Feature InterviewInterviews

Rick McConnell Interview 12/4/15

Rick McConnell

Monumental Studios 

Career Capsule: I started in Christian radio at 18. I tried to get out of radio several times but kept ending up back in it. Finally decided 15 years ago it was what God wanted me to do. Christian radio affected my early walk with the Lord in an incredible way. Even listening to all the talk programs we aired was a way of feeding my soul. I was brought to the Lord partially as a result of some of the early “Contemporary Christian Music.” So I love to be a part of Christian radio. I started my own audio production company, Monumental Studios, in the mid 80s and have been doing that ever since.


1.  Rick, what’s the latest news at Monumental, and with you etc?

The biggest venture we have undertaken was the launch of “EMPOWER Praise and Worship.” It’s a one hour modern praise program that most stations air on Sunday mornings and Sunday night. It’s the highlight of my week wrapping up a show. I get so much out of it myself. It’s not “artist” focused like most other programs. (Though we do have artist interviews. But they mostly talk about their spiritual lives.) We also insert listeners talking about how God is at work in their lives. We’ve grown to about a hundred stations in the U.S., Canada and overseas since we launched last Spring. Hoping to expand to two hours this next year.

Regarding Monumental Studios, for those that may not know, tell us more about that, what all do you do? 

We offer several services that have really grown out of me just helping a few stations, then a few more. Then seeing the need in hundreds of stations. We offer the AIRSHOW Imaging package when has been around since 1998. Voice and Production Depot is another department that offers fully produced spots, liners, promos etc. voiced by our 10 voice talents. Christian Radio Edge is two things: It’s a free consulting blog and podcast and it’s our consulting service. We mostly work with small and medium market stations that need an overhaul. And as mentioned before: The free “Empower Praise And Worship” syndicated broadcast.


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

Worst programming advice: Fortunately, nothing really haunts me. Best programming advice: STOP trying to do everything “in house.” They invented this thing called the internet. It allows you to outsource so many things that stations used to HAVE to do in house. Too many stations still think they have to do everything with their own staff- from production, programming, music directing, etc. Staffs are smaller than ever BUT they still try to do it like the old days. When I get a station to “see the light” and outsource a lot of those jobs, they are MUCH happier and less stressed. It makes me feel good.


3. Regarding your career, what are you most proud of?

I started The Airshow Imaging features over 15 years ago. I still get so much out of how that helps beef up station a station sound. Business wise, it was a smart move. (Take it from a guy who has made several dumb business moves!) I am most fulfilled knowing I help Christian Stations sound better.


4. What things do you need everyday to do your job?  

Coffee and a few hours to myself in the morning to pray, think and read the word. It gets me in the right mood for the day. And a good mic.


5. Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?

Local Christian radio stations. (Or coming out of secular radio)


6. Do you feel syndication is good or bad for Christian radio?

I have REALLY struggled with that. I think it raises the bar for Christian radio as far as quality.  It’s hurt local Christian radio for sure. BUT, has it “hurt” the listeners? Not really. BUT there is definitely a place for a good local Christian Radio. I think “Soft Christian Music/ Modern Worship” formats can fill the gap and I would like to see that format expand. To be fair: I don’t blame “syndication.” It’s just supply and demand. Local radio needs to adjust, not mope about it and learn to be better. I love being a part of helping them.


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

Stations that are managed badly. Not seeking outside consultants but doing “in grown programming.” That means they sit around as a staff and come up with some idea and say “that sounds good!” Not realizing it’s bad programming and most consultants would tell them that- if they took the time to listen.  It all starts with managers and to a great extent program directors. (And boards that have a lot of influence)  “They don’t know what they don’t know.” And it’s hard to convince them otherwise. The number two thing is “pay.” Most people I know who leave Christian radio do so because they can’t make a living. A VERY common question I am asked by announcers is how they can make a living in Christian Radio. I tell them to develop a second income stream that they can take with them wherever they go.  Local radio needs to form a “union” of sorts. (no. not a labor union) They need to pool together and share ideas, voices, contests, production etc. And stop being “Lone Ranger” radio stations. They will keep getting eaten alive if they have this outdated and short sighted mindset.


8. Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why? 

Voice wise: I listened to many old cassette recordings of John Rivers and David Pierce when they were at KLTY, Dallas. That helped me know what great radio pros sound like. The late Tom Dooley: His voice was from heaven.  I simply took all three of them and worked their styles into mine. Of course, I am not in their league BUT it gave me something to aim at!

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