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Radio Interview

                                     

 

MIke Couchman

PD / PM Drive

WLGH / Lansing

 

Mikes' Career Capsule
I'm pretty much a Michigan boy. Started at a NAC/AAA hybrid in Lansing (WLNZ FM), moved on to do country at WBHR in Lansing, which got bought and changed to WXIK (but stayed country). Did LOTS of swing for WBCT Grand Rapids, also country, while at WXIK. Then my first stint here at WLGH as afternoon guy and imaging/production. Left in summer of 1999 for mainstream CHR WHZZ in Lansing.
Did nights and promotions there. Started doing some APD work for a mainstream CHR internet start up, but it stalled. Then on to WKQI in Detroit for swing and weekend stuff. Late in 2000, I returned to WLGH as PD and morning guy. About 2 months into this job, I left WKQI because it's hard to be a PD/morning guy AND have another weekend job.  Now I'm HAPPILY doing afternoons and spending time with my wife for the first time since we got married :-).

 

1. What is the most challenging aspect of programming a Christian radio station today?

Keeping your station fresh, compelling, relevant, entertaining, and meaningful all at once.  It's rare that I feel our station is accomplishing all of those things all the time.

 

2. What is the most fulfilling aspect to you personally about Christian radio?

I honestly used to view it as just another format, like Country or CHR. After 9/11/2001, it was painfully obvious how much more stations like ours can offer people.  Knowing that our team plays a part in that is fulfilling. And being surrounded by people who aren't driven by the same things we're
normally driven by in mainstream formats to a point that nobody else matters is very nice.

 

3.How is the role of a Christian radio PD different from secular?

I think for most stations, it's simply the number of "hats we wear." I currently do an afternoon show, all music and research tasks, most production, all imaging, all traffic, and a few other misc. odds and ends. And that's about average for many Christian radio PDs'.  Unfortunately that's also becoming more common in mainstream too. Aside from that, Christian radio programmers not only have to find a musical common ground for their target, but a spiritual one too. No mainstream programmer will get overly concerned about whether or not they are alienating members of a certain denomination, or putting too much attention on another.  The spiritual aspect of their station's content is much more in the background of their overall sound if it's even there at all.  With us, it defines who we are to our listeners even more than the music.

 

4. What is the typical day like in the life of a Christian radio programmer?

I'm sure it varies from person to person.  But I'll bet most weekdays are no shorter than 10 hours for most.

 

5. Do the same programming principles and basics apply to CCM radio as
secular?

Good radio is good radio.  We are working in formats that reflect directly on God. God is superior to ANYTHING else that ever existed.  His stations should sound superior to ANY other stations that ever existed.  He is excellent and we should reflect that without making excuses or rationalizing why we can't. Apart from my super-spiritual speak, CCM formats STILL have to battle the "hymns and preaching" stereotypes that exist.  If a potential listener finds an AC or CHR station for the first time and that station doesn't have the basics down, the stereotype continues. We MUST always be on the top of our game.  Mistakes will happen because we are human; but as long as we never stop striving to master the basics and build on them, we'll be in good shape.

 

6. When searching for new CCM radio on air talent what do you look for?

The right kind of attitude, personality, and a willingness to take ownership of the position.  Potential will usually win over experience.  Humility, insatiable curiosity, and a desire to grow from within.

 

7. How can Christian record labels better serve Christian radio?

I want to create more memories for my listeners. Winning a CD a week before it's in stores is sort of memorable. Getting a phone call from the artist who's CD it is is REAL memorable. Winning a vacation that includes one-on-one time with an artist is MUCH more memorable than winning a trip to see their concert from the 55th row. I'd love to see labels partner more with stations not typically in their comfort zone to create these memories.  I realize it's smart to go where you know you'll get results, yet risk is always required for rewards and more growth.

 

8. What type of promotions do your listeners respond to most?

The community service aspect of our promotions this year has been mind-blowing.  Our listeners more than tripled how many clothes they provided in our annual clothing drive for Ukraine.  (71 TONS of clothes this fall vs. 20-ish tons last fall).  Their willingness to help in local food and toy drives has also been extraordinary. They still call to win concert tix, music, etc.  But there are days where we get more calls from people looking to help somebody than there are requests or people wanting to win something.  I can't remember it being that way when I worked here the first time or when I came back two years ago.  I think 9/11 has something to do with it; and we've worked harder at making these promotions stand out.

 

9. What  other Christian radio stations do you consider as innovators today?

I'm never able to keep up with them the way I'd like to.  WONU in Chicago comes to mind, WUFM in Columbus, KXOJ, KSBJ and The Fish format in general.  I've been able to follow Atlanta's and Chicago's Fish more than the rest.  I selfishly think we (WLGH) innovate a bit :-); and I think most stations in the CHR format are making leaps and bounds of progress in learning about their listeners and finding unique ways to connect.

 

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

I see ACs' continuing to thrive and sign on.  I'd like to say the same for CHR, but we don't have a lot of high profile or large market stations potential owners can look at as a reference point. There isn't a quintessential "Fish" or "KSBJ" that defines the CHR format...yet!  Overall, Christian radio in 5 years will be one of radio's few successful genres as long as more stations keep researching their listeners and market and properly applying what they learn, and as long as we keep our priorities in the right order.

 

 

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