the radio bug while growing up listening to the great Philadelphia
“Boss Jocks” of the 60’s and 70’s and knew what I wanted to do for
the rest of my life. While attending Houghton College, I discovered
the campus radio station and never looked back. Landed my first gig
in 1980 doing overnights on an AM station in Ogdensburg, NY…We
dropped to 250 watts at night, which meant I was pretty much
broadcasting to the guy across the street! I worked Christian radio
for a while in the mid-80’s in Philadelphia with WZZD. I took a
couple of years off from the business (WHY???) before getting
married in 1989. Started working my way back into radio (too many
stations to list!) and enjoyed my first real taste of success in
Harrisburg, PA from 1994-96 as a part of the Morning Show on WWKL (Kool
94.9) with the man I consider my mentor in this business, RJ Harris.
Got the opportunity to do my own CHR Morning show in 1996 in
Concord, NH (WJYY) and owned the market for 4 years. From there I
did mornings in Albany, NY, Central NJ and on to Columbia, MO for 3
years with KPLA, again enjoying tremendous success as “Hilley &
Hunter in the Morning”. After the station sold to Cumulus, things
changed and I left. In March of this year (2006), I joined KMFC, Joy
92 FM as PD and Morning guy. I’m now having a blast again as a part
of “SonRise with Karen and Kevin”!
Personally how do you keep the ministry in the “business”?
It’s easy to
lose track of Who we do this for. I’m surrounded by people who have
been in Christian radio longer than me, so that’s kind of a
safeguard against cynicism. Plus, hearing from listeners who were
touched by a song or something we said is a great reality check.
how is Christian radio different today, from 5 years ago?
definitely more attention being paid from outside the Christian
field. With Christian music sales being what they are, it was
inevitable that some entertainment industry attention would turn to
the radio side of things. Also, before I arrived here, it had been
20 years since I had been in Christian radio. I’m astounded at the
quality of the musical product. The professionalism and production
quality equals (and in come cases exceeds) anything in Mainstream.
3. What do
you think are the main characteristics of today’s Christian radio
We still face
some of the same issues and day-to-day concerns that we (those of us
who have arrived from a Mainstream radio background) did before. Air
talent stuff, labels, promotions, etc. In that sense we’re the same.
Hopefully we’re approaching it with a different perspective and
priority. Many of us are also working with less resources (money,
equipment) than our “secular” counterparts.
What criteria do you require for a song to be played on your
Above all, is
it a good song? It might contain the greatest message in the world
(and isn’t MOST of the music we play in that category?), but if it
isn’t enjoyable to listen to, it shouldn’t be on the air. I don’t
want to be a slave to the charts or trades, as valuable as those
tools are. But when a song hits me, my first reaction is usually,
“That would sound great on the air”. When we were in Nashville for
GMA Week this year, we saw Ayeisha Woods perform “Happy”. I had
never heard of her in my life, but my wife turned to me and said,
“You should be playing that”. I totally agreed, not knowing if it
would ever see the light of day at any other station in the country.
We’ve been playing that song since April and it’s just hit the
charts recently. Too many stations want to sound like everybody
else. Take a chance and play a local artist or two…or three! We do
and I think it gives KMFC a very distinctive sound.
5. What kind
of promotions work best for Christian radio?
recognize the usually smaller share we have in a market and don’t
try to outspend the big boys. Music and family related contests,
promotions, concerts, etc are great. Promotions should also reflect
6. How do you
think Christian Record labels can better serve Christian radio?
Realize that at any given time I have 3
or 4 unopened envelopes on my desk. Use MPE or other digital
delivery as much as possible. Also, initiate the conversation
sometimes. A call to the PD asking, “Would you be interested in
interviewing (artist) next week” would be welcome from time to time.
7. In your
opinion what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio today?
some growing pains going on. Misconceptions from outside the
industry can hurt us too. There were a couple friends of mine in
Mainstream radio who expressed surprise to see me go into
“religious” radio. They wanted to know if my new employer was going
to expect me “to testify”. A lot of people think Christian radio is
just preachers asking for money and guys who can’t make it in
8. What do
you believe is the primary role of the Christian radio air
entertain AND minister. We shouldn’t be afraid to one moment share
something out of the Word and the next make a joke about American
Idol. Good radio is good radio – and personally, I’d rather listen
to a good “secular” talk show than a bad “Christian” one. So often,
we settle for just “ok” because something has the “Christian” label
on it. That’s an insult to Jesus.
What (if any) Christian radio stations do you consider as innovators
I must admit
that I don’t hear many other Christian stations long enough to make
that kind of judgment.
10. Where do
you see Christian radio in 5 years?
suspect that the major players (ClearChannel, Cumulus, etc) are
going to start dipping into the format. From someone who saw the
devastation that Corporate radio brings, that saddens me. Yes, we’ll
probably see lots of promotional money and such, but I pray we don’t
see the day when every Christian station sounds just like every