10 Questions with ... Derrick Baker
May 12, 2015
1) How do you think working in a unique market like Miami/Ft Lauderdale has helped you as a PD?
It's funny because Miami the radio market is nothing like the images you see on TV or in the movies. The market is around 20% African-American and nearly 50% Hispanic. It was important we represented all aspects and cultures of the community -- events like the Haitian Compas Festival, Jerk Festival, and Calle Ocho were all part of our DNA. A market like Miami has helped me develop my skills and understanding of how to balance your product without losing focus on your core. Understanding the market you serve is the key to success.
2) What other jobs in radio have had?
Prior to my PD duties, I worked three years as APD and four years as Assistant Promotions Director. These roles gave me a unique look, a better understanding of the business, and prepared me for the PD role. I did nights at AM station Ft. Lauderdale that played Hip-Hop in the late '90s. These experiences not only help develop my skills but served as on-the-job training on the departments I would later oversee.
3) What are your thoughts on the methodology of Nielsen Audio's PPM; are there advantages to PPM?
This continues to be a challenge in our industry and while it has improved some, we have a ways to go. PPM is instant and a little more reliable than a diary, but I worry about recruitment and other obstacles. In recent weeks, the industry has had discussions about external equipment like Voltair, which could be advantage for some and not others. I would like to see more research and improvements to the current systems - perhaps cellphones, since everyone has one.
4) How did you get your start in radio?
My radio career started at the young age of 15. One night I won a pair of tickets to the Salt-N-Pepa concert in Miami and went by the station to pick up the tickets. While waiting, we got a tour of the radio station and the magic of seeing production rooms, studios, equipment and famous DJs was a dream come true for me. A few weeks later, I returned to the station and asked to volunteer on the weekends. The Production person at the time, Rodney Baltimore, mentored me for a few months until I got on board part-time. Weekend shifts and station events were all part of my journey. It was something I never forgot and made it a point to talk to and mentor as many young people interested in the business as I could.
5) What's your advice on putting together a playlist?
I would say use common sense and remember who you are trying to target. The approach should be safe and well-balanced. This is format-specific, but you can never fail when you give people what they ask for. I would also say use as many resources as you can; there is no one right way. The more information you have, the stronger this decision will be.
6) What things are important when working with air personalities?
Working with personalities is a critical part of the job. Development of your air personalities is the foundation and a key element to success. The audience, the market and the industry is changing every day. The PD and talent have to continue to learn from each other in order to meet the future needs of the audience we serve. Honest and open communication, weekly feedback sessions to discuss the future (not just a poorly executed break two days ago), coaching and most all, "Trust" are all part of the process.
7) How do you see the future for Urban radio?
Urban radio faces the same challenges all radio formats are faced with. If we do not come up new and compelling content, we will lose listeners to the Internet or one of many hundred digital platforms at their fingertips. We have to continue to make sure Neilson is able to reach the folks we serve, so that we get the proper credit. Lastly, we have to innovate and evolve the format; our listeners have changed so we need to stay two steps ahead.
8) How do you develop a staff?
A best practice for me is one-on-one communication. However, over the years I have learned people are different. We know some folks learn more effective with a detailed email outlining opportunities of growth. It's important to understand - one size does not fit all and as a leader I will work to find the best fit. I also find setting clear goals and deadlines gives talent a clear understanding of the role they play in the overall success of the organization.
9) What is your approach to using research as it applies to music selection and the overall presentation of your station?
Music is a big part of the on-air presentation and should be done using as many resources as possible. Weekly callout market airplay and format charts are strong resources. A station should reflect the community it severs, so if that market has a strong local artist scene, these should get strong consideration if all music requirements are met. In recent months, I would monitor music download data and song plays in the market (via digital streams). This information was real time and spoke to a connection - a P1 may like a song, but would they download it or buy it? If so, this should be a song we should consider for air-play.
10) Could you share with us what concerns you about radio and the music industry?
My two concerns would be the music product and the radio industry as a whole. This digital revolution we speak about coming ... is here. The digital dashboard in the car, really good Internet radio, the lack of variety within formats, and everything "smartphone" concerns me. Like anything in the world, if you put in bad, bad is what you will get out. I would keep a close eye on the messages in the music and work with the artist, labels and our listeners to ensure radio is viable for another 40 years.
What would surprise others who think they know you?
Most people know my passion for radio and weekend landscape adventures in the yard, but I also play the tuba. I was in the middle school band and played tuba just prior to high school and still play from time to time. My brother is a High School Band Director, which gives me an opportunity to practice and continue play.
What does it take to be a successful PD?
A successful PD has to be great leader, who can effectively communicate a vision and help his or her team reach those desired results. Things don't happen overnight, so patience plays a major role. However, my biggest key to a successful PD is how they treat people. One thing I would never forget - is your biggest asset come and goes every day. Treat people with respect and be fair. In addition it's important to have a strong action plan in place and a strong relationship with the community. The PD needs to create a special bond with audience and the station, where your become a welcome part of their daily lives. A great a PD is also one who can listen; every market presents a unique opportunity. What works well on the West Coast might not a fit well in the Midwest and has no shot in the South or Northeast.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my teams' track records. In a time when many stations -- mainly Urban -- got hit in big time PPM markets, we had success. Since 2010, WEDR finished #1 in our target demo of 18-34 each year. In our most recent month, Jamz finished #1 in a competitive market.