10 Questions with ... Brion O'Brion
July 9, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Greenville, SC, Savannah, GA, Charleston, SC, Atlantic City, NJ, Ocean City/Salisbury, MD, Baltimore, MD, Norfolk, VA, Virginia Beach, VA, Elizabeth City, NC.
1) Where and what was your first job in radio? Who are some of your mentors and those who influenced your career the most when you were just starting out?
First job was at WHYZ-/ Greenville, SC. My mentors are Rick Party, Earl Boston, Steve Crumbley, Don Early Byrd Allen (R.I.P.), and Sonny Andre.
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?
Yes. I would prepare better for the downsizing that has hit me throughout my career.
3) Most stations fail not because the station sounded bad. They failed because there was no unfulfilled need for the product in the market. Do you agree or disagree with this notion?
I agree. So many stations nowadays forget that the listeners can make or break a radio station. Your programming has to be on point and fit your market.
4) As a veteran programmer, you know one of the most challenging aspects of the job of programming is airchecking, which at many stations has become a lost art. These one-on-one sessions represent a critical piece in the overall programming process and largely determine whether or not a show or jock will progress. How do you manage this aspect of your job?
I have weekly aircheck sessions with my talent to fine-tune their air shifts and to make them sound the best that they can on a daily basis.
5) How important are morning shows in 2013? Does it really matter if the morning show is live or syndicated, as long as it is connecting with the audience?
I still prefer a live morning show. Syndicated morning shows can physically touch the local audience, kiss babies and shake hands.
6) Because of research are today's Urban programmers going to be even 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 WKJX?
At my station the hottest records spin at about 66 times.
7) Do you think today's radio/record label relationship is in a good place where both have a better understanding of each other's goals? What could help to improve it?
Record labels could do a better job of communicating with the PDs/MDs in the smaller markets, because last time I checked, people buy records in small markets. Small markets matter, too!
8) What's your read on the format music wise nowadays and how do you feel about the future of Urban radio?
Radio needs to go back the way it used to be, and not be classified as Urban, UAC, Top 40, etc. When I was growing up, radio stations just played the hits. I grew up in Hampton Roads, VA; we had a station named K-94, and they used to play everything from Tears For Fears, Cyndi Lauper, Prince, to hip-hop songs. I miss that!
9) WKJX is perceived as a small market station, even though it is situated near and influences two medium size markets. How have you set about to change this perception?
Small markets matter, too, is my motto. I try to program my station better than those stations from the Norfolk/VA Beach market that bleed over into my market. I localize my station so that the listeners here in the 2-5-2 know that we are their local station that plays better music than those so-called big-market stations. "I have a big-market station in a small market" is how I look at it, and I can compete with any big-market station in the country if you picked us up and moved us to any big market!
10) As you look back over your career ... any regrets? Missed opportunities?
I had an opportunity to work in Columbus, OH, and I took a morning job in Charleston, SC. This was the worst mistake of my career, but I learned from my error in judgment.
What would people who think they know Brion O'Brion be surprised to learn about you?
I do not like to move from job to job. My last few places I have worked at, I have either been downsized due to budget or the company has went bankrupt. I will be the first to admit that earlier in my career I did that, but I ain't got no time for that these days. I want to be with a company for a while and lay some roots. I love working for East Carolina Radio. I have been here for two years now.
What the best piece of advice that someone has ever given you that you still use on a daily basis?
My mentor/station voice, Rick Party told me to always aircheck, because your best show can always be your very last show!
Name the one gadget you can't live without.
What's been your biggest disappointment in radio today?
The consolidation and downsizing. I have been caught in it, and many of my friends!
Any advice for broadcasters?
Broaden your horizons. Never get pigeonholed into doing one format. I have been fortunate to be able to do several formats from Urban, UAC, Top 40, Rhythmic, and Oldies! Greenville, SC, Savannah, GA, Charleston, SC, Atlantic City, NJ, Ocean City/Salisbury, MD, Baltimore, MD, Norfolk, VA, Virginia Beach, VA, Elizabeth City, NC.