10 Questions with ... Matt Dubiel
April 24, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started as an intern for Steve Dahl in 1995. Shortly after that I segued over to sister station WLUP (The Loop) to work on the Wendy & Bill Show at night during the FM Talk era. Then Wendy & Bill moved to mornings on Q101 and invited me to join them for the ride. I got my first paycheck in radio from Q101 in 1996 and fell in love.
Over the next 10 years I jocked at WTMX, WLLI, WCKG, and most notably programmed 9FM in Chicago from 2004-2007. In 2004, Mike Noonan and I joined forces to start a syndication company. Our first offering was a short form daily feature hosted by Donny Osmond which we later sold to McVay syndication in 2010. Some of the proceeds from that sale put us in position to purchase all of the intellectual property of Q101 (website, social media, database, archives, etc.) from Emmis before they closed on the sale of WKQX to Merlin Media. Merlin had made it known they planned on flipping WKQX to FM News.
1. Tell us about how the 20-year brand of Q101 lives on despite no current FM signal?
Q101 as a brand is like the Bat Signal in Chicago. Whether you're a fan or not, whether you identify with it as a Gen X & Y station (like most of us over 29), or as a borderline metal station (like many recent radio listeners) everyone recognizes the logo. The first breath of life we injected was to revamp the audio stream by increasing the quality of the audio and the content. We dusted off the masterful station branding produced by Ned Spindle and brought back the best music of the last 20 years to present the best version of Q101 possible.
The next order of business was to make the app free on iTunes and in the Android marketplace. Emmis used to charge $.99 for the app, which had numerous complaints from users for poor audio quality and poor user functionality. We are lucky enough to live in a time when nearly everyone is carrying a radio in their pocket and we needed to immediately make that free and easy for fans.
Once the current "core product" was fully in our control and on course, we moved on to shoring up the website functionality and social media engagement. The future of Q101 is very bright and is no longer chained to the conventions of "radio" but freed by the possibilities of the web. We're embracing the ability we have to engage directly with the audience via social media, but more importantly with direct contact via email and SMS. The future of Q101 transcends audio delivery and we're extremely excited about the future.
2. It's hard to believe it has been almost a year since Merlin Media flipped WKQX to FM News. Q101 helped pave the way for so many stations to switch to the alternative format back in the early '90s. How realistic is it for Q101 to return to the Chicago radio airwaves?
When CBS put WBBM on fm, they had to run promos on their AM station. They bought outdoor. They ran TV commercials. They hoped people wanted WBBM on FM. Merlin hoped people wanted FM News on 101.1 too.
We don't have to do any of that to bring back Q101. We don't have to hope, and we don't have to guess if there is a demand. For the first time in radio history, we can send a personal invitation each Q101 radio fan and invite them to listen to their favorite station. We do not have to buy outdoor, TV, Google Ads, Facebook ads, or anything else.
There is no building a station from scratch. We have the database of fans. They just need to be told where to find Q101. Right now, we're inviting them to our assets, which we own and control. No FCC licenses. No $30 million purchase price.
The problem is, we live in a world where it's easier to put a re-feed of your AM news on your FM signal. Radio companies are desperate for quality content. Chicago is screaming out for Q101's return...and because of all those reasons you would think it's a shoe in.
The sad reality however is radio has its head in the sand almost completely. Q101 wasn't taken off the air because it didn't bill or wasn't rating enough. It was taken off the air for a pet project. You can drive a truck through the demo hole in Chicago for men 18-49.
The real question is, who would do it and why? GTCR is kicking tires...but if it was not good enough to keep on 101.1 why venture another wager on a third station when your first two gambles are not paying off? The worst thing GTCR could do is try and go it alone when the secret sauce is right in their backyard.
CBS Chicago should work with us to put Q101 on 105.9 FM. If done properly it would protect WXRT formatically, give their sellers a nice wall of men to sell, and give their record reps a nice wall of rock. On the interactive front, the digital component of Q101 with B96 would really position CBS Chicago for the future with the combined digital reach of these two 18-34 mega-brands. It makes too much sense to make the "leap" and so realistically it mostly likely won't happen.
Honestly, we never intended on affording to get Q101 back on the "radio". Q101 is on the radio across the universe. The fans have screamed out for it though, and because of that, we've explained to them the best way to make it happen is to support Q101 via all our available channels. The reality though is terrestrial radio in Chicago needs Q101. Broadcasting companies need to give rabid fans like ours reasons to tune into their radio signals before they become worthless. The opposite is not true.
