10 Questions with ... Todd Allen
February 5, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I'm an original Pacific Northwest club jock who was raised on Portland radio. I jumped into the trade after a combination of schooling from broadcast professionals and Washington State University.
I've always enjoyed on-air and promotions since my beginnings with the start of Z100 (Top 40 - Portland) and Q105 (Top 40 - Portland), plus KUBE 93 (Top 40/Rhy. - Seattle), the Wolf (Country - Seattle) and KLYK (Top 40 - Longview, WA). I've also jumped into full-time mornings at past adventures of KUPL (Country - Portland), KRKT (Country - Albany, OR), KSJJ (Country - Bend, OR) and KYSN (Country - Wenatchee, WA). The latter is where I was able to hone my programming, music scheduling and operational chopes due to my background. I also programmed KAAP (AC - Wenatchee) and KLAD (Country - Klamath Falls).
My professional emcee duties include six wonderful seasons as the main national tour emcee for Warren Miller Entertainment, arena MC for three Portland professional sports teams and four minor league teams. On the complete outside of radio I've enjoyed a television stint with KFXO (Bend, OR), a public relations director/sanitary engineer position with the leading solid waste/recycling company in Southwest Washington, as well as an international representative for the State of Washington back when Russia became a democracy.
1) How are you occupying your time, besides looking for a job?
After moving to Vancouver, BC to join my wife, I've been enjoying nearly three years as a special skills background actor in numerous TV and film productions. Generally, I'm a cop, military leader, FBI agent or detective in so many productions, I've lost count. In addition, I've been able to grab some occasional voiceovers and a little print work, plus providing emcee services and public announcing for a few clients in the Pacific Northwest.
I've also started a couple of volunteer efforts, one of which resulted from responding to a posting on the All Access website a few weeks back. It's non-paid, but as of last week, I'm the host of the 10a-2p ET slot for Kickin Country, www.mykickingcountry.com. It's a seven-day shift, but allows me to get back into my groove after being away from the mic for over three years since moving north.
I also fit some time in for volunteering at my local church in the tech department. Besides running the video editor and camera for our pastor, as we do have quite the production set up, I am also providing video information segments for our local TV production.
When I'm not engrossed in any of the acting stuff, I'm usually working my graveyard weeknight shift as a contract transportation driver for Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which also gets me dabbling in the railroad scene again, as my grandfather was a Burlington Northern mechanic.
On the weekends, I sneak away for my soccer (goalie) matches via an elite Russian Football Club I'm a part of. Yes, I can speak Russian and Spanish. The best part of the activity is my doctor told me to keep it up, as I have the heart of a 30-year-old athlete. I have avoided telling the wife this, as the weekend "honey do" list might get longer.
2) What's the craziest thing you've ever done to get a job?
That's a tough one, because there have been so many things, and I mean SO MANY.
In retrospect, on the financial side, when I was crazy enough to work my full-time weekday sanitation job in the Portland, OR area, years ago, I would head north every Friday evening at five and enjoy my stint at KUBE. Chet Buchanan (Las Vegas) talked me into that then. That station rocked it at the top then, so I loved pulling my Friday all-nighter after him and my Saturday night dance mix show. I slept on the conference room floor, or sofa at a friend's house in Seattle, then headed back after my shift Sunday morning to get a little sleep until I started it all over again on Monday.
Little did I realize years later I would do something similar when I was PD/morning host at KYSN/Wenatchee, WA. Even though I already had a busy week, I still drove the two-and-a-half hours each way on a Saturday or Sunday to Seattle to enjoy a six-hour shift at the Wolf in Seattle.
It was a lot of mileage on the car in those days, but I loved the fact I could throw my aircheck on and critique myself all the way home. Even though it was crazy, each position actually helped me develop more in both avenues. But honestly, it just felt good to be back in the BIG station with the fantastic equipment again.
3) Are you spending as much time listening to radio as you used to?
Great and very interesting question, as I have always been glued to a radio since I was about eight. When I'm driving anywhere, as I live 110 miles north of Seattle in the Vancouver, BC area, I usually have a Seattle station as my primary choice, like 100.7 The Wolf and a few others. At the Wolf, my BFF (as my wife calls him, LOL) is the afternoon powerman known as Wingnut. We're like two messed up brothers when we are in the same room or on the phone. He is the little brother I never had, and probably wouldn't want to, so we are usually glued to what each other is doing, and every once in a while I get stuck giving him a phoner.
Of course, one of the upper crusts in the building usually recognizes my voice in any bit, so we keep it very minimal. Wing is also one of my biggest supporters, both mental and verbal. The latter is why some say he should be my agent, as he keeps me listening to the radio.
I also listen to a variety of Vancouver, BC stations on my digital dial. I'm constantly monitoring the local jocks content and delivery, the station sound, including the music scheduling and imaging, and yes, even the commercials.
I'll admit though, overall it is a bit disappointing on the Canadian side. Don't get me wrong, I love the people in this area too, but many of the stations emulate past U.S. styles and trends in their presentations. At times it reminds me of U.S. radio about five to eight years ago. Besides, Vancouver area radio is a tight little clique ... so hard to squeeze in. Funny, many of the jocks in this area come out of one of two broadcasting programs, as one is now officially closed.
