10 Questions with ... Jeremy "Nic" Nicolato
November 18, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Been in the radio business now for 18 years. I have called stations like KOOL/Phoenix, AZ, KZON/Phoenix, KWOD/Sacramento, KFNN/Phoenix, and KEDJ/Phoenix home. I have been here at KQXR/Boise as PD since August of '07.
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
First job was as a part-time board op for Fun Oldies, KOOL 94.5 in Phoenix. I was still in broadcast school, but thought it would be smart to pass out some tapes and resumes just to see what could happen. So, I went to every station in Phoenix and did just that. When I popped in at KOOL, the MD/APD Tom Peake was checking his mail up front; he recognized me from one of the lectures he did at the school and asked what I was doing there. Just so happened their Saturday/Sunday night board op quit that day, and he said it was mine if I wanted it. I did.
Six months later, they offered me my first full-time job producing the morning show, and onward and upward from there.
I will always list Howard Stern as an influence for me. As a morning guy and a fan of his in general, the way he runs his show, his ear for knowing what makes good radio, and his interview skills are all top-notch. John Holmberg (now at KUPD), Kevin Mannion (RIP, buddy) and Brian Casey also influenced me in more ways than they know.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
The bug bit me when I was young, always loved listening to radio in the morning before school. I would put together my own goofy radio shows on tape with by boom box in my room, that kind of crap.
But when I was in fourth grade, I called into the Reitman and Mueller show on WKTI in Milwaukee because I wanted to ask the guys what I had to do to get into radio. Of course, they put me on the air and made a bit out of it, encouraging me to do anything else with my life but radio. I went to school that morning and all my friends told me how cool it was that they heard me on the radio. More fuel to the fire.
As a 12 year old, I took a tour of the WKTI studios, saw the midday guy do a break or two, stared in awe at the reel to reel and cart machines and decided: this was what I wanted to do when I grew up.
3) How long have you been at KQXR (100.3 The X) and what makes this station so unique?
I just celebrated my seventh year here at The X, and I couldn't be happier. We are lucky, as Boise is a pretty great rock town. They support local music, they support new music and they support the radio station, that's about all you can ask for.
Our music, our personality and our attitude makes us unique. Most know we rock pretty hard here in Boise, and that can be a touch scary to those on the outside looking in. But I can't tell you how much that has paid off for us since we moved away from the Alternative panel. This station has always ruled the 18-34 world, and continues do so. Where we struggled was the 25-54 demo -- always middle of the pack. So, we did some research, hardened things up a ton and added some older artists into rotation. What we found was giving people a real mix of the newest, hardest rock and music that influenced those new artists we play was the key to ratings success.
We are consistently #1 Men 25-54 and we've been #1 Persons 25-54 as well. If you are a Rock station that plays Godsmack, Volbeat and Five Finger Death Punch on the regular, you won't be shocked to learn those fans also like AC/DC, Maiden and GNR. We've banked this station on that, and strategically paced out things like era and style in our clocks. It's helped us maintain dominance in the "younger" demos and pull in the older ones, which makes my bosses and the sales staff very happy.
4) You have the dual role as PD and morning show host of The Morning After with Nic and Big J. How do you balance your time so both roles are effective?
The secret for me is to never to compartmentalize the two jobs. I am the PD, but I also need to prepare and put forth an entertaining, kick-ass morning show. When I am working on something in a PD capacity, I always think how I can make it work for The X first, followed immediately by how it will sound on the morning show?
How can I deliver that message to my audience in an X kind of way, etc?
That makes me say "no" to certain sales-driven things, but it also gives me a different perspective on how to approach and come up with creative ideas for The X. At the end of the day, if it doesn't sound good on the air, it's pointless. That translates into our other dayparts as well.
5) How do you like doing the morning show and besides getting up early, what are the biggest challenges for you doing this prime-time shift?
You are correct, the hours suck. Big time. But I LOVE doing mornings. As previously mentioned, being part of a morning show was my very first full-time job in radio. I've done other dayparts, but I have the most fun doing mornings. The creative freedom and the fun I have every morning with Big J trumps everything.
Except sleep, God I miss sleep.
The biggest challenges are tied to the hours, on a good day I am out of here at 3p, which makes for a pretty long day. I have to bail out of weekday concerts earlier than I would like, just so I can get four to five hours of sleep ... but wahhhh, right?
