I started my radio career in 1987 as an intern
at I-95 (WAPI-FM) in Birmingham. In 6 months I was an official
employee and in a year I was on the air doing weekends. For the
next few years I worked weekend on air shifts on several of the
local Birmingham radio stations until settling at Oldies 106.9 and
WZZK for a number of years. After jaunts doing radio in Panama City
Beach and Tallahassee, I met and married my wife Tina. My first work
in Christian radio started in 1998 when I did mornings and music at
Reality Radio 101.1 in Birmingham, AL. When they were sold a few
years later, it led to the desire to get a “real job”. Once my
degree was completed at UAB, I went to work for Arbitron training
and supporting agency buyers and radio sales people how to use their
Tapscan software products. Then after quite a series of unusual
event, I found out about the new APD/MD opening at Z88.3 in Orlando,
working for Dean O’Neal. As good as I had it at Arbitron, I jumped
at the chance to work for Dean. Now, here I am three years later.
has WPOZ evolved over the last few years?
We are far more involved promotionally than we ever were before.
When I first came to work here 3 years ago, we really only did our
own promotions or vanstops, creating them to promote ourselves in
the community. Now we work hard virtually every single week to make
sure we are out around town involved in existing events like county
fairs, art shows, vacation bible schools, Easter egg hunts, car
shows, and more. Two years ago we first participated in the Southern
Women’s show putting ourselves in front of tens of thousands of
women in our target audience. This is something we would not have
done just a few years ago. It paid off too, since the next year won
the People’s Choice award for favorite booth. The positive
experience there led us to create a baby expo of our own and work
with lots of local community groups to share the information women
need for babies and toddlers. We call it the “Little Ears Expo” and
we are planning out third annual expo right now.
2. Has WPOZ made any changes due to economic situation, been
affected in any way?
have felt the impact of the struggling economy. It has hit Orlando
particularly hard, much of which is driven by tourism. We were
unable to raise our entire 2009 budget during our annual Fundraiser
in November. Even with a make up day in January we only got to 92%
of our budget. This has forced us to make a few changes primarily
in the growth plan of the radio station. Tower and signal upgrades,
HD installs and power increases are all on hold for the time being
as we focus on tightening our belts to cover operational expenses.
However we have not seen the expected fall off in donations coming
in that we thought was possible, so we are confident that God is now
providing for us (and always has)!
3. How is Orlando a unique Christian market?
is a LOT of competition for people’s time and money here. We have
theme parks, resorts, concerts, professional sports and NASCAR,
beaches, state parks, lakes, and dozens of local events, art
festivals and more every single week! Even in the Christian music
arena we have at several venues with regular concerts and festivals,
3 or 4 major churches always hosting concerts, and that’s in
addition to Disney’s Night of Joy and Universal’s Rock the Universe
festivals. All this adds up to create a very busy market where
listeners are very particular with where they spend their money,
knowing that no matter how good an opportunity sounds, there will be
another good event in another week or two.
4. What criteria do you require for a song to be played on WPOZ?
First, it must be a song by a Christian artist. I know there has
been a lot of discussion about playing spiritual songs by mainstream
artists who are also believers, but we have decided that we going to
only play songs by Christians musicians doing music as a fulltime
ministry. Carrie Underwood, The Fray, U2, and many other great
artists are bringing their faith to their music and we appreciate
that, but feel that since we keep a pretty tight playlist and have a
promise to be “Safe for the Little Ears” with our audience we are
not going there. (Interestingly that is one thing I have never ever
gotten a question or complaint about.)
since the artist we consider are all CCM artists, we really are just
looking for the best song each week. I listen to dozens of songs
every single week and have the difficult task of pairing it down to
one song. When you are getting 15-30 singles promoted to you by all
the labels each week, it is a tough thing to do, but we usually only
make a move or two at a time, so a song has to really shine to stand
out. Lyrically it has to be solid with a clear message and be
something that “Kate” (what we call our target listener) would truly
care about. Songs like Mighty to Save, Your Grace is Enough, Voice
of a Savior, Give Me Your Eyes and You Are Everything are great
examples of songs we felt had something special and they became 5 of
the biggest testing songs we had last year.
other factor that we consider and take very seriously is the quality
of the recording and mastering of the song. So many songs recently
have been “smashed” to pieces by the recording/mixing/mastering
process that by the time they get to us, on cd or digitally, the
sound is almost distorted. If we air a song like this, once it
passes through our radio processing (that has to happen) it gets
smashed even worse. Sadly the listener does not know that it is
something in the studio/mastering process and wonder why the label
would do that… they think it is something the radio station has done
and changes the channel. Thankfully in a few cases recently labels
have worked with us to get cleaner or unmastered versions to air,
but there will be songs that get passed over due to the fact that
the recording is just too full of inner modulation distortion.
