10 Questions with ... Jay Postal
May 20, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- On-Air Radio Personality/Promotions (2010-2013), Urban/360 MD, (2012-current)
- Clear Channel Media + Entertainment/Boston - Programming intern
- Universal Music Group, Republic Records - Promotions & Marketing intern
- Simon & Schuster, CBS Corporation - Digital Marketing/Social Media intern
- Brown University B.A., Bank of America - Intern
1) What do you know now that you didn't know about radio this time last year?
That's a great question! With the advent of digital technologies and the Internet, particularly the onslaught of music start-ups and streaming services, I didn't know that radio this time last year could continue to remain a very prosperous and profitable medium! I say that sarcastically 1) to be humorous 2) for all the radio cynics out there. I'm really tired of people saying that being involved in terrestrial radio is like putting lipstick on a pig. And then I know there's going to be someone who reads this and says, "The radio reckoning is inevitable. It's a declining medium. Look at the $20.7 billion of debt that a company like Clear Channel faces (in addition to the loans on which it's sought to extend maturities)."
As much as people might think otherwise, radio will be fine. It's already stood the test of time and everyone is so caught up on the negatives that they forget about the positives such as the 92% of Americans who are tuning into radio at least once each week, the expansion of live events and other content to draw higher advertising revenues, and the use of big data and analysis to more effectively reach audiences and consumers. The competition is fierce, and there's still a long way to go. Nonetheless, terrestrial radio and its business model will successfully evolve and adapt, which is nothing new.
2) How has being an MD prepared you to take the programming chair?
Being a MD has allowed me to understand the deeper complexities of the broadcast media industry, including being a good liaison with the music industry, and also always makes me conceptualize radio in terms of ratings and revenue. From a programming perspective, I'm always thinking about how we're benefiting our audience first and ultimately our customers, which definitely requires navigating a lot of research/relationships and wearing many hats.
From a competitive standpoint locally, everything matters -- the tone, sound, music, content, imaging (down to something as simple as a sweeper), especially as we try to increase local market share and listeners/ratings, and in effect work with promotions and our GM to drive advertising revenue. Then with the digital competition, programming extends to our online content and social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine) which we have one of the largest in the market. I'm also on the air so beyond internal dealings or implementing an Arbitron PPM methodology, I'm constantly interacting and trying to deepen and personalize listener relationships - and outside of on-site events that happens real time especially via a platform like Twitter (@PostalOnAir is my handle :)). But in sum, being able to lead, help manage, and navigate all the data as well as relationships, both internally and externally, as well as thinking tactically and strategically to ensure greater ratings and revenue has equipped me with the ability to take on a programming chair anywhere and be successful at it.
3) In detail, what's your opinion on the future of radio and Urban radio?
I think Urban radio, like any other format, is great. It speaks to a unique experience, and a social and cultural context that people clearly relate to and gravitate towards. Sometimes the content is very provocative or can be mistaken as offensive - but so is a Rated R drama film or a horror movie. Additionally, the consumer has the control to engage or interact with what they choose. Plus, we're living in a new generation of consumers, in which race shouldn't define one's musical interests.
In "The Tanning of America," Steve Stoute coins the term "mental complexion," which is how consumers in a multicultural landscape have shared tastes - regardless of race. In Urban radio, or radio in general, it's traditionally been about super-serving a niche or format. Nowadays, demographic boxes are increasingly becoming irrelevant and radio needs to acknowledge this as the future. Not to be polarizing, but I have super-educated Caucasian friends, some who work on Wall Street, some who are trust fund babies - who listen to harder rap than I do and watch CNN. On the flipside, I listen to conservative Talk show radio sometimes, or love pop stars such as Katy Perry or Alternative artists sich as Daft Punk or Lorde (which I love seeing on Hot 97 or Power 105 NY's charts). I was also the first to break Macklemore's cross-format hit, "Thrift Shop" as reported by Billboard (despite pushback that he initially received from being a white rapper). In sum, we live in an ever-changing, diverse and multi-cultural society and can't afford to be narrow-minded. The future is about working together and embracing our unique talents and differences.
4) You graduated from Brown and there are not a lot of Ivy Leaguers in this industry. So, what was it about radio that attracted you? Also, tell us about the non-radio opportunities you passed up.
Going to an Ivy League university was a blessing. It was a tremendous educational experience and is an amazing network of incredibly smart, hard-working and talented people. There aren't many Ivy Leaguers in the radio industry specifically, but broadly speaking in the music, entertainment and broadcasting industry - there sure are some very powerful and influential Ivy Leaguers operating in or even behind the scenes. Ted Turner, creator of CNN, TNT, and TBS cable stations; Craig Kallman, CEO of Atlantic Records; Debra Lee, CEO of BET Networks; Stephen Hill, President of Music Programming, BET; Jonathan Klien, Former President of CNN; Chris Berman, ESPN anchor; and Irving Levine, NBC Chief Economics Correspondent are examples of graduates from my alma mater. Then from other Ivys you have Doug Morris who graduated from Columbia; Barry Weiss who graduated from Cornell; Sylvia Rhone who graduated from U Penn; LA Reid who graduated from Harvard; Lew Dickey, who also graduated from Harvard, Tom Poleman who graduated from Cornell etc., etc.
Then behind the scenes - the people who are making lucrative investments or influencing policy/ regulations in the telecommunications, government or radio sphere -- Jonathan Nelson, billionaire founder of Providence Equity Partners; Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank; Timothy Forbes, CEO of Forbes; Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who might also be gearing up for a presidential run; are all Brown alums I can think of off the top of my head. So both directly and indirectly, there are some pretty influential people from Ivy's involved in this industry.
