10 Questions with ... Kelvin Quarles
February 8, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- KMOJ-FM 89.9 -- GM, June 2004 to present
- Sheridan Gospel Network -- GM, Nov. 2002 to Feb. 2004
- Sheridan Broadcasting Corp.-Dir./Atlanta Operations, Aug.97 to Feb.04
- On Mic Productions Inc.- OM, Sept. 1990 to Aug. 1997
- WFXM/ WIBB-A Sales consultant, on-air personality, Feb. 88 to Feb. 90
- Number of stations from 1978 til 1988
1. What was your first job in radio?
Interning for WABD-AM in Clarksville TN in the early '80s.
Mitch and Arvester Faulkner, Jerry Bounding and Glenn Bryant
2) What led you to a career in radio?
I used to listen to my transistor radio late at night while I was in elementary school. When Mitch Faulkner (The Mighty M) joined the new Urban station in the area where I grew up in the late '70s (WABD-AM/Clarksville, TN), I was hooked.
Was there a defining moment?
When I was in college, I was working in the newsroom of a TV station in Lexington, KY, and witnessed firsthand how the editing process was always geared to putting a negative light on African-Americans. I knew then that radio was what I wanted to do.
3) If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now what you didn't then, would you still do it?
Absolutely ... this is the most exciting career in the world.
4) Where do you see yourself and the industry five years from now?
With the continuing evolution of this industry, there will be a number of opportunities to develop programming for smaller-market stations and satellite operations. I plan to develop programs that will take some of the things that we've done here at KMOJ and deliver it on a national scale.
5) How have you adjusted to absorbing the programming responsibilities along with managing the station?
With a great deal of faith and a lot of hard work, but carrying both duties has allowed me the benefit of managing the product presentation more closely. Being the General Manager along with managing the programming duties, I have been able to develop and train the staff in a way that satisfies the overall vision and direction of the organization.
6) What is going to happen to the training of tomorrow's talent and programmers if the current trend continues?
Our business will get lost in the mix of the other media. I believe that terrestrial radio must get back to personality radio. There are too many other ways for people to listen to music, so we must go back to entertaining and informing our listeners. It all starts with the program directors understanding that an iPod will allow a person to hear whatever song THEY want to hear anytime they want to hear it without the fluff, so talent is the future to reviving this industry.
7) How do you feel about syndication and voicetracking?
Syndication is good because most of the syndicated programs provide things that small-market radio can't get, such as superstar talent and highly produced shows. On the other hand, I believe that stations should not syndicate more than one daypart. Keeping the programming local is a must if you want to stay connected to your market. I don't like voicetracking unless it's a local jock that you can present to your market at local events. People still want to put a face with a voice.
8) What adjustments have you had to make in your new position?
Well, I had to first make adjustments within myself and realize that KMOJ isn't a commercial station. One adjustment was to learn to work with volunteer announcers instead of paid ones. I had to not only be patient with the staff while retraining them, but I also had to change the dynamic of the station environment. Making staff understand that KMOJ is a legitimate business that is fueled by revenue was a big challenge. Changing the mentality of the staff allowed us to change how the business community looked at the station. As a result, in three short years KMOJ has gone from being $105,000 in debt to now operating in the black and about to purchase a $2.3 million building to move the station into. We have truly been blessed and it has been a really exciting ride.
9) Of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
I would like to continue to improve in all areas. I believe if we begin to think that we know everything in this business, we'll open ourselves up to be replaced. Self-growth should be continuous, so I plan to continue to grow myself every day.
10) How is what you are currently doing with KMOJ, which is a public station, different from commercial radio?
Our focus is more on community and less on entertainment. Our format is more geared to uplifting, educating and informing our target listeners, who are African-Americans. Being a public radio station in this market is a plus, because there is only an 8% African-American population. We have managed to compete with the commercial stations in this market and keep our identity.
As you look back over your career ... any regrets?
I have no regrets because everything (the highs and lows) has been a learning experience for me. I'm a firm believer that things happen in our lives, good or bad, for us to grow from.
Any missed opportunities?
Didn't invest in Google!
What would people who think they know you be surprised to find out about Kelvin Quarles?
That I grew up in the same small town in Kentucky as Mitch and Arvester Faulkner, that I went to college and took classes with Tony Fields, Reggie Gay and Sam Champion (the former weatherman on ABC's "Good Morning America"). That I've been married for 26 years to the same woman (Amelia) who I met in college, that I have a 30-year-old daughter who wants to get back in the record industry ... hint, hint ... and that both of my sons played Division 1A Football, Kelvin Jr. at Alabama Birmingham and Cyhl at Wake Forest.
What's been your biggest disappointment in radio today?
The lack of personality in current on-air talent, which I believe is a result of the inability of the PD to train on-air personalities on how to connect with their listeners. If program directors continue to think more music and just play the hits, terrestrial radio will eventually lose to syndicated radio, iPods and Internet radio. We MUST reconnect with our audiences and help make a positive difference in their lives along with entertaining them.
What do you do with a song you don't like?
I don't like to disrespect someone's work, so I wait until the record rep or the artist calls the station and I'm completely honest with them. I let them know what I think about the product and we usually shelve it.