Hopefully that will change in the industry in time, but for now it
is a major issue across the board.
5. What kind of promotions work best for Christian radio?
find that service is best. By this I am actually referring to when
we do a promotion that works to serve our listeners. We work with a
local organization every year for example to do free flu shots for
all of Central Florida. We literally do thousands of them at about
4-5 daylong events at the start of flu season. We also have done
summer safety events, a year long blood pressure / heart health
campaign, a major daylong event for families with special need
children, adoption fairs, a Christmas toy drive and even a caroling
event in local hospitals for kids on Christmas day. These types of
events connect listeners with us and us with them on a level unlike
any prize we could ever give away. It allows us to get into parts
of the local community in a way that we would not be able to with
giveaways and is one of the things allow people to introduce the Z
to their friends and family.
6. How do you think Christian Record labels can better serve
think that promotionally the labels are doing great. I say that
because the only people I ever deal with at the labels are the radio
promotions teams and publicists. I feel like I have good
relationships with most everyone I deal with and can ask for help if
I need things, and they can too.
Beyond my job or those radio promoters, I think the labels
themselves have to get this whole Artist Royalty/Performance Tax
issue straightened out. THAT is by far the biggest issue on the
table between radio and records. Off the record, most everyone I
talk to inside the labels (artists and employees alike) think the
bill as it is written now is a bad plan. They agree that Christian
radio (especially non-commercial) could be dangerously hurt by it
and that artists DO get a tremendous amount of benefit from being
exposed on the radio (hence the army of promoters paid to call me
each week to get me to play their record…) so we need to work
together (as difficult as that is) to work out a solution that is
fair to all, and that includes the consideration for both sides of
the issue (artist rights vs promotional value of radio).
7. In your opinion what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian
In most Christian radio stations salaries, benefits, and equipment
are all terribly under funded and the product in many cases reflects
it. Promotions, billboards, events, and research are just pipe
dreams in most stations. Even in a radio station with a large staff
and money set aside each year for auditorium music tests & research
studies, promotions, events, equipment upgrades and engineering, we
are still woefully behind what our mainstream competitors. It is a
constant uphill battle to get the best talent and do the best, most
competitive radio as a result.
8. What do you believe is the primary role of the Christian radio
job of the on air personality is to make the connection to the
listener. That may seem simplistic, but the role of a Christian
radio station today is to build a relationship with the people it
touches. The on air staff is the first line of contact and the ones
who they actually get to know. As this relationship builds people
will come to events, concerts and other places where they can see
and touch the staff, but 98% of our day to day contact with the
community is done right there with the stories, songs and phone
calls with the on air personalities.
9. What (if any) Christian radio stations do you consider as
has the most amazing website and does great promotions. Morgan Wood
at KTIS and Carmen Brown at JOY-FM are both super creative minds who
are doing really different, out of the box promotions with their
radio stations and both of them are using technology like Twitter or
Facebook in imaginative ways to reach their audience. Shannon
Steele at KDUV has a fantastic understanding about what their
listeners want to hear in the music as well as their on air
Where do you see Christian radio in 5 years?
I have to say that I do not know, but I am afraid that if our
industry does not work together and move quickly, we will find
ourselves out of date and too far behind. Radio as a whole is going
to experience so many changes and influences in the next 5 years
from PPM ratings changes to WiMax projects to fast moving mobile
technology for streams, the industry could be in big trouble. Like
I mentioned earlier, with out low budgets and lack of resources at
most stations, it is going to be even harder for us to keep up with
it all. I have to say I agree with what Tommy Kramer said
recently. “If you do not twitter, if you do not have an iPhone, if
you are not on Facebook, if you do not have a Podcast and if your
website has not been updated in the past month, then you are already
a dinosaur and in grave danger of becoming extinct!” Hopefully we
will be working hard for the next 5 years!