10 Questions with ... Ben Harvey
October 18, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- APD/afternoon host, WBRU/Providence
- Night host at Y100/Philly
- Night host at K-Rock/NY
- Radio With a Twist/Syndicated
- OutQ Host, SiriusXM,
- BPM Host, SiriusXM,
- PD, SiriusXM Chill & SiriusXM Utopia
1. What made you want to get into radio?
My uncle worked at WABC radio in New York City as an engineer. He took me to work with him when I was in middle school and let me get behind a microphone and press buttons in the ABC studios. I was hooked from then on! He would send me the Casey Kasem "America's Top 40" CDs every week after they aired, and I would maniacally study the Billboard charts. I bought a mixer, a microphone, two CD players, and I built a pirate radio transmitter I bought at Radio Shack. I called the station "WBEN." The transmitter range was a whole two blocks! My cume was probably about 10 people (if that).
2. What's the biggest difference that you see between terrestrial and satellite radio?
Terrestrial is all about mastering the ratings game. Satellite is about providing content that's entertaining enough to make the monthly subscription fee worthwhile. After working in terrestrial radio for 10 years, when I got to SiriusXM it took me awhile to get used to the idea of cross-promoting other channels. When you work for FM, you're hoping listeners don't change the channel and punch out; at satellite, the goal is to keep you satisfied about your overall subscription, whether you're tuning in to one channel or 20 of them. So it's not live-or-die by the ratings.
3. On a weekly basis you sit in a music meeting with Geronimo to go over music for SiriusXM Chill. What becomes the determining factor in a song going into rotation on Chill, or one of the other Electronic channels?
We look at a good amount of data -- record sales, YouTube views, Shazams, streams -- to see what's reacting early. But with a channel like Chill, which focuses on emerging deep house music, much of the decision comes down to our gut instinct as to how it will sound on-air. We like to think of Chill as the perfect poolside channel or something you'd hear a DJ spinning after hours in a cool hotel lounge.
4. You do afternoons on BPM from 2-6p (ET). What do you love best about being on-air, and what's the biggest difference between a BPM listener and a Chill listener?
I love being on-air because I'm passionate about music and pop culture, and listening to BPM is a great antidote to all the negativity in the world. Radio is such an intimate medium, and I love interacting with our listeners. I also see Chill as an escape for people. It's relaxing, feel-good music. Electronic music fans are growing up, so I like to call it EDM for adults, or music for the post-EDM generation.
5. Over the past year the sound of the music on Chill has changed a little. What would you consider to be the prototypical Chill song these days?
Our most-played artist is Kygo. I started playing his music on Chill back in 2013, when he was just making remixes in his dorm room in Norway. It's incredible to see how he's grown into an international superstar since then. Still waiting for the invite on his private jet, though...!
As for the prototypical song, we did a music research test recently and the songs that connected most were "Porcelain" by Moby and "Come With Me" by Nora En Pure. Moby is classic chillout music, and Nora En Pure is an example of the melodic deep house sound that we're trying to spread to the masses! Both songs have minimalist, repetitive vocals and connect on an emotional level.
6. Where are you going to find out about new music?
I look at the European Shazam charts, Soundcloud's deep house chart, YouTube channels like Majestic Casual, Mr. Suicide Sheep, and Chill Nation. Record labels like Ultra, Armada, and Spinnin' have really embraced deep house and chillout music. Some producers reach out directly on social media, too. We're not monitored by Mediabase (yet!), but I send out a weekly playlist to industry peeps. A few times, when I've added an independent artist's song, record labels have reached out to them and ended up signing deals with them. I love the idea that Chill is helping artists sell records and contributing to their success. It's amazing to see how this genre of music has blown up over the past few years!
7. How do you utilize specialty programming such as "House Of Chill" or mix show programming on Chill?
On Friday nights we kick off the weekend with our "House of Chill" show featuring resident DJs Felix Jaehn, Klingande, and Thomas Jack, plus special guest mixes. I picture it as what you'd hear early on at a club before it turns into the fist-pump set. It's perfect pre-party music. We try not to do too much mix show programming, though, since Chill has still gotta sound ... chill!
8. How much interaction do you have with the listeners of BPM and Chill, and do you find one aspect of social media to stand out from the rest with the listeners?
My favorite aspect of doing a live show on terrestrial radio was doing phoners and contests, so listener interaction is one of my favorite things about radio. At SiriusXM we focus on social media, so Twitter is one of the best ways to connect. And with the PLUR ("Peace Love Unity Respect") attitude of electronic music fans, it's almost all happy/positive interactions.
9. SiriusXM is very visible at the various Electronic Music Festivals around the country and around the world. Is there a favorite festival that you attend and broadcast from?
I feel very lucky to get to cover all the big EDM festivals like Ultra Music Fest and Electric Daisy Carnival. So many of our listeners would kill for the opportunity to meet and interview their favorite DJs. My favorite festival -- hands down -- is Coachella. With my background in both rock and electronic music, it's the best of both worlds, plus the execution of that festival is flawless. The backstage porta-potties are beyond luxurious, and they serve quinoa in the catering tent!
10. You're going to be broadcasting live from Amsterdam during ADE (Amsterdam Dance Event). Is there a particular artist that you are looking forward to interviewing in Amsterdam?
It's my first ADE, so I'm going in wide-eyed and bushy-0tailed! There are so many big time Dutch DJs there -- Tiesto, Armin, Martin Garrix -- and a lot of rising deep house artists such as Sam Feldt and Lost Frequencies will be there, too, so I can't wait to experience it all.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone wanting to break into radio today what would it be?
Become a music curator on streaming sites and try to develop a social media following. Start your own podcast, because who knows, maybe you can create better content on your own than what's on the radio! When I was starting out, all I had was my make-believe station WBEN. I wonder what I could have accomplished had technology been more advanced back then. But I'm also proud to have been part of old-school radio, knowing how to run a board manually, having experienced running a station exclusively on carts and CDs, taking hourly transmitter level readings. Radio is so much more than an automation computer, and I hope people getting into radio today are still able to get hooked on it like I did.
Being from NY, if we wanted to go get something good to eat where would we go?
I'm from Philadelphia originally, so I love a good cheesesteak. I go to Shorty's on 42nd and 9th. It's just as good as Geno's or Pat's in Philly!