10 Questions with ... Tom English
August 18, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Name: Tom English
Married: Lisa Pride English (CEO - LP Management & Entertainment)
Child: Courtney English Joyce (Married to Jonathan Franklin Joyce)
Education: BA Communications University of West Florida
Career: Tom started his broadcasting career in Pensacola, FL and has served in sales and management positions throughout the southeast for the past 30 years. After stops in such beautiful places as Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville and Mobile he moved his family to Nashville in 2003 to serve as the Director of Sales for the Clear Channel cluster. Two years later Tom was promoted to VP/Market Manager for the 5 Nashville stations and the Tennessee Radio Network.
After 15 years with Clear Channel Tom left and attempted to help a friend start an artist management company. In April 2012 he was recruited to be the General Manager or the world's most legendary country radio station 650 WSM (Opry Entertainment), "The Home of the Grand Ole Opry".
Currently, along with his management duties, Tom hosts the "ASCAP Songwriters' Show" live every Wednesday for 2-3pm on 650 WSM and www.wsmonline.com
- Past Chairman of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters
- W.O. Smith School - Board Member
- The Opry Trust - Board Member
Favorite Quote: "IF YOU DON'T LIKE CHANGE YOU ARE GOING TO LIKE IRRELEVANCE EVEN LESS" General Eric Shinseki (U.S. Army Chief of Staff)
1) Hey Tom! You have been the GM at the legendary WSM-A for just over a year now - what is it like to be running "The Home Of The Grand Ole Opry?"
Amazing. Sometimes I feel like I'm running the hippest station in the world, sometimes it's like curating the museum, but it's ALWAYS REAL RADIO. I am very Blessed to work for a boss (Steve Buchanan) and company (Ryman Hospitality Properties) that are totally supportive of 650 WSM living up to our responsibilities as the most Famed country radio station in the world.
2) Before joining WSM-A, you were at Clear Channel/Nashville for over 8-years. I am sure that there's many differences in the culture - can you give us a couple of examples?
They are worlds apart. I loved the experience of working for the world's largest radio broadcaster and appreciate every opportunity it offered. That being said, two scenerios could not be any further apart and still be considered "radio".
- At Clear Channel a GM spends a great deal of time managing metrics and overseeing corporate initiatives. With an organization that large there has to be a degree of uniformity. The systems and metrics make it possible.
At 650 WSM I spend most of my time working hands-on to improve the sound, relevance and revenue of the radio station. Whether it's working with Ops. Mgr. Joe Limardi re-defining the music; with Sales Mgr. Anthony Oldham looking for new revenue sources and better ways to serve our Client-Partners; or with Promotions Mgr. Nicole Judd looking for better ways to maximize our unique promotional opportunities I get to be very directly involved.
- At the Clear Channel Nashville cluster we had something like 80 members of the team. That made it possible to spread the duties and responsibilities.
At 650 WSM we have 14. There is little room for error.
- At Clear Channel I had to get approvals to do anything out of the ordinary. Sometimes those approvals had to go up 2 or more levels to get an answer. Again, that is to be expected in an organization as large as they are.
At 650 WSM, if it makes sense and is beneficial to the station, our client-partners and our listeners, I do it. If it's something large enough that it requires an approval Steve is always great at responding quickly (and, to the best of my memory, has never said "no").
3) You started your career in radio in Florida and then worked in several great markets - radio has changed greatly since then - give us one example of a change that has been positive and one that has not been so great for the industry.
A good friend of mine who oversees multiple stations said the thing he misses most is having time to "Think". Time to invest in Strategy for his station(s). I believe that is the biggest negative change.
The positive change is the increased level of community service that is available through consolidation. When a GM can marshall the forces of 5,6 or more stations a lot of good can be achieved.
4) Were you a fan of WSM-A before going there, and do you love Classic Country?
To be honest, I grew up in the rock world. My first foray into country music came in 1980 just as "Contemporary Country" started taking hold so, to me, Country began with Urban Cowboy.
Over the years I had learned more about the country stars and music of the '60s and '70s but my total emersion started the day I walked into "The Mothership" 650 AM WSM.
