10 Questions with ... Zakk Slater
March 15, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Radio has been my dream job since my first college class at Dean College. I'd love to say it started when I was a kid but Michael Jordan ... anyone that grew up in the late '80s and '90s and didn't want to "Be Like Mike" is a LIAR.
When my head of Radio Communication, Vic Michael, introduced me to radio and said (I'm paraphrasing of course), "You won't make a lot of money but the job is cool," I was IN!
I began doing on-air/Promotions Dir. at WGAO, WCRX and interned at WBMX for Mike Mullaney, WBBM-A for Josh Liss in Sports, and WKQX for Brian Sherman while in school in Boston and Chicago. Following graduation, the real fun began!
KFMW (Rock) in Waterloo, IA kept me in the Midwest, then I did a format change to KFMW (Top 40) in Fargo ND, was sent back to the northeast and hired at WCPV (Rock) in Burlington VT. Next I was asked to build a Top 40 station from the ground up on WXZO in the same company and was named PD and morning host. In February 2016 I started programming WEZF (Hot AC). And that is the quick version.
1) Are you wearing more "hats" than you have in the past?
Absolutely. No question about it. If you can not multitask and be entertaining while your hair is on fire and face is melting with pressure, this is not or at least should not be your career. Everyone thinks they can do what we do. Like my dentist, who told me, "Oh I used to do radio in college." Good for you, and based on your communication skills, thank God you stopped!
2) What are your favorite show prep sources?
Wise Brother is great. I Also enjoy the Snitch and Frostbytes. Those guys are hilarious!
3) What is your favorite part of the job?
Talking to the listeners. Whether it's someone complimenting or complaining, I really love getting their feedback. If I'm not getting someone to evoke emotion and express how they feel about what I'm putting on my stations, I know I must be doing something wrong.
4) What is the most challenging part of the job?
Making everyone happy. The Sales team is hard at work and every idea with a dollar amount needs to have a great idea behind it to inspire the clients to open their wallets to us. Sometimes you hit it out of the park, other times ... you know. It's my job to help them hit a home run.
5) What's the coolest promotion you've been involved with recently?
We got creative and for WXZO's fifth birthday in September -- and coinciding with a huge festival in Vegas -- we were able to broadcast and send some listeners backstage, making it a massive party and once-in-a-lifetime experience.
6) What artist would we be surprised to find on your personal playlist?
Glassjaw. (It's aggressive to say the least) Quite different than Taylor Swift or Nick Jonas. I grew up in the post-hardcore scene and never saw them live until earlier this month for the first time. I remember talking to the labels before I went and they couldn't believe that I liked that stuff. Pretty funny.
7) If you could add one full-time position to your budget right now, what would it be?
Full-time social media and videographer. These two things could take up most of a person's day if you're doing radio correctly.
8) Who is your favorite air personality not on your staff and why do you like them?
Toucher and Rich in Boston, Gunner and Chow in Fargo, ND and Brian Sherman and Steve Tingle. (Formerly Sherman and Tingle in Chicago). All six dudes have brilliant minds and are hilarious ... great writers and supremely intelligent human beings.
9) Who were your mentors? Who would you say has influenced your career the most?
Brian Sherman at The Fox and Q101 in Chicago. I interned under him and can honestly say 11 years later, I am still telling the tips and passing on the tools to my employees that he taught me.
10) What advice would you give people new to the business?
Work harder than you ever have before. Hard work pays off. Don't throw other employees under the bus. If you screw up take the blame and never do it again. If you love radio, then show it by having passion every day you are in the studio. I was hired to do Top 40 overnights in Fargo, ND and moved 8 hours from a Rock station in IA to take the job. When I got there I was told the 30 hours a week was actually five. I did the shift for free (or close to), did not complain and learned what I needed to, to custom build a Top 40 one year later. Hard work pays off. Don't give up.
What was your last non-industry job?
The last three that I did simultaneously before getting hired full time was bouncing at Borrowed Bucks Roadhouse (Yes, Roadhouse was in its name. Just like the movies), working the phones at a credit card debt collection business (awful) and donating plasma for money (two hours a week, four times a month and I'd get $275.) Saving lives and getting paid. All for the love of radio. It's a wonderful thing.