6) KQXR has a reputation as a "tastemaker" station ... especially when it comes to new rock and metal ... how do you balance that so it doesn't adversely affect the station's cume and TSL ... especially during the day?
I don't think we go out of our way to try and break new bands or songs, but if a song sounds good, fits the X and our listeners like it, we'll play it regardless of chart position. It's part of what makes Boise a great rock town, and what makes bands want to play here.
We've done it with Avatar, Bobaflex, Royal Bliss, Like A Storm, and plenty more. Being one of the first stations to play bands that are now format standards like Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat, Halestorm and In This Moment just goes along with that philosophy.
I will say this: When we sat down and created this station, one thing I really wanted was no dayparting. There are stations that sound completely different if you listen to them for an hour at noon and then again for an hour at 8p. Our thought was: Your favorite radio station should always sound like your favorite station. We tell people every chance we get that we rock. We try and prove it with every song we play.
7) Okay ... put on your music hat now. What's your take on current Active Rock music? Is it as good as six months or a year ago, better, or about the same?
I am not a believer in the "rock is dead" mentality. Not at all. There's a ton of great music out there, some of it that's not so good too, but that's true with every radio format.
When I see the turnouts we have for our X Shows at the Knitting Factory or the fact that we set a record for attendance at Mayhem Fest this year, I know we are on the right path and rock still has a loyal, passionate audience that will pay good money to see and hear bands they love.
I have a playlist full of songs right now that are working. Sales are great for this market; bands play sold-out shows ... and I have tracks from bands like Chevelle, Linkin Park, Pop Evil and more that I'm not playing. But I do know those songs will be just as successful when they get their chance. No, I'm happy with the state of Active Rock.
I just wish people would stop using the word "rock" to describe something that's clearly not (Award Shows!). It might make people 1) realize what real rock music is in 2014, and 2) generate some buzz for real rock artists.
8) I've always appreciated your candid take on today's Rock music and artists. Name three "new" Rock bands you think will become breakout bands at the format in the next year?
Avatar - I love this band. Our listeners do, too. If you have seen them live, heard "Black Waltz" or "Hail The Apocalypse," you know why The X has been playing these guys for over three years. Their showmanship is second to none and those guitars, my dear lord.
We Are Harlot - The world has already proven that they enjoy Asking Alexandria. Danny can scream for sure, but this band proves dude can SING, man! I've had a chance to hear a couple of tracks off their new album and it's really good. Those of us who have had success with this latest AA track will really like what they hear.
Nothing More - Already have a #1 song in their back pocket, but we here at Active Rock could always use another band that can do no wrong. These guys are stars. Period.
Bonus band: I'm really hoping the new Dead Sara album will blow some doors down. That band is special.
9) How much does 100.3 The X use social media (Facebook/Twitter) and its website to interact with its listeners? Are you doing anything unique and different with your social media presence in the market?
A bunch ... Facebook more so than Twitter, but we are coming around on the 140-character thing. It's another way to stay in direct contact with your listeners; you have to use that to your benefit. We try to use it for station specific things or music info.
We also use it for contesting a bunch. Giving slots away in our acoustic X Sessions or tickets to shows. It always generates conversation and better yet, it generates more "likes" and "shares" America!
10) Give us a cool radio promotion the station has done in the last year that really worked?
The most fun one we do is every Halloween we bust out the Xrock Murder Mystery. We pitch it as "Clue" on the radio. We "kill off" someone in a terrible way (it's been Scott Stapp, Lindsay Lohan, and American Idol in the past), this year it was the Kardashians.
We play a clue three times a day until someone correctly guesses who committed the crime, where it happened and what weapon they used.
What sets it apart is the X on-air staff is part of all of the clues, kind of playing the Scooby Doo gang as the mystery unfolds and we try to help our listeners find the answers. We all get to play a part in this goofy on-air radio play. It harkens back to the days of old time radio serials and it gives me a chance to use the 1.5 credits of creative writing I took in college.
When you're not in "radio" mode, what do you like to do for fun and relaxation?
Sports. Movies. TV shows. Video games. I'm 37 going on 19, probably helps the morning show in some way. But, I also have a great wife and two sons, so if I can go home and spend a quiet night with them. I'll take that any day of the week.
You're stuck on a deserted island and you only have 5 CDs with you. What are they?
- Dead Sara - Dead Sara
- Beatles - Rubber Soul
- Foo Fighters - The Colour And The Shape
- System Of A Down - Hypnotize/Mezmerize
- Tenacious D - Tenacious D