Network Assistant PD/MD/WAY Now Format Captain
Career Capsule: Steve is one of those rare unicorns who has literally worked for the same radio company his whole post-college career. Starting in 2002 at WAY-FM in Fort Myers as a programming assistant, Steve has changed titles several times through the years (along with a move to Nashville in 2010 to work for WAY-FM from there) to his current position of WAY Media Network Assistant Program Director & Music Director as well as the Format Captain for WAY-FM’s side channel WAY Now – playing positive pop & hip hop.
Steve tell us what’s new at WAY FM… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?
It’s an exciting time at WAY-FM. Over the last year and a half, several changes have occurred. Last year, John Scaggs became our new president; Todd Stach came in as our new Program Director. We launched a new afternoon show with CJ & Joy. Right now, we’re in the middle of finding our next Night Show/National Promotions Director as well as finding a new person to join the Wally Show. As much as change isn’t always easy, it can also help us continue growth at WAY-FM.
As for me personally, over the past year or so, Music Director has become part of my duties and job title as well as leading our Pop/Hip Hop format WAY Now (which has become my love language. It’s been a lot of fun!). Outside of the radio world, it’s a busy time at my house because we have 5 kids under the age of 10! So, my life is always crazy.
Christian Radio has become very competitive… what do you do to stand out from the crowd?
We’re trying to find ways to be meaningfully different as we compete in our markets. Some of that has been in tweaking our music mix and trying out some different colors once in awhile to see where our listeners currently are and where they may be headed; programmatically, we stand firm in the belief that there is strong value in being authentic – both the good and the bad. It’s the Real part of our slogan – Uplifting. Upbeat. Real.
What is the best programming/show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
I’ve had the privilege through my years at WAY-FM to work with some of the best programming minds and consultants in the business, so it’s hard to choose just the best advice. One of my favorite pieces of advice (VERY paraphrased)? Enjoy and love your own station. If you don’t like your station, why would any listener like it?
The worst advice? I was told as a college student by a Christian radio guy that I should not going into radio. That it’s a mistake and that it’s not going to last long. (I’m sure there are those reading this who have heard this – and or even believe this). While maybe there is some truth there somewhere, God gave me a passion for radio, and I had to follow the lead there.
Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
I completely agree – which probably seems obvious where I work at a network. Even if I didn’t, I’d still agree. If more Christian stations can reach more people – the better. Yeah, it can feel horrible when you don’t have the best ratings in the market comparably to the other stations, but I strongly think that the more people you can reach, the better. Past that, I think competition – if reacted to properly – can make everyone better. It helps you sharpen your own skills. Especially in Christian radio, we’re all in this together; we want to make a difference in the world for God.
What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your job/show?
Variety – I love it when no two days are the same. I know that would drive some people crazy, but I love having a job that each day can be a little different. It keeps things interesting.
Past that (I know, one thing…), I need a Rock Star Energy Drink (Pure Zero Orange for the win!). I know, that’s not healthy and I should quit, but I pretty much survive on those things.
Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
Cedarville University! I have to give a shout out to my alma mater and the incredible job that James Leightenheimer has done over the years to develop quality radio talent. They truly care there about doing a good job and teaching students right. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for Mr. L’s tutelage while I was a student.
Outside of that, I think we need to do a better job at developing future talent in Christian radio. We need to have opportunities for younger people to come in and learn.
The other place I think a lot of our future talent will come from? YouTube stars. Podcasters. Basically those who have found a way to brave new paths in other forms of media and who could teach radio a lot about new ways of doing things.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
Lack of awareness. Granted, I think Christian radio is reaching bigger heights all the time (and artists like Lauren Daigle who are trail blazing right now is just another example of widening that funnel and allowing more people to know that not only does Christian music and radio exist – but it’s legit too)
Perhaps bigger than that though is the seeming need to hold on to “the way things are”. We need to be ready and prepared to embrace change – because it’s coming. Yeah, most of the basics of what makes radio work will remain the same, but Millennials and Gen Zeds have a completely different relationship with radio and music, and we have to be willing to be ready to change to serve them better. Whether that’s in music, to how we do things digitally, to many things, we have to be willing to adapt and change with the times (or else we risk just aging out).
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
Not to just toot WAY-FM’s horn, but we’ve had so many great people who have worked here both previously and now. I really think we have some of the best talents in the business right now – from the Wally Show team, to Brant and Sherri in the middays, to CJ & Joy in the afternoons. We really don’t just sound like the everyday Christian AC radio, and I think that’s great and a testament to both the talent and the leadership at WAY-FM. Todd Stach has been great to work closely with for the last year too (#brown nosing for the win).
I could honestly list people all day long who’ve influenced and impacted my life, but I also know I’d forget people. I feel truly privileged to have worked with so many great minds through my years at WAY-FM.