10 Questions with ... Sam Weaver
January 7, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I am the new Editor for Urban/UAC and owner of a radio talent coach business (Radiocoach.biz) for terrestrial/ Internet radio personalities and programmers. One of my clients does radio in the Netherlands; thank God for Skype!
I have been in the business for over 35 years as a programmer and air talent. My format background includes Top 40/Mainstream, Urban, Country, Sports, Talk, and Rock. I have worked in Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco, Dallas, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Memphis, Greensboro and Kansas City. My list of 12 stations programmed includes WDIA Memphis, the oldest Black-operated property, and KPRS/KPRT Kansas City, the oldest Black owned-and-operated stations.
Besides numerous programming awards, other accomplishments include teaching in the Broadcast Department at Columbia College in Chicago, comedy writer for Jerry Boulding's Highlights radio show, and host of Westwood One's Superstars of R&B Concert Series.
1) Where and what was your first job in radio? Your influences?
The first paid commercial radio job was during my second year of college at the University of Missouri, a part-time board op/announcer at KFRU in Columbia, MO. It was a News/Talk/Sports with some music station.
List of influences by category:
PDs: Charlie Lake, Jerry Boulding, Buzz Bennett, Lee Logan, Joel Denver, Tony Gray, Ken Dowe, Quincy McCoy, Jerry Clifton and Bill Bailey
GMs: Chuck Scruggs, Drew Horowitz, Nancy Cooper, Marv Dyson and Charles Mootry
Music Industry: Gerald Busby, Neil Bogart, Bert & Ilene Berns, Ronnie Johnson, Joey Bonner, Wes Johnson, Clive Davis, and Russell Simons
Owners: John H. Johnson, Mrs. Mildred Carter, First Media, Skip Finley, Mike Carter and Reese Poag.
Morning personalities: BJ Murphy, Tom Joyner, Dr. Don, Donnie Simpson, Jeff Fox, Scott Shannon, AC Williams, Larry Lujack and the Deadly Dr. Bobby Brown
Non-morning personalities: Jo Jo Kincaid, Ernie C, Bill Lee, Ron Chavis, Walt Love, Yvonne Daniels, Bob Uecker, Cat Daddy, Chuck Geiger, Johnny Rabbit, Doug Banks and Kitty Neely.
Production Dirs: Terry Fox, Jerry Vigil, Robert Rhodes and Pat Garrett.
Imaging and VO: Roberta Solomon
Promotions Dirs: Rich McCauley
MDs: Myron Fears, Art Goewy and Rosalie Trombley
Sales Managers: Bart Horton and Vic Dyson
Radio Icons: Dick Clark, Frankie Crocker and Jerry Boulding
Influences on programming thought: Richard Nixon, Phil Jackson, Malcolm X, Lyndon B. Johnson, Dr. Martin Luther King, My Grandfather, George Steinbrenner, Harry Carey, Richard Pryor, Red Foxx, e.e. Cummings, George Carlin, Flip Wilson, Bill Veeck, John Wooden, Dave Chappelle, James Thurber, Johnny Carson, Eddie Holland, and Vernal Beckman (8th grade speech teacher)
2) What were the most influential radio station(s) growing up?
KMOX (community Service/Sports), KXOK (Top 40), KATZ (Urban), KSHE (AOR).
3) If you were just starting out in radio, knowing what you know now, would you still do it?
Yes, but in addition I would pursue a career in print journalism.
4) What stations are pre-set in your car or cellphone right now?
Nothing is pre-set in my car, I will move around the dial and check out music; from DJ Khaled to Miranda Lambert and every format in between. I have the iTunes Radio and iHeartRadio apps on my iPhone. My favorites are 102.7FM The Wolf - SF, 103FM ESPN-Dallas, FIP-Paris France,
5) How do you feel about music rotations and new music? And how do you feel about waiting on a record you hear until the research validates it?
Keep your eyes and ears glued to All Access, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, mix CDs-tapes and all social media for music trends. Also question interns and on-staff clubbers for clues to what is or might become hot. Weekly callout music hook research is great, but human interpretation can cause problems. Most programmers are looking for what the majority of the target audience can agree with. None of us would accept a stockbroker purchasing a stock for our portfolio on an un-researched whim; the same holds true for adding music, there has to be timely, verifiable justification. I believe in what I call intelligent gut; never base things on personal feeling, always business and what will work for your audience. Smart programmers will play what is recognized by their audience as great music.
On the topic of new music, my favorite argument "How is it going to become known or a hit if you do not play it?" I've always said, "I will start adding every song that comes to me the same day record and production companies begin signing every artist wanting a deal." Music companies have to make choices and so do radio stations; each has a set of guidelines. The key phrase is "Music Business!" Music companies are trying to get their music product played and PDs and or MDs are attempting to make sure their stations are in the best position for ratings and revenue. The two sides can exist in harmony regardless of the occasional difference of opinion. I see my job as the purveyor of all things positive for both radio and the music industry.
6) What are your thoughts on today's syndication? What would make it better and more effective? Do you seeing it growing, staying the same, or diminishing?
There are not enough compatible daily or weekend shows to meet broadcast industry needs. Too many stations air daily syndication not synced with their format. The smart operators only accept the content-only voicetracks, customize and edit in the station's music. To be fair, some do not have the man-power to customize, it takes a few hours.
When financial institutions begin to make cash readily available again, syndicators and broadcasters will be able to invest in talent for more entertainment radio shows; it will probably be a combination of veteran radio talent and show business personalities.
