a treasure Nancy King is, or how wonderful the album is. Is the fact that it has never been added an indication that you do not agree that it is worthy?

Many times, I've perused the library on a Saturday night wanting to play Nancy's album only to find it not there. I wondered if it had been stolen. I assumed it had been stolen because it's inconceivable to me that it wouldn't have been added to the library. When the original NR copy, with the playdate sticker on the front, turned up in the MHJF box I was astonished. I remain astonished.

Is Stan Bock's fine album also locked in your office? What will become of Thara Memory's? What others are also unavailable?

You have not addressed why this and many other albums are locked in your office, and why so few have been added to the library.

Is there a list of those albums released in the past couple of years which you placed in NR but which have or have not been added to the library?


On August 9, Gomez wrote this astounding reply:

We’ve all heard the term multi-tasking and I think it’s great that people can do this. At times I find myself even doing two or three things at once, but rarely, because I am more of a prioritizing kind of person. Please understand that in the entire seventeen plus years that I have been working here at KMHD there has never been a shortage of things to do in the area of music. To be a Music Director at a radio station and to be an employee of a radio station the size of KMHD (and please realize that some stations of similar size enjoy a much larger paid staff, thus the work gets spread out so that one person is not singly responsible for the flow of work) means that one will never be truly caught up with all the work. Also, to work in radio is to realize that priorities will change on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. There’s nothing like starting the day thinking you’re going to dive into this project or that project and then you receive an email or phone call asking for your immediate attention on something entirely new.

What this means is,
about two years have passed since a new release has been added to the library. Clearly, adding CD’s to the permanent library has not been high on my priority list. (emphasis mine) Please understand this is not a slight to you or anyone else. I will be adding CD’s to the library. Please look for them in the coming weeks and months.


So Gomez admitted that his main job as music director, placing music in the hands of KMHD DJs to play, was not high priority.

And then he told us where all those albums were.

He wrote:

My usual time frame for keeping a CD in the new releases library is roughly 3 months. When a CD is removed from the new releases library it is stored in my office until I am able to process it for inclusion in the permanent MCR library.


Which was never.

He added this nearly-as-astounding coda to his email of 8/9/08. I can only assume he was being ironic, although it comes out of nowhere:

Will Nancy King be in this batch, I’m not sure…never heard of her. There are a million young sirens out there trying to break into this business. Before she gets too far into the music business, if you know her, tell her to ask the advice of a veteran artist who has been around the block. Someone that got her start singing with her late husband’s band or someone that’s been down heartbreak’s road a time or two and is only now getting her due public recognition for her artistry after years and years of being a “musicians musician.” Someone that is recognized for her scatting ability, her ability to wrap her voice around a lyric to the point that you feel as if she wrote and/or lived every single word she is singing….and probably has. Yeah, help this Nancy King kid out a little bit and tell her to keep her day job. However, if you say she’s good, then I guess so......


That paragraph looks more suspicious in light of something he posted on the listserv this week in one of his infrequent postings about new releases…something he never did before we started raising hell about his lack of competence.

Ben Darwish: Ode To Consumersim (sic)
Ben is a Portland based musician….I believe. Recorded live at Jimmy Mak’s, check out tracks 6, 7 & 8.


I believe? Is he being cute or does he not know?

Something else he wrote in his post of 8/9/09 brings up another problem. First what he said:

There have also been instances where a CD is available at retail but it hasn’t yet been serviced to a radio station. I don’t control when a label/promoter/artist decides to send a CD to KMHD. Another thing to keep in mind when you’re finding out about new releases, even though a label/artist/promoter has shipped the CD to radio and it’s in our grubby little hand’s, there are times when they will ask you to hold off on playing the CD on-air until a certain date has passed for their promotional campaign purposes.


Albums are never available for retail before they're serviced to stations. It just doesn't work that way.

In reality, many label reps have stopped servicing the station because of Gomez' incompetence. Recently, according to one KMHD insider, "Several reps from record companies have written Dr. Ski (President of MHCC) about Greg. Very powerful criticism too." Previously, they’d written and called Doug Sweet, while he was station GM, about the situation. The same source told me that other public radio stations who play jazz told have asked, "What's wrong with KMHD?"

The music director, among other things.

For instance, the 2009 Portland Jazz Festival was built around the 70th Anniversary of Blue Note Records. Here's another shocking example of Gomez incompetence from another KMHD DJ:

Back in February, I was the first on air host to interview Bill Royston, the creative director, for the PDX Jazz Festival, regarding the 70th anniversary of Blue Note Records and the tie in to the festival. The station had arranged for several interviews with Mr. Royston to promote the event and for KMHD to derive some underwriting revenue made possible by the fabulous development director Calvin Walker.

I brought all the new and relevant Blue Note CD's from my personal library into the studio as a back for air play, in case Bill did not any or part of the collection with him. Bill was impressed, but I told him they were mine and the station did not have them available for the DJ's to play.

