10 Questions with ... JJ McKay
November 4, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I have been in radio for 35 years, as either an on-air talent, PD or Sports Director, in both music radio and talk. I have done play-by-play for Division 1 NCAA basketball and baseball, and I was part of the Colorado (MLB) Rockies Radio Network as update anchor, as well as the pre and post-game shows. I also was main fill-in talk show host at KOA/Denver and talk show host at KTKN-AM/Ketchikan, AK for two-and-a-half years. As an APD, I have been involved with success stories in large and major markets. As a PD, I have taken two stations to the top of the ratings in Top 40 (KWTO/Springfield, MO and KHKS/Dallas).
1) What do you do to maintain a positive mental attitude and stay motivated?
I have a couple of youngsters I am mentoring and helping them on their way to wherever they may end up. I understand what radio has been through, since I was so involved in the early days of the Internet. But what I know is, "content is king," and I love that they are big into the 'Net, but I teach that you need to be more than a jukebox. Personality wins. Watching their growth is very rewarding.
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.
I have always said that integrating the Internet with broadcasting was the way of the future. As an Internet broadcaster since 1994, I have always felt that this was the way things were going. Radio is now beginning to realize that and now that the app is where people are heading on their smartphone, we are finally waking up. Back in 1994 when I started real-time delivery to my VO clients via e-mail and mp3, I knew what was before us. In 2003, I was in Denver when I said to the PD that instead of playing Christmas music 24/7, we should create an Internet stream. He thought I was crazy. It was then that I realized that having a vision was not enough to sway the managers. Everyone was set in their ways. For radio to be the original "on demand" app, we have to expand. It took too many years, but I think radio is finally figuring it out.
3) Do you plan on sticking with radio?
I really want to stick with radio. My dad was a jock and my daughter wants to do voice-over work at 14. After the football career ended with a knee injury, I got into radio and had the pleasure of working side-by-side with some of the greats -- the legendary Dave Foxx, who has been at Z100, and Joe Theismann, who I keep in touch with. If someone told me that I would have Donny Osmond as a part of the morning show, or Tina Louise from Gilligan's Island as a mainstay, I would have said, c'mon man! Working side by side with the legendary Wolfman Jack or working with the GREAT Rick Dees, radio is something that is so immediate, fun, and tantalizes the listener far more than a video loading up on the PC.
4) What's the longest stretch you've had on the beach?
The longest I was on the beach was a week, before now. It is now over one-and-a-half years. I never would have thought that would ever happen. I was never out of work in my career. If it wasn't KIIS calling, it was Mike Joseph calling for his Hot Hits format in Philly. I never understood all of the attention, but it turned off a year-and-a-half ago and it continues.
5) What has been your best resource for finding out about job openings?
I go to All Access and see what's going on. All Access is always in front of anything going on in broadcasting.
6) What is the next job you'd like to obtain?
I would like a job where I am able to guide the format and mentor the up-and-comers in this business. The one thing missing is the "minor leagues" for cultivating talent. I hired Leighann when I was PD at KHKS/Dallas and I knew there was something special. She and I went over airchecks and I was able to pull out of her something she never knew she had. She is now back in Dallas, but she was the co-host with Charlie Tuna in LA. I want to do that again and create another winner like I did at KHK.
7) How are you finding the "courtesy level" at places you've applied? (Callbacks, e-mails, rejection letters, etc.)
I have found that I am over-qualified for every job I applied for. From a jock to programming, nobody wants me because of my experience. I get rejection e-mails from that always say they found someone who is closer to what they are looking for. It gets frustrating to always get rejected because of experience. I get letters of rejection saying that I wouldn't be happy "here" due to my major-market experience. I understand that I have been in Los Angeles, DC, Boston, Philly, but at this stage of my career and feeling that I have plenty left in the tank, to get rejections from smaller markets is very frustrating, knowing I can do the job.
8) What has been your biggest career accomplishment?
I would say creating KHKS/Dallas. It was awesome having Gerry Defrancesco, who I worked for at KIIS, turning over the keys to a new Top 40 in Dallas. I knew that Top 40 was missing in Dallas since we went from Top 40 to Oldies at Y95. There were so many talented people on the beach at that time, some who I had worked with ... and against. My two big hires were Domino, who went to KIIS from my station, and of course, the late great Kidd Kraddick. I always had a vision of what Kidd would be. Kidd had the same vision, but I knew it would take some time at KHKS. We were a brand new Top 40 and the music was my vision first. Heck, I would have let Domino play no music because he had THAT personality. I always knew Kidd as an amazing personality and despite the fact that I was doing PM drive, he and Domino were the stars. As a manager, you know who will be performing your vision and they both did.
9) What do you miss most about music/radio? The least?
I miss the great jocks who had something to say. When I was in Charlotte and I won my two Personality of the Year awards, I was my "wacky" self. Spontaneity seems to be dead. I knew what I was going to do each break, but if something went a different direction, you reacted and it was fun or funny. Now, it seems all jocks are pre-programmed, or voicetracked, and there is nothing spontaneous. I hired great personalities to do what they do, be a personality. It seems now, nobody wants personality.
10) 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 had taken a lot less money to stay in the business for the last five years, so YES I would take less to work. What I am finding is that even with taking less money that they pile a lot more work on each employee. I have turned down a couple of opportunities because I felt that for the money, it wasn't worth it to do the job. When I was in Alaska, I was PD, morning show host, did an hour talk show on our AM and voicetracked five stations in our group.
Uh oh ... now you're on your own for getting new music. If applicable, name your three most recent purchases since leaving the biz.
I can say that I have not made any purchases. However, my 14-year-old daughter is always buying on iTunes. The last I recall was Meghan Trainer "It's All About That Bass," which gets stuck in my head all the time.