7) With all the voicetracking, syndication and shift stretching, how and where are future broadcasters going to go to learn the craft? And when the current generation passes on, will they be ready?
Future broadcasters will learn their craft on "Stand-alone" Internet radio. At no cost, individuals can currently have a show on the web; two companies come to mind -- Live 365 and Loud City. With some mentoring from traditional radio veterans, future personalities will be able to carry the torch.
8) How does the future of radio and music look?
The "Y" generation has grown up with computers, blogs, Facebook, podcasts, Smartphones, Twitter, Macs, chat rooms, P2Ps, YouTube, iTunes, LinkedIn, Instagram and iPads; radio is being used differently. Instead of a new music fad, the Y generation received new audio and communication delivery systems. Music is being sampled in a variety of ways. Traditional and new media are finding ways to merge and appeal to this generation. Y's represent radio's version of "Custer's Last Stand," and will be the determining factor for the fate and future of both industries. Branding through new ways of looking at things is happening right now. The "Z" generation will use terrestrial radio if it continuously updates its approach to reaching listeners.
Branding and New Thinking are keys to the future of terrestrial radio. For the younger X and the entire Y Generation, instead of regurgitating the terrestrial station, program the online station independently to reflect the tastes of the consumer utilizing it. Add to old formulas and monitor the web downloads, Facebook, You Tube, Twitter ... and hire the Y Generation to be the personalities.
To handle programming, rehire experienced PDs; knowing the rules makes it easier to break and create new ones. However, while the new revolution is going on, put a tab on the site for the terrestrial signal; there will sampling.
Treat the online station as an underground cool thing, like the early days of FM back in the late '60s and early '70s. Expand the musical format boundaries and realize music is the driving force. It is the job of the air personality to highlight, energize and add something special to each moment. This approach would fit right in with iPods, MP3s and cellphone only users. Such moves could increase station value, brand name recognition and open new doors for advertising. Something else of importance: Online stations should not mirror the long commercial breaks of traditional radio.
9) What is the biggest challenge facing today's urban broadcasters?
The biggest challenge is the melding of the old and new media. In addition, Urban needs to continue to maintain its unique identity and at the same time focus on what it will take to stay a step ahead in relevancy and hipness in terms of music and radio. Much like Country, Urban has always been a tight community and the best way to stay relevant is to remember its history but don't wallow in how it used to be. Urban programmers must continue to make the necessary adjustments to stay with or ahead of the curve in terms of everything that affects ratings and profit.
10) As you look back over your career ... any regrets? Missed opportunities?
Some of both, but rest assured I will not miss out on the opportunity lying ahead with the merging of old and new media. Tradition is forever changing, but I am heading for "The gold in them thar hills" because there are so many new windows of opportunity. Being on the All Access team lends itself to my passion of dispersing information, teaching, writing, and making a living.
What would people who think they know Sam Weaver be surprised to know about you?
That I see radio's relationship with the consumer as a combination of politics, sports and basic human want and need.
Pitched two no-hitters in Little League and played American Legion Baseball. A contemporary music radio career was a fluke, sports play-by-play was my passion.
Four years prior to the first successful daily show prep service, I had attempted to convince a couple of syndicators on the idea.
Search "radio talent coach" on Google; I occupy the top positions.
That among my coaching clients, I have a variety of formats represented; Country, Classic Rock, Urban, Urban AC and Sports radio. My roster also includes some independent Internet radio owners and personalities.
Played High School Basketball and SR year we were 31-1, ranked #1 in the state of Mo.
What's been your biggest disappointment in radio today?
The apparent misunderstanding of the product and what it means to the consumer. All radio people are not created equal; some are creative and currently too many are merely functional due to the climate surrounding the industry.
How do you feel about Edison Audio's PPM and existing Diary method of measurement?
PPM is a great research tool and an interesting method of measurement. Recently they committed to increasing the sample size of the panels which potentially could fix problems broadcasters have justifiably complained about. At some point in the future Edison Audio and other ratings companies will become smartphone applications along with all forms of organized audio; PPM will then become completely compatible with consumer usage.
How important are marketing and contests to a station's overall success?
Regardless of the rating method applied, stations need to always be "top-of- mind awareness" and bigger than life to the listener. Therefore if it can be budgeted, spend whatever it takes to reach ratings goals. Become creative if the budget is less than desired. That is when thinking outside the box becomes important.
How important are web sites to ratings success?
Too many terrestrial radio sites are cookie cutter and negotiated through third parties in exchange for commercial airtime. Companies contracted for such deals usually apply dated templates to build the site, serve as web host administrator, and utilize independent contractors to maintain the site. Other than someone in promotions or a designate affiliated with programming, many stations do not have control of their web properties. However, most web hosts are beginning to offer content management systems, (CMS) permitting stations to edit content without third party presence; technical support for questions is provided.
Another problem: There are still sites with too much clutter. It is good to see radio operators grasp Internet radio streaming and podcasting. However, I believe stations are correct in theory, but wrong in application. Consumers want to be involved in the new media world. Radio needs to look at itself as a social network community, consisting of the terrestrial station and the web with various social platforms. The "It's all my media" approach will lead to higher ratings and increased profits. Some companies have seen the light and have already headed that direction.
The modern day entertainment center is the cell phone and it is rapidly becoming the most important communication source in the world. Mobile phone apps are replacing many former electronic lifestyle mainstays; TVs, alarm clocks, cameras, stereos, landline phones, radios, and calculators. With the advent of Internet availability in cars, the world is becoming more mobile than it has ever been.