10 Questions with ... Kevin Brown
April 5, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
1979 WSSC/Sumter S.C. overnights; KDKO/Denver, CO afternoons/mornings; WQBH/Detroit mornings; WIGO/Atlanta PD/mornings' KIPR/Little Rock PD/mornings; WMYK/Norfolk PD/mornings; 1990-2009 KBLX/San Francisco, PD/mornings.
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
My first job in radio was at WSSC/ Sumter, SC in 1979. Early influences included any and all of the announcers on WWRL, WABC and WBLS in the '60s and '70s in NYC. Later, Danny Harris and Jim Walker in Denver; Martha Jean "The Queen" in Detroit; Ray Boyd, Don Kelly, J.C. Floyd and Lee Michaels all played major roles in my broadcasting career.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
After applying for a summer job in Sumter, SC at a local station, I was offered the job on the spot for one dollar and 85 cents per hour -- big money!
3) If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now what you didn't then, would you still do it?
Yes; the best part of my work day is when I'm on the radio; it is still a stimulating, positive and challenging environment in the studio. Outside the studio, the business is really about people and relationships. I've met so many great characters in this business.
4) Where do you see yourself and the industry five years from now?
I want to stay on the air as long as Hal Jackson at WBLS in New York City
5) How you feel about being asked to wait on a record you hear until the research validates it?
I remember the day the record rep walked into the studio with the Michael Jackson "Thriller" album. I didn't wait until I had research to play the hits off of that project. That's not something I do. Some stations wait. I don't. Songs don't get better if you keep them off the air. You have to know your market and station to really determine what best fits the expectations your audience has for your station. What works in San Francisco may not work in other areas of the country.
Successful music radio stations introduce new music to the marketplace in all formats; that's what we do. The best-programmed stations blend art and science -- the ability to "hear" hit songs early and the resources/research to confirm the audience reactions. Waiting for songs to develop in a tech-savvy culture means your audience may hear the music they love from other sources other than your radio station.
6) How do you feel about syndication? Does it affect significantly on the number of hours that you have control over the music that you play?
KBLX is live and local most of the day; syndication is a great idea for certain markets, but I believe the best interests of radio stations and audiences are served when a station is live and local. Gospel shows on Sunday are the only syndication on KBLX.
7) Overall KBLX has had some great ratings and some not-so great. But overall KBLX has managed to improve significantly in its target demos. What is your take on how and why this happens ... and do you feel there are going to be new challengers from other formats?
Several factors contributed to the recent ratings peaks of KBLX. I work with a team of broadcasters who understand the business of radio and help me deliver the best product possible. Arbitron needs to do a better, more consistent job in San Francisco with PPM, of tracking KBLX listeners in a market, which has a 7% black population.
8) Of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
I am slow to embrace the Tweeting, blogging, MySpace, Facebook, etc. I don't understand how people have the time to engage in all of these forums.
9) In an era of syndicated morning shows, you are one of the very few, major-market on-air PDs. You are the morning host and PD. How have you been able to find a way around the hoops and hurdles, juggle and perform both tasks?
A morning PD can be a powerful, strategic tool in a radio battle. I'm in a better position to gauge audience reactions to a host of programming elements more so that someone who sits behind a desk looking at reports. However, the job is almost impossible without a very special support staff. I work with two of the best people in the business -- KBLX MD Kimmie Taylor and my longtime assistant Susie Lee. We that operate in a no-surprise environment and understand the most effective way to deal with people and ideas.
10) As you look back over your career ... any regrets? Missed opportunities?
Regrets? I wish I could get my hands on the money wasted on failed experiments trying to turn "celebrities" into real radio professionals. The list is too long to list here.
What would people who think they know Kevin Brown be surprised to know about you?
I'm smarter than I look.
What's been your biggest disappointment in radio today?
Broadcasters and music industry pros driven out of the business today by market forces.
What's your favorite reading material?
For the morning show, I read three newspapers a day, plus a least a dozen websites for material. I've read and enjoyed two books recently: "Talent is Overrated" by Geoff Colvin and "How Free is Free -- The Long Death of Jim Crow in America" by Nathan Huggins.
Do you feel that improving its sampling methodology would make a significant difference and help to improve the deficiencies in the recruitment, retention and participation of the current sample panel that has resulted in the under-representation of younger African-Americans in Arbitron's PPM?
Proper sampling of Urban audiences is the biggest challenge for Arbitron with PPM. A less intrusive/friendly/gender-neutral method should be developed to recruit a sample that truly reflects the radio audience. The meter is a start, but the second phase of smaller meters -- maybe wrist size like a watch or pendant -- could solve many sample recruitment issues for Arbitron.
Do you feel that Urban stations should be more careful not to blindly copy formats, but tailor them specifically to the age and racial makeup of their own markets?
Want to know what Urban stations should do? Ask Urban listeners who consume the product; they won't tell you to copy other formats. Be fresh, compelling, entertaining, informative, local and relatable for your demo and city.