10 Questions with ... Melaine Morgan
May 3, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- SiriusXM, Music Coordinator / NYC
- CBS Radio/WNEW, Board Operator / NYC
- Connoisseur Media LI, WKJY / Long Island, NY
- Hofstra University, WRHU / Long Island, NY
- Davis Broadcasting Inc, (Intern) WFXE / Columbus, GA
1) At what point did you know you wanted to get into radio?
I knew I was a true radio lover the first time I heard Incognito Da Yungsta (Inc) on 98.3 The Beat in Columbus, GA 98.3. The Beat was the new station on the block at the time, and Inc has this very distinctive voice that just hypnotizes you to stay tuned to his show! I remember tuning in to his Top 8 at 8 segment every weekday night, and being "that" person who called in every night to win prizes. I was in high school at the time, so I had all the time in the world to call in and talk to Inc. With that being said, Inc got to know who I am and learned that I just had this itching to join the radio industry.
2) How was your WWRS 2016 experience?
My experience was awesome! As a young person in the industry, it allowed me to be in a room full of industry professionals who have been a part of radio for more years than I have been on this earth. This is one of those rare conferences in which you can meet people from all over the world. I've befriended people from Africa who opened my eyes to the African radio scene and how the industry is over there that I was not aware of prior to attending the conference.
I have to say that the panel that I found to be the most intriguing is "The Future Of The Global Radio Community," which was moderated by Larry King. Once the panel began, he wasted no time lighting the fire and shooting for the tough questions that the audience wanted to know the answers to.
Listening to the variety of panels, I found it interesting that there was a panel dedicated to podcasting. Podcasting is a form of audio that is growing more and more in popularity, so it was very interesting to see that in the brochure.
Because I attended in 2015 as well, I loved the fact that I saw growth with the conference as far as trying to include younger people in this industry with the Rising Star Scholarship. I spoke with all three of the winners and it was a breath of fresh air to see younger faces this time around because we young people are the future of this industry!
3) What stations and who did you grow up listening to?
I was born in New York, so I listened to the amazing Angie Martinez! I thought, and still do think, that it is amazing to see a woman doing her thing in an industry that appears to be more of a male dominated field. I would sit next to my stereo and listen for hours and hours at a time and record Angie's show on my cassette tapes. I had a box full of those recordings.
After I moved to Columbus, GA in 2002, I was only able to listen to those cassette recordings in addition to tuning in to Michael Soul on Foxie 105, Incognito on 98.3 The Beat, and one of my favorite personalities of all time -- Michael Baisden. Each of these men had an impact on my love for radio through their passion for the industry. Every time I tuned in, it was a guarantee that I was going to hear some genuine content with a focus on educating the community and engaging.
One thing that I respect about Michael Baisden is his fearlessness and ability to bring needed voices to this "family." Although I do not know him on a personal level, he made me feel like he was filling the void of being the father that I never had growing up. I was an avid listener of the show before it was taken off air, but Baisden does not see his listeners as just listeners; he knows how to make you feel like family. Because I listened so much and would share his thoughts and opinions with my grandmother, she began to tune in as much as I did, even though we had to tune in online. (When I moved back to NY for college, Baisden was on air at 98.7 KISS FM, until the station went off air in 2012.)
4) How did you get your job at SiriusXM/CBS?
It's a very interesting how that happened! For starters, I did not intern at SiriusXM, so I had to be very strategic about how I was going to make my way through these prestigious doors.
It all started back in 2015 when a friend of mine told me about the Women on the Move (WOTM) Internship Workshop that was being held at NYU. At this point, I had just put in my two weeks' notice, letting Target know that I would no longer be working as a Guest Service Team Leader for them and was going to pursue my passion of working in the radio industry as a programmer.
This particular workshop was filled with NYU students who were looking for internships at SiriusXM and BET, although I came to network and potentially be employed. During the workshop, Amber Ravenel, Co-Founder of WOTM, mentioned a SiriusXM tour that I definitely wanted to join. Following the event, I expressed my interest of joining the SiriusXM tour, left her with my resume and she told me she'd contact me with further details. A few weeks went by and I hadn't heard an update, so I continued to reach out to her and keep the line of communication open. Four months following the internship workshop, I received an email from Amber, saying that she had a date for the SiriusXM tour -- Thursday, August 6th, 2015. At the time, I was a Multimedia intern at a non-profit organization called The Moth, so I asked if I could leave early this particular day. My internship supervisors were all on board, so I made it a priority to be at SiriusXM.
I showed up, made my radio interest known, and found out who did the hiring. By the end of this tour, I was handing my resume off to my current supervisor Sean Mascoll (Manager of Music Programming Operations). He noticed that I was serious about my career, and took me under his wing. For that, I have nothing but respect for him for just noticing how hungry I was to get this job. I made sure to follow up with Sean after the tour and I was soon having interviews with Vanessa Mojica (Sr. Dir., Music Programming Operations) and Steve Blatter (SVP/GM of Music Programming) and walking through the SiriusXM doors as a Music Coordinator.
