Jeff, born and raised in Indianapolis, did
stints at several Indiana stations (WERK, WLBC and WXIR) in the 80s
and 90s before moving to Nashville in 1996 to accept a radio
promotions job with Myrrh Records, helping launch the career of Jaci
Velasquez. After stops at three other labels, Jeff joined 88.7
WAY-FM full-time in 2000. Since that time, Jeff has served as
WAY-FM’s afternoon and then mid-day host, followed by six years as
co-host of several incarnations of the CHRSN network morning show
(Marcia and Jeff, Jeff and Elisabeth, and Jeff and Stace in the
morning). Jeff was promoted from production director to operations
director in January 2005 and is thrilled that he no longer has to
wake up at 2:45am. He maintains a blog at
http://thejeffbrown.me where he discusses,
among other things, the impact of social media and web 2.0 on
broadcasting and the music industry. You can find him on Twitter at
1. How has
WAY-FM evolved over the years?
I’m not going to
talk here about how the company has evolved but instead how the
product and content have evolved. There was a time when everything
on the air seemed to go through this “let’s clean it up” filter. I
had this fear of offending someone and felt the need to homogenize
everything I said and did on the air. That has definitely changed.
No topic today is off limits. Granted, we might encourage each
other to choose certain words carefully, but Wally is offending
people every day. I love it, actually. Brant is probably second in
line when it comes to who’s offending the most people. He rocks. I
don’t know if you know this or not but Christians, as a group, are
2. Has WAY-FM
made any changes due to the economic situation, or been affected in
right? Is the Pope Catholic? Is Brant Hansen a hottie? Is Wally a
woman trapped inside a man’s body? It’s safe to say we’ve been
affected, probably more than most in the WAY-FM family. Business
underwriting is way down, though listener giving is actually ahead
of where it was last year. Radio, as a medium, has to get better at
monetizing content. In the future, that may or may not include
3. How is
WAY-FM able to connect with listeners on a local level?
actually. A recent example is the not-so-Good Friday tornadoes that
ripped through the nearby community of Murfreesboro. We asked
listeners to donate new and slightly used gift cards to those
affected. This really seemed to connect. People didn’t have to go
out and get something. They just looked in their purse or wallet
and said, “Oh yeah, I do have a gift card I haven’t used yet.” In
one week we collected nearly $3,000 dollars in cards and cash (I’m
happy to report that I successfully resisted the urge to sneak a
card for myself). We also use social media extensively (Facebook,
Twitter, YouTube) for each of the four stations we operate from the
Nashville office. This has aided us tremendously, especially in
markets we can’t be in every day or every week.
criteria do you require for a song to be played on your station?
structured such that music decisions are made at the network level
(Network PD, Network Music Director). I like this because it means
I don’t have to make time for people like Brian Thiele, Tara Stepp,
Andrea Kleid, James Riley, Kai Elmer, Grant Hubbard, Josh Lauritch,
Mark Giles, Brian Dishon, and Chris Hauser…is that everybody? Sorry
if I left you out of my list of people I’d rather ignore. Most of
you are on Twitter as much as I am. That’s probably enough.
5. What kind
of promotions work best for WAY-FM?
compelling. Right now, listeners are calling a number we’ve set up
to share how their mother sacrificed for them as a child. Some of
the calls are pretty compelling as you might imagine. We’re pulling
the best of these calls and incorporating them into new promos that
prompt more of these types of compelling calls. Makes for a
compelling presentation on the air. I like using the word
“compelling” in case you hadn’t noticed. The non-compelling calls
we just pretty much laugh at and make fun of.
6. How do you
think Christian Record labels can better serve Christian radio?
While I ignore most
of their calls and e-mails regarding local promotions, give-aways,
interviews and such, I think that, over all, they’re doing a pretty
good job. Fortunately for me that whole “ignoring” thing just goes
the one way.
7. In your
opinion, what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio
Does anyone really
care what Jeff Brown’s opinion is about this? I highly doubt it. I
suggest, however, that you care about what Mark Ramsey’s opinion is
about the obstacles radio faces. If you read his blog and are
familiar with Mark then you already know what I’m driving at. If
you don’t, it’s too late for you so you may as well begin working on
your career “Plan B.”
8. What do
you believe is the primary role of the Christian radio air
Did I mention “to
offend” already? That one comes pretty easily. What I really mean
is when you’re connecting in a truly honest and transparent way,
listeners will naturally be drawn to you. I’m fortunate to be
associated with three of the best in the business in this regard:
Brant Hansen, Donna Cruz and Wally. I’d add Dean O’Neal, Scott
Smith and Lisa Williams to that group.
9. What (if
any) Christian radio stations do you consider as innovators today?
Not many actually.
We’re not innovating nearly enough in my opinion. To me, innovation
means remaining relevant. Z88 in Orlando is head-and-shoulders
above the rest of us in this area. Instead of sitting on their
hands and saying, “Well, we can’t be THE severe weather station” or
whatever because they’re the Christian station, they said “We WILL
be that station and we’ll do it better and more consistently that
anyone else.” They made a commitment to it and stuck with it. You
can no longer call them a niche format in Orlando. They’re as main
stream as any other station in their market. Several hundred radio
stations across the country are a few years (maybe months) from
becoming obsolete and irrelevant. They continue to do radio as it’s
always been done. If you’re content with disseminating your content
via a terrestrial FM signal and complementing it with a website and
stream, begin now to think about what you might do if it all went
away. Because it will.
10. Where do
you see Christian radio in 5 years?
It’s no different
for Christian radio than it is for main stream radio. Please go to
http://hear2.com and familiarize yourself with Mark Ramsey and
his way of thinking. He is radio’s best thought leader today and I
believe he is dead-on in virtually every way. If you’re working on
approaching your station’s future as Mark suggests, I think you’ll
have a legitimate chance of existing in 5 years. Otherwise, again,
dust off your “Plan B.”