Career Capsule: Brian Yeager comes from the “God Brougth Me Kicking and Screaming Into This” path into radio. His early days of radio in high school in Dallas (KSKY and KPBC) are best left in the distant past, and his stint at RX107 in Chattanooga board op’ing Sunday mornings may have been most noteworthy for accidently playing music out of the worship format. But in 2002, Michelle Yeager, Brian’s wife got a job in radio, and it was an unstoppable slide into radio since then. Brian is now president of Barefoot Media Ministries (89.5 KTSY, 88.1 The Bridge and Project 88.7), and does some freelance work for i58:10 Media. He is worshiped by Charlie the dog, adored by his wife Michelle, and causes eye-rolls by his four female children (aged 8-22)
Brian, Tell us what’s new with KTSY… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?
The past couple years have been awesome. I have to answer as Barefoot Media Ministries, not just KTSY. Here are just a few highlights:
- In 2016, Barefoot Media Ministries finished paying off all the debt that we had hanging over our heads for more than a decade. At its peak, it was around $350k.
- In 2016 BFMM launched our new station, Project 88.7. Project is a positive pop/hip-hop station that we are using to experiment in reaching a new generation of listeners. I am SO excited about this station. Our first ratings book we were #1 among teen boys. (Yeah, that can be a statistically anomaly, but I’ll take the bragging rights!). It’s the station that I’m hearing more stories of men, younger people, and people very disconnected to “church” listening to. One of my favorite stories comes from our Spring Fundraising Celebration when we got this message, “I enjoy your station and hope others enjoy it as much as I have. I’m not a Christian but I understand the religious message.” He gave $25/month.
- Barefoot is building an amazing team. Don Godman is Program Director for our three stations. Joel Nino, trained under the great Jerry Woods, has taken over promotions and events. Last year we grabbed Jordan Bitz. He’s both an on air talent on Project and our chief engineer. We recently added Tristi Hendrick, an up and coming on-air star, as Dave Arthur’s morning show co-host. It’s amazing to see the team that God has put together.
- In development, BFMM has been building major donors as well as regular $30-40/month givers. These major donors are morphing into champions who are connecting us with other donors or even foundations.
- BFMM is taking the lead in I Heart Treasure the Valley, an event that helps fulfill our mission of connecting people with Jesus so they reach out to someone else. It’s a day of unity with the local churches and listeners doing service projects across the Treasure Valley and then uniting for a rally that evening.
Christian Radio is very competitive, what strategies to you use to stand out in the crowd?
“Competition” is increasing in our markets. K-Love finally came to Boise last fall. (We’ve had Air1 for a long time.) In Twin Falls, Free-FM, K-Love, SOS, and The Effect are all in the market. While I wish there were some coordination between the various Christian stations, we are looking at this in a different way:
We don’t think of ourselves as “Christian radio.” Our competition isn’t K-Love, Air1, or any of the other networks. Our competitors are the secular stations in our market. That’s who our eyes are set on. To compete with them, we focus on the fundamentals:
- Understand and pursue our mission, vision, and strategy. Stay focused on it. Work it. Don’t get distracted from it. (Since I’m ADD, so that’s VERY easy to do!)
- Create amazing radio:
- Air talent is more important than ever. We resource our air talent. Almost every person who is on our stations has a paid coach – more than just the PD. I find it amazing that every radio station doesn’t have a talent coach. It’s one of the key things that makes us distinctive to so many music options. Our air talent is such an integral part of our product, it doesn’t make sense for us to NOT resource it well.
- Keep perfecting the music mix and everything that goes around the music – imaging, underwriting, clocks, scheduling, etc. We invest in John Frost to help build our strategy and help as we perfect the product.
- Resource the ministry. Money is never an issue. Leadership is the issue. Vision is the issue. Taking risks is an issue. There is more than enough money there. It takes passion, creativity, and drive, but it’s there.
What is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?
From Lisa Williams – when you open the mic, grab them around the neck!
It’s not about you.
To keep a syndicated morning show on KTSY. To network our stations across Idaho.
These aren’t bad things. They just weren’t the right solutions for our mission and strategy. There are a lot of GOOD ideas, but many less that are actually great ideas for any station in its own context.
Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
Well, the politically correct/Christianese thing to say is “the more we have, the more opportunities to win people to Jesus.”
My kneejerk reaction is “GET OFF MY LAWN!”
The truth is probably somewhere in between. I think it’s about mission and purpose. Why is the station coming in? What’s the big picture of how the stations are reaching the community? What are the strengths of each one and how can they cooperate together?
What is the ONE thing you must have every day to do your job/show?
The knowledge God called me to this, that I can do this. The second that comes right behind it is amazing mentors and coaches that are willing to invest in this idiot of a leader.
Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
Seriously, where may be the wrong question. Who is the question. That is based on what the mission is of each station, and then who are the communicators that can fulfill the vision. Some may be currently podcasting or video casting. Some may be blogging. Some may be at church…
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest challenges facing Christian radio?
A lack of vision. A lack of taking risks. A lack of being dissatisfied. Not knowing what we are doing or why we are doing it. Ego – thinking we know enough so we don’t surround ourselves with great people who build us to be better leaders.
Everything else – digital, online, other radio stations, bigger budgets, all become small when we fix the leadership issue.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
- Mike Agee- He built the KTSY legacy that I stand on. When he was being interviewed for manager of a little high school radio station that a group of passionate people had raised money from local churches to build, he asked them. With the best of intentions, they had promised that the station would do just about anything – southern gospel, teaching, contemporary, etc. He simply asked, “Who do you want the station to be for? Do you want to impact the church or influence the community?” That question set the course of KTSY and now my life and leadership.
- Jerry Woods – He taught me to be on the radio. He let me spread my wings and be his “stunt man” and has been a cheerleader, mentor, coach, sounding board, and so much more. We’ve ridden 300 miles on a bicycle together and traversed the listening area to do multiple remotes… in one day. He demonstrated what local radio can be.
- Ty McFarland – I don’t know that I would still be in radio if it wasn’t for Ty. Someone so brilliant, yet so humble. He’s encouraged me, given me great wisdom. Picked me up. And given brilliant input in radio.
- John Frost – It’s hard to put words together on why Frost is such a hero. I would be an idiot in radio without Frost.
- Tommy Kramer – I only wish Tommy was willing to share an opinion! J He’s taught me the basics. He’s invested deeply and loves my team passionately.
- David Harms – He’s given me the tools for on air fundraising. He’s an incredible strategist. He’s a passionate advocate of radio, of transforming our stations, AND of investing in our team.
- Brian Sanders – His passion for leadership, for doing hard things and dreaming big are inspiring. And his willingness to be incredibly vulnerable about his own insecurities gives me courage.