10 Questions with ... Sandy Blackwell
May 30, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Started in Charlottesville, VA, while (briefly) in college, moved to Albuquerque, NM; Washington, DC at DC 101; Houston, TX at KJZS, then KZFX, then Sunny 99.1; moved here in 1997.
1. How did you become interested in radio?
I was at college when a dorm-mate had an audition at the school radio station at about 11p -- and asked me to go with her. I hadn't really thought much about it before that, but I got hooked pretty quickly!
2. Who are your mentors?
Adam Smasher at DC 101 was a big influence. Being the newbie, I had a shift on the AM side with the "Music of Your Life" format. He told me to read up on the artists and sound knowledgeable and enthusiastic about music 40 years before my time. Also Bob Brooks, who I worked with at WJFK. Both are consummate professional in all ways.
3. You have been at KROK for the long haul. How has it changed over the years?
When I got here, there were a LOT of songs and artists I didn't recognize, and I don't think the audience did, either. It took a while to figure out what Triple A was and what kind of Triple A we wanted to be. The biggest change we've made -- adding more gold and recurrent titles -- has been gradual and also we are being more particular in which tracks go to recurrent. We still look over the library to see what might have been relevant a couple years ago that now seems a little stale.
4. How would you describe the music on the station?
"Rock and roll for people who don't want to be screamed at" is the way I usually put it. Either that or "You know all those bands you've never heard of that play the late-night TV shows? We play them."
5. What has been your biggest career highlight so far?
The first major-market full-time job in DC was a big sigh of relief because I could finally pay my bills! But programming KROK is the biggest highlight for me. I like knowing that if someone loves something they hear, it's my fault -- and if they don't, then that's my fault, too!
6. What are some of your biggest challenges as an independent station?
It's both a blessing and a curse that we don't have money for research. Also, you don't get many seasoned radio vets applying for jobs in Central Louisiana, so it's generally a very steep learning curve for any new member of the staff. Fortunately, the people we have at present have been here for a number of years, and they're great at "getting it."
7. If you could add any one full-time position to your budget with no questions asked, what would it be?
Website and social media director. Our morning guy Derek Spears handles it, but like the rest of us, he wears a lot of hats too.
8. What is your typical day like?
Being Production Director for all three of our stations usually takes precedence over everything else, because it so directly affects the bottom line, and happy sales people are key. Voicetracking a shift on KROK and a shift on our Country station is a priority early in the day. I sandwich in listening to music and keeping up with what's new in between, but most listening is accomplished in the car.
9. What do you like best about your job?
I feel great ownership in the station because I'm not second-guessed a whole lot. I had always felt like part of the team at other stations I've worked for, but programming has always been a goal. Whenever I start to think about finding work in a bigger market, I remember the autonomy I have here. And it sounds trite, but the people here are great.
10. If you wanted to completely change careers today, what would you do?
Probably go back to school to become either a psychologist or a teacher.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
I have an outdoorsy husband who gets me out on his boat pretty often; a dog that I love like a kid; and cooking has become a passion. And I've found that smaller towns make for more, not fewer, really good friends.
Last non-industry job:
Telephone voice of Delta and Hewlett Packard
First record ever purchased:
Three Dog Night's 45, "Joy to the World" (I was 8.)
Billy Joel, "The Stranger" tour, 1977
Favorite band of all-time:
So many, but I guess the Grateful Dead.