Feature InterviewInterviews

Ron Maxwell Interview 4-29-16

interview-ron-maxwell2016Ron Maxwell
Program Director
Moody Radio

Career Capsule: Wow, okay, let me try and compact this because I’ve always loved radio.  I can remember just like it was yesterday building a backyard radio station when I was 12.  I grew up in Michigan and my high school, Southfield High, had a low power FM station, so I further learned radio from Mr. Robert Sneddon, who was the broadcast teacher there.  Not only did Bob teach broadcasting, he also worked in Detroit radio and had many students go on to be successful in radio.  I’ll never forget right out of high school back in ’73, a group of about 15 of us guys had a boat load of fun when we camped up on my parents’ lake property on Lake Ogemaw, near West Branch, Michigan and set up 4 pirate radio stations with 4 different formats and the plan to broadcast for a couple of weeks.  Well, one day this car came flying up the road shooting dust behind it and drove right up to our tents where the stations were, slammed on the brakes, and this guy got out of his car with his official identification shaking in his hand and says… “keep it shut down, FCC here”!  We all could have been in big time trouble, but instead, we were issued a warning and a suspension of our 3rd class licenses for a short time.  In fact, just a few months back I was over at Enco (DAD Radio Automation folks) getting a tour and having lunch with their Executive VP Dave Turner who told me that being part of that experience was the beginning of his interest in radio broadcasting.  Dave would later go on to design the Enco Dad radio automation software.       

My early career was in Top 40 and Country radio, I then moved into producing radio spots and voice-overs for mainly secular concert spots, started an ad-agency and  entertainment booking agency and all that began to change in 1982 when I asked Jesus into my life. 

It was 1984 when visiting Fort Myers I met Bob Augsburg (Founder of WAY-FM) who was program director of WSOR at the time.  Bob invited me down to the station and handed me a bunch of Christian albums; I had no clue who these people were at the time and sat down to record an audition tape.  Just a few minutes into it, while I was doing a pretend weather forecast, the door swings open and it’s Bob asking me if I could come sit in with the GM, Bill Simon.  In Bill’s office was Randy Bell, one of the full time radio guys who just came in out of the blue and resigned while I was in the middle of creating this audition tape. That’s how the Lord opened the door to Christian Radio for me.  A couple of years later, Bob left to begin WAY-FM and that is when I replaced him as music director. 

In the mid 90’s, Moody Radio purchased WSOR in Fort Myers and it was Moody’s national program director Mike Bingham who asked me to serve as Music Director for Moody.  They later moved and combined that position with Program Director where Denny Nugent now serves and he has done a tremendous job in bringing Moody’s Music to where it is today. 

For the next 4 years I worked producing a concert TV show for Paul Todd on SkyAngel, shooting and editing video, producing spots for Radio and TV, and building Internet Radio Stations for Churches and Ministries.  It was in 2008 that I came back to Moody “part 2” where I now serve as morning show host and program director of Moody Radio in Florida.  

1. Ron, tell us what’s new with you, at Moody Tampa… etc?

Well for starters, I get to work with a great team that is talented, hard working, and best of all, everyone works together really well.  Even after doing radio for a long time, there’s always something new to learn and it is good to be led by Pierre Chestang, our station manager because he has also lived broadcasting and offers good Biblical perspective and direction.  We continue to discuss, refine, and tweak New Day Florida.  New Day Florida is what we call our morning magazine format, in which I have the privilege to host, along with co-host Kate Bruington, to whom by the way, I have worked with for 20-some years in radio.  On New Day Florida we bring listeners music, short features, news and information from a Christian perspective.   

