Five Easy Pieces
July 26, 2016
At 37,000 feet your mind rolls along unfettered by earthly distractions ... thoughts float in and out of consciousness. On a recent flight I challenged myself to nominate a perfect coalition of program directors whom I've known and/or worked with. Not to suggest they are "The Nation's Top Five," since that would be impossible to adjudicate. No, in this fantasy coalition, five people filtered through; as stylistically different as the planets in the solar system, as uniform in competency traits as a singular beam of sunlight.
Chris Herrman has distinguished himself nationally in Rock radio in Detroit and other markets, and today he's the master-class PD of New York's WXPK. An under-powered facility doesn't prevent his Triple A The Peak from achieving incredible cume-to-fan conversion. The Peak is sonically brilliant.
Anne Gress has been at the helm of WOG/Philadelphia for years. A decade ago she convinced CBS "Oldies" as a brand had to go; then rebuilt Classic Hits into the dynasty it is today. WOGL is a format inspiration.
Doug Montgomery spent almost 20 years at 337,000-watt B-93 (yes, 337,000). When working with Doug I handed him the sobriquet of "General Montgomery," (Britain's greatest field general). Doug ratcheted B-93 into double-digit12-plus numbers for iHeart where it long remained. Doug was cut several months ago in a budget reduction. In the latest trend B-93 stood at a '7.'
Pat O'Neill has been a morning icon since Magic 98 launched in Madison and PD there for almost that long. Reminiscent of the original KVIL, Magic98 is likely the longest running dominant AC inside the Top 100 markets. It must be heard over a series of days and weeks to be fully appreciated.
And, topping off this PD Dream Team is Robert Hughes, who made his mark in East Coast radio, WASH FM among others, before transferring his flag to the Pacific Coast and San Diego where he helped conceive Triple A icon KPRI. Hughes' Radio Phi Beta brilliance defies description.
Five very diverse people easily classed as "doctoral programmers," yet completely uniform when faced-off against three critical benchmarks for programming brilliance. Five easy pieces of a programming coalition-of-excellence sharing threeuniversal competencies for your review:
Ears: the ability to hear what others can't; nuance, abstraction, and difference, transcending far beyond music architecture and clock-building. These qualities may be "learned" but they may also be inborn with highly accomplished programming leadership.
Fearless In the Face of Setbacks: in the world of Nielsen and public acceptance, failure is only temporary. "Fail, fail again ... then fail better" might be their silent motto. It always leads them to success. They relentlessly out-think, outwork, and out-perform most market rivals.
Talent Collecting and Developing: possibly the most brilliant shared trait among our nominees is their ability to recruit, develop, and retain better talent than their competitors. Each of our five has demonstrated the impact of better talent, retained over time.
These universal strengths seem so obvious; yet elude so many in a changing, challenging business like ours. The operative question for each of us could simply be, "why do we strive for excellence when only mediocrity is required?" The Five can answer that appropriately.