10 Questions with ... Dan Young
April 21, 2014
1. Brief history / synopsis
I'm from St. Louis, which is also where I began my radio career at Emmis Communications. Over the years, I've served in rock, classic rock, alternative, country, talk and Christian AC formats.
My wife Debra and I live in Prescott, Arizona (just north of Phoenix) with our 3-year old son, Joshua and our newborn daughter Avery.
2. What was it that made you "catch the bug" for radio? When did you realize that it was what you wanted to do for a living?
I've always been passionate about music and technology, and how those two worlds collide. Fresh out of school, I was a travelling club DJ by night in the Midwest, and a kitchen manager at a restaurant by day (food is one of my other passions). I remember talking with my parents about two different career paths: getting into radio or becoming a chef. The really ironic part is that I figured that the hours are terrible when you become a chef... working all those weekends and holidays... and so I chose radio. By the time I realized that the hours in radio are about the same as being a chef, it was too late, and I was hooked... and there's no turning back now!
3. What's the most successful on-air bit/break you've ever been part of?
This is a slightly unusual answer, because I don't know that the word 'successful' really applies here, but I can tell you the most difficult and rewarding show I've ever done on the air.
In June of last year, 19 firefighters in the Granite Mountain Hotshots were caught by a change in the wind direction as they battled the Yarnell Fire in Arizona. All 19 passed away. These were OUR guys... many of them were listeners to our station, and our community was rocked to its core.
In the weeks that followed, we grieved with our audience. We talked through some very difficult emotions on the air. We interviewed other HotShot firefighters, counselors, and city and state leaders. We asked pastors to come into the studio and speak to the question of, "How could a loving God allow this to happen?" We had to deal with the shock, the sadness, and the aftermath... while being hopeful and pointing to a God who can heal our broken hearts.
One morning, I took a call from the mother of one of the fallen firefighters. She was driving to his funeral, and took the time to call the radio station. She told us how much the station meant to him, and how much it means to her. We asked her to tell us about her son; what she would want the world to know. She talked about a loving man with strong faith, and how much she would miss him. I'll never forget that phone call. I can't wrap my head around the fact that she would think to call a radio station as she prepared to bury her son. There is nothing that can ever prepare you or give you the words to say when you answer that phone call.
To me, Christian radio is in the business of pointing people to God, and in the process, changing lives. I'm honored that God chose to use me and my amazing team to wrap God's arms around this community and tell them that it is okay to cry, it's okay to admit that we don't understand... and that God loves them, and will wipe away every tear that falls.
4. With the advent of "instant everything".....what do you do to show prep? How do you prepare?
I take notes on my cell phone! I learned this one from Dave St. John at KNWI. At this point, my family knows that anytime I pull my cell phone out mid-conversation and start tapping away, I'm making notes that will eventually be a topic on my show.
The 'show prep mental filter' is pretty much on all the time now, and I try to record those thoughts in my phone as quickly as possible... before they disappear, never to be remembered again!
5. What would you categorize as your greatest personal challenge in radio? What are you doing to overcome that?
I have no eye for color or visual design. In today's radio landscape, program directors are really 'content directors' and that includes web properties, print, outdoor, app design, etc. I surround myself with smart people that are strong in visual design, and I listen to what they say! ?
6. Who are 3 people that you look to as mentors/leaders? What is it about them that grabs & keeps your attention?
These are listed in no particular order.
- Sally Barton, my Station Manager at Arizona Shine KGCB. I've seen her lead through many changes in our ministry with grace. She's taught me a lot about diplomacy and how to be focused and assertive, but gentle at the same time. I've watched her build an amazing culture here at KGCB, which is certainly no accident. It's hard work, and it is one of her many gifts.
- Dave Ryerson, PD at Life 96.5 KNWS. He took a chance on me by hiring me as his APD, and then spent years investing in my training. He is brilliant with the essentials of effective radio programming. When I have a question about song rotations, promotional ideas, interpreting ratings and music research... I call him. So far, he's still taking my calls (and hasn't sent me a consultation bill... yet!)
