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Kid Kelly Signs Off From Sirius XM With Open Letter, ‘Zero Regrets’

Days after Kid Kelly exited his position as VP of Pop Programming at Sirius XM radio, the radio veteran broke his silence in an open letter posted on popular radio tipsheet RAMP, writing he has “zero regrets.”

“I’m proud of maintaining the integrity of programming while balancing and creating an environment where people were respected and appreciated,” he wrote. “I’m proud of ALL of the incredible dreams that were somehow miraculously accomplished by great people under the most interesting and unique conditions.”

Kelly, who began his tenure at Sirius in 2003, left last week. His programming responsibilities are being taken over by SiriusXM Vice Presidents Alex Tear and Lou Simon.

Kelly began his radio career in the early 1980s — “earning a salary of just $130 a month, sleeping in a 1970 Chevy Nova bought for $200 and washing at McDonald’s,” according to his bio — and was with New York’s Z100 for more than 10 years, ultimately becoming operations manager in 1998. He also held posts in Buffalo, NY and Wilkes-Barre Penn., and created and hosted the first weekly nationally syndicated ‘80s radio program Backtrax USA.

He reflected on the early days of Satellite radio, which he said was a “VERY fledgling company (teetering on bankruptcy) with 67,000 subscribers,” to program the HITS 1 channel.

“After accepting the position to manage the Pop Department, I was instantly laughed at by most of the then industry professionals and ignored by many others. Something I hadn’t experienced since earlier days,” he wrote. “With the exception of close friends, the consensus was I’d ended a profiled career joining the (then) non-entity usually mispronounced ‘Sear-russ’ or ‘Cyrus’ or ‘Cirr-Iss.’

“As HITS 1 slowly gained acceptance,” he continued, “I appealed to storied and amazing award-winning veteran entertainers to join us. They graciously accepted a lower pay grade, as things were shaky then. I found promising newbies willing to be coached and tutored every day and enlisted them IF they also showed unbridled determination, passion and dedication to craft along with a fearless yearning to BE… outstanding. (Today I believe they’re best-in-class).”

His formula for building the audio channel was simple: find hits from all genres and play them.

“On Hits 1, I’d add select Country, Alt-Rock, Active Rock, Teen-Punk and Euro-Pop, most of which were not then playing on FM Top 40 and also not yet available or coalescing on DSP Pop Playlists.When it began to root most industry pros were stunned, perhaps astonished, ignored it or scratched their heads as to what to do,” he wrote. “Major label Pop Promo departments that initially didn’t get it, fought it, were confused or indifferent then finally embraced it. The Indie labels LOVED it as they now had equal footing.

“It disrupted most major Top 40 stations that ignored or swore off this mix and begrudgingly began adding these outliers,” he added. “Today many of those channels WIN and are following the template and song rotations I applied. And re-applied. Often.”

Read his full open letter below:

“Any legacy I may have in radio is associated with the 13 years I spent at that little New York station (Z100) or the long-time syndicated Backtrax ’80s & ’90s shows.

Now I’m proud to add an additional legacy with my old home SiriusXM / Hits 1.

When I was courted to join a then VERY fledgling company (teetering on bankruptcy) with 67,000 subscribers, it was because I firmly believed the ‘out of this world’ (pun) pre-WiFi, smartphone, etc. concept would actually work!

I was promised on several occasions there would be no useless and belaboring meetings, no reports, no spreadsheets and no corporate agendas.

After accepting the position to manage the Pop Department, I was instantly laughed at by most of the then industry professionals and ignored by many others. Something I hadn’t experienced since earlier days.

With the exception of close friends, the consensus was I’d ended a profiled career joining the (then) non-entity usually mispronounced ‘Sear-russ’ or ‘Cyrus’ or ‘Cirr-Iss.’

For over a decade I worked 18-hour days, weekends and holidays. I considered myself late if I was not at my desk by 7am Mon-Fri…. and I was usually the last one out.

There was a big job to do and I was an elite member of the Team hired to make the Pop portion of ‘this (then) turkey fly!’

An honor I was proud to try and accomplish regardless of ALL naysayers.

I relentlessly pushed my connections with labels, managers and publications to notice us and I did my best to make ’em knowledgeable about us. Response was not resounding.

I hounded and at times embarrassed executives into recognizing that their then unknown artists (including Taylor Swift) were HUGE HERE!… HOW could they not KNOW??

And know who WE are!?!?