5) What makes your airstaff unique from others that you have worked with?
We are live around the clock Monday - Friday. There aren't many stations in the country who would even attempt that but between The Grand Ole Opry airing live 3-4 nights a week, and our highly successful "All Nighter" with Marcia Campbell midnight to 5:30 it works for us.
Our airstaff is arguably the most knowledgable in the business. With Two Country Radio Hall of Famers on full time staff (Bill Cody 5:30a-10a & Eddie Stubbs 7p-12m) and another on our part-time team (Bill Whyte) I really don't think anyone else can compare.
They have all been very gentle and gracious with my education.
6) You are currently the host of the "ASCAP Songwriters' Show" live every Wednesday from 2-3pm on 650 WSM and www.wsmonline.com - how did that come about?
Before moving to Nashville I was like most people. If you heard a star sing a song you just assumed they wrote it. Learning how the system really works has made me a huge fan of songwriters. When I got to 650 WSM Joe Limardi was already doing "Guest Artist" shows from 2-3p several days a week so that seemed like the place to set up a Songwriters Show. When we approached Lisa Harless and her team at Regions Bank they immediately stepped up as our sponsor. Then we went to ASCAP and they got the vision immediately.
Our mission is to 1) help our listeners understand how songs are written and then get to the celebrities who record them and 2) help aspiring songwriters hear from the best how they reached their success.
We are now 7 months in and have had some of the biggest songwriters around including Ben Hayslip (ASCAP Songwriter of the Year), Craig Wiseman, Hillary Lindsey, Don Schlitz and J. D. Souther and MANY more.
Our slogan - stolen and adapted - is "It all begins with a SongWRITER".
7) What new and exciting things are ahead for the station as you look down the road?
The biggest thing at the moment is the release of our first ever album. "650 AM WSM Live From the Archives Vol. 1" just came out on Cd and the limited edition Double Vinyl comes out in a couple of weeks. It opens with an introduction by Vince Gill and contains 12 songs all performed live in our studio or at one of our exclusive events. The songs are bookended by Reba's introduction of Ralph Emery into the Radio Hall of Fame.
Musically we are busy adding more of the biggest hits of the past 25 years that FM radio has largely had to abandon. When you are increasing the spins on the top currents to 50+ times per week it doesn't leave a lot of room for many songs of the '90s and '00s. Our listeners love superstars like Garth, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Alabama, Clint Black and others who have to large degree become homeless.
8) Can you measure what your listenership is like online? You must have fans all over the world!
It is amazing to look at the breakouts. Our online listenership is larger than our terrestrial but only about 15% of that is in Nashville. Depending on the month our Top 5 markets might include Charlotte, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Houston and even London. The loyalty of these online listeners is exceptional.
9) Country music is currently booming with younger listeners-are you seeing that in your world as well? It seems like a lot of young people still love artists like Johnny Cash, Waylon, Willie etc.
We don't subscribe to Arbitron so I don't have that view but I can tell you the crowds showing up at our events certainly bear it out. And, it seems even more evident at our Americana and Bluegrass events. HOT acts like Mountain Heart (how do you not love a bluegrass act with a B-3), The SteelDrivers and Dailey & Vincent are leading that charge and we are proud to play them.
10) In your opinion, what will the landscape for radio look like in the next, say, 5 years?
If I could answer that question I'd be a very rich man. As for 650 WSM we will continue to observe the masses and do the opposite. There is no way we can compete with the big FMs on their turf so we will focus on doing what they can't or won't do. That's what our loyal listeners expect and that is what we will continue to deliver.
1) Can you remember the first record that you ever bought?
It was probably Herman's Hermits' "I'm Into Something Good". First concert was Vanilla Fudge at 13.
2) What Nashville restaurants are your favorites?
Long list but a few we love are: Puckett's Boathouse, The Perch in Green Hills, Watermark, Sapphire, Midtown, Mirko and Giovanni's
3) What are you currently listening to that might surprise us?
Not sure how surprising it is but I love getting to listen to songwriter demos and uncut pitches. Also Mountain Heart, Lighter Ray and Meghan Linsey....OH, and "650 AM WSM Live From the Archives Vol 1" :)