10 Questions with ... John "Candy" Candelaria
June 23, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
John Candelaria has been the driving force behind the content and presentations of at least seven #1 radio stations in small, large and major markets. "Candy" began his career as a midday talent and Production Director at KPRR/El Paso, He climbed the management ladder to CHR - Regional Brand Manager for Clear Channel, overseeing CHR Rhythm programming throughout West Texas, including El Paso, Midland-Odessa, Lubbock and Amarillo. In 2002, Radio One's George Laughlin selected John to serve as OM for KBFB and KSOC/Dallas. After successfully defeating legendary stations such as KKDA and KHKS, Radio One VP/Content Jay Stevens hand-picked Candy to guide the programming of WHDT/Detroit.
Today, John has reinvented himself, to pose a dual threat to competitors as the PD/morning show host for Beasley Media Group's KOAS/Las Vegas. John calls on his multi-format experience to transform the facility operations of Rhythmic CHR, Mainstream Urban, Urban AC, Hot AC, News and Sports talk, Classic Rock, Jammin' Oldies, Country and Hip Hop and R&B formatted radio stations.
Candelaria has received national recognition for his successes throughout his career.
In 1992 and 1994, John received R & R Magazine's prestigious National Small Market PD of the Year award.
FMQB magazine named John National CHR Rhythm PD of the year in 1993. John was also a two time finalist for National "Major" Market Program Director of the year in 2003 and 2005 R & R magazine.
1: What got you into Radio?
I was the High School DJ during my junior and senior years. Anytime someone threw a house party or there was a party during lunch hour, I was asked to DJ. I used to spend my Friday and Saturday Nights at Sound Warehouse blowing any extra money buying, 12 inch singles. I did not even know of record clubs back then! Later, a non-profit public radio station, KANW, offered a radio class. That summer, I lived at KANW, showing up at 9 am to dub programs and to do live air shifts until 10 pm...for free.
You've heard of gym rats. I was a radio rat. Eventually, the PD, John Aragon, gave me a part time job and made me his assistant. But it really was Bob Perry, at KPRR/El Paso, who inspired and encouraged me to do more. As I was finishing up my degree at New Mexico State University, Bob gave me a part-time job at KPRR. I would drive 45 minutes every weekend to be on the air for Bob. I would ultimately work my way up to become PD/OM and Regional Rhythm CHR Brand Manager for Clear Channel based in El Paso.
2: You are an experienced programmer. What are some of the biggest changes you've seen in radio programming in your years as a PD?
The biggest has to be our industry's priority to grow digital revenue by using Web, Social, Mobile, Apps, and Streaming silos. Programmers today must learn to create a social media plan that contributes listening occasions to an overall radio blueprint designed to move the average quarter-hour needle. There is no sure fire digital technique or "one size fits all, for every station and brand" answer.
I hope the industry's leaders move forward together and share ideas to find a positive pathway and remain headed in the right direction. Hey! I learn more and more each day and believe that my station contributes its best efforts to our business. That's why I love Radio. It is a constant learning experience, whether it's a new promotion to help a client, exploring PPM best practices or studying Facebook insight page(s) to learn exactly how my P-1's respond to my product. A PD must be left and right-brained today. To me, it's the best of both worlds. Change is certain and getting people on board is part of the fun.
Sure, there have been some big changes, and they include learning how to engage using our digital platforms, but programmers have always been savvy and up to date on a variety of issues. We, the new generation programmers, are building on that tradition.
3: Ever peek in on Top 40 and Top 40/Rhythmic stations to see what they are doing or critique what they are doing?
Yes, all the time. I look at each market as a case study. I occasionally see format flips and new formats developing (Classic Hip Hop) and observe how these formats grow. I have known you since we both programmed Rhythm CHR's in the 90's. In many ways, I still consider myself to be a Rhythm CHR insider. I have dedicated most of my professional life to the genre. I started Programming at KPRR (Power 102)/El Paso, in 1989. In fact, although I programmed Urban radio for almost 11 years in Dallas and Detroit, the techniques I used in those cities were of a Rhythm CHR style.
