10 Questions with ... Mark Abuzzahab
July 16, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
My first real radio job was at WREV (Rev-105)/Minneapolis. I also worked part-time at KTCZ (Cities 97) in Minneapolis. Then I went to WOXY/Cincinnati, WNCS/Burlington, VT, KBCO/ Boulder-Denver and finally KGSR/Austin before landing this gig in Dallas.
1. How did you become interested in radio?
I've always been into music, and I grew up listening to radio and my brothers' record collection. The two main things that led me down the dark radio path were interning at KJJO in Minneapolis and my college radio experience at WICB in Ithaca. I was kind of like Steven Wright in "Half Baked" -- I almost never left the couch at WICB.
2. Since you have been there, you have adjusted KXT's schedule a bit. Tell us about that.
The biggest change has been reducing the number of hours of syndicated programming. KXT is a local radio station, and it was tough not only to play new and local music, but also to brand a new radio station when so much of the day was taken up by syndicated shows.
3. How would you describe the music on the station?
KXT is an upper-demo Triple A. We play established artists, new music, album tracks and local music. In fact, local music is a big part of what we do; we play one to two local songs per hour. It's like a smaller, self-imposed version of the Canadian content quotient without any Celine Dion or Tom Cochrane.
4. Tell us about the local music scene there.
There is a really good local scene here. I'm sure Booker T. Washington high school and UNT in Denton -- both well-known music schools -- are a big reason for that. Also Deep Ellum is coming back, so that helps by having more venues and bigger crowds. At KXT we've had great success with artists like Sarah Jaffe, Air Review, The O's, Calhoun, Centro-matic ... and that's just a partial list of the local artists we've played. It's part of our mission to serve the community, and we do that by supporting local artists and playing them in regular rotation.
5. The station has been seeing consistent audience growth over the past year. Why do you think that is?
There is a large community of music-loving adults in this area. We get messages every day from people who are just discovering the station, and almost everyone says that they've been waiting for a station like KXT. In our most recent rating results, we have a cume of almost 400,000 people, making us the largest noncomm audience Triple A in the country!
6. What insights from the commercial side of programming are you bringing to this noncomm station?
I don't think I necessarily bring commercial programming ideas to the table, but I do bring ideas from all the creative stations I've worked at like KBCO, KGSR and WNCS. When I look at the format, I don't divide it into commercial and non-commercial. I find it far more interesting to classify stations as more creative vs. less creative. There are plenty of commercial and non-commercial stations that fall into each category.
7. What resources does the greater KERA organization offer you?
KERA is a legendary set of call letters. This year marks the 50th anniversary of KERA TV. It was the first station to give Jim Lehrer a job in broadcast journalism, and it was the first station in the U.S. to air Monty Python's Flying Circus. Also in the building we have KERA-FM, one of the most listened-to NPR affiliates in the country, and Art & Seek, an organization that really ties us into the creative community. The team here really understands public broadcasting, and no matter what we are doing programming, marketing or fundraising, we have an excellent staff to draw from in the building.
Here's a great example of the benefit of our organization: The On The Road video series, which recently won a W3 award. Almost all the stations in our format are doing video now, but they do it with a radio approach. Our team looks at each session from a video perspective - what's going to look good on the screen and sound great at the same time. This series wouldn't work as well if we did a single shot of the bands performing in front of a station banner. It's always a good idea to look at something from different perspectives.
8. If you could add any one full-time position to your budget with no questions asked, what would it be?
Nolan Ryan. A seat next to him at a Rangers game would be very useful for fundraising. That and I've always wanted to go to the owners' winter meetings.
9. What are some the interesting things you are learning about the Dallas Metroplex?
The geographical size ... this is a very spread out metropolitan area. I've discovered some great areas that I never heard of before living here, like the Bishop Arts District, which I call the most Austin part of town. Fort Worth has become a cultural destination with great museums and the Bass Concert Hall. There's always something going on in the Arts District, and soon it will be connected to Uptown once Dallas' version of the Big Dig is completed. And I saved perhaps the best for last: Dallas now has In-N-Out Burger. At least it is balanced by one of the best Farmers' Markets in the country, open 362 days a year.
10. What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
My bicycle. I've been able to ride to work at every station I've worked at. While I miss a view of the mountains in Colorado and the air-conditioned comfort of the Metro Rail Train in Austin, Dallas is flat so it's easy to bike to work. Also the Katy Trail goes right by the end of our parking lot. They're working on it so we can have direct access - once that happens it will shave at least five minutes off my commute to work.
If you wanted to completely change careers today, what would you do?
I would be the ambassador to France. Traveling with a diplomatic passport has to save time at the airport.
Last non-industry job:
First record ever purchased:
Split Enz - the laser-etched version of "True Colors"
Yanni at the Acropolis
Favorite band of all-time: