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Radio Interview

                                     

Dave Conour

Program Director

KYWA

Wichita

 

 

Dave's Career Capsule
I started in Christian Radio as a punk college kid doing weekends for WIBI in Carlinville, IL in January of 1996.  After stints at WBGL in Champaign, IL and Light 99 in Wichita, KS I have landed at WAY-FM in Wichita.  I signed this brand new station on June 17th of 2004.  I love it so much that I begged my old boss from WIBI, Paul Anthony, to come and be my boss here.



1. Personally how do you keep the ministry in the “business”? 

Over the years, this has definitely evolved.  When I first started out, I was very star-struck by the "business."  It was all about who I knew and what they could do for me.  I was a very selfish young man.  I spent the bulk of my time on things that mattered only to the advancement of my career and the increase of my ‘black book’ of contacts. I am embarrassed to admit that actually.  It is true, though.  I never focused on the real reason those radio stations existed.  Whether they were designed to reach a 38 year old soccer-mom or youth and young adults, they were designed to reach.  I didn’t get that.

Until…

I became a father.  It changed my life.  Those little people (of which I have 4 now) became dependent on me.  And I realized, as a human, I could reasonably fail them without trying too hard.  All of the sudden my view of life changed.  My boss, Paul Anthony, said it best to me one day.  He said, “What kind of music will be there for my kids when they are old enough to start making those decisions?” I had a choice to make.  And I made it.  I threw the black book away.  I didn’t care who I knew in the biz.  At that moment, it became about other people and what my radio station could offer them that they couldn’t get anywhere else.

The funny thing?  I made TONS more friends in the business than I ever had in my little black book.  People who believed the same way I did about Christian Radio.  Who needs a black book anyway?

So, that is a long answer to get to this.  I believe that the ONLY way to keep the ministry in the business is to make the business the ministry (sounds cliché I know…I could think of no other way to say it).  The same way I trust God to take care of my bottom line at home, I trust Him to do so at my radio station.  I just have to stay focused on the real reason we are doing what we’re doing, and God tends to show up with the rest.  “All these things” I believe is how He describes it in a book I read once (It’s really heavy and has lots of cool stuff in it).

 

2. Overall, how is Christian radio different today, from 5 years ago?

This answer should be a little shorter.  LOL.  I am quite certain that the thing that stands out the most to ME at this point in my career over where things were 5 years ago is that we have to let go a little.  We have to realize that there are new and creative ways to deliver our content to the people we are trying to reach.  If my mission statement is to reach youth and young adults and I find out they aren’t listening to the radio anymore in 10 years, should I be discouraged?  I don’t think so. I just have to be ready for it.

And the time to get ready for that is now.  I think that I have learned that now is the time to be on the cutting edge of technology and methods of delivering our content.  Not following mainstream radio anymore, but being ahead of the curve.  So 5 years from now when we are all answering these same questions on HisAir we can say “we’re already there” instead of asking “what can we do to catch up?”  I think we as radio ministries have some of the best and brightest in radio, and there is no reason to hold on to the sacred ways of doing things if the next “super spectacular ultra slim and sleek sonic device” still accomplishes our mission.

 

3. What do you think are the main characteristics of today’s Christian radio PD?

In my particular situation, we have very defined roles at the station.

The GM is steering the ship, but his day-to-day focus is the bottom line in the spreadsheet.  And it should be.  Someone needs to protect the ongoing operations.  So where does that leave me?  To protect with all my heart the on-air product.  Make sure the DJ’s are always saying things relevant to my community.  Making the music that’s playing the highest testing in the pool we have to choose from (thank you Dave Senes, how I will miss you).  Finally, making sure every promotion that we have, and even every sweeper and image promo that we air, is somehow resonating with my listener (Speaking of promotions, If you haven’t tried a garage sale tour yet, e-mail me or call me, it’s a HUGE hit).

 

4. What criteria do you require for a song to be played on your station?

This can be a VERY divisive issue in my opinion.  I watch with great interest discussions on the various PD forums, and find that people live on a spectrum.  One end being what “sounds” good to the ear, and the other end being what tests well.

