Mike Couchman Interview 12-18-17
Career Capsule: Got my first shot at “real” radio (not my bedroom pirate transmitters) on Power 96.5, a hip hop station in my hometown (Lansing, MI). I’ve been on literally every station licensed to that market. While in Lansing and after, I had a couple of stints with iHeart Media (WKQI in Detroit and WBCT in Grand Rapids). The SMILE-FM Network gave me my first shot at the PD chair. I’m also grateful to have been with the WAY-FM Network, the rogue WaYfm (rest in peace), and SOS Radio/Las Vegas. (Plus a handful of stations I consult for and track with on the side.)
Mike… Tell us what’s new at Boost 101.9… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?
For both 99.1 JOY-FM and BOOST 101.9, we’ve been focused on what can make us “uniquely better.” Shot out to Andy Stanley for the concept. This permeates every department: how can we approach our jobs not just with excellence, but also with our unique flavor and purpose?
JOY-FM/BOOST recently welcomed a new full time marketing director to the team, and our JOY-FM night show has moved towards live and local this fall.
BOOST 101.9 keeps setting new audience level records each month, and our streaming following baffles me. We just crossed 1-million monthly streams for our first time ever (roughly 200,000 uniques….we aren’t cuming a million….YET. We are “The Little Translator that Could.”).
In 2018, if you have spare signals looking for a distinct format, we’ll have options for you to license BOOST to your market. Hit me up now if you want to know more! #shamelessplug.
Christian radio is a very competitive,, what strategies to you use to stand out in the crowd?
Sorry to overuse the word unique, but that’s the game changer. What can our stations do well that fit who we are and what we’re called to do? Every time we successfully answer that question, we take a step in the right direction.
What is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?
Best: Choose your battles. Worst: start smoking. (I didn’t!)
Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
More Christian stations in the market all chasing the same target audience with slight variations of the same format isn’t a win. How many different flavors of vanilla can the market bear? I love vanilla ice cream, don’t get me wrong. But beyond French Vanilla and Vanilla Bean, what else is there? Let’s fill the dial with other flavors and do a better job at bringing Revelation 7:9-10 to our markets. Heaven’s going to be a lot more diverse than Women 25-54.
What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your job/show?
Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
God! Sorry for the Jesus Juke, but I’m serious. Just like most others, we’ve seen the dwindling talent pool and it’s concerning. I remember putting openings up on HisAir a decade ago and sifting through up to 100 applicants. These days it’s a few dozen. And whether it’s 100 or a dozen, you’re of course still only going to land on a handful who are potential fits. Relying on God is the X factor. Whether He brings the next personality to you from radio, from YouTube, from a local church. Each person on the JOY-FM/BOOST team has a “how God brought me here” story. We could not have recruited them and no industry tricks could have lured them here. God simply keeps doing His thing, despite my best attempts to get in His way. That’s not to say one shouldn’t be proactive and smart, but don’t discount holding God to his supply-your-needs promise. On His sometimes confusing timeline.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
We are. Some of us are held back by complacency, others by fear. Some by choosing not to research their audience. Some by leaning so heavily on research they forget there’s art to what we do. Each of us has different, self-imposed limits. I include me in that. I chase Colossians 3:23 and pray God nudges me to make choices counter to my fear, to my risk aversion, or my taking stupid risks, etc.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
Instead of the usual name drop thing, I’d like to show love to the stations who influenced me before my career unrolled. B-96/Chicago, especially in the early-mid 90’s. WHYT 96.3 Jams/Detroit, early-mid 90’s. WVIC/Lansing in the late 80’s/early 90’s, plus their scrappy competitor 92.1 FM in its varying brands (Laser, Mix, Ape). The first WAY-FM stations in Florida throughout the 90’s. KRBE/Houston. 97.9 The Box in Houston. U93/South Bend, IN in the 80’s. These stations all captured a young boy’s imagination before he knew the rules and science of radio. It’s my hope that any station I’m involved with will also seize the imaginations of the audiences we serve today.