1991-92 I was at a top 5 College Station, 90.3 FM KUSF, San
Francisco. I was Asst. Underwriting Director for a department that
brought in the most underwriting in KUSF’s 18 years of service. I
had heard of KUSF reading my Rolling Stone a year earlier, and when
I graduated community college, I headed west to be in radio and
finish school at the University of San Francisco, a catholic Jesuit
school. I also wanted to know faith that I grew up with in the home.
I learned it. I got saved while hanging out with a bunch of
spirit-filled Christians who attended USF.
left USF in 1992 not finishing school and joined a rock band in
Athens GA to evangelize kids in the clubs. I was the vocalist
writing Christian lyrics. Ultimately, I returned to DC and met my
wife, Angela (just celebrated 12 years on Easter) who answered an ad
I had for a band in a music street paper. After we were married in
1995, we moved to VA beach and became youth pastors. We started a
band there too. I volunteered some at WODC (Anne Verbelee was
manager). In 1999, the Lord asked “what do you want to do?” I told
him radio and began pursuing it. I was frustrated because not many
were doing a Christian Rock format. It was my prayer. My wife and I
returned to DC and I enrolled in college at George Mason University
to finish my school. I took an internship at WAVA FM 105.1 and a 10
hour week position board operator while attending school. I
graduated GMU in 2001. Salem had already asked me to help with
operations on their XM project which featured XM 170 FamilyTalk, XM
32 The Fish (now, The Message) and XM 31 The Torch. I became the MD
of The Torch in 2002 and have been doing it ever since.
Personally how do you keep the ministry in the “business”?
the Bible says all believers have the ministry of reconciliation.
So, it already is there as long as I remain in relationship with
Jesus. He is constantly showing me things about what I do, about how
to handle situations and share the power of His life in me. The
Christian music industry is a business. That reality will never
change and industry can never be ministry by itself. We who believe
have been given the ministry of reconciliation. I am a person
charged with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and commissioned to preach
it whether I do this job or not. What I do is business. I work for a
media company and the first rule of all commercial media is to make
money. The ministry of reconciliation is inside of me because that
is where Jesus lives. He said, “him and his father would make their
abode with us” in the Gospel of John. That is the confidence I
strive to walk in everyday and distribute to whomever I come in
contact with daily. Listening to Him will keep the business
practice full of integrity, joy and it will not be burdensome.
has Satellite radio affected Christian radio in general?
know. Christian Radio has a lot of commercial free stations in
general so I don’t know how it would change it. We all have 168
hours a week to program. The church to me should not be competing
against itself. My former general manager said to me when he
launched an FM Christian talk station that many came to him in
Christian radio community saying the station with its big signal
would “crush them.” His reply was, “The audience is a
huge and growing pie and
none of us have gotten all of it for ourselves.” Matter of fact, all
the Christian stations didn’t have much of the pie in the community.
The whole pie should be our focus. Secular radio competes viciously
everyday for listeners. I think Christian radio should do the
reverse and present unity. It is, after all, a church on the
airwaves much of the time. Christian radio is asking listeners in
the marketplace to make not just a Christian programming choice but
many times a complete change of thinking and way of living. Our
business practice should represent that very life. The potential
audience is a huge pie and concerns the whole market. There are
things local Christian radio can do to super-serve their communities
that I can’t do. Satellite radio should not change their view about
look at what is going on in the world and particularly with the
events at Va. Tech, the question I would have to ask is, how have we
changed the hearts of people in our communities? Are we presenting
the powerful Gospel to a society that continues to fall asleep in
the malaise of culture? Are we telling people you can have an
impacting relationship with Jesus that goes beyond mere religion and
institutional form? Are we giving them a real experience on radio
that compels men and women to seek Jesus with all of their heart? A
friend of mine said he would not go to church because he “didn’t
like the paisley pink presentation and surroundings.” What he meant
was, it was not speaking to him the way Jesus spoke to him
personally as a man of faith. It was water downed and whitewashed.