I wasn’t asked to do it but it didn’t seem to be happening, so because of industry tenure, previous positions and knowing most of the top Pop people, I just did… It felt right.

I appealed to storied and amazing award winning veteran entertainers to join us. They graciously accepted a lower pay grade as things were shaky then.

I found promising newbies willing to be coached and tutored every day and enlisted them IF they also showed unbridled determination, passion and dedication to craft along with a fearless yearning to BE… outstanding. (Today I believe they’re best in class).

During the massive northeast blackout, we were told to leave the studios (Rock Center NYC / 36th Floor) and come back when it was safe, I stayed for days and worked as best as I could in 100+ summertime midtown temperatures.

When I slept, it was under my desk.

There was a big job to accomplish and failure was just not an option. I bled satellite blood.

Regarding Hits 1, it’s now arguably North America’s most-listened-to Top-40 station.

It doesn’t just pin the needle in the red, it bends the arm and destroys the metal box! (I never cared for LED meters because you can’t hear ’em ‘ping’ when rockin’ da mic. :))

At the very least it’s certainly acknowledged as one of ‘The Big 3.’

The Hits 1 build I envisioned reapplied the (then crazy) theory of playing the most passionate music of ALL genres, besides the typical ones played on external Top 40/CHR stations at that time.

On Hits 1, I’d add select Country, Alt-Rock, Active Rock, Teen-Punk and Euro-Pop, most of which were not then playing on FM Top 40 and also not yet available or coalescing on DSP Pop Playlists.

When it began to root most industry pros were stunned, perhaps astonished, ignored it or scratched their heads as to what to do.

Major label Pop Promo departments that initially didn’t get it, fought it, were confused or indifferent then finally embraced it. The Indie labels LOVED it as they now had equal footing.

It disrupted most major Top 40 stations that ignored or swore off this mix and begrudgingly began adding these outliers. Today many of those channels WIN and are following the template and song rotations I applied. And re-applied. Often.

I didn’t invent this mindset, mix or texture but I will unequivocally state that I doggedly stayed focused, maintained intestinal fortitude, stayed disciplined and course corrected a then very confused, slanted and mostly (what I felt was) broken format — Mainstream Top 40.

I did so based on what I learned from my past as well as analyzing and dissecting legendary stations and what make them special. While constantly looking ahead. Daily.

I continued to strengthen the top level industry executive relationships and became great friends with additional industry heads, managers, and even became friendly with notable artists. I was constantly connected.

Yet, I never EVER accepted the external praise or perks, the exotic flights or trendy hangs that came with the position. It wasn’t about me. It was about the audience.

I encouraged and taught the cast of teammates to understand the goal and deliver to the audience. I tried to never be the center of attention or make others feel lesser, bullied, small or secondary. I’d shy away from photo ops.

Even in group pictures with A-list artists it was always stage-right for me so a jock/host, someone on staff or in our in-house talent department could be standing next to our guest star in focus.

I was joyful when individual and/or collective goals were met. I tried to make the environment fun. I would strive to make the channels in the Pop category dynasties. I was ALL about station brand greatness. Being THE standout.

Making a moment. Seizing a moment. Creating a unique lane. And a feel!… and  vibe!

Shying from perpetuating a silo’ed music data dump. Meeting audience expectations was a BAD day for me. Exceeding those expectations, made it a good day!

I felt an unspoken bond with the audiences and found a solid balance of razzle-dazzle, yet great respect. Without shenanigans. For just the joy of doing it. That’s it. Creating great audio brands.

Metaphorically, I have a book of endless nuances, specifics and fascinating and unbelievable ‘satellite stories.’

We know the phrase ‘I’ve seen it all’ is cliché but, I literally have. All. And heard it all too. Lots of it.

In reminiscing about my over 17-year stay, I will always smile. I absolutely, positively have zero regrets and wouldn’t change a thing if given the chance to do so.

I’m proud of maintaining the integrity of programming while balancing and creating an environment where people were respected and appreciated.

I’m proud of ALL of the incredible dreams that were somehow miraculously accomplished by great people under the most interesting and unique conditions.

(I’ve worked for 35+ companies and do know ‘most interesting and unique’ when I see it.)

I’ll never forget the good times and other times…

Mostly, I’ll never forget my SiriusXM family.

I knew the day would come and it’s been quite a rocket ride.

Yes, it was my way. And a wonderful gift.

My gratitude to ALL at SiriusXM!

#KidKelly…Out!” 

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