10 Questions with ... Katie Speirs
March 17, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started as an intern in 1997 for KBCO in the Denver offices. Then after college I moved quite a bit, always remaining in production but mostly television/advertising in the creative departments. I moved to Kauai and worked for an animation producer. Then returned to Taos in 2004 where I began my career here at KTAOS. I will have my KTAOS 10-year anniversary on September 15th of this year - WOW!
1. It has been over three years since the ownership change at the station. And you recently acquired full control of the station yourself! Tell us about that.
I am so happy and proud: I wake up in the mornings (listening to Paddy Mac's morning show) ready to go to work because I am so in love with it here! I feel so lucky. Originally in 2010, Brad Hockmeyer, who started KTAOS about 30 years ago, came to me, ready to retire. At the time, it wasn't financially feasible for just me to take on the huge responsibility alone so I paired up with partners to make it work for about three years. This past January I bought out my partners and became the sole owner. The ride to get through the transition was challenging, but now that I'm here the company is running better than ever and I couldn't be more excited for the day-to-day and future endeavors we have planned! I LOVE radio, I love Triple A, the people and the music. This is an experience of a lifetime finally coming into my own in my late 30s operating a company with a great team of people that I consider family due to their hard work, respect, loyalty, and love for this community radio station.
2. What have been some of the other significant changes over the past three years?
We have a venue here called, "The KTAOS Solar Center," which is indoor and outdoor. Due to circumstances, we unfortunately lost our outdoor shows several years ago - which was not only a detriment to our revenue, but also to the community. Last summer our outdoor shows were finally reinstated and that was HUGE! We are an all-ages venue with full bar and restaurant, and seeing kids run around having fun in "The Community's Backyard" (which is stunning - rolling grass yard with horseshoes, volley ball, games for kids, fire pits, plenty of tables and chairs, and a pristine view of Taos Mountain - plus the property is on pueblo land so our incredible view will never be disturbed). Seeing people relax over dinner and cocktails is amazing and watching their faces shine when bands perform warms my heart. I love educating people about great Triple A music, and having stations and a venue is something that sets us apart.
We also made The KTAOS Solar Center building 100% solar. Our signal is solar-powered on the top of Picuris Peak, NM. But now the stations AND building are officially solar as well. We are so proud of our green environmental roots and progress we have made, and will continue to make!
And Paddy Mac, our amazing Programming Director, took the sound of the station in a different direction. We worked with consultants and he began to clear and revamp our music library and the station has never sounded better. The music and the artistic way he programs both stations is something that makes me so proud. Paddy Mac is a huge asset, a great talent, and a wonderful friend.
3. How are your music meetings conducted?
We're a bit loose around here at KTAOS - I mean come on, it's Taos -- hippy town in the mountains -- and corporate does not fit our filter. Don't get me wrong, we work so hard to keep our station growing ,but in a way where each staff member runs their own department and are accountable for their work. We don't have "Big Boys," per se, from the corporate world breathing down our necks, so we can do pretty much - well - what we want. We have developed our own style. Every Tuesday, myself, Paddy Mac (PD), and Sarah Darus (Programming Coordinator), get together to discuss and listen to music, what we've added/dropped, get feedback for people on the music they're suggesting, and we also go over programming promotions for the station and come up with clever creative ideas to keep us cutting edge.
4. The playlist is a bit tighter these days. How would you currently describe the music on the station?
Younger ...when we took over, Brad said, "KTAOS needs a younger edge musically." So that's what we did. Clearly we still play golds and recurrents (we will never stray from the general definition of Triple A), but Paddy has his system that is working. We get calls, people come up to us in public, we even get letters/e-mails from people all over the world streaming who love our music selection. We've also noticed a lot of the music we're getting is sounding more on the pop side of things, so we're giving some of these tunes a chance. For example: Pharrell Williams' "Happy," even Daft Punk - and our audience is responding very positively.
So in our music meetings we try to keep an ear for this genre as well. We have also cut back a ton on the talking, so we are music. Also now that I have taken over, I asked Brad to return live in the afternoons, which is so wonderful. Daily he and I discuss music as he literally tears into my bins of CDs (which he refers to as Christmas). And during his shift, he sticks to Paddy's scheduled playlist but does have freedom to make it his own, which we love and so do his fans!
5. What type of features do you run on the station?
We do interviews (but with a rule to keep them five minutes unless it's a band (cleary). We also have specialty shows in the evenings since Taos is so eclectic and since we are a Tri-Culture community (Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo) we strive to cater to all cultures. We have a Native American show called "Moccasin Wire" on Mondays. A show of cover tunes on Wednesday. A teen talk show on Thursday for an hour followed by World Music. Saturday Brad - oh wait pardon me ... "Johnny Ray Rawhide" hosts Solar Country. Sundays we have Jazz, syndicated programming, and a live Reggae show that night. We also run a feature called Home Town News that runs once an hour with PSAs from the community.
6. How does the station work with the live music club under your roof?
We are really beginning to integrate the club and the station more. We have been doing "Live Remotes" essentially in our own bar with an artist who sings a couple tunes at happy hour, to get more people in for the show that night. We also host interviews and call-ins with artists who are passing through or are about to go on stage. We are lucky to be able to advertise our own club and events on the air - which really helps with marketing costs!
7. You also run another station. Tell us a bit about that.
LUNA 1037 is our "Listen at Work" AC station. It was started in 2006 by John Bradley and Dave Rahn, which we purchased from them in 2010. Yes, the imagining is pristine thanks to John and Dave! I'm the regular DJ on this station five days a week. There is huge potential to develop this station more, and that is on our agenda. It's a large female demo, and people in retail/offices really love it. I find it cute when I go places and hear businesses listening to me and the music Paddy has programmed.
8. How has the market changed - if at all - the past few years?
FINALLY the economy is coming back. Taos got into the recession late and we're coming out of it late. Taos will not return to what it once was, but change is inevitable and the community has adjusted and working with what we have now as a result. Daily when clients come in to record spots with me I always ask, "How's business," and for the past six months or so I get big smiles and responses that things are looking up and they're very grateful.
9. Future goals for the stations?
This is a tough question, since I have about a million and one ideas and goals for the station. Dave Darus came on board as our GM, and is doing a phenomenal job. He has already turned things around here for the better in just over a month. We are so lucky to have him - he gets it. He's been in our industry for over 25 years, as well as a very close friend of Brad's, which is wonderful. He's a huge asset and the future goals are already being developed.
10. What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
To treat everyone with the love and respect they deserve. To treat others as I would want to be treated. And loyalty - the love and loyalty I have for this company will never die. KTAOS is like a family member to me that I will protect, love, and cherish for the rest of my life!
Last non-industry job:
Producer for an animation company in Kauai
First record ever purchased:
I think Prince - Purple Rain
Favorite band of all-time:
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
Relaxing! Spending time with loved ones is every important to me. I work six days a week for many hours a day; by the seventh day of the week I try to let my mind and body enjoy the spare time. But relaxing means spending time at home. Or skiing ... we do live in a lovely ski town. Or spending time on the river in the summer. Or the gym. Even watching mindless TV is something I enjoy. Listening to music! And, of course, I come out to see great live music here at The KTAOS Solar Center.