10 Questions with ... Sammy Suarez
June 16, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I wanted to be Phlash Phelps when I was growing up. I started as a board-op at WLDE/Ft. Wayne, IN and I got on the air part-time at WCKZ/Ft. Wayne. I eventually became PD for a short time, jumped to WJFX/Ft. Wayne and then headed west to work for CCM+E at KBOS/Fresno, CA before being hired back by a former PD Brian Michel in Salt Lake City. Then it was off to legendary KTFM/San Antonio (I was the last employee ever hired by the original station) and then KELZ/San Antonio. I then became the PD at KISN/Bozeman, MT. I then spent five years in Wichita at KZCH before a RIF and then I worked at WAOA/Melbourne, FL before coming to Charleston, SC.
1) What Got You Interested In Radio?
I grew up listening to "Phlash Phelps Phunny Pharm Phrom Phort Wayne" on WDJB and I wanted to be that guy! Eventually we got to work together at WCKZ/Ft. Wayne.
2) Who do you consider your radio mentors?
Phlash Phelps, Brian Michel, Jagger, Phil Becker, John Cook, and Lyman James. These are my radio board of directors.
3) What makes your market unique? How does this compare to other markets or stations you have worked at?
We are the #1 tourist destination in the U.S. so we get a LOT of transient people in Charleston. There are a lot of vacationers and people are coming and going. There are a lot of radio stations here and the difference between 1st and 15th can be a matter of just a couple points. So we must be on top of our game at all times. There is no room for error because the guy behind you is ready to run over you! LOL!
4) What is it about Mix 96 Live that you feel really makes it cut through?
We are "little ears certified." There is no chance you are going to be offended by any content or music on the station. Sometimes this means making custom edits of songs, but it is totally worth it plus we are truly local. We are locally owned and locally programmed so we get to make the station sound "PURE CHARLESTON."
5) How are you using social media to market your radio station?
We use our web site for the information, and social media is the conversation. In a day and age where we have two syndicated shows out of four, we use social media as the conversation posting things that syndication is talking about. Besides that, we use it to acknowledge the audience's everyday lifestyles and events .
6) What do you view as the most important issue facing radio today?
Well, anyone can get any song they want pretty much on demand at anytime now, SO it really becomes a question of how we connect with what is "between the songs." Now, more than ever we must be compelling in EVERY break or promo. It is not just about the music anymore. Finding creative ways to present the same information as your competition is the key. If we relate better to the audience than they do we win!
7) How do you prep yourself for your radio shift?
I run the Mix website, so the content I am putting up each day is a lot of my prep. I love Prep + and besides that, just being in touch with the lifestyle, this goes back to being local. I do what the audience does everyday before or after work and on the weekend I am them.
8) Please give us an example of a great promotion that your station recently did?
We recently had John Legend in town a couple months back. We had a grand prize winner that got to sit on stage and meet John before the show. During the meet & greet, the winner's boyfriend told me he wanted to propose to her on stage. We passed this information along to John who said, "I got this." John took if from there actually giving up the mic to her man and letting him propose in front of thousands of people. She said "Yes!" Then John serenaded the couple with his hit song "All of Me." This was a great experience for the winner and I'm sure it is something she will never forget! Ryan Seacrest even talked about it during his show "On Air With Ryan Seacrest."
9) Pandora, iHeart, 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?
Well, I think we have seen there will always be an alternative to radio, but we are never going to replace it. Radio delivers the local information better than any other medium, and that will always work to our benefit. If anything, it just speeds up the progress of a song, and that helps us get a quicker read on if it's a hit.
10) What is the one truth that has held constant in your career?
Work hard and own your actions. Making a excuse or playing the blame game might get you out of that immediate situation, but in the long term it's not the way. If you did it, own it.
Who are some of the best that you've worked with over the years?
Curtis Booker in Salt Lake City, Sassy at KBOS, KISN, and KZCH, Jay Quintero at KELZ/San Antonio, MJ at WAOA/Melbourne, Bobby Bones at KZCH, and Ace & TJ here at WMXZ. I have learned something from each of these people when it comes to on-air presentation, content, and delivery.
What do you do in your spare time?
I live in one of America's greatest cities! I can hit the beach 9 or 10 months out of the year! I like to take my dog Annabelle to the park, or to one of the many restaurants that have dog friendly decks and meeting new people as much as I can.
What advice would you give people new to the business?
If you want to work harder than you ever have for less money than you think you can live on, then radio is for you! Pay your dues and it will pay off. You really have to "want this" but if you do it will totally pay off!
What's the best piece of advice anyone's ever given you?
Treat every listener as if they were your only listener!
Who is your best friend in the business?
Man that is really tough. I feel like I am accepting a Oscar and I am going to forget someone. But over the years, I would have to say Booker, He is out in Spokane now at Hot 96.9 we talk a lot!
Tell us what music we would find on your phone or MP3 player right now and what is it you enjoy about that particular selection?
Well there are about 3000 songs to choose from but I like a lot of old school hip hop! It was fun and it had a message!
What is the biggest change that you'd like to see happen in the business?
We need to get back to growing talent. Don't get me wrong I understand the need for syndication, but if we don't get back to basics where we are training and grooming talent, then there is not going to be a next generation of up and coming radio talent and we are going to end up with all syndication because no one will be ready to crack the mic and provide the content in a compelling way.