10 Questions with ... John McGue
March 14, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Got started right out of high school in 1983 on-air, and have done some sales and management. I was Music Director at WTTS/Indianapolis from 1990 to 1995, and was there when they flipped to Triple A.
1. How did you become interested in radio?
I was a huge fan of WLS/Chicago in the '70s -- that had a huge influence, I'm sure. I was never a huge record collector, but I was a avid radio listener.
2. Compare working at noncomm radio vs. commercial radio.
We have WAY more freedom here at WNKU; it really is about the music and not about the dollar. That's such an overused cliché, but really rings true here. Noncomm really does break new artists and that never gets old.
3. How would you describe the music on WNKU?
All over the place, but in a controlled way that really, really flows. Jocks have probably more freedom here than any other station our size in the country. We have really good staffers with lots of experience that know exactly what to play, and when. We are very similar to a 1972 early FM AOR station ... and we hear that from listeners every single day. Of course, they don't use the term AOR!
4. Northern Kentucky University recently bought two more signals. How has this increased the reach of the station?
We are a few weeks into this ... and I have been blown away by the response. We always had problems with reach in the north suburbs of Cincinnati. Now we are getting calls from the northside of Columbus 130 miles away! I'm amazed at the reach and response. I thought we might have a few calls, but the phone is constantly ringing now with new and old listeners picking us up in new places.
5. How do plan on marketing this new reach?
We have a billboard campaign in Dayton. We just got the presents on a John Prine show in Ashland, KY, two hours due east. Ashland, KY-Huntington, WV, for example, is another rated market that we reach with a very clear signal, and we do have some plans to do things over there. Much of this music is new to some of these markets. We have lots of guerilla marketing planned. The coverage is just massive ... plenty of work to do.
6. What do you like most about your job?
The freedom to really do and play what I want every day is amazing. Northern Kentucky University is great about trusting us and giving us that freedom (you will make sure they get a link to this, right?)
What is your biggest challenge at the station?
A small staff -- we had a super-small staff before, but add 134,00 watts and 35,000 square miles and we have a much smaller staff. There is a lot of work to go around.
7. What do you view as the most important issue facing radio today?
Most would say technology and all the new ways to get music. I'd disagree. If you keep it real and live like WNKU -- and lots of us out there are doing that -- you will be fine. Wall Street and bad management are the biggest problem facing radio, but that horse left the stall a long time ago. WNKU is the only station in Cincinnati that hasn't changed call letters, owners or frequency in our 26 years of existence. Now we are the biggest FM in Cincinnati.
8. How do you feel about the current climate of music?
It's great. We just had Josh Ritter in today and I told him to see guys like him, Grace Potter and The Decemberists crossing over to the commercial side is just awesome to see. It's like seeing our kids go off to college. There's so much good stuff coming out today, but you are only going to hear it on the handful of stations like us out there on the front lines.
9. You are also involved in other things besides WNKU. Tell us about that.
I have a cool side gig. which is perfect for a radio geek like me. I do some behind-the-scenes stuff for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. It's so cool to be able to go to work at the largest venue in the world -- and one of the oldest. I'm a big fan of venues, and this one is a monster; everyone should visit when they are in Indy. They do a tour 363 days a year. It's awesome to be around cars that go 230 mph ... and, yes, Danica Patrick does look that good in person.
10. If you wanted to completely change careers today, what would you do?
Probably own a driving range or better yet, just retire. I don't see any of that happening, so this is pretty cool.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
My kids are involved in so many things right now; my high-school junior is a basketball star around here, and his little brother is pretty good, too. About all I do is go to basketball games and it's great. And baseball is starting now!
Last non-industry job:
I worked in a grocery sack factory in Marion, IN in 1984 -- that sucked.
First record ever purchased:
Probably AC/DC's "Back in Black" -- not really Triple A, but still one of the best records ever.
ohn Mellencamp, of course, it's required viewing by state law in Indiana.
Favorite band of all-time:
Not the Beatles.