10 Questions with ... Chris Malone
July 1, 2014
1) You were programming successfully in Raleigh and the buzz on you, the revenues, and the ratings were solid. Folks still don't understand why the format suddenly was taken off the air; what happened?
The company re-aligned signals after a wicked ice storm last winter took down the tower of the popular and profitable Regional Mexican sister station. The station remained off-air for weeks, before the decision came down to move the Regional Mexican station back its original dial position prior to Urban AC in the interim. Although the Urban AC format was dismantled, all full-time staffers were able to remain employed with the company, which is unheard of these days. It was great experience and we had good times in the process. I'm able rest my hat on the fact that we provided a fresh alternative to a previously uncontested Adult Urban radio market. The community feedback was positive and we wrapped with impressive numbers in a highly competitive, compressed market (we ended with a 3.4 share; 6+). A good place to move forward.
2) I know you had other offers to program, yet you chose to be APD/afternoons. Would you give us the reason for your choice?
Following Raleigh, I was overwhelmed to be considered for some great programming opportunities in some outstanding markets! North Carolina has some rich radio markets where a lot of legends have stopped through; it was a no-brainer to stay in the region. WQMG PD Shilynne Cole presented an outstanding offer to join a station that has long-time market leadership credentials, high-profile alumni, and the opportunity to continue to be on-air and keep close to programming, too. All in all, the timing was perfect and the hour-and-half relocation made the choice simple.
3) What new challenges are you anticipating?
The opportunity in Greensboro allows me to contribute to an already successful operation; the challenge is to perform at a winning level at all times in everything that we do. The listener loyalty to each of the brands here is beyond incredible, the bar has been set high and the listener expectation is to bring our 'A game' daily. It's not challenging it's fun and provides a chance to do some 'out the box' work here.
4) If you had not gone into radio, what other profession would you have chosen?
Radio has been my dream job since I was an eight-year-old kid. There were times when I would stare at the radio for hours and wonder "Wow, how do they do that?" It's hard to say what I'd get into outside of radio, but my digital photography is my outside hobby. Like radio, photography allows you to capture so much emotion and tell a story, using something that's has a very basic concept. I love to travel and take majestic nature shots, so perhaps I have a future with the National Geographic as a photographer!
5) How do you think the simultaneous jobs you had in Memphis helped prepare you for the future?
To this day, I'm amazed at how I managed to work four different radio jobs simultaneously around Memphis. Fortunately, I was able to get a solid start in my own hometown, in a top-50 market. It was totally worth the effort because I was able to perform in every area of radio from programming, on-air afternoon drive, promotions, production, sports broadcasting, and even front desk/administrative duties. From there, I learned that radio is a mixture of business and art. Very fortunate to have an extremely supportive group of radio colleagues in Memphis, they all shared so much with me and were happy to see me advance in the industry.
6) It must be nice to work with an experienced PD such as Shilynne and down the hall you have Brian Douglas. Is it like being in a daily think tank?
Absolutely. My entire career, I've been fortunate to work around some of the industry's most brilliant radio pros, this opportunity is no different. Both Shilynne Cole and Brian Douglas are both veteran programmers and heritage market leaders who believe in working with top performers. It's fascinating to watch the team here outperform themselves at every opportunity, considering the formats in our building sit on top of the ranker for every single demo and collectively we claim over 70% of listening in the market.
7) How do you see the future for radio?
Radio has the opportunity to expand, like never before. It's now a multimedia industry, no longer one-sided. Listeners want to be more hands on with our brands. As we evolve, it's important we embrace all social platforms (video, v-logs, non-traditional contesting), which enables us to get more creative with the ways we connect and engage with our audiences. Adding value to digital assets is a necessity. Over the air, our presentation will need to be clever, exciting, and sharp in our proven fast paced society.
8) Can you tell me about all the mentors who have helped you?
Forgive me in advance if I forget someone, but my close colleagues know exactly who they are. From my Memphis days, I picked up a lot from a great programmers like Brad Carson, Chris Michaels and John Roberts. In Raleigh, I was fortunate to work alongside some of the most powerful names in the industry in Raleigh, including Phil Zachary and Lisa McKay. Our collaborative staff meetings and brainstorming sessions in Raleigh were always informative and we generated a lot of great, executable ideas that worked. I've worked with radio talent coach, Sam Weaver since my first job in radio and he's someone I can call at the drop of a dime for advice and guidance. Programmer Michael Tee and I worked very closely with WBZJ; I have a ton of respect for Michael's format knowledge and ability to direct winning stations. Few other names: programmer Nate Bell, morning-drive personality Scott Miller, and all had retired programmer Rick Wagner have all inspired and helped me along the way.
9) What frustrates you the most about radio and the music industry?
Let's hold off on the digital downloads for AC formats, please! Adults over the age of 40 just don't bother and still prefer tangible CDs! In all seriousness, I've always maintained an open and honest relationship with record reps and have never found myself frustrated. For radio, we have to build and retain audiences using every measurement tool available to us. For the music industry, they need to push songs and support artists. We both have a job to do and as long as that level of respect remains intact, it's makes a stress-free relationship.
10) Who are some of your favorite singers and what is it about them you like so much?
Not to sound overly dramatic, but the artists that I admire have a certain amount of depth and artistic flair to their craft. Tamela Mann is one of my favorites in the gospel arena because of her ability to captivate you with her voice, she sings with much conviction. Janelle Monae is another favorite; her style is original, sexy and sassy. Also, I'll have to throw in the "good girl gone bad"-- Rihanna. I've been a fan of her music since I first introduced "Please Don't Stop The Music" on the radio, her range is incredible.
Are there any parallels between your favorite sport of basketball and radio?
Yes, you have to be able to see the entire court, in radio terms; you have to be able to see the entire market landscape, while keeping an eye on your opponent moves. Just like ball players 'watch film,' we have to absorb audio and content constantly from stations near and far.
You told us how you started, what's your advice for air personalities just starting out who have dreams of programming?
You have to be willing to do any and everything around the radio station, learn every department, because all of the information that you gather is relevant to programming. Never be afraid to ask questions, and NEVER make an enemy.
What's your favorite radio memory?
Rev. Al Sharpton visited our radio studios back in the Memphis days. He was in town for a speaking engagement, but needed to rent our studios to do a broadcast of his daily radio show. One of his staff, turned to me and said "We need to get out of here by 4p, can you book our flight and make sure we get on a plane." ...Jokingly I said, 'You can't fly first-class on my salary" the guy hands me Rev. Sharpton's information (credit card and all) and asked me to handle the computer check-in. Pretty cool to say, I booked a flight for Rev. Al Sharpton!