10 Questions with ... Devin Steel
April 12, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I attended the Univ. Of Tennessee @ Martin on a football scholarship and knew I wanted to do radio. My sophomore year in college I did a day shift for WUTM, which was Jazz. I had the luxury of being hands-on at a smaller University and wrote a proposal to get an Urban show on Thursday nights and didn't expect for it to happen. Spring '93, I did a four-hour mix-show called "The Bomb," providing Urban music in the Northwestern Tennessee/Southern Kentucky area.
I dabbled in TV as well at the ABC and UPN affiliates in the Summer of 1995 and continued to grow my recognition as a top DJ in Memphis. After receiving my BA in Comm. from the Univ of Tenn, I was the first jock hired a KXHT. I worked my way up to MD/APD and then PD in 2000. I left to WHRK in 2001 and waited out my non-compete under the tenure of Bruce Demps and Nate Bell.
1. Where and what was your first job in radio? Early influences?
My first job was college station WUTM at UT/Martin. I grew up listening to Stan Bell, Bobby O'Jay, Andre Money, Ron Olsen, Mike Jeffries and CJ Morgan. I also used to listen to mixtapes of WBLS in the '80s and had a friend to Chicago who introduced me to mixtapes of the original WBMX/Chicago, my life was never the same.
2. What was the most influential radio station(s) growing up?
WHRK. You could hear everything from Michael Jackson to Hall and Oates, Run DMC and at night I loved the Quite Storm.
3. If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now what you didn't then, would you still do it?
Yes. It's an interesting question these days with the economy, growth, pressure for sales to sell ... and ratings. There are people with the "passion" for radio and not caught up in where it's been and going through. If you love it, you embrace the changes and figure out ways to increase your skill set within the parameters you have to work
4. What stations pre-sets are in your car right now?
WHRK (of course), KJMS V101.1, NPR, and I listen to a lot of Talk radio. I also enjoy Sirius. I love world music and ESPN
5. How do you feel about being asked to wait on a record you hear until the research validates it?
I never question waiting. I have always believed that you never hurt your station if you don't play a record, or wait to play it. With all of the tools we have these days, the trends stay consistent. I use Big Champagne and love studying Mediabase.
6. You have one of the few live morning shows with a personality who has been doing mornings in the market for more than 20 years. In this age of increased syndication, how has Mike Evans been able to sustain his position in the marketplace?
Mike Evans is one of the premier talents in all of morning radio in the country, no matter what the format. Mike is one of the guys who is timeless and gets out in the community and touches his listeners. Its interesting in Memphis, being such a close-knit market, people want to hear about the family who is in need, and what we can do to help. Listeners want to hear what happened last night and personal experiences; PPM is showing that. Mike also gets into the music and the artists ... and still lives the lifestyle.
7. Because of callout research, are today's Urban programmers going to be slower in adding and playing new music? What is the maximum number of spins a record in power rotation could be expected to receive in a given week on K-97?
A power on WHRK plays in the upper 80s. We have one daypart of Premium Choice, so it may fluctuate a little here and there. With callout as a tool and being used in major markets, we still see the same trends, whether it's Power in New York, 'JLB/Detroit, or WJBT/Jacksonville. There is so much passion for the R&B titles, and the hip-hop titles move a little quicker. I don't think it's slower because listeners are getting MP3s as quickly as we are or before us, but it's exposing the right ones. Listeners have been duped by radio and don't trust the artists. Look at what is selling and what isn't. It's important for us to give them what we really believe in, because they see through it.
8. As an example of just how well K-97 is tied to the Memphis community, WHRK, once participated in a radio-thon to raise money for St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis. You overachieved your goal of $150,000 by more than $20,000 in just two days. How do you explain that, especially in these tough, economic times?
Our St. Jude Radiothon was an eye-opening experience. With St. Jude here in Memphis, Michael Oppenheimer, my GM, thought it was a great idea for all of our Urbans to stand united on the same front. WHRK, KJMS, WHAL and WDIA have such a powerful presence in Memphis that when we ask Memphians to do something, they come out in full force. We actually raised $175,237 and the phones were still ringing after 48 hours. St. Jude is an incredible place and we created more awareness locally. So many Memphians have passed by it all their life, but never really knew what they did. It says a lot for people to not just call, but show up with checkbooks and pens.
9) What effect do you feel the continuing ratings dominance of K-97 is going to have on the Memphis market? Do you feel there are going to be new challengers from other formats?
The effect will be for us to continue to learn what we can do better, and what really doesn't move the meter as we head into PPM. Our diary world has been incredible, but it's a whole new world for us heading into 2010.
As far as challengers, I have never bought into an "us against them" or "us against anybody" methodology. It's "us against the choices listeners have" ... and what are we going to do and when to get them with us? With other formats, younger listeners are being exposed to more with technology, accessibility and social networking. I am anxious to take chances on a Black Eyed Peas record that may have been big in the club and mix-show, but safely may not have been a full-time record for us. There are a lot of artists who translate to the Urban that our listeners love
10) As you look back over your career ... any regrets? Missed opportunities?
I feel very fortunate to work at my favorite station that I grew up listening to, around people who are respected in the industry. I also am blessed to have the ability to multi-task and do everything in the building. I would like to get my Masters and have plans to take a few film editing and Internet design classes in the spring.
I would like to do top-10 market radio and think that with all that I do, my five-year plan job title doesn't exist yet. I have had opportunities, but maybe not the right opportunity.
What would people who think they know Devin Steel be surprised to know about you?
I enjoy reading and am somewhat of a tech geek. A lot of folks think they know, but I can tear a party down in the club (when I'm needed).
What are your hobbies?
My wife and I enjoy traveling ... and I like to remix records
Name the one gadget you can't live without.
My iPhone to VPN into the station.
U of M Tiger Basketball / New Orleans Saints.
Describe your favorite meal?
I love soul food.