10 Questions with ... Martin Wagmaister
September 30, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
See #1 below.
1. What got you into radio? Why radio, and when did you decide it was what you wanted to do as a career?
As a kid, my dad would drive me to school with Rick Dees on. At night, I would call KIIS-FM in Los Angeles and request songs. I would record myself talking into the boombox. I would make mixtapes. I think these are all symptoms of a love for broadcasting, for music and for radio. When I got into college, I ended up at UC Riverside for a time and volunteered to do the news on their station. I soon became the sports guy, then the anchor, then they asked me to sub for hosts who werenâ€™t available. I would sit and spin records for 6-7 hours at a time and it was awesome.
I ended up transferring to Cal State Northridge, got my degree and before I graduated, I landed an internship with none other than Rick Dees, thanks to his Executive Producer, Paul Joseph. Rick hired me after I graduated and the rest just took its course. Since that time, I produced Rick for a total of 6 years, I hosted my own shows in Sonoma County and the Cayman Islands, I was part of the team that transitioned from Rick Dees to Ryan Seacrest at KIIS and was able to help Ryan in the first two years of his show there. And Iâ€™ve gotten to write prep for radio statins across the county and scripts and countdowns for some of the most popular radio shows in the world. And now I have the chance to take all of that education and knowledge to create something that has never been done beforeâ€”the first unbiased radio show about the marijuana legalization movement in this country, The National Marijuana News. Itâ€™s been an amazing 20 years and it has gone by way too fast!
2. Your new show is about something that wouldn't have been accepted as a business model for a radio show until recently. How did National Marijuana News come about, and what prompted the launch? Was legalization in Colorado and Washington the spur, or would it have been coming anyway? Why now?
Well, I wouldnâ€™t say it has been accepted. Our team is entirely understanding of the fact that most radio stations and their owners are going to be hesitant to put a show like ours on the air. Itâ€™s understandable from a financial perspective -- I wouldnâ€™t trade a Wal-Mart buy for a brand-new never before done show about marijuana either. But in terms of content, in terms of the ability to educate and inform the country about something that is here and that is coming and that is going to be a part of this countryâ€™s lifestyle, we are that show. We want to be able to give you the ability to learn and to think for yourself without the propaganda, and then, through the knowledge we provide through our content, youâ€™ll hopefully be able to make a more conscious choice about whatâ€™s going on. Thatâ€™s what we want to do with TNMNews and weâ€™re looking into the possibility of being able to reach out to listeners, not just on our website and our Live 365 platform, but on actual terrestrial radio stations, with actual mainstream advertising. Itâ€™s a matter of time, and myself and my team want to be first in line to present a product like this. I am confident in the teamâ€™s abilities, their passion and their desire to make this work and I know we will.
3. The stereotype would be of a bunch of stoners sitting around spacing out, but that's not what this show is. Describe what the show's like and who's involved -- besides the topic focus, what can people expect to hear on the show?
I am not the kind of person to throw comparisons around, especially with a radio product that hasnâ€™t really been attempted in this way. But to make things easier to understand, I wanted to create a highly produced and imaged NPR-type show with in-depth interviews, phone calls, field pieces and testimonials, all relating to the pros and cons of legalizing cannabis. We look at the topic on different levels, including medical breakthroughs, scientific studies, political debates and measures, lifestyle and culture changes and more. We want to cover the gamut of it all, right down the middle, with an unforced opportunity for you to learn about something that, based on my experience making this show, could literally change how the world looks at health care and wellness. It is that groundbreaking and again, I want The National Marijuana News to inform you and everyone else, all in an unbiased format.
4. Who are your mentors, influences, and heroes?
I make people upset when I get asked this question because Iâ€™ve always sort of marched to the beat of my own drum. Iâ€™m more of an observant type than someone who idolizes, looks up to someone or is influenced by them. I think the fact that Iâ€™ve learned to see and accept my own flaws so clearly allows me to see the human side in everyone and so I take everyone at face value.
