10 Questions with ... Ginny Rogers
April 17, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Ginny Rogers began her radio career at Marist College, where she was on-air part time at Rock WPDH/Poughkeepsie, NY. After three years as then-Country WEOK-A/Poughkeepsie Program Director, she moved to Boston and attended grad school at Emerson College. Ginny is celebrating her 23rd year with Greater Media Country WKLB/Boston and 22 years holding the APD/MD position. She has accomplished many things in her time at WKLB, but perhaps most notable is creating "The Country Music Healing Tour," where artists coming through Boston visit and/or sing for pediatric patients and their families at the Tufts Medical Center Floating Hospital for Children. Inspired by the "Women In The Industry" panel at CRS 2016, All Access Nashville Editorial Assistant Briana Galluccio sat down with Ginny, who shared her experience as well as insight for people -specifically women-trying to break in to the industry.
1. Were your early visions for your career a match to where you are now? When did you know that you wanted to get in to radio and what ended up being your first radio gig?
I was a pre-med major in college, on a path to medical school. My goal was to help people. One day I found the college radio station, and that was it. I changed my major and school, and was off to the races. My parents were perplexed, but I never looked back. My first gig was overnights at Rock powerhouse WPDH in Poughkeepsie, NY. Then I moved over to mornings for WEOK-AM which had flipped to Country. My first interview was Bobby Bare, and then I met Johnny Cash. It was all very magical in my eyes then. It's still magical, only on a bigger scale. I was focused on getting to a major market, which I did, but I never thought I'd have this longevity at one station.
2. How did you make transitions from one level to another in your career? Was it an event or a person that helped you realize that transition?
After a few years in Poughkeepsie, I decided to go back to graduate school for a master's degree in management, so I moved to Boston with $300 in my pocket and enrolled at Emerson College with my sights on TV. Of course I had to work to pay bills and wound up back in radio at WBOS Country. I transitioned to Pop radio for a while, then back to Country when WBCS went on the air, and have stayed with Greater Media since. It's been 22 years, thanks to Peter Smyth and his commitment to the Country format. I'm still APD/MD after all these years, but it's been a perfect balance with my family life. Sure, I wanted to be a PD, but honestly it's all about balance in both your professional and personal life, and that may be the trickiest variable to overall happiness. My PD keeps me in the loop, and I'm included in many meetings and planning, so I feel like I'm an integral part of the team.
3. In the "Women In The Industry" panel at CRS 2016, the Billboard "Top 50 Power Players" list came up, and of the 64 (yes, the top 50 list has 64) only 12 were women. Do you feel a more equal shift coming to lists like that? Should we do more to get on these lists? Does it matter?
I think it was a huge step forward with a CRS "Women In The Industry" panel, and there should be more! I'd like to think there's a shift happening, but it will take time. There are so many smart women in the industry, and I believe it's more about recognition, not just lists. Being acknowledged on a list or award is certainly gratifying; however, lifting each other up is even more important, which in turn will shine the spotlight on what we are all doing to change and improve the music industry.
4. What advice would you give to a young woman trying to break into the industry - on the business side of it?
Be ready to work really hard, 24/7, 365, and network like crazy. You won't make a lot of money in the beginning, but if you stay focused on what you want, and take some leaps of faith, your journey will be rewarding. Collect contact names and numbers as you develop your skills, and reach out to them with a quick email. Never ever think you know it all, because you don't. Never stop learning. Ask questions of those who've paved the way or are people you admire. I remember at my first CRS, I was bold enough to approach two well-respected PDs, and asked them a few novice programming questions. They had no idea who I was before that, but they never forgot my eagerness to learn, and they always treated me with respect after.
5. In terms of women in the industry - on the artist side of things - we've seen a lot of female Country acts breaking down barriers: Kelsea Ballerini and Cam both got #1s and performed at the CRS "New Faces Show." Who are some other females out there that you think radio should pay attention to? Do you see more females 'breaking through' this year?