Ries and Trout taught me the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, simplicity, positioning, and branding. In Dallas, my team changed the way Urban radio is used. Most Urban PDs balked when I increased the turnover rate of our Powers from 60 times per week to 100. Then, most Urban PDs felt this would hurt TSL. When I started in Dallas, we were ranked #17 and had nothing to lose. Playing a tight music library combined with a exposing a well-researched current playlist at a high rate, would serve us well. I still have that model in play today.
Currently, I program a Rhythmic AC in Las Vegas. I program KOAS as I would a CHR today. Through continuous research, KOAS has identified one of the tightest libraries in the in the country and really focuses on songs that fit the bulls-eye of the target. As any CHR would, we look for opportunities to be topical and tie into vibe of the city. The Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight was a huge event for Vegas. This was our Super Bowl. Every aspect of the radio station was about the fight: Web Site, Facebook, Giveaways, and Imaging. We even had custom parody songs made. Our morning show talked with Mike Tyson to get his expertise on the fight. Often, we air various themed weekends, from Mariah Carey to our just completed Janet Jackson take over.
We try to create reasons for our listeners to tune in, as any CHR would; the only difference is the music and turnover. But the rest of the elements remain the same. We use Web, Mobile Phone App and Social Media Content to drive content and engagement. We image the station with custom drops from the artists, listeners and voice talent.
I am of CHR Rhythm CHR descent...I come from the Bob Perry, Don Kelly, Rick Thomas, Bob Mitchell and Jerry Clifton pedigree.
4: Top 40/Rhythmic radio now is extreme in its diversity. As a programmer and/or market manager how do you determine where to take your station, sound-wise?
I never ask why, just what. It's my business to find the hole in the market and fill it better than anyone. This takes boots on the ground. You have to constantly hit the streets and clubs to ask your target what they want. Ask the young interns. Ask, Ask, Ask lots of questions. Because programmers wear so many hats and perform so many tasks on a daily basis, the industry has created too many inside out programmers. They stay inside the office and make assumptions about their ever-changing audience lifestyle without asking listeners what they love. Program Directors can't find the time to get outside the building and listen to what the audience has to say and then program that knowledge on the air.
We used to say, make the streets come out of the speakers. I have always believed that any station should be a true reflection of the target. It starts with the music. Play music the listeners know and love. If you play music that is average, if you have average air talent, if you accept average promotions, well, you are building an "average" radio station. But if you play music the audience LOVES, present talent they LOVE and relate to, and give away prizes they LOVE, you are creating a passionate radio station that the audience LOVES and thinks about, even when they are not listening. Your audience will tell you what to do. You just have to be a good observer and put the work into finding the right ingredients.
Whether its research, clubs, street hits, Shazam, YouTube, Media Base, Media Monitors...each is a tool. I find the lines between Pop CHRs and Rhythm CHRs to be very narrow. There used to be easily defined lanes between Urban, Pop and Rhythm. The industry tends to separate and divide music into categories. I find the lines to be blurred. Groups like Maroon 5 are hot with women of all ages but they also love Whiz Khalifa, The Weeknd, Natalie La Rose, David Guetta and some love the DJ Snake. Your audience loves what they love. Could this be why Top 40 stations are dominating? They are not afraid to play crossover hits. Their only goal is to play the hits. Period.
5: What's it like to live and work in Las Vegas?
It's great living in Las Vegas. There is great radio being executed here. There are great operators who employ talented people who know what they are doing. It is a very competitive market. There are tons of events and concerts to battle for. The weather is amazing 332 days out the year. Vegas, with all of its adult entertainment, may have a bad reputation in terms of family life.
Yeah, it can be pretty crazy here. But it's really what you make of any city or situation. Contrary to belief, there are good schools here. There really are good churches and parks that produce a good clean family life here. We locals avoid the strip as much as possible. When family and friends come to town, we will hit the Strip. But there are quite a few of us who do not indulge in the Vegas night life. Heck, I have to get up and do a morning show and program a radio station.
6: You've got programming veterans on your staffs at Beasley/Las Vegas. How do you best utilize their experience?
