10 Questions with ... Troy Hanson
April 12, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
PD stops at KATS/Yakima, KAZR/Des Moines, WZTA/WBGG/Miami, and WBUZ/Nashville.
1. How has WKQX changed since you moved from Atlanta to Chicago to take over as PD?
No real changes in the philosophy on the station as we (Cumulus Corporate Programming team) were part of the sign-on to the 101.1 frequency back in January 2014 when we did the LMA. If I had to single out one adjustment it would be a more open flow of communication with the sales department allowing for more revenue generation as evident from Miller Kaplan numbers.
2. What makes WKQX a successful Alternative station?
We have a set of core values that start with the listener benefit; everything goes through that lens first. We are fortunate that we have a sales team that really understands and supports this concept as it allows them to maximize their rates and effective ROI for our clients. Our personalities really cut through and make a difference in listeners Chicago experience. You can hear this music anywhere of course, but our personalities go the extra mile beyond the on-air and delve deep into the personal connection that social allows. They really get it. Very humbled to be able to lead and work with such a talented cast.
3. Late last year you were involved in signing on two new Cumulus Alternative stations. Why do you feel bullish about the Alternative format in in New Orleans and Kansas City?
In NOLA we own that hill and have a great growth opportunity. We have tremendous new leadership there on both the Market Manager front (Pat Galloway) as well as our OM/PD John Boyle. John's a great strategic, promotions thinking Program Director. We have lots of upside there. In KC, we have a very well programmed Classic Rock station in The Fox (KCFX) and we were looking for a compliment to that station that could enhance our portfolio in that high impact market. To answer your question further, I am bullish on the Alternative format in general; it is a great cume magnet when programmed correctly and brings in both the male and female partisans.
4. You recently mentioned that you were concerned that the number of songs crossing from Alternative to Top 40 has slowed down. Explain why you feel this is important for the format?
To the above regarding when programmed correctly, we're all about a Big Tent audience. We don't want the music to be all pop or too pop, or too indie/alt, you have to have balance and you need to spread your sounds out properly to maximize AWTE/TSL opportunities. We've been fortunate as a format to enjoy some of our strongest numbers in the past several years thanks to a strong dose of crossover product, when that slows down, I worry about the strong numbers fading off. This is of course when a strong brand has the ability to sustain the ever changing ups and downs of musical shifts. Strong brands have more than just the music as part of the overall presentation of the station. We have that in 101WKQX, great personalities, strong events, and a feeling of the Chicago lifestyle. You know you are in Chicago when you listen to WKQX.
5. What do you love most about working for Cumulus?
Being a part of the culture change that is taking place. Our CEO Mary Berner is really on to something with the FORCE philosophy. FOCUSED. RESPONSIBLE. COLLABORATIVE. EMPOWERED, and the Office of Programming has responded in kind. I'm inspired by the incredibly talented Program Directors I get to learn from each day through collaboration, and the gifted personalities that entertain both me and the listeners each day. You can feel the seismic change happening as the local markets are empowered to be stewards of their respective brands. Her line about "don't mistake activity for accomplishment" rang true immediately as we had far too much of that previously. Plus I don't have to wear a suit anymore; I mean is there anything that says your creativity and uniqueness are not welcome here more than a dress code. Don't get me wrong, McVay is still the best dressed fella in the business, but I gotta be able to wear my Chucks when writing copy.
6. What is most challenging part of your job overseeing the rock brands for the company?
There are just simply not enough hours in the day. There comes a point where you have to shut it down for a day and revamp the creative juices for tomorrow. That and seeing a brand not live up to its potential. It would also be important to add that part of the gig is recruitment, in the end you can only hire one person for an opening and we are fortunate to talk to many qualified candidates on many of our openings, it's a challenge to not be able to hire them all. The good news is, we have many markets and brands, and opportunities will always exists so you have the ability to reengage with a strong, talented candidate for another gig within the company.
7. How do you feel about the current state of the Alternative format?
Again, very bullish on the Alt format as provides a stronger cume opportunity than the other current based rock format at the moment, it tends to engage both the male & female genders at a more closer ratio, 60/40 male/female in most situations, that's stronger than the standard 80/20 or 70/30 that tends to accompany a straight up rock format. The music has certainly become more accessible in the last few years. Still feel we need a few more crossover tracks to balance out the format ownership percentage to give us a better shot at competing with the marketplace overall. Remember, it's not just about being the so called coolest kid in the room, this is a business and we need to remember that as part of the process, it can't be all of one way or the other way, it won't work.....balance, the art of balance is where it's at. Know when to pull back on something when it's gone the soccer mom route, but not abandoning. Walt has a strong philosophy, if it starts at ALT, then anything is possible, if not; best to not dip the tow in that water.
8. What is your favorite part of your job?
Dude, I get to play Pearl Jam and The Black Keys records while listening to amazing, compelling personalities all day. I look out my window and I see people who have to stand in the cold all day shoveling tar to fill in a pot hole. Let that sink in for a second. Look, we are all going to be challenged a various times during the day (and we should be) but if you can't take a few minutes every day to realize how fortunate we are to be doing what we are doing, then you probably don't have a pulse.
9. Describe the typical workday in the life of Troy Hanson.
The laptop gets turned on early in the 6am hour central at home to see what transpired late at night and in the overnight so I can respond in the immediate. Once I get into the office (if I'm in Chicago that day), I have two sets of audio going, WKQX on the tuner, and I log onto CBOS to pick up the company Skimmer and listen to one of our Rock/ALT or AAA stations for an hour or two each day just so I can hear what we are doing or how a certain station is executing a promotion or feature they tell me about. It's a balance between day to day focus on the Chicago station, and being there to help our excellent Market Mangers & Program Directors in whatever capacity possible. Sometimes it's just being an open ear on the other end of the phone.
10. What do you like best about living in Chicago?
This is foodie heaven. The Midwest Meat n' Potatoes friendliness, it's great to get back to it. I just love the vibe of this city. This is where the pros play.
What are you most passionate about?
Laughing. Love Love Love having a great meal with friends and sharing stories and laughing, few things give me more joy than that special time. A great morning or evening is spent in the kitchen with my girlfriend cooking, especially on the weekend when we entertain guests.
What was your favorite station to listen to growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota and what do you remember most about the station?
KQRS. I wanted to be as cool as Johnny Rock sounded. Loved listening to Tom Barnard and still do. A great thrill was having a lunch meeting with him and Scott Jameson a few years ago, 30 years and he's still got it. You couldn't avoid seeing a KQ bumper sticker or bud board wherever you went. That and KJJO, Hot Rockin' 104, Ray (Erick) & Mindy Collins, JJ Jeffries and Michael Cross, that was a flame thrower of a radio station.