10 Questions with ... Tim Johnstone
June 24, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I got involved with my college radio station in 1984 here in Boise. I worked at The Record Exchange while in school. I did a "Post Modern" show at commercial station here while working record retail. I left Boise and spent three years as a regional promotion rep for Virgin Records. I returned to Boise to do marketing and promotion for The Record Exchange (and helped launch the Coalition of Independent Music Stores). I ran a popular specialty show on Top 40 KZMG before leaving to launch KQXR as Boise's first Alternative station. I segued over to KRVB doing afternoons when it was absorbed into our cluster. I became MD in 2004.
1. How did you become interested in radio?
I grew up listening to radio. I was the kid with the portable tape deck help up to the radio during American Top 40. I remember listening to KFRC at night when I was supposed to be in bed. But to be honest, I fell into it because a good friend of mine from high school knew I was one of those kids who spent more money on music (imports, mostly) than food. My college radio station (KBSU) was looking for a couple new jocks and I was asked if I wanted to do a shift. I jumped at the chance.
2. Who are/were your mentors?
Some of my cohorts at KBSU were certainly instrumental in helping me make the segue from being a music geek to putting together a show. Carl Scheider was there from the beginning, but Dan McColly was and has been someone who I have learned the most from over a long history of work together. And while not a mentor, I can't underestimate the influence John Peel had on me when I was getting started.
3. What has been your biggest career highlight?
I would have to say that, for me, there's been a few. The first book we had at KQXR, having launched the Alternative format in Boise in 1995, was a big deal. I remember getting those numbers when I was up in Seattle attending End Fest. Second, we have been fortunate to host some truly amazing artists in our listener lounges over the years. In particular, having the chance to spend time with Patty Griffin in studio was spectacular. Having said all of that, being able to emcee an event with Jane Goodall, meeting her beforehand ... that's got to be the most amazing thing I've been part of.
4. Tell us about your recent promotion to PD!
To me, it was the culmination of a journey that began when I helped launch KQXR. While I was PD there for a time, I really wasn't ready for those responsibilities then. Moving over to KRVB was an opportunity to be part of a station that seemed to be more aligned with my musical interests and subsequently, as MD, I had the chance to expand my skill sets and see the big picture. Working with Dan McColly was instrumental to that. As Dan became more involved with our television stations, it gave me a chance to step up and take the reins. I feel confident in what I've learned; I'm well aware that I have much to learn and more importantly, I am fortunate to work for a company that has shown a commitment to the station.
5. How would you describe the music on KRVB after your recent programming tweaks?
While we've always been a station that skewed female, with the help of a market perceptual study and a music test, we were given some important tools that helped us get a clearer picture of what we needed to do, and could do, to expand our audience and our market share. What we are doing right now is similar to what you're seeing in Minneapolis, Austin and San Diego. While there have been some rotation changes, and an increased presence of more current artists and fewer '70s titles, we haven't thrown out the baby with the bathwater. The heart of the station remains solidly where it has been.
6. What station in the market do you share the most listeners with and why do you think both stations overlap so much?
The best I can answer this is by highlighting the left brain/right brain nature of our shared audience. On the one side, we have a very strong Public Radio brand in this town (which evolved from my old college station). Their news programming is a big draw for some of our regular listeners. On the other side, Hot AC KCIX has been taking advantage of the groundwork we've laid for artists like The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, Of Monsters & Men and many of the singer/songwriters who have launched from this format. In terms of overlap, it definitely ebbs and flows. Were in a heavy flow period currently. Music trends can be cyclical. That's what we're experiencing right now.
7. How do you stay in tune with your audience?
A large part of what has separated The River from everyone else in the market is our community involvement. We are associated with some of the benchmark heritage events in the Treasure Valley, from summer concert series to high profile non-profit fundraisers. Our connection to the cultural and arts communities brings us in front of the public regularly. And of course, we have our website (Riverinteractive.com), our social media presences and a station app. All of those invite constant interaction with listeners, advertisers and the movers and shakers in the community.
8. What are some of your benchmark events at the station?
Clearly, our annual Concert For Cause tops that list. This year will mark a decade of holiday concerts, which benefit local non-profits. We've raised north of $150,000 with these events, which raise money through live and silent auction items along with a percentage of ticket sales.
And we've been able to bring in heritage and up and coming artists for our listeners.
Additionally, we are partners in Downtown Boise's free outdoor summer concert series which draws 3,500-4,000 people each Wednesday during the summer. And our listener lounge sessions are what set us apart from our competition. We have been fortunate to feature so many acoustic performances from core artists in our studios.
9. What do you view as the most important issue facing radio today?
Aside from an attention deficit society? Aside from competing entertainment options at one's fingertips? The less local radio becomes, the less radio takes advantage of the immediacy we offer to our listeners, the more reason for people to tune out. We need to offer compelling content on a daily basis. In this social media era, where people expect to be able to share their opinions whenever and wherever they want, we need to make sure that we provide a reason for them to feel ownership in who we are and what we offer.
10. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ...
...some quality time with my furball Iggy.
Last non-industry job:
Waiting tables in high school and college.
First record ever purchased:
Elton John "Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy"
David Bowie's Serious Moonlight Tour with The Go-Go's and Madness at Anaheim stadium. I drove 17 hours non-stop from Boise to make that happen. That's the first one that was really something I got to do on my own with friends.
Favorite band of all-time:
Echo & The Bunnymen (when it isn't R.E.M.)
What do you enjoy doing with your spare time away from work?
I'm still an old-fashioned book reader. I like to cook. I work out daily. I write for Dappered.com as well as my own blog. And I just moved into my new house so there is a lot of garden work which I love.