10 Questions with ... Jim Richards
January 5, 2016
1) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it?"
My high school offered an elective beginning with sophomore year - "Introduction To Broadcasting." As the holidays approached, I got hired by the hometown AM station to work on Christmas night. So at 15, I had my FCC license and flew solo from 6p till midnight.
2) Give us a brief history of your radio career up to now.
I've been everywhere, man ... first PD gig was in 1990 in State College, PA. Then to Muskegon, MI. Knoxville, TN was next to work for Jacor, then transferred to Cincinnati and San Jose. We merged with Clear Channel, who took me down to San Diego to be RSVP of the 13-station cluster there. In 2009, I left radio to work in new media for Tribune Interactive, but found myself back in radio in 2011 in Seattle. Chicago was next in 2012. Now, I'm here in SF as a result of Cumulus taking over the Merlin properties in Chicago and bringing me back to California.
3) You've had great major-market experience programming Rock in markets such as San Diego and Chicago. San Francisco has long had a history as one of the most iconic music areas of the country. How has that influenced the music you play on KSAN (107.7 The Bone)?
Our playlist definitely reflects the Bay Area's music tastes and in many cases, the local artists. You'll definitely hear a lot of Journey, Sammy and Metallica on The Bone.
4) You also oversee programming Triple A sister station KFOG which has had a long history of playing their share of Classic Rock. How do you differentiate the two stations musically?
There can be some overlap of titles, but the logs are constructed specifically not to cannibalize each other. It's clear which station you're listening to when you hear the next song begin.
5) The Bone is classified as Classic Rock but I know you rock the market with lots of AC/DC, Zeppelin and artists such as Metallica and Van Halen. The only other Classic Rock station in the Bay Area is based in San Jose (KUFX 98.5 K-Fox) but they lean pretty traditional Classic Rock. How do you view this battle for Bay Area Rock listeners?
I focus on The Bone being the best we can be for our listeners. KFOX's signal requires them to focus exclusively on San Jose. For KSAN, we have not only a superior signal, but superior talent.
6) Lamont & Tonelli have done mornings in the Bay Area for over 25 years. How valuable is it to The Bone's brand to have such a successful franchise in morning drive?
Extremely. L&T and I hit it off immediately when I became their PD at KSJO back in '98. They work hard, remain topical, accept feedback and have a terrific bond with their fans. They make my job easier.
7) The Bone has also been the FM home of the San Francisco 49ers. While this past season has been a rough one for the team, what are the advantages for a Rock station being an NFL radio affiliate?
We are directly aligned with a storied franchise in the nation's biggest sports and entertainment business whose primary fan is typically an adult male who loves the music we play. That's a huge advantage. Plus, you get to hear the hits in Bone-crushing stereo!
8) Now let's talk about the music features on KSAN. What kinds of daily and weekly music features and special weekends do you run on The Bone?
Daily features include: Steven Seaweed's "Classic Vinyl" (he tells a story about the song that he spins on the turntable); Zakk's "Happy Hour" (he serves up double shots and six-packs); and Axel Lowe hosts "Get The Led Out" and "Mandatory Metallica" each weeknight.
Weekend features vary, but when we're in football season, we feature "'9ers Blocks" (where we play nine-in-a-row from core artists throughout the weekend) and, for home games, the Two-Hour Tailgate (two hours of commercial-free rock before the game broadcast).
9) I've asked this question in the past to other Classic Rock PDs. One of the programming challenges of the Classic Rock format has always been trying to keep the station sounding fresh and relevant while it's playing Rock music that's sometimes 30 or 40 years old. Your thoughts?
That is a challenge, as they don't make new Classic Rock songs these days. For me, this is where the stationality, contesting, marketing, etc. help. A great example of being fresh and relevant was when the Golden State Warriors won the NBA Championship. We rebranded the name from 107.7 The Bone to 1-0-Stephen-Stephen The Bone, in honor of MVP Stephen Curry. We played nothin' but 3s for a few days until the parade was finished.
10) Finally, how interactive is KSAN with its audience via your website or social media such as Facebook and Twitter?
We pay very close attention to the channels so we can reply and comment. It's the new normal now.