10 Questions with ... Jasmine James aka Robyn Wade
July 21, 2015
1) Did you chose radio or did radio choose you; how did you get into the business?
As I reflect on my career, I may have chosen radio initially but in the end it chose me. I am the product of a 40+year English teacher who keyed me into words, writing and the mere fascination of the beauty of maintaining the English language. And my mom did it without me even being aware of it. In elementary school, the 4th grade students had the opportunity to lead the school over the intercom in the Pledge of Allegiance. I remember looking forward to when I would have my moment. Even before starting my career at 15, I had already started participating in various contests and was winning a lot of rewards and stipends. It had become a part-time job, winning local and national contests. Little did I know that I was setting myself up for my future in radio. At the age of 16, I was selected to attend the North Carolina Governors School students were selectively picked from across the state. The goal was for us to explore our unique gifts and learn how to apply it to life over a lifetime.
My future changed was forever changed. There were probably 500 students in attendance and can you guess who my peers chose as the yearbook editor? Me! Those leadership qualities were apparent early on, although I wasn't aware of it. After being introduced to the campus radio station, I fell in love. When I returned to Goldsboro after this wonderful summer program, I applied for a part-time position at the only Urban station in Goldsboro at the time, WOKN 102.3 and the rest is history. I was "Robyn D" (they didn't use real names) and some of the other deejays were "Carlos the California Kid" and "Jerry Lovelife." It was an interesting prelude to my future.
I went to college at University of North Carolina Greensboro. Fortunately I just happened to run across the PD at WQMG, Warren Epps. Before he heard my aircheck, he suggested I apply at the college station. I told him I had two years of commercial radio experience and I told him he should listen to me. He was surprised at how I sounded and told me that he was impressed especially because I was so young. He hired me. It was a part-time, became full-time at middays, and eventually wound up in morning drive with B.J. Murphy. Although BJ and I hadn't known each other, how ironic to learn that we grew up in the same county. Our parents knew each other but we didn't meet until Greensboro.
2) How do you use radio as vehicle to do other things?
Radio has opened doors as that I was ready to through. At age 18, I was hosted a "PM Magazine" on WFMY 2 and learned early on that kind of television was not for me. We would spend seven hours in the field, another hour editing the story, and they would end up producing 30 minutes of material. This was a lesson I learned and it made me appreciate my four hours of real-time radio show. The vehicle is amazing. As a radio personality, you come in contact with so many people. It can become overwhelming with so many reaching out for this or that and at some point you have to be selective or you end up on that vehicle going nowhere fast. There are some great lessons to be learned such as learning to be an asset even when your 'A game' is off a little.
3) Who did you listen to growing up and did it influence you early beginnings?
Growing up in this small market, I realized that I had fine-tuned myself to some degree by recognizing the variables in packaging. I remember listening to Valsey Balkin on the heritage station WGBR. The presentation on the station was packaged with content and information. I also recall listening to "Valerie on Foxy 99" and her show "Cool Carolina Nights" and BJ Kirkland and the Morning Show on KISS 102 in New Bern. Even then without knowing how or why, I learned from listening to the heritage station because it had a professional package of content and continuity every day. I listened to Valerie because I was impressed by her on-air poise. There were only a few females doing their own shows so I zoned in to her on many nights. BK Kirland was upbeat. I can't recall any particular reason that he caught my attention other than being upbeat and positive. Ironically, when I returned to NC and served as the News Director for Curtis Media Group for seven years, the same Valsey Balkim co-owned the station. Curtis Media made it known that with me doing the news, things had never sounded more refreshing. Coming full circle almost made it worth the trip by itself worth it for me.
4) What do you love about this business?
This industry has the potential to put you in places that most can't imagine. I am a people person and I love to make connections; connecting with people with a purpose, teaching organizations how to utilize the community on projects to make them bigger and better, and to help people to understand the value of what they do. One thing I stress is the power of the medium and how different people use it. For example, for about a year I was going to the Boys and Girls Club once a month to celebrate birthdays for kids who may not otherwise have had a party. I lined up sponsors and each month and the kids came for some pizza, chips, salad, spaghetti, birthday cake and ice cream. It wasn't as much the party as it was the purpose of the event. The kids just needed some more attention and I was able to use radio to make a difference in their lives. At the same time, show the organization how they could use radio to their advantage to help others.
5) Did you teach for a while?
I did teach school for a couple of years and what I learned made me realize that this is altogether a different generation. Although I targeted 18-34/25-54 audiences, they are the children of the parents that I entertained for years. There is a disconnection in what I consider the lifeline of the future generations. In the '80s the disconnect was blamed on Gangsta rap; in the '90's they blamed it on the television, imposing a ratings system as if that made a difference ... saying kids are subjected to inappropriate programming.
In 2015, the culmination of the aforementioned along with unsupervised usage of smartphones, the real problem lies in leadership. The kids rarely spend time with parents and hardly ever sit at the dinner table together where the real lessons are taught. Realizing that void, I wanted to make an impact on these kids because I know that to brush with greatness and to conceptualize the endless possibilities could give young people more that more hope. Showing them how to take ownership for their future could the game charger.
Yes, I am the teacher who brought in the in hottest instrumental tracks and because they were familiar, I easily applied them to my concepts for learning. I was getting bored and knew the kids were too, so I spent a lot of time thinking of how to make the lessons interesting. It was no different than making a morning show work; approaching each segment with a strategic purpose. It was very much like programming a radio station. It was a lesson well-learned: I had never worked at life, yet the perspective that I it gained from teaching gave me a tremendous leg up on of what we're dealing with in society today.