However, after purchasing a SiriusXM subscription, I've found myself listening to them more and more. I bounce around everything, but still stay close to Country, Top 40, Rock, News and Sports. Of course, the more I listen, the more I find the repetitiveness of the programming. LOL.
4) What's the longest stretch you've had on the beach?
Funny, before now, the longest was nearly a year, and that was because of various ownership changes I seemed to stumble into. So, just over three years now has been the longest, but with the volunteer work I mentioned earlier, it kind of feels like radio work.
My last day at my most recent station was at the end of October 2009. Little did I think I would be "on the beach" for three years. Sure, I've been doing some other work, but NOT being in radio for that long has been a bit tough, as I feel I do know the industry, since I've always been successful on the air.
On that note, a funny thing happened a couple months ago when I was interviewed for a traffic position in the area. As it was down to the last three finalists in a team conference room interview, while I was sitting out in the lobby, I couldn't believe how my senses picked up on everything. For you comic geeks, think Daredevil.
I was amazed at how I was noticing all the things we radio geeks take for granted, like the mic foam protectors, station stickers, including statics, new T-shirts and more. I remember later thinking it was like being tossed a small sample of radio crack, that you were trying to break a habit of. LOL
No, I didn't get the gig, because they promoted internally. The PD was excellent at calling me back personally and discussing the reason behind it all. I graciously thanked him and told him how very impressed I was in his whole process, attitude and delivery of the interviews.
When I think about, again, I learned something new, from a very young up-and-comer, so it also put a smile on my face.
5) How are you finding the "courtesy level" at places you've applied?
Funny, that follows up on my previous comment about the recent interview.
Unfortunately, it has been sad to find that the "courtesy level" from industry folks has deteriorated in recent years. I'm well aware that I have a very distinctive voice, which I understand most potential employers don't think will fit their programming, so I understand that there could be some awkwardness by the person in charge to politely deny my potential employment. It's something I've always accepted, but I feel the lack of a respectable response has greatly diminished.
Out of the hundreds of stations I've applied for, in both the U.S. and my recent efforts in Canada, I've found that less than 2% of the U.S. stations I've submitted materials to ever respond. For Canada, it's about .005%. That number was and still is, a surprise. However, I'm always grateful to those that do reply, as when I was programming, I always responded to every e-mail, inquiry or question I ever received. It's unfortunate that more and more industry people don't follow the philosophy, "Treat others as you would like to be treated."
It's unfortunate that more and more industry people don't follow the philosophy, "treat others as you would like to be treated".
6) What has been your biggest career accomplishment?
Earning my first PD and music scheduling stripes were a great career accomplishment, as I programmed two stations and was asked to be the temporary OM before our successful sale. Not only was I fortunate enough to be hired to come in and take a nearly last place morning show and station, and flip it around to a winner, but I was also able to battle and win in that market against a wonderful consultant that I have the utmost respect for. I will keep that name to myself. :)
I love a great radio fight. Competition breeds winners and losers, and I DON'T like to lose.
7) Is there anything specific that you regret doing while you were still working?
Yes, allowing the tone to be set with me by the "little" people in the biz. You know the users and abusers, the ones who put in four and hit the door, or the so-called "experienced" staff person who wants to lead you from the start. I'm talking about the people with an ego bigger than the State of Texas. Many times, these are the same ones who think that by them "talking" about the major yearly station events that are coming up, during their show, is all the work they need to do.
I was fortunate enough to be brought up by some great parents and grandparents with strong work ethics, as I'm a "hands on" type of employee. I take great pride in my work and really am my worst critic, but I'm also guilty of assisting too much. Whether the promotion person needs some extra help putting up banners, the salesperson needs to introduce me to a sensitive client weeks prior to a remote, the engineer that needs an extra set of hands at the transmitter site, or even the "temporary" interns need some attention to feel great, I've always been ready to go.
The problem there is two-fold because I can put myself behind on my duties, and more often than not, what happens is, others think that I'm sucking up by my helpful actions, and don't realize it's just me. So I regret not being able to spend time educating those who misunderstood.
8) Having been through all you have dealt with in this biz, what advice would you give people trying to break in?
Exactly what my Broadcast Professionals teachers Keith Allen (retired broadcaster and great teacher) and Rosemary Reynolds (KXL/Portland, EXCELLENT teacher, too) told me back in my first day of class:
"Don't expect to get rich in this industry, as those who are lucky enough to get that 'golden egg' gig will be very few and far between. It's a career that doesn't pay very well for most jocks, but the energy you put into it can be fun, and the pay back from that energy can be just as much. You will find it's a VERY addictive career. Look around the room, because 10 years from now, odds are nearly most of you will probably be working in something else. After hearing all that, ask yourself if you still want to work in radio. And if you do, then get ready for a heck of a ride, and if you don't, nobody will hold it against you if you decide to leave."
