10 Questions with ... Derek Harper
March 12, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- United States Air Force Academy 1987-1988
- Florida A&M University 1988-1993
- WKKV/Milwaukee 1990
- WANM/Tallahassee 1991
- WVEE/Atlanta 1994-1998
- WFXM/Macon 1998-2002
- WAMJ/Atlanta 2005-present
- WPZE/Atlanta 2007-present
1) Where and what was your first job in radio? Are there any particular industry leaders you admire or are influenced by in any way?
My first real job in radio was at WKKV in my hometown of Milwaukee. I did weekend overnights while I was on summer vacation from FAMU in my sophomore year. I've always admired "total packages" ... guys who were great air personalities And great programmers, i.e. Frankie Crocker, Mike Roberts, Tony Fields, etc., Rick Party influenced me a lot in my philosophy of what I expect out of an air talent. I'm also thankful that I've been fortunate to work with great programming minds like Jay Stevens, Hurricane Dave, Elroy Smith and Steve Hegwood ... all of who I've picked up a great deal from.
2) If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now what you didn't then, would you still do it? What would do you differently?
I wouldn't change a thing.
3) Some program experts claim that two of the things that hurt today's Urban AC stations is that (1) they tend to be slow to move on new songs and (2) they're too ballad heavy. Do you agree?
I do to a degree. Your competitor is no longer just the station across the street, but Pandora, social media, etc. ... so why would listeners have passion about your station if it's THE LAST PLACE they get new, relevant, content. In regards to ballads, I've always believed that a station should reflect the tempo of the listeners daily lives. If a listener is at work or in drivetime traffic ... there's only so many ballads they are going to tolerate.
4. You recently had a series of strong ratings gains in the Atlanta market, and since you've been there WAMJ has done very well, particularly with adult women. Without giving away any secrets, any thoughts on why that is?
We approach it as if the station is a suitor trying to woo Atlanta 500,000 women ... everyday. We keep it kinda sexy, keep them entertained, informed and make them feel good about themselves.
5) As a successful, veteran programmer, what are some of the most challenging aspects of the job of programming then and now?
Personnel management was, is and always will be the most challenging aspect. I compare it to being an NFL coach. Is this the team that's going to get me to the Big Game if I equip them with the resources and coaching?
6) How important are morning shows in 2013?
Very! Morning shows are still the gateway for your listeners to sample your station for the rest of the day.
Does it really matter if the morning show is live or syndicated, as long as it is connecting with the audience?
A great morning show is a great morning show, whether it's syndicated or local. You can win with either if it has a connection with the audience.
7) Because of callout research and Mscores, are today's Urban programmers going to be even slower in adding and playing new music?
I don't think so. I think and would hope that each programmer would base it on their individual situations, competition in their market, etc.
And what is the maximum number of spins a record in power rotation could be expected to receive in a given week on WAMJ?
8) How essential do you feel digital platforms are to enhance listener engagement?
Digital platforms are crucial for listener engagement in specific dayparts and will continue to become even more important.
9) Do you feel Urban AC radio's position in the complex entertainment matrix is in a safe and secure place these days?
It's at a crossroads right now and need's to reinvent itself to remain relevant with its target audience.
10) Is Urban AC radio moving swiftly enough in keeping pace with outside media competitors attempting to invade its space, especially given the streaming options growing in auto dashboards?
Radio needs to reinforce that it caters to listeners that want to be PART of something (like a special club) and share that experience with like-minded people, while Pandora and platforms like that are for loners and introverts who value time ALONE with their music. If it hammers that point of differentiation, it will be okay. What's your take on HD radio? HD radio will in-inevitably create more format segmentation in the industry. The pie (overall audience) will remain the same size... but you will have more platforms fighting for a slice of it. We are where television was back in the early 80's with broadcast tv vs. cable, pay-per-view etc. Thirty years later...broadcast TV is still around ..doing pretty good business. It will be the same for terrestrial radio.
As you look back over your career ... any regrets? Missed opportunities?
Lol! I may have left some money on the table over the years...
What's been your biggest disappointment in Radio today?
Complacency. I don't think there are a lot of people chasing a win as passionately as we used to in radio.
What's your favorite reading material?
Any thing that's self-help or motivational. I also read a lot of stuff about military history and strategy
How do you feel about Arbitron's PPM replacing the diary?
PPM has been very good to me obviously. Its simply a change in what you have to get the listener to do for you ... recollect listening to you ... versus making an appointment to listen to you.
Any advice for broadcasters?
The one thing that is guaranteed in life...is change.