10 Questions with ... Rick Thomas
September 20, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Thirty-plus years in radio, including 20 as PD or Cluster/Regional PD. Built successful brands and/or created successful turnarounds at Z90/San Diego, Magic 925 San Diego, Wild in SF, The Beat/San Antonio, KUMU and Ohana Broadcasting's Hawaii Stations, K-Earth and The Wave Los Angeles. I also consulted for Jerry Clifton's company for a few years.
1) You're two years into your AMP in NYC tenure. How's it going?
In summary, the task was to give birth to a successful Top 40 from the ashes of a failed Top 40 on the same frequency in the world's most-competitive market. As you know, I have never been one to shy away from tough situations or doing what many say is impossible and good thing! At times this has been similar to clawing your way up a brick wall using your fingernails but look at us, up the wall we go! AMP began with an average weekly meter count in the low 4s and today we are mid 10s and growing. We've grown from 13th to top 5 in Neilson and our morning show is top 3 in our core demos. The best is yet to come!
2) Do you miss the West Coast? Is it good to be back home?
I often do miss the West Coast. That said, having walked these streets in my most influential years as a kid and now serving NYC with a great radio product is very rewarding. It also provides a local perspective that you can't teach an outsider.
3) Have there been any surprises during the last couple of years, competitive or otherwise?
There always are. Competitively, WKTU essentially changed formats, merging fully into our lane a few months after we launched as a blocking strategy. And surprisingly Hot 97 last year began to add Rhythmic Pop to their Hip-Hop mix along the lines of Calvin and Ariana. These things muddied the waters a bit, but we have forged ahead and are still growing.
4) Run down your on-air lineup, and talk about what each personality brings to the table.
We have a great team. Shoboy and Nina in mornings are quite a success story. He came from Spanish radio in Dallas, she has Long Island roots but came via CBS/Sacramento. They had never previously met. Many would think we were insane to combine these factors and try and build a morning show on the fly in this highly competitive market, but there is something special with these guys, something worth believing in. By no means has it been easy, but they started at #13 and as of this week they have grown to top 3 (18-34). Shoboy is a great host and people person. He brings the funny. She brings the relatability and female perspective to the show. Middays is Niko from Brooklyn, a solid jock with a great sense of the music and lifestyle. Astra is in PM drive and came to us from WBLI/Long Island. She's super-talented and lives the music and lifestyle. Brooklyn-grown DJ Toro is on at night and is also one of NY's best club DJs. Omar Torres is also from NY and is on late night. He is also an accomplished actor.
5) How do you make your station PPM-friendly without sanitizing it?
There's such an abundance of info from the meters that you develop a good sense of what works and what causes harm. We teach that as nature to our team so they become part of the architecture of "PPM Friendly" at AMP. That said, we know that a human being's heart is still behind each meter's listening, so having a product that connects emotionally with them is an even bigger part of it.
6) How do you make your station unique from the established Pop music brands in NYC?
Great question. We have at least three head-on competitors and all three have developed brands and long-term tenure in the market. We knew differentiation would be critical but so was being accurate for the market. Without giving up our Art of War playbook, one thing we set out to do daily is be authentically New York. There is nothing cookie-cutter about us. Our music outreach into this market penetrates very deep and we are committed to finding out the right songs and mix for the Tri-State area.
7) What is the current state of the radio talent pool?
Nationally it's very bleak. The over-emphasis on voicetracking that began around 2000 has led to less teaching of the next generation. Here at AMP we are still growing talent. In the past two years we have grown three air talents from our street team, one who became full-time (Omar Torres), another part-timer (McGinn), and a kid from Patterson, NJ who went on to his dream on-air gig in Miami (Al P at Hits 973). I believe it's crucial as PD to teach and coach people. And our AMP-cultivated culture is that we all learn from each other.
8) Who is your favorite air personality not on your staff and why do you like them?
I love the CBS-FM air staff -- Scott Shannon, Dan Taylor, Broadway Bill and Joe Causi. They are fun and each uniquely connected to NY.
9) What was your favorite station to listen to when you were a kid?
10) Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?
With turnarounds and building great brands being such an important aspect of what I have achieved over the years, I think if I could create my own gig it would be a regional or national position of being responsible for creating and developing winning brands for my company. There are a few viable formats out there that aren't the "same old thing" and I can help my company benefit from that.
Which character on a current TV series most reflects your personality?
Lately I've been told Tom Selleck's character of Commissioner Regan on Blue Bloods.