10 Questions with ... Darren Stephens
November 1, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
KLRZ/New Orleans, WHMD/Hammond, KUMX/New Orleans, KNOU/New Orleans, WYIL/Knoxville, OM of Opus Broadcasting/Tallahassee, WKHT/Knoxville
1. From an air personality perspective, what's better about being on air now than when you started in the business?
The rules have changed a lot since I was 16. Plus, I think I used to be pretty good. Breaks are short and focused these days in order to keep the music moving. You have to be an extraordinary talent that can bring personality over a 12 second intro. My night jock/MD, Joey Tack, has that ability. As far as "what's better now" is being the PD. I have an extreme passion for the music we are playing, so I believe we are winning with every song we play. That makes the air shift much more fun.
2. What excites you about programming today?
I am very lucky to be in the position of programming a station for Journal Broadcast Group. We do not have a "centralized programming philosophy". We program the station on a local level for our listeners in Knoxville. Our list of recommended adds and category moves comes from our listeners. Local research, local downloads and local requests shape our radio station. I have been around the block a number of times and have worked for numerous broadcasters. I know it's not likely in our industry but I would like to work out the rest of my career at Journal. I know how green (or dead) the grass is on the other side.
3. What's it like being an LSU Tiger fan living and working in Knoxville, home of the Tennessee Volunteers?
It's always great to be an LSU fan. In fact, this year, it's crazy fun. My boss and one of best friends in town are Bama fans. So November 5th will be insane. As far as UT is concerned, Dooley may need to retire the orange pants. I always pull for the Volunteers as long as they are not playing LSU. When Tennessee wins, it's good for business. That makes my GM Chris Protzman happy. When he is happy, I'm happy.
4. Do you have a consultant at Hot and how does he help you the most?
One of the best I have worked with and I have worked with quite a few. Mark St. John of Zapoleon Media Strategies. He is the Excel spreadsheet king of the world. He knows how to apply the appropriate formulas to our local research to extract the true value of each song to our station. Plus, I can give him a muddy picture of what I'm looking for out of our song rotations and he knows how to clean up that idea and make it sound perfect. I want something to play less here but more there, to have a certain sound code feel at different times, to make sure we stay true to the core but add enough fringe to have a mass appeal sound. We go over all the ideas and then he can sit down and work out alternating categories and sound codes and just make it work. Plus, it's very rare that we disagree. We work great together. We were recently going back and forth on email about changes I was going to make and he finally just sent me an email and all it said is "You are wrong!". I appreciate that, too... it's nice to get a gut check every once in a while. I can be pretty stubborn.
5. You get a quick text or email from Interscope's Brian Gray saying he's coming to Knoxville. Where are you going for dinner and a beverage (or two)?
He likes BBQ so "Dead End BBQ" was our last stop. He saw a Ruth's Chris the last time in town so maybe that is next. Killa B just wants to be where the UT hotties are hanging out. So next time in town, we will go to NV. I think that will be his favorite place so far.
6. You are from New Orleans, a city legendary for its food. What have you found a great place in Knoxville yet?
McDonald's. The food here sucks.
7. What's your favorite song on the station, right now?
The Jonathan Gering remix of "Someone Like You". Awesome remix that fits the station perfectly.
8. If you were getting married in six months, what act would you like to play at your reception? Keep in mind they'd have to do the Chicken Dance and assorted other typical wedding covers.
Katy Perry... she is just so much fun. She would kick ass with the Chicken Dance.
9. Besides going home to New Orleans, what would be your dream market to program in?
10. Back to getting married in six months...what record promotion executive would you want planning your bachelor party?
Brian "Killa B" Gray. He's single and still knows how to have fun. Jo Hodge would be of great help, too. The rest have been neutered by a spouse. Boo!
You've had to cross Katy Perry off of your potential bride list. Which artist tops that list now?
While I firmly believe in the sanctity of marriage, I also firmly believe in getting what I want. I have not given up on her. I just haven't hit her with the right mojo yet... but it will happen.