10 Questions with ... Slater
January 24, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started in radio (in 2003) the way I'm sure MOST do in radio nowadays ... doing college radio and getting a chance to learn and intern for some of the best in the biz.
- On-air: WGAO/Dean College & WCRX/Columbia College, Chicago.
- Interned: WBBM-A/Chicago -Josh Liss, WBMX/Boston-Mike Mullaney, WKQX/Chicago-Brian Sherman & Steve Tingle.
I started my professional career doing part-time and overnights in Active Rock at KFMW/Waterloo, IA). Next, I tried my hand at Top 40 after being told I sound too "happy" to be a Rock jock, and I was hired at WDAY/Fargo, ND to host its Saturday Night Party Show. After loving working in both Active and Top 40 radio, I got the "Rock Itch" again in 2009, moving to Burlington VT to do afternoons on Rock WCPV. Nine months later, on the heels of WCPV flipping to an ESPN affiliate, another station within the cluster asked to become PD/MD/afternoons ... and I joined WXZO. The format at the time was Classic Hits. They asked me to head up flipping the station to Top 40 as Planet 96.7, which I gladly accepted!
1) How would you describe your first radio gig?
After graduating in 2007 I packed up my car (1999 Pontiac Sunfire) with important belongings ... (underwear, 19' TV, beer) and drove from home in MA to Waterloo, IA to be on-air overnights at KFMW. It was GREAT! It's where the term, "Living the dream," reigns true.
Myself and fellow part-timer Mike Hansen (now Gunner Haznogunz, MD/middays on KQWB in Fargo, ND) would alternate shifts on the weekend, six hours on-air/six hours off-air/six hours on-air, six hours off-air/six hours on-air every weekend! All of it was live because at that time the music was being run on CD carts. I am thankful I started my radio career that way. I definitely appreciate automation more!
2) What led you to a career in radio?
Originally, when heading into college at Dean College in Franklin MA, I was interested in becoming a music producer, aspiring to be the next "Timbaland." Sadly then but thankfully now, they did not offer a course that taught that. Instead, I choose one close: Communications (TV, Film and Radio).
My very first class was Radio Broadcasting, taught by Vic Michaels, former morning host at WPRO/Providence. He said something to the class like ... "If you're looking for a career that has crazy hours, short money and is unpredictable, you're in the right place."
Instantly ... I was IN!
3) What makes your station unique? How would you compare it to other stations you've worked at?
In Top 40 radio, it is so valuable to utilize social media to advertise any station, let alone a new one that formerly was branded Oldies ... and before that, News. When we first launched, 60-somethings would call complaining about the music we were playing. Without social media, we would have had to spread the word by asking those upper-demo listeners to let their grandkids know about the station, 'cuz they'll love it!
I imagine that wouldn't have gone too well...
4) Are you wearing more "hats" than you have in the past?
That, I believe, is something that no matter if you work at a big radio company or a small one, you have to do to make yourself more valuable! If you've been in radio for five or more years and aren't a wiz at production, web master, imaging, promotions and programming yet, you are really hurting your chances in beating out the other guy to win your next radio opportunity ... let alone keeping your current one.
It sounds harsh, and IS, but it's true. No owner wants to pay MORE and get LESS.
5) What are you doing social media-wise?
Obviously, Facebook and Twitter are massive. We use them to get the message out if we are at an event, and as a way of keeping our 9-5 listeners entertained during the day with funny videos/music videos. We also reward the listeners who like us by randomly selecting them to be the "Listener of the Day" and giving them a featured spot on our website, mentions all day on-air and a prize pack.
6) "Local, local, local" has always been radio's mantra. How do you keep your station visible and involved in the community?
Most of the heritage stations that have been here for 25-plus years have their "go to" promos (money giveaways, trip giveaways, concert giveaways etc.) like clockwork every year. That's not bad, but let be honest ... there is NOTHING local with those promotions.
Our Spring 2011 promotion was letting our listeners sign up to have their own "Planet Party!" Every Friday throughout the book, we picked a winner and went to their house with four hours of music, enough pizza for the party, and we qualified all partygoers for an iPad. At the end of the promo, we gathered everyone together on the first day of summer for the final "Planet Party!"
7) What is your favorite part of the job?
When a listener says they love listening to the station, or that they laughed out loud listening. It's silly, but I would work an 80+ hour work week if it meant that a listener's day would be better.
There are so many jobs to have and millions of people who hate what they do to pay bills. How can you not appreciate being in this business?
8) If you could add one full-time position to your budget right now, what would it be?
Street team. Imagine having someone on staff that would be on street team 40 hours a week to advertise your station? It is so important to be in front of the listeners, and having someone full-time on staff to hand out stickers downtown, be a man on the street contact, hold our banner in the busiest part of the city during rush hour ... the competition would be left in the dust.
9) What was your favorite station to listen to when you were a kid?
I grew up in Weymouth, MA. just south of Boston, and loved hit music. Obviously, the only choice was waking with Matty in the Morning on WXKS -- Kiss 108!
10) What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
The minute you get comfortable at a station and/or buy a house, you're gonna get fired. That's why I buy my shoes two sizes too small and lease my apartment.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I grew up in Boston in the '80s and early '90s so everyone was a Celtics fan ... except me. I LOVED Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. I even made my father paint the walls of my bedroom that I shared with my older brother Scott half red-and-white for me and half green-and-white for him. I was devastated when I realized at age 16 that my dream of being "Michael Jordan" could not happen due to my non-existent vertical leap. Maybe I should have wanted to be "Larry Bird" ... a boy can dream.