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Radio Interview

                                     

Rick Welke

Owner

The Passion Group

Nashville

 

 

Rick's Career Capsule
Rick was most recently with Radio & Records as their Christian Music Editor. He helped establish the Christian section in the mainstream trade publication and introduced national charts from the AC, CHR, Rock, Rhythmic, Inspirational, and Gospel formats that are considered the most accurate and most viewed charts in the industry. He currently serves radio stations, companies, and artists, in reaching their full potential through the company he established in late 2004 called The Passion Group. Rick has served in various roles previously at radio, retail, and the Internet, as well as a youth worker through the church and with Youth For Christ.

 

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

It’s very different. Five years ago the number of people paying attention to Christian radio was much lower than it is today. The number of stations out there has also grown, along with a more diverse approach coming from more directions today than just a few years ago.

The most exciting difference however is the number of stations that are taking the competition factor more seriously. Stations sound better than ever, they are using and putting into practice fundamentally sound programming skills, and they are reaching more people than ever before.

 

2. What are the main reasons why a Christian station should consider hiring a consultant?

Someone looking from the outside in to evaluate all aspects of the station, its programming, and its impact on a community, is an invaluable resource to have in your frequency’s arsenal to reach your goals, objectives, and overall mission.

All of the stations I have partnered with – and it is a partnership – have been affected positively by a non-staff member’s involvement. I believe in almost all cases a consultant [any consultant] having their hand in the operations of a station that is serious about getting better at doing the business of ministry is immeasurably important. Not all consultant’s are alike, nor do they all offer the same things to the client station, but almost all help provide a balance to the priority goal of a station reaching their overall mission.

 

3. What do you think are the main ingredients of a hit song in Christian radio?

What a loaded question [grin]. You would believe that this question would have one easy answer within the walls of radio. But it doesn’t, and it never will. The closest I could put it into words would be a song that evokes an emotional response from the listener. Whether it evokes a sigh, a tear, a tapping foot or a bobbing head, or a chorus that sticks in your head for hours after you have heard the song, that type of emotional connection between the artist and the listener is priceless, and almost always equals a hit song.

 

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

Promotions that impact the most of amount of individual listeners. Now promotions mean different things to different people, so I probably need to clarify a bit. Some believe promotions are those things you do on air, including contests and giveaways. But the real definition of promotions is how you promote your station into your coverage area, on-air and off-air. No advertising or billboards, but person-to-person promotion of the ministry. Many stations fail in this regard each and every day.

The majority of Christian stations don’t do active promotions or marketing in their community. And that is a disservice to the overall mission of the station. If a station doesn’t have even a minimal plan to promote the station in a real face-to-face way in it’s coverage area – dare I say it – they are either misinformed as to what is truly important in serving a community through the realm of radio media, or don’t truly desire to reach deeper into the community to reach those that need to know about the station, and then hopefully come to know Christ through the lyrics and lives of those that surround the station. Shooting it straight, promotions are just as important as your programming.

 

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

Not sure they can ‘serve’ radio better to a greater degree. Again, that statement means different things to different people in radio. Does it mean better servicing? Better contests? More prizes? Better communication? More artist visits? With the average radio promotions department budget cut by a third or more over the past couple years, they are constantly challenged to do more with less. So it is difficult to put more responsibility on the labels to ‘serve radio better.’

I will say though that radio, at times, has unrealistic expectations from labels, or at least a specific label or promoter. I do believe that the very best way that labels could serve radio better would be to service them with a more diverse array of art so radio can pick and choose what to play to meet their listener needs. Presently we are in a “mid-tempo light rock mode” with the mass majority of songs that are made available to radio. 18 months ago it was male-driven AC music. Remember that? It seems 10 years ago now. The problem though is that the labels are all riding the same horse for the most part, and there is only so much mid-tempo or light rock tunes a station can play at the same time. The race is tight, and a lot of songs are not getting a fair shake at the starting line right now.

 

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

Oh, I’m writing a book on this one presently. Kidding. Here is my short list:

[1] Diversity – I stole that one from Toby Mac. As many within and outside of our little corner of the industry know, our formats are not very diverse in regard to programming. Are we getting better? Yes. Do we have a ways to go? Most definitely. I truly believe that the individual programmer who programs a station based on their individual musical taste is stymieing the growth of Christian radio’s impact. Until this mindset changes, the mass majority of our stations will hover under a 2 share.

[2] Lack of talent – We have a cruise liner ship full of announcers, but only a small boat of truly talented entertainers on our stations. We also don’t have a big enough pool to pull from for new and somewhat experienced people to fill important roles like promotions, marketing, sales, programming, and production. And the sad part is, we keep expecting other stations to do that for us, instead of instilling processes and procedures in our own station to help in that process.

[3] Openness to new ideas –Stations have been called, predominantly, to do one of two things: superserve the church or a piece of it, or reach into culture and bring more people into the church. I don’t know of any station that is excellent at both, and don’t expect to ever to find one. Obviously many make some sort of an impact into each ‘demo,’ but not incredibly in both. What the stations on both side of this fence need to realize is that we are all doing what we are called to do with the resources that God has placed before us. We need to give the other group of stations space to do what they were meant to do, even if it doesn’t align with what we believe they should be doing – no matter which side of that fence you currently reside on.

 

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

Great question. Innovation equates invention plus advancement. There are honestly not many of those types of stations presently. But the number is growing. It’s easy to program like you’ve always programmed, and even for some to attempt to not ever program to upset anyone at any time [of course, realistically, that isn’t possible in any form of media]. I do applaud stations like KSBJ/Houston, WEXC/Youngstown and WPRJ/Saginaw-Midland, MI for looking to the future, instead of the past or present, in a more progressive programming mentality within their respective formats.

Some PD’s and station owners are asking the hard question of, “Why do we do what we do?” And then following that up with, “How do we truly go after our mission with all that we have?” That last question moves me, and is one of the main reasons I am now doing what I am doing. Helping a station realize their full potential to reach into culture and bring a piece of Christ into someone’s home or car, if only for a few minutes a day in a relevant way to the non-Christian radio listener, is something that stirs my heart.

Once a station dives into their market with every ounce of resource they have within their grasp, they can and will reinvent what is now called “Christian radio.” Once we have a few more stations do this and begin to truly impact culture, there will be no stopping these people/formats from maximizing the impact of life-changing art performed by Christians.

 

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

One of two places … either totally swallowed up by large networks that are locally impersonal and do not reach into culture on most plains of reality - or impacting the mass population one life at a time with passionate, relevant, localized programming that is innovative, true to its call, and working in each market to introduce real people to real art that points them to a real Savior.

 

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