Jim Epperlein Interview 8-28-17
VP of Music Programming
Vero Beach, FL
Career Capsule: As PRAZOR’s VP of Music Programming, Jim is blessed to spend his days immersed in procuring the best of Christian music! Jim has more than four decades of experience in all facets of radio broadcasting including on-air, programming and management. As the original PD/MD of XM 32 The Message at XM Satellite Radio, Jim took the channel from inception in 2001 to becoming the most listened to Contemporary Christian music station in America in 2008. Jim’s gift of music programming instincts helped him skillfully resonate with the music tastes of the Christian music audience. Jim holds a Bachelor of Arts Cum Laude Degree with Distinction in Broadcast Journalism from San Diego State University and is a Masters Candidate in Communication Management at Towson University.
Jim, Tell us what’s new with PRAZOR… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?
PRAZOR currently has more than 80 channels and a rapidly growing music library of more than 115,000 songs as we continue to build towards our goal of 100 professionally curated music channels! We recently added a “Motown” channel to our “Blended” neighborhood. Blended channels include a mix of Christian and “safe” mainstream hits. Also in the works is a “Dove Awards” channel, “Jukebox”, “Nostalgic”, and a “Christmas Jazz” channel to add to our 6 other Christmas channels.
As for me, after becoming a casualty of the XM/Sirius merger in November 2008, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April 2009. A tumor was discovered on the head of my pancreas thanks to a follow up CT scan from a previous hernia surgery which also revealed a sponge that had been left-behind and for 13 weeks was causing a massively infectious abscess in my body! The sponge removal, along with the extremely invasive Whipple surgery to remove the tumor caused intolerable pain and left me in the hospital for 35 days. I nearly died not only from a lung collapse but also from a life-threatening blood infection. I was in so much pain that I truly wanted to die! I even cried out to God “I’m ready to go, if you want me to go.” But the Lord had another plan for my life. He not only brought me through a tough, year-long recovery, but gave me a “second chance” and the vision for this type of Christian music platform. By His Amazing Grace, I am now an 8-and-a-half-year walking miracle (only 3 percent of pancreatic cancer patients survive beyond 5 years). Now, I’m getting to do my “dream job”, developing an unprecedented and dynamic music ministry in beautiful Vero Beach, Florida! All Glory and Honor to Jesus Christ!
Tell us about PRAZOR, how the idea came about… direction etc?
PRAZOR is “God’s Gift to God’s People” and the original concept of TRUNEWS Host and Founder, Rick Wiles. The PRAZOR App is completely free of subscription fees and advertisements. I was hired by Rick and Flowing Streams to create 100 curated channels of Christian music based on my programming background, knowledge and experience at XM Satellite Radio. I simply applied the XM programming philosophy to Christian music. With the help of fellow XM programmer Thomas Kenny, we’ve created 16 “neighborhoods” of Christian music, while sub-dividing those 80 plus channels into specific genres. As with my own personal health challenges this has also been quite a professional challenge. But with God’s help and merciful “second chance” I’ve come to learn that He never wastes our pain, and while He never makes mistakes, sometimes He allows them for His Glory!
What is the best programming advice you’ve been given?
Let the music be the “star”.
Any Christian music with a drum beat needs to go straight to the “Sin Bin”.
Some say the more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
Friendly competition between two similar formats can inspire us to “up our game.” Different Christian formats have an opportunity to “complete” one another.
What is the ONE thing you must have every day to do your job?
The freedom, trust and confidence of my employer to do what God has called and gifted me to do.
Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
Beginners would be wise to learn the business of broadcasting at a good mainstream station before working at a Christian station.
Generally speaking, to the industry, what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
Tight playlists…no variety…too much chatter!
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I grew up in Buffalo, New York listening to WKBW Radio with a red transistor radio attached to my left ear. Their on-air crew of Danny Neaverth, Sandy Beach, and Joey Reynolds was an outstanding team of humorous, compelling, and “theatre of the mind” personalities. When they weren’t entertaining, they were spinning nothing but the hits. It was through that “Buffalo Broadcast Buffet” that I learned the true meaning of the word “entertain”- that is, “to hold one’s attention.” And isn’t that what TSL is all about?