10 Questions with ... Mark Kaye
November 29, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I bribed my way into radio back in the mid-'90s. Kip Taylor and Brian Burns at G105 in Raleigh enjoyed the restaurant gift certificates I sent them so much, they put me on the board to run the "Rick Dees Weekly Top 40" and the "Best of Bob & Madison."
In 1997, I got my big break doing traffic for "The Bob & Madison Showgram" (now just Bob and the Showgram). Bob and Maddie loved my sense of humor. Eventually Bob walked into the GM's office and said, "Mark Kaye is no longer doing traffic. He's going to be a full-time sidekick." That was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.
Working with Bob and Madison got me noticed by some big peeps in the industry. Soon after I was pulled up to the Jersey Shore (pre-Snooki) to host my on show, "Mark Kaye & The B Nut Hut" on Nassau Broadcasting's now defunct B98.5. Then, in 2001, I got the call that would change my life. "Is this Mark Kaye?" said a gruff and haggered voice on the other end of my Star-tac. "Yes, yes it is." "My name is Jeff Wyatt and I'd like you to come to D.C. I'm signing on a new station and I need a morning show."
Hosting the inaugural morning show on Hot 99.5 at the age of 26 was surreal. It was a lot of "on-the-job-training-making-s#it-up-as-we-go," but it worked. Then, in late 2006 a regime change at Clear Channel forced me out while I was still on top. Luckily, I was picked up immediately by the creative team at WAPE/Jacksonville. After five years, four PDs and two co-hosts, "The Big Ape Morning Mess" is the #1 morning show in Jacksonville.
1) How would you describe the radio landscape in your market?
I'm lucky to work in one of those markets that is big enough to have an NFL franchise, but small enough where the "local radio DJs" are still considered celebrities.
Jacksonville is a HUGE city with a small-town feel. We have many Country stations that split the audience in our favor. Our only competitor recently flipped to a Hot AC/Top 40 hybrid-type format with a pumped-in morning show from Tampa, so as the only true Top 40, we are dominating. But, we have to work very hard to stay on top. Ironically, the biggest battle we face is with our sister station X102.9 helmed by PD Aaron Schacter. We often trade first-place rankings back and forth from week to week. They are jockless in the mornings so sometimes I go in the studio and just pot everything down for a couple of hours. That seems to help.
2) Are you wearing more "hats" than you have in the past?
Yup, and it's not just because I'm losing my hair. It's always been my experience that the people with the most skills are the ones who stick around. The more you can do, the more valuable you are. So I always try to do more than most. Hosting the morning show is the most important part of my job, but I'm also a resident social media expert, video producer, prod guy and marketing assistant. Oh, and let's not forget sales! As my very astute GM Bill Hendrich constantly reminds us, "We are all in sales." So client meetings, lunches, brainstorming sessions and conference calls are the norm. And let's not forget marketing and PR. Every week I host a segment on the local TV news called "Hot Talk." I volunteer for various charities and make several unpaid public appearances. It's important that I can mingle with our listeners off the air and build on the already strong bond we have created through our on-air broadcasts.
3) What's the coolest promotion you've been involved with recently?
Promotions have really changed with social networking and PPM. "Live in It to Win It" was great in the '90s, but nowadays we focus mostly on Internet and social media promotions. We are equipped with HD cameras, green screens and state-of-the-art editing software that allows us to produce our own "viral videos" relatively quickly. We are able to promote the station 24/7 around the world without having to watch four idiots sit in a car for a week. Our "Aflac Audition" video was picked up by AOL and received almost 50,000 views in a single day. Each year we also hold a "Hot Mom Bikini Contest" for Mother's Day. Fifteen to 20 local moms wearing butt-floss bikinis take over WAPE.com for an entire week. Unique visits for the month of May total all other months combined! ***TIP: Nothing drives traffic like scantily-clad MILFs with tattoos and stretchmarks!
4) What's the coolest promotion you've EVER been involved with?
