10 Questions with ... Lance Hale
October 11, 2016
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
There was college radio @ WVJC, but my first actual job was for WRBT, a Mainstream Rocker in the Evansville market. I worked under Bill May, who was a wealth of knowledge. As far as early influences, I learned so much from Lee Daniels (WJBX), Hurricane Shane (WROC) and Shark (WJST) in Ft. Myers. Also, have to thank JD Kunes for my first PD gig in Louisville (WLRS), Alan Sneed for nudging me into programming and Bill Jacobs for helping me navigate through the last 9 years. Plus, I've been blessed to work with a couple of great women in rock radio, Annrae Fitzgerald (WJBX and WLRS) and Wendy Rollins (WAVF). But it was the Joe & Stan show out of Ft. Myers that turned me onto how a show could sound big and local at the same time. That was the light switch flipping on.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it?"
I love music. I've loved music since I was six and discovered the Beatles and Kiss ... then Zeppelin. I was in bands for years. Going into college, radio was an easy choice. And once I started, I was hooked. I loved how everything worked behind the scenes. The nuts and bolts of radio. It was fascinating to me. As far as a defining moment, I was in Florida and trying to decide my path in radio (while also juggling a band), when Alan Sneed (consulting guru) told me it was time to make a decision. Make the jump into programming or languish with the whole juggling thing. I quit the band and became PD of WLRS in Louisville.
3) How long have you been at WOTT (94 Rock) and what makes this station so unique?
I've been here closing in on nine years and there are a couple of factors making it unique. First is Fort Drum. The signal for this station was specifically designed to cover Fort Drum. Between soldiers and their families, there are an additional 50,000 people in the market and they love their rock. We're also on the Canadian border. So the music is a bit more varied. We'll take chances on artists not doing well in the states, but blowing up in Canada. Bands like Glorious Sons, Trews, Monster Truck & the Hip ... HUGE in Canada. And they do quite well when they visit the North Country.
4) You have the dual role as PD and midday/afternoon host ... plus you are also programming the Country station (WEFX) in your cluster. How do you balance your time so all your roles are effective?
It takes time to balance the schedule, making sure that each station gets the attention they need without sacrificing the other. I have my routine, which of course now includes my other markets. Between meetings, prepping, voicetracking, programming, production, promotions and social media (did I leave anything out?) ... I make it work.
5) You are running the Bob & Tom Show in morning drive. How does that show work with your aggressive Active Rock format?
It works better than what you might think. We utilize them in cross-promoting the other dayparts, the music, promotions. They are fully integrated throughout the day. As far as Active Rock goes, we're more on the conservative side. We cheat the edges a little on new music with Alternative and Canadian, without going overboard. We're cautious with some of the more aggro stuff out there as well.
6) Tell us a little about your owners Community Broadcasters? Who are their principals and what is it like working for them?
Two guys, Jim Leven & Bruce Mittman ... and they, along with Bill Jacobs, are the reason I'm here. Jim used to own Pilot Communications, with 95X in Syracuse as his flagship station, while Bruce was GM at WAAF in Boston for years. These guys know their business and I wanted to work for them. They're rock guys. They get it. Being able to work with Bill Jacobs, who suggested the gig in the first place, just puts more people in the circle of trust who get it. Basically, they have a vision for the future. I like that vision. I'm part of it. I also appreciate their candor. It's refreshing to get straight answers in this business. That isn't always the case.
7) What's your take on current music at Rock Radio? Is it as good as six months ago, better, or about the same?
The selection is better. It's been getting better over the last couple of years. There was a time when I was worried it wouldn't. But there is so much that's out there. So much to sift through and not all of it good. Some of the good, unfortunately, gets lost along the way. I get it. There are more resources available for people to find music, only so many slots for new music on the playlist -- and listeners are as fickle as ever. It's no longer about holding someone's attention for an entire album. It's about holding their attention for a three-minute single. It's about catchy songs, not epic albums. That's the way it was when hair bands roamed the earth. That was before grunge kicked down the door and invited itself to party. It's harder than ever for a new band to break these days. The stakes are too high on a whiff. But there are pockets of greatness that need to be heard. Bands like Highly Suspect and Kaleo and Royal Blood and Nothing More and & Thrice. They're part of the future. So we need to embrace them now. I did a blog on this a few months ago in response to the whole "Rock Is Dead" discussion. Rock is far from dead. So let's stop digging its grave. http://cbwatertown.com/94rock/2015/12/16/bands-you-should-be-listening-to-according-to-me/
8) How aggressive is your station with social media? Does 94 Rock use Facebook and Twitter to interact with its listeners?
Facebook more than Twitter, but we're active. You have to be because your listeners are definitely utilizing. You have to carve out a space and engage listeners. The algorithms are constantly evolving. What worked six months ago isn't always going to work today. It takes up more time than anything else I do. But it's vital. You have to stay on it. You have to stay top of mind. It has to be a priority, which it is for us.
9) Congratulations on your new title as Dir./Rock Programming for Community Broadcasters. Tell us what these new responsibilities will entail?
It's a mix of old and new responsibilities. I was already designing the databases for our rock properties (music, clocks, imaging). But now I've got a more hands on approach to what happens @ the stations. I make sure that sonically we're on target, everything is flowing properly, that we're maximizing our resources in getting the message of the station out there and establishing the brand. Between on-air, online & on the streets ... we need to be as live and local -- and interactive as possible. Lastly, it's coordinating with our PDs that are already in place to ensure everyone is on the same page.
10) Finally, I know you're a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. Is this the year they finally win a World Series?
stars seem to be aligning. We'll see. I've only been a fan for 33 years of futility (not the full 108), so it makes you skeptical. But I believe this is the year. I've already warned my wife that when it happens, I will be running down the street in my Ryne Sandberg jersey ... smoking a cigar ... and pouring champagne all over myself. I think I've saved enough money for bail. And the kids should be asleep @ that time, so hopefully, no mental scarring.
What do you like to do to relax when you're not in radio mode?
I'm a sports geek. So I'm always surfing blogs of my teams (Cubs, Dolphins and Bulls). I like to write, Wrote a book, which is collecting dust. It's a thriller called "The Obituary Journal." Will publish @ some point. The rest is about family ... chilling with my wife. I dig turning my kids onto good music. Their faves are Clutch, Deftones, Slipknot, Disturbed, Zeppelin and Metallica. And always up for a good game of chess. Have been teaching my eight-year-old son... who is now teaching my four-year-old daughter. Life couldn't be better. My time is well spent.