10 Questions with ... Bob Buchmann
May 28, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- WBAB/Long Island ... 1979-1999. VP/Programming, Mornings
- WAXQ/New York ... 1999-2008. PD/Mornings, late-Middays
- KLOS/Los Angeles ... 2009-2011. PD/Afternoons
- KGB/San Diego ... 2012-present. Mornings
1) What was your first job in radio?
In 1976, I was stoked to actually be paid anything to DJ on WRCN/Riverhead-Hamptons. It hadn't yet turned rock, but I was loving the pop hits of the day from Maxine Nightingale, Bay City Rollers and the Bellamy Brothers. And the rumors are true: The station really was housed in an abandoned popcorn stand at a closed drive-in theatre.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
As a kid, I was on the engineering side. At 16, I helped wire a new educational FM station for a Long Island library. One day, I was equally struck by the magic that Dan Ingram created on 77WABC and that Don Imus (then a music jock) made happen on 66WNBC. The library wasn't going to allow us to do things like they did, so four of us built our own pirate AM station in my parent's basement so we could imitate our heroes behind the microphone.
3) You've had a unique programming history that includes 20 years at WBAB/Long Island and another decade at WAXQ (Q 104) New York. Give us some of the highlights of the WBAB years.
We were young and stupid, which made for great radio. To become top-of-mind, we held "No Skin, No Win" tanning contests on the beach with no permits, we played local bands in regular rotation, which led to huge crowds at club appearances and the signing of bands like Twisted Sister and Zebra. We partnered with Billy Joel to do an annual week-long radiothon for local causes. Maybe the biggest highlight was the terrific people we took out of college and placed in a winning environment: Current Clear Channel Classic Rock Format Captain Eric Wellman was hired to answer phones, and soon became APD. Sirius/XM's Greg "Opie" Hughes was an intern and later did nights, teamed up with a P-1 listener named "Anthony" Cumia. P1 Research Pres. Ken Benson was a part-timer, as was national programmer Harve Alan. Mail On-line's Chief Revenue Officer Rich Sutton did overnights, as did present-day BAB morning star Roger Luce. His morning partner John "JP" Parise was our van driver. And there were many other stars born in those years!
4) How and when did you make the switch to Q104 in New York and give us some highlights from those years as well.
Howard Stern recommended me to Tom Chiusano for PD at K-Rock in the '90s, but I had just signed a new deal at BAB. At the 20 year mark, it was time to go. I called David Lebow, then SVP of AM/FM, and asked if the PD job at Q104 was still open. He said, not for much longer. There was silence, and then he said, "Are you interested?" I tried not to shout the word "yes!" Q's GM, Matt Ross, had brunch with me in New York that Sunday and the brass approved his decision while he and I watched the New York Yankees win a World Series game. I couldn't have written the script better!
Nothing motivated me more to succeed at Q than WNEW-FM's early 2000's declaration that rock was dead in New York. We built Q slowly and steadily, taking it in Adults from #16 when I started to #1 when I left. I had terrific GMs and worked closely with Tom Poleman. The exact same air staff is there to this day. They are all amazing, as is Eric Wellman, who I brought to the station in 2000. Most special moment? Maybe it was hiring Jim Kerr for mornings.
5) After all those years programming in New York, there must have been some culture shock for you moving to Los Angeles and taking over as PD at KLOS. Give us the scoop on your KLOS years?
L.A. may be a lot different than New York, but it wasn't for me. KLOS is in Culver City, and I was in the Marina, nine minutes away. Traffic problem solved! And within those four walls, I never saw the calm, less frantic reputation L.A. has. GM Bob Moore has a storied, decades-long L.A. history, and he is every bit as fast-paced and furious as any New Yorker. He and I were the new guys, and we knew we had to shake the sleeping giant. With his help and that of my New York friend Scott Shannon (and let's not forget Keith Cunningham, APD Bill Huning and Marketing Director Mike Olson), we took it top 5 in Adults within 10 months and reached top 2 later. A great experience.
6) You've been doing mornings at KGB for almost a year now. Has your programming perspective helped your on-air work?
It always has. Thinking with a programming mind helps make a more strategic jock, and conversely plugging in a jock's thought process makes a more effective programmer. I'm blessed to have an excellent PD, Shauna Moran, who really gets how to make the most of her staff.
7) How much has working with morning icons like Mark & Brian helped you in delivering your own ratings in mornings on KGB?
Mark & Brian were the first all-talk morning guys I coached, and it was a terrific experience for all parties. I learned a ton, and was able to bring out the best in them. Occasionally that meant taking them out of their comfort zone. As I plan KGB mornings, M&B's style, technique and raw talent still inspire me.
8) Your partner Coe Lewis has worked at KGB on and off for about 20 years. What makes the Bob and Coe Show work?
To no one's surprise, it's the same things that make a marriage work, and it all starts with chemistry. And we've embraced our roles: I'm the New York brash guy, and she's the sweetheart "I bleed KGB" girl. We both pour on the San Diego local emphasis and share our true passion for rock.
9) Let's talk about social media such as Facebook and Twitter. How much does your morning show utilize social media for connecting with listeners?
We have an unbelievable producer, Sarah Beebe, who Tweets and posts to Facebook once per hour. She updates online in real time, so we're always sending listeners to the site for more content.
10) Let's focus on the Classic Rock format now. You've programmed some of the best Classic Rock stations in America and now play Classic Rock every morning on KGB, another great Classic Rock radio station. What's your take on the format today and in the future?
Many of us remember how advertisers used to view Rock stations back in the '80s -- that only mechanics in black T-shirts were listening. Today, advertisers love us because they know we command Adults 25-54 by owning Men 25-54. The danger we face is aging exclusively 35-64. America may be getting older, but Madison Avenue doesn't care; they still want 25-54. Although we all play a gold library in this format, having a morning show that performs "in the now," developing imaging that "youngs-up" the music and remembering that the '90s brought us some good songs can keep us in the money with Adults 25-54.