10 Questions with ... Erik Johnson
March 20, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I got into radio by accident while getting my Bachelor's Degree in Architecture. I became the MD at the campus station, which turned into my first full-time overnight gig at a local Hot AC in Lincoln, NE. I have spent my entire career in Omaha and Lincoln. Over the 21 years, I've done Hot AC, Soft AC, Modern AC, Mainstream AC, Christian, Alternative, Active Rock, Mainstream Rock, Rhythmic CHR, Mainstream CHR, Mainstream Country and New Country. My first PD gig was KKNB/Lincoln preparing the Alternative station for the sale to Clear Channel. I then signed-on and programmed Rhythmic Top 40 KQCH for 8 years, eventually transitioning to a Mainstream CHR as we knocked off 15-year heritage KQKQ. I also programmed Hot AC KSRZ at the same time. I am now programming Country combo KXKT and KTWI for Clear Channel in Omaha. With Steve Lundy, Gina Melton, Ritch Cassidy and Mel Fisher, our heritage staff on KXKT has kept the station at #1 P25-54 for four straight books.
1) When did you decide you wanted to work in music & broadcasting and how did you get your start?
I always loved music but never gave it any consideration. I was going to be an Architect. After being fired from the local record store while in college, my brother got me a job at the local roller skating rink where he worked. A guy that worked there also ran a small Christian station in town. My brother worked for him at the station as well. One day, he needed a board op and my brother wasn't around. So began my career in radio. I finished my Architecture degree and never looked back.
2) You have stuck with the Omaha market for over 20 years. What makes Omaha a great market to work and live in?
People don't understand Omaha until they visit. I was born and raised here. We are just big enough and just small enough. It is an hour flight to Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis and St. Louis. You can drive to Kansas City in just over 3 hours. We have a very cool local music scene. The Old Market in the downtown area is a favorite of everyone who visits. Due to our central location, multiple acts have launched their tour here at the Qwest Center, including Chesney, Tim McGraw and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Taylor Swift will kick off her North American leg here with two shows. We are home to many Fortune 500 companies, like ConAgra, Mutual of Omaha and Gallup. Warren Buffet lives down the street. We have the AAA Royals baseball franchise, Division I college hockey, Cornhusker football and premiere Junior A hockey. It's a great town and you can still get anywhere in 20 minutes.
3) If you had chance to work in any other market, which one would you choose and why?
I love Omaha and really haven't considered leaving. If I had to choose another market, it would be Denver or Orlando. We have family close to both. I love the mountains and Mickey. Talking my wife into it is a different story.
4) What is your favorite part about your job? Your least favorite?
My favorite part of the job is creating the strategy, then leading and encouraging my great team to achieve things they didn't know were possible. Over the three years I've been with the station, we have won the NAB Crystal Award, won the CRB Humanitarian Award, and been nominated a couple times for the CMA Station of the Year. We've been #1 four books in a row P25-54. We are serving a great community and being rewarded for it. It's a great feeling. My least favorite part of the job is the necessary paperwork. We need to keep track of a ton of information. Paperwork is not my strong suit.
5) I know community involvement and charity events are big for you. Tell us about some of the events you have been proud to be a part of.
Even in a down economy, we've been able to maintain our donation levels to Children's Hospital here in Omaha with our radiothon. We've raised around $350,000 each of the past 3 years for the hospital. A million dollars out of this community during a recession is a pretty strong statement. We raised around $300,000 for the Food Bank for the Heartland over the holidays this year. When an officer was shot in the line of duty, we invited listeners to create "get well" cards for him. It was a tremendous outpouring of support. That was great to see.
6) Tell us about your passion for hockey and being a public address announcer for the United States Hockey League Omaha Lancers hockey team.
I grew up playing hockey here in Omaha. I'm lucky enough to be involved with a great program like the Omaha Lancers. Omaha is really a hockey town with a long history. Gordie Howe played here for half a season until he joined the Detroit Red Wings. Dan Ellis (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Paul Stasny (Colorado Avalanche) are just two NHL players that have played for the Omaha Lancers. The USHL is the premier Tier I Junior league in the United States. The Lancers are the diamond in the crown. I love being around the game. I also coach a high school team and my son's Mite team.
7) Congrats on your recent 11th anniversary with your wife. Do you talk a lot about her on the air and have you ever gotten in trouble for something you have said?
If you ask her, I don't talk about her enough. She's the best thing that has ever happened to me. She supports me in all the crazy things I do, like building an ice rink in our backyard. We have two wonderful children and I thank God for them everyday.
8) What record has really surprised you in the last year?
I've been in this business long enough that nothing really surprises me that much. I know almost anything can be a hit if the timing is right. I was a bit surprised that "Farmers Daughter" by Rodney Atkins got as big as it did. I thought it would be a decent song for us. It turned out to be a monster. There were other songs that we really believed in that worked for us in Omaha, but didn't catch fire around the country. Frankie Ballard "Tell Me You Get Lonely" was #4 for us. Bucky Covington "A Father's Love" hit #9 in our callout. Thompson Square has been #3 for a few weeks now. You can never tell when the next hit will come out of left field.
9) In your opinion, who is the most underrated singer in Country music?
We've always been big fans of Eric Church here at KXKT. His following is passionate. If you haven't seen him live, you're really missing out. I think Chris Young has a lot of talent. Walker Hayes has some great creativity and songwriting. I can't wait to hear more from him. He opened for Toby and Trace here in Omaha. He held the audience with just a guitar and bar stool on a stage in front of 15,000 people. It was great.
10) What are your favorite things to do with your family when you are not working?
We are crazy busy. In the winter, it is mostly hockey. Our kids are in every activity you could possibly fit into a schedule. We love to travel around the country. Chicago, Minneapolis and Denver are just an hour flight away. We can drive to Kansas City in 3 hours. We visit Disney often. Every summer, I take a week off and we just hit little water parks in the area.
1) What's your guilty pleasure?
Old school hip hop and Dots candy.
2) What's the best meal in Omaha?
You can't go wrong with a steak at any of the Italian restaurants in town. Lo Sole Mio for pasta. Mmmm.
3) If you could clone one person, who would it be?
Me. I could use an extra 24 hours in the day.