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Radio Interview

                                     

Rob Conway

Music Director

WGTS

Washington DC

 

 

Rob's Career Capsule
Has worked in Christian radio now for the past ten years in Washington, DC doing mornings, afternoons and mid-days at WGTS. He was the Production Director for 5 years and for the past year has been the Music Director. He’s had the privilege of working with top national consultants like Alan Mason, John Frost and Tommy Kramer who have given him an invaluable amount of knowledge and funny jokes. One of his highlights was creating a remix of MercyMe’s I Can Only Imagine following the Columbia Shuttle tragedy in 2003, which got airplay on stations all across the country.

 

1. First tell us what the current status is on the future of WGTS?

Unfortunately, the future is a bit unclear for WGTS as our parent company is considering a sale at the moment. However, it’s been incredibly amazing to see people coming out of the woodwork that we probably would never have heard from otherwise to show their support of this radio station. We’re in the most important city in the world with incredible reach around the globe. And we’re confident that He has a purpose for WGTS and that purpose is being worked out every step of the way.  (editor note: The Columbia Union College board (owners of WGTS) will vote September 20th to decide who they will sell the station...click here to read a letter "A Letter to WGTS" listeners from management.)

 

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

It’s interesting, because the professionals within Christian radio haven’t changed much in the past five years, but we’ve been given more tools to work with that make the big dreams possible. It’s now much easier to gauge how the listener feels about the music and the radio station as a whole through online and auditorium research. And we’ve become (as an industry) more focused on what the needs of the listeners are and it’s evident when you hear breaks that actually engage the listener.

 

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

What I think separates a Christian PD from any other PD in radio is the opportunity to form a family-type relationship. I think PD’s need to be a mentor to their staff, to be available to bounce ideas off of and think strategically. They’ve really got to know the needs of the community and build from there.

I’ve had the privilege of working with some terrific PD’s. Some of the best times have been going to Baja Fresh for lunch. It’s these moments that make you realize how amazing an automation system is.

 

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

Our main goal is to play music that our listeners expect to find when they flip on our station. With that said, I don’t think that limits us either. It’s really a matter of finding those songs with strong lyrical content that matches her lifestyle and values. I’ve heard other PD’s and MD’s say that a song needs to be “radio worthy”, which usually boils down to whether it’s got a good catchy beat and hook. While that can be helpful, we also need to be willing to look outside the box sometimes. “I Can Only Imagine” wasn’t played on CHR for several months after it was hugely popular because it was thought to be too “INSPO”. And who would have thought just a couple of years ago that tobyMac was going to be a huge AC hit? (I thought he was just a CHR artist! J)

 

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

I’ll start first with what doesn’t work: doing giveaways to the 7th caller, or only focusing on the “real” fans of your station or those who know all the trivia to their favorite artist. Those kinds of promotions don’t get to engage the listener, especially the casual ones. There’s too much else competing for their attention each day. I like promotions that get everyone involved, even if they don’t intend to call the radio station. It’s still got to be entertaining for the thousands of others who are just listening.

You’re always going to have the “two-percenters” out there who are always going to call even if you’re giving away the lint from your pockets. The bottom line we look for when doing a promotion is doing something that really gets to the core values our listeners share and that can produce good story.

 

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

More access to artists. We’ve enjoyed this past summer, for instance, giving our listeners the chance to crash bumper cars with Casting Crowns and ride roller coasters with Jeremy Camp. These fun, unique opportunities give our listeners the chance to see their favorite artists outside the confines of a stadium or a stage and really get to feel like they know them and realize they’re real people, too. This is one way we (radio stations and record labels) can work together to reach the fans that other radio stations can’t.

 

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

Trying to be like everyone else. Christian radio has a unique message that automatically makes us different than others, but we don’t always capitalize on what those things are that make us different. Stop giving the listeners the attributes of your station and begin focusing on the values. If you’re still promoting that you have the best mix or variety of music, just realize that’s not something you’re going to win. Find the things you can win that really connect with the values of the listener.

 

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

Everything that comes out of your mouth needs to have some kind of relevance to the listener. Your goal should be to create that one-on-one experience like you were talking to a friend. Obviously, finding entertaining ways of approaching each topic is essential, getting to the point and not wasting her time. But I also believe “entertainment value” depends highly on whether she cares or not and if it’s on her mind. Each break needs to be filtered this way. It’s better for digestion, too.

 

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

I’ve always been impressed with how stations like Z88.3 in Orlando have been able to make a real connection with their listeners and build real commitment. They’ve never attempted to re-invent the wheel, just use it differently. I’ve never heard a wasted break, and they take each opportunity to do something that will impact their listeners in some way.

 

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

We’ve seen incredible growth over the past five years, where many of the top 10 or 5 stations in a given market are Christian. I think we’re at a pivotal point now for the industry. In the same way Country radio faced drastic changes 10 or 15 years ago, if Christian radio stations were to truly realize their potential and find new ways of being relevant in today’s world, we could see some amazing impact on our communities and others really beginning to take notice.

 

 

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