10 Questions with ... Ray Knight
January 6, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Well it all begin in Syracuse, New York at the heritage "stick" 62WHEN with an internship in 1986. I have worked in various formats during my career, but have pretty much spent the last 20 years doing Country. I left the East coast in 1996 for stops in Sacramento and Anchorage prior to joining the original XM team in the summer of 2000 for a wonderful 8 1/2 years. To have the opportunity to help build something that special was truly a blessing and I will always be grateful for the chance that was given to me. Another trip back up to Alaska was in-store after the merger. I even did some television work for the local ABC/CW/Fox affiliates up there as a regional manager. I now find myself back near my "stomping grounds" of Central and Northern New York. When I left XM, I always said that if I stayed in radio I really wanted to have the chance to do it in a community-based setting again. Community Broadcasters has given me that opportunity here in the beautiful North Country of New York State. Yes, I can see Canada from my back deck!
1) Hi Ray- You currently work in Ogdensburg NY, but have worked all over the country, including California and Alaska. How does the East coast audience differ from the West coast, in your opinion?
Well, there are many subtle ways that fans differ from town to town, let alone coast to coast. That's one of the keys of providing great content to the fans of your station; knowing what "makes them tick". East coast audiences seem to be more "hard-core" when it comes to their Country music and conservative values though- now that I have lost all my West coast friends LOL!
2) How did you wind up in broadcasting? Did you go to school for this career?
I did go to school for communications management at Syracuse, but not necessarily radio. I was looking for something to do for the summer in between my freshman and sophomore years and got an internship at 62 WHEN in Syracuse. They hired me later that summer and the rest is "history." The passion for music is what really drove me to the industry.
3) In addition to terrestrial radio, you have experience working satellite radio as Senior Director of XM's Country Channels. Satellite vs. Terrestrial is a hot topic today. What is your "insider's scoop" on the long-term affect that Satellite radio will have on local radio stations?
That's a great question! Most of the original hires at XM did not come in with a "kill local radio" attitude. In fact, we always knew there would be room for both. I personally always hoped one of the influences/legacies of XM, and now the merged entity, would be "encouraging local radio to once again really be LOCAL." I think that most of my fellow XM AFDI'ers would agree with that statement. After leaving XM, if I was to stay in radio, I really wanted to do it in a smaller market/community based situation. Here I am; so, obviously I believe in it. Local radio will be just fine for a VERY long time, if we hyper-localize our content, integrate it within the digital platforms, and SERVE our communities.
4) What are your top 3 tips for programming a really great Country station?
- I truly believe that in today's highly "digitized" world, people are actually looking more and more for "real" interaction with other people. So, you need to figure out ways to "engage" your fans. Hard to do in today's automated world, but we all know it can still be done; it just takes a little more thought. Have "utility" and serve the community in which you broadcast.
- People can get their music "fix" in more places than we can count today. It's what's in between the songs that sets you apart and keeps fans coming back. Whether it's a voice track, commercial, promo, PSA, or piece of imaging, it needs to be "special." If you stop the music, make sure it's compelling content that serves a purpose.
- Over the last 15 years we have done a great job of taking the element of "discovery" out of radio. I know it's tough to do in today's environment, but you need to find ways to bring excitement back to the radio station, and that includes outside of morning show's. Get fans to believe that once again they can come to your show and get turned on to something new. That's right, your SHOW. If you want to do a "shift," go sell lawnmowers. This is SHOW BUSINESS.
5) Touching on that same topic, in your opinion, what are the top 3 qualities that a great air talent should have?
- Passion for the music that they play.
- Remember that the people who tune in everyday aren't listeners; they are "FANS!"
- Forget the "unwritten rule" that you have to be funny to be a great talent. Just be you, be real, relate to your fans- and if it happens to be funny, Great! Don't force it.
6) What are some pros and cons of programming large vs. small market stations?
In large markets you can quickly lose sight of what you are there for everyday. It's really tough when budgets and PPM are thrown in your face everyday. In a smaller market environment, hitting budgets are just as important, and putting content on the air as if you were in a PPM market is still vital. However, you have the luxury of doing it in a much less "pressure cooker" of an environment. You just feel like you actually have "time" to create. It reminds you of why you got into the business to begin with. No, it really wasn't for free beer and girls! Thank God since that never worked out! LOL
7) If you could trade places with ANYONE for a day, who would it be and why?
Are you kidding?! What guy wouldn't want to live Charlie Sheen's life for a day! At least as it was portrayed in "Two and a Half Men!" LOL
8) Be honest, do you miss the days of reel-to-reel and carts?
You know what? I do on some days. Call me nostalgic, but it really was a simpler time. You didn't have to have a semi-IT degree to operate a station back then. A good blade, grease pencil, swabs and alcohol (not the drinking kind- although that never hurt either!) could get you though most engineering challenges!
9) You've worked all over the country, and have now landed back in your home state of New York to be closer to family. Professionally, what do you hope that the next decade has in store for you?
I hope I can figure out ways to successfully integrate good local radio with the digital platform. I truly think this is one of the most exciting times in many years to be in local radio, and all of the opportunities that the digital platforms offer us is one of the keys. I want the opportunity to "hyper-localize" my content while finding ways to integrate it across the other platforms. Our fans are there, we can't ignore it. We just need to find ways to utilize it in ways that are useful with our audiences, and yes, generate revenue streams! We are local, but our sandbox can be as large as we want it to be in our local communities. Digital is just a way of us harnessing the concept of "brand extension."
10) Who are some of the more influential people that you have learned from, or looked up to over the years? What have they taught you?
- Lee Abrams: he really showed me how to "open up" and be creative without having fear of doing it. He always said, "You have to swing the bat to get hits. You're gonna get a lot of strikes, but it's the homeruns you hit that will make the difference." So, never be afraid to take a cut at the ball (your "idea").
- Gary Donovan: And he probably has no idea! Clear Channel Market Manager in Anchorage, Alaska. I worked with him prior to my stint at XM. Without even realizing it, he really showed me how to manage a team. It is one of the hardest things to do, no matter what you do for a living.
- Jessie Scott: she simply "showed me the way" to my inner passion for the twang! Seriously, her knowledge of Country music is mind-boggling, and I learned so much from her while we worked together at XM. She showed me just how much great Country music is out there, that most people never get the chance to hear.
- Matt Wolfe: he taught me more about imaging a product than everyone else put together that I have worked with over the years- and there's been some really good ones!
- Marty Stuart: working with him on the "Odyssey" program was very special. The man is a creative genius!
- Eddie Stubbs: talk about a man who has a passion for the music we love, and knows how to serve a community! He is truly one of the best and most genuine people I have ever met in my life.
1. If you could possess one super power, what would that be?
I'm not sure it's a "superpower", but it should be! "Eternal life." I have way too much to do in just one.
2. If you weren't working in Country music, what other format could you see yourself in?
That's a good question and a tough one to respond to since I love so many genres of music. That being said, I would love to be a host on a station that specialized in "Rat-Pack." I'm a Sinatra, Martin, Sammy, Peter, Joey freak, and all the music from that "Standards" era! If you don't know who they are, well, nevermind!
3. Where is the best place you have ever visited, and why?
Having spent all that time in Alaska you might expect that to be my response since the beauty there is second-to-none. However, I'd have to say Zurich, Switzerland. I'm a history buff; the beauty there tied with the sheer "age" of the place was mind numbing.