10 Questions with ... Brian Huen
December 1, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
On-Air Talent and Producer Radio Disney Network, Dallas and Los Angeles (1997-2013); On-Air Talent KDON Monterey (1997) Producer "Beth Bacall Show" KYCY Young Country, and KFRC-FM CBS/San Francisco (1996) Freelance Producer providing audio to various radio specials including: "Rick Chase's 10th Anniversary" KMEL San Francisco (1996) "Don Bleu's 25th Anniversary" Star 101.1 San Francisco (2007) "Remembering Bill Kelly" Mix 106.5 San Jose (2013)
1) Hey Brian! You have recently started a venture of producing 'The Lia Show' - what's it like to take on this new role?
It has definitely been thrilling! I came aboard the beginning of June and it has been non-stop these past few months. I've been working very closely with John Paul (VP/Programming) redesigning the show. In addition to working with Lia everyday, John and I talk on a daily basis about the show. The show is 100% different than previous years. The overall sound is more "fun" and up-tempo, with a lot of forward momentum. If you haven't heard Lia in a while, I invite you to check it out. The show has added new affiliates, and "The Lia Show" was nominated for a CMA award. I also manage the show's social media presence. In addtion to all the changes, I've been getting used to my new surroundings. I moved from a previous gig as an air talent and producer at the Radio Disney Network in Burbank to the Westwood One studios in Denver!
2) Before joining 'The Lia Show,' you were at Radio Disney for 15 years and produced numerous shows, as well as playing a role with on-air talent. I am sure that there have been many differences in cultures and production styles - can you give us a couple of examples?
A good producer has to know the on-air talent, both on-air and off, and the producer has to know the on-air style of each talent. More importantly, both the talent and the producer have to know their audience. Lia is very plugged in to the lifestyle of today's country audience. She lives it with them. She takes care of her family, she does the same chores, listens to the same music, and her listeners are willing to be open and share a part of their lives with her. It's all about knowing your audience. When I was an on-air talent at Radio Disney, we had to know all about the 'tween audience, the largest demographic since the baby boomers. The challenge is recognizing when your audience is growing and changing. The people who are listening to Luke Bryan today consider Garth Brooks a classic artist. Today's Radio Disney audience who listens to One Direction, is not the same one who listened to Britney Spears and N'SYNC when they first came on the scene.
3) You started your career in radio in the San Francisco Bay Area, and you have worked in radio at different locations for 17 years. Since radio has changed greatly since then, can you give us one example of a change that has been positive and one that has not been so great for the industry?
I think it's awesome that we can listen to a local radio station from anywhere in the world. I was in Japan on a disaster relief trip, we had some down time, and I pulled up Z100 and KIIS-FM on my iPhone. I'm a student of broadcasting and I thought: back in the 60's people use to listen to 610 KFRC, 77 WABC, and 89 WLS on those clear channel AM stations in different states. It's kind of like that, without the static! I'm a firm believer that radio was the first interactive media. When you called a radio station to make a requst and the jock put you on the air, the "magic" is there! Today, social media is an amazing tool. It's how people communicate and connect, and it has this compelling way of touching the human spirit. It amazes me that people in other countries were using Twitter to overthrow dictatorships! When social media came on the scene about 7 years ago, I heard radio people say this is another form of competetion. If used properly, radio can leverage social media as a complement to its audio output.
4) How do you think a good show plays a role in a radio station's listeners connecting to the music?
I think it's really important. A radio show that is active and has listener interaction with the talent can add an emotional component for someone connecting to a song. I've been around many different formats and Country music fans are more passionate about discovering their music than any format that I've seen. If the air talent is passionate about the music, the listeners can pick up on that and, in turn, will connect to the music.
5) What makes your airstaff unique from others that you have worked with?
This is the most open communication environment in which I've ever worked. We have a great team and I am proud of what we have accomplished in the past four months. I talk to John Paul and Lia everyday about the direction of the show. I also have Cub Buening, (who came from ESPN Denver, Total Traffic Denver, and news at KOA) and Jaymes Grundman (who was an intern at Dial Global) as associate producers; both talented in their own right. The five of us collaborate and brainstorm about ideas, promotions, and social media integration. On top of that, our engineering staff at Westwood One is the best! They are so passionate about their work and they make sure we have the tools to execute a great show. Even in the hallways, the 24 Hour Format PD's and DJ's have shown their support for "The Lia Show."
6) What can we find in 'The Lia Show' from a producer's standpoint?
