10 Questions with ... Eric Holmes
January 14, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- WWCD - Columbus, OH (2002-2006)
- WXRK - New York, NY (2003)
- Interscope Records - New York (2003)
- Jacobs Media - Detroit (2006-2009)
- KSWD - Los Angeles (2009-2014)
1. What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
My first job in radio was at WWCD in Columbus, OH. What got me into it was working security at Blossom Music Center in Cleveland, and ended up guarding the dressing rooms in 1999-2000. I met everyone for two summers -- Megadeath, Linkin Park, Disturbed, Ozzy Osbourne, Chrissie Hynde, Poison, Barenaked Ladies, Kid Rock and many more. I have always been into music and witnessing the behind the scenes excitement got the juices flowing. I was also DJ'ing live events and playing music for people which gave them break from life. Making other people laugh and enjoy the day is something I absolutely love.
2. What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
My internship with Andy Davis (Andyman) at WWCD/Columbus while I was still an undergraduate at Ohio State is what got me interested in radio. There were two moments that really stick out for me. The first was when I got to interview my favorite band, 311, live on the radio and introduce them on stage later that night at the LC in Columbus, WOW! Who gets to do that? The second was my internship at WXRK in NYC. Seeing that place at its peak with Howard Stern, it was so exciting. I was actually there the day Howard didn't renew his contract. It was very interesting.
3. How long did you work at KSWD (The Sound) and what makes this station so unique?
I worked at KSWD (The Sound) for four-and-a-half years. There are two things that really make the station unique. First, it's a standalone in Los Angeles. Second, the attention to detail of the music, imaging, promos and DJs. We were the new guys, starting up during the worst economic situation for radio. It takes a lot of drive and determination to make that station a winner from everyone on the staff.
4. How much influence did former Bonneville Classic Rock station (and now Hubbard) WDRV (The Drive) in Chicago have on The Sound?
WDRV had a huge influence on The Sound once we gradually changed from Triple A to Classic Rock. Greg Solk has a winner in Chicago with the Drive, so it made sense. The Sound had a great blueprint to start with from The Drive and is continuing to evolve into its own entity.
5. As an MD at a Classic Rock station, what are some of the key ingredients for making a station that plays Classic Rock still sound fresh and exciting?
How do you make old music stay fresh? Well, first your imaging should be fun. Just because a major part of your demo is older, doesn't mean they aren't hip. And when you're stuck in traffic, something quirky and humorous is best. But the most important factor is your DJs. They should be presenting the music in a NOW kind of way. History and memories are great, but listeners don't need to remember how old they are every 15 minutes. They just want to hear the music they love in THIS moment. Every song can have a different memory for someone.
6. What's your take on Classic Rock music today? Depending on the station's target, how new can a Classic Rock song be, and still be considered classic?
If you're tuning into a Classic Rock station, most people think Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and The Beatles. I understand why some programmers think they should play '90s/'00s tracks, but that's a mistake. Classic Rock is what it is and doesn't need to be tinkered with. It's the greatest rock music from the late '60s, '70s and mid-'80s. Van Hagar, AC/DC and Guns 'N Roses are where the Classic Rock line ends, in my opinion. Play the hits! For some stations, Metallica is that line. If you want to play Pearl Jam, then you shouldn't call your station Classic Rock.
7. Tell us about your consulting company Howl, What kind of services will you provide for a company or radio station?
At HOWL, I consult many different types of brands, from radio stations on their programming, features, production and social media to the artists themselves on molding their talent, life and network. HOWL helps you figure out who you are, where you want to go and how to get there.
8) You worked at Jacobs Media before working at The Sound. How did that experience prepare you for setting up your own consulting company?
Working for Fred Jacobs, Paul Jacobs and the rest of the staff at Jacobs Media was like getting my PhD in radio. Every day was new experience. Instead of dealing with one radio station's problems, I was learning how to solve the problems of over a hundred stations all over the U.S. I also learned how to collect research and statistics the right way, and then present them properly. It was a fast-paced environment with a demanding schedule and it taught me how to prioritize a huge work load. It was also where I met many of the connections I have today.
9) Let's talk about social media such as Facebook and Twitter. How much should a Classic Rock station use cutting-edge social media to interact with a Classic Rock listening base?
With Facebook, there needs to be rules on what kind of content you post. What are the most important things to your radio station? Don't post just to post. What would someone who has "liked" your radio station expect to see as they are scrolling through hundreds of posts on their Facebook feed? Make sure your staff understands the station brand. All posts should reflect that. Use high-quality images and post pictures with your comments as much as you can. People LOVE great pictures. Your DJs should always tag their posts with initials so people know it's them. Let their personalities shine. The Classic Rock audience is still catching up to Twitter, but you shouldn't ignore it because Twitter is continuing to grow and will only get bigger. Try setting up some "Tweet and Greets" with artists where listeners ask questions.
10) What are your three favorite Classic Rock artists or songs of all time and why?
I love CCR and John Fogerty. I love how he was able to reinvent himself last year. Steven Tyler because of that voice and he's a really generous, nice guy. Roger Daltrey because he gave me the most honest interview I've ever done. Ann and Nancy Wilson, because they take chances. Steve Perry, what a voice! I never listened to much Elton John before the Sound, but "Madman Across the Water" on vinyl is just awesome. So is Van Morrison's "Moondance" record. Of course, Floyd, Stones, Zeppelin and The Doors. And don't forget Joe Walsh! I thought his latest record was outstanding.
What do you do for fun and relaxation when you're "not" in radio mode?
I love taking advantage of everything California has to offer. The wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley are outstanding and there's some great hiking all around Los Angeles in the various mountains. Watching sports is a great getaway. If only my Cleveland teams were fun to watch. At least I have my Ohio State Buckeyes!
You're stuck on a deserted island and you only have 5 CDs with you. What are they?
Albums on a deserted island. I would take AC/DC - Back in Black for those days when you need to get to work. 311 - Blue Album because I know all of the lyrics. Bob Marley - Live at the Roxy for those sunny days and starry nights. Pink Floyd - The Wall for those days of discovery and Pearl Jam - Ten because you can never hear "Alive" too many times in your life.