10 Questions with ... Scott Donato
July 12, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started in radio as a high school sophomore (15 years old) at WCTX in my hometown of Palmyra, PA (playing oldies). Through the years, I had stops at WHYL-FM/WCAT in Harrisburg, WIOV in Lancaster, WYCR in York, WHYL-AM in Carlisle, and WGTY in York, where I've been since 2006. (PD since 2007, OM since 2009). I also have owned and operated "Twang", a Country dance club since 1994 and dabbled in voiceover work.
1) Scott, thanks for taking the time to chat with All Access! When did you know that you wanted to get in to radio and what ended up being your first radio gig?
I never wanted to do anything else. From as early I can remember, I always loved entertaining people. It almost seemed like that's why I existed...to make people laugh.
2) What is your favorite part about working in radio?
The one-on-one with the listeners, and the love of music. Being able to be a part of the song process, from start to finish, never gets old.
3) Your station is one of the few stations that are still completely "live and local." Why is that important to WGTY? What are ways you stay involved in the community?
It's important to us because it's EVERYTHING. We don't see it as just our "niche" either. We see it as our DNA. Having multiple live and local weekday airshifts gives us a tremendous advantage. And though our morning show drives the station, it's not 90% of our product like so many stations. We have made a point to market each show in its own way, highlighting the strengths of each jock. In turn, we've challenged our personalities to own their timeslot as if every other station is doing the same thing. Listeners aren't dumb...they can tell the difference between an automated jukebox and something real. However, we take nothing for granted. Through more appearances and concerts and station events, we strive to be our listeners' only option. Though that may be impossible to accomplish in this Pandora world, being their top option is a nice consolation prize. At the end of the day, we actually care about our listeners...each one of them. When you can say that, and mean it, you are already way ahead in this automated world.
4) Who has influenced you the most in this business and why?
I was influenced by so many different radio styles as a kid.; from a local guy in Harrisburg (Ron Drake) to Casey Kasem to Howard Stern when I got a little older. I was always fascinated by radio. As far as someone who personally affected me, Tom Plaskett at WIOV was a big influence. I was only 18 and doing evenings amongst a staff that was much older. He urged me to be confident and stick to my guns and style, without being disrespectful.
5) Kelsea Ballerini recently broke down some barriers by becoming the first female debut act to receive a #1 song in a long time. Who are some other females out there that you think radio should pay attention to? Do you see more females "breaking through" this year?
I hope so. While I understand that men have generally fared better in this genre over the years, we can't ignore the ladies. Yes, men are always more likely to break through, but this format has always been home to so many female superstars. You listen to that new Cam song and you instantly stop everything you're doing. There's a chance that THAT song won't work? THAT is a song. And though it's off to a great start, I hope radio and listeners as well, embrace it. Look at the Jana song...it's selling and testing where it's being played. RaeLynn and Cassadee Pope also could be forces too. The candidates are out there.
6) You and your morning show co-host Kim have been hosting "Kim & Scott In The Morning" for a long time now. What do you think the secret is to your successful morning show? What advice can you give to new morning shows that are just starting out?
75% of it is chemistry. And in our case, I can only be me when doing mornings. Kim had no choice but to adjust around my insanity to make it work. Some of my shtick would not work with a less skilled host. Though I may get more laughs and seem like I'm providing more entertainment, none of it works if the audience doesn't give a damn about you. After 8 years, I think our audience knows what we're about. But, Kim keeps the show grounded, and though that seems like it's just a secondary element, it's huge. Prep is important as well, but don't use prep services as your only source material. In a nutshell, don't talk AT each other and try to "figure out" a formula. Just be yourselves...but do it in a way that endears yourself to the audience.
7) You are a big supporter of a lot of up-and-coming artists. When a new artist comes in for radio tour, what is it about them that makes you want to take a chance on their music? What do you look for?
Being real and sincere truly helps. We've all heard the same "I've never heard anyone like this" hyperbole from reps...and I get it, that's their job. But, ultimately, in this format, making a true connection (and having a good song, obviously) are big factors.
8) Speaking of new artists, do you think it's possible to play too many new artists on a station? Will you only play a certain number of new artists to save spots for the superstars? How do you maintain a balance?
For a station like us, one that's independent and can play music, it's always a slippery slope. All of our playlists have grown. But, yes, there IS such a thing as playing too much new music. Though it's becoming harder to do, we want to grow artists. So, we're forced to choose which ones we want to champion.
9) Not only are you an on-air personality and PD, but you also own a Country dance club called Scott Donato's Tractor Twang. What made you want to dabble in that world as well?
I was basically still a kid when I started it in 1994 to try to take advantage of the line dance craze. It worked for a while, before it almost went under in the late 90's when most of our crowd went away. But, then, thanks to Shania and the Dixie Chicks, and Faith, younger people started showing up. So, we rebranded it as a young adult (and non alcoholic) dance club and gave it a whirl...and boom, we had a second life. Though it's completely separate from the station (and in a different market), I saw first hand, before anyone else, what the young Country fan was interested in. From Taylor to Eric Church to Brantley, we saw the train coming well before the radio success. Though you can't program a station based solely on that age group, it has truly helped me stay informed with the young Country fan.
10) Many people are calling Country radio the new Hot AC because of the diversity of the format lately. Do you think that's true? If so, do you see the format staying that way or going "back to the center?"
It's hard to tell, but I believe our format is evolving primarily because Rock music is practically extinct and "Pop" music has gone through a metamorphosis as well. So, while many new fans are coming into the format, new sounds are as well. My hope is that the Eastons and Chris Youngs of the world stay strong, regardless of where the "center" is in a few years.
1) We know you're a big sports fan. So, when it comes down to it. Which is better: Baseball or football?
Football, though I still can sit and watch every inning of every Oriole game.
2) Last household chore you did?
Mowing the Lawn