10 Questions with ... Shark aka Michael Sharkey
September 24, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Started in radio in Gainesville in 1989. Nights at WJRR 93-95, first PD gig in Ft. Myers FL...station flipped after 9 months...not a good start! APD at WSHE in Orlando and KMXB in Las Vegas. Launched 97X in December 2000, first and only PD of 97X. Took over WHPT in April 2010 and moved to 100% talk in April 2012.
1. What has been the reaction to your new 97X Listener Driven Radio format?
The reaction has been really positive. Since no one had ever turned over control to their listeners, we weren't sure if people would be into it and we weren't sure what the app download numbers would look like. We thought 10,000 app downloads in the first year would be a good benchmark. We've blown that out of the water - over 41,000 app downloads and over 6,000,000 votes!
2. How does the LDR program allow 97X to communicate on a whole new level with social media?
This new technology allows listeners to vote on their favorite songs using our custom-built app and create a new engagement between station and audience. The mobile app (and online) gives listeners control by voting on songs that are in the "queue." The more votes...the quicker your fave songs get on! In addition, listeners can log in through Facebook and earn badges (similar to foursquare) such as "fan", "groupie" and even station program director (Gulp!).
3. Tell us exactly how listeners are controlling the music?
Simple. We encourage people to download the free app. On the app, listeners can vote songs up or down and suggest songs we add to our playlist. More positive votes... the more a song will play. More negative votes...less it will play. Pretty simple. Plus listeners can use the open mic feature to send their voice to the station that we play intro'ing songs. Very interactive online and through the speakers.
4. How extensive is your song library and what has been your biggest challenge managing an expanded library?
We started with 1800 songs. It was very weird to hear Queen on an alternative station! However, after three months, the "cream" rose to the top and we reduced the active library down to around 450 titles. Other songs can still play...and do...but the focus is more on what makes us an alternative station. And that was driven by all the votes we received at that point. But to this day...every few hours a Dropkick Murphys, Arcade Fire, etc... will cut through with enough votes.
5. How often are you adding new music for listeners to pick what songs they want to hear on 97X?
All the time. We have a feature where people can sample songs and we image new music as we play it to help with familiarity.
6. How does your song introduction feature work?
Honestly, we do it just like we always have. For instance, the day Universal sent us Lorde, we played it 20 minutes after we got it. We went on-air and said, "hey...we just got this really cool song...we want to play it for you...if you like it you can now vote it up!" After two days...it was our most voted on song! Same approach to all new music...and if people vote them up...we continue to play it. If not...they go away. We have real-time research at our listeners' fingertips!
7. What would surprise people most about the station?
That we really are doing this. A lot of skeptics said that it was all smoke and mirrors. I'll tell you, as a PD, it's a little tough hearing some of the segues that happen and knowing I have no control! Either way...it's a great interactive experience for our audience!
8. How does LDR factor into 97X's Freebie Weebie, Backstage BBQ, and Next Big Thing Shows?
Our shows still happen and are very successful. We use the app to increase voting (and awareness) for bands on the bill by rewarding listeners with badges for voting on these bands, such as BBQ Badge, NBT Badge, etc... In addition, we have used the app and online to allow listeners to help bands pick songs for their live set list.
9. What do you love most about your job?
The discovery of new music and exposing new music to our audience. We've taken a lot of pride over the years of breaking cool, new music to a market that had no Alternative station until we signed on in 2000.
10. What would surprise people most about you?
I don't know...that would be more how people see me.
What are you most passionate about?
Travel. My family (wife and two super-cool kids).