10 Questions with ... Kevin Cruise
October 27, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Kevin spent 13 years in Salt Lake City, UT with most of that time as Program Director of Rhythmic KUUU. Then a stop at iHeartMedia Rhythmic WWVA/Atlanta in 2012, which then flipped to Alternative WRDA. He arrived in Boise, ID in 2014 where he is Operations Manager of Impact Radio Group's 6-station cluster. Kevin also program's Hot AC KZMG and Alternative KQBL-HD3.
1. Tell us about your duties as OM of Impact Radio Group?
I'm currently overseeing 6 stations in our cluster: Rhythmic KWYD, HAC KZMG, Adult Hits KSRV, Country KQBL, Alternative KQBL-HD3, and our ESPN affiliate station. I work with the PDs of each station to identify any trouble areas with the station, come up with ideas to increase our digital platforms, and target listening with format specific and cluster-wide contesting. Additionally, we provide a PPM presentation to the stations even though we are in a diary market. We have a bit of an advantage in that I've spent a lot of my career in PPM markets, and that experience has taught me how listeners use our medium. Using that knowledge, we combine the presentation of PPM with various elements of the diary world to enhance our products as best we can. This strategy has worked for our cluster as we recently gained shared in Adults 25-54 and Adults 18-49, and moved from 4th to 2nd as a cluster in those demos. This presentation is new to most in our building which leads to a lot of discussions of what is going through a listeners head, what times are they leaving their house in the morning, what is the best way to optimize listening, etc. Additionally, I program the Alternative format and our HAC, KZMG, and handle the PM drive shift for that station; although I am voice-tracked (and can I toot my own horn? #1 Women 25-49 and #1 Women 25-54 in PM Drive). I'm also air-checking our on-air talent every Thursday.
That's the fun stuff - then there's the admin part of the job that nobody really wants to hear about. Budgets, phone calls, meetings, outdoor advertising for the stations, working with engineering on processing and station needs, etc. There's no shortage of work that is for sure!
2. What do you love most about working for the company?
I've said many times in my career that the culture of the company comes from the top down, and it really is the General Manager/Market Manager that sets the tone for the company. Our CEO/GM, Darrell Calton, is great at this! I've worked at the major broadcasters and I've worked for the small mom + pop companies. One isn't better than the other in my opinion, because it is all based on the attitude of the market manager. I've been lucky to work for some great market managers, and I've experienced a market manager that treated people poorly. Darrell has created a fun and motivating atmosphere at Impact Radio Group, and it reminds me a lot of my time at Millcreek Broadcasting in Salt Lake City.
We work as a team and collaborate as a team. If someone has a great idea for another station then we run with it. We're all here to have the best stations in the market and each person on our team works to the best of their ability to make that happen. We have a great owner who takes the time to meet with us and make sure we have what we need to win. We're not frivolous when it comes to our needs and we really seek out what is best for the company. To make a long answer longer...the attitude and collaboration of the staff really make this an ideal place to work.
3. What led to the launch of 92.7 The Alternative?
There was a clear hole in the market for a true Alternative station. It was really the one format that wasn't being served in the market and we were happy to be able to provide this format to the Treasure Valley.
4. Impact Radio previously had Alternative KQLZ (V99.1) in its cluster. How will 92.7 The Alternative be different than the old incarnation?
V99.1 leaned more Active Rock than 92.7 The Alternative will. In fact, 92.7 is as straight-ahead as you can get with an Alternative station. We throw in some of those rock records, but it's nowhere near what V99.1 was playing.
5. I love the funny sweepers. Tell us about the music and imaging on 92.7 The Alternative.
Thank you very much. I wish I could take credit for the sweepers. Honestly, being creative can be difficult at times when all of the job responsibilities are constantly going through your head. Surely, some of those sweeps weren't inspired from when I was at the launch of WRDA. I rely on our more creative staff members like KWYD PD JD Garfield. I gave him an idea we were going for, and let him have at it with specific instructions to look at stations like WRDA. I know some great minds put that station together and I'm not ashamed to say I won't copy a good idea. We also started a creative brainstorm session twice a month. The programming staff comes together for about 40-45 minutes to collaborate imaging ideas for each other's stations. We only go over two stations and I set a timer for 20 minutes. The PD will tell us what ideas he needs and then we have at it. It's an easy way to get a page of fresh imaging in 20 minutes. I'm not looking to take up everyone's time, which is why we only focus on two stations and once the timer goes off we move on to the next station.
The music is set to be as straight ahead Alternative as possible. Our PD of Adult Hits KSRV, James Garner, handles music logs. He's done a great job with creating a sample of the station within a quarter hour. This is a 99 watt translator so we only expect limited in-car listening. We wanted to rotate the currents at a slightly higher rate so a listener will hear the soul of the station in their drive, which is approximately 20 minutes in the Treasure Valley. Each quarter hour is set to hear a '90s record, current, recurrent, and a Gold from 2000.
6. What may surprise people most about 92.7 The Alternative?
This is going to be a jockless station for the foreseeable future. We've been getting a lot of great feedback on the station and it's possible at some point that we could staff the station, but I think it's going to remain jockless.
7. How would you describe yourself as a programmer?
I've become more conservative the longer I do this. I would get so excited about records when I first stepped into a programming role. I'd want to get those records on the air as fast as possible. Then, I had an 8-month experience where I wasn't in radio. It was the first time in 18 years that I hadn't been on the air or involved in some aspect of radio. I learned what actually happens to the everyday listener. I had bills that were late, a house to sell, and another job to find. I wasn't listening to the radio as much as I probably should have been, but it was good for me. I could tell the records that would be in a power rotation when I did tune in, and I realized that I barely knew those records. I also knew that those stations were probably close to 1,000 spins on those records. Yet, I was just finding the record. That's when it hit me right in the face. I told myself at that moment I would always, ALWAYS, remember what it feels like to be on the other side. Listeners have enough to worry about in their day and the radio was just background noise to many - like it had been to me during that time.
