10 Questions with ... Axel Lowe
January 11, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Left Chicago in 1990 and came to Atlanta to start a recording career (engineering). After graduating with a Music Business Management degree from the Art Institute, I shifted towards marketing and was interning at Arista Records. There was a three month gap between my graduation and the time my new position would be ready. My boss at Arista (Linda Alter) said she had a friend at Power 99 (Leslie Fram, APD at the time) that could use a hand. I went for a few weeks and wound up staying for 15 years. Three weeks after I arrived, Power 99 switched to 99X and they offered me the overnight gig. Rick Stacy offered me the job, Leslie Fram & Sean Demery taught me how to succeed and Brian Philips (CMT President) was a huge inspiration.
1. What led to your return to 99X?
When 99X took a two year hiatus on .com, I immediately switched over to our upstart sister station Rock 100.5. I got my Led Zep yaya's off and always dreamed of playing Motley Crue songs on-air (Motley was my first concert in '83). Three years later the timing was right for my return when 99X PD BJ Kinard's wife got a job transfer to South Carolina -- he was a smart husband and now has a new gig at WKZQ in Myrtle Beach. I was good heritage from the past with 99X relaunching on terrestrial radio. Plus, I saw first hand how the great programmers from this station's heyday had creatively operated the station.
2. What has been your biggest challenge in your new role at the station?
Carving out enough time in the day to market and reach out to the people that still don't know we're back. I get in at 5:30am host the morning show and start programming right at 10. Since we are short staffed, like everyone else, the day-to-day maintenance can consume me until 4 or 5 in the afternoon. We still have a bigger audience to get. I know we can double the size of our listeners, but my goal is to triple it.
3. How does 99X compare today to when you left the station?
Alternative music is so much healthier than it was in 2007. When 99X was having its struggles after insane 15 year dominance, Alt stations across the country were dropping off the dial like crazy. The stations that have survived are doing really well, X96 in Utah has doubled in the last year.
4. What may surprise people about 99X?
That we played Tub-thumper back in 1997 before anyone had heard it in the country. Crap, that's not something we want to hang our hat on. The surprise for some is that we are back on the air. I won't rest until that's no longer an issue.
5. What has been the impact of 99X becoming the Atlanta Hawks flagship radio station for basketball games?
We are still 99X, the trade off is that we get a lot of visibility and marketing through the Hawks that we otherwise wouldn't have. Basketball can work with this format if you embrace it right. Ask Flea, Chad and Anthony how much they love the Lakers. Pearl Jam (Mookie Blaylock), Beastie Boys, and Jack Johnson are all huge basketball fans. We only give up 2 1/2 hours for a game three nights a week. Our sister station 680 The Fan carries the pre and post game, plus all of their imaging says "catch every game on 99X." We've had lots of mid-20 males rediscover the station just from those promos on 680 The Fan.
6. How would you describe the music and imaging on the station?
The music is Alternative with a dose of heritage ('90s Nirvana, Pearl Jam, RHCP, Live, etc.). We're Muse, Phoenix, Kings Of Leon, Mumford, and Linkin Park - mixed with the heritage. We're not AAA, we're not active.
7. What stations do you like to follow?
We all have our panels in the programming world, I have a dozen or so stations, including X96 and KROQ, that I glance at, but this station isn't exactly like any of them, so I just like to see what stations are doing but react for what's right on 99X.
8. What do you like best about living in Atlanta?
The seasons (it's mild, but we still get four seasons). I'm a four hour drive from anything -- the beach, the mountains, my in-laws (that's a safe buffer).
9. What's one thing that may surprise many people to learn about you?
I turned down a job on MTV. I was pretty close with Kid Rock from the start of his career. He said some nice things about me to his friend, Carson Daly. I was at a Grammy party in LA with Carson and Kid Rock when Carson asked me if I'd like to cover Spring Break with MTV. I remember him saying that if I was decent, there was a good chance at more work, possibly VJ stuff. This was 1999 and 99X was still on a great run, I was afraid to gamble. Dang it, I could have been the next Jesse Camp (I'm going to Google him, I liked that guy).
10. What stands out the most from your first job in radio?
The 18 year run... I'm still on it. I switched over to Rock 100.5 for a few years, but that's our sister station so the streak is still going.
When you're away from work, what are you music listening habits to the radio, iPod, online, etc.?
I like to listen to Eddie Webb's syndicated show; I'm a big fan of his. I also listen to Kevin Matthews and download Steve Dahl's podcast. I grew up in Chicago listening to Jonathan Brandmeier, Steve & Gary, and Kevin on The Loop. Howard Stern sounds better now, than he ever has. When I hear Howard play stuff from 10 years ago, it sounds like a guy whose sole mission was to be shocking. I have always been a huge fan and appreciate what he's done for radio, but today he seems like he's mastered it. He's ultra real, sincere, and he's still the most shocking thing on the radio.
I listen to music on my car radio, iPod, and Pandora.