10 Questions with ... Chris Wienk
July 23, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started at a small radio station in the middle of the southern tier of New York - WVIN/Bath NY. After working gigs in college at WGR/Buffalo and helping to create and manage WBNY (the Buffalo State station), I decided that radio was the right thing for me. I've been programming stations since 1984 - everything from Pop to Country to Oldies, Classical, Jazz, News/Talk and Triple A. My first gig in public radio was WXXI/Rochester, NY. Since then, I've worked in Vermont, Baltimore, Connecticut and now Albany, NY, where I run both WEXT and WMHT (our Classical station).
1. How did you become interested in radio?
Listening to late-night rock radio from Ottawa. Canada. I owe it all to CHEZ 106 and Brian Murphy, who made it sound so cool to get to be the DJ. He really captivated my soul and spirit. I knew I had to do this from the age of 13!
2. What do you like best about your job?
Connecting with listeners. I love hearing how they react to the music, programming and personalities. Everything they have to say -- positive and negative -- helps inform me and makes the gig super-exciting.
3. How would you describe the music on the station?
We're mostly an Adult Rock station, but we do veer indie and a bit toward the folk/rock side. We consider ourselves a progressive station -- much like the progressive stations of the late '60s.
4. WEXT has been around long enough to make a dent in the market. What is your next goal?
Goals? Where we're going we don't need goals! Seriously, we hope to continue to increase cume and time spent with the station. Everywhere Local 518 music is played or discussed, we want to be part of that, or be so pervasive in the coming year that people include us -- even if we're not there. Our main goal is to become the source for great, significant new music. Wherever it happens -- in the community, online or on the radio -- we want to be the connection audiences have with music and artists.
We recently had the local paper Metroland's "Best of 2012" put us as Best Independent Radio (Public) in the market!
5. What are some of your biggest challenges as a noncomm station?
I think commercial and noncomm stations face similar challenges. By some (both listeners and industry insiders), we are expected to play pretty out-there music, and yet we have to have enough listeners to make sure we get the support that is needed to sustain the station. It is a fine balance of the unique and interesting smaller projects mixed with the significant, important more-popular artists.
6. What has been the station's biggest accomplishment to date?
WEXT has been able to take over the two largest festivals in the area (Art on Lark and Lark Fest, 30,000 and 80,000 people, respectively) from another station in the market. These festivals and the other wonderful opportunities that we've been either awarded or have won on merit have helped us to continue to show signs of significant growth and to help us make more friends and gain more influence in the market.
7. If you could add any one full-time position to your budget with no questions asked, what would it be?
Wow! We're so short-staffed that we might just be happy with someone to get coffee. But to the point of your question, our interest is in finding someone to help shepherd our content online and to work with our TV partner to create additional video content that helps extend the WEXT brand. After all, we did ask people to "leave regular radio behind."
8. WEXT has a sister Classical radio station and a TV station. In what ways do you tie them together?
Our TV station is PBS, and as such they have tons of performance programs that they air, which include many of our artists. We certainly do a bunch of promotion and cross-platform work on that front. We want to do more. We bill ourselves as a station where you can discover great music, and for music lovers who really want to discover more great music, we often suggest checking out the Classical station. Most of the things we do amongst the stations are of a promotional value. We are looking at ways to do more content sharing where appropriate. Staffing on both sides might help that.
9. Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
Taylor Swift. Almost any R&B pop - even the newer stuff.
10. What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
Since I was a kid listening to American Top 40, I have lived my life by Casey's signature sign-off: "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars." I figure that I haven't learned everything yet, and I hope to learn something new every single day of my life. I believe it has helped me with my quest to one day be a great radio programmer.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
Spare time? What's that? Don't laugh. I love to listen to music. I live to listen to new music.
Last non-industry job:
Operations Manager for GP&P Marketing (ad agency) - Waterbury, CT
First record ever purchased:
Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" and The Police "Outlandos d'Amour" (albums)
Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" was my first 45.
The Cars Candy-O tour at the CNE in Ottawa, Canada.
Favorite band of all-time:
Whoa! This is hard. I have always thought that the Canadian band (now-defunct) Spoons was one of the more innovative of the new romantics in the '80s. Love those guys.