10 Questions with ... Damon "Dee" Williams
April 8, 2014
1) Please explain what Music Choice is all about.
Music Choice is a multi-platform video and music network that delivers music programming to millions of consumers nationwide through televisions, online and mobile devices. We have over 50 channels of uninterrupted music channels, thousands of Music Videos On-Demand, and a cool interactive TV network MC Play that is changing the way consumers watch videos on TV. In addition, we create original content for VOD like our TV shows "You & A" and "Primed" to give established and emerging artists platforms to break new music on our network.
2) How does Music Choice judge success?
We look at the metrics that drive our business which are distribution, usage of our products, and customer satisfaction. It's very important for us to continue to be innovative with our products so our distributors and customers can see the value of what we do. Depending on the platform, we judge our success on ratings. For Video-On-Demand we have Nielson and for Music Channels we have quarterly data that measures our performance. We expect to grow unique users and time spent listening accordingly to be successful.
3) What has surprised you the most about your job?
I am pleasantly surprised how my job and role in the company keeps evolving as the needs of the business change. As programmers, we need to prepare ourselves to grow beyond our core responsibilities. I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work very closely with our CEO Dave Del Beccarro and our COO Christina Tancredi on Music Choice's product strategy and brand strategy. Because of my programming background, I have been able to help conceptualize some our key product offerings such as Music Choice Play, our interactive TV network and our new unified experience application that will let consumers access all of products seamlessly on mobile devices. I have found that if we learn to leverage our expertise and perspective as programmers, we can contribute more to an organization at a very high level.
4) How do you decide on what music to play and rotations?
Music Choice has two key factors that impact the way we develop rotations vs. radio. First up, we have a different business model then traditional radio stations. We receive a license fee from our distributors, so we are not subject to programming around PPM data. Second, our Time Spent Listening per session is much longer then radio and we don't have commercial interruptions. This means we play about a lot more songs per hour without breaks, promos, etc. We typically make sure the playback strategy our powers and current are aligned with audience listening habits on a channel by channel basis. For example, what happens on our gold-based channels vs. our current-based channels is different. The nice thing we can do in our rotations are strategically position new music in our clocks to expose it to consumers because we do play more songs per hour.
5) What's your opinion on the future of radio and urban radio?
I like to think that Music Choice's future as a music service and a multi-platform music network is very bright. We have a great distribution in 57 million homes for the Music Channels, are the largest Video-On-Demand network with over one billion yearly views of music videos and we have a growing interactive linear TV network MC Play. We believe that as our cable distributors' roll out more advanced IP-based cable set-top boxes, our usage will increase because we have more dynamic and more interactive versions of our music services.
6) Do you have a favorite radio memory? Something you either heard growing up or something you participated in.
I really enjoyed being part of the music scene that exploded out of the Norfolk, VA marketplace in the '90s. At that time I was the MD and doing afternoons at K-92 (WMYK), one of the first 24/7 Hip-Hop stations in the country. During this period, you had artists like Ted Riley, Missy Elliot, Timberland and some guy named Pharrell Williams slowly changing the landscape of Hip-Hop and Pop music. At that time, we were able to break a lot of records from them and other artist across the country that would not have normally gotten any play at radio.
7) What advice do you have for programmers in putting together a music playlist and sound for their station or stations? And does the approach vary depending on the format?
It's really important for programmers to understand three things before developing a programming philosophy and strategy to drive ratings. First up, you have to understand your company's business model and revenue goals. If you're PPM, what are your metrics? If you license fee-based like Music Choice, how do you add value to keep that fee? Second, you have to know the data and measurable. Where is the opportunity at to develop an audience for this playlist or sound for your station? Third, you have to take the time to learn about who you your potential listeners are from a psychographics THE perspective, what kind of music/content experience do they want? At Music Choice I take all of our programmers through a training session to ground them on these areas regardless of the format.
8) You gave a synopsis of your career. Can you give us more detail on your radio music background?
I started out as a club DJ and then became an intern at Power 94FM in Virginia Beach for former Def Jam Records VP Thomas Lytle in late '80s. I then went on to do nights, mix shows, and eventually became AMD for Kevin Brown who used to be at KBLX. A couple of years later I became MD and did afternoons at K-92FM in Norfolk, where I really got a chance to make a name for myself in the business. After that I call from WPGC in Washington DC and became the PD of Flava 1580AM, an all Hip-Hop station that they started to keep 12-24 ratings away from Radio One's WKYS. Working at WPGC was great because I got a chance to work with great radio guys such as GMs Ben Hill and Gene Harley, Jay Stevens, Doctor Dave and Albie Dee. I then went across the street and became PD of WKYS working with Steve Hegwood. We had some success their taking WKYS past WPGC for the first time in something like eight years. In Sept of 1998, I came to Music Choice to oversee their Urban programming for just the Music Channels. However, since July 2005 I have been the VP/Programming for all platforms.
9) You told us how you started, what's your advice for air personalities just starting out who have dreams of programming?
If you're an air talent that wants to get into programming, try to spend time with different people in the company to learn the business. Ask the GM or Sales Manager to go to lunch and pick their brain for information about how the business operates. Find a mentor in programming that will spend some time with you teaching you about programming philosophy and research. At the end of the day, a good programmer can help contribute to all facets of the business. Make sure you do your homework and then just work hard.
10) What are your top 5 songs of all time and why?
This is the hardest question to ask a programmer, so here are a couple of things that get a lot play on my iPhone
- King Pleasure - "Moody's Mood for Love." Frankie Crocker, one of my radio idols, used to play this song when he signed off. Frankie was one of the main people that inspired me to do radio
- MFSB - "Love Is the Message." One of the greatest sounding and best records to come from Gamble and Huff. May people don't realize that the breakdown on this record was what early rap pioneers used back in the day
- Steve Miller Band - "Fly Like An Eagle." One of the funkiest rock records of the '70s; to me this always gets me hyped
- Eric B. & Rakim - "Eric B. is President." As club DJ back in the day, this was the song that always got the party going
- Lionel Richie - "Jesus Is Love." Hey ,we all need inspiration at times, Lionel really delivers an incredible performance on this. Donny Simpson used to play this every day when he signed off.
What would people who think they know you, be surprised to learn about you?
I like speed, love fast cars. Own a 1972 Oldsmobile 442 with a 455 motor so watch out! l