Maren Morris and Brandy Clark have their own sound, much like Kelsea Ballerini and Cam have carved out their own niche. I'm rooting for Cassadee Pope this year, and Lindsay Ell, who just needs a great song because she certainly has the talent. Women need to figure out who they are and stick with it...be YOU.
6. You've done a lot of work with the Floating Hospital For Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. You started "The Country Music Healing Tour," where artists coming through Boston visit and/or sing for the pediatric patients there. What inspired you to start this program? Can you tell us more about the program, and what do you see as the future of the "Healing Tour?"
It all started with the question, "How can we make a difference?" While at the 2012 Tufts Medical Center Gala, [WKLB/Boston PD] Mike Brophey, [Greater Media VP/Corporate Communications] Heidi Raphael, and I discussed how we could get artists to visit the families at Tufts' Floating Hospital for Children, which at the time needed a media partner. We decided to create our own program called "The Country Music Healing Tour." We made a logo, connected with the hospital, and on April 12, 2012 we had Gloriana visit the hospital for the first healing tour and sing for the families. It's grown into a strong program in the community which continues today. We've had Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, Lee Brice, Brett Eldredge, Kip Moore, Eli Young Band, Maddie & Tae, and many more visit the kids. WKLB has also created many intimate concert events which benefit Floating Hospital for Children, too, so we are able to donate dollars as well as music to the cause. We've also created the "Country Heals" five-mile walk/run to benefit Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children (which is the oldest pediatric hospital in America - it started as a ship in the harbor -thus the name "floating"). The program keeps expanding to our delight!
7. It feels like everyone in the industry knows you, Ginny! When we have mentioned your name to other programmers, label executives, etc., everyone agrees that you're great at your job and - just as importantly - a great woman. Can you share with us what they key is to making great friends in this industry?
In the words of my friend Lori McKenna, "always stay humble and kind." I've put my heart and soul into my work for so many years, and really try to respect everyone I work with. Here in Boston, we have an incredibly hard working, loyal, and brilliant team, so I'm honored to be part of it. There's no "I" in "team," as the saying goes. I also realize my Nashville friends have a job to do, as do I, so we try to find solutions to our common goals instead of being adversarial. Often, we end up as friends while starting out as colleagues.
8. You've had a lot of success in radio. How do you make the call on what to play? Is it a formula, a feeling, or both?
I really try to listen to singles even before they're released, to get a sense of what's coming for the next 6 -9 months. I'll bring songs into a music meeting with the PD and we'll listen together, although often we've already heard the songs before the meeting. Part of our success is knowing the Boston market so well, watching the trends, and certainly looking at numbers. But often times, it's a gut feeling of what the audience will respond to. We keep the office door open while listening to new music, so if the promotions team or someone in the hallway likes a song we are listening to, they can chime in, and often do.
9. What moment in your career are you most proud of when you look back? What is your favorite part about working in radio?
"The Country Music Healing Tour" is what I'm most proud of, and also the 2012 CMA Major Market Station of the Year Award. We don't take anything for granted, and have been so blessed. I'm still in awe that I've worked at Greater Media's WKLB for 23 years. Not many in any industry get to be a part of growing a brand for so long and with so many talented people. My favorite part of radio is the music, followed closely by the laughter. We work hard, but we laugh a lot in our office; therefore, it's still fun!
10. I'm going to refer back to the "Women In The Industry" CRS panel, which stressed finding balance between your professional and personal life. You're married to Mike Brophey, who is also the PD at WKLB/Boston. What is that like working with your husband every day, and how do you find the balance between work and personal life?
Ah, the question we're asked most often! Working with your spouse either works or it doesn't. There's no gray area; it's pretty black and white. We make it work because we respect each other's strengths. Mike's more analytical, while I'm more artistic. The other two keys are we communicate well, and laugh a lot, which are important in any type of interpersonal relationship. The only glitch is trying to take vacations together. Personally, we keep our family our priority, but it's always a balancing act when you are so committed to your work.