My wife calls it “milk toast.” Are we presenting milk toast or that
real message in a significant way?
there are things people have to deal with in the business. But as
long as you can present the reality of the transforming relationship
with Jesus then all of us should be fine and getting more of that
ever expanding audience pie than we are accustomed too.
What do you think are
the main characteristics of today’s Christian radio PD?
Integrity. Servant. Creative. A PD needs to find the gifted,
recognize their strengths and put them in a place to succeed. When I
was a youth pastor, my goal was to work myself out of the position
by training kids to be ministers of reconciliation. My wife and I
just had lunch with some of our former youth visiting DC with their
spouses! One leads worship in her church!
(especially rock) needs to be creative constantly and listen to
creative ideas and take chances. I program a rock format that is
Christian centered. I REALLY DON’T COMPETE WITH RADIO. I COMPETE
WITH IPOD”S AND THE INTERNET! In the era of MySpace and internet and
all that, doing the same ole radio formatting will kill you. Music
is important to kids and they can see right through safe “program
for the ladies or mothers” that works in other formats but not in
rock! They vote with their feet when they feel they are being
spoon-fed. As a youth pastor, to present the mundane church program
meant kids would not come back next week. They wanted connection,
ownership of their group and validity. Trusting in them helped build
the boundaries because they in turn trusted what I was saying to
them, which was the gospel. When they got the Gospel nothing stopped
them. A PD that can allow their staff that kind of freedom will
succeed in the 21st century.
What criteria do you
require for a song to be played on your station?
kicks maximus musically and it has great production so it will sound
good on the broadcast. There are great songs I receive in the mail
that are not finished from a production standpoint.
artist friendly. One of the biggest disappointments to me is when
artists get bitter about the Christian music industry. I have seen
it so much on the rock side. I have heard stories of great music not
getting airplay because it did not pass a “lyrical review.” I am
talking great songs that have valuable faith lessons to discover
when you dig beyond the surface. It is no wonder that artists get
angry and quote – fall away. As an industry, we lose valuable human
resources from artists, to marketers because we judge before we
listen and understand.
the artists who eagerly seek to work in the Christian music industry
because they obviously believe and seek Jesus relationally. They
have a specific calling to basically go broke making music to
express it. That is enough for me right there to honor them by
reviewing their music and honestly considering it for airplay. On
top of that, labels see their talent and seek to help them along.
Someone has taken faith in their message, whether it be overt or
poetic, and invested in their career and their own business. I find
that honorable and therefore I can relax and be at peace listening
to the message with a heart of flesh and not stone. Furthermore, I
trust my listener’s discernment (and tell them even that they have
it and have to make a choice). You would be surprised the types of
things kids learn from music that we, as programmers, never see. I
have faith that God is in control of his relationship with my
listeners and I can focus on the making great radio.
artists have left the “Christian music industry.” I still celebrate
their contribution and follow their careers. Some listeners ask me,
“are they still Christian?” I respond, “they probably still have
their relationship with Jesus though I haven’t asked them. I haven’t
asked 98% of the artists on my station now ‘if they are still
Christian.’ If I wanted to meticulously judge, I could find
something wrong with everyone. My question is, ‘does that song still
speak to you that they wrote when they ‘were Christian?’” The answer
to that is always “yes.”
What kind of
promotions work best for Christian Satellite radio?
driven promotions. Presenting artists and events relevant to the
Christian music fans!
How do you think
Christian Record labels can better serve Christian radio?
their music on CD. I am a digital broadcaster and I know download
servicing companies help them immensely, but I cannot use them. Send
CD copies out on the release date (or 2 days before
so we, the radio peoples, can review them and can tell our audience
that the CD rocks! I personally am not going to take it home and
stick it on my shelf because we need a resource CD at XM! I often
share music with other MD’s and PD’s who do rock alternative formats
here at XM because we are all in the same building.
know, kids are passionate about the message of the Gospel, but what
they are really excited about is their music that they stylistically
enjoy presenting the powerful message of the Gospel. And when you
honestly present that as they honestly appreciate it, then you have
a win win situation.
