10 Questions with ... Al Spry
March 1, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started on college radio at WOCC-AM, Middletown, NY and WCDB-FM, Albany NY, then on-air for Cox Radio's WMMO-FM, Orlando, FL and producer for WDBO-FM, Orlando. I moved to on-air and producer duties at Clear Channel's WFLA-AM, Orlando, and served as statewide host of "Florida Roundtable", a political show for 8 years and as Affiliate Relations Director for the Florida News Network. I created Living Sexy Radio with broadcast veteran Frank Befera at the end of 2013. We are now live 5 nights a week on WWPR-AM, 10P-12A and online at livingsexyradio.com and mixingsexy.com, and plans are in the works to syndicate on FMs in the top 50 markets in the US this year.
1. First, how and why did you get into radio? Why radio?
I knew that radio was for me at age 8 because of one reason - my addiction to "WKRP in Cincinnati" ('As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!!'). When I went to college at Orange State, I gravitated to the campus radio station and then to WCDB at the University of Albany. Of course, I was hooked. Radio is and always will be the most personal medium. You befriend and form a bond with the listener unlike any other. That is powerful and that is what drives me.
2. You've worked in a lot of capacities in radio, including hosting, producing, affiliate relations... but "Living Sexy" is something different. How did "Living Sexy" come about, and what's different and special about the concept?
If you would've asked me five years ago if I'd be hosting an international show called "Living Sexy," I would have smiled and even chuckled. Sometimes in life, though, things just fall into place and it feels right. I met Frank Befera, with 30 years in the business, at a party, and we clicked. A short time later, Frank mentioned a concept he was kicking around called "Living Sexy Radio," and we developed the idea together and built the show. We know radio, and this is a type of relationship show with a history of ratings success dating back to the '60s. We decided it was high time to bring this innovative and compelling show-type back into vogue. "Living Sexy Radio" mixes humor with a sexy vibe and stories about relationships that pull the listener in for the ride, and the ride is definitely fun.
3. Let's face it, some PDs and GMs of terrestrial radio stations will hear the word "sex" and they won't go any further. Why should they put aside their inclination to avoid adult content, and what are they missing if they don't go near sex and relationships for content?
Adult-oriented content on the radio like "Living Sexy" isn't new and it isn't just about sex. What we deliver instead relates to our relationship stories, living life to the fullest and offering solutions to improve our listeners' relationships. It's sexy and stylish without the need to be shocking. Sex and relationships are universal human themes and aren't something to be feared by programmers but instead to be embraced as opportunities to entertain existing listeners in a new and exciting way, attract new listeners, and give them all a reason to turn off the TV or put down that iPad, and that equals ratings. I know we are bringing something funny, cool, and relatable to the air, equaling a 10 share for stations who air our show, according to Walter Sabo, and I can't argue with this wisdom. We've developed a passionate following of listeners in the US and elsewhere, so we consider this proof-positive that it's time for programmers to embrace new, creative, and yes, sexy programming like ours, just as TV has done over the years. I believe radio has a bright future if this path is taken.
4. Your show is fed online and to traditional radio. In your estimation, how far are we from the day when Internet radio and podcasts are monetized to a profitable extent? Are we there yet?
I don't think we are there yet but I know we are on that trajectory if you look at where the the technology is moving (and moving rapidly). Terrestrial radio is still the standard, and it allows for a talent vetting process. There is no barrier to entry for strictly online products, and, as a result, there are shows of varying quality that are popping up all over. It's in the best interest of stations to have their programming available online as well as terrestrially, whether it be on iHeart Radio, TuneIn, Google, Roku, AppleTV, etc. so that when the availability of increased programming choices starts appearing in cars via CarPlay and Android Auto, these stations' branded music programming and talk shows will be there waiting for the listener to discover, seamlessly.
5. There are a LOT of podcasts and streams and "regular" radio shows competing for attention these days. What are you finding works best in standing out from the crowd? What marketing and social media techniques work the best to get the word out?
It all starts and ends with compelling, relatable, fun and entertaining programming, whether it's music or talk (we offer both on livingsexyradio.com and mixingsexy.com to appeal to different demographics). Basically, if you have talented people on-air with relatable stories that pull in the listener, and if you make people feel so good with your music mix that they sing along with your featured artist in their car, you will stand out. We use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Pinterest to deliver the benefits of Living Sexy and we have launched our own brand new social media and dating site called mixingsexy.com to deliver our message in new and multifaceted ways. We are also big into live events, because we want to be where people are out and having fun.
6. You do political talk as well as "Living Sexy," which raises the question: What direction do you see political talk going in after the election? Is the traditional political talk show doomed to fall due to aging demos and AM woes, or is there life in it? And do you see changes coming to political talk moving forward?
There will always be a place for political talk radio because politics is "hot-button" (of course, so is sex). I do agree that political talk demos are aging and the traditional talk show format needs a bit of retooling in order to attract younger listeners like Gen Xers and Millennials. These listeners are looking for shows that are not only entertaining and fun but are also rich in content and solutions. Think "The Daily Show," but on radio, as an example. The message is key, be it conservative, libertarian, etc., and this format has a successful history and is viable, but that shouldn't preclude it from being produced in new, creative and entertaining ways. Talk radio has to evolve just as all programming needs to. Otherwise, it becomes stale and unrelatable and people will tune out.
7. Of what are you most proud?
That I have had the honor and pleasure of making my living as a radio guy, doing what I love, and doing it now with "Living Sexy Radio." It's the most creative broadcasting I have ever done, with the best group of radio pros. Frank Befera, Tammy Sheffield, Glenda Chauncy, Keith Kong, Dr. Ken Vehec and our consultant, Walter Sabo are the cream of the crop. I am blessed.
8. Who have been your influences and inspirations in the business?
I grew up listening to the blowtorch that is WABC back when it was music radio 77 and later listening to WCBS-FM and WNEW, among others. NYC is market number 1 for a reason. Harry Harrison, Cousin Brucie, Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy (Hello, Love!), Howard Stern. and Imus at 66 WNBC because they were and are fearless and they are true showmen. These and so many others had FUN on the air and that made all the difference to a young kid. I like to think that we have that same heart and showmanship when we turn on the mics at our studio.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ___________.
...sex and coffee. ;-)
10. What's the most important lesson you've learned in your career so far?
Choose your friends and partners wisely, never burn bridges, follow your heart and your passion, and work like hell to be the best broadcaster you can be. (Thanks, Vance!)