10 Questions with ... Tim Camp
September 8, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
My first radio job was at WABB in 1968; I was only 16 at the time. I left there after a little over a year, but I did return to WABB in 1983. I ended up working about 16 years of my radio career with Bernie Dittman at WABB. No better place or person in the world to learn great radio!
I bounced around several radio markets -- Panama City, Pensacola, Atlanta and Birmingham. Spent some time on the road as a musician and in various other music industry jobs, occasionally having to get a "real job" to survive. Back home again in Mobile I started WNSP (all Sports) in 1993; a few years later (11 years ago) we purchased 92ZEW.
1. How did you become interested in radio?
First of all, I was an electronics nerd and secondly I came from a musical family, so interest in music was always part of it. My dad started putting musical instruments in my hand at about age nine, about the same time I started my obsession with electronics -- any book I could get my hands on about electronics, I read. I got a ham radio license when I was 13, a first-class commercial radio license when I was 16. My older brother, who also became a broadcaster, built the first college radio station at The University of South Alabama when I was 15 and I helped him with that. I guess that is when I got the broadcasting bug.
2. WZEW is celebrating 30 years! How has the market changed or stayed the same over that time?
The market has grown, the metro is still growing. There is a much larger audience for what we do than 30 years ago and it's a lot more diverse.
The biggest change for the radio market is ownership. When I started in radio in Mobile, every station was a family-owned operation. Now all but three of the FMs in the market are corporately owned and we own two of them.
92 ZEW is the only locally-owned music station left in the market. Doing business is totally different. Musically, though, the market is still the same in a lot of ways. Mobile is not really part of Alabama. Being on the central gulf coast, Mobile has always been under the influence of the Mississippi delta and New Orleans musically. Rock has always had a roots/blues style to it here, and it still does.
3. How has the music evolved on the station over that time?
92 ZEW started out filling a hole left in the market by the format change of WABB-FM from AOR to Top 40. The station had a very AOR beginning. I say that, but the station has always been on the eclectic side of things. Like most Triple As, it really resembles the market. There is a New Orleans flavor mixed in with a bit of blues and then the hand-picked playlist of currents reflect's the stations personality and the sensibilities of our market.
There is no Alternative station here so we cover a bit of that ground musically as well. Add to that music from our area -- an important mission of the WZEW is to support local music. The presentation is what has really changed over the years; it's a lot more focused and driven like a Mainstream Rock or Alternative Rock station now.
It's still got a bit of a laid-back feel to it, though from the standpoint that it's light hearted -- you know, Mardi Gras started here, so Mobile loves a party. When you crack the mic, you have to remember that the listener probably has a drink in their hand ... and if they don't they're thinking about it.
4. What are you doing to celebrate three decades?
In the South, people don't celebrate birthdays; they celebrate their birthday month. In keeping with that we started pushing our 30th at the beginning of the year and now that we officially turned 30 on September 1st, we are in full swing now with a series of concerts throughout the fall. Some of them are free shows for the listeners. So far we have scheduled 11 concerts through October and we're still adding more to carry the party through the end of the year. On-air, lots of flashbacks, aircheck snippets and such from days gone by.
5. In addition to The Hangout Festival that the station is intimately involved with, what other yearly benchmark events does the station do?
Countdown to The Hangout that precedes the festival is a huge undertaking for the station. Six weeks of free concerts on the beach that showcase new artists. This is totally a 92ZEW production and promotion. A blast but lots of work.
Mardi Gras season is huge: We have a liner about the ZEW that states ... "Born Under a Azalea Bush in Bienville Square on Mardi Gras Day." Can't get more local than that.
All year we have festivals: Shrimp Fest, Bayfest, Oyster Fest plus our ongoing events like 92 Zew's Free Concert Series and our 2nd Tuesday of the month local band showcase.
If there's something going on in the community we are plugged in to it.
6. What are some of your biggest challenges as an independent station?
Using limited resources to fight the fight against the corporate giants that try to undercut us every day at every turn. Sometimes I feel like we are a small band of guerrilla warriors fighting small skirmishes daily. As I said, we are the only locally-owned music FM; what I didn't say is that there are 30 others with signals in the market. We have to be different to be noticed.
7. What do you view as the most important issue facing radio today?
Learning how to work in the new media world we now live in. Radio is just a distribution channel for content and we no longer have a monopoly on distribution. This means we must realize that everyday it's our content against theirs, and when I say theirs, I don't mean just other radio stations.
We also have got to understand what it means to be of "local importance" to our market. Being local doesn't mean we carry weather or news or traffic.
Listeners are also too smart to be fooled by stations that just say it. "Live and Local!" I hear this coming out of corporate stations that are voicetracked from outside the market ... please!
Be an intricate part of your market. The local newspaper published a glossary of Mobile terms and defined "the zoo" as NOT a place for animals, nut "Our Local Radio Station 'The Zew'." We win.
8. What do you think of the current state of the Triple A format?
Triple A is as important, if not more so, than ever. Triple A is the curator of music for the rest of Rock radio. It also, if you've been doing it right, is the place that listeners know they can go to for new music and not have to wade through a lot of crap to find the good stuff. Music on the radio still has the ability to become relevant with the masses if they earn their trust. The Internet has boundless amounts of new music, but who has the time to find the good stuff? That's where Triple A can shine. We have to be sure that each song we play is worthy. If we play crap and try to tell the listeners it's good, we'll lose them.
9. What is the best advice you would give to young programmers/promotion people?
Learn multimedia; it's where we are going. Focus on content ... I can't say this enough. Radio will only win in the end if we learn how to do radio with compelling content presented in new ways across multiple platforms -- we no longer can exist as a jukebox as there too many alternatives now for that. Get into the hearts and minds of the people in your market and play to them, not placate. Make them think, feel and know that you care -- and don't ever be too cool for the room.
10. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ...
... my sidekick, my partner, my music director, all the same person -- my wife Lee Ann Waters.
Last non-industry job:
Selling high-end recording equipment and PA systems.
First record ever purchased:
The Rolling Stones "England's Newest Hit Makers"
Paul Revere and The Raiders, damn you're dating me!
Favorite band of all-time:
Hardest question of all, if you were going to lock me up for month with only one, I guess it would be Led Zeppelin, or maybe The Beatles. Hard question!
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
Being with my wife and kids ... and playing music.