Mike Alley Interview 1-8-16
Co Host Mornings with Tracey, Mike, & Dave
Career Capsule: I started as weekend, part-timer at WFEL-AM (Baltimore, MD – CCM) in 1990 and left there as PD/Afternoon Drive in 1992. Worked at a couple of stations in MD (WCEM, WXCY) before landing Mornings at WANN (Country) in Annapolis, MD in 1993. When the station flipped to satellite in 1996, I moved into the news anchor chair at Metro Networks in Baltimore where I did morning news for four stations. In 2000, WRBS (now 95.1 SHINE-FM) was rolling out a new morning show and asked me to be part of Dick Ireland & The Morning Crew. In 2006, Dick retired and in November we began Mornings with Tracey, Mike & Dave and just passed nine years together.
During my time at WRBS/SHINE-FM, I began the Live Events division of our ministry which promoted concerts in the Baltimore area. In 2013, this division became 48Live Productions which promotes concerts and events in 6 states.
1. Mike, Tell us what’s new with you, at WRBS?
Well, I just passed my 15th anniversary with the station and nine years together with Tracey Tiernan and Dave Paul on our morning show. It is one of those times when you can’t believe it has gone by so fast and yet it feels like I have been here forever. Love that I get to be creative and have fun with these people every day!
I’m also excited about the expansion of 48Live Productions as we reach out across the Mid-Atlantic area connecting people to the ministry of their favorite artists through live concerts.
2. What is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?
Best: There have been two. The first was when I was told that I would not and should not be the “lead” of a show. That my talents lie in responding. Essentially, I should be the “second banana.” That was hard to hear and it hurt. But it was totally correct. I embraced it and it helped me unlock more creativity since I don’t have to do the heavy lifting of setting up the break. I just listen and add the right spice to recipe.
The second was a number of years ago when Chuck Finney told our team that listeners didn’t come to us to find out the latest culturally relevant TV/Celebrity/political news from our Christian view. They want encouragement, hope and something different than what everyone else provides. I thought he was nuts. He was spot on. Be real. Laugh when it’s funny. Be serious when it’s somber. But always provide a path to hope.
Worst: Follow the playlist.
3. Regarding your career, what are you most proud of?
I am proud to be a part of this ministry. I know, I know…it sounds like I’m bucking for a raise! But I have never been a part of an organization like the Peter & John Radio Fellowship. From the radio stations (SHINE-FM and WRBS-AM), concerts (48Live Productions) and our summer camp and retreat center (River Valley Ranch), everyone has the desire to express the love of Jesus and do it with excellence. Can’t even think of a place I would rather be.
4. What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your job?
Coffee. Hahaha! No, seriously…Coffee. Really. Do you have some?
5. Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
PD’s need to be keep their ears open to everyone around them. Two amazing air talents, Tracey Tiernan and Erin Branham, didn’t even have a radio career on their radar. Have some part-time, live talent on the weekend and give some folks a shot to develop. Finding just one Tracey or Erin is worth the effort.
6. How do you feel about live & local vs syndication, which is better?
Better? No contest. Live will always win…IF (this is huge “if”)…you can invest in your talent. If you are in a small market (read: no budget), invest the time and effort to guide your talent. You can pick any morning show on the planet and listen. Give your people an example to follow and learn. How do you beat a syndicated or satellite show? By talking about what they never can, what is happening right here, right now.
7. Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
Wow. There are so many ways you can answer this. I’ll pick one: Risk. There are not enough stations taking risks. Stop looking at what everyone else is playing. Only your team can know what is best for your station. Figure out what works best for your station and put it into action.
Here is one of my favorite quotes from Seth Godin: “There’s never been a better opportunity to step up and make an impact, while we’ve got the chance. This generation, this decade, right now, there are more opportunities to connect and do art than ever before. Maybe even today.”
8. Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
As a child, Baltimore radio legend, Johnny Dark was coolest thing coming out of the mono speakers of my transistor radio (look it up kids). His smooth voice and patter was as much Baltimore as steamed crabs.
However, growing into my teens I spent my mornings listening to the WAVA Morning Zoo with Don Geronimo and Mike O’Meara. These two had a chemistry that made their bits stand out but you also knew that underneath all the fun that they cared about each other. I always thought that they had the coolest job in the world. It was the first time I thought that a job in radio was something I could attain. To this day, I remain grateful to Don and Mike for showing me that you can look at your world sideways and be accepted.