- Dave St. John, Station Manager at Life 107.1 KNWI. Dave has a better handle on the Christian AC target demo than just about anybody else I've met. He has an amazing intuition that makes him a virtual focus group on-demand. Wonder how she'll react to something you want to do on the air? Just ask Dave St. John, and you'll get an incredibly insightful response along with a bunch of ideas on how to pull it off. He knows how to exploit station momentum better than anyone else I know.
7. What do you believe is the single greatest factor in building audience share/cume? Why do you believe it's that important?
The single greatest factor is a clear idea of who your audience is, and what they want from you. I know that is a vast oversimplification, but without that essential understanding in place, nothing else you do will ever matter.
Ask your listeners what they want, but don't stop there. Steve Jobs didn't need to ask people whether they wanted iPhones. It would have been a silly question to ask, because none of us wanted one until we saw one. But he did know from years of interacting with his customers what their needs were... and he met their needs in a surprising, delightful way.
Identify your audience, figure out their needs... and meet those needs in an unpredictable way. In doing that, you will serve your community, and community service is the heartbeat that drives local radio.
8. Most successful station promotion ever?
Last summer, we rebuilt a church on the Navajo reservation in Arizona.
It started with a simple idea: identify a church that needs help, leverage our relationships with local businesses and contractors to provide the 'heavy lifting' and then bring our listeners along to make it happen.
We worked with a local pastor that specializes in short-term mission trips to reservations. He helped us pick a church... but we found that they needed a LOT of help. The wish list was lengthy, and we knew we couldn't promise everything they needed. Then, we started contacting our friends in the community that could help.
We ended up completely replacing their roof, putting in a brand new HVAC system from scratch, installing all new windows, painted the exterior and interior, built a back porch overhang, poured concrete for a new back step... and literally dozens of other smaller projects.
We brought a total of 40 listeners along for a weekend of work, fun, prayer and drums by the campfire. By the time we were ready to head home, the church looked like a brand new building! In the meantime, friendships were forged among the listeners and local Navajo residents. Lives were changed, and we were humbled to be a part of it.
9. What's the last book you read?
'David and Goliath' by Malcolm Gladwell. It is the study of how underdogs can overcome; specifically, how the underdogs tend to have advantages that a big dog would not. Being an independent station in Arizona with a huge signal that covers most of the state, Arizona Shine KGCB really has a unique blend of strengths... so this book has been valuable for me. I'm a huge Gladwell fan - every music director in the nation needs to read 'Blink'. It changed the way I look at music research.
10. Radio 101....in 101 words or less, how would you guide/instruct/advise a radio programmer/air talent who wants to get better at their craft?
Find people that are a lot smarter than you are. Become their friends. Ask lots of questions. Listen to what they say. Take notes. Read your notes. Then, do what they do. Getting better at something is imitation at first, and then you start to find your own style. There are very few people who will take the lead in training you; most of what you'll learn is through your own curiosity and tenacity.
Finally, don't take yourself too seriously. It's radio. We're all pretty much bonkers.
1. Most embarrassing moment on air?
My first remote broadcast! I had only been on the air a few weeks, and had never done a remote before. With no warning, the PD simply handed me the mic and walked away... I totally froze on the air. I don't know what words came out of my mouth, but judging by the shocked expressions on the faces around me, none of it made any sense. I was terrified!
2. Favorite cereal, favorite cartoon character and favorite fast food choice?
When I eat like a grown-up, I prefer bran flakes. When it's time to be a kid, I grab Golden Grahams.
Cartoon character: Homer Simpson, because he reminds me so much of my Dad (in a good way!)
Fast food choice: In-and-Out Burger. Best burger you can order from your vehicle, period. Ask for grilled onions, and tell 'em Dan sent you.