So these types of things to help the radio person on-air to put
forth honest communication about the music and the message in it
will help get the listeners more excited about the music and go out
and buy it.
this email out from a listener: -
First of all, let me tell you what
an AWESOME station The Torch is!!! I was a die-hard ethel fan (XM
47), but the only station I listen to now (with the exception of
ESPN and MLB) is XM 31. What a great time in Christian music that
there are so many great artists out there that appeal to the crowd
outside of the pop-christian music scene. My question is, where in
the world can I go to get this great music? Is there a website or
good music store out there? I am working away from home, so I do
not know if there are any national chains that you can recommend to
me or is it best to try to find it on the bands' websites? Thanks
and God Bless!!
just one example of many. I say something on the air about an artist
and I will get an email that sometimes completes the story. I asked
my listeners one time about the Thousand Foot Krutch record,
The Art of Breaking and
what does the title mean? I really didn’t have an answer to my
question. I had no clue. I got like ten emails with explanations
that day with scripture references so significant and powerful, I
had a Bible study at work.
goes back to my point, listeners already know what is going on in
the music, because they are fans!! Many times, they became fans of
bands before I did!! That is why their artist is on the radio!
Because they supported them! They don’t need us to tell them who
Jesus is all the time or present this in a spoon-fed manner. I just
try and help them along with things that I know or can ascertain
from being in the business. It is my job to push the story of the
music out so the fans can develop better connection with their
artists of choice. Having the CD resource and stories behind the
records helps to turn listeners into music buying fans!
In your opinion what
are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio today?
don’t think there are any. We have a creative group of music artists
and bands making impacting art that is edifying and engaging the
culture head on. The message is the most powerful on the planet!!!
It’s truth! The biggest obstacle is ourselves getting in the way of
what these powerful people can do when given the access to do it. We
need to not water down what these people are doing or are saying.
When an artist comes to XM 31 The Torch, I am here to serve them. I
want to hear their story, record it and pass it on to my listeners.
Their testimony is an encouragement to the listeners.
just one example of how not to get in the way. Some believe that the
person in charge is accountable for whatever goes over the air. That
is true, but in a Christian world that is based on Corinthians 13.
Two qualities stand out in that chapter - Love always trusts and
never fails. If I can present that on the air by being inclusive
rather than exclusive for fear out of how a song message maybe
perceived then I am fully accountable. So I try to get out of the
way when I am not certain. Plus many times, the listener is smarter
8. What do
you believe is the primary role of the Christian radio air
for the music. We know you have passion for the ministry. I do both
on air. But I am not trying to use the format to hopefully keep kids
from listening to other things. They will do it anyway if they
choose. But if I am honest in my presentation they will comeback and
stay with us. So if you are connected like they are to the genre
then you will be easily relatable. Some have questioned whether I
was playing Christian music. Well if you are passionate, you know
what is going on and are able to lead and build a relationship with
a new listener who is examining your station for the first time.
answer all emails personally. It is the most important thing I do.
Some of the correspondence turns into conversations because people
are passionate about Jesus and the music they hear on XM 31. The
internet has deteriorated the traditional MEDIA gatekeeper’s
authority in society. This job hasn’t given me privilege or a higher
position in the cultural hierarchy, but an opportunity to
communicate the ministry of reconciliation to more people. Spinning
Christian tunes all day and reading a Bible verse on-air is NOT a
ministry. Building relationships with people
that get me and them one
step closer to Jesus is ministry.
(if any) Christian radio stations do you consider as innovators
– They have proven the power of full-metal Christian radio. I have
always admired their passion and execution to serve 12 -24 demo
where they are in the culture and kicking maximus continually.
Where do you see Christian radio in 5 years?
Internet. Wimax is coming soon.