I'll never forget them for pointing out the obvious, as they made sure any of us wanting to get into radio, did so by our own choosing. What they said is true, because out of everyone in my graduating class of 20, I think I'm the only one still in it, or involved in the field in one form or another.
When I meet up-and-coming "kids" who say they want to be radio personalities, I ask them why. If they go into the idea of how great the money is, I smile and ask them if they can let me keep three out of the five dollars they made from their real job, because that is about all they can expect to make. It's not a great living, but again, it's an art that can be very addictive.
9) 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.
I've actually gone through the whole gambit of being discouraged and enlightened. Just after quitting my last station, I felt "a breath of fresh air" again as I took time to evaluate my new surroundings and focused on trying to find something in the Vancouver, BC area. However, as I kept trying to get through the front door of a station, I found that what we might call "kids" games in our radio stations, were amplified in the quiet attitude that a few Canadians have towards American broadcasters. The old "We can do it better and we'll prove it" attitude, so they tend to shy away from hiring American's who have moved to Canada.
I only found this out after meeting and getting to know a few local broadcasters, who want to remain nameless. They have pointed out what I hadn't figured out at first. See, the odds were stacked against me from the beginning, because I have an American dialect, so I tend to pop a bit on some words. It's funny, because nearly 90% of the Canadian broadcasters would love to work in the U.S. if they could. It's primarily because of the pay scales, that even though the average salary in the U.S. is lower today than in the past, it's still better than the pay in Canada.
My observations as a whole on either side of the international radio boundary line, still point to the fact that there are actually radio stations that still DON'T get it! They forget to take the attitude of a winning sports team, where "all" contribute to a successful season by their combination of individual talents and focus on the prize as a whole. As we know in radio, winning ratings get us more status, bigger toys and sometimes, bigger paychecks (but not always).
I've also noticed that too many stations have forgotten that a creative promotion also comes from within the station, client and the jock presentation of it. When the sound of a station promotion becomes too generic, even though it's rich in production and presentation, the result is the lack of public participation.
My wife is a not a "radio" person, but gets that last part. After asking her the other day why she was not listening to her favorite Country station, she immediately replied, "I'm so tired of listening to that station and the morning show as it all sounds the same. The same songs come up every few hours, and so do the morning routines. I can tell when the two morning people are going to tell a joke and go to a commercial. It's so predictable. The rest of the jocks sound the same, and if they don't, my friends and I think they sound like young kids working at a station, so with everything together, I'm tired of them."
I was shocked and surprised as I thought she just might be "the average" listener. Quick, get her a PPM. LOL.
That's why, after being on the outside looking in, I'm still positive in planning on sticking with radio. I have always won, because I battle hard. Plus, it's an industry I believe "CAN" be re-invented again, or tweaked better than it is. To do so, radio has to stay on top of its game!
10) What is the next job you'd like to obtain?
Funny, as I've seen so many positions by utilizing my primary search companion, All Access! It's amazing how many different positions at various stations can be available each week. Of course, the pay scales can also vary, but so can the potential for a great adventure.
In the immediate future, I hope to find an on-air programming position again within the next year. Even if it was voicetracking, I would enjoy it, as I have a nice quiet home studio I can use. The ultimate would be to work with my good friend and cheerleader Wingnut. However, since he is on contract, I don't think that will happen anytime soon. We would love to work together at a station as we both have a variety of similar and actually different traits that compliment each other's abilities, so we feel we could put together that "ultimate" winning team, instead of a station of "misfit toys". ;)
I also hope to eventually find a station owner who is looking for someone to partner up with ... an owner who has dollars, but needs someone who can bring sweat equity to the table in the effort of building a winning broadcasting group. Hand GOES UP HERE!
If that can't happen, then getting into consulting would be fantastic as well. I know, some station owners reading this are thinking, "Do we really need another consultant?"
I miss winning the horse race. Like I mentioned earlier, I love a great radio war, even if I come in as the underdog, but with the proper tools, I will guarantee winning results!
My favorite new diversion is ...
Honestly, working in the television and movie production industry in the Vancouver, BC area. Originally, I thought it would be a great way to make a few bucks while trying to find any work, including radio, but as I began to work more and more, I have found that it's very interesting both creatively and technically, what happens behind the camera.
I've enjoyed going to work on various sets, playing a detective, FBI agent, Internal Affairs officer, military personnel, welder, businessman and more. It's even more fun when you get to do something out of the ordinary, like being a welder on the flight deck of the Battlestar Galactica or the Orion. Sorry, the geek side of me came out there and that pilot will probably never air, but I made some serious cash for those few days.
An added fun factor was working on the set of a movie titled Swindle. Nothing like getting hired to work a couple of days in a cake fighting scene. I can't wait to see the outtakes at the end of the film when it is released. I've also had a regular role as a courtroom bailiff in the upcoming new TV comedy, Package Deal, that comes out in March.
So I guess I'm still in "our" industry in a way, as it is another form of entertainment. So, I'll keep working the other stuff while I attempt to get back into OUR industry as a whole, RADIO BROADCASTING!
Thanks ALL ACCESS!