Career Capsule: I started radio in 1990 at KNTR in the state of Washington. I then worked as a voice for several syndicated networks and opened my own media company in 1995, Coastal Media, and began creating content for Christian Television and Radio.
In 2003, I launched SGM Radio. It was one of the first stations to be picked up by what was then called Apple Radio.
In 2009, my company purchased SGN Scoops Magazine which was a print and digital magazine that covers the Southern Gospel, Bluegrass, and Christian Country genres.
In 2011, my company launched Coastal Events which creates Christian music events all over the country.
In 2017, I purchased WPIL 91.7 in Heflin, Alabama.
In 2022, we are getting ready to launch our new Christian television network called Abundant TV.
Rob, tell us what’s new at SGN Scoops Magazine… any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU?
I’d love to start with what’s new with me: on September 3, 2021, I got married for the first time. It’s an amazing story of God’s faithfulness even when we don’t see His plan.
As far as the magazine goes, this is our 13th year owning SGN Scoops Magazine. We have made some changes over the last few months to continue to create good content and broaden our audience by adding some new features.
How do you balance work & family, how important is it for someone in Christian Radio to ‘have a life’?
I think it’s very important that you find a work-life balance. It can be very difficult, and for someone like me, it can be downright challenging. I have learned over the last couple of years that you have to take time away to be able to refresh, to bring a new perspective to the things you’re working on. And in Christian radio, that’s important because we have to keep pressing new content for our listeners. By taking time to rejuvenate, you will be better for your audience.
How did SGM Radio come to be?
The story of how SGM Radio came to be is great. My dad was sick at this time of my life, and we would take time to just sit and talk. My father was an avid reader. He would read 2-3 newspapers every day. In the winter of 2003, around January, he handed me an article from USA Today that said internet radio is the next big thing. My father, who had been a pastor and who had been on radio, was adamant about any new technology. He said he would pay for the first year if I would do the research and launch SGM Radio. SGM Radio was launched on March 18, 2003, and had tremendous growth during its early time.
What are the challenges of being an online station, where is the growth coming from?
The challenge for online radio really is the perception of the value that it holds. People look at terrestrial radio, and they see the brick and mortar that makes advertising more viable in their opinion. But the great thing that we’ve really found over the last few months with SGM Radio is that you can hook into a segment of the United States and really create a niche. We’ve been able to do that really successfully over the last 3 months. It’s exciting.
I think that the growth is coming from the adapters. More and more people are finding that they can listen to internet radio in their cars. You’re going to find that bluetooth technology will give internet radio the opportunity compete against terrestrial radio stations.
I think if an internet station is run correctly, it can compete with anyone. I believe that it has to be handled like a true terrestrial station for them to be taken seriously though, and that means a lot of work. It means cultivating an audience not only in one area but all over the world. With SGM Radio over the last few months it’s been exciting to see listeners from England, listeners from Germany, listeners from Peru, in addition to listeners from all over the United States.
How has Southern Gospel music evolved in recent years?
I love this question. I think what we’re seeing in Southern Gospel music right now are people with different backgrounds merging into Southern Gospel. While still having a great tradition, we are seeing artists who are experimenting and creating new sounds and essentially blazing a new trail in Southern Gospel music.
Complete this sentence: The best way to get a new artist recognized is to ______________?
I think the best way for any new artist to get attention is to really go grass roots. Start with a local radio station in their area. Make sure that those people know them. Make sure that the local Christian television station knows them. Be able to really impact that region. I had an artist one time tell me that if you’re not known in a 50 mile radius of where you live, don’t try to be anything more than what you are. Map out Christian television, Christian radio, newspapers in that area and make sure everyone in that region knows who you are. I think that’s the best advice you can give because once you get past that point, the growth is going to be easy.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
I think the biggest challenge is two-fold:
First, I think we have fantastic talent but it’s overworked. Unfortunately, we as Christian radio don’t have the resources that a lot of secular organizations have. And I think that creates burnout. I would also say the other factor that really hinders Christian talent is the pay scale. The pay scale is not what you would get working at a secular job.
Who are your industry heroes and influences? And why?
I grew up listening to radio in the Minneapolis area. WCCO had Steve Cannon. I loved Steve Cannon and all the crazy voices he had. I had the opportunity to meet him and tell him that I thought he was the coolest guy in the world. I was 8 years old. He took time and actually sat and talked to me for 5 minutes at the Minnesota State Fair, and I appreciate that. It was one of the things that really impacted who I was at the time. I studied a lot of old radio people. There were fantastic folks who did radio in the 60’s and I listened to them. It was kind of a collage of people. But Steve Cannon really stood out because as a young person living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, listening to WCCO you had to listen to The Cannon Mess.