10 Questions with ... Mark Shepperd
September 4, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
The start of my broadcasting career began in the summer of 1980, at a 5,000-watt daytimer -- WBRW-A in Somerville, NJ. A small one-story building, literally in the middle of a cow field. It was my first job in radio and I could not have been happier. I can't believe that was 32 years ago! Fast-forward to several station stops in Trenton, NJ, one in Fort Wayne, IN and multiple stations in the Philadelphia market and it has been an AMAZING ride! Early on in my career, I remember hearing ... "You haven't made it in this business till you've been fired at least three times" ... well, I guess I've arrived ... several times! Discouraging as those times were -- and are -- I've always managed to bounce back. I hope to do the same this time.
1) What do you do to maintain a positive mental attitude and stay motivated?
People always ask "Hey, how ya doin'?" My answer is always -- and to quote my friend Howard Eskin -- "I've never had a bad day in my life!" Thanks. Howard! It really is the way that I've learned to approach every situation. How do I stay motivated? I've got my family's support, and I listen to "The Secret" while I'm driving in my car.
2) Some people get discouraged or enlightened with the business when they actually step out of it for a while. Tell us your observations from the outside.
When deregulation happened and consolidation started, a lot of "dead wood" was systematically eliminated. But now, cuts continue to happen and what is there left to trim? A lot of very talented and experienced radio professionals are now on the outside looking in. It is very frustrating to see this still happening and I don't think I will ever truly understand the decisions that upper management continues to make.
3) What's the best way to get your foot in the door?
I still believe that the best way to get your foot in the door at any radio station is doing an internship for college credit. People get to see what kind of person you are and what kind of work ethic you have. Do your assignments well and people will remember who you are.
4) What's the craziest thing you've ever done to get a job?
I don't know how "crazy" this is, but when EZ Communications took over Solid Gold 102 in Philadelphia and turned it into the New Q102, the entire air staff and practically the whole office staff was let go in one fell swoop. I wanted to get back into Q102 so bad. I called and left messages for Mark Driscoll -- yes, "Mr. Voice" -- but nothing seemed to get his attention until I sent a Western Union mailgram (Do those things even still exist?) It wasn't long after that I got a call to come in for an interview. Mark and I still keep in touch via Facebook these days!
5) How are you finding the "courtesy level" at places you've applied?
For those places that I have applied to already, I have to say the responses have been very quick -- and I appreciate that. I haven't been on the receiving end of a job offer yet, but every "We don't have anything right now" gets me closer to that one that says, "Let's talk!"
6) Are you spending as much time listening to radio as you used to?
Yes I am. When I bought a new car back in 2008 it came with six months of free Sirius Radio, so I listened to it on and off for that time, but never took a subscription to it after it expired. What can I say ... I'm true to my terrestrial radio roots!
7) Are you able to slow down and enjoy free time doing things with your family and friends that you probably did not have time to do while you were working?
Yes, I do take time to slow down and take a deep breath. I think you have to. I've always treated the first few weeks after a job loss as if I was on vacation. My 10-year-old son Nicholas was very happy, not that I recently lost my job, but that I was now going to be spending the entire week with him and the rest of our family at our yearly vacation spot!
8) What do you miss most about radio? The least?
I miss the spontaneity that music radio used to have. With that I mean station contests and listener involved promotions had to follow set rules by the station, but, they didn't have to go through 20 million corporate lawyers to get approved. I remember former WPST PD Tom Taylor walking into the studio with a new album or 45 for us to start spinning. It didn't need be "tested" before hitting the air. Understand that I do believe in research, to an extent, but I think radio today has lost its "gut instincts" when it comes to adding music.
What do I miss the least? Well, I guess this is true in any company, but I don't miss working with people who have no second thoughts about throwing co-workers under the bus when it comes to covering their own rear ends. I think we can all think of a few people like that. I take comfort in the old adage, "what goes around, comes around."
9) If you were offered a similar position to what you were doing for considerably less money, would you seriously consider taking the job just to stay in the biz?
I don't think so ... I know the talent and expertise that I can bring to a station, both on-air and in the imaging and production departments. In my eyes, that's still worth something. I look forward to working for the next station that appreciates what I have to bring to the table.
10) After going been through all you have dealt with in this biz, what advice would you give people trying to break in?
Wow ... THIS is a great question ... radio has certainly changed since I started. I'd say, work hard, get good at multiple jobs within the workplace if given the opportunity and don't be afraid of change. I have a quote from Conrad Hilton that I like to refer to often ... he said: "Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit." How's THAT for motivation!
My favorite new diversion is ...
"Song Pop." This iPhone challenge game is so addictive it's sickening! My kids know my love for music and they LOVE trying to beat my scores in the "Love Song," "Classic Rock" and '80s categories. Bring it on, boys!