It all started
for me back in 1986, while I was an Advertising major at LSU. I
began my radio career as a salesman at WQCK, a small Christian
station just north of Baton Rouge. I soon confirmed what I’d always
suspected, that as a salesman I stink. However, as a copyrighter and
production guy, I was pretty good. I started doing some weekend and
fill-in work as an announcer and honed my production skills to the
point that I was able to leave the sales world and become the
Production Director and afternoon host. A short time later I added
Music Director duties and not long after that moved to Mornings and
became the Program Director. Then in 1996 with WQCK on the block, I
jumped to The JOY FM in Sarasota, FL. This is where I developed “The
Morning Cruise” with my partner, Bill Martin. We had a great run
until ’99 when Bill left radio and Dan Brodie joined me. In 2001 I
left Florida to join the Morning team at KSBJ in Houston. I enjoyed
working with Susan O’Donnell until 2005, when I got the call that
The JOY FM had lured Bill out of full-time church service and wanted
to put the band back together, so it was back to paradise and “The
has the economic situation affected Joy FM? Any changes?
We’ve been pretty fortunate. The Real
Estate market crashed hard here about two years ago and took several
related fields with it. Construction, remodeling, mortgage banking,
retail development even the restaurant industry have all taken hits.
Unemployment in Florida is somewhere around 11% and we hear from
many of our listeners who are living it right now. That said, we
just finished our Sharathon and met 100% of our goals. Our giving
has been up, our budget continues to grow (perhaps not as much as in
the past) and although we do hear from people each day that have to
stop their support, we also hear from new supporters that seem to
fill in the gaps.
has your morning show evolved or changed over the last few years?
The biggest change is that we’ve evolved
into a 3 person show. Not long after I got here we started bringing
Carmen Brown (who was Promotions Director at the time) in to the
studio a few times a week to talk about promotions. She brought a
unique energy to the show and a perspective that two middle-aged
white guys just couldn’t fake. She also had morning radio
experience, having been part of a very popular country morning show
in the market, and a great sense of humor. Add to that the fact that
the chemistry worked well and we all liked each other and it just
made sense to add her to the show.
We also realize that morning radio in
general has changed and we’ve changed with it. We used to do more
characters and our show was more bit driven. We are much more
conversational now. The contest, skits and characters are pretty
much gone. That’s not to say we don’t do some bit style radio. We
still do the occasional parody song or “stunt” but most of the
characters we use now are actual people who are just part of our
extended cast, including our producer, Kris P. Kreme.
morning show topics seem to be hot right now?
Any topic you’re passionate about. This
could be the latest hot news story or the latest CD you can’t stop
listening to or joys and struggles of parenthood. If you honestly
have an opinion or a passion about something you can engage your
audience with it. In the last week we’ve covered Swine Flu (sorry,
H1N1), The Biggest Loser, the new Chris Tomlin Christmas CD,
embarrassing our teen aged children and how some people can walk
past a ladder in their living room for days while others have to do
the job and put it away immediately. All of these topics engaged the
listeners and touched off response. The key, though, is actually
having something to say. You can’t just read a list of 5 things the
health department wants you to know about H1N1 or 3 things that
embarrass your teen. Tell a story, communicate honestly, don’t be
afraid to have an opinion or to let someone else counter that
4. What is
the advantage of being live and local such as your show is?
I would say the ability to get out and
meet the people. This is a challenge for any show, but we are
committed to the idea. The JOY FM covers about a third of Florida
with a number of networked signals, so it is not easy for us to
physically cover each market we serve. We take every advantage we
can to get to concerts or take our show on the road. In the summer
we spend a week doing two shows a day, each in a different city,
inviting listeners to come and let us meet them. We also get to as
many concerts as we can and hit as many cities as we can when we do
service projects. Any voice-tracked or syndicated show can
“localize” their content by mentioning a few towns, places or
calendar events. For us, face time with the audience is the key.
kind of promotions work best for Christian morning shows?
For us there are two things that work
very well. 1. Service projects. State your case and point the
audience in the right direction, then watch them go. If you are
passionate about an issue and have made a connection with your
audience they will adopt your passion and jump at the chance to make
a difference. 2. Unique experiences. Give the listener
something they cannot buy or get from anyone else and you will make
a raving fan. I can give you a few recent examples. We flew a couple
of listeners to the Gospel Music Channel to be in the audience of
Chris Tomlin’s Christmas Special, flew another couple to Waco to
have lunch with David Crowder and attend the release party concert
for “Church Music” and we invited a small group of listeners to have
lunch with the Morning Cruise and Brandon Heath before one of his
concerts in our area.
6. Do you use any show prep services…
tell why of why not?
We subscribe to Interprep and I am
probably going to add Show Prep Solution soon. I like the fact that
Show Prep Solutions is primarily links to interesting articles and
has a pretty good artist news section. Interprep is a broad service
that we use mainly as brain starters or for the audio bites. We
rarely use something straight off the service. Twitter is also a
pretty good source for keeping up with artists and for peeking into
the lives of random listeners in your demo.
7. What are the biggest obstacles facing
Christian morning radio today?
Fear. Fear of change, fear of offending
someone, fear of taking risks, fear of sounding too “mainstream”.
8. Do you
think there will be more or less morning syndication in the future
of Christian radio?
Well if there’s more I hope our show is
one of the ones syndicated, otherwise I might find myself spending
more time on the beach. Truthfully, I’m not sure. We talk a lot
about localism being a key to radio’s future, but at the same time
tighter budgets and technology do make the syndication option seem
awfully appealing. I think the temptation to put major market talent
in small to medium markets at an affordable price can be good for
the station budgets and for the listener, if it’s done well.
Syndication can work it just has to be more entertaining and more
engaging than anything the local station can offer.
9. What (if any)
Christian radio morning shows do you consider as innovators today?
That’s a tough one for me to answer,
primarily because I don’t spend much time air checking other
Christian shows. I would say that any show that’s asking, “What can
we do that nobody else is doing?” or “How can we do this better?”.
I think there are a handful of shows trying to push the envelope of
Christian radio and I would like to think we’re one of those shows.
10. Where do you see Christian morning
radio in 5 years?
I think that as we see more Christian
morning teams push the fear aside and look for ways to honestly
engage the audience we will also see Christian radio become more
competitive in the mornings. We’re already seeing some ratings
success stories. I know it’s not all about the numbers, but I also
know that larger audiences mean more opportunities to influence our
culture and engage people with the gospel. So I think the next 5
years will see Christian morning shows look and feel more like their
mainstream counterparts, but with a hope that transcends just being
“positive and family friendly”.
Or The Morning Cruise just takes over
the world. I’m good either way.