10 Questions with ... Benji McPhail
March 3, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- KGNU/Boulder - Promotions, On-air - 1989-1992
- KBCO/Boulder, Overnights, Assistant Studio C producer, morning show producer - 1992 - 1996
- KRSH/Santa Rosa - PD, mornings - 1996 - 2000
- Mediabase 24/7 - Field Researcher - 1999
- Radio One Networks - PD for Modern Rock affiliates - 2001
- KKPL/Fort Collins - PD - 2002 - 2004
- KCUV/Denver - MD, mornings - 2004 - 2008
- KUNC/Colorado - MD - 2012 - present
1. How did you become interested in radio?
When I was in 5th grade my teacher asked if anyone knew what "Exile" meant. I was the only one who knew the answer because I had looked up the word after my sisters brought home the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street. That was my first clue. I had a passion to learn as much about rock 'n' roll as I possibly could. After picking up Derek and the Dominos, I learned about Leadbelly, next it was Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. Thank god for the Boulder Public Library. They had most of the Smithsonian/Folkways collection so I latched on to Woody Guthrie and Elizabeth Cotton. I loved discovering all of the great music that helped shape rock 'n' roll and I wanted to share that passion with others. I also learned I had a gift for discovering music before others so; radio was the obvious thing to do. In 1989 I did my first shift at KGNU/Boulder and there was no looking back.
2. Who were/are your mentors?
Scott Arbough is at the top of this list. I owe a lot to Scott and would not be where I am if not for him. Doug Clifton and Dennis Constantine are also huge influences. I had the privilege of working with Doug at four different stations and it wouldn't surprise me if we got to work together again. Dennis played a huge role in helping me land several great jobs. All of us worked together at KBCO in the early '90s.
3. Give us the history of KUNC.
KUNC started in 1967 as part of the University of Northern Colorado, and was the first Colorado public radio station to join NPR. In 2001, we became an independent community station when a group of community volunteers raised $2 million in 20 days to purchase KUNC's license from the university and preserve its independent voice.
4. How would you describe the music on the station?
KUNC music features the best new releases alongside quality artists that reflect Colorado's unique lifestyle. We combine Rock, Folk, Soul, Blues, and Americana for a one-of-a-kind listening experience.
5. Tell us about the signals that have been added to the network.
We have added 91.7 fm in Denver to increase our signal to metro Denver and added 102.7 fm in Boulder for stronger coverage for our audience in Boulder County. We have a total of 19 stations and translators that cover most of the northern half of the state, and last year, introduced a 24-hour online music stream, KUNC Music 24/7.
6. How do you position the station given you reach so many markets?
Our positioning statement is "Uniquely Northern Colorado." We tie that in with the music that reflects our Colorado lifestyle, reminding our listeners that the only place you will find Ray Charles and My Morning Jacket in the same set is on KUNC.
7. How does your fund drives work given you reach so many markets?
The message is the same no matter which of our 19 signals you are listening to: "We couldn't be here without your support." Even though the audience in Steamboat Springs is different from the listeners in Holyoke, we remind them that if they like what they hear they need to support it financially. It always amazes me that people care as much as they do. We have the best listeners in the world.
8. What are some of your biggest challenges?
Marketing is by far our biggest challenge. Our news department has been recognized nationally with three Edward R. Murrow Awards and the 2012 Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize. Once people find KUNC music, they tend not to leave. So the challenge is: 'How do we get people aware of this amazing radio station?' As a nonprofit there is little budget available. We have to get creative by doing all the little things -- being at shows, returning messages and making yourself available to the listeners goes a long way towards building loyalty.
9. What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
I have only worked at radio stations that I love to listen to in markets where I love to live.
10. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ...
Last Non-Industry Job:
Drove a recycling truck. Call (303) recycle for all your shredding needs.
First Record Ever Purchased:
The Clash: Give'em Enough Rope
Rolling Stones/Heart/George Thorogood at Folsom Field in Boulder. 1981
Favorite Band Of All-Time:
The Rolling Stones
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
I am an avid cyclist. I practice yoga as frequently as possible. I love to cook, travel and spend as much time with my bella Laurie and dog Lloyd as I can.