With CBS, landing my first job in New York City was all thanks to the existence of the Worldwide Radio Summit. One of the first people that I met was Victor Caballero, Founder of The MAX Agency, LLC. He told me about his career and I expressed my interest in radio programming, so he told me that he would pass my resume along to some of his friends at CBS. A few weeks after returning to NY, I received a call from a 212 number. At the time, I was not getting any calls from New York City, so I waited to hear the voicemail. To my surprise, it was Fabi Pimentel, APD of Fresh 102.7FM. She spoke about how she received my resume and thought that I'd be a great fit for the open Board Operator position. After doing a quick celebration dance, I immediately called Fabi back and scheduled an interview with her and the amazing PD Jim Ryan. The rest is history!
5) Would please explain your job to us?
As a Music Coordinator, I am the last line of defense before any kind of programming hits the airwaves. Part of my job includes loading voicetracks, music, imaging, etc. to the various channel logs. I also produce live broadcasts and interviews with celebrity guests when they come to promote their new projects and make sure they are radio ready. Board operating kind of goes hand in hand with being a Music Coordinator.
6) Has what you learned in college been useful for the audio communications field?
Very useful! Attending Hofstra University was probably one of the best decisions that I made after I really learned that I had a love for radio. I remember walking through what we called Dempster Hall at the time, with Dean Oppenheim. He showed me the WRHU studios, and I was just amazed at how luxurious the equipment was at a college. This was the type of equipment that a station like Hot 97 used daily, and the fact that students were able to brush up their skills on this kind of equipment just blew my mind. I also got to meet and work with some radio pros like Ed Ingles, John Mullen, Bruce Avery, Mario Murillo, and Dennis Quinn. You really can't slap a price on that kind of exposure.
Oh yeah, I later found out that before I could touch any of the WRHU equipment, I had to take a semester long class and pass a test with a B or higher. Every Wednesday night at 6p, I was learning about FCC rules and regulations in addition at least an hour of hands on studio practice to ensure I was ready to run my own show. Having this kind of exposure in addition to joining the online radio station Required Radio, has only prepared me to make my mistakes and learn the basic information that has allowed me to succeed in my jobs today. Had I not had those experiences, I can't say that I would feel as comfortable as I do each and every day I go to work.
7) What is your biggest challenge when it comes to radio?
I can only speak on the programming perspective, but I'd say the biggest challenge is creativity. For terrestrial radio, ratings have produced a lot of fear; programmers not wanting to take too many risks before ratings would suffer. With that being said, I've been finding it hard to come across some quality content that's different from market to market. The passing of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 has much to do with this. With fewer companies owning hundreds of stations, there is less competition that would otherwise force more creativity/risk in order to keep the attention of listeners. With that being said, as more and more companies like Spotify and Apple music build hype around their products and exclusivity to consumers, the competition will only rise.
As for SiriusXM, I do see some creativity. There are many channels that fit the music tastes of a variety of listeners, but coming up with those channels that are more original is a challenge that is being taken on. Just last week, a channel called ONEderland was launched. A colleague of mine named Alyssa DiNublia came up with this amazing idea of having a channel that highlights the breakout songs of artists spreading over a various decades and shared it with the programming managers, now it's an actual channel that SiriusXM subscribers can hear.
That's not something that you hear every day. One other thing that I think can help the industry is hearing what the youth has to say about potential ideas. We are the future!
8) You mentioned internships, how do you feel about the paid versus non paid situation?
Although it is great to get some extra money to put toward travel expenses and food when you're a broke college student, I do think it may be more beneficial to have at least one non-paid internship. Personally, I've only been paid for one of my three internships, and I unconsciously began to feel like I was entitled to get paid in order to learn about the industry that I was looking to pursue a career in. It was great having some extra money in my pocket, but I feel like I got the most out of the internships that I had the goal of just soaking up information and experience from.
I also never received a credit for my non-paid internships. That also validated just how much I really just enjoyed radio as a whole. How many young people can say that they never got paid or received a credit for their internships? That's how you know you have a true love and passion for what you're doing.
9) What is your opinion on the future of terrestrial radio, SiriusXM, and all audio forms?
Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan touched on this at the WWRS 2016, smartphones are the future of radio. Everyone and their mothers have smartphones with them wherever they go. I know this for a fact because my grandma even has a smartphone and listens to the radio through her smartphone. Although many stations can be heard through smartphone apps, I think it is genius that Emmis is a forerunner of getting those FM chips activated in their smartphones, so people do not have to use their data. That's a #1 complaint of listeners who have limited data, especially listeners who live in places like New York City where most people are traveling by subway and walking instead of driving, so this is something I see being a little more popular as more and more people are exposed to this feature on their smartphones.
