Radio program/music director

Radio program/music director

Jim the radio guy

Boston, MA

Male, 55

I have spent over 25 years in radio as a program/music director as well as on-air for various stations in New England. Feel free to ask me anything you like or wanted to know regarding this fun career!

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29 Questions

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Last Answer on July 22, 2019

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Do radio stations have to pay royalties or licencing fees to the artists in order to play their songs on the radio?

Asked by dan79 over 5 years ago

Hi dan79! It works this way...all stations are required at different intervals of the year to submit a log of every song they play including the composor/writer. These logs then get turned in to BMI or ASCAP (whoever is requesting the logging). Logging is required by law & the station then must perform the logging as per their request & it must be accurate. If a certain song is played a lot the royalties can be large & rewarding for the artist. The type of song (pop, old, rap, country etc) does not matter...all songs must be logged. While stations have various methods of logging, the end result is the same. While there are other details that's the short of it. Stations can play whatever music they wish at anytime...they do not have to pay in advance just to be able to play the song. Thanks for your question dan79!

Why do stations in every major market use the same 'slogan' or word in their title or before their call letters? Like, every city I've lived in has a Q---, or a station that goes by "Mix---", or "xxxx, The Rock"? Are all the "Q's" affiliated?

Asked by Al over 5 years ago

Good question Al...these are more strategic names than slogans. A slogan might be "The greatest hits" while the name could be Q-104.5....Stations use these names because they are easy to remember, give you quick info about what they do & sound cool. Let's face it...Q-104.5 is easier to say & remember than WXWX! This is very common in any market size...large, medium or small. A station might use "mix 106" as it says who they are along with what you might expect...in that case a mix of different music. Slogans & names do not mean they are affiliated. You may hear a "Rock 93.1" near you & another with the same name in the next state over but they may not be affiliated at all. There are planty of stations affiliated with each other in or near the same city but will usually have different formats almost always different names otherwise confusion could result. Stations tend to use some letters more than others...Q & Z are very popular...followed by B & Y. Any letter could be used however. ("F-105.7") Another popular approach is a summary of format & dial position such as "Rock 93.1" or "Real country 103.3" It's a quick & easy way to say what they do & where they are on your dial. It can also help tourists & new people in your area. If you saw a bumperstrip that said "WXWX" you may not know what they do but if you saw one with "Rock 93.1" it sums it up quickly by telling you what they do & where to find them.

Back about 15 years ago, many stations simply would use "Rock 93" as a name. As more stations have arrived, it became possible to have a station on 93.1 & 93.7 both playing rock (or the same format). If they both were called "Rock 93" it may hurt one or the other at ratings time. If you listen to station A but at ratings time you confuse it with station B, station B gets the credit. This is one of the reasons