But I will say that when it comes to my career in radio, it wouldnâ€™t have been possible without spending some incredibly interesting and educational moments with the likes of Rick Dees, Paul Joseph, Dennis Clark, Ryan Seacrest, John Ivey, Bruce Kelly and Tom Rounds. Most of all, I think I look up to the people whose names you wouldnâ€™t recognize. The people I woke up with at 3am every morning because we loved what we did so much and we wanted to affect people and communities in the most positive way we could. If anything, itâ€™s those people that are my heroes. And to see people I came up with, like Alysha Del Valle, Manny Streetz and Freddy Rivera -- to see them doing what they are doing, I couldnâ€™t be prouder and happier about that.
5. You're using a variety of online methods for distribution, although you're aiming at terrestrial distribution, too; do you think broadcast radio is a necessity for a show like this or can it be viable online? Is terrestrial commercial radio ready to talk about pot, given that its audience is largely supportive even if GMs and PDs might be initially resistant?
Itâ€™s like what I said above. The opportunity to make money is there. Iâ€™m sure everybody saw the Jack-in the-Box commercials promoting the late-night munchies mealâ€”and they were extremely popular spots! â€œTalk to my elbowâ€ became something of a popular saying! So when I saw something like that coming on in the middle of primetime morning and evening programming, on TV networks and on radio too, it confused me as to why GMs and PDs would be so resistant to content that surrounds the advertising theyâ€™re putting on their airwaves. Right now, I feel like radio is the wild wild west and that has a lot to do with digital. Music stations are making a huge move to digital and I feel that opens a lot of terrestrial airspace for new and original content. This show is an example of that content. We are not a â€œstonerâ€ show, we arenâ€™t promoting people getting high and partying. We are a news program presenting both sides of an issue that could create massive change for this country politically, culturally and most importantly, economically.
6. Do you use social media in conjunction with your work? Twitter? Facebook? Or not? How do you use them in conjunction with the show?
Along with our website and our platform on Live 365, we are also on Facebook and Twitter. I headed up a successful social media campaign when I created the Coca-Cola Open Happiness Mixshow at Radio Express, so I took that experience and used it to engage followers for TNMNews. With the Coke show, it was all about being positive and spreading a good message, so I work to do the same with our platforms for our show, while still posting interesting and informative news articles that our followers can take something from. We want people to talk to each other about this without making a joke or laughing about it, so I want to use our social media platforms to create that space for our followers.
7. Your career has had a remarkable series of interesting stops along the way, from Rick Dees to the Caymans, from show prep to the Coca-Cola Open Happiness Mixshow. If you can pick one moment from your career that qualifies as a high (no pun intended) point so far, what would it be?
I mean, how do you choose one? I feel like every job that came after the other was a step in the right direction. I donâ€™t regret anything that has happened in my career and it hasnâ€™t always been the best time. But I absolutely love what I do and no matter how much I try, it wonâ€™t let me go. But if youâ€™re asking me to choose one, to have had the chance to have my first radio job be with the person that I grew up listening to, thatâ€™s pretty cool. People ask me what it was like working on that show and I just refer to it as the â€œWest Point of Radioâ€, and I say that in the most respectful way. Rick Dees is known and respected for being a true professional when it comes to his work and that is what he expected of all of us, whether you were an intern or Ellen K or me. My work ethic today is a testament to what he taught me, so I owe a lot to him and the staff that I worked with on that show. I donâ€™t ever take these amazing opportunities Iâ€™ve had for granted.
8. Are you optimistic or not about radio as an industry? Where do you see the business headed in the next 10 years, and how would you like to see it go?
Iâ€™ll just be forthright and say that I want to save radio, along with a few other amazing radio visionaries I know. I want to bring back content, I want us to communicate with people again, I want us to help people, help communities without sending a station van or giving away a million dollars. I want us to talk again. Like I said, this digital revolution is going to change how radio does business. Sacrifices are going to have to be made. But there are a small group of geniuses out there and they are concocting a plan right now in a top-secret bunker to keep making radio a viable option for both content and advertising.
Radioâ€™s not going anywhere, itâ€™s just up to the people in this business to steer it in the right direction, and I believe we can.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _________.
â€¦working on this show!
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
Every day I go into work, one thing that Rick Dees told me sticks in my head and I apply it with everything I doâ€”â€œItâ€™s better to have and not need than to need and not have.â€ Think about itâ€”itâ€™s a freakinâ€™ lifesaver.
As for bad advice, I consider all advice good. Whether itâ€™s right or wrong, youâ€™re inevitably going to learn something from it.