Rob Wagman “Common Courtesies in Christian Programming, or Not!”
I was the PM Drive guy in LA on KFSH, my first gig in the Christian format, despite being saved since February 8th, 1991 at about 12:30 in the afternoon.
My promotions director calls the hotline during my shift, “Hey, it’s Jonny DYE-AZZ, not Jonny DEE-AZZ,” probably a more than common, honest mistake one would make since I had never heard of Jonny Diaz before this time, which was probably late 2013 or early 2014, but even more so, I may have known how to pronounce his name if 95.9 The Fish was actually playing any of his songs, but we weren’t, so why did I have to say his name anyway?
The station was doing a women’s event with guest speaker Delilah, who happened to also be our night talent, and then musical guest Jonny Diaz, whose name I would butcher because I had nothing to connect it to just yet, except that he was helping the station with an event by playing songs and entertaining the ladies.
A couple months would pass, and I would begin seeing a Top 5 selling song in Los Angeles from Jonny Diaz entitled, “Thank God I Got Her,” so knowing this artist was important enough for me to pronounce his name correctly, we most certainly were probably about to embark on playing his new song that was showing great signs, not only in Southern California, but nationwide.
Signs, Signs, Everywhere A Sign
But with great sales and all, we never did, and then I got the gig at WAY-FM in Nashville to program the network, and in my first week on the job I added Greater from MercyMe, Multiplied by NeedToBreathe and Thank God I Got Her by Jonny DYE-AZZ, a name I would forever pronounce correctly because of its importance in market number two.
I added Greater because it was a top ten selling song, but our industry was freaking out because Shake didn’t test, and this probably meant the end for MercyMe, so stations were slow on the trigger, and maybe they were right to be tentative because I don’t hear much about Bart and the guys anymore, so I hope they’re doing well in obscurity. (yes, sarcasm!)
I added Multiplied because it was selling and was top ten on the BDS Christian Charts, and for Jonny Diaz, I added Thank God, honestly because it was selling Top 5 for several consecutive weeks, with NO airplay except for The Message and The Highway on SiriusXM, and, I didn’t like what I saw when I was in Los Angeles, so I gave his song a shot.
Here’s what I didn’t know. Jonny Diaz was at the end of his rope concerning his career, and he had just had a heart to heart with God, pleading with Him that if he was to continue making music, to show him a sign.
Lord, Hear Our Prayer
A couple of days later I added his song, one that Centricity was no longer working. To Jonny Diaz, he got his sign, and Thank God, because later, we got Breathe, the 2016 song of the year.
On the secular side, if Justin Timberlake or Bieber or Taylor Swift or, even, Katy Perry came out with a new song, the formats would give those songs a shot without much resistance. Later, if those songs showed poor research, MScores, etc., the songs would not advance from the entry level categories where new music should be introduced from, but they wouldn’t be held OFF the air until the songs proved their worth.
But, on our side, the Christian side, where we have inside of us God’s love, His Grace and a more tender spirit, in general, we approach music and artists with a hardness the secular side would never convey.
I’m surprised when I see this format continually making Casting Crowns prove their song is a hit, continually making Jeremy Camp prove his song is a hit, and even “Grace Got You,” if not for the early research indicators and explosion of sales, MercyMe on the heels of a huge movie was about to feel the resistance once again.
Queen of The World
Looking at the charts at this very moment, Natalie Grant sits top 10 with More Than Anything, but we wait for Natalie to prove herself, and instead, we give a slot away to a song or artist which has so much less going on.
When Hurricane Harvey plowed into Houston, it was the efforts of Natalie Grant, who assembled a format wide charity drive for the sole purpose of ‘real help,’ in a time when people who were hurting in this country had real need. With less than 3 days of vision, planning and execution, Grant called upon her artist friends to join in and more than $300,000.00 was raised in just a few hours of the live telecast and concert, and our radio stations got to come alongside them and make a real difference.
Less than a month later, it would be revealed that Natalie had cancer in the area of her most precious tool, her voice.
As an artist, Natalie has been historically known to make herself available for station functions, and for allowing stations to receive blessings, often financial, when her ‘Dare to Be’ conference comes to town, and that is because Natalie understands partnership.
No, No on Quid Pro Quo, but Yes, Yes on Blessings
It isn’t tit for tat, not in the least bit. Instead, it is “let’s join our best strengths and most heartfelt efforts to bless people,” and in the end we get blessed as well. It is the purest programming model available to radio stations and it builds strong partnerships; but for the most part, our industry takes from an artist, and when we could bless them, instead we resort to, “go ahead and prove yourself,” mode. And the next time we need them, just like Jonny in LA, they usually show up.
Could you imagine if the artist said, “looking at your ratings, the station needs to prove itself a bit more before I decide to join you?” Or, “I’m sorry, but you didn’t hit your goal in your last Pledge Drive, so for now, it’s a no.” That’s exactly what radio is doing to artists and songs, and in the process a lot of great music for our format gets lost. And for artists like Natalie, they proved themselves a long time ago, over and over and over again.
The worst kind of relationship is a one-sided one.
I have great faith, and I know in the Christian format, radio can do better.
Since 1991, Rob Wagman has been known first by his faith, and then by his skills in the secular side of this Industry, and now is known by his versatility, having succeeded in both radio and records in multiple formats from Christian Contemporary, Rock, Alternative, Top 40, Rhythm, Urban and Hot AC, in various roles from On Air to Programming to Marketing and Promotions.
Wagman has worked in all of the Top 3 markets, LA, NYC and Chicago, and returned to LA in 2012 as his entry way into CCM, in PM Drive at KFSH, 95.9 The Fish before becoming the Network PD for WAY-FM.
In 2013, Wagman launched Straight Path Media + Entertainment, a consulting firm which hyper focuses on talent and each station’s greatest need for growth, supplying a la cart programming services for branding, from music strategies, promotional and marketing think tank brain storming, promo and imaging creative, talent coaching and airchecking. Wagman presently coaches 27 air talents, consults 13 stations plus 4 clusters.
Contact Rob Wagman at StraightPathMandE@gmail.com