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Radio Interview

                                     

Kai Elmer

National Music Assistant

Moody Broadcasting Network

Chicago

 

 

Kai's Career Capsule
My first real experience in radio was my senior year in high school when I interned at 106.5 FM KWPZ in Lynden, WA.  Fully bitten by the radio bug, I headed off to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL in the fall of 2001.  I was on staff at Moody Campus Radio (www.moodycampusradio.com) until I graduated in May of 2005, serving in a variety of roles including on-air host, music director, and program director, before serving as station manager for two and a half years.  In August of 2003, I started at 90.1 FM WMBI in Chicago, IL as a weekend board operator and fill-in announcer.  In December of 2004, I interned at mainstream Hot AC 101.9 FM THE MIX (WTMX) in Chicago, IL in the promotions department and ultimately was hired as a promotions assistant.  While I continue as an announcer, promotions assistant, writer, producer, and volunteer coordinator for WMBI, my main responsibility is to serve as National Music Assistant for the Moody Broadcasting Network (Chicago, IL), which I started in May of 2005.

 

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

Dear Moody Broadcasting: Driving home this evening a song came on the air that had a chorus of "I will praise you in this storm, and I will lift my hands...".  This song, these lyrics, are perfect for a family that is friends of our cousins from the DuBuque, Iowa area that is currently losing their not quite 2 year old little girl to a very aggressive and very painful cancer battle.  The words are so meaningful, because this family just exemplifies the hope and courage and trust that only real children of God can know in situations like these.  Their testimony of faith through Courtney's illness has been absolutely awe inspiring. I need to know who this artist is!  This family would be extremely touched by this song, I'm sure.  Can you please forward any information? I pray that God will send this to you for reciprocation very quickly - even tonight, so that I might give this to them if, or before, Jesus calls Courtney home!  She is very ill tonight, Saturday, and they have been told that she may not make it to Monday.  Please hurry in your reply!

As I replied to this email, my own heart broke for dear little Courtney.  But as my heart wept, I realized what a joy it is to know that through the powerful lyrics of this song, those who love her so deeply can find hope in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during this difficult time.  This email reminded me again why God called me to Christian radio and why we must always strive to not get sidetracked by all the externals and keep Kingdom business – our “main thing” as broadcasters – as our focus.  Courtney died a few days later, but with the information we were able to provide, Casting Crowns’ “Praise You In This Storm” was played at her funeral.  

Music is such a powerful tool in helping us keep the main thing in focus, and in instances like this, we’re poignantly reminded that – apologies to Third Day – it brings hope to hopeless, rest to the weary, and joy to the broken of heart.  Isn’t that why we’re on-air each day?  Whether it be through our teaching programs, what we say on-air, and yes, even through our music… in all that we do, may we never forget the awesome message we have to share as Christian broadcasters.  What we’re doing is changing and impacting lives as we share with listeners the love and hope of Jesus Christ.

 

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

In a recent article in CCM Magazine, editor Jay Swartzendruber wrote an article entitled, “Where Have All the AC Artists Gone?”  If you haven’t read it, check it out… pretty interesting stuff.  In response to album sales trends, almost every record label (thank goodness for Reunion!) has now turned its attention away from new adult contemporary pop artists.  INSPO/Light AC stations and networks have been directly impacted by this, and will continue to be adversely affected if trends continue.

 

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

As far as programming philosophy goes, it should be our goal to make an eternal impact in the lives of listeners through a radio station – based on the ever-powerful Word of God – that features conversation connecting Christ and culture, positive music that brings glory to God and draws the listener into worship, dynamic features and bits that challenge listeners to spiritual growth, and production levels second to none.  Most importantly, we need to empower listeners to unashamedly engage their faith in today’s society.

 

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

There are a number of criteria that we look at before a song gets our stamp of approval.  We really are trying to have our playlists reflect the music being used in our churches today, so that’s going to put a pretty heavy emphasis on praise & worship, hymns, and songs that are more vertical in nature.  The lyric is first and foremost… but it’s got to have that one two punch of a compatible sound too.  Granted, that may limit us a bit in terms of serviced singles, so that’s why we aren’t necessarily afraid at looking at alternate cuts on projects if they fit the unique taste of our listener.  When we find a great song that won’t turn off a 30 year old listener and new stuff that a 65 year old listener can relate to, we’re all over it.

 

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

Sure, it would be nice to have some sweet prizes like cars, trips, and money, but in all honesty, the best promotions for Moody Radio are ones that have a lasting Kingdom impact and ones that reach crowds we don’t normally reach.  As far as ministry impact, a number of our stations recently partnered with the Bible League to purchase Bibles for Africa, partnered with Buckner Orphan Care to provide shoes for children who needed them in South America, and hosted large supply drives after the hurricanes rocked Louisiana.  As far as promotions that reach crowds we may not normally have access too, WMBI partners with Windy City Raceway Ministries whenever the NASCAR circuit is here in town and Moody has been a rest/aid stop on the Chicago Marathon course for a number of years now.

 

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

As much as I want to help get a song to number one, that’s not why we’re going to add a song.  I really appreciate labels (like INO) who don’t lay on the pressure if we decide to pass on a particular song that isn’t compatible for us, but may be a “hit” elsewhere.  It all boils down to labels really taking time to get to know the ministry goals and objectives of each station, and tailoring their interactions with them accordingly.  I also really appreciate it when a label treats each station equally – from the small market station that may only have played one of their songs in the past year to the large market station that’s been on board with everything.

 

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

Cookie cutter programming.  Lack of creativity.  Afraid of taking risks.  On-air clutter.  Lack of variety.  DJ’s without a point.  Irrelevancy.  Underwhelming presentation.  Pride.  Lack of ministry focus, unity, and solidarity.  We’re all serving the Kingdom together… not as competitors.

 

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

To be an authentic friend and companion – whether it’s talking or praying with listeners, sharing words of encouragement, hosting music or programs, or simply giving the weather.  Radio is like the circus… so practice being a great ringmaster.

 

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

Depending on the format, there are a number of stations out there that are doing some great work.  For INSPO, I have a lot of respect KCBI in Dallas.  AC leaders in my book are KCMS in Seattle, KTIS in Minneapolis, WPOZ in Orlando, KSBJ in Houston, KTSY in Boise, and KLTY in Dallas.  CHR has some great stations out there too… including WONU here in Chicago, KLYT in Albuquerque, KDUV in Fresno, and KFFR in Pullman, WA

 

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

A renewed commitment to Christ, and better knowledge of its purpose within the Kingdom.  With the advent of so many new technologies and options for music delivery, a renewed commitment to localized, life changing, substantive, and compelling content.

 

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