10 Questions with ... Robby Bridges
June 6, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- WELH-Providence (Alternative, Jazz/Blues and then News/talk) 1993-1997
- WWBB-Providence (Oldies) 1993 - 2000
- WQGN-New London, CT (Top 40) 2000-2001
- WODS-Boston (Oldies) 2000-2001
- WFHN- New Bedford, MA (Top 40) 2000-2004
- WPRO-FM Providence (Top 40) 2001-2002
- WIOQ-Philadelphia (Top 40) 2002
- WHTZ-New York (Top 40) 2002
- BBOR Productions (Syndication)
- WBMX-Boston (Hot AC) 2002-2004
- WCTK-Providence (Country) 2003-2008
- WEBE-Bridgeport (AC) 2008-Present
1) Who do you consider your radio mentors?
Tom Cuddy, Rick Everett, John Morgan, Kid Kelly have been great friends and teachers of mine. I've been really fortunate to work with amazing programmers like Tom Poleman and Greg Strassell. Additionally I came to WEBE for the chance to work with our Cumulus team and it's been a thrill to work with SVP Jan Jefferies, Regional VP Chuck Bortnick, Regional OM Curt Hansen, Ann McManus, and WEBE PD Danny Lyons.
2) What makes your station or market unique? How does this compare to other markets or stations you have worked at?
WEBE is situated in what is absolutely the most competitive marketplace I've ever encountered. While our home market is Bridgeport (where our studios and transmitter are located) we compete directly in New Haven, Stamford-Norwalk and Danbury.
All of these cities are within 20 minutes of each other, but they all have their own culture, landmarks, nightlife, demographics and highways. Further, those who live in the New Haven metro are far less likely to spend the majority of their time in Stamford and vice versa.
Challenge one is to program and be promotionally active to four distinct metros. Challenge two is the white Hot AC war going on not only across town but with signals from New York, Hartford and Long Island all competing for a piece of the pie.
That being said my previous home station was WCTK Providence. While we had no direct competition in the country format and a 50kw signal, the stick was out in New Bedford, MA 35 miles to the Southwest of the heart of the Providence-Warwick-Pawtucket DMA. The secret to success there was to be a Providence station first but to pay extra attention to coastal Mass where the other guys didn't and to own the northern Mass suburbs where we competed directly with Boston's WKLB and where many the concert venues are.
3) What is it about your station that you feel really makes it cut through?
"Stationality" and image branding. The WEBE name is tremendously catchy, and instantly memorable. After being on the air for 27 years the station has become legendary. The name itself is synonymous with Pop music variety and a friendly upbeat presentation in the community. Our jingle logo, and our ACTUAL logo have changed very little in all the years we've been on the air. Both are wholly familiar.
So the WEBE brand is indentifiable and meaningful in this region because of that consistency. We don't give out prizes, we call them "WEBE-Freebies," "WEBE-Weekends," "WEBE 10-Eighties," "WEBE WEB-Site" and so on. We've even dubbed the multiple city area we serve "WEBE-land" on air.
We have on air benchmarks not only in dayparts such as our 5 Question Quiz for cash morning or afternoon Drive at 5 request hour, but our annual "Christmas Wish," "Kids-fest" and 108 days of Summer" promotions. Lastly, all of our personalities are familiar and heritage in the region giving both listeners and clients something extra special when they crack the mic.
4) What do you view as the most important issue facing radio today?
Today's 25-54 year old demo (every advertisers crÃ¨me de le crÃ¨me) shall be the last to grow up in a world where radio was the prime source for music discovery and enjoyment, pre-smart phone, pre-Facebook, pre-internet.
WEBE just wrapped a "Super Summer Hits" weekend and when Britney's first record came out in 1997, the new media that did exist was still infantile. That 16 year old is now almost 30. But a 16 year-old today has all those choices in addition to radio; so it's a matter of relevancy and convenience.
Why does a teen need radio today? And what will they need it for in ten years? I think the answer is yes for big "experience prizes," cash, cars, artist access and some discovery of music as has always been the case. But that's no longer enough. Further, air talent blogging or station web sites offering bonus prizes aren't either. It is important but not the key.