We have a lot more fun with listener interaction and forward momentum in the music!
Lia continues to bridge the gap between Country's biggest artists and the listeners who support them. Listeners love to call Lia and tell fun and quirky stories from their lives.
We've added a whole bunch of features on the show, too! Monday, listeners call in and talk about their office gossip. On Friday, listeners celebrate the weekend with " Lia's Happy Hour." "Military Moments" continues to be really popular and connects with Lia's audience.
My favorite feature happens on Tuesdays and it's "The Olivia Show." Lia's 8-year old daughter offers her take on what is happening in current events, and it's pretty funny. Listeners are the star of the show. The team is always finding ways for listeners to intereact with Lia and be entertained by the show.
7) What new and exciting things are ahead for 'The Lia Show' as you look down the road?
One of the first things the five of us did back in July was to have a big brainstorm promotion meeting. The result was literally four pages of ideas. I can be pretty ambitious. It wasn't even Thanksgiving and the other day I was talking to John Paul about Valentine's Day. John literally stopped me in my tracks and said "One at a time!" He's pretty good at letting the team think outside the box and then setting down the reality boundaries.
8) Listenership has also increased to being online and almost instantly accessible since you began in radio. How does this impact how you produce and plan a show?
From my perspective, this is not that different from when listeners moved from AM to FM. (I wasn't around then, but my mentors have told me stories). I think it's incredible that you can listen to any radio station anywhere in the world. For the Lia Show, I want to be where the listener is. It is not just online, but the social media space, too. Social media has and is changing the way people as a whole communicate in our culture. Social media has given anyone the platform to have a voice, tell your story, and be heard. The challenge we face every day is finding the best way to intimately interact with Lia's audience. In a lot of ways, Facebook and Twitter are the new request lines. Look how business like Chipotle, Virgin Airlines, and Disney Parks are connecting with their consumers over social media. Flash Mobs and Occupy Wall Street got organized via these platforms. My advice to broadcasters: Find a creative way to take these tools, leverage them, and engage your audience. Social media can be a way to complement your radio station.
9) Country music is currently booming with younger listeners-how are you seeing this take effect in your world?
I have a lot of conversations with our team on how to connect with Generation Y and Generation X. The Millenials are the largest generation around today. I see a lot of 16- 25 year olds call into Lia or post on her Facebook page. The other day an eight- year old kid named Cody called in and said he listens to Lia every night when he does his homework. There is a big wave of country listening in Los Angeles and New York. Plus, it helps that artists like Taylor Swift, Hunter Hayes, Cassadee Pope, Florida Georia Line, and Kacy Musgraves are creating music for their generation. We have to learn how to be inclusive and to balance one-to-one communication among different demogrpahics.
10) In your opinion, what will the landscape for radio look like in the next, say, five years?
It is my hope that radio can inspire future listeners to become compelling personalities.
1) Can you remember the first record that you ever bought?
"The Curly Shuffle" by the Jump and The Saddle Band. I'm a big Three Stooges fan. My two older sisters use to play their Beatles and Aerosmith records all the time. I have vivid memories of me singing "Hey Jude" and listening to "Walk This Way" and "Sweet Emotion" over and over.
2) You were born and raised in San Francisco, CA. What are the top five things you'd suggest a person to do if they were visiting there for a few days?
Oh man, where to begin - it's literally the greatest city in the world!! (1) Go eat at Tommy's Joint on Van Ness. A great local diner (cash only) (2) For great seafood, you can never go wrong with Scoma's. (3) Take a great hike to Marin Headlands and climb to the top and gaze at the Golden Gate Bridge. (4) Spend an afternoon in Noe Valley and take advantage of the shops and the culture there. (5) Spend a night and listen to some jazz and blues at the Saloon in North Beach, a great little Dive Bar that is open late. (6) And Baker Beach in Seacliff...all my local friends are going to kill me for giving this spot away and yes, I realize that was six and not five! I can go on.
3) What are you currently listening to that might surprise us?
I listen to all kinds of styles of music really, however, let me take this space to plug some talented musician friends of mine that people need to know about, so check them out: Suburban Legends (ska) from Orange County; The Tragic Thrills (pop-rock) from San Diego; Dovetail (rock) from Dallas; Becky Middleton (singer-songwriter) from Dallas; Adjoa Skinner (singer-songwriter) from Nashville; Caroline Brooks (singer-songwriter) from Los Angeles; Mariah McManus (singer-songwriter) from Los Angeles; and Jackson Hunt (Indie-Pop) from Hollywood.