Career Capsule: I started in radio while in college at Southern Arkansas University. A friend let me do his show for him and I was bitten with the radio bug right away. I spent my first 10 years of radio doing country music because there was no Christian radio where I lived. God finally allowed me the chance to move into Christian radio when I went to WCQR as the GM. I spent 20 years there. Currently I am doing something familiar by working with a brand new startup CCM station in the Tri-Cities called Love FM.
Mike… Tell us what’s new with Love FM… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?
What’s new with Love FM……..EVERYTHING! Love FM is a new start-up with a CCM format. We have The Wally Show in the morning, radio veteran George Mc Nerlin in the mid-days, Mike Perry and Hannah Ayers in the afternoon and the Brant Hansen Show in the evenings. We are “Friends you know and Music you love”. We’ve taken voices that have been radio friends for years in this market and teamed them up with a great CCM Format. It’s familiar and friendly while throwing in some new elements for radio listeners in the Tri-Cities.
Morning radio is a very competitive,, what strategies to you use to stand out in the crowd?
Morning radio…….We carry the Wally Show in the mornings and his show stands out above all the rest. Wally’s brand of comedy and wackiness is different from every morning show in our market. There’s an energy that you find there that really makes us different.
What is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?
The best advice……The best advice I’ve ever been given as an air talent is to be myself. Tell my listeners what happened in my life today. What did God show me today, how is God helping me live this Christian life today because chances are that your listener is experiencing many of the same things. Talk about the crazy thing that happened at the grocery store today. Hannah Ayers and I call our show “Music and Life” because along with the great songs, it’s important to share real life experiences.
As a GM the best thing I was ever taught is that my job is to make sure that my team has the tools they need to succeed. How can I help you today to do your job at the highest level possible. As a GM it’s not about how you can serve me, it’s about how can I serve you and make sure we all win.
As a programmer the best advice I’ve received is really simple. You have to know who your audience is. You can’t super-serve your audience if you don’t know what they are doing right now. Where is she, what’s she dealing with at the moment?. What does she need to hear from you right now? How can you help her family? I know that’s really simple, but it’s the basics of all we do and should be our guide to programming.
Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
More stations the better?………..Well that’s something I’ve had to think about as I just helped launch a new CCM station in a market where I was at the other station for 20 years. No doubt competition makes us all better. When you’re in a competitive market you have do everything with excellence. There’s no slacking. Do one thing in a mediocre manner and you’re listener has other options. To you’re listener it’s a big plus to have another station in the market because when they hear something they don’t like, another option is only a preset away. If they don’t like a particular element you do they will turn somewhere else and not even think about it. As programmers that drives us crazy. So really more competition is a beautiful thing for our listeners. They are always able to find something they like. For us as a radio station, don’t do something that will loose them! The worse part for a station is that you’re sharing cume with someone else and that effects the bottom line sometimes.
What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your job/show?
Must have……..The first thing I need is a bottle of Diet Coke. Can’t function without it. The most important thing I need is a good team. I’ve been fortunate enough to be on teams that won three GMA awards and one CMB award. I’ve been on teams that rocked the ratings and had amazing cume. That didn’t happen because of one person. That happens when you assemble the right people who put the product first. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with great people like Jason Sharp, Brian Sumner, Chalmer Harper, Mike Riddles and Hannah Ayers through the years. They all had one purpose and they sacrificed to make the station better. One person can’t do it all but one person can ruin it all. Great stations happen because of great teams.
Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
Future air talent……Obviously our current generation is not as interested in radio as we would hope. But there are still some kids that are in college that have that interest. Maybe if we work with broadcast programs in our area colleges we can excite a new generation to look to radio. But great story tellers are out there everywhere we look. We’ll find them in church, in the grocery line, in our station volunteers, friends we know. People who are good relating to other people. Hire character and potential and teach them the skills they need.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
The Biggest Obstacles ……I think most people would say technology. How relevant are we going to be in the future platforms? Technology is changing so rapidly and I’m not sure we as an industry know exactly how to keep up. The loss of personalities is another danger we face. More and more we’re voice tracking our days and we loose who we are in the process. I’m one of those crazy people who even though I’ve done this for 30 years, I still enjoy being on the air and relating with an audience. I’ve seen a lot of people who look at their shows as a nuisance to their day. Let me voice track this so I can do my other three jobs. If we forget why we got into radio in the first place, then we have lost the battle. Voice tracking is a reality of life, especially when you’re funds are low. But if you rush through four hours of tracks just to finish quickly, then you’ve lost your purpose for radio. Time to go do something else.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
Biggest heroes…….Jon Rivers was a big inspiration to me. I grew up in a rural community in Southern Arkansas that did not have Christian radio. In the summer we would take trips to Dallas and I would hear John and I would think, “that’s what I want to do. I want to be like that guy”. About the only local show we had was one called “Powerline” with Jon at the helm.
I grew up wanting to be on the radio. I watched a friend of mine named Kelly Chitwood do a local radio show and she would let me sit and watch her work. Another friend, Jeff Morgan gave me a chance to fill in for him on our campus radio station and he really got me started in radio so I can’t forget him. Today I admire people like John Hull and Tim McDermott for the work they did on building not only a great radio station, but a great ministry. That’s what I want to be remembered for. Not just good radio, but great ministry.