10 Questions with ... Al Payne
March 13, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Got to start in high school and stayed in the game throughout college at UNC. Was keeping pace with Stu Scott as one of the most successful broadcasting alumni out of the RTVMP department until that little ESPN thing kicked in for him.
After college I turned pro, starting with WLBJ-A/Laurens, SC; WLWZ/Greenville, SC; WFXC/Raleigh (believe it or not, I was hired by Earl Boston, and he left the morning I pulled up in a U-Haul).
WQMG/Greensboro (first PD gig).
KRNB/Dallas; Cumulus/Beaumont (including KTCX).
Cumulus/Wilmington (including WMNX & WKXS) ... and now Radio One.
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
First job in radio was weekends at my hometown Top 40, 10,000-watt "flamethrower" WTYN 1160 AM. Now that was radio. Remember the days of "cue burn," people? This Serato generation missed out.
Influences include just about everybody I've worked with. The beauty of this biz is that everyone has a story. The last time I did this I named specific individuals, and then later regretted leaving folks off that list. So that won't happen again. I'll just say that if I've had a professional relationship with you, you've influenced me in a positive or negative way.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
"Brother" Bill Prather on the radio. The man was a Top 40 legend. He could post any song and ran the tightest board I've ever heard. It was so cool that I'd get goosebumps! I was determined to be just like him. I had a Mr. Microphone and used to do my own "show" every night after homework and dinner. Eventually my parents got tired of buying new stereos (I'd kill their turntables trying to cue up the hits) and wanted peace in their house, so they threw my little behind in the station wagon, dropped me off at WTYN, and refused to come pick me up.
3) If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now what you didn't then, would you still do it?
Yes, yes, yes. This industry does not dictate you; you must dictate it. People still want to turn on the radio and be entertained. Regardless of your station, market or show, entertainment value is what people are coming to you for. I'll stop before I get into my "what's between the songs is just as important" speech.
4) How do you explain the consistent PPM ratings success you've had, particularly with WERQ and WWIN?
We worked really hard, refocused the stations and did a lot of the things that we felt would give us an advantage. Fortunately, they are working and hopefully they will continue to work.
5) How do you feel about being asked to wait on a record you hear until the research validates it?
You must respect research. Sure, it's a balancing act between your gut feeling and what's on that PDF, but these are your listeners telling you what they like. Music is the blood of your franchise, and you can not afford to make too many mistakes
6) What is going to happen and who is going to be responsible for the training of tomorrow's talent and programmers if the current trend continues?
I've changed my thinking here. Sure, you have great morning and afternoon talent who have been displaced by syndication, but now is the time to groom talent in other dayparts for ascension to the next level when the paradigm shifts again. Meet, critique, brainstorm with them.
7) What would most people be surprised to know about Al Payne?
Messy office, neat freak at home.
8) Of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
Wished that I'd taken Psychology as a minor. As a manager and coach, your people skills make all of the difference. Understanding the fact that not everyone sees things the way you do is important. Also I'm driving myself to catch up with technology.
9) How important do you feel research is in determining when records are added and how they are rotated? Are Urban programmers going to be slower in adding and playing new music while they're waiting for research to confirm the record's potential?
In addition to what I said in # 5, I feel we also need to be more careful and use research for the tool that it is. Also, in years to come, we need to be aware that technology is diminishing our role of being the source for new music. How are we going to proactively keep our edge?
10) As you look back over your career ... any regrets? Missed opportunities?
"God don't make no mistakes." However, I spent a good chunk of my 20s at one station. At that point, I could've been more aggressive by packing up my car and moving to L.A., but regardless, I still do have quite a story to tell.
What do you do with a song you don't like?
It's not about me at all. Does the listener like it? If so, put it on -- and grin and bear it! However, my wife thinks she's the UAC guru. I gotta give her props; she does pick a lot of hits.
What's the best piece of advice anyone's ever given you? The worst?
Best: Appeal to the masses -- live with the classes. Appeal to the classes -- live with the masses.
Worst: Forget about the signal -- it's a top-5 market!
How did the events of 9/11 change you personally?
I've tried to live a more spiritual life. I'm thankful for what I have, as opposed to always wishing for more.