Despite that, cars are still that #1 spot where people hear radio, so I don't see that changing anytime soon. Some cars even have Wi-Fi in them, so that allows those radio apps to really be put to use if Spotify, YouTube, or other stored audio isn't being played.
Podcasting is becoming more and more popular nowadays. I definitely see that prospering in the future as well.
10) Who has helped influence your career and what did each person contribute?
Vance Braman. My Speech teacher, soccer coach, and mentor. When I was a student at Shaw High School in Columbus, GA, this man had such a strong impact on me. He may not even know this, but I'll never forget him.
I never was the kid who had a lot of money to spend on expensive things, I was also very shy and quiet whenever I was in class. Despite that, I was a student-athlete who always made sure I had A's and B's. I found joy in this, but I found more joy when Mr. Braman stopped me in the hallway one day during my junior year and told me that he really wanted me to try out for the soccer team in a couple of weeks. He was looking for a new goalie at the time and based on how good my footwork was on the volleyball court, he just knew that I would be a good fit. I was a little skeptical about it at first, but I saw Mr. Braman all the time since I was in his speech class. Time was ticking, so I decided to give it a try. It was a bit intimidating to see all the other players who had been playing all their lives, and here I was just trying for the first time. At that moment, I had a quick flashback of how hard my volleyball coaches pushed me. After I saw how hard the soccer team was working, I just pictured my volleyball coaches, Coach Duntan and Santiago, just telling me to go for it -- and that's what I did.
After a couple of weeks of conditioning and really giving it my all in the practices that followed, it was game time. I was what you call a "bench warmer" for the first few games. That was a very humbling moment since I was a star player on the volleyball court and always started. It was maybe the fifth game, and my team was winning by a good amount. You know what that means? The bench warmer gets to play!
I was so tired of sitting on that bench, so I made sure to really go hard for my team when I was in the goal! I never felt such adrenaline like that before, I couldn't wait for the soccer ball to be kicked my way. Not long after I was in the game, the opponent made her way down to my team's goal and took a shot. Good thing I was ready and have such quick reflexes, I caught that ball with both hands and hugged the ball as tight as I could. That was the beginning of many more saves. Before you know it, I was the starting goalie, which did not sit well with the previous goalie who had been starting since she's been on the team for the previous couple of years.
I had gained so much respect from my team and Coach Braman by the end of the season. I could tell that he'd probably wanted to shed a tear, especially when he told me that I had the most saves in the history of Shaw High. This experience did more than show me that I'm an awesome goalie on the soccer field. It instilled the fact that I could do anything that I put my mind to, no matter if I'm the new kid on the block. It also taught me to never be comfortable in the position that I'm in because it can easily be taken away if I do.
Skip Dillard, OM of WBLS/WLIB in NYC and my mentor. I guess you can say that those lessons that Mr. Braman instilled me allowed me to cough up the guts to reach out to Skip. Originally, I went on a tour at the WBLS studios about three years ago through an organization called Grammy U. We toured the building and got to speak with some if the managers in the building. When it was time to leave, I realized that I had come across every department except for Programming, so I did a little research and found out that Skip was the PD and loved to mentor students. I used the power of social media to reach out to Skip via Twitter about how I wanted to learn more about programming. And, he actually responded back to me! I was excited and amazed because I had reached out to many people before and I had not gotten a response. This may sound cliché, but it really just takes that one yes!
After we chatted over the phone a few times, we instantly clicked. I call Skip my radio dad because he really took me under his wing and became the person that I could have radio talk with because my family is just not as in to radio as I am. For him to take time out of his busy schedule to meet and talk radio with me, let me know his perspective on certain things that happen in the industry, and is just always encouraging me to never give up no matter what-I can't thank him enough! You're the bomb Skip!
John Mullen is another person who was always guiding me down my path during my time at Hofstra. John is a radio vet! He used to work at Emmis as the OM/PD for KISS FM and CD 101.9 before he became the OM and Professor at Hofstra University.
I remember the first time I met John. It was my first time visiting Hofstra's campus, and we easily conversed about my interest in radio and what I was doing at the moment to make it happen. After I enrolled, I immediately submitted my application to join WRHU, interviewed with John, and I was in! He told me that I lit up the room when I came in to do my interview, and that's what he enjoyed most about his job when it came to preparing students for the industry.
John would always drop these words of advice on me at random moments like, "Stay behind the scenes." At first, I did not quite understand, but I listened. Things always became clearer with every conversation he and I had. John also talked about networking, which I picked up on quickly.
It's so funny because every time I'd speak with him and catch up, I am able to tell him about people in the industry that I've met that he used to work with, and his response is always, "How do you know him/her'? It cracks me up every single time! John is awesome!