3. The station was leaning Active Rock before moving from the FM dial in July '11. How would you describe the music on Q101 today?
Q101 is getting closer and closer to sounding the way it should. It's a work in progress and we'll continue to work on it. At its core, Q101 is a melodic rock presentation of modern and alt rock and roll. Yes there will be Depeche Mode. Of course you'll hear Marilyn Manson. Metallica is gone. When WLUP and WDRV were owned by Bonneville in Chicago, WLUP was repositioned as a black t-shirt metal station. Then WLUP was sold to Emmis. Emmis did the same thing, except this time they repositioned Q101 as black t-shirt metal station to elevate The Loop's brand.
This left the audience confused about the brand and sponsors confused about the audience. We're working to reshape Q101 as the Generation X & Y lifestyle brand it was known for. It's not easy. We have to turn down promotions and money for Motley Crue and Kiss shows...but the brand is worth it.
4. How much of the Q101 listenership have you retained online and via phone apps?
In this new world we live in, we don't think of Q101 fans as listeners. We're not playing the Arbitron game that's killing radio, agencies, and small businesses across the country. We're playing an entirely different game altogether that is much more focused and direct. We are focused on pleasing Q101 fans. We've gone beyond retaining them and moved into building on and adding to them.
When we took over Q101 we had roughly 26,000 Facebook fans. As of now, we have almost 57,000. Our email database has grown significantly more along with our SMS database.
Due to situations beyond our control we had to start from scratch with iTunes. We started with ZERO users of the free iTunes app and currently have thousands more than when Q101 was on the radio.
5. How are you using Social Media?
We are heavily engaged in social, but we never forget social media is a tool we do not own. Your Facebook fanbase is NOT yours. It belongs to Facebook. Facebook giveth...and Facebook can taketh away. Everything we do via social is measured and assessed based on our desired results. Our desired results are often different from what some might expect.
Our revenue model is not dependent on ratings or agency business...and that's very liberating.
6. What is your biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge to date has been perception. There are a lot of people and companies who have a perception about what Q101 and the audience is or is not as well as who Mike and I are or are not. It's been a pride-swallowing siege frankly.
They say the pioneers get all the arrows...But this is the future...the time is now. If you are in the radio or record business you should jump on this horse with us because it's going to be a fun ride.
7. What's the deal with Q101's Jamboree 2012?
Jamboree has been Q101's signature summer event since 1995. This year is Q101's 20th birthday and we're working on making Jamboree 2012 the best ever. In the spirit of this new model of ours we launched a crowd funding campaign to gauge interest in Jamboree 2012. Since concerts are so risky, most radio stations simply slap their name on a show that's already coming to town.
We're designing Jamboree around our fans. The goal is to get Q101 fans, or fans of ideas on board to pledge a total of $299,000 (that's just 3,000 people pledging $99) to make Jamboree happen. If we don't raise that goal by May 5th, no one pays a penny. If we do, Jamboree 2012 is a GO for LAUNCH and will be held in Chicago land September 1st and 2nd!
Q101 was instrumental in building and supporting Lolla for a long time. We're excited to make Jamboree a heritage event again in Chicago. We made a video for people to get the whole scoop and it's available at www.Q101Jamboree.com.
8. What stands out the most from when you first started working at Q101?
The sheer emotional connection of Q101 with fans who started listening in 1992 is unheard of. It was a magical time for music and culture. It was the dawn of the identity of a generation. I remember hearing Nirvana for the first time on Q101. THEN I saw them on MTV. The 90s were an amazing time in Chicago. We had 3 peats with the Bulls, the Blackhawks were in the playoffs and Q101 was in the center of this amazing market during a time when rock music out of Seattle and Chicago was waking us all up to say, "I want MORE!"
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _________?
Dunkin Donuts Coffee and my Q101 iPhone App.
10. What would surprise people most about you?
I've never eaten a chicken mcnugget...
What are your hobbies?
Who has time for hobbies!? I have four kids, am a GM at 1530 WJJG, and partner at Q101... Maybe I need a hobby!
Last non-industry job?
The summer of 1993 I made pizzas at Aurelio's in the suburbs of Chicago. I got paid to listen to Q101 and make pizzas. It was a great year to be a teenager.
First record ever purchased?
First record album record was Elvis live from Hawaii.
First CD album was Appetite For Destruction from GNR.
Michael Jackson's Victory Tour at Comiskey Park in 1984.
Favorite band of all-time?
Foo Fighters...they can't write a bad song! The Q101 fans would go ape shit if we could get some Foo at Jamboree... Call me Dave!