Long term, radio is going to have to first go back to the basics (local school spirit, battle of the bands etc). coupled with rethinking the on demand/interactive element. The successful radio brand in ten years will be a multi-media platform, online, on air, and on demand. Radio needs to offer pick and choose content to users from music to personalities. It needs to be downloadable, "pausable," recordable and linkable.
5) How do you position the station musically?
The AC format is now in flux. On the other hand, it's one of the hot radio formats to be doing right now. WEBE's heritage is gold based AC. In actuality, the station has always been a mainstream AC. But when WEBE signed on with "The Hits of a whole generation"(meaning baby boomers) 60's and 70's where a major part of the equation. There has always been a place for a sprinkling of those cuts, but the gold focus is now the 1980s for the format, and to a lesser extent the 1990s.
AC has a new arsenal of core artists that weren't a factor a few years ago. They include Daughtry, Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, and Train. They include Country cross-overs like Lady Antebellum and Carrie Underwood; and R/B flavored tracks from Bruno Mars, Beyonce' and Cee Lo. That list also continues to include Michael Jackson, Elton John, Billy Joel and Madonna. I think WEBE 108's sound clearly reflects that...we play the biggest hits of today and back and in the day. Period.
6) Tell us what music we would find on your MP3 player right now and what is it you enjoy about that particular selection?
While I do have an iPod and an iPhone, I think it's empty when I have to travel by plane or train I bring my trusty Sony AM/FM cassette walkman. That being said, I love the iPhone music/radio apps. And I love to listen to music on YouTube while working on my laptop.
7) Your thoughts on Syndication and Voice-Tracking?
It's all in how the shows are executed. WEBE has successfully made John Tesh our night jock in the way he cuts liners and spots like all the air staff does and the local bumpers we use through his show. I think the same is true of all syndicated fare or out of market trackers. I voice-track our Hot AC in Poughkeepsie, and I speak regularly with our PD there. I get copied on all their liners/memos and I read their local paper's web site. And that's just to track a four hour Sunday shift so it sounds relatable and local.
8) What's the best hire you've ever made?
I hired Providence market icon Big John Bina at WCTK in 2006. Big John was on WPRO-AM and PRO-FM for decades. He was later on B101, the Oldies station for a number of years and that was where I had the chance to meet him.
I was an eight year-old kid at the now defunct Rocky Point Amusement Park and I remember seeing him intro a show from the "Giant PRO FM Boom Box" and that is my first palpable memory of wanting to be in radio. Later at B101, he always went out of his way to be a teacher and a friend. So when the chance came to bring him on for weekends/swing as WCTK was rocketing to #1 was a real delight.
9) Which new artists do you expect to still be playing in five years?
I love this question as we all could look back at old trades and see programmers saying "yes Billie Myers and Snow are here to stay"....I'll say this, I can't predict longevity (other than for Gaga) but we'll be playing Bruno's "Just the Way You Are" and Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" for many years to come.
10) What advice would you give people new to the business?
Learn everything (and I do mean everything) every aspect of the traditional radio business from programming, promotions, sales, and engineering, but also be a marketing/IT/Journalism monster. You'll need every skill.
Never stop learning and challenging yourself. If there is no passion driving your talent/desire...the radio business probably isn't for you... at least for the long term.
1) What has been the best performing record on the station so far this year?
Hits are hits are hits but the biggest reaction record this year has possibly been "Marry Me" by Train.
2) What's the best concert you've been to so far this year and why?
Frankie Valli. You gotta love those Jersey Boys, but to see and hear how good Frankie still is himself was tons of fun. He played one hit after another!
3) What is the most popular giveaway item at your station?
Of course T-shirts, pens and stickers for the kids are always winners. BUT! Hot and cold beverage Coozie, chap-stick, and nail files are a few of my favorite outside the box ideas of late.
4) Who was your most memorable artist you've ever interviewed?
Well, especially with the "Robby Bridges Variety Show" we syndicate weekends, I've had the chance to interview hundreds and hundreds of artists. But my favorite memory of them all is Blake Shelton (now of NBC's The Voice). He is a funny man.
5) What's the best sweeper you've ever heard?
"We Play the Hits!" "Yeah, you know all the songs!" "Thanks for spending more of your time with us." It's a three way tie.