10 Questions with ... Rick Jordan
March 27, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I've just begun my 26th year in radio/records. Highlights include: PD posts at WNYP Ithaca, WVNC Canton, WBBS Syracuse, and WPOR Portland. I spent the majority of 2006 through 2010 on the "dark side", handling Northeast promotion for 903 Music, Country Thunder, Stroudavarious and finally for Golden Music Nashville. I landed here in Pennsylvania's beautiful Susquehanna Valley last October.
1) You are someone that has worked in radio, then to the record side, and now back to radio. How are you enjoying being back in radio?
I'm truly ecstatic. I craved to be back making a meaningful, daily contribution at a radio station for a couple of years, and when Golden Music shuttered its operations last summer, I viewed it as my opportunity to make it happen. I received a truly humbling email from a buddy when I got this gig. He said radio was a better place because I was back in it. I really want that be true so I throw myself into it everyday like my life depends on it. I haven't had this much fun in a long time! I owe a lot to my GM Carol Pierson and Max Media's Country guru John Shomby for giving me this opportunity to get back in the game.
2) What kinds of things did you learn while working on the 'records' side that you have brought back with you?
It didn't take long for me to discover that radio doesn't really understand records and records truly struggles to understand radio lol. I can definitely tell you that this PD will never attempt to play "armchair A&R guy" like I did in the past. The workings of a record label and the politics surrounding the decisions made regarding artists are pretty complex, and I was rather naïve to that before. I have a whole new appreciation for the energy, effort, and resources it takes to break an act and move a single up the chart. And it requires a special group of people to make that happen. It's a thankless gig, so next time you consider skipping your call times or letting a label call go straight to voicemail, give your friendly, regional rep the courtesy of a five minute chat--oh, and listen to his record before you dismiss it :)!
3) Do you feel like the experience at record labels has made you a stronger programmer?
To a degree, yes. It certainly hasn't changed my fundamental beliefs: Play favorites, and play BIG favorites more often. Take some calculated risks to add balance and flavor, and surround your music product with local, topical, "hit" content. And educate your audience about, and provide them with a roadmap to, your unique, non-duplicable brand assets.
However, I do think I might have a better barometer for reading "between the lines" regarding adds & airplay. Knowing what I know now, a glance at Mediabase provides me with a lot more perspective than it did 5 years ago.
4) What do you still love best about being in radio?
I've always been one of those guys who wanted to be moderately good at a lot of things. I viewed it as job security, so I have a really tough time answering that question. I equally love writing a killer promo, banging out a solid piece of imaging, or editing a music log. I guess if I had to choose, I would say that there's no better feeling than slamming a post so hard that it gives you a black eye. :)
5) This is also a different type of job for you, since you are running a cluster in a smaller market. How have you had to adjust?
Ah, the three sets of call letters are confusing, aren't they? Actually, I don't helm a cluster. I program one radio station, it's just that it's a Country "tri-mulcast." B98.3 serves 11 counties, up and down the Susquehanna River Valley on three Class A signals at 98.3, 92.3 and 100.5.
With the state of today's industry, it's a huge privilege to be able to give my sole attention and focus to one broadcast brand. That being said, staffs have shrunk dramatically during my 5 year hiatus (especially in markets this size), so I'm always burning the candle at both ends. Luckily, I have a GREAT staff who works every bit as hard as I do. I really appreciate the opportunity to eat, breathe and sleep just one radio station. I know of many fellow programmers who would love to be in that situation.
6) What kinds of things are you doing on a local level for the radio station to connect with listeners?
Simple-- We're putting in the effort. Our 2011 calendar of promotions and outreach efforts is jammed packed. The word "benchmark" isn't in our vocabulary. Just because we did it yesterday or last year doesn't mean the climate dictates repeating it. Annual promotions cloud the ability and covet the resources necessary to react to "now."
I think a good example of that was our Dale Earnhardt Candlelight Vigil, held last month on the 10th anniversary of his death at Daytona. We invited listeners to the local Chevy dealership to participate. Everyone received a commemorative #3 candle and we produced a 30 minute audio tribute to Dale that we aired live from the ceremony. It was on a Friday evening, but listeners showed up hours in advance. Overall, 150 people braved arctic-like temps and 40 mile per hour wind gusts to join us for the event.
7) Do young people still approach you about wanting to be in radio?
Unbelievably, yes. And a lot of them are already valuable members of our broadcast operation! Our production director is just 20 years old, my night jock is a college senior, and our star "jack of all trades" part timer is a high school senior.
8) If I were a 20'something living in your market, why would I listen to your stations instead of listening to my iPod?
Since we re-branded the radio station a few months back, it's been our goal to "hip up" the presentation and grow people into the radio station, rather than just age with our existing users. But I think it transcends things like tempo, library vintage and slick presentation. We've attempted to become a lifestyle component, rather than just a jukebox. If our Facebook likes are any indication, I think we're speaking their language at the moment with better accuracy and proficiency than ever before. I love when a decidedly younger listener calls the request line and refers to a contest or event by the exact name we use to brand it on air. That truly means we've succeeded in adding language to their lexicon.
9) What new artists are you really excited about these days?
Bradley Gaskin, Bradley Gaskin and Bradley Gaskin. Honorable mentions to Due West, David Adam Byrnes and Josh Kelley (anybody who marries Katherine Heigl deserves mad props, just because). And I think this will be a BIG year for the baby acts in the Borchetta stable, namely The Band Perry and Steel Magnolia.
10) Who are some of your mentors that have helped shape you in your career and how have they done that?
Ask a short question, get ready for a long answer lol.
Ironically, my 4 biggest mentors were influences I never worked with (and in some cases never met). First, the late greats Sonny Joe White and Rick Sklar for teaching me the value of showbiz on the radio. Also, my friend Harry "Bud" Nelson, another WPOR PD alumni, whose work in Boston radio during my childhood taught me all I ever needed to know about sound formatics & presentation. Finally, Jo Jo Kincaid (WRBQ Tampa), the best air talent I've ever heard, and the reason I chose to make radio a career and not just a hobby. Someday, I hope to be able to meet him and say thanks in person.
I owe much to SAGA's Steve Goldstein, who's probably the smartest broadcaster I've ever met. His "brilliant at the basics" philosophy is the template for how I approach the job now. Last but not least, Don Jackson (WMJI Cleveland) and Clarence Barnes (Ex MoVin 93.9 & KIIS-FM LA) who were the first guys to really take an interest in me and provide advice and direction when I was just a teenager pulling weekend overnights. That did, and still means the world to me.
1) Aside from Country what's your favorite format?
"80s Pop." To me that's the golden age of top 40 radio, although many people will probably argue that point. That stuff is the music of my life.
2) Someone once listed 5-albums for me that he thought any music lover should have in their collection. Which albums (up to 5), do you think any music lover should have?
Springsteen "Born To Run", Willie Nelson "Stardust", Elvis Costello "Imperial Bedroom", Stevie Wonder "Songs In The Key Of Life", Counting Crows "August And Everything After" (Honorable mention-- Del Amitri "Change Everything")
3) What were some of the music highlights for you at this past CRS?
Bradley Gaskin, Bradley Gaskin--and Bradley Gaskin.