10 Questions with ... Bob Glasco
September 21, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Glasco was raised in Phoenix and got his radio start at the market's legendary Top 40 KRUX. He spent time working in AC too, but considers KMLE/Phoenix his true career beginning. Glasco launched the station in 1988 before joining Rusty Walker's consulting firm on a fulltime basis in 1991, after helping Walker's clients on a part time basis beginning in 1990. Over the years, Glasco has worked with nearly 100 stations and markets, ranging in size from Los Angeles and Chicago, to Medford, OR and Bozeman, MT.
1. Hey Bob - thanks for taking time for 10 Questions. You've been in the Country format since launching KMLE/Phoenix in 1988, so you've seen its popularity ebb and flow. What's different about the current surge in Country's mass appeal, vs. the "Garth Era" of 20-something years ago.
The late 80's early 90's surge was helped along by problems CHR was having. It happened that as they were in a music slump people like Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and Clint Black came along. At about that same time Country Radio's on air presentation became more contemporary. Our music and presentation was a palatable alternative to those disenfranchised by CHR. The good news at the time was that the core fans of the music also embraced "Hot New Country." Today radio is still using a contemporary presentation and so are the artists that have come along in the past few years. It helps that TV and other mainstream media has realized how powerful the Country audience is, how good the music sounds and the artists look.
2. One thing everyone sees is the growth among younger music fans, specifically 18-34s. Do you think that growth is sustainable, or, as some say, will they run to the "next big thing" once it arrives?
Those in that demographic will always be the adventurers, regardless of the generation. And, there will always be "the next big thing." We all remember 18-34 support was there for Country across all markets during those early years. I'm sure someone can prove me wrong but it seems to me it's never really gone away. Sure it was soft in the latter part of the 90's but so was the format across most of the other demos. As long as Country radio keeps up with listener tastes with their marketing and presentation, our non musical product continues to entertain our target audience regardless of who is in the demographic window your station is targeting, and we let the artists continue to grow and flex their creative muscles, that younger support will continue. In other words, evolve along with the audience.
3. Also, is 18-34 the new 25-54, in terms of target? If so, how much do we risk compromising the usually loyal and reliable 35+ fans, who are mostly women?
We program to attract "money demos" whatever they may be for your station and your market. It's true that in some head-to-head battles one competitor might decide on a narrower target to concentrate their force in and that can be a very good strategy if it can generate enough sellable rating points. But if you're a mainstream Country station ignoring the 35+ audience, that would be a mistake until/unless the money demo changes.
4. Since the format has grown in popularity, more stations have made the flip to Country. Starting with KMLE back in the day and continuing with your time as a consultant, launching and branding new stations has been a specialty of yours. That said, how would you grade the latest round of new station launches?
That's not up to me to decide. The Country lifegroup in those markets will let us know how they did.
5. Launching a new brand is one thing; what must a station do to build a long term, identifiable brand?
Number one, have patience. While we can get instant feedback in the metered markets it still takes time to really build a brand rather than just attract a crowd. Sometimes it seems crowd-building is mistaken for brand building. The things that attract crowds are usually temporary unless you have a sound strategic plan, at least good if not great talent and are playing the right music to keep at least a portion of them around when the "new" wears off. That portion you keep becomes the nucleus of support for your brand.
6. Also, back in the day, radio utilized a lot of animals to brand around. Are those days over?
I certainly have been part of the cast of (insert your own descriptive word here) involved in that tactic over the years. I don't think they have worn out their welcome if they're being used correctly. I have heard stations with a name that are doing nothing to brand the station. They say the name but nothing ties to it. Most of those names were adopted to not only increase top of mind awareness but to add to the fun factor of the station. It takes a special talent to be able to write meaningful imaging and not just silly verbiage. If the PD doesn't have that ability, find someone who does.
7. Cumulus just rolled out its "Nash Icons" stations - is this a sign that Country, similar to AC, is ready for two versions of the format?
The listeners will tell us soon enough. We've seen a mix of old and new doing OK in some markets for awhile, however we're the producers not the consumers. All of us can come up with a musical formula to fragment the format but will anyone listen? Will anyone buy advertising on it? For some reason every time I've seen alternate approaches tried on Country radio over the years I'm always reminded of the Edsel. It was a good car that nobody wanted.
8. The word "Consultant" has sometimes drawn negatives form the day-to-day PDs. How can they best utilize your services for success. And, what role does the GM - or, nowadays - RPM play in this relationship dynamic?
It's not difficult to understand why some PD's are hesitant to work with a consultant. Like any relationship whether it be business or personal if there isn't trust between the two there is no relationship. Once that is established anything is possible. I've had some clients that were doing fine but had me on board for the same reason they had a fire extinguisher mounted on the hallway wall. Other's need help in some areas. If the PD will just remember the consultant is there and wants to help they'll get the most from the relationship. As for the GM or corporate people I'd suggest not forcing the PD. If the consultant is doing their job the relationship will form and the station will benefit.
9. We'd be remiss if we didn't ask about the late Rusty Walker, who we lost a couple of years ago. What was it like to work so closely with him for so long and what gift did he bring to radio that cannot be replaced?
It was truly a blessing. I was in radio for several years in other formats before being "reborn" into Country radio and meeting Rusty in 1988. I can't imagine a better person to work with at that stage of my career and the evolution of the format. He was Country through and through but willing to help us do things that were not exactly in the manual for Country Radio at the time. I don't know if radio will ever have another person who is so universally loved and respected, and his ways of expressing himself so often quoted as RW. Anyone who ever talked to him on the phone knows what I mean when I say he was always "just slliiddiiinnng right along!" Every conversation was a lesson either in radio or life's journey and sometimes both. It was that way up until the last time we spoke about a week before he passed. I still can't believe he's gone.
10. Back to Garth for a minute. We know his worldwide tour will be big. But what about the music? In an era of Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan and Miranda Lambert, can he fit into the mainstream landscape still?
Once again the Country lifegroup will tell us. Even his most rabid fans seemed to reject his last effort with Trisha ("The Call") and I remember his last album with new music did not approach the success he had earlier. Country is so broad that "fitting in" isn't the question. We all know how awe inspiring he's always been in person. I'm wondering if he can bring that magic back to the studio.