10 Questions with ... Jason Howard
August 26, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
My first paycheck came from WPXY/Rochester in 1999 while I was finishing up my degree. I was hired as the station's Promotions Director by Becki Efing-Hunter and whined to her every day about wanting be on the air. After many "practice" airchecks, PD Mike Danger gave me some weekend shifts to shut me up. I jumped to our sister Alternative, WZNE, ditching the banner duties for full-time nights. Here I was blessed to share time with Jeff Sottolano, Matt Battle, Violet, Karlson and Mckenzie, and of course Gene Filiachi. When my ratings came back #1 18-34 Female a couple books in a row, Danger gave me the keys to return to 98PXY and co-host the night show I grew up listening to with Kasper. I added MD stripes a year later, but sadly found there wasn't too much more room for me to grow. This is when in 2007, I accepted mornings at my current home heritage Top 40 Z99 in the Cayman Islands. After the departure of my PD, I moved into his position and eventually assumed the reigns for our sister Country Rooster 101.
1) How would you describe the radio landscape in your market?
Completely absurd. There are 50,000 people on this island and 17 radio stations.
Most of them are programmed by American guys much like myself who have learned from the best and are here to win. It is an unrated market, which sounds great on the surface, but we do not enjoy the perks of having that "good book." So no matter the month, we are earning our audience one listener at a time and one break at a time. The dial is very diverse with all the usual suspect formats, but also includes some "Caribbean Style" stations, a Dance station and a few government-owned outlets. We are fortunate to have live, local personalities for a majority of the day, and despite our inability to barter, we attract fantastic syndicated weekend content. We are also fortunate to have retained both our morning show casts for almost a decade, which is rare in this market. All of these factors and an amazing sales staff contribute to our company commanding almost half of all dollars spent last year on radio.
2) Are you wearing more "hats" than you have in the past?
Absolutely and I love it. Sure I'm handling imaging, production, promotions and marketing, in addition to programming and doing my show. But my new passion is overseeing the business side of things, working with our new sales manager and young sales staff. I really looked up to my first GM Kevin Legrett who was a "Sales" guy but had a marketing background and was always very supportive of talent and programming. When you come from marketing and programming, you bring a passion for radio and your brands that a pure sales person doesn't have. When my GSM departed I became the most senior person with the company and assumed all the leadership roles that come with that. There is nothing I enjoy more than preaching why our brands are the best, why radio works, and finding ways to generate revenue from compelling, local and relatable content and events.
3) What is your favorite part of the job?
Passing on my knowledge and passion. Showing my MDs Cory Willis and Taylor Vaughn the importance of flow. Watching my young co-host Katie Slagel blossom into a manager and solid producer. Giving the sales staff creative ideas that get results and return business. Showing someone with no experience how to do what I do because they have that same fire I did when I was 20. Seeing former staffers like Morgan Ryan move on to host their own shows in other markets and message me for advice and ideas. Even if I never make it to a big market or command massive salaries, I'm happy knowing that I shared what I love.
4) What is the most challenging part of the job?
Attracting local talent. Kids aren't beating down our door to be on the radio here like they are in the U.S. We don't have countless universities and colleges pumping in hungry interns and part-timers. The pay is low by island standards and the hours are demanding. We find ourselves frequently having to look off island for full-time talent and that in itself is excruciatingly challenging and time consuming. While we all would love to do radio in paradise, when it comes time to jump, nine times out of 10, candidates back out.
5) What artist would we be surprised to find on your iPod?
Maybe I'm weird but I don't listen to music on my iPhone and I'm pretty sure an ex-girlfriend made off with the only iPod I was ever given 'cause I didn't use it. Something about knowing that I can change the song makes me do just that. I am never happy with a playlist unless someone else makes it for me and even then I most likely flip past the songs I hate. If I'm going to listen to new music for fun it has to be something I've never heard by someone I've never heard of. I'd like to know if I'm alone on that amongst radio people-feel free to message me.
6) If you could add one full-time position to your budget right now, what would it be?
I need a News/Talk morning show producer who can kill at Country middays and does sick imaging for Top 40 and Country.
7) What was your favorite station to listen to when you were a kid?
98PXY. My aunt gave me a promo hat she somehow got and I was hooked. I used to listen to the High 5 at nine every night. I'm pretty sure I still have tapes of it, too. I used to love JoJo The Hit Man, Artie The One Man Party, Norm On The Barstool, Chris Cole and most importantly, Scott Spezzano. I called into his show one time AND HE PUT ME ON THE AIR! I was screwed from that point on. It will always be my dream to come back and host that show for a few years. Unfortunately, Scott is a robot.
8) What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
The more you put in, the more you get out. Sometimes my to-do list is so overwhelming that I find myself just staring blankly into my computer screen not knowing where to begin. I will never forget Mike Danger telling me how when he leaves at night that he is completely drained and destroyed. I never understood that until now. I can barely walk from my limo to my penthouse some days. A long to-do list means that my eye is on the details. When my list isn't long, that's when I move on to more long-term goals ... which usually get interrupted by a sales person.
9) What advice you would give people new to the business?
Learn everything. Jobs are getting harder and harder to find. You can't just be great at one thing anymore. You need to be great at a lot of things. When you have multiple talents, it gives you multiple options. Network and keep in touch with former colleagues. You never know when you may need help.
10) For someone vacationing in your market, what one thing would you say they "must see"?
I suppose I have to do this. If you come on a cruise ship you only have so much time. Do Sting Ray City, go to a touristy beach bar and pay $15 for a drink made from mix, or take a booze cruise on the Jolly Roger. If you come by plane, message me and we can discuss further.