I rely on all the traditional tools to determine rotations: callout, Shazam, sales, etc. Yet, I keep in mind that we may be at 900+ spins on a record and someone just found that song today. Years ago I knew I was burning on records faster than the audience, but I didn't realize to what extent. I think of it this way: if a pipe breaks in my house and water is gushing all over the basement what is on my mind all day? How do I clean this up, how much is this going to cost, how do I take a few hours off to get this fixed, etc. It's not on who dropped a new song that day, or what station played a song first. I could care less because there are more important issues in my life at that moment. When that clicked with me is when I decided to become more conservative. I beat these records into the ground and it has worked for our stations that run current music. Of course, the labels aren't always happy with me because they've moved on to the next project while I'm still playing the last record in power rotation and probably have about 1500+ spins on it.
8. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _________?
My notebook. If I'm not writing things down as I go then I forget and that isn't good for anyone. I also plan out the next day when I get home from work - usually with a glass of wine. It helps the functionality of my day when I have a plan going in of what needs to be accomplished. It's really me prioritizing for the next day. It helps when I have an idea at an oddball hour of the day. I can just write it down and come back to it later, or if I'm in a meeting and something pops in my head. My notebook keeps me organized throughout the day. Plus, it's nice to write little reminders to wish someone a happy birthday or return a phone call. I also use it for my personal life if I need to make a dentist appointment, or a reminder to return a call or text to a friend.
9. What would surprise people most about you?
Usually, it's the shocked looks when I tell people I have 4 dogs. It didn't happen on purpose and I never expected to have more than two in my life, but it happened. I'm the "crazy dog" guy. I had my lab 10 years ago. Then, I got into a relationship and we rescued a beautiful mixed breed to be a friend for my lab. Eventually an opportunity came for us to adopt an English Bull Terrier (think Spuds McKenzie). Well, I fell in love with the breed and we were going to foster a 6-month-old puppy. The shelter told us she was "aggressive" and she was at risk of being put down. I'm so happy we saved her because she is my best friend! She curls up in a ball next to me every night and we're very close. I know 4 is a lot, but they've acted like a pack for a long time. It does make for a lot of work at times - cleaning up the yard and travelling can be more expensive for boarding. I guess this is what happens when I wasn't allowed to have a pet as a kid. I go a little crazy, huh?
Besides the dogs maybe it would be that I've produced a lot of concerts in my career. It was always something I wanted to learn to do and was lucky enough to have been the brains behind Hip Hop, Alternative, and Pop shows. I even had the chance to work in the production department at Hot 97/NY Summerjam in 2012 (Thanks Gary Spangler!). Oh that and I am FEMA Certified for Public Event Contingency Planning.
10. Take us back to your radio first job. What do you remember most about working at WVRV/St. Louis?
This is one of my favorite radio stories, so thanks for the question! I started at WVRV as an intern. KPNT is the reason I got into radio. I loved that station growing up and WVRV was in the same cluster. Plus, I was a fan of WVRV at the time (modern rock). I interned for Vic Porcelli. Those familiar with Vic will know he's been a longtime St. Louis on-air personality. He was larger than life when I started and I'm so very grateful that I was able to learn from him. I clearly remember one day when we had the Edy's Ice Cream taste-tester in studio for an interview. I remember running around that entire day, making sure the staff knew we had free ice cream in the break room and taking care of everybody.
Of course, it was mid-summer and at this time I was about 19 years old and wanted to make the best impression I could. Vic knew I had been powering through the day to take care of everyone. Finally, I was able to sit down for the first time that day after the interview was finished, the guy had been walked out of the building, and the staff all had a chance to eat their ice cream. I sat down in the studio with Vic and took my first bite of ice cream that day when Vic looks me dead in the eye and as dry as possible "are you going to get to f'n work today?" My jaw dropped and my face went as white as a ghost and Vic starts cracking up.
Vic Procelli taught me a lot about being an on-air personality. It's because of what I learned from him that I was prepared when the opportunity came for me to have a chance to be on the air. A lot of time has passed since then (almost 20 years) and I'm so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with the staff at that time. I learned how to edit reel-to-reel tape, pull and sort CDs, run a board properly, how to handle artists and others who came in for interviews, and one thing Vic told me when I left WVRV: "Always remember where you started." I haven't forgotten to this day.
What are your hobbies?
I'm an avid snowboarder and I'm so happy to live in a city where I can do that again! I own three snowboards and can't wait to start shredding again this winter!!
First record ever purchased?
This is going to be a bit difficult for me because it was either a jazz album (I grew up playing saxophone), or it was They Might Be Giants.
KPNT's Pointfest. It's what got me interested in learning how to produce concerts. Hell, I remember seeing Godsmack on a side stage at a Pointfest.
Favorite band of all-time?
This really isn't a cop-out to this question, but there are so many different genres of music I like and so many different artists. Some ALT folks will probably roll their eyes, but I'll still listen to Owl City "Ocean Eyes" when I get on a plane. There's something about that album that always relaxes me. Then there's Ice Cube. I think I just lost a lot of credibility with the panel on this question. I wish I had better answers to that. I can't think of one band that is an all-time favorite.