10 Questions with ... Ron Bowen
August 18, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Over 25 years of radio experience as a GM, OM, PD and on-air talent. Markets include Boston, Baltimore, Charlotte, Charleston (SC), West Palm Beach, Albany, Atlantic City, Cape Cod, Key West, The Cayman Islands and more.
1. How did you become interested in radio?
My Dad was on the radio in Toronto when I was very young and there was a great photo of him behind a microphone that sat on my grandmother's mantle. I always thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. He was also a total news junkie and radio critic, so I was around it all my life. Between Toronto and Buffalo, there was some great radio to be influenced by.
2. Tell us about your consultancy company.
The company is a full-service resource to help radio stations increase ratings and revenue. My involvement with each company and station is very different. We do everything from strategic market research to find the best format for a station, to developing and managing the programming 24/7, to working with the sales staff to maximize revenue potential, to developing effective NTR, marketing, event and digital initiatives, and more.
3. Amongst your clients is WVMP. What is the vibe of that station?
The very special thing about WVMP is its commitment to the community. They have successfully woven themselves into the fabric of the community, and the loyalty of the listeners is nothing short of magical. The station airs as many as two PSAs per hour and has the listeners do all the image sweepers for the station. What the listeners say about the station is better than anything we could ever write. It's a very special station that is about as anti-corporate as you can get. Musically it is Triple A with an Americana lean.
4. How do you feel about the current climate of music?
I honestly feel we're on the threshold of experiencing another important collective cornerstone in music, the way the California sound was to the '70s or grunge was to the '90s. The vast amount of music we are all exposed to now due to the Internet is key, and people's personal musical growth is expanding wildly due to being exposed to an incredible amount of eclectic music of all genres like never before. That makes it a very cool time for Triple A as the radio format that embraces new music discovery more than any other.
5. Most surprising record of the past 12 months?
So much great music, but The Civil Wars self-titled second album is the most surprising, because it is so incredibly good, and it appears to be their last album together. It's disappointing as a fan. Their music sounds better to me every time I listen.
6. What do you view as the most important issue facing radio today?
Without hesitation it is the digital revolution, but I don't look at it as a negative issue, I look at it as an extremely positive evolution for us. We can't afford to look at ourselves as just radio brands anymore. We are dynamic multi-media brands that need to completely embrace every element of the digital revolution. There's not a website or social media platform out there that wouldn't love to also have the passionate fan base we already have. Digital isn't an extension of our brand; it is a vital part of our brand.
7. What do you think of the current state of the Triple A format?
This should be the heyday for Triple A. With the diversity of music that people are now exposed to and have access to everywhere, the world is finally catching up with what we in the Triple A community have known all along: That there is so much great music to be discovered beyond Top 40 and 400 song radio playlists.
The challenge comes from the fact that corporate owners don't understand the power ratio, and won't invest in radio that can't be done with cost-cutting cookie-cutter initiatives. Triple A requires good local PDs that know how to program their stations for their specific market. Because the qualitative of Triple A listeners is so high in terms of education and income, we need to interface digital innovations into our brands much quicker than other formats.
8. What has been your biggest career highlight?
Signing on and architecting WRNR (Annapolis/Baltimore) as a very early Triple A station with the legendary Jake Einstein (WHFS) is an absolute highlight, as was the day that WBOS threw up their hands and gave up Triple A in Boston because the tremendous staff I had at WXRV had raised the bar so high.
9. What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
That Arbitron (Nielsen) is a terribly flawed ratings system, and we should all be ashamed that we have put up with it for so long. That said, in order to win the ratings game, a good PD clearly understands that he isn't programming to listeners. He's programming to how Arbitron (Nielsen) works. And the two are very different.
10. If you wanted to completely change careers today, what would you do?
Since playing professional hockey is probably off the table these days, I would like to save the world from itself as a documentary filmmaker.
Last non-industry job:
First record ever purchased:
Bought two the same day: James Taylor's Mud Slide Slim, and Disrali Gears by Cream.
Favorite band of all-time:
Almost always the last one I listened to.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
Besides music, movies, wine and yoga (not all at the same time), I've recently gotten into paddleboarding.