10 Questions with ... Carl Sundberg
November 15, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- 101.5 KFLY APD/middays Â· 2008 to present
- Bicoastal Media Director of Web Development Â· 2006 to present
- 101 Distribution Freelance writer Â· Aug 2009 to Aug 2010
- Metal Edge Magazine Freelance writer Â· Mar 2008 to Mar 2009
- Crave Magazine Feature Writer Â· Oct 2006 to Mar 2009
- KEZI Video Editor Â· Feb 2005 to Apr 2005
- Oregon Voice Magazine Feature Writer Â· Aug 2004 to Mar 2005
- Oregon Daily Emerald Columnist Â· Sep 2003 to Aug 2004
- KWVA MD Â· Jun 2002 to Jul 2003
- Cumulus Broadcasting, LLC News producer Â· Aug 2000 to Aug 2002
- KRVM-FM Radio DJ Â· Jan 1998 to Mar 2001
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
Worked at KRVM, a community radio station, doing nights, 9-2 Rocks at the tail end of the '90s. Beat commercial radio stations in the ratings for a year with a classic AOR radio format, which no one was doing in the market at the time. Old and new rock, mixed together, all live with calls and requests. I played records, tapes, CDs and CARTS! My early influences began in my childhood where I taped songs off the radio ... I grew up outside of Tampa, FL listening to 98ROCK, Q105 (the originator of the ZOO morning show format) and 93.3 The Power Pig, where I listened to Bubba the Love Sponge at night. It was at that station, if I'm not mistaken, where he got his start.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
Always wanted to be a rock star in a band or a famous writer, but that either never quite took off or always ended up in failure, so radio was a nice hybrid of the two and ultimately, the next best thing.
3) If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now, what you didn't then, would you still do it?
Absolutely. Despite the horror stories of radio and the dismal nature of the industry currently, I've been one of the lucky ones who have maintained a career in rock 'n' roll. I can't complain. Although if it didn't manage to evolve into what it has, I'd probably have sought out another avenue for my career. And I'm not naive enough to think this will last forever, so I stay on top of the trends and direction that the media is going, ready to leap to the next lillypad when the time comes that this one starts to sink. To grow content in radio is suicide.
4) What career path would you be following had it not been for this industry?
I would work in some other journalistic environment ...TV, newspaper, magazine, web ... which I've done all of at some point in my life. I've got a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism and ultimately it's what I plan to stick with as long as there's work available and the entire nation doesn't collapse.
5) What makes your station or market unique? How does this compare to other markets or stations you have worked at?
We have The Donkey Show, which has developed a rather insane, loyal cult-like following of listeners called Throbbits. We've even managed to snake some of Howard Stern's guests from him, including High-Pitch Eric and Gary the Retard, who are regular guests on the show. It also broadcasts in Medford, OR on our sister station, 106.3 KZZE. It's one of the few radio stations that also streams their show live via numerous video cameras in the studio online on the website via Stickam and Youstream. The station is sponsored and the studio wrapped by Bud Light, which includes an always-stocked "Chill Chamber" with 23-degree Bud Lights for guests. From what I've heard we are one of only a handful of stations in the entire country who have this setup.
6) How have music file sharing services affected the way you program to your audience?
We're not known for breaking artists too much; we play the best of the best in Rock 'n' Roll, with the focus being on the big names in rock -- bands and artists that people know and love. Stick to the best names, the biggest hits, the music that people respond to immediately. We stick to a fine mix of classic rock, active rock and mainstream artists, mixing some of the deeper album cuts with hits, staying current and relevant, yet firmly rooted in the classic artists in rock and we present with plenty of humor and attitude, which is something that can't be downloaded. File sharing has limited effect on our playlist, because people will seek out the artists they want, but what we have realized is that people still want to hear the hits and the bands they know and love.
7) How do you feel terrestrial radio competes with the satellite radio and Internet these days?
Satellite and Internet radio have yet to really take off in any significant way. We stay true to what the audience wants and so long as you stick to that thinking, you'll have an audience. Terrestrial radio will always remains so long as it's a free format and cars still have radios in them. And if the on-air talent is unique, entertaining and knowledgeable of what they are doing, they will always stay a head above the herd. The key to radio is to remain live, local and create content that the audience wants. It's something that the big radio corporations are quickly forgetting. Shockingly, they're also firing most of their air staffs in pursuit of squeezing that last dime out of their bottom lines.
Satellite and Internet is slowly gaining relevancy, but it's still being discussed and sold as the "wave of the future" by both listeners and the industry as a whole. They are extra voices in a sea of noise which listeners must wade through to get what they want. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what the format ... terrestrial, satellite, Internet ... the goal is quality. If you have something someone wants to hear, they will tune in.
8) Where do you see the industry and yourself five years from now?
Great question. I never imagined I'd be here five years ago. The future is not something I try to predict, as the world and the industry is so volatile. Like a football game, you focus on the play in front of you. You try to keep moving the chains. If you get an opportunity to make a huge play, you take it. But you never think about what you're going to be doing in the Super Bowl until you're in it. That being said, we try to keep our eye on the ball on every play.
9) What can we be doing with our station websites to better our stations as a whole?
Taking the on-air content to the next level. Incorporating video, audio, photos, contesting and interactivity into the site to enhance what we're doing on-air. Using it to go deeper. One day the website will be the focal point of radio stations and the on-air function will be a driver to the website. But we're not there yet. Baby steps. Moving the chains. Making content relevant, current and always changing is crucial. When people come back to your website, there should be something there that wasn't there the last time they went. We should also be incorporating the sales teams into the sites better. Even today, I still answer very old-school questions about the websites to our sale staff. But with the Donkey Show being streamed video-wise to the website, we're ahead of our local competition by years already.
The next phase really is mobile. The radio station must have a Tune-In Radio app function, at the very least. You must be where your audience is. And on that front, social media is crucial too. Facebook, Twitter, etc all play crucial parts to the overall web structure of the radio station. Be where your audience is.
10) What format does not exist that should? Would it work?
Well it technically exists on satellite radio, but I would LOVE to see a terrestrial heavy metal radio station. I've actually thought several times of starting my own station with this format. I believe it would work because heavy metal fans are diehard and loyal, much like Country music fans. Once you give them a station that really and truly embraces heavy metal in the way that a real metalhead would appreciate (not just the Black Sabbaths and Metallicas, but the Behemoths and the Slayers) I think it would be the station every metal head in the market would listen to, loyally and indefinitely.
If you had the right on-air talent, mixed with the right kind of local promotion, it could certainly be a strong player. You could sell it to the same advertisers that buy rock radio ... beer, cars, concert promoters, fast food, restaurants, record labels, bars, etc. The key, however, is that it could really only work in a fairly large market. A small-market metal station wouldn't work, due to a lack of population and the availability to the bands and tours, since a huge driver would be the local component, the local concerts that come through, having the bands and artists ingrained in your station and regular guests. And ultimately, it must be a live station with a solid online component, a strong promotional front and a great airstaff. But if done right, it could be a powerhouse.