July 8, 2014
Bev Tilden was in one the ground floor of one of the nation's heritage Top 40s, WXKS (Kiss 108)/Boston, in the pre-consolidation age of radio. She primarily spent her time as Dir./Marketing of not only Kiss 108, but of early post-Telecom radio groups such as Evergreen and AM/FM. As fate would have it, consolidation continued unabated and Tilden's localized view of marketing became less important as marketing of clusters, regions, hubs and national networks. Tilden had to find a new life after radio ... and it turned out to be radio, as GM of Cape Cod Broadcasting, where she can apply what she learned before at a cluster of local-centric stations. Here, Tilden explains how what went around, came around again.
Most people remember you from the glory days of KISS 108/Boston, but how did you get into radio before that?
I started right out of college at WBZ-A, when they still played music and we had legends like Carl deSuze and Dave Maynard on-air; later I was with WHDH with the great Jess Cain. After that there was KISS and Matt Siegel; now that's a talent! They were all legends in Boston morning radio. I was at KISS from 1988-1993, starting with the Sunny Jo White days, when Jerry McKenna was MD... he is now our PD here at CCB. Then from 1993-95, I worked for American Radio as the PD for WEEI. From there I became Corporate Marketing Director for what began as Evergreen and eventually became AM/FM from 1996-2000 ... that was when Clear Channel bought us.
What part of that time had the most impact on you?
I would say KISS was incredible and in many ways, Rich Balsbaugh and John Madison led the way to some big radio ideas that set the standard. But I'd say that 1996-2000, the years at AM/FM, when I had the good fortune to collaborate with a great many brilliant radio people were the most impactful. Launching WKTU with Jimmy deCastro, Steve Rivers, Frankie Blue and Jeff Z, when we reopened Studio 54 for the first KTU party ... and there were new stations and smart people in many cities -- Eileen Woodbury in L.A., Tom Poleman in New York, Joe Bayliss in S.F. and Kathy Stinehour in Chicago, to name a few, but there are just too many great colleagues to name. Marketing radio stations was a lot of fun in those days! Experiencing the intricacies of all those markets ... working with program directors and marketing directors from all over the country ... it was like being in graduate school for radio. There were so many smart people from whom I was privileged to share with ... that's how I look back on that time. As I go about my GM job today on Cape Cod, I still think of things I learned from them like David Lebow, Rivers, Jake Karger and of course, Jimmy deCastro - nobody could put a flare on things like Jimmy did. It was an amazing time.
You also were on ground zero during the onset of the consolidation. Did you have any idea of what was to come back then?
I remember having lunch with Jimmy and Scott Ginsburg in New York the day they passed the Telecom Bill; we were working on the re-launch of WKTU. I thought it was going to be an exciting time, but I don't think anyone thought it would be what it turned out to be. It got really crazy for a while. There was an industry trade that would put out a new chart every month so everyone could keep track of who was buying who. And we were buying a lot of stations and markets, learning the best ways to manage them, beginning to add digital ... it was very exciting.
As fate would have it, you became part of consolidation churn...
When Clear Channel bought AM/FM, the corporate people mostly took buyouts. In retrospect, I'm glad ... it doesn't seem like it would have been the same kind of vision. I came back to Boston and worked with Entercom as Marketing Director for their cluster. I was back at WEEI again and the station was on fire, fueled by a couple Patriots Super Bowl runs, Tom Brady fever and the Sox's first World Series in most of our lifetimes! We also launched STAR, a very cool Rhythmic Hot AC, and I enjoyed working with Jerry McKenna again.
Then you reunited with deCastro at The Content Factory....
It was another brand new experience for me, to learn a whole new way to look at media and brands that was more personalized. Jimmy was at it again and working with Dan Patrick and his team was another great experience. I also spent some time in the radio "after market" with direct marketing guru Reg Johns. Reg, who owned Fairwest Direct/ M2O Media, was always a part of our marketing plans with years of new inventions on the database marketing theme, "same idea, just faster tools," he would say ... and another great mentor of mine.
So how did you find your way to Cape Cod Broadcasting?
After Content Factory sold, I did a quick stint at Comcast working on a new sales process that involved hiring Planners to work with groups of salespeople. With 150+ networks, the sales teams would actually need help in putting together advertiser marketing plans. I worked with another former AMFM/Broadcast Architecture guy, Jason Muth, who was a key manager in immersing our planners and salespeople on the digital sales process. He's another person who has contributed to my knowledge and success going forward. Anyway, Comcast had an office in Hyannis and I had a summer house on the Cape, so it was very convenient to spend a lot more time there. When that ended...
I was enjoying living on the Cape with my boyfriend (now) husband and I just figured radio was over for me. I've always been a real estate hobbyist. I have bought and sold a number of houses/condos. I wasn't just flipping them; I'd live in them for a certain length of time. By the time I bought my third house on the Cape, I thought I might as well just BE in real estate. Radio was over for me; I didn't see a place for me in the modern-day Clear Channel/Cumulus/CBS world of marketing directors. There are far fewer marketing roles on the local level and I didn't see a place that was a fit for me. So I joined Raveis Real Estate and started selling just as the economy was recovering.
By happenstance, I had been working with Cape Cod Broadcasting on a consulting basis for a few months when Greg Bone - the managing owner - told me he was thinking of stepping back and wanted to bring in new leadership, so he hired me to be the cluster GM. He had a vibrant young GSM, Erin Madden, and a determined Ops guy, Wayne White, who welcomed me, embraced our changes and supported our efforts to see the cluster progress. We wouldn't be where we are without them!
What went through your mind on the first day you stepped back into station management at Cape Cod?
