Interview with Dr. Sam

Q: What is Managed Music?

Dr. Sam: Managed Music is the application of the same principals used in Managed Healthcare to the music industry. HMO's have made so much money that I decided to apply the principals elsewhere.

Q: Who should listen to Managed Music?

Dr. Sam: Anyone who is sick of paying high prices for tapes, CD's and tickets. Just send me $100 per month and I'll provide all of the music you could want. Of course, I'll decide what music it is and how much of it you really need - but I won't tell you that until after you have subscribed.

Q: So you'll provide me with all of the music I need?

Dr. Sam: That's correct - provided that you don't have certain weird preexisting musical preferences. We also do not provide services for musical emotional disorders such as a tendency to listen to rap music.

Q: Not all the members of your band are doctor's. What is the reason for that?

Dr. Sam: This is Managed Music - once we take people's money, we substitute as many paramedical people as we can. Actually, we discourage using MD's. We find that non-medical people can do the job and we don't have to pay them as much.

Q: How did you find talented musician physicians?

Dr. Sam: Initially I had an all-physician band. Then I looked at the managed care model and realized that using physicians was too expensive. So I fired all of the doctors and replaced them with professional musicians. As soon as we have more people signed up for managed music, I plan to replace the current members of the band with music students.

Q: What musician influenced you the most?

Dr. Sam: Harvey Kowalski. No one ever heard of him because he never played anything and was tone deaf. He was the ideal managed music provider. The goal of managed music is to provide as little service as possible in order to keep costs down and maximize profits. My problem is that people love our music and keep asking us to play.

Q: What is your favorite book?

Dr. Sam: "The Joys of Silence". You must understand that with managed music, we try to find people to enroll who either hate music or have hearing problems. That way they are very unlikely to call upon us to play. We still collect their premiums but we don't have to perform for them.

Q: If you could perform with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?

Dr. Sam: As many dead musicians as possible. I wouldn't have to pay them. So, I would say Paul Butterfield, Muddy Waters and Sonny Terry.

Q: Do you always perform with the same musicians?

Dr. Sam: I have a panel of music providers who are the only ones people can ask for. If they want someone of their own choosing, they have to pay for them themselves.

Q: Who is going to pay for listening to your music?

Dr. Sam: My goal is to get employers to pay for the musical service as a benefit, and tell their employees that we are their only choice. That way people will be forced to listen to us - but at least they'll know that they don't have to lay out their own money to hear music.

Q: What is your largest challenge?

Dr. Sam: Radio. It keeps pumping out free music as if musical entertainment is a right. This is clearly unacceptable. People should pay something for the music they listen to.

Q: You seem to perform many known tunes with altered lyrics related to managed care. Why is this?

Dr. Sam: Until now it was necessary to develop original material to have success. This is clearly too expensive - we cannot afford to devote time to innovation and development of new songs. We use time-tested material that gets the job done and change the lyrics to get our message across.

Q: You say in your promotional material that the people who hire you assume all of the risk. What do you mean by that?

Dr. Sam: Risk is a concept I adapted from the healthcare insurance industry. It's really quite brilliant and I don't know any other industry that uses it to insure that they make money. So I thought, "Why not build in risk protection for our band?" Basically, the insurance companies realize that it is possible that they may not take in enough money from premiums to cover the cost of care for selected populations. They might spend more if someone is seriously ill or if the doctors order too many tests. They are therefore at risk for losing money. So, they transfer the risk to the hospitals and doctors. They say, "OK - here's what we will pay you for your services, but if the services cost more than a certain amount, we're going to take that cost out of what you are paid - it comes out of your pocket." It's brilliant - they constructed a "can't-lose" business. So, in creating managed music I decided to place the risk on our listeners. Once you pay to hear us, if you don't like what you hear or if we don't show up - that's your risk. Go listen to someone else if you want - but again, that comes out of your own pocket.

Q: What if people don't like your music and want to hear you play something else?

Dr. Sam: We have a solution to this problem. Every time we play a concert, we invite a physician that we select from the community who happens to play an instrument to join our band for that performance. Our audiences can request any songs they want, but all requests must come through the guest physician who is their primary physician musician. We make him play it whether he knows how to play the tune or not, or even if he is unsure of it. If he has to refer it to us to play, we charge him for our time. That way he is encouraged to handle as many requests as possible and it costs me next to nothing. If we do have to play it, or if it is going to cost me anything to have my musicians rehearse, we will refer the audience to another band entirely - no matter how far the audience has to travel to hear them play.

