Jeremy Tracey Interview

Jeremy Tracey
Program Director
KGBI
Omaha

Career Capsule: Jeremy discovered his love for radio at WJSL, after entering Houghton College in western New York . He worked at WETN, WMBI and WCFL while pursuing a Master’s Degree in Communication at Wheaton College in Illinois. He also interned at the renowned WGN in Chicago. Jeremy’s first full-time position was at New Life 91.9-WRCM in Charlotte from 2000 to 2004. He then joined the team at WCIC in Peoria, IL where he he did a little bit of everything including Production Director, Program Director and hosted the morning show. In 2019 he struck out on a new adventure and joined the team at 100.7 KGBI in Omaha where he hosts the morning show with his wife Jill and is Program Director.

 

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

Things are very exciting at KGBI. As you might know, Northwestern Media purchased KGBI from Salem a couple years ago and we’ve been in the process of transitioning the station back to listener supported. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been here for a little over a year as Program Director and Morning Show Co-Host. We have a small team, but it’s passionate and highly skilled. I love the people I work with (including the broader Northwestern Media team).

New for me is the title of Music Director. This is the first time in my career I’ve been in a position where I’ve had the opportunity to do music and I’m loving it! Seriously, what a joy to talk to our label friends and work through the process of trying to play the best music for our listener and in the right rotation. I’m thankful for those that have helped me learn over the past year.

 

How has your KGBI morning show changed during the pandemic?

Like many, early on it was very front and center and consumed our content. It’s honestly been a learning experience and something we had to stay very close to those very first couple of months. Now we’re at a place where it organically comes up in our content and the news, but it’s not as much an intentional focus, unless it makes sense as a lifestyle thing.

We did find our listening for the morning shifted and people started tuning in more around 8am. We’re now starting to get the sense that things are settling back into a more traditional morning drive listening pattern. We’ll see.

 

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

I’ve gotten a ton of great advice. Lisa Williams shared with Jill and me the concept of always talking to the listener even when doing a team show. Picture a triangle and she’s (the listener) the focus of both of our attention. I really felt like that added a layer of warmth and focus to our show that was lacking. Tracy Johnson really challenged me to let my personality shine on our show and encouraged Jill not to try to filter me. As you know, there can be some fear with not being vanilla. Yes, brand consistency is important, but so is having a personality. That really helped us make our show more engaging.

Worst advice? Probably something I’ve said!

 

Some say the more Christian stations in a market the “better”…. What’s your opinion?

We’re talking about KLOVE, right?! J I’m going to give the “right” answer (and I mean it). If it truly is about Kingdom I think it’s all good. Do I believe in Local Christian radio? Absolutely, but in the end if we’re striving to honor God with what we’re doing that’s what matters to me. By the way, I love our friends at KLOVE and appreciate what they do. Currently I’m called to a local expression of Christian radio.

 

What’s your opinion on podcasts… is it necessary to have one, are they a threat to radio… etc?

Personally, I listen to a lot of podcasts, but I don’t think everyone should have one or that it’s realistic for everyone to have one. I do think we need to be investing in new ways to distribute our content and our personalities (video, podcasts, etc).

Would Jill and I like to do one? We’ve discussed the idea of doing one on marriage, but we need to make sure we have the time and can bring something unique and compelling to the marketplace.

 

Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?

The person next door. We just hired a guy in Omaha that does stand-up comedy and works for Youth for Christ. He’s not a radio guy, but has a big heart and is a great communicator. I’m excited to be investing in him and to see where it will go.

I think we need to look outside the box and take some risks. I’ve found training people, putting them on overnights and slowly working them up to more prominent roles has worked well. My former boss, Dave Brooks and I used that model at WCIC. It allowed us to find and develop some great talent.

 

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

There are many, but here are a few that I’ve been thinking about recently:

Program Directors have to coach their talent. One of the biggest commitments I made as a Program Director early on was to be in the room and coaching my team on a regular basis. Is it always easy? No, but the product doesn’t grow if we aren’t in the room tinkering with it. By the way, I am a fan of having a consultant. I believe that adds an outside ear that compliments the Program Director in powerful ways. It enables me as a Program Director to continue to grow and pass that on to the team. But I also need that one-on-one time with my team.

What is Christian music? Is it just the lyrics and the song that matters? The label it’s from? Does the life of the artist matter? What if they do a collaboration with a mainstream artist whose life doesn’t align with what it means to be a Christ follower? I think these are good questions for all of us to wrestle with for our stations. The thing I personally want to avoid (and I think we all should) is normalizing directly or indirectly by the music we play a lowering of what it means to follow Jesus. I don’t have it all figured out, but I do know for KGBI the artist’s life is also important.

My prayer is for all of us to have accountability in our lives. This applies to us radio folks, artists, teachers, and consultants…all of us. We live in an industry that can be very ego driven and awards those that show talent in very external ways. Is the internal lining up with the external?

 

Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

Well, first I have to say my wife Jill first right?!  I don’t want to sleep on the couch.

Alan Mason, Matthew West, Jeff Scott, Tracy Johnson, Jason Rackow, Abbie Parker, Jason Sharp, Lisa Williams, Ed Cash, Scott Wheeler, Nick Kalina, Joe Buchanan, Jesus, Ryan Springer, Matt Stockman, Chris Hauser, Mike Weaver, Suzanne Happs, Dave Brooks, Kai Elmer, Mike Couchman, Mark Ramsey

See now I’m in trouble because I listed some names. J Seriously…too many to name them all.  We work with amazing people in this industry and I’m so thankful. I’ve learned so much from so many people and I continue to do so. This guy here? Still a work in progress.

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