Justin Chase, who hired me to come to Vegas, was once my OM here. He is now the Vice President of Programming for Beasley. He knows the market and competition really well. Justin once programed Mix 94.1 before coming over to Beasley Las Vegas. Justin is one of the top minds in radio. I have worked with some of the best. I rank Justin right up there with all of them.
Mike O'Brian is the PD for Star FM and PD and morning host for KKLZ. He is a legend in this market. In fact, I believe he has the longest running morning radio show in Vegas, coming up on his 30 year anniversary. He started at KLUC in the 80s and he knows everybody! He should run for mayor. When I have questions on how to find a sponsor he knows who to call and ask.
7: If you weren't in radio, what do you think you'd be doing professionally?
I love to coach talent. During my unemployment period, I attended a ton of workshops designed to help people get back on their feet. Oftentimes, we were placed into smaller groups to critique our elevator speeches. I helped a few people who were struggling with getting up in front of the group and making their pitch. Each week the leader of the workshop noticed this and actually gave me a part-time job leading the group each week with writing, practice, videotaping and giving positive constructive coaching on their performance. I enjoyed this whole process. I would really enjoy being a part of the development of helping others grow and attain their goals. I would love to get into ownership too. Perhaps owning a translator would be the route to go.
8: I know what visitors to Las Vegas do with their time. What do you, as a resident, like to do with your free time?
My family comes first. I love to spend as much time with my ten year old daughter Giavanna and my wife of over 20 years Michelle. Gia keeps me busy, whether its gymnastics meets or choir practice. I referee High School Basketball. It has always been a goal for me to work as one of the officials in a D-1 College Basketball game. You might see me on the weekends, running up and down the court at a junior high school game blowing a whistle. I am also a reading lector at my church.
9: Summer in Las Vegas is intense, weather-wise. Do your stations make any changes for the "slow" season?
Vegas is 24/7....7 Days a week. There is never a slow season. You try and prepare for a station event so that it does not conflict with any huge life-style events but in Vegas it's next to impossible. There is always some big event or concert taking place. For example, in one weekend, you may have the opportunity to see Chris Brown at one casino; Bruno Mars at another, George Lopez, DL Hughley, Cedric at yet another casino, meanwhile, Britney Spears and Mariah Carey are hosting their usual residency shows. This is a typical weekend in Vegas.
10: Any off the Strip favorite restaurants I should try?
A: Yes, I Love the Blue Martini, a cool bar off the strip located in Towns Square Mall, south of the strip. It's one of few places you can sit at a bar or table without a slot machine in your face. It's a hip, trendy joint with a cool vibe and a great, well-stocked bar with just about every taste. For breakfast, try the Omelet House on Charleston and Rancho. My family and I enjoy sushi at Kabuki inside Tivoli Village. We, Vegas locals, do not frequent the strip like most tourists. We like the out of the way hidden joints best.
How is social media different for your stations that target older than Top 40s?
The one difference between Top 40 and my station when it comes to social media is content. While we are not talking or delivering content on Kim Kardashian, Chris Brown and Karrueche, however our commitment to engage is the same of any CHR. Our staff works hard to research, post, and curate lifestyle content every day. The older targets have different tastes and it may take them a little longer to adapt to the shiny new coin of the month when it comes to new technology. But every day, we continue to drive our digital strategy. We have some of the best Digital numbers in Vegas; our streaming numbers are among the top in the company. The KOAS staff takes a lot pride in this.
Any sage advice for up-n-coming programmers?
Change is always coming. Most is out of your immediate control. Some talented people have left the business for whatever reason. If you truly love what you are doing it should not feel like work. Some great talent radio executives are now offering their unique talents to other businesses because of circumstances beyond their control. I have come full circle from working in small markets to working in major markets.
The common denominator in every situation is my passion and love for the game. Are you a radio rat? Kevin Hart says, "Everyone wants to be famous but they don't want to put the work in." Top talents in any industry put the work in. Find people you have a common bond with from top to bottom. Try and find people to work with who are like-minded and share the same passion as you. This way it will really not feel like a job. You will enjoy the struggle and coming into the office to team up and execute the dream every day.