That was a long-winded answer! But to answer your second question, everything about radio has attracted me. I am deeply passionate about the medium and I love it so much. I could have ended up in banking or consulting, if I decided to intern at a firm during college, which is what most of my friends have done but again, I'm passionate about the industry and I want to stick with it. Plus, in my young and emergent career, I've gotten to interview and talk with guys like P Diddy (who gave me the name "Postal" after he said I delivered in our interview), Macklemore, John Legend, Kendrick Lamar, etc. and have been able to touch hundreds of thousands of listeners thru music. How many of my friends can say they've done that? Many might think that it's young, dumb and naïve to say that but looking at some of these other successful people in the industry has inspired me to choose this path. Hopefully, 20 years from now, with a lot of hard work, passion, experience, and dedication, I'll be working across the aisle with some of my friends who have chosen their respective career paths.
Finally, radio is not necessarily the end game for me. I'm actually launching an innovative tech/music start-up with a couple of my college buddies who majored in Computer Science and some silent partners who are amazing! I'm also thinking about launching an artist development and management company soon, and even law school somewhere down the line. Pretty hefty ambitions for such a young guy, but I'll continue to take it one day at a time, grind it out and try to be the best that I can be.
5) How do you balance music research with music selection and rotations?
Music research is very important! I'm a huge proponent of research and using the data we have available such as callout, Mscores, and all the other metrics in the PPM environment to help inform music selection and rotations on the Urban side. Research isn't everything though, sometimes you have to rely a little bit on gut and rely always on knowing the tastes of your local demographic and consumer. I have so many examples of us bringing records first to market and then eventually watching those records do well nationally and climb up the charts as later validation. But again, research and data is the most important tool to inform sound decision-making.
6) Can you give your take on programming working with sales?
In today's competitive marketplace, consumer loyalty and customer satisfaction are critical to radio success. Programming and sales are so inextricably linked, and goes back to the whole rating and revenue thing - with revenue being the most important so that we remain sustainable. I love working with our GSM, Jim Corwin, who has over 20 years of radio sales management experience. I've learned a lot from him, our PD Wendell, and our other Account Executives. Everywhere I go; I try to generate a new sales lead and will pop into his office with a business card of a local shop owner that I talked to or something. It's really all about building relationships and delivering on your promises. They're all honest, very hardworking people and really some class acts/admirable people to work with and learn from. Loving what you do and the people you work with I believe is the formula of success for any business - especially in the case of radio programming and sales.
7) While in college, you interned at Republic Records. Do you think doing that has given you an understanding on how to work with a record company?
Absolutely! Interning on the inside of a record company was a dream come true. It was an amazing learning experience and I still keep in touch with many of the people I interned for. Huge shout-out to Jennifer Norwood, Annissa Moxam, Michael Horton, Big D, Gary Spangler, Davey Dee, David Nathan and all of guys (apologies in order for anyone I'm missing also)! Not to mention Charlie Walk, Avery and Monte Lipman - it was always cool to see them walk by or in the hallways. True world-class music executives with a passion for innovation, creativity and breaking new artists. I really admire and look up to that whole team at Republic! They're remarkable people.
8) Do you have a favorite hobby outside of radio?
Teaching and mentoring kids, believe it or not! I run an afterschool program twice a week at a local elementary school, am still heavily tied to the local Boys & Girls Club, Bank of America Student Leaders program and have been working with an organization called Inspiring Minds for the last couple of years volunteering in Providence Public schools. It's incredibly fulfilling to serve as a role model and mentor to the youth, especially those coming from disadvantaged circumstances, as I did myself growing up.
9) How do you stay connected with your listeners?
I try to stay connected to listeners via every way possible. That means being everywhere they are including local events, shows, the blogs and especially all the social media platforms. I'm extremely passionate about digital media and it's another way of building a relationship with someone you perhaps can't see or touch in the flesh, but nonetheless can still connect and/or engage with via social media. Plus, it's real time and interactive.
10) What people have influenced your radio career?
This is a great question. First and foremost, everyone on the home front including our PD Wendell and other people who I've been around and learned from in the radio game, such as DJ Pup Dawg and Dylan Sprague, for example. Then, I'd have to say Stephen Hill and Doc Wynter, two people who I look up to tremendously and who I've been fortunate enough to get gems of advice from here and there on how to improve on the craft.
Finally, I'm truly inspired by those who are successful in the business and those who I've been able to watch and admire from afar. Everyone who I've mentioned already in this article obviously (e.g. Craig Kallman, Debra Lee, Jonathan Nelson) and then legendary programmers like Cadillac Jack, Jay Stevens, Sharon Dastur, Ebro Darden etc. who have experienced great success or longevity in this industry and in their careers.
What the best piece of advice that someone has ever given you that you still use on a daily basis?
I've always been taught to put my head down, work hard, aim high, chase passion, give back when I can, and approach everyone and everything with respect and humility. Those are the values I'll always live by.
As you look back... any regrets? Missed opportunities?
None at all! In fact, I'm young and just getting started. I look forward to growing, being a team player, developing with the times and being the best that I can possibly be.
What are your goals for the future?
My goal is to continue to build relationships and operate in the music industry, maybe go on to pursue a joint JD/MBA degree somewhere down the line, and continue to learn and ultimately be a forward thinker. My goal is to be someone who will one day be able to have a great impact on the industry and develop innovative, strategic responses to the fundamental technological and market changes it faces. I'm deeply passionate about the business of music and I want to be a steward in helping it flourish generations from now.