Hands down it was "Show Your Ass for a Boarding Pass." Listeners traveled to various places in Washington, D.C. and dropped their drawers in front of famous monuments and landmarks. We posted the photos on our website and picked the winner based on popular vote. Our stunt guy kicked it off by showing his own buttocks in front of the "Welcome to Manassas" sign in Manassas, VA. (Get it, Man-ass-as?) Well, when he got home the police were waiting for him. They threw him in jail for "indecent exposure" and some other trumped-up charges. It was awesome. The story went nationwide and he even had a caricature of himself published in Playboy magazine! (Before it was lame.) Nudity, indecency, prison and several clients pulling their advertising ... what more could you possibly want in a promotion?
5) What's one thing that would surprise many people to learn about you?
I can say all 50 states in alphabetical order in 18.4 seconds.
6) If you could add one full-time position to your budget right now, what would it be?
I want a USTREAM operator. We have a three-camera set-up in the studio and we broadcast our show live every morning on USTREAM. However, I'm the only one running the show. Sometimes I forget to switch camera angles. Sometimes I forget to turn the sound on. Sometimes I forget people can hear me talk about the very private and proprietary corporate information I'm discussing with my co-host. So, it would be nice to have a full-time person to keep all of that stuff straight.
7) What music do you listen to when you're not working?
Confession: I don't listen to music when I am not at work. I listen to Talk. I am a Talk radio junky. When I am in the car I listen to our sister station WOKV. It doesn't matter what's on: Rush, Hannity, Boortz. On Saturday mornings I even listen to "The Garden Rebel" and the "Consumer Law Hour." A few years ago, Chris Kinard at WJFK invited me to do a three-hour show. It was a dream come true. I loved every minute of it! There is nothing quite so thrilling as hosting a LIVE radio talk show. No way out ... just you and the phones. Twenty minutes of your own voice ... and you better have something to say because there ain't no songs to play if the phones don't ring. It was one of the most exciting moments of my career.
8) What is it about our industry that keeps you wanting to do it for a living?
The fun. It is fun. It is super-fun! Even when it's not fun, it's fun. The people that piss me off the most are the people that work in radio who are depressed and depressing. The ones who complain. There is nothing to complain about. There is no place more exciting, more thrilling, more entertaining and more fun to work than a radio station. Well, at least our radio station.
9) What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
Talent rises to the top. Talented people will always succeed. Guy Zapoleon once said to me, "Mark, you will never be unemployed because you've got talent." I appreciated that because, well, it was Guy Zapoleon, but also because it made me realize exactly what it is I bring to the table. My job is to create entertainment. That's where my talent lies. I don't know how to hardwire exciters at the transmitter and I couldn't cold-call a client if my life depended on it. But I know what my talent is. And if you know what your true talent is and you use it every day, then you will never be unemployed. Just look at AllAccess. It's always the same names popping up in different places, getting promoted, adding additional duties, markets, affiliates, etc. Why? Because talent is a commodity that is very much in demand. It always has been, and it always will be.
10) What advice would you give people new to the business?
Hi ... welcome to radio. The sooner you learn this, the better off you will be. Ready? Okay, good. Here it is: You don't know everything. Even if you think you do, you don't. Those old guys with the leather portfolios who say stuff like "brevity has impact" and "perception is reality..." they know stuff. Listen to them. Implement their tactics. Radio is like NASCAR. There is only one guy controlling the car, but there is a whole team responsible for making sure he doesn't crash. Got it? Good. Now go enjoy your long and successful career.
Which character on a current TV series most reflects your personality?
My wife describes me as a cross between Don Draper and Phil Dunphy. I love "Mad Men" because it reminds me so much of what we do in the radio business. The creative side battling with sales ... the overbearing clients who just don't get it ... sitting around a table drinking, cracking jokes, throwing out ridiculous ideas, and getting paid for it. On the other hand, I'm a goof ball Dad who makes corny jokes and acts younger than my kids, so the Phil Dunphy comparison is appropriate as well.