10 Questions with ... Mark McCray
May 1, 2012
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
First job (Not counting my student station, WIDB/Southern Illinois University) was at a Top 40 station in Carbondale IL, WCIL. Growing up in Chicago, I was blessed to listen to a lot of great radio personalities -- Doug Banks and Tom Joyner, just to name a few.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
One summer while I was still in high school, I took an Intro to Radio Broadcasting class just for fun. It was just a way to keep busy and Columbia College was offering high school students college credit. After the first few classes I fell in love with the business and knew it was what I wanted to do!
3) If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now what you didn't then, would you still do it?
Yes! Without a doubt!
4) Where do you see yourself and the industry five years from now?
I see myself continuing to work in radio and growing with the business ... wherever God takes me! This is an exciting time to be in this business. The technological changes (PPM, streaming, HD Radio) keep you on your toes; there is a lot of competition out there. Therefore, staying one step ahead, being unique, taking chances and understanding who your audience is now more important than ever.
5) How you feel about being asked to wait on a record you hear until the research validates it?
Thankfully, we don't have that issue here. We are able to move on records that we feel are right for the station and market. Research is a tool (a very valuable one), but it is not the Bible. It is a branch of many tiers of research that needs to be considered when adding a record.
6) How do you feel about syndication? Does it significantly affect and/or limit the number of hours that you have control over the music that you play?
Syndication works on a case-by-case basis. As you know, it has worked (and is working) for a variety of stations and has failed for others. I believe that listeners are fine with syndication as long as the programming is entertaining and informative. Obviously, there is a local component that you lose, but if the station is imaged correctly, you can make it work. We are syndicated in the morning and afternoon -- and it is working for us. I would rather have entertaining syndication over bland local programming. If you have the budget and the ability to secure talent that works on the local level, that's the best fit.
It does limit the amount of hours you have control over musically, but you can still drill home your promotions, community involvement and image of the station during these programs.
7) Because of callout research, are today's Urban and Urban AC programmers going to be slower in adding and playing new music?
Not necessarily ... As I mentioned earlier, research is one of many tools that are used when adding new records to the playlist. Sometimes chart position, request, gut and common sense don't agree with the research.
8) Of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
All of them! If you are not in a constant state of growth, you get complacent. Even though I have learned a lot over the years, there is always more to learn. If you listen to the people around you, watch the listening trends of your listeners and are open to the ideas of others, you will constantly be improving.
9) Although there have been no new direct format competitors lately, in the Dallas Ft.-Worth
Metroplex, do you feel there eventually there are going to be some?
We have a lot of competition already, so we just know to super-serve our audience on the local level and stay laser-focused on who we are.
10) As you look back over your career ... any regrets? Missed opportunities?
None, I have been truly blessed!
What would people who think they know Mark McCray be surprised to know about you?
I am a roller coaster fanatic! I also teach radio occasionally at the broadcasting school as a way of "paying it forward"!
Describe your favorite meal?
It would be easier to tell you what isn't my favorite!
What's your favorite reading material?
I read a lot of magazines and a lot of articles online. I like news and entertainment pieces mostly.
Do you feel that Urban stations should support new artists?
Yes if it is applicable to your market. If there is a way to do a local music show in your market and you have the talent in the marketplace to support it, go for it! If you cannot dedicate a weekly program to it, maybe a special feature daily or once a week.
How important are contests to ratings success?
I think contests are a great way of creating excitement for your station and if done correctly, build TSL and cume. So they can be very important.