10 Questions with ... Lorenzo "Ice-Tea" Thomas
January 12, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
A two-time Air Personality of the Year winner. Named Jock of the Millennium, Graduate From the Miami School. John H. Johnson Legacy Award Winner for Communications Excellence. Named to the Source Power 30. Radio and TV Personality bringing more than 20 plus years of experience in the Radio industry. Including work on high-rated Black Entertainment Television as a television personality and voiceover host. Strong expertise in media production and Film.
1) Could you tell us about the on-line radio venture you are involved with?
The station that I am involved with is based in Miami and it's called, "Live from the Mia." We play music with grown folks in mind and we are not afraid to play Hip-Hop music in regular rotation mixed with today's AC hits. Our slogan is, "Your Station for Every Generation!" And that's simply because we play it all. To add, must say I am really enjoying the freedom to be creative and musically target a demographic that I feel is not being served by radio. This experience has allowed me to use everything I have learned during my 20-plus years in the industry and put it on a platform for the world to hear.
This is a move I had to make because I love what I do, but I became so frustrated with the state of terrestrial radio and, more specifically, how outside influences were controlling the day-to-day operations of local talent and programming. I would ask myself, "Why is Urban music divided?" There are so many different genres. But people love all music and I wanted to create a station that can satisfy people 25 years old as well as the 55-year-olds who grew up on Old School Hip-Hop and classic R&B music. In today's industry that is driven by genre, this is something I had to do myself. So, along with a few partners we decided to create our own Internet radio station. It's a big deal to be the #1 radio station in the U.S. on Streema.com.
2) You worked at BET, how did you get the job?
This question magnifies my journey in such detail. If you're in this business long enough, you'll be on either side of the youth movement. As of today, believe me, I have been on both ends. Well, back in the 1900s, Greg Diggs who was the MD at BET approached me about being the voice of the legendary BET show Video Vibrations. At the time, BET was going through an infusion of youth and I was truly honored to be in the same position as those great VJs before me such as Alvin Jones and Paul Porter. I'm very proud to say that I was the last voice for Video Vibrations and it was a show which broke many artists. To add, I did entertainment news thanks to Sam Walker and also filled in for Rachel when she was the host of BET's hit show Planet Groove. Those were fun times and an era of Hip-Hop and classic R&B music that will live on forever.
3) What are the keys to doing an entertainment radio show?
I always feel that creativity is the key! We all know music is the start but you have to do things to separate yourself from everyone else in order to win. Most PDs who I worked for really allowed me to be very creative on the air and then that translated that into being entertaining. My former PD and VP of Radio One, Steve Hegwood, really allowed me to be free but would also tell me that with my talent giving less was just as entertaining. But in the PPM world things are a little different. So a personality really has to tie in the social networks in order to be entertaining. I was once told that an air personality should know more than his audience. Today, it's almost impossible because information comes so fast by way of the Net. Therefore, I tie in my topics, my news, and the music into my Twitter, my Facebook and my Instagram accounts. That way you can get instant gratification based on the things you say on the air. I will tell you that they are much better and faster than the telephone. Years ago at 99 Jamz on Thursdays, we created Throwback Thursdays where DJ Entice and I would fill a musical void that the radio stations were not fulfilling, by playing classic Hip-Hop and R&B from the '90s to the 2000s. Our Twitter feed, Facebook and Instagram would go bananas with listeners telling us how much we were rockin' and how great the station was sounding. So, today you talk to one million people in your market through a microphone but you can also reach and entertain 10 million by way of the Internet.
4) Who are the people who either influenced or mentored you along the way and will you tell us how they helped you?
I have to start with Steve Crumbly! He built a strong foundation at WOWI (103Jamz) and a great deal of talent has come from that small market of Norfolk, VA. The late KJ Holiday, Stan Verrett of ESPN, and I worked together under Crumbley. KJ taught me about execution and Stan continues to influence and motivate me a great deal with the sports commentating I do on the side. Steve has actually hired me on three different occasions and I'm truly grateful. He has been a key factor to my success and growth in the radio.
Thus, my next mentor is someone who has taught me how to be a great entertainer on the radio and in the clubs and that person is Doug E. Fresh. So much of what he has done over his career has influenced me! The last conversation we had a few months back was simply about microphone technique, motivating the crowd, and how to preserve your voice. The conversation about taking care of your voice lasted at least an hour. He is truly been one of the biggest influences in my style, cadence and presence when it comes to being a party starter in the club on the mic and a great exciting entertainer on the radio. Of course, Doug E. Fresh is known is the World's Greatest Entertainer and I learn from the best.
