10 Questions with ... PJ
July 31, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- 1999-2002 - KMXV/Kansas City
- 2002-2006 - KKRD/KZCH /Wichita
- 2006-2008 - Clear Channel Corporate/Atlanta
- 2008 - WLDI/ West Palm Beach
- 2008-2011 - Tribune Interactive/Chicago
- 2011-now - Merlin Media
1. How did you become interested in radio?
I was a club/mobile DJ for years after college, which led to a terrible lifestyle. Fun, but terrible. During that span, I became friends with, and interned for, the night guy at KMXV (Internet high-five to Mat Mitchell) and it took off from there. I often joke with people that I'm the only guy who got into radio to get away from hookers and blow.
2. What led to the return of WKQX as Q87.7 FM?
When the opportunity to take over operations of then-WLFM, the question was posed, "If we put Alternative on a stick that some would suggest is 'signal-challenged', would the audience find it?" It was an interesting challenge, to say the least. No ratings projection spreadsheet can accurately guess whether or not people will find a frequency that most don't realize they can get (even if their radio does). But at the same time, it was an exciting prospect to put together a station that would require guerrilla tactics to succeed. People had to spread the word for others to find us. And they have (over 900k cume by week 7 and growing).
It has turned into something that people feel a part of, like they helped build it. And when you think about it, they have. Sure, we have the fringe element...those that hate everything we do/those that love everything we do...but in the very large middle are intelligent, thoughtful people that offer great feedback, both endorsing and critical of what we're doing.
3. Tell us about the Q87.7 team.
That's both a short and long list. The short version includes Walt Flakus (APD/MD), Lauren O'Neil (formerly WXTB), and I don't want to miss Slater (Maxwell, formerly of WMMS) who came up here and has been helping us out until we fill out the staff. We still have one more person we'll add in the future to round things out. The long version of that list includes almost everyone in the building, especially OM Jim Richards. He has been crucial to our early success, and will continue to be.
One of the cool (and challenging) things about being in a small company like Merlin is the "all hands on deck" approach to whatever we're doing. It's chaotic at times, but it's also incredibly collaborative, and some great ideas have come from unlikely places as a result. It's allowing us to do more as a station, with fewer people. Pretty sure that's a Radio requirement now.
4. What does everybody need to know about the station?
Alternative, irreverent, self-deprecating, fans of the city, fans of the music, authentic human-types that are honest with those that listen. Beyond that is up to the audience. We have purposely kept things fairly minimalistic to begin with in an effort to draw in feedback and let the listeners guide us.
5. How would you describe the music on Q87.7?
Straight-ahead Alternative. Not hard, not angry. Alternative music right now is very melodic and on fire with the audience, so when you combine that with the summer weather, being on the air with this music right now has been a blast.
6. What would surprise people most about the station?
That you can hear us. No, really. People think we're a low-power FM, but we're actually a low-power TV station, which does not have the signal issues that LP FMs typically do. We're 3k watts on top of the Hancock, which is essentially the equivalent of a Class B signal in the heart of the city. The difference is, at 87.7, not every radio gets it. But if your radio does, you can hear us at a great distance.
7. What is the most challenging part of your job?
Most of the challenges I face come from being in a small company. Everyone in Radio has to wear multiple hats, but the hats this time around are incredibly different. There's no "corporate infrastructure" to tap into if you need a library of music for a new format, for example. We have to go get all that stuff ourselves. A "division" of the company may be two people at this point, and if they're already overloaded, you have to really examine your priorities to figure out what you need. That kind of stuff puts things in perspective quickly, and really blurs the lines when it comes to job descriptions. That said, being a small company makes you nimble. There's no red tape to screw with. If it's the right idea, you just go do it. That is incredibly liberating.
8. How are you using Social Media?
Exhaustively. Other than the music, this may have the most impact on the audience of anything we do. I touched on authenticity earlier, and this couldn't be more true for this. It's one thing to have Facebook and Twitter, but we're human beings here, and that has to be reflected. Stations treat it like broadcasting, when in reality, it's one-on-one communication. 10,000 people may see your post, but as a user, I only have one news feed. You are talking to me the user, not a stadium full of people, even though it may reach that many. So when you only post about your car dealer remotes, how is that of value to me?
Everyone that touches our Social needs to have an opinion and personality, and sign their name to it. We all have to own it; We don't get to hide behind anonymity. All of the value that applies to having relatable personalities on the air applies here, too. The idea that the only way to interact with your audience is by sitting in a studio and waiting 20 minutes at a time for a phone call makes me laugh. We've only been on the air for a couple months, and people are starting to figure out who we are, the things we like, and we're finding out the things they like. I'm incredibly passionate about developing a real relationship with the audience through Social, and like the other things we're doing (thankfully), they're reacting to it. ~32,000 on Facebook in two+ months, in particular, feels pretty good.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _________?
Help. There are a lot of unsung heroes in every radio building, and ours is no different. No one or two people can do everything, so having a team of people that you trust is vital.
10. What would surprise people most about you?
I really dislike the spotlight, which is why I'm glad most of these questions were about the station. :) Maybe that's not a surprise if you know me, but most outgoing people like the attention. I tend not to. I'm always happy to talk about the kickass people I work with, the philosophy behind what we're doing, etc, but prefer to let my work do the talking in most situations. Other than that, probably the fact that I taught high school band for two years. <---NERD!
What are your hobbies?
Travel for sure. I try to take a couple big trips a year. Don't want to have to wait until I'm retired to be able to visit some of the amazing places the world has to offer. Also a big home theater nerd. Dabble in a little photography.
Last non-industry job?
Not sure if you'd count Tribune Interactive since its still media, albeit not radio. Before that, you'd have to go back to when I was in college and sold cell phones.
Neil Diamond in 1986. Three words: Laser Light Show.