10 Questions with ... Ron Stryker
August 6, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
...(deep inhale a la Ace Ventura )...Went to broadcasting school, Brown Institute, Minneapolis, now Brown College. Obtained my FCC license January 22nd, 1988. Interned at KJJO, KQRS, KDWB, ran satellite and did weather breaks at KDWB-A, at the same time worked at KDWA-A -- not a typo. Other call letters include WHMH, WVAL/St. Cloud, KCLB/Palm Springs, News Talk 1010, Sports Talk KXPS and KYOR also in the Coachella Valley. 98 KUPD and AM 1060 the Deuce under Sandusky-now=Hubbard. And currently flying the Federated Media flag for the last 11 years.
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
At Brown I read a posting that Hot Rockin' 104 was looking for a Metal Shop show producer who could do voice characterization...I inquired within and voila!
First job ... that I got actually paid ... 7p-midnight shift on a 1K AM, 250 watts at night ... Hastings, MN. I think the signal reached the city limits, which was three whole miles away ... must have been directional. Station music was 1940s to 1981 for some reason. Joey Scarbury's "Theme from the Greatest American Hero" was the cut off because apparently no good music came after that. 45s spun on a gear-driven turntable with orange felt, everything else was on reel-to-reel ... or cart. P.S.--don't forget to turn the lights off when you signed off and finished production. I drove 40 miles each way, after landscaping eight hours at Bachman's, all for $3.90 an hour. Gotta cut your teeth somewhere.
Influences? There was a lot of great radio in Chicago ... Larry Lujack and snot-nosed Tommy, John Records Landecker, Steve and Gary, Brandmeier and Buzz, Terri Hemmert and Dr. Demento ... syndicated, yes, on vinyl no less, but still an influence ... and I would be remiss if I didn't mention JJ Jeffries.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
The career placement test said either forestry or the entertainment industry ... I kid you not ... and so off to Brown I went.
I'm not certain I ever had "that moment." I just like radio at its core ... you know, I was just a kid who didn't want to go to bed. And so I had the radio on after lights out every night ... and it just did its thing with music and gab and stuff I thought I wasn't supposed to hear. Sometimes that wheel of destiny spins and gets it right ... or you take a CAPS test ... I mean, the scores said that forestry thing could have be a viable option?
3) I had the pleasure of working with you as a consultant when you were PD at KCLB back in the '90s. Although I'll never tell, what are some of your fondest memories of working in Palm Springs Radio back in the day?
...other than you and that gorgeous tan...
- At the polo grounds in Coachella watching Pearl Jam with all those shoes flying to the stage...
- Doing remotes on the blacktop in 123 degree...
- Being flipped off by David Bowie...
- Taking a good Rock station to number 1 12+...
- Sitting in an old ramshackle of a studio 70 feet below sea-level in the middle of the desert surrounded by a carrot field and three AM sticks, talking to a listener on the other end of that 93.7MHz frequency ....good times.
4) This is your second go-around as PD at WRBR (The Bear). How long have you been at the station total, and what did you do at the station between your first and second stint as PD?
It'll be 11 years August 27th ... in between programming stints were a few things, the last to start up the equivalent of an ad agency inside the radio group. My partner Rob Perugini (total right-brained creative monster) and I developed campaigns, commercials and marketing strategy for clients looking to make a difference.(uh-oh) here comes the soapbox ... seriously ... 20% of programming every hour is creative, commercials and production don't settle for the cliché ... if all I did was give my wife a phone number, address and tell her I was locally owned and operated you think she would have dated me? Relationships are based on feeling ... make them feel something other than the button when they change the station ...a nd the soapbox goes away.
5) You've always been a HUGE proponent of strong station Marketing/Imaging. Given your perspective away from the PD chair for awhile, what have you learned that will make you a stronger PD this time around?
The honing of the message. Message, message, message ... the wrong message sends the wrong message ... the right message ... the words ... music ... sfx ... dead space are all very effective when used correctly.
6) You're just getting back in the PD chair, but what's your take on current Active Rock music? How does it compare to when you were initially programming The Bear years ago?
The new A.I.C. ... Soundgarden ...Pearl Jam and STP, it's like the '90s all over again ... and the '90s weren't bad to rock radio ... new A7X sounds GREAT! How does it compare ... well, OMG #socialmediaiscompletelymyBFFlol'ssnapchat. Look at the beginning, middle and end of the day, you still have to put out a product that people want to listen to ... and there I go, dangling a preposition. I just want the fun party format that makes you think and feel that's less dark and brooding ... the fun party format is a helluva listen and easier to sell, just ask country.
7) Your predecessor Tommy Carroll has a new position as the Company Digital Director. Tell us a little about the station's "My Bear" project that Tommy has spearheaded?
Talk about BEAR brand extension ... the version he deployed has every rock generation that touches the station and a channel dedicated to that musical experience. The classics, metal, alternative, '70s, '80s, '90s, 2000s all rock available via computer in the form of the My Bear player, and once the phone app is built, that will roll out and be in the palm of listeners hands -- and that's a great place to be. It's fantastic a player that's spins the songs you like, remembers the ones you don't and delivers content relevant to the here and now. Tommy's attention to detail makes My Bear a great personal product. It's listening on steroids with the ability to hit home run after home run without the fear of a 50-game suspension.
8) Beyond the "My Bear" project, how else does WRBR interact with its listeners via your website and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter?
There are lots of ways we interact by delivering content, video, contests, an early heads-up on tickets, or something lifestyle, or online-only offers. We have our stream online and phone app for both Droid and iPhone, text club, e-mail blast, online music listener panel, Twitter, Facebook but again, it's all about message and reaching people for the right reasons ... not just because we sold it.
9) What can Rock radio be doing with their station websites and social media sites to better their stations as a whole?
Again right message...one thing to stay away from and our website is currently guilty of itis visual vomit ... make it user friendly and experiential. We are in the process of a total web make-over ... I hear HGTV wants the rights ... and wants to air it after Bath Crashers. As for social media, content is king. Nobody want useless messages, posts, texts or tweets.
10) Okay, I know you're originally from the Chicago area. Besides the Blackhawks who just won the Stanley Cup, what Chicago sports team will win the next major championship?
Besides ... the Indian Head will prevail ... barring injuries, the Hawks look strong enough to contend going into the '13/'14 season. And I asked if they would open training camp here at Notre Dame September 12th-15th and they yes, so any team willing to do that deserves to win it all.
What do you like to do to relax when you're not in "radio work" mode?
I play hockey a couple times a week; some might call that relaxing. I dig good beer, even a home brew from time to time. And I live on a three-acre grass farm that needs tending to ... put on the headphones pick out some music and get to mowing ... when done right it, takes about six hours of listening.
You're stuck on a deserted island and you only have 5 CDs with you. What are they?
That's like asking "who's your favorite child?" ... Well disc one is "directions on how to make it home from a deserted island" by The Three Hour Tours ... it's a classic ... I have been leaning retro a lot lately ... does Physical Graffiti count as one CD? Depeche Mode - Some Great Reward ... maybe Interpol Antics, not retro. Any album that includes Hendrix's version of "All Along the Watchtower," a must-have. Adele's 21 or Carole King's Tapestry ... that's a coin toss. If there is a cassette deck, I'd bring the Beastie's Licensed to Ill even though it's a little stretched out. And probably Black Keys or Beck ... is that five? Honorable mentions: Miles Davis - Kind of Blue and Metallica ... and Justice for All ... and scene ... roll the credits