10 Questions with ... Johnny Koolout Starks
September 1, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started radio back in college in Chicago, Kennedy King College. That's when I fell in love with the craft and it's been driving me ever since. My professional career kicked off at 107.5 WGCI, third largest market and a major player in the business of radio around the country under the leadership of Elroy Smith. I started off in promotion and progressed to programming and getting an on-air shift. After working there for a number of years, I tried my hand at working for a historic Talk Station in Chicago, WVON, which was rich in history, and I gained a lot of radio experience technically. I did a lifestyle show imbedded in the culture of urban life and music for about five years until I was hired to do afternoons in NC at the heritage station in Greenville-New Bern-Jacksonville, 101.9 Kiss FM. After a few years there I slid up to middays due to staff cuts. While working through those opportunities, I continued my television and film work.
1) What do you do to maintain a positive mental attitude and stay motivated?
I'm pretty good at keeping a positive mental attitude about everything. "Positive Things Happen To Positive People." I'll keep myself busy with other projects that I'm working on in film and television, and of course my daughter is always there to drop some entertainment on me.
2) What's the best way to get your foot in the door?
Honestly, if there was really a correct answer for this question then I wouldn't be on the beach right now ... LOL. I've always been a person who showed and proved through my talent. I worked harder, and I worked when no one else would. I've even worked for free! Yes, I know how taboo that is to say, but I've always believed that your passion drives your ambition and your ambition fuels your motivation, and motivation plus progression equals success. I've had no problem working for free at times. Sometimes the value isn't the dollar amount, so getting in the trenches and proving that I'm of value doesn't bother me. That doesn't work for everyone but it's worked for me. I've learned that the best interns make the best employees. I'm a team player with no ego, so maybe that's why it works for me. Plus I'm also always looking to learn, "A Student of Life."
3) Do you plan on sticking with radio?
Absolutely! However or whatever radio evolves into I will continue to exercise my skills and talents. I love my career! I love connecting with our listeners and people. "I've got radio's back like a bra strap."
4) What has been your best resource for finding out about job openings?
I find using sites such as All access has been a great way to keep up with job openings and changes in the industry. I also like to connect with people in different markets such as other jocks, personalities and producers. It's difficult to get the attention of the PDs just because of the amount of time and work it takes to execute the proficiencies for that job. Creating relationships around and in various markets to me is the value in this industry. You never know where or when someone may change positions and remember or need your skill set. Plus, in this industry the biggest support for me has come from others who have been in my same position, hanging on the beach.
5) How are you finding the "courtesy level" at places you've applied? (Callbacks, e-mails, rejection letters, etc.)
Everyone who submits a package to a PD would love to get a return phone call or e-mail explaining what they like or dislike, what their looking for and when an opportunity may arise for employment, but that's just not the case. There is a lot going on with being a PD or OM who's making decisions or managing a station. Sometimes they just don't have the time and on their list of priorities we aren't one of them. I don't take it personal. If someone doesn't return my e-mail or phone call I simply move on or decide if it's worth it to be persistent. Not getting a return call or e-mail doesn't mean you're bad. That just means they didn't hear anything that grabbed their attention. Also remember that it could be a case of formatting or sound. You can never tell what programmers have in their creative minds, or the moves they're making to create and make their stations competitive. Sure, there are some instances where programmers reach back and give you feedback on your material. So when that happens be thankful, because the best weapon you have to strike with is information. So when that programmer reaches back out to you to give some feedback -- even if you don't get that job ... no worries, because you have just created a new relationship, and that has value.
6) Are you finding salaries/benefits lower than you ever thought, about the same, or have you seen some pleasant surprises?
It's really interesting that I made more money as a promotional assistant than I ever made as a personality/jock. I do find salaries significantly lower then what I expected. I've seen no surprises yet.
7) Are you spending as much time listening to radio as you used to?
I listen to a lot of radio, whether it be satellite or terrestrial. I love different formats of radio ... can't get enough of it. Although when you're let go from a station you tend not to listen to the station that let you go too much until you're over being let go ... LOL
8) What has been your biggest career accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishment may not be what most would expect. It's not reaching a salary goal or certain position. Every year for probably the last 10 years, twice a year I'm invited to contribute my skills in two certain events as a host/promotional assistant and various other duties. Yes, I'm sure you're saying "it doesn't sound too spectacular or ground breaking." Well, the truth of the matter is that these events have been going on for almost two decades. You're only invited to work these events if you can prove you're about the work and the people. Talent from all over the country and world have performed.
Radio-heads like myself, promotional guys and gals from all over have graced the events with their talent and skills. In many cases you create a bound with like minds in an industry that sometimes hides the fact that we're actually more alike than not. At these events you must work as a team to execute successfully. When the finished projects are done and you realize how much work you've accomplished you really feel fulfilled. At least I do. I've rubbed elbows with a lot of celebrities and influential business execs in the entertainment and radio industry with these events. Each time I work I tend to forget about all those important and influential people at the event and somehow I'm taken in by how many people are so happily affected by the events themselves, and that's more to add to my motivation for doing an even better job.
My biggest accomplishment is being invited consistently to create, contribute and execute an event that is a bookmark in the lives of so many listeners. And all that excitement is created through the magic of radio. What are the events? TJFR & TJFV...
9) What have you learned about yourself, others, or life in general in your downtime?
I've learned the art of appreciation and value. Everything happens for a reason and when things happen there are lessons to be learned. You either learn or are doomed to repeat until you do.
10) Having been through all you have dealt with in this biz, what advice would you give people trying to break in?
The advice I would give all new comers to the biz is this: Leave your ego at the door and be willing to listen and learn. Be willing to accept things you can't change. Make integrity part of your arsenal in winning. Look at people's actions more than their words and when you do a job, do it well. If you want to grow you have to go. Don't be hesitant about trying other formats or markets. I could go on but I'll keep it short.
Care to contribute a recipe for our "On The Beach" cookbook?
"The Comfort Sandwich"
- Grab your favorite lunch meat of choice.
- Grab your favorite cheese of choice.
- Place the meat on a paper plate (2 pieces of meat per sandwich).
- Drop in microwave for about 1 minute.
- Make sure to spread your favorite condiment on one side of bread. For me it's Miracle Whip.
- Once you take the meat out the microwave place one piece of meat on the bread with your favorite condiment.
- Then place the cheese on top of that meat while it's hot.
- Place the second piece of meat on that cheese.
- Grab your favorite type of chips. I like to use either Doritos or BBQ Lays. Place a few chips on top of the last layer of meat. Then your bread.
- This particular comfort food and economic brilliance goes great with an ice cold glass of lemonade, root beer, or cream soda ... Enjoy!