2. You’re involved with a project called The Historic Preservation of Recorded Christian Music, tell us about that…?

Yes, this is a project outside of Moody that I volunteer with. We are always looking for others who share this same passion to be part of it.  As a music collector and former music director with a collection of an estimated 20,000 CD’s and hundreds of albums, I asked myself one day, what am I going to do with all this music someday?  It seemed  a shame to eventually nickel and dime them away at a garage sale, so I researched if anyone was involved in some kind of not for profit Christian Music preservation project.  At the time, I didn’t find anyone. So, with the help of the law firm that attorney David Gibbs III was part of (David is now with the National Center for Life and Liberty), we started a 501c3 not for profit with the mission  of preserving and sharing the music worth saving.  The sharing part was licensed through a couple of Internet Radio Stations, one of which is www.ChristianLifeRadio.com that showcases 4 decades of this project.  Jon Rivers (20 The Countdown Magazine) has been one of the imaging voices since the station’s beginning nearly a decade ago.  Rick McConnell with Monumental Productions also does  phenomenal work in providing imaging content as well.  Sharing is key, because if you just have a “museum” of sorts with all this content sitting around, no fruit can come from it; all it accomplishes is collect dust.  The way I look at it is, the Holy Spirit spoke to a lot of writers, artists, singers and producers and we need to continue to share the music that is still relevant and life changing to a world in desperate need of Christ.  Also, you have to keep in mind that there are people on the other side of the pond that are just hearing many of these songs for the first time.  Half of Christian Life Radio’s listeners are outside the US and many of CLR’s Facebook “likes” are from the Middle East.   We are able to share the project’s music legally on Christian Life Radio because of Internet Radio royalty licensing fees paid. However, being able to share the music in other ways outside of Internet Radio requires additional legal direction along with financial resources, plus we have a desperate need of office space to be able to seriously administratively move forward in organizing and doing the data input of information for the entire library.  Right now, most of this music is currently stored in semi organized drawers and boxes in a temperature controlled tight storage unit space of 15′ x 30′ in Florida.  I have a vision to be able to one day have all this music available by sharing it through a Pandora-type service. This would be possible by finding a company or organization that has a passion for the project and has greater financial resources. With that, this mechanism could be put in place and we would have the ability to navigate the legal royalty area.  We put that call out there and wait on the Lord.      

3. What advice do you have for someone thinking about launching an Internet station?

Having built Internet Radio Stations since the late 1990’s, much has changed, particularly relating to the Music Royalty Licensing area.  Moving forward, new royalty rules currently in place are a challenge for the small commercial webcaster to make a profit.  For ministries and organizations that are 501c3, they can report to royalty organizations under a non-commercial license. That is a more viable direction. It involves various payments and reporting monthly, quarterly and other annual obligations.  We have a Closed FB Group Page for this conversation and invite those working in this area to join. Email me if you are interested at communitynetradio@gmail.com. The technical side is pretty simple with many software Radio Automation programs out there priced from the free RadioDJ to more professional programs that vary in buy-out cost and leases.  There are plenty of stream host providers out there that offer everything from just bandwidth to apps, advertising and more.      

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

Transition is key to programming.  Hollywood spends thousands of dollars a second to keep the audience’s attention and they can do it using both visual and audio.  So, the question for radio is, what can we do using audio only?  For example, by taking full advantage of using sound coding in a music scheduling software program, codes beyond just the Male/Female/Group and Tempos/Textures are added.  These include the Moods (example:  Exciting, Serious, Reflective), and what the song is about (example:  God-Jesus-Holy Spirit, Scripture, Love-Family, Issues, etc.).  Just like any great movie, you move the listener emotionally in planned ways using all the rules you can successfully implement in your music scheduling software tool box.  I remember looking at higher numbers in an Arbitron book when these rules were first put in place and believe that the higher Time Spent Listening hours were directly associated with the “Transition is Key” programming concept, using at the time the RCS Selector and Linker scheduling software.    

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

I see future radio talent coming from those whose primary career is in a different field, bring their expertise and communication skills to a broadcast platform, but not many coming from the traditional broadcast choice for a career.    

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

Like it or not, syndication is just one part of a changing media landscape that involves both economics and the expansion of the way content is distributed.  Consolidation is the actual driving force, and it will continue forever changing the local radio landscape by limiting radio’s local presence.      

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

The culture is moving away from Judeo-Christian values and with persecution for believers increasing, Christian Radio could face being deemed as “hate” and runs the risk of being denied access to the public airwaves by an ever increasing hostile government.  Equally the web has it’s own vulnerabilities by virtue of hostile corporations shutting down sites, streams and apps.  We’ve already seen examples of apps being pulled for some Christian organizations.  I believe one solution is for Christian Radio to have in it’s back pocket a plan B that could allow it to act as an underground Church, by providing formats that are not called Christian, but that are mainstream, and purposely weaving Christian content that creatively points to the Gospel along with short features and teaching content that would go under the Christian branding radar.  

For now, while we have the freedom of Christian Radio, I believe we need to take in consideration the balance between what people want and what they need spiritually.  This is something the Church is also talking about.  

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

I grew up listening to CKLW The Big 8 from the Motor City, at night it was WCFL (Super CFL) and WLS from Chicago, also WWJ News Radio 950 from Detroit and recently I’ve been listening to Coffee, Country and Cody on The Legend, WSM out of Nashville.  Cody is a seasoned personality, very knowledgeable of the format, it’s history, and he has developed long time friends who participate in interviews in a authentic way.    

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