10 Questions with ... Keith Hastings
April 23, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- PD, WCSX / Detroit 2/13-present
- Consultant/Owner, Hastings Media Consulting 8/12-2/13
- PD, WHQG / Milwaukee 7/05 - 8/12
- PD, WAAF / Boston 7/02 - 7/05
- PD, WLZR / Milwaukee 8/94 - 7/02
- PD, WAQY / Springfield, MA 12/88 - 8/94
- PD, WQFM / Milwaukee, 6/88-12/88
- PD, WIOT / Toledo 6/86 - 6/88
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
I was a part-time jock at WKTN in my hometown of Kenton, OH, about 90 miles from here, at age 15. I was heavily influenced by CKLW and WJR in those years, as well as WDIF in Marion, OH, where I landed a part-time gig at the age of 16.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
My defining moment came as a toddler. My parents bought me some Beatles 45s, a record player, and a transistor radio. I grew up knowing that this is what I would do. Never any question.
3) Congratulations on your new position as the PD of WCSX. You've actually been an on-site consultant for the station since November. How did the transition from consultant to PD come about?
Thank you. When I decided to make a change last year, I left the door open to just about anything in and out of the business. I wasn't sure consulting was completely right for me, despite the fact I greatly enjoy working in that sector. Since I was a niche player, offering on-site solutions, I never positioned myself to compete with or displace a full-service consultancy like Jacobs Media. It was Fred Jacobs who first conceived of the idea of me doing that type of work at Connoisseur's 94-3 The Shark on Long Island. I knew in my heart that if I came across a situation that made sense for me long-term that I'd pitch the job. My independent work with WCSX allowed me to make that impassioned pitch, and here I am, in the Midwest, 90 miles from my hometown, with an incredible group of broadcasters, working in the rock and roll capitol of the world!
4) Give us your take on the health of WCSX right now. What are its strengths and challenges as you move forward in the PD chair?
This station is among the very most iconic and important Classic Rock brands in America. We have tremendous heritage in our brand and personalities and it's my job to make sure we make the very most of those advantages.
5) Who are your main competitors in the market and how would you access their strengths and weaknesses?
WCSX sets the bar for the Classic Rock product category in the market. We are our own best competitor.
6) Your sister station WRIF is rich in heritage. Even though it's an Active Rock station, how much library material if any do you share with them?
Less than you would think given the heritage of their brand. I suppose it's easy to think it would be more given that all of the iconic personalities on CSX at one time were at WRIF over the years.
7) You've had a long and successful career programming Active, Mainstream and now Classic Rock. What's your take on all three of these genres and the Rock format as a whole?
Many don't realize I was programming Classic Rock before I landed at Lazer/Milwaukee in 1994. I was PD when WAQY/Springfield MA transitioned to Classic Rock in the early '90s. It was a hugely successful move.
For my whole career, it seems at any given time someone is all hopped up about the death of rock. While Active certainly has its challenges which tie directly to record company struggles and a changing consumer, all of these genres have tremendous avenues of interactivity with their respective audiences. This makes them an attractive choice in any market. Look at Long Island, where the market had been vastly underserved with rock released in the '90s and 2000s. Connoisseur didn't just take a shot with The Shark, they did the homework and proved there was a hole in the market a mile wide for a station with an average year of about 1996. That station is on fire ... and it rocks. We make this stuff harder than it needs to be.
8) One of the programming challenges of the Classic Rock format has always been how do you keep the station sounding fresh and relevent while it's playing Rock music that's sometimes 30 or 40 years old. Your thoughts?
CSX's Ken Calvert did an interview with Deep Purple's Roger Glover the other day, and Glover talked about how keeping things simple is hard work. I think it's that way for the format. This is the single most amazing and incredible body of music in human history, at least since the classical period. It doesn't wear out, only the methods of delivery do. We hold this music in the air of reverence the audience expects, we are broadcasters, and we know there are many proper elements that compliment this music in the process of creating a fresh outlet for entertainment.
9) How interactive is WCSX with its audience via your website or social media like Facebook and Twitter?
We are as active as anyone in the format and getting deeper every day with the help of Lori Lewis and Jacobs Media.
10) What is the future of the Classic Rock format in the next five to 10 years?
I'll say it again: This is the single most amazing and incredible body of music in human history. It doesn't wear out, it's only the methods of delivery that do. If we get that part of it right, I like our chances down the road.
What do you like to do to relax when you're not in "radio" mode?
Camping, fishing, reading. As I've aged, I've also gotten much more fervent about public service -- Scout leadership, school board and other volunteer work. It helps keep me balanced and that's important in this business.
Are you more a TV or movie guy and what are some of your all-time favorites in both genres?
Much like music, I get intrigued when I go back over a song or an album or a movie and experience it again "for the first time." I guess I'm a movie guy because it's more difficult to do that with television. That said, I've always loved science fiction, drama, and Netflix has drawn me more and more into the documentary world.
I know that even though you're from Ohio, your many years in Wisconsin turned you into a Green Bay Packers fan. How long will that last in Detroit Lions country?
No disrespect to the Lions organization intended, but that won't be easy. Had I grown up here, I'd be part of the collective desire to get the franchise over the hump. But being in Wisconsin for so long, it is ingrained in me that the Packers and their fan base are very unique and very special. The history there is undeniable.
Still, does anyone ever really know? When I left there, someone said to me that they always thought I'd be there forever. My answer was that forever is a long time.