Feature InterviewInterviews

Jeremy Sweat Interview 5-22-17

Jeremy Sweat
Affiliate Relations Manager
Salem Music Network

Career Capsule: I started in 1992 after being a guest on a local radio program about new on-campus ministries I helped start through the local churches. I was offered a chance to do a youth program for free, and I jumped on it! The show was called RENEGADE! I was on the air with my youth pastor who got the name for the show from a Jeep Renegade that pulled up beside him at a stoplight.

I later took over part-time responsibilities in programming while I completed my degree in marketing. I did some sales, coaching, and a short stent as the PD of a station in NW Missouri, before heading to Nashville.

I came to Salem in 2004, looking to do marketing and part-time radio, but God had different plans. After starting at the network very part-time, one opportunity after another presented itself, so I walked through the open doors. I now have the honor to work with some fantastic talent, artists, and great stations around the country.

Jeremy, Tell us what’s new at WFFH… news, changes, & new with YOU… etc?

94 FM the FISH and Salem Music Network added “Good Clean Fun” w/Kevin and Taylor to mornings. We also announced syndication of the duo to stations looking for a top-market team dynamic. They’ve been together as a morning team for over 20 years. Veteran morning host, Doug Griffin, took over the midday. The rest of our lineup remains unchanged with Caryn Cruise in afternoons, Night Light w/Andrea in the evening, and Keep the Faith w/Penny in overnights.

What is the most memorable promotion you’ve been involved with?

Any promotion that helps people is one I consider a high-value promotion. We just awarded a New Year’s prize. It included $500 to win and $500 to share. The winner was disabled and needed the money to pay for some newly installed equipment at her home. When she came in to collect her winnings, she surprised us by bringing in her friend who did not know that she would also be receiving $500. This money will allow her friend, who had been homeless, to purchase a bed for when her daughter comes to stay with her.

What is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?

The best advice I’ve been given always will be: “Play the Hits.” We are in the business of encouraging listeners and bringing them hope. We can’t do any of that if the listener changes stations because we played the wrong songs.

The worst advice is that to win more listening you must become more local. I believe to win more listening you must become better in all phases of your content, imaging, and music. Concerning yourself with where something happened is majoring in the minors.

Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?

I’m going to give an answer exclusively from the radio programming perspective because I know others have a different perspective that could be equally as valid. Our goal in radio is to make passionate fans of an ever increasing number of listeners. I don’t believe more stations helps us achieve that result. More stations in the format category cause listeners to perceive each station as an equally good option. This dilutes a values-based brand and erodes listener loyalty over time. As a result, listeners no longer love a station for what it stands for, they love what the music stands for, and they are happy to listen on any one of their many options. The common listener comments here in Nashville: “Our first 4 radio buttons are locked on to Christian music.”

What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your job?

Wise council is something I benefit from every day. I’m grateful to have experienced leaders who are willing to speak into me. I would encourage anyone not to be an island, and to allow your assumptions to be challenged.

Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?

I believe God will call the next generation of talent to the radio from all sorts of outlets. I think they will be skilled communicators and entertainers who love God and want to use people to entertain and love people.

Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?

Unfamiliar music is still our biggest obstacle along with the assumptions we make about what people think and know about our faith. You have a broad spectrum of listeners with a diverse church background.

Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

My first PD, Tim Doyle (now a pastor), was a very patient guy who taught me that content had to move beyond the music and win the heart. Current Salem network Program Director, Vance Dillard, has taught me the importance of song selection, research interpretation, and other foundational programming cornerstones.

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