10 Questions with ... Jim Richards
December 4, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Started in 1982 at 15 years old in Jeffersonville playing "Music Of Your Life." First full-time gig was at WLRS in Louisville. Got to Jacor in '94 as PD in Knoxville and rose thru the ranks (Cincinnati, San Jose and San Diego) till I left radio and went to Tribune. Got back into radio in Seattle and now here in Chicago.
1. You have worked for some legendary radio stations from KSJO to KGB to 91X and now WLUP. What has been your biggest accomplishment?
I'd have to say that launching two Alternative stations within 90 days in Markets #3 and then #1 is right up there. We don't have a lot of staff, nor the infrastructure and resources of a Clear Channel or CBS. So to see how Q87.7 and New Rock 101.9 immediately found an audience was beyond our expectations. All of us were bummed about WRXP being sold...but we can hold our heads high knowing that we tied WXRK (now WNOW) in our final monthly (October) with two guys on the air and no marketing. Hell, we hadn't even logo'd a van at that point!
2. What are you most proud of from the early ratings on Q87.7?
It didn't take long till we were beating XRT in cume and almost doubling their P18-34 and M18-34 shares. This, on a frequency that isn't available on every radio in the metro and on a frequency that has no history of being any kind of a destination for young adult Alt fans (it was Smooth Jazz before we took over). Unlike most format flips, we started from scratch and have built a successful music station in a short amount of time.
3. What may surprise people the most about the station?
That it's actually a low-power TV station. We're on Channel 6. But there's a distinct difference between low-power FM and low-power TV - our antenna is on top of the Hancock Center and there are no terrain issues...so we have a full-market signal. Plus, unlike everything else on the dial, our signal has no interference from other frequencies (the closest Channel 6 is in Cleveland). You can listen via 87.7FM, or tune a TV to Channel 6 or turn on Comcast Channel 877.
4. What is your biggest challenge being a low-power TV station heard on the FM dial at 87.7?
First, there was confusion in the industry - many thought that we were low-power FM and confused us as being something like a translator. We've erased that perception now. A challenge for listeners is that we're not on every radio. We tell them "if you don't get it - then you don't get it." People have tweeted and messaged us on Facebook that they were going to buy a certain car and didn't cause the radio didn't go down to 87.7.
5. Why will Q87.7 be successful?
We built this station without the trappings of traditional heritage stations. That gives us freedom and flexibility to talk to the listeners without a lot of the old DJ-isms (backsell, call letters, slogan, be the 10th caller, slogan, spots). So we sound like real people and connect with them. Our jocks take exceptional care of the brand and really look out for the listeners. We strive to talk like them and not be DJs. So our foundation is based on being more real and not all hyped-up and fake and yelling and selling all the time. Once you build that kind of trust with the audience they feel good about supporting you and returning time and time again.
6. What is most important to you when championing new music for Q87.7?
I always feel better about stepping out on an unknown when I know that the people behind the project are solid and you can count on forging a real partnership to break a song or a band. It's really satisfying to hear something, like it, see the band live, create rapport with the artist and then watch the connection with the audience happen.
7. What do you love the most about your job?
The people I work with. We're under-staffed and over-worked a lot of the time. But there's a real bond here with everyone. We have trust and collaboration amongst us all. In fact, I'd like to recognize PJ (PD), Walt Flakus (APD/MD), Lauren O'Neil (on-air), and Lou Lombardo (on-air & Social Mgr.) - they've done a terrific job in growing and nurturing the radio station.
8. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _________?
Laughing. Sadly, it's often at my own jokes (sadder when I'm the only one).
9. How are you using Social Media?
This is an area where Q87.7 has excelled. We treat our social assets with great care. PJ has led the vision and Lou and the jocks carry that through with their various posts, replies and interactions. It's not about us...it's about them - the fans who've followed us. What will entertain or inform them? In our short existence, we've gained 57,000+ fans...one of the highest in Chicago radio.
10. What would surprise people most about you?
Hmmm...not sure. Most know that I'm a NASCAR-lovin' redneck at the core. But I can still be taught new things...like the definition and pronunciation of charcuterie and that vests can be worn at times other than funerals and weddings.
What are your hobbies?
Music, good restaurants, and bourbon.
Last non-industry job?
Tribune Interactive - Content VP working on digital, social and mobile solutions for LA Times and KTLA. It was good to step away for two years and actually use radio like a real listener. Gave me a new perspective. Other than that, I was once a boulangerie owner.
First record ever purchased?
I don't remember all of them, but I sent the card in to Columbia House. Great deal...you got a bunch of LPs and cassettes for a penny. Somehow though, I'm still making payments on KISS Alive II.
Friday May 1st, 1982 -- Derby Eve Jam at Louisville's Freedom Hall. Molly Hatchet opened for The Charlie Daniels' Band.
Favorite band of all-time?
I know it's a cop-out, but there are too many to name. And I'd prefer not to hurt Randy VanWarmer's feelings by not picking him.