10 Questions with ... Doc Wynter
April 22, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I don't know how brief I can be after 20 years.
I was in college working towards my major in computers and a buddy of mine worked at the college radio station. I sat in overnights with him and one night he asked me to fill in for him. I cracked the mic and never had a feeling quite like that before. I knew I was in trouble and that it was what I wanted to do for a living. I continued to work at the radio station through college and when I graduated from Trinity in Hartford I got a job in computer programming.
My first radio job came as a part-timer for WAC in New Haven and they offered me mornings. I left there and went to KC101 and did Top 40 for a year, left there and went to St. Louis with Chuck Atkins as his Production Dir. and then became his APD and Quiet Storm host, where I cut my teeth on how it was to be an on-air personality. I then became the PD. We were bought by Millwood ... which was bought by Jacor Communications ... which later became Clear Channel. They asked me one day if I wanted to go to Jacksonville, FL and I wondered why I would want to leave market #20 to go to market #50, but then I realized I would be working with Kevin Metheny, Steve Smith and a good chance to be working with Barry Mayo, so went there and apprenticed as PD and took both stations, WJBT and WXOL, to the top of the rankers.
I was offered an opportunity to work with the other Urbans in our company that amounted to about five -- Jacksonville, St. Louis, San Diego and shortly after I got the job, we merged with Clear Channel, where we had a lot of big Urbans, from WGCI in Chicago and WUSL in Philadelphia, and KMEL in San Francisco. I was given the opportunity to oversee all of our Urbans and that was in 2000. Most of the PDs were quite my senior so it was an opportunity to really embrace what I had learned from Steve and Tom Owens, Barry Mayo and Kevin Metheny.
Fourteen years later, we're still doing the same job, the responsibilities have expanded somewhat, they include oversight of Premium Choice, working with talent outside of the Urban format, as well as working with talent such as the Breakfast Club, Steve Harvey, Keith Sweat ... it's a fun job.
1) How do you go about empowering others to help build your company's brand at Urban and Urban AC properties?
At the end of the day, every PD is responsible for his or her radio station and I am simply an in-house consultant, if you will. They may see me once a month at most, sometimes once a quarter or only twice a year. We talk weekly on conference calls. At the end of the day, any ideas I come up with or recommendations I make, it requires good a PD in that city to make it happen and so it's the nature of our company for people to be responsible to be well-versed in their skills, to be trusted, but to also be able to verify whatever it is they are doing, so others may benefit from it if it makes sense, or stop it if it doesn't.
2) How has PPM helped with programming stations?
I think, especially for Urban stations, the Diary misled us to believe we had captive audiences and it absorbs an amount of time listening to us, especially on the Urban AC front. Now that we have really dug into the data, we see that in many respects radio is still very, very popular, but there are just so many other things going on in the world, for them to spend much time with us, it is important that when they do come to us that we are clearly delivering a message of who were are and what we do. So, you have to be on your game; you're trying to spread a message, it may take a little longer now; the shelf life of a record may be longer because that many other things going on the world today with the average listener. So it has actually made us better programmers, because you have to pay attention to what you are doing. There is a lot of data in-front of you and make intelligent decisions. You cannot afford to think our brand will sustain itself without work.
3) Radio has changed over the years, what are some of the changes you like?
I like that we are taking it to the edge a little more; we are more entertaining; we're keeping it real. I like success stories such as Robin Thicke and Jason Derulo being at the top of the charts; that kind of stuff is exciting. Guys like the Breakfast Club weren't even on the air together three years ago and now they are on the air. A guy such as Steve Harvey, who is a comedian but loved radio; he now has an incredible success story in terms of what he's done with his platform. I love to see that there are opportunities for people who love radio just as much as I do.
4) What do you think is making the Breakfast Club successful in so many markets?
They are real. I say this all the time: They are three of the nicest people who are out there. I like seeing good things happen to good people and they have a chemistry that I think is really unique -- they sound like three friends whose conversation we happen to be overhearing and they can cover any topic. You know that Envy's going to have an opinion; Angela's going to have her opinion, and Charlamange's going to have an opinion -- and that is going to make you laugh. They work really, really hard. I sometimes ask them if they get any sleep. They are constantly grinding.
5) What are some of the other things you think are important when it comes to working with morning shows and talent in general?
Understanding the nature of PPM versus Diary. Setting appointments for your audience, no surprises, and talking about what is of interest to the audience. Know who your audience is, what they like to do, where they like to go, what they like to watch, paying attention to what moves the needle for them, and then resetting because things change. Taking the time to find out exactly what they are interested in hearing.
6) How much of a factor has Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook been with marketing your Urban and AC properties?
It is amazing; you look what we have done in Miami and Houston. Twitter was probably the biggest lock-in tool that we had to get the word out that we were on the air. We just really, really engaged social media; we spread the word; we continuously invited our audience to follow us and we would follow them, so this relationship began. We opened up our comment line from the very beginning; we wanted to know what you think of this new radio station, so there was this intimacy between us and the audience from the very beginning. It's something that we hope to continue to sustain; we want to know when you think we are doing the right thing; we want to know when you think we are whack; we want to know what bothers you. We may not be able to fix everything but if we hear that same message from a number of people, we are willing to reconsider that particular day part, or benchmark, or feature or song.
7) What frustrates you the most about radio and the music industry?
We love our relationship with the record community and that they need us and we need them. There are some wgo still operate under the model that a record takes 12 weeks; 12 weeks up and 12 weeks down. It's not true. Look at August Alsina; we started playing that record in April and became #1 in December, and that was the shelf life of that song. Right now it is still testing well.
8) What are your thoughts on Hip-Hop and how has its evolution affected programming in Urban radio?
There are a lot of features these days; things we have come to expect and some that we haven't. Initially a lot of us were caught up that we have to separate this artist by 15 to 20 minutes; I don't worry about that. You do the best you can; as long as they turn on their radio, it increased the probability they are going to hear their favorite song.
9) What's your opinion on the future of radio and Urban radio?
It's going to continue to be, in my opinion. Hip-Hop lifestyle and Urban music is the most-copied lifestyle in the world today. I won't say everyone wants to be black, but everyone wants to live the Hip-Hop lifestyle. I think it will continue to slowly become pop culture; the music will continue to be embraced; it will break down more walls as it has done and you will see people from different walks of life shaking their heads to the same records. I always love when you see a bio of a movie star or someone like that and their favorite record is ASAP Rocky. I just love that stuff; it just goes to show you how music is the ultimate connection between people. We will continue to be that; the thing that connects people of different cultures.
10) Who influenced your radio career?
I grew up in New York City listening to Frankie Crocker. I was a Frankie Crocker fan, but I also listened to Don Imus, Scott Shannon, Howard Stern, and the Crazy Side. I'm from that school of edginess and entertainment and think of ways to say it without saying it. When KISS FM came on in NYC, I because a fan of the battle between Frankie Crocker and Barry Mayo. Later on I ended up working with both of them and it was one of the highlights of my career. I remember driving over the Bay Point Bridge in Jacksonville taking Barry Mayo to the airport and Frankie Crocker called me on the phone, so I had Barry on my right and Frankie on the phone. It was one of those times that you never, ever, ever forget. I thought, "I must be somebody." I learned a lot from them, both directly and indirectly.