10 Questions with ... Tony Quartarone
December 6, 2011
1) Where and what was your first job in radio? Early influences?
WRKS (KISS 98.7) ... Jay Thomas from the early WXLO (99X) days.
2) What was/were the most influential radio station(s) growing up?
3) At what point did you decide to become an owner and what were some of the early obstacles you encountered? Was it tougher than you thought it would be?
I wanted to be an owner since I was 21 while I was PD at WRKS. My main obstacles when I actually started to pursue it when I was 29, was looking for the right property -- plus I wanted to stay in the Northeast. The next one was getting bank financing. If banks were as tight as they used to be when I was trying to buy, things would not be where they are today.
4) What stations pre-sets are in your car right now?
96.5 Wired, KISS 101.7, WPHI 100.3, WUSL POWER 99, PRAISE 103.9, WSTW 93.7, WJBR 99.5, WBEB B101 and my Gospel Station FAITH 1510 WFAI.
5) As an owner, how you feel about the proposed new Performance Rights Bill before Congress? .
Radio is already paying rights to play music to the writers with BMI and ASCAP. The performers are getting a free commercial each time we play one of their songs. They have been getting a free ride on radio for years. I strongly disagree with this bill. If this should happen, I plan to charge the acts right back for airplay and announce that the following song is a commercial announcement. This is all legal as long as you disclose to the public that the station has been paid for the airing of this song. If they choose not to pay, then I will choose not to play their song. Hey, acts, you don't want this.
6) What are your thoughts on today's syndication? What would make it better and more effective and does it significantly affect the number of hours that you have control over the music that you play?
The only time I would run syndication is in two dayparts -- middays and morning drive. I would say this: I would never air two syndicated shows on my station at one time. Four hours a day is the most I will go. The most important daypart on Urban radio is (in order of importance): nights, afternoon drive, morning drive and middays. I wish that syndicated shows generalize their promotions, contest winners; call-ins and never say the name of another city or state. Let the station make the show localized at all times. Sometimes I even get frustrated when I hear the same group of people winning in the same state. I could go on and on, but a syndicated show should never sound syndicated.
7) Because of callout research are today's Urban and Urban AC programmers going to be slower in adding and playing new music? And what is the maximum number of spins a record in power rotation could be expected to receive in a given week on WJKS?
First, let me say this: Any company that uses research to determine what new songs are to be added should get out of the business. Research is a belly adjustment and should only be used for how often a record is played. Use the research for rotations only; use your ears to add a record, please. This is what research is for. How do you expect your programmers' cume to be exposed to a song is they haven't heard it? If you are using research to justify what songs you are going to play, you will not win. WJKS' top spinning songs range in the 50 + range. We do not and will not play the same songs 110 times per week.
8) Of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
9) How do you account for the continuing ratings dominance your station has in Wilmington and even with PPM in Philadelphia? Do you feel there are going to be new challengers from other formats?
The best asset we have is that we promote that we are Delaware and South Jersey's "local station." All of our contests are local; our music is programmed locally, and we are locally owned and operated.
10) As you look back over your career ... any regrets? Missed opportunities?
I regret that our government took away the opportunity for me to own a station in my hometown with deregulation. I thought by now I would have been back in NYC. There is no way in the world that, when deregulation took effect, the prices these stations were worth the prices they were selling for. The math is just not there for cash flow vs. debt ratio. That's why companies are running into trouble now, because the debt is due. Who was the President 15 years ago? Every American had a right to own a station, but our government took that away.
If I had to do it all over again, I would have made Wilmington my test market and my second station would have been in one of the top-10 markets.
What are your hobbies?
I love to travel -- ever since my son was four years old. He got me to fly again and now I love it. My son actually helped me live a life and I don't go anywhere without him. Being a parent is the best thing that has ever happened to me. He is my life.
What current radio stations, other than your own, do you admire and why?
Wow, people are going to be shocked when they read this, but when I was in NYC with my son and my mother, I was so frustrated with what I heard on the NYC stations that I started to listen out-of-format to WCBS. They are tight, they are formatted, and they were playing a lot of, oh-sh... songs that I haven't heard in a long time. The Black stations in NYC just lacked the New York City sound and they seemed to have stereotyped their audience. I do not blame the PDs for this, but I do blame the companies that won't let their programmers do what they want to do. And don't blame the PPM for that.
Name the one gadget you can't live without.
Not fit to print!
What's been your biggest disappointment in radio today?
Deregulation allowed stations to segregate the music. This mainly impacted the Black-formatted stations. Take a look at a station's playlist, then see the different categories of music that used to be played on Black stations. Black radio was the leader in new music, no matter the category. Now take a look at the same station's playlist today. Could you imagine if Luther Vandross came out with "A House Is Not A Home" today? Only half of the Black stations would be playing it. The art of competition is gone -- especially since the same company you work for owns your old competition.
At what store would you max out your credit card?