At that point Calvin Walker, the Development Director entered the studio and noticed what a good collection I had assembled for the interview. I said they were mine and KMHD did not have any in the studio. Calvin said that KMHD should be doing that and providing the Blue for all the DJ's, since the Blue Note 70th was so important to KMHD and for the station to out reach to the community. Blue Note chose Portland over ALL others to kickoff this national celebration!

We both shrugged our shoulders knowing the music director was not doing his job. It was reminiscent of communist Russia years ago when on vacation and hearing the same type of futile sighing remarks from the people about their dysfunctional government "not being able to food on the table."

Another example of what the volunteers face on a daily basis at KMHD.

A loyal KMHD On Air Volunteer


At one point, while Gomez was away during the festival and he had still not put out any extra Blue Note albums, two staff members took those much needed albums from Gomez' office and put them in the studio.

Upon his return, he took the box back into his office and locked the door.

One of the interesting things about the MHCC Board meeting on Wednesday was that when some of those concerns were aired, that news seemed to surprise many in attendance.

You might ask why the last two KMHD GMs have not been able to make Gomez do his job. The answer is that the paid KMHD staff does not answer to the GM, but rather have union protected jobs. Don't get me wrong, I'm a strong a union supporter as you'll find, but in this case, the inability of the GMs to either control or fire Gomez (and I know at least one dearly wanted dearly) has materially harmed the station.

JoAnn Zahn, Director, Fiscal Operations, Budget & Auxiliary Servies, who has been caretaker GM of the station since last summer, has done her best, but she is not a broadcast professional. At least she made an effort to interact with the DJs. She listened.

Gomez has been a cancer on the station for many years. After all the hell we raised about the music library, he has put a pitiful couple hundred albums in there over a seven month period. He has never added the Linda Hornbuckle/Janice Scroggins album which came out in July and which I had been playing since June. Terry Robb, the label owner and producer of the album had dropped off at least five copies to Gomez. I emailed Gomez about this repeatedly. Linda and Janice have helped the station many times over the years, number one. And number two it's a great album. Yet Gomez never added it. Who knows why?

When Mary Flower, who has played at KMHD sponsored events, released her latest album, I had to raise holy hell to get Gomez to add it. Eventually it found its way to the blues library shelves, but not without a fight.

Leaving Gomez at MHCC, where he is guaranteed employment, is perhaps at the top of the list in improving the station when it moves over to OPB.

7 comments:

  1. wow. this is insane. thanks for the insight. just to clear up the confusion, i am based in portland and have been for the last 24 years.
    - ben

    ReplyDelete
  2. Unbelievable! How do incompetents like Gomez stay around for so long? He's got to go!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am so shocked. Not at the behavior of Greg Gomez, which is legendary, but at his ignorance of the local jazz scene and contempt for local artists. His description of Nancy King is so laughable I had to wonder if he was pulling your leg.

    I was a programmer at KMHD during the early 1990s, and would have enjoyed my job a lot more had it not been for the repeated intervention of Greg Gomez. I did all I could to support local artists, interviewing and promoting them on air and adding their new CDs to the library. Not only did Gomez tell me to knock that off (repeatedly; I refused to listen to him) but the CDs never made it to the stacks. I never saw them anyway, and during my 10pm-2am shift I had plenty of time to look.

    I was wondering how he was able to keep his job all these years. Thanks for telling this story, Tom. I have a feeling there are a lot more. Keep fighting that good fight.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Tom,

    You may recall I interviewed you on "Golden Hours" at OPB. The managers pulled the plug on this feature in April 2008. I hope you get a more suitable manager if you make the move to OPB. After volunteering there for almost eight years, I warn you that some of the people who are in charge of that station are -- IMHO shall we say -- more interested in climbing the PBS ladder of success than in the actual radio product. Also, their people skills are clearly lacking. Perhaps it's a sign of the times, because my hands were slapped -- and my volunteer status abruptly disconnected -- when I tried to make some suggestions to them. I won't go any further to describe the end of "Kimball & Company" in February 2008 because I've already burned my bridges there. However, I will be happy to discuss this with you privately. Contact me at: Radio_Lady(AT)comcast.net

    Good luck whatever you do.

    Ellen Kimball
    Portland, OR

    ReplyDelete
  5. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Joannah

    http://keyboardpiano.net

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ms. Kane Taylor "The KT"April 16, 2009 at 2:30 PM

    This Gomez guys sounds a lot like Wendeborn, and we know how that went. ("How To Destroy Everything You Touch and Take A Long Time Doing It"). Who is responsible for comparing Gomez' Job Description with his performance, formally notifying him of his errors, and following up when he doesn't comply? HAVE YOU COMPLAINED TO THE UNION? Don't blame the Union for the situation. You can get rid of bad employees but you have to DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT. You shouldn't be left to swing in the breeze over this kind of destructive behavior. PS - Yo Calvin!
    signed, KT, The JazzBuster!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Pure comedy gold, especially after reading "Finally: The Death of "Greed Is Good". If Mr. Gomez had an evil corporate master that expected him to actually make money for KMHD buy doing his job, you might be better off.

    ReplyDelete

Talk to me.