All those lessons I learned from the people who had influenced me through the years ... I still think of them all them time, such as when I explain something to someone here on the staff. I try to guide them by reaching back to all those situations I experienced. I sometimes think, "How would Lebow have explained this?" or "How would Jimmy lead through this situation?"
It's very local here, very home town. It reminds me of when I first got into the business, except we have all the modern tools - computers, database systems, traffic systems etc. The focus we need to have is solely on the local community. We want to be the Cape's favorite radio stations. They can hear Boston stations on the Cape, so we have to be different. We still have to provide good entertainment but by tying that into being the local source, we can connect people to all the goings-on in an active community, especially at this time of year. On top of the beach reports, shark sightings, fireworks, town government, there are scallop fests, oyster fests and a "Hookers Ball," -- which contrary to what you might think, is a benefit supporting the commercial fishermen. We have fun here and there's always a good local organization tied in. It's very much like the early days of KISS 108 -- very local, very involved with the community and the local businesses.
As you mentioned earlier, you were able to entice Jerry McKenna to program the Cape Cod Broadcasting stations. Was it tough to convince him to, in a sense, start anew?
When we offered him the job, I thought I had him at "hello," but he might tell you something different. I'm pretty persuasive! There's a saying about me, "When you tell Bev NO, she hears MAYBE!" Here's the thing ... this is why there is such joy for me and Jerry in this company... The owners are right upstairs. We don't have to run an idea by 16 layers of people to get it done. If they like what we are planning, or we like what they suggest, we just do it. It's as close to Richie (Balsbaugh) being upstairs as I've experienced in a while!
We obviously have a vision in that each station is meant for a certain listenership. We're not going off the reservation; we stay focused on our vision to create programming to meet the market listeners' demand. We've been able to hire some interesting people, such as Karen Blake for mornings on our Hot AC, 99.9 The Q. She worked with Jerry and I at KISS and STAR in Boston. We paired her with a young talent, Sean Doherty, who is just great. We also brought Ralphie Marino (formerly STAR and KTU) to the Cape; he's hosting the morning drive on Cape Country. They've all embraced the Cape Cod life and love the opportunity we have to create engaging radio programs. We also have Cape veterans like Dave Read and Donna Credit on Ocean, Cheryl Park on the Q and Cat Wilson on Country and as our promotion manager.
Big radio companies have to do radio their way because of who they are, who they serve and what they need to do to succeed. Cape Cod Broadcasting doesn't have to serve shareholders ... just listeners and our clients and if you serve the first, the second comes along with them! We have ownership dedicated to the community and to serving them. It's refreshing to come back to this environment.
When you ask Jerry about his decision to come here, he'll tell you he loves the autonomy. Jerry was the architect for the idea for our Ocean 104.7 format, which is based on '70s and '80s singer/songwriters such as James Taylor and Carly Simon. Why? They actually live on the Cape ... and so do thousands of baby boomers who love that music but also are contemporary enough to appreciate the singer/songwriters of today, such as Adele and John Mayer.
The response of listeners has been so gratifying! A lot of artists and musicians come here; it's an artsy community. That's what I would call a custom format that I don't know would fly in the corporate radio world. Jerry is a very creative individual who enjoys being able to talk to an audience, get their feedback and design a station for the mood of the Cape. His imaging is totally Cape, too, and reflects the feelings of Cape Codders to their community.
Which brings up the notion that today there seems to be two levels of radio: the corporate, PPM-based world of Clear Channel/CBS/Cumulus, etc. ... and the small-and medium-market local radio world, which can run the gamut from Alpha and Townsquare to Federated, Marathon and Cape Cod - which are still doing "Old School radio." Do you see the radio business in that way as well?
It may be "old school," but we have a lot of young people who work here as well as those of us who are rediscovering some of the things about radio that may be lost now in larger markets. That's why I feel very joyful every day. I enjoy each day, sharing my experience and learning from the next generation. It's a very good feeling. We couldn't do it without the support and encouragement of our owners, Greg Bone and Steve Seymour, who have been so helpful in shaping the vision of the stations and our new website.
We just launched capecod.com; it's not a station website. It's a website solely about everything that's going on in Cape Cod - which we promote through our stations. It's a virtual town square for the entire Cape. Anchored in local news (which we carry on a number of our stations), it also is a guide to issues, a resource for services and things to do on the Cape that serves locals and visitors. A GM at Clear Channel won't have the chance to do something like that; they wouldn't get the resources to staff it, but we're able to do things that fit our community needs. Our ownership was thinking ahead on that one. Imagine the forethought to own CapeCod.com!
Speaking of corporate radio, do you find your stations competing against them?
Clear Channel has made an agreement to buy Qantum stations in the market, but I'm not sure whether they'll actually take over operations or just spin them off. The deal hasn't closed yet. I have no clue what they'll do. The thing you have to know about the Cape market is that about half the population is over 50 years old. This is a retirement market first, a second home market next, and a vacation market, too! That's why I wonder if they will hold on to these stations. It may be too far off the radar for them.
Do you face competition from syndication?
Not really. One company here runs Elvis Duran on its Top 40 station. But we don't really compete with it as the Q is really targeted older. We carry Ryan Seacrest on The Q and Kix Brooks on Country, both on weekends only. We used to carry John Tesh, but opted for local over that. Maybe things will be different if CC comes into the market.
You sound like you are really enjoying your work.
I just keep using the word "Joyful" to describe my life. The Cape is a place where you can go home after work and go to the beach, walk the dog, and play nine holes of golf. It's like a little vacation every day. I have the good fortune to work every day in a business that I love, with creative and talented people and appreciative listeners and clients. I'm recently married again to a great man, living in one of the most beautiful places in the country; my son is having his own radio success as a GSM in Boston; and I still sell a house here and there. Love working with our wonderful owners, Steve and Greg ... life is just great! There's life after radio ....and it's radio on the Cape!