6) You have worked in Dallas, Pittsburgh and Atlanta. I know you could work in large markets again, why have you chosen to stay in such a small town?
Although streaming has become popular, it dawned on me in 1999 that we were in the teaching and the technology Mecca of Dallas that streaming was for working for a couple of reasons. KRNB had antenna issues and we would barely be heard in the city. Thanks to technology, my midday rating went from #26 to the top 10 and apparently it was all because of our steaming. In addition, I remember Millie Jackson streaming her afternoon show in Dallas on KKDA-A from her home in Atlanta. That concept has been with me for many years and I knew that this was wave of the future. No longer do air personalities have to live the market that they work in. With Internet radio, everything is global and the possibilities are endless.
7) Could you share with us your predictions for the future of radio?
The future of radio is changing. The terrestrial stations, if you haven't noticed, are constantly pounding listeners to take them wherever they go because they compete in the global radio world. According to scoopit.com, in 2014 one-third of Americans used their phones to stream music. Young adults (18-24) listen to Internet radio more than terrestrial. Let's consider the potential Internet radio landscape. The average person sleeps approximately seven hours a day, meaning there are up to 17 hours per day that one could listen to Internet radio. Additionally, it's expected that in two years, 3.5 billion people will be online, bringing the total of possible listening hours worldwide to 59.5 billion per day. With the average revenue per thousand hours amounting to $42.77, there is a possible daily cap of approximately $2.5 billion in 2017.
With the streaming market going up, On Demand is the next thing. We are a society of convenience and what is no longer convenient is to tune in at 7:15 for birthdays. With this radio technology, Time Spent Listening is becoming less and less. It would take a strong personality with relative content and the right music to keep the listener engaged, as opposed to surf what's streaming to find whatever suits his or her fancy. No doubt, on demand can be a convenient way to for anyone to access the features that they desire without the constraints of traditional radio.
8) Would you share with us what you think it takes to come into this business and be successful?
First of all, have tough skin. I know now that most don't ever get it because they can't handle anything that's they perceive as pressure. The real pressure is on the one who has to carefully construct daily criticism and not make others feel less than. It is about helping others to do a little bit better and it to understand the creative process. If you can handle constructive criticism, I suggest you find more those mentors who can actually help guide you. That is why if you want to get into this business, volunteering or interning can help you accumulate a lot of knowledge.
9) Who are some of the people in this business that have inspired you and share with how?
Sam Weaver, 'The Coach,' for more life lessons that I can share. His training prepared to me soar before my wings were ready. Hurricane Dave: At a point, it was it was unheard of for a woman to host a morning show solo; the dynamics had changed with the morning show and Dave knew that I has everything I needed to keep it going solo. At the time, Wendy Williams and I told the only two females in top 2 holding own in Urban radio.
The '90s were an interesting time; most of the time women were sidekicks on morning shows, some even doubled at doing news. I personality was too strong to be keep in a box and I knew early only that I had to brand myself as co-host rather that a sidekick. Brian Hitman Scott taught me the essence of TSL (Time Spent Listening) and he did it so naturally that you'd look up and a listener would have had spent the duration of the his daypart listening to him. He did it effortlessly. When I got to Dallas and worked with Al Payne, he taught me so much about corporate radio and how to put the ball in my court, but let things come to me. Ron Davis was a blessing to me: I worked there for two years around such greats like Clark Howard, Neil Boortz, the great producer whom I spent many nights talking about this life we live and die for, and how can I forget Royal Treatment. A few years ago, I learned that Royal had had died. There is nothing worse than learning a colleague and mentor has passed away. How short life is; this is why we must breath life into the lessons learned, so the torch in carried on forever by the trailblazers that lit the part.
10) You have done contemporary music formats and news; how do they all relate to each other?
The key to synthesizing contemporary music formats and news boils down to simple specifics. First, the demographics have to be identified. Knowing the target audience simplifies the process of the genre ... and the music take cares of itself. The hits are what the listeners want to hear, but I have found niche secrets to what enriches the flavor within the rotation. To integrate news and content, once you know your target audience, is it simply a matter of recognizing what is relevant. Ironically, small or long market, many issues are the same -- Health, Crime, Education, Local Politics, etc. I enjoying taking a national story and localizing it. When Attorney General Loretta Lynch was going through her confirmation lynching, as I put it, I made it local by interviewing Senators Burr and Tillis who said they would not confirm her, yet denied it was a black issue, instead that she is black female. It was the same type of opposition that President Obama has faced during his entire term. I tell my mother all the time, please stop letting them program at 6p. It's amazing how the six corporations continue to brainwash most of America and if you pay attention, their scripts are very similar and use the same content. Personally my favorite news source is Aljazeera America. Not because it isn't one of the three main cable news networks, but because they don't sugarcoat things and they tend to be a more accurate from a journalistic standpoint. It was the way I was taught; don't color the facts and let them speak for themselves. The key to winning with a commercial radio station is through the transfusion of music, news, meaningful content, knowing the audience, and staying relevant.
Do you have something you love to do that has nothing to do with radio?
It's this world of social media and Internet radio; the two must co-exist to strive in the marketplace. Sorry, I cannot get away from anything concerning communications. It is in my DNA.