10 Questions with ... Steve Huber
April 21, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
WIYY (98 Rock). 16 years and counting. Intern: May 1998, Promotions Assistant: May 1999, Assistant Promotions Dir.: November 2000, MD: May 2009, APD/MD, March 2015.
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
It is weird how my earliest influence is now my latest influence. Rick Strauss, Rob Heckman and Dave Hill really taught me everything I know about programming (so blame them). Worked directly with Cary Pahigian in between PDs and really learned a lot about the managerial side of the business. Rick is now back at 98 Rock and continues to keep me going in the right direction.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
I wanted to be in radio even back to high school. My uncle John went to BIM (Broadcasting Institute of Maryland) and exposed me to the potential that I could possibly do what all the people I loved listening to were doing. I already loved music. I was always the guy who made countless mix tapes and tried to turn friends on to new music. "I just have to play you just this one more." The thought of being able to do that on such a grand scale always amazed me. I love that I get to be people's road trip, outdoor bar-b-que, break up, make up or make out, soundtrack.
3) How long have you been at WIYY (98 Rock) and what makes this station so unique?
There should be a book written chronicling the things that have made 98 Rock so unique through the years. Stories of old staff members antics still fill the hallways like you would talk about a crazy relative at a family picnic. This radio station is Baltimore. It has raised people and is now raising (perhaps corrupting) those people's kids. Our ownership having only us and WBAL radio makes us unique. The same format (and some personalities, too, "All Hail The Queen") for 38 years makes us unique. Mostly it's the people who work here, past and present, who treat it like a family business and a service to the city we love more than just a place to earn a paycheck.
4) Congrats on your recent promotion to APD. You've been the MD and will still handle that. What other new duties will you be assuming at 98 Rock?
Like everyone who is in radio these days the hat you wear changes not only day to day but sometimes hour to hour. I have really been a utility player since I started here. I guess it's one of the reasons they couldn't get rid of me. I made sure I could do anything they asked me to do, from promotions to on-air and all in between. 98 Rock is a big family and we all work together to keep this train rolling. I just get to blow the whistle more often now.
5) Since you're still handling music on WIYY, describe your weekly music meeting ... a) what is the process when you listen to new music? b) Approximately how important by percentage is gut, research, sales, video play and chart position when determining the status of a record?
A good chef never reveals all of his secrets. Music meetings at 98 Rock are incredibly thorough. There is a form of democracy that happens with anywhere from two to five people involved in the music meeting. I keep track of my "on deck" list and bring those songs into the meeting. We listen not only to those but songs in active rotation, too. Chart position has probably the least to do with our decision making process. We are lucky enough to have our own callout and that gets considered pretty heavily, as well as Mscore, sales, social and streams. But after all things are considered it is still ears and gut (mine being larger than others) that make the final call.
6) 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 hate the term "Active Rock" because it has come to mean something very limiting and exclusionary. I do not like "Active Rock." But ... Rock music is still full of great artists and sounds. The Arctic Monkeys, Royal Blood and Black Keys put out great albums and not just songs. I like what is in the hopper, too, from the likes of The Marmozets, Crobot, Turbowolf, Kill It Kid, Rival Sons and plenty of others. It seems like more of a raw, groovy sound, with a focus on live performance instead of studio magic is making a comeback, and I dig it.
7) What are your three favorite artists or songs of this past year and why?
Royal Blood - "Out of the Black," The Black Keys - "Weight of Love," The Pretty Reckless - "Heaven Knows" These were three standouts for a number of reasons. Royal Blood is a no-brainer. Big, heavy, full sound. Kick-ass riffs AND appeal outside of the "Active" niche. One of the few "Active" rock bands to be featured on a national stage like "Jimmy Kimmel Live." The Black Keys' "Weight of Love" is just an amazing song. A sound we need in rock. I LOVE that it doesn't fit into any new formula. It has more to do with Pink Floyd than processed vocals. The Pretty Reckless makes the list because it was a great song and crossed over outside of rock. We need more "rock" songs to do that. I'm not ashamed that a song I'm playing gets some AC spins. I celebrate that more people are being exposed to a great rock song.
8) How much does WIYY use social media like Facebook and Twitter to help enhance the 98 Rock experience with its listeners?
Social media is a large part of what we do. We are lucky enough to have HD cameras mounted in our studio and they are switched on during our morning show. We capture a few highlight videos every morning from the live stream and post them to our social pages. Giving the 98 Rock fan a little taste of the 98 Rock morning show during their lunch break or social media "breaks" throughout the day. These bite-sized clips are very well received and circulated. Of course we could always do more with social media and we are increasing our output every day.
9) WIYY is also the flagship station of the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. How does that association benefit a Rock station like 98 Rock and what kinds of special programming do you do during the NFL season around the games?
The Ravens are a huge part of the fabric of Baltimore, so being involved in that brand is an amazing opportunity. They are a great partner and allow us many opportunities to be out in the community and in front of passionate fans of both brands. During the season, Sundays are all Ravens all the time. Including the game broadcasts we are in Ravens coverage for 12 hours. We also do a player hosted "lifestyle" show on Mondays from 6-8p. The Monday show is more about the personality of the player and funny stories from both on and off the field; Xs and Os are not allowed.
10) Finally, Baltimore has always had a reputation as a great "foodie" town. If I were to give you hardshell crabs, corn beef sandwiches, or coddies, which of these food groups would you fall under and why?
Baltimore is really upping its restaurant game. I like to make sure everyone who comes to town eats in a Baltimore restaurant. No chains allowed. But as for your original question, I am all steamed crabs all the time. It's more of a social event then a belly filling situation, but awesome nonetheless. Anything you have to eat with a hammer, that is smothered in Old Bay (keep your fingers out of your eyes) and that goes great with a beer (Natty Boh, of course) wins every time.
You're stuck on a deserted island and you only have 5 CDs with you. What are they?
This is a tough one, and will probably change if you asked me next week, but here goes nothin'.
- Weezer - "The Blue Album"
- Pixies - "Surfer Rosa"
- Rival Schools - "United By Fate"
- Built To Spill - "Keep It Like A Secret"
- Oasis - "(What's The Story) Morning Glory"