10 Questions with ... Tom Killorin
January 26, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
My first radio gigs were in Albuquerque doing R&B, Country and AOR. Then onto Steamboat Springs, CO for a ski-culture Progressive called "The Sound Of The Wind" KFMU -- at the time, the only alternative energy radio station. Next, I worked for the mothership KBCO "Flogging The Flatirons" whilst inventing the Triple A format. The best move was to Seattle for KZOK, KEZX, KMTT, KUOW and KSER and more recently KBCS. However, my day job for the last two-plus decades has been in the Direct To Consumer (Muzak/Dish CD) and Commercial Music Service (PlayNetwork) sandbox.
1. How did you become interested in radio?
My family moved frequently and as a perennial "new kid in school," music and radio often helped me more easily adapt to new situations and surroundings. In the early '70s, I remember a slogan I still believe in today: "Anyone can turn on a radio, but when a radio turns you on it's _ _ _ _!"
2. How long have you been at PlayNetwork now?
Since the turn of the century - Y2K! (Cue Loudon Wainwright track).
3. What kind of clients does the service have?
My current client roster includes REI, Holiday Inn - Global, Potbelly, Eddie Bauer, T-Mobile, Performance Bicycle, Red Robin, Racetrack, Chili's, L. L. Bean, Maggiano's, Jack In The Box, Orvis and others. Audio-imaging a brand can be like a radio station format change - and since retail-marketing teams are fickle, they redefine music often as part of a complete brand refresh or a very targeted music and messaging.
4. How has that music service segment changed over the past decade or so?
This business of "incidental music" is no longer in the background as a secondary service. In the old school, music alone helped sell groceries, lawn mowers, pants, spaghetti, coffee or dental floss. Today this is considered "meh"... not enough. Concern over psychographics, dwell time, dayparts, music elements, TSL for employees, lyrics, density, emotion, feel tempo and overall sound, and high-touch connectivity are part of the mindset of a music supervisor. We also license music and create original content through our PlayLive and other in-office or in business performances.
Changes of the last decade involve all manner of technology, discovery, ideation and implementation to successfully re-tool a client's identity -- customer support and logistics are often required on a global scale. Rebrands can involve music, messaging, audio/visual systems design, videos, motion graphics, multi-screen iWall-style information -- all part of the task of delivering content in-store, online and on mobile devices.
5. How many programmers?
A few blokes are in London. The rest of the large staff is in Redmond, WA working as Music Supervisors, including the famous Dean "Of Content Acquisition" Sven-Carlson.
6. Any new initiatives at PlayNetwork in the works?
We're always exploring ways to enhance the exposure artists have within brand experiences - be it in-store, online, at events and more. In 2015 we'll be introducing new opportunities for our clients to make music a central part of their relationships with customers.
The ease of technology leads many to believe they don't need professional curation. Our job is to help them suspend disbelief and truly understand why song selection via algorithm or cookie-cutter format is not going to work in a highly customized business music context.
Many Fortune 500 Brands spend loads of money on visual merchandising, yet the music arrives in speakers installed on sound systems designed in the '80s with songs that don't fit the room. Our job is to help them improve perception with great sounds, visuals and technological advances that work for them, not against them.
7. What would surprise people most about PlayNetwork?
Global reach and expansion throughout North and Latin America, Europe Middle East, Pan-Asia and Australia gives us exceptional talent pool and capabilities. Our footprint is in 110 countries, serving 350+ brands, 100,000+ locations touching the ears and eyes of 100 million people a day!
8. How do feel about the current state of popular music?
To help answer this question, three quotes came to mind:
"The Ear tends to be lazy, craves the familiar and is shocked by the unexpected; The Eye, on the other hand, tends to be impatient, craves the novel and is bored by repetition - Poet W.H. Auden
"The Trouble with normal is it always gets worse." - Musician Bruce Cockburn
"We are all Weird: The Myth of Mass and The End of Compliance" - Marketing guru Seth Godin.
Music as a commodity is (unfortunately) not as valued as it once was due to disruptive technology. Great music with a long shelf life is hardly noticed in the tsunami of new releases each year. Long-tail fragmentation with even newer new devices and so many options result in short-attention spans and cynicism abounds. Having said that, many of the brands we work with appreciate "surprise, delight, and civility" over typical repetition and boredom.
9. What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
My axiom is to strive to be "Reliable, Repeatable and Resourceful." King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp related that at a business seminar at Microsoft: I try to live by these words and share them with others.
10. If you wanted to completely change careers today, what would you do?
Commute less and visit more baseball parks, do more voice work, mentor, tutor and support public radio, go to independent movie theatres, do performance art, book and blog about noise pollution, help with arts education as a form of therapy. Appreciate what I have as is ...with a mindful understanding that life is fragile and not to be taken for granted.
Last non-industry job:
I taught drivers education - Life as a Three Lane Highway.
First record ever purchased:
The Beatles Help!
I snuck out of the house to see Grand Funk Railroad and Bloodrock (scared the hell out of me).
Favorite band of all-time:
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
Family, friends, live music, film, Seahawks, Mariners, food, travel, continuing education, progress.