10 Questions with ... JJ Ryan
October 11, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I interned at KDWB in Minneapolis in the fall of 2004 with 'Tyler.' My duties included a number of ridiculous stunts, including sitting in Lake Calhoun in a woman's thong in November! I got my first gig in February of 2005 in Mankato, MN, doing nights at KEEZ. Due to budget cuts I was only there a few months. I was hired by the same company about a month later in Mason City, IA. I did afternoons on KLSS, a Hot AC, and did play-by-play for the Newman Knights! In January of '06 I headed to Lincoln to be a part of the legendary KFRX. I did nights and was MD, and later moved to afternoons and became Matt McKay's APD. I moved up I-80 in August of 2010 where I now do nights on Channel 94-1 (KQCH), where Mark Todd is the Program Director.
1) How would you describe your first radio gig?
It was surreal and strange. It was surreal because it was a station 20 minutes from my home town. I say strange because of the way it started and ended. I was to start on a Monday, but the Friday before I got a call from the OM. They were moving my start date, and weren't exactly sure when it would be. He told me to hang in there, and be patient. Luckily he was a man of his word, as I started about three weeks later. Unfortunately, it didn't last too long. I worked there about four months before I was a casualty of budget cuts.
2) What led you to a career in radio?
In hindsight, it seems like fate. I used to make fake radio shows on my Talkboy (think Home Alone). I was living in Minneapolis after high school, waiting tables at Famous Dave's and going to community college. I listened to Paul Allen on KFAN all the time. I thought it sounded like a blast, but didn't realize it was something actually attainable. That all changed when Famous Dave's hired a Brown College student. He was always talking about how much he enjoyed school. Because of him, I enrolled at Brown and 20 months later I had a gig at KEEZ!
3) Could you give us a little insight into your on air staff?
Channel 94-1 has live, local talent on the air for 18 hours a day. As you know, that is pretty rare! The day starts with The Big Party Morning Show. It consists of Big Party, Jeff Degan and Molly. Big Party and Jeff are Omaha radio veterans who are incredibly dialed into the market. Molly has the most unique job of the three. She does the show from her home in Chicago. You would not know if they didn't bring it up here and there. I think that speaks to her tremendous talent.
Montez is on from 10a until 2p. He does a great job with the "'90s til' Now" portion of his show. Corey Young does afternoons; he may be one of the best I have heard at executing a break. I've been at Channel 94-1 for a year, and don't know that I have ever heard him struggle through a break.
4) Who is your favorite air personality not on your staff and why do you like them?
I am going to cheat and name two. First, someone I don't know personally. Kane does an outstanding job engaging in conversation with the audience not only on air, but via social networking. He has the one Twitter account that I am sure to check daily for inspiration. Thanks, Kane! Another favorite is Sean Cage, who is at WNCI in Columbus. He and I were roommates while at Brown, and again in Mason City. We are constantly throwing ideas off of each other, and I think it has made both of us better at what we do.
5) What was your favorite station to listen to when you were a kid?
I lived in a small town south of Mankato, MN, growing up, and we didn't have a pop station. The only time I heard new music was on the weekend with Casey Kasem. My Mom listened to Greg Travis on KEEZ (Z99) in the morning for the "secret sound." So by default, I did. It was neat to eventually work with Greg. Once I was in high school I was in the Twin Cities a lot and discovered KDWB. I remember hearing guys like Scotty Davis, Joe Rosati, Curt Copeland and, of course, Dave Ryan!
6) What music do you listen to when you're not working?
I listen to pop music outside of work more than I would like to admit! I am also a huge fan of Eric Hutchinson. He may be the nicest artist I have ever been around. I also dig Jack's Mannequin. "Everything In Transit" is one of my favorite albums.
7) What is it about our industry that keeps you wanting to do it for a living?
It is such a cool job! I look at other jobs and can't imagine having the same motivation or passion that I do for radio. Whether it is a well-executed break, meeting someone new who says they love to listen, an awesome promotion, or a cool station event -- radio gives me an adrenaline rush almost daily! Getting to meet people in the music and entertainment industry doesn't hurt my Facebook popularity, either. :)
8) What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
Matt McKay, the Program Director at KFRX, preaches the importance of being an asset. This is obviously more important in today's environment than ever. You NEED to be an asset to your employer. I take this idea very seriously, and I am genuine about it. I truly want to have my hands on as much as I can at Channel 94-1. This really isn't exclusive to radio. You name the industry -- and this is a constant ... and always will be. Be an asset.
9) What advice you would give people new to the business?
A few years ago I did something really nerdy. I've never met Paul Allen of KFAN, but I dropped him an e-mail. For some reason I had felt the need to tell him that he was a big part of why I was in radio. He responded with something that I think about all the time. "Continue to outwork the competition." You can interpret it the obvious way, but I look at it another way, too. Make yourself the competition and make yourself better. Find someone successful to look up to. Pick someone that is doing what you want to do one day. Pay attention to everything they do. Set goals. Make both attainable goals, and goals that will take some time to achieve. And finally, whether you are a rookie or a 20 year veteran ... stay hungry to work and learn.
10) What would you like to do to save radio from its "dying-industry" image?
I am an eternal optimist, so I refuse to accept the idea radio is dying. I may be naïve, but I like to think of the last two or three years as an awkward phase ... like a teenage boy goes through. Things are changing, and you aren't quite sure what you are supposed to be, or what you can become. Technology is evolving at an increasingly rapid pace. For a while the industry may have been a little intimidated by technology. Radio is starting to get a little swagger back. People are realizing that radio can be a part of new technology.
For someone vacationing in your market, what one thing would you say they "must see"?
"Omaha? Why would I go to Omaha?" Yeah, I heard you. You should come during the College World Series. I could care less about college baseball, but I still got wrapped up in it. There is so much going on around the city, and TD Ameritrade Park is beautiful!