5) What are your feelings on Nielsen measuring on-line radio stations?
This exemplifies the bright future for stations like "Live from the Mia." It illustrates the fact that we are on the right track and it's a great opportunity for broadcasters that are really serious about programming. There are only a handful of Internet radio stations that are monitored by Nielsen. However, if your station is selected, it will give your station instant credibility and respect in the industry. Thus a year after our official launch, we decided it was a good time to start the process. We are truly excited about the possibility.
6) What kind of an affect will the Internet in cars have on your station and possibly other stand-alone online stations?
Well, I am already seeing a huge impact! Even though the Internet availability is not in all cars, a lot of our listeners use Bluetooth capabilities to listen to "Live from the Mia" in the car. The fact that 70% of Internet listeners use their phones to listen to Internet radio is truly the key to our success. But we still have a long way to go. I feel once people find a station that plays the music that they can truly identify with or discover personalities who they enjoy and can listen to for free, it's going to impact the industry tremendously. We are all aware Terrestrial radio is losing its audience but I don't think they have realized it's because some consultants have chased them away.
7) What is your ultimate goal with your online station?
The future is now for Internet radio and streaming. My partners and I know there's a huge void that the terrestrials have not completely figured out how to fill. While the first generation of Hip-Hop has been chased away from the radio, "Live from the Mia" is focused on providing content and music that the "lost demo" has been deprived. Also, we ultimately would like to fully employ a full on-air and sales staff and be respected as one of the best radios stations on the Internet.
Before the corporations took over and the deregulation bill was signed that allowed corporations to own multiple stations in a market, Urban PDs specifically were able to musically target their local audience without a consultant and president of a corporation telling them what their local market wanted to hear. In fact, Urban Contemporary radio stations have not figured out how to program to the 40-55-year-olds who grew on up classic R&B and Classic Hip-Hop music. WBLS in my native city New York is the one radio station in the country that does a great job targeting that specific demo. It's the birthplace of Hip-Hop and they pretty much understand the nuances of what it takes to win and satisfy that demo.
8) How do you see the royalty rates affecting webcasters?
First and far most, we pay our royalties! To add, the rate increase is a great win for the artist! They deserve to get paid. However, this is really unfortunate for webcasters who were doing this just for fun and to learn. Back in the '90s, before the deregulation bill was signed that allowed corporations to own multiple stations in a market, it was the small and medium markets where young talent was able to perfect their skills.
Programers had control and were able to a great deal of teaching done back in the day. I really can't say that is really happening now. Thus, I have been able be cultivate some talent since I started Live from the Mia and it has been extremely gratifying. But now with the royalty rates going up, a lot of broadcasters will not be able to afford to stay on the air. Look at what's happening with Live365. The increased rate is causing them to lose a lot of broadcasters and it leaves their future in question. Now, the Internet is where talent can experiment and at Live from the Mia we allow our talent to be creative
9) How do you see the future for radio?
I think the future of radio is bright! I truly believe if the people in the decision-making positions are connected to the audience and are knowledgeable of the trends in technology they can stay ahead of the game. Radio cannot lag behind like it has in the past. People do not watch television nor do they listen to radio the same. So, it is up to those to make sure they stay connected and well entrenched with how people habits of listening to the radio are done.
10) Why did you choose radio as a career?
I really don't think I chose radio; I really believe radio chose me. Growing up in New York and listening to radio greats like Frankie Crooker, Ken "Spider" Webb, Mr. Magic and Kool DJ Red Alert, I thought working on the radio was one of the best jobs to have because the personalities only worked four hours a day! How wrong I was! My God given gift was to have the gift of gab, being a party starter and entertaining people. Enjoy entertaining people and making people laugh I'm being creative while doing it. I derive pleasure from pleasing others.
Are there some things radio needs to do a better job of?
Radio needs to be more in tune with the listening audience. Understand there is a void between the 18-34 radio stations and the 25-54 radio stations. Some companies are starting to recognize this by launching the throwback Hip-Hop and classic R&B stations. All I have to say it's about time! Radio needs to do a better job staying up on technology. It's going to be very interesting to see what happens to terrestrial radio when WiFi is in all cars, and Internet radio will be easily accessible to the consumer. What is radio's plan to combat that?