10 Questions with ... Brad Lane
February 15, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
KMSL-KZHE/Magnolia, AR; KNRB/Dallas; Radio Aahs; KSTP and WFMP (FM 107.1) as KSTP morning show producer, creative director, APD. Also co-hosted "Sunday Morning Sports Talk." Freelance voiceover and production work.
1. What got you started in the business? Why radio?
Why radio? You kidding?? Where else can you work extremely long hours for very little pay and a lifestyle that makes your life dysfunctional to family and friends? Actually, the serious answer is that I've always wanted to work in radio. From the time I was 5 years old doing my own news, weather, and sports broadcasts on my grandmother's cassette tape player... to even as an older kid, I'd play Nerf basketball games in my room and be the play-by-play announcers and everything. My parents couldn't take me anywhere; even on car rides across town, I'd be in the back seat making our drive a car race. Annoying as a kid; destined for a career in radio. Should be a billboard.
2. 1500 ESPN had a long run as a talk station, and a pretty unique one at that, but moved to sports a year ago. How have you positioned the station against the previously established sports competitor, KFAN, and what strengths do you have (other than the Twins play-by-play) to help you compete?
Despite having had personalities like Don Vogel, Jesse Ventura, Barbara Carlson, Jason Lewis, and Mischke over the years on one of the most tradition-rich heritage talk stations in the country, we realized that the station needed to evolve. With the further dilution of talk radio -- especially in this market -- we no longer owned a position. Someone had news, traffic and weather; conservative talk was gone, too. We took a look at our assets... Joe Soucheray, Patrick Reusse, their practically inventing the sports talk model 30 years ago... and together with the Twins and a new relationship with ESPN, thought we could go about creating a different kind of sports talk station in the market. And to a lot of industry folks' surprise, our initial success has not come at the expense of KFAN. I think it's because we program in two very different ways: their model is very listener-driven (lots of phone calls and opinion from "rubes," as they would describe them). Ours is more "expert-driven," where we've hired some of the best sports writers and personalities in town to offer their perspective on the day's sports news. We've also made an unprecedented commitment to our website -- which is not just a place where we pass along sports news... we originate stories with our own beat writers to try and break sports news.
3. Speaking of Twins play-by-play, how important, beyond the ratings for the actual game coverage, is it to have that connection? What does having the Twins brand associated with the station do for the station overall? And, in general, how important is having play-by-play of local teams to a sports station?
Our relationship w/the Twins is extremely important to us; not just from a ratings and financial standpoint -- but they're a locally-owned, tradition-rich franchise with deep ties in the community; so is Hubbard Broadcasting. It made perfect sense for these two "hometown" teams to come together. But having play-by-play of a local sports team isn't enough to automatically attract listeners... or be a good fit. Twins baseball works on 1500 because everyone embraces the relationship: from on-air and production, to promotions and sales. It certainly helps that they just opened one of the most beautiful ballparks in the major leagues in Target Field -- interest in the Twins has never been greater. We are incredibly proud to be the radio home for Twins baseball in the Twin Cities.
4. You've been a creative and imaging director and voiceover/production guy for years. Other than your own station, what stations do you think have strong imaging? What are your favorites?
I don't listen to anyone else. All of my ideas are original, unique, and can't be traced back to any other creative-type. Yeah, right. I'd say any station Eric Chase is involved with -- I pay attention to their imaging. I love his ideas, and how he can take the simplest of notions and turn it into a clever and entertaining promo bit. I'll never forget how he used a character named "Frankie the Fist" to beat the station's slogan into listeners for 'FLA in Tampa. Howard Hoffman does some interesting things for KABC in Los Angeles, too -- his "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" song from a few years back where they had to keep taking out the word "Christmas" to appease Jews, people who celebrate Kwanzaa, atheists, and the sales department was an all-timer.
5. What do you look for in a sports talk show? What makes a good show?
Tom Leykis said it, and I've made it a mantra of mine: "Interesting people make interesting talk show hosts." Our station is no place for stat-geeks and pukers; we want story-tellers. We look for personalities who understand that the more important facet to being a smart-ass... is actually being smart. Because the hidden secret to great sportstalk... is not necessarily a great knowledge of sports, but an ability to talk about the people who play them. A good show happens when everyone associated with that program buys into their role -- they understand it, and embrace it. That means that the producer "gets" that even though his name's not included in the title of the show, that his part is just as important. You get a group of guys on a show who get that piece figured out... they've got a chance.
6. How important is a station's online presence? What should a station be doing on its website, and should it be treated as an adjunct to the on-air product or a separate entity?
Via our station's website, we were the first to break news in this town that the University of Minnesota football coach was going to get fired. Also by means of 1500espn.com, we were among the very first to have inside pictures up of the torn roof of the Metrodome on the Sunday morning it collapsed. Instead of just being a radio station with a website, we view our online presence as being a "one-stop-shop" for everything you could possibly need to know. We try not to forget the most important component of who we are -- and that's a radio station. Our on-air content will always be the most important aspect of what we do. But while many stations view their website as something "extra;" we see 1500espn.com as an integral piece to our entire programming, promotional, and sales efforts.
7. Who are your mentors and inspirations in the radio business?
Three names come to mind: (1) Sam O'Donnell from a little radio station in Magnolia, Arkansas. He was the first to model creative commercial writing for me, and I'll never forget how he brought a "theater" background to both his scriptwriting and on-air bits for the station. (2) Keith Whipple - who died a few years back. Keith was my GM in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area... and saw something in me that I couldn't even see in myself at the time when he made me the creative director for a kids' radio station (Radio Aahs). A few character voices and some wildly "out-there" spots and promos later, I found myself at the network in Minneapolis. (3) Joe O'Brien, former PD here at 1500. Joe plucked me from the morning show, "Babs & the Boys," and made me the imaging director in 2002. He gave me a blank canvas with which to work... and I went nuts. Less than a year later, I was in the creative services chair in charge of all production (both commercial and imaging) for AM-1500 and FM-107.1.
8. What's the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you?
Besides getting hammered at a company Christmas party and puking in virtually every room of the boss's house... can't think of anything.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ____________.
...a large-ass latte' (or two)
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
Best advice: "don't pigeon-hole yourself with any pre-conceived goal of what you want to do in this business." I originally wanted to be a play-by-play voice, but over the years have come to realize that I'm far better suited to programming, talent coaching, imaging, script-writing, and creative problem solving. (Though I still do the Nerf basketball play-by-play thing with my 8-year old son in the basement).
Worst advice: (from a college professor) "Go into TV...it pays better."