Q: What if the primary physician musician isn't that good?

Dr. Sam: Who cares - as long as he agrees to provide music to our listeners for what we pay him?

Q: So you are saying that you don't care if people dislike your music?

Dr. Sam: As I said, my real target market is people who hate music and never want to listen to it. This is another realization I made from studying managed healthcare. You have to understand the brilliance of the managed care concept. In managed healthcare, the HMO's and insurance companies make a fortune when everyone is well and no one gets sick. When that happens, they have collected premiums and not had to spend money taking care of the people who paid for care. What I need to find is people who will pay for our music and never listen to it. This is why I always remind people that they can sustain irreparable hearing loss from listening to music. I suggest that they give it up entirely. My problem is that our music is great.

Q: Why did you select the harmonica as your instrument?

Dr. Sam: It's perfect! It costs me next to nothing and it gets the job done. Some musicians have to spend thousands of dollars on high quality instruments to please their listeners and fans. I get the job done for a set of $20.00 harmonicas.

Q: So you can provide comparable service at a lower price?

Dr. Sam: In this country we have constructed an entire industry of musical entertainment using the most expensive, highest technology equipment available. We simply cannot afford this luxury. If everyone is to have equal access to music, we must bring the costs down. Not everyone will get the high quality they have come to expect, but at least everyone will have access to music. Today, I can use a an electric keyboard to produce the sounds of a twenty man orchestra. Why should I pay for an orchestra if I can make you happy with a keyboard? All you care about is that you hear music, right? By the way - who said anything about lowering prices? I have to make a living here.

Q: Most of your performances are for medical groups. Why is this?

Dr. Sam: They need the most cheering up. Their professional autonomy has been taken away from them. I don't know many physicians who enjoy working in a managed care environment. My message to them is simple - take up an instrument and provide managed music - you'll make a fortune.

Q: Not all of the songs listed in your marketing material are actually songs that you have written or can play. How do you explain this?

Dr. Sam: Listen - this is Managed Music. When you hire us you get a contract listing the services to be performed - this has nothing to do with what we actually can, or intend to provide you with.

Q: What if I don't like your music?

Dr. Sam: We have an appeal process that you can go through - but we won't get to your request for several months. If we delay long enough, you may age to the point where your musical tastes change, or better yet, we'll outlive you which means we collected your dollars without doing anything for you.

Q: How do you refer to the people who are subscribers of your managed music program?

Dr. Sam: Ears. HMO's refer to their subscribers as "lives". They have "x" thousand numbers of lives under management. This impersonal and straight statistical approach appeals to me. Why have to deal with individuals and their associated needs and wants. I don't have time for that either if I am to make money. My subscribers are "ears" to me - that's it. The only problem is that in order to know how many subscribers we have and do our financial analyses, we have to divide all the numbers by 2.

Q: How do you get a foothold in the market?

Dr. Sam: Again - the answer was provided by the HMO model. First I find musicians who are anxious to be sure that their fans don't develop a taste for anyone else's music. I then persuade them that I have so many people in my managed music plan that they would be wise to join my panel of musicians or else I'll get other musicians to entertain their fans. They can't stand that idea of course since it threatens their livelihood. Once I get one or two of them to sign up, the rest panic and clamor to join the panel. Before long, they'll all be on a managed music preferred music provider list.

Q: How do you pay them for their services?

Dr. Sam: When they first consider joining the panel, I offer them an amount of money that is less than what they are used to getting, but still a reasonable amount of money. They don't like it, but they know that if they don't beat the other music providers in getting on my panel they will run the risk of losing their fans altogether. So, they compromise money for the assurance that at least they will have their fans. Then, as more and more people pay me premiums and more and more musicians join my panel, I'll just keep lowering their pay while I collect the premiums. It's beautiful! What are they going to do? I'll be controlling the ears. Eventually, I will pay the music providers next to nothing. This will demoralize them totally, and they'll feel as if the battle has been lost.

Q: What is the biggest threat to your plan?

Dr. Sam: That people will start complaining to legislators about what they consider abuses or the delivery of poor quality music. That's all I need. Clearly, I know what they should be listening to and how to deliver the service better than they do. What gives people the right to decide that they have a right to the best possible music when there are people like me who can provide their needs in a cost effective fashion? All I need is a bunch of legislators getting complaints and a whole set of regulations forced upon my business.

Q: Well, this is certainly a unique approach to assuring that the public has equal access to affordable musical entertainment. We wish you luck. What's next?

Dr. Sam: I am looking into managed journalism - so don't get too comfortable with your job.