10 Questions with ... Drew Kelly
September 3, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- WYGL-A Selinsgrove, PA - Sunday Mornings - 1987-'89
- WGMR - State College, PA - PT/weekends & nights - 1995-'96
- WUBZ - State College, PA - PD/Afternoons - 1996-'97
- WQKX - Part time first year, then PD/Mornings - 1998-present
1) What Got You Interested In Radio?
A sales guy for WYGL came into my family's GE Appliance store and sold some ads to them. The only condition? My mom asked that I record the commercial. That was my first bite by the radio bug.
2) What makes your station or market unique? How does this compare to other markets or stations you have worked at?
Our stations have been owned by the same family since 1933. To our knowledge, no other stations in PA have been continuously owned by one family longer.
3) How do you stay in tune with your audience?
I go where they go, and I do what they do. Lucky for me, I'm right smack in the middle of our demo. So I try hard to live the lives of our listeners. Living life is the best show prep, and nothing beats face-to-face interaction with listeners to really make an impression. It doesn't matter if I'm at parent teacher night, a black-tie formal, a charity event, or a station remote, I treat everything I do as an opportunity to recruit listeners and influence listening. During my time outside the building, I try to be as observant as I can, to make sure that when I'm back in the studio, I'm relating to our listeners as effectively as I can.
4) Who is the most amazing talent you've worked with?
This is an easy one...Steve Reynolds. Steve consults some of the biggest names in morning radio, and I was lucky enough to work with him because of the radiothons we do for Children's Miracle Network. Steve literally has the ability to turn your worst moments into not only your best moments, but also make it a life changing experience that you'll remember forever. I'll never forget the time that after only a short 20 minute coaching session, I literally wanted to break the door down to our break room and get back on the air. He has that kind of impact.
5) What's one thing that would surprise many people to learn about you?
I'm guessing most people don't know that I'm actually an Electrical Engineer, masking as a radio guy. I don't hide the fact that I'm a proud Penn State graduate, but many people assume that I was a communications major. Not so, as I earned my Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and worked as a design engineer for several companies before making radio my 'day job.'
6) What other stations and markets do you like to monitor?
I will say this...I'm very jealous of iHeartRadio's delivery system and product. I used to tell my dad when I was a kid, "Someday, I'll invent something that will let me get every radio station in America and be able to listen to them anywhere I want." The thought of such a device was unimaginable to build in 1978. Now, it's nearly a reality. I use it often to check in on lots of stations of varying formats that I feel have really succeeded at what they set out to do. While it certainly doesn't make any sense to try to emulate all that, I think it's really healthy to recognize what the station sets out to do, and then how well they execute. My current favorites include: WIOQ/Philadelphia, "Z100" in New York, "The River" in Harrisburg, "B104" in Allentown, "Mix" in Washington, "98 Rock" in Baltimore, "DVE" in Pittsburgh, "The Michael Smerconish Show" and "The Dan Patrick Show." I feel like I can give anyone of those stations or shows 15 minutes of my time and take away a lesson in good radio.
7) What's your favorite radio commercial?
Anything done by Dick Orkin's Radio Ranch. Dick is from Sunbury and his first job in radio was right here at WKOK.
8) What has been your station's biggest accomplishment?
You know, we've had years of consecutive #1 books and decades without a format or name change. But the thing I'm most proud of is our work with Children's Miracle Network. The 94KX "Cares for Kids Radiothon" has raised nearly a half-million dollars for ill and injured children at the Janet Weis Children's Hospital at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA. They're unique in that they are a world-class, free standing trauma center for kids in a tiny rural town of about 4,000 people so they really need the community's help. We've been privileged to serve as their radio partner, but even more honored to share some of the stories of the thousands who've been helped there. This event has really allowed 94KX to do our best work.
9) Apple, Amazon, Spotify, and many others have recently introduced music in "The Cloud." What effect will these new music services have on the radio and music industries?
Call me crazy, but I don't see cloud based music services hurting terrestrial radio as much as I see it hurting satellite. To me, if you're a radio listener, part of what you like is its portability and ease of use. While I don't think we should ignore the impact that streaming services of any kind can have on us, I think they're still lacking in being able to be a medium that nearly anyone can use. Have you tried to pair your Bluetooth phone to a car? Some are pretty easy...some are a friggin' nightmare.
10) What do you consider the key to your success?
I love this question. To me, success lies within me fulfilling my desire to do a great job at something I love at a place that I really enjoy every day. It has nothing to do with ratings, market size, or anything quantitative. It does have everything to do with being happy day in and day out, and doing a dream job for a small family owned company that treats me very well. The key to that success is understanding what you really want out of your career, and life in general. If you don't know, try stuff! Hell, I was an engineer for almost five years.
What long-term role do you see HD radio playing in the future?
I truly hope HD will be a big part of radio. Currently, it is not, and its simple why: not enough receivers. Until every car on every lot has HD Radio in it (whether the buyer wants it or not) HD will not take hold. We've been HD for over seven years and it took until this year (2012) for somebody to call us when our HD had a problem.
Once we hit critical mass for HD Radio receivers, I think it will really enhance what is already a great medium. The ability to develop new formats, generate more revenue, and the freedom to take some risks will help keep radio viable for a long time to come.
How did you get your on-air name?
Drew Kelly came from my first name (Andrew) and Sirius/XM's Kid Kelly. When I started here, they already had an Andy working here so the PD at the time said I had to come up with another name. So, the last half of Andrew made sense. My faux last name Kelly is a tribute to my favorite jock of all time, Kid Kelly, who I've actually developed a friendship with. Turns out his wife went to college at Bucknell University, just five minutes from the radio station, and listened to 94KX while she was at school. Kathy and I got talking one day during a Backtrax call, and we struck up a friendship. Meeting my radio hero was a dream come true, and having him now as a friend has been indescribable. Just last month, Kid and I were enjoying some cold Coronas at a Bucknell frat party, but that's a story for another time...
What's the best hire you've ever made?
I'm extremely proud of all my hires. We've had some really great talent come through here, most of which had never seen the inside of a radio station until they came here. We're lucky to have some great Universities very close by that offer excellent communications programs, and I love finding and developing young talent. While it's hard to watch them leave the nest, it's extremely rewarding to see them succeed on such big stages as Harrisburg, Philly, and even New York. I feel obligated to give young people a chance in this business, because it's certainly not happening in large markets. Plus, when you actually take the time to develop green talent, you can really make your station better and make your life easier!
Who is your best friend in the business?
Lots of friends are important in this business, especially for us small market guys. I feel very fortunate to call a lot of industry folks friends, as they have helped me with countless things over the years. Mike Herald, who handles all of Music Choice's Pop formats, has been a friend for 10+ years.