10 Questions with ... Drew Cage
March 8, 2016
1) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it?"
I'm a terrible singer and can't play guitar worth a damn. When I was 16, my girlfriend at the time had met and became friends with the morning show at the local new Rock station in Ft. Wayne. Through her I was introduced to the show and was allowed to sit in with them one morning, on the condition that I brought doughnuts. I sat there and watched these two guys tell jokes, talk about music and play songs and I thought, "You can get paid to do this?" That was it; granted, I only saw the on-air part of the job and didn't know anything else that went along with it, but for a small-town kid from Indiana, seeing that I was sold right away.
2) If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now what you didn't then, would you still do it?
Absolutely! No question. I'd have a better back-up plan than I do now, but this is the only thing I've wanted to do for half my life. I tell all the interns and high school/college kids who ask me how to get into this business, have a back-up plan because this business is hard to get into, but very easy to fall out of. Having said that, to me there is nothing more rewarding than presenting an audience with their next favorite band or expressing a point of view that they maybe have never heard before, or making someone laugh so hard that they have to pull off the road in order to not cause an accident.
3) How long have you been at WZBH (93.5 The Beach) and what makes this station so unique?
I haven't been here all that long, I started in September so I'm still learning the area. WZBH is just about as heritage of a Rock station as you can get on the Eastern Shore. It's been here forever and has gone through many different variations, but at its core it's always been a solid Rock station and because of that, our audience has stuck with us through everything. Adams Radio Group prides itself on being very involved with the community in every market they're in. Just last night we hosted an open house for the local Chamber of Commerce so they could see our new facilities and we could meet and greet with the local businessmen and women. It was a very cool thing to see; people were very interested to see exactly how the radio business works because they rarely get to see our side of it.
4) Besides your programming duties, you also do the afternoon show on The Beach. Do you run any interesting features or benchmarks on the show?
This is going to sound lazy, but no. I firmly believe in trying to have a personal relationship with the listeners and being so new to the market, my main focus has been to present myself as a real person and let the audience see me for what I am ... just a regular guy having a conversation with you. Not that there's anything wrong with features and I'll get to those a little further down the line, but I feel like features need to grow organically out of the show's personality and I'm still in the "courting" phase of our relationship.
5) The Beach runs the syndicated Billy Madison Show out of Texas in mornings. How long has it been on the air there and how is it performing in the market?
Billy Madison got here right as I got here; in fact day one I was told, "We're starting The Billy Madison next week, make it go." As with any change on a station with a loyal audience, there was some initial pushback against them, but overall it's performing very well. It's the top-rated morning show that WZBH has ever had. In its first rating period it came in #1 in our key demos and top 3 overall in the market. Will that last once the initial curiosity is gone? Who knows, but it's certainly starting off on a high note.
6) Now let's talk about the music on The Beach. It looks like the station is pretty aggressive in playing new rock titles. What's the station philosophy in regards to playing current rock vs. library rock ... and how far back does the library music go?
When I got here, the station had kind of been running on auto-pilot for a little bit and the currents were very tight and predictable. I'm trying to loosen that up as best I can, but it's a slow process. For obvious reasons you have to build your foundation on established hits and everything else is window dressing. We have a Classic Rock station in the cluster so we have the luxury of having that to service those fans, so it frees us up to be a little more current. Our library doesn't go back much beyond the '90s with the exception of the occasional Ozzy, AC/DC, or Aerosmith-type classic rock bands. The amount of currents aren't exactly where I want them to be yet, but it's a gradual kind of expansion.
7) What's your take on current music in the Active Rock format as a whole?
Oh, this is a question I could go on for days about. The popular answer from the current crop of programmers seems to be that the Active Rock format is in the toilet. I tend to disagree. I will concede that the format is a bit homogenized at the moment and the songs right now probably won't stick around in the same way the bands of the '90s did. I also don't care. It doesn't matter to me if Shinedown is still putting out music in 30 years; I care about what they're doing right now. Sadly, I think the attitude of too many programmers today is that of an out-of-touch parent telling their kids how, "Music was better back in my day!" Not to get overly graphic or anything but people develop and attachment to the songs they were listening to the first time they got laid. Doesn't matter if that was Led Zeppelin back in the '70s, Nirvana in the '90s, or Disturbed today, whatever that music is will stay with that person forever. As a result the Active Rock format has become kind of lazy when it comes to breaking new bands. The people in charge don't understand that in order to grow a format, we need to invest and develop these up-and-coming bands instead of thanking their lucky stars that there's a new 3 Doors Down coming. Nothing against those bands, but when I hear programmers say that all the new music sounds the same and it's not resonating, well ... stop playing the same bands! If you really want to see a rock resurgence, you need to have more of a rock attitude towards your music choices and not be so beholden to charts and research. If a song is good, play it no matter who it is. If a song is bad, don't play it no matter who it is. I understand that we all have bosses and theie outlook is inevitably, "Play the hits!" While that's a totally valid outlook from a business perspective, it loses the artistic side of the industry. Play the hits, yes, but also make new hits.
8) How does your station effectively utilize social media as a marketing tool? Are you doing anything new and unique that you care to share?
I view social media as another way to form that personal bond with your listeners. People spend much of their day on Facebook/Twitter or whatever, so you should have a strong presence there as well. At the end of the day though, I want our listeners to view us as just friends that they know. As much as we are a business, I don't want to be viewed that way. So we try to keep our social media things pretty personal ..., a lot of jock content, whatever we're talking about on the air we share online so people can get more involved with the discussion. Plus just silly stuff that we can't really use on-air, dumb pictures or weird videos that you have to see. I like to keep it pretty unprofessional over there.
9) With the Spring Book coming up soon, does the station have any special benchmark promotions you can share with us?
I'm still trying to get a full grasp of what's popular in this area, being from Indiana and suddenly out on the East Coast just minutes from the beach, it's a bit of a culture shock for me. We have some big cool things to give away and some great things we're going to fly people out to. Sadly, I can't get too specific as to what those things are, but I can say I considered quitting my job just so I'd be eligible to win. But, I'm lucky to be close to some big cities like Baltimore and D.C. so there's rarely a time where there isn't some kind of concert going on. I have a lot of big ideas; I just haven't found the best way to implement them yet.
10) Finally, what do you like to do to relax when you're not fully in radio mode?
You mean the four hours I get to sleep before I come back to work? I'm big into super-heroes, as any 33-year-old adult should be! I've already got my tickets for the Batman vs. Superman movie (Affleck's going to kill it!), I never thought I'd be this guy, but I like to hang out on the beach. Growing up in Indiana, there's was nothing like that anywhere around, so being minutes from the beach I go there and just hang out. I need to get a beach dog.
You're stuck on a deserted island and you only have five CDs with you. What are they?
Oh man, only five? In no particular order
- The Cure - Disintegration
- Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
- Brand New - The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
- Deftones - Adrenaline
- Starset - Transmissions