10 Questions with ... Skip Dillard
November 24, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Worked in great markets as a jock and eventual PD: Norfolk, Greensboro, New Orleans, San Francisco Detroit, Buffalo Washington DC and New York. I spent one year away from radio in 2003 writing for Billboard Magazine's "Airplay Monitor."
1) Could you share your station and clusters commitment to the whole interactive process?
It's a complete commitment, from Corporate down to the part-time talent who post and tweet content during their weekend shift. In NYC alone, we have well over 20 people working in our digital department, not including digital sales. It's a big part of our lives, from sales to marketing, to programming. A digital and sales component can be found in every programming idea these days. We just can't move without digital being a partner in all we do. Ultimately, we have to do everything humanly possible to find our way to your phone. I also appreciate watching our Emmis CEO, Jeff Smulyan, whose efforts to "turn on the chip" in mobile phones to receive FM radio directly. It's a constant and relentless process to embrace technology alongside solid content.
Radio is a perfect partner for social and digital advertising. Radio makes any digital message or campaign stronger.
2) In what ways can Shazam be a useful tool when dealing with music?
The ability, in under 60 seconds, to zero in to what's musically trending around the globe is an amazing tool for a programmer. Younger stations benefit the most seeing what's happening in their regions. However, overall it's the best app out there for identifying both new music and the "shelf life" for some songs that may take a longer time to peak.
3) Where was your first job in radio and how it did shape your thinking?
My first job was a part-time talent at WOWI/Norfolk while a student at Hampton University. It was a dream gig for a college student because it was on-air thanks to Ron Atkins, who needed a weekend/swing talent and thought, although I'd only been doing college radio, I was strong enough. It taught me to succeed and I had to be a fast learner. WOWI was #1 in the market and all of their talent sounded great. I was definitely exposed and had to press hard to keep up.
4) Who are some of the people that have influenced your career?
You, Jim Snowden, Verna Green, Brian Wallace, Brian Douglas, Frankie Crocker, Donnie Simpson, Mary Catherine Sneed, Charles Warfield, Tony Gray, Deon Levingston, Jerry Boulding, Ron Atkins, Steve Crumbley, Vinny Brown, Hal Jackson, Sean Ross and many others along the way!
5) How do you see the future of radio?
It certainly hasn't been easy, but we're on our way to some really exciting opportunities. I'm noticing interns coming in who are nothing but excited about radio, wrapping up their internship asking me how they can get in radio. We're audio, yet thanks to technology we're now visual. We still hold the crown for new music exposure and we can do more for artists new and established than any other medium. We don't take for granted that musical artists still come to radio first for all we have to offer.
Streaming services pay homage to our industry by including DJs and "radio-style" production in their services. As long as we seek out creative, visionary people who not only love but "live" their work, embracing the local communities we serve, the future is very bright.
6) There is so much voicetracking these days, but at your station you actually have jocks doing their shows in real time. What are the advantages?
I believe social networking and the even faster-paced lives we're leading now scream for "live" engagement as much as humanly possible. Thankfully, radio is reminded about the importance of being live more than ever.
7) How do you feel about how music rotations and new music? And how do you feel about waiting on a song you hear until the research validates it?
I still believe that regardless of how conservative PDs can be perceived to be, a great song always finds its way quickly to the radio. I will wait if I need to see a song grow a bit but I'm always seeking a hit!
8) If you interviewed yourself, what question would you ask you and what would be your answer?
I always think about how the PD's life has evolved. I'm often asked about how I broke into programming. My answer is always, "Tell people what you want to do." I started my transition to Program Director telling everyone from my PD to other jocks that I wanted to learn to program radio stations. While some laughed, others recognized my passion for radio coupled with my willingness to work even when others were "off the clock." And between the work, I take time out to learn. From courses at the NAB's Educational Foundation to general business and media conferences every year, I'll always be a student in this business.
9) You told us how you started; what's your advice for air personalities just starting out who have dreams of programming?
Use the advantages you have. Get online, learn the terms of the trade on the Nielsen Audio site. Many stations stream in many markets including a few internationally. Check out various formats. Look for reasons you like one station over another. Most important, tell every radio person you meet that you would like to Program one day! I did that from the time I was 19. And one day when I was 25, someone heard me!
10) Looking back over your career ... any regrets? Missed opportunities?
I'm very blessed. I've made mistakes, learned from them and met fantastic people at every company I've worked for. I did regret not going for a graduate degree when I was a jock before I took on programming but I continue to take courses so I'm continuing to work on bettering myself in multiple areas.
How did your parents feel about you going into radio?
They've always been supportive. My father has a great voice which always had him doing some kind of public speaking somewhere. He said he may have tried radio had he known local radio was going to become so big when he was young.
If you weren't in radio, what other profession interested you?
Law; I have always been fascinated with the legal system. Maybe a pianist if I'd been willing to practice more as a kid.