I have noticed that more often than not MOST people live on one end or the other of that spectrum.  I truly feel like our success at choosing music is finding a balance between those things.  I tend to lean toward the testing/research end of the spectrum.  I have allowed the way music has tested over the years to define how my CHR radio station should “sound.”  I have been surprised that teens and young adults have connected with songs like “Held” by Natalie Grant.  The same people who love Toby Mac seem to love Mercy Me.  That excites me.  It merges the science with the art in a way that should make us all VERY happy

Our radio stations can deliver exactly what the listeners want?  Who wouldn’t want that?

 

5. What kind of promotions work best for Christian radio?

Promotions are a funny area for me.  I briefly touched on this above.  I started in that area of my career thinking of the loudest, most “amazing prize” promotions I could think of.  Because that is what would have the most impact, right? Then I hit a wall.  People weren’t showing up at my remotes to sign up for a cruise.  People didn’t drive across town to win free tickets to the next concert.  So I tried something. 

I did a Garage Sale Tour. I asked for people to nominate their sales and tell me why they were having one (to raise money for what?)  I promoted where I would be and I would actually broadcast for two hours from a Garage Sale in town.  I grabbed some Panera Bagel’s and set up the booth in their front yard.

People came from EVERYWHERE.  Some drove an hour just to be part of it.

Here’s why I think that worked…

1)  It was all about the local community, the personal touch.  WAY-FM was actually going to someone’s HOUSE.

2)  There were GREAT stories.  Women having babies, families raising money for mission trips, little girls trying to go to camp, etc.  People LOVE to connect with a cause (not necessarily a Christian one, either).  We presented need and people came to fill it, because they could relate with the stories.

I have run every promotion since through that filter.  Every one has to be about benefiting the local community and/or be connected to a great story.  In the end, very few people will actually participate in a promotion no matter what you do.  But you can still offer the “outsider” something cool to listen to.  Who doesn’t like to hear a good story?

 

6. How do you think Christian Record labels can better serve Christian radio?

Working for WAY-FM has given me a pretty good view of the Record Labels.  Sorry guys, but before WAY-FM I thought you guys didn’t get it (Don’t kill me).  Once I understood why you do some of the things you do, I started to respect you a lot more. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to do your job.  You try like crazy to get radio stations that are all SO different to play your music.  And of course it is much more beneficial to you from an industry standpoint if we all play a particular song at the same time.  THAT’S a tough task.

I guess I would suggest you continue to ask more questions of the radio stations.  What are the kinds of things that the station research is showing people want?  Maybe it will help you decide which single to go with first on a fresh new album.

Keep up the good work all!

 

7. In your opinion what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio today?

This is a little bit of a rehash part of my answer to question one.  I think we face a lot of opportunities that many are viewing as obstacles right now.  One of those opportunities is the possibility that people will stop wanting to use radios to receive content.  That doesn’t mean they don’t like the content.  That’s good news.  They just want it delivered to them differently.  This is an amazing chance for us in Christian Radio (or Christian Content Creators) to embrace that possibility instead of fighting it.

 

8. What do you believe is the primary role of the Christian radio air personality?

I find that we have crossed a really valuable threshold in Christian radio.

With the introduction of great minds like John Frost and Alan Mason (and many others I could mention) on-air personalities have figured out that people want people.  Listeners don’t care about your “smooth tones” and “too-hip-for-the-room, spinnin’-the-tunes” radio lingo.  They want someone they can relate to.  Someone who knows and understands their struggles.  Real people who share real-life joys and problems.  Be a friend.  Be real.

Let Jesus show up THROUGH, and sometimes in spite of, you.

 

9. What (if any) Christian radio stations do you consider as innovators today?

Well, I would be remiss if I didn't mention WAY-FM and the entire CHRSN Network.  There is a talent pool and a heart for ministry that is unsurpassed in my humble opinion.  Others I have always admired include KSBJ (even without my dear friend Chuck Pryor), KTSY in Boise, WBGL in Champaign, IL and KNWI in Des Moines.

 

10. Where do you see Christian radio in 5 years?

Maybe not radio at all (as discussed above).  OK, maybe that’s not true for the 5 year outlook, but it will look different for sure.  Five years ago we had just started REALLY thinking about targeting our stations in a very focused way.  We’ve all come a long way since then.

I think as long as we stay real and relevant, whatever that requires of us in 5 years, we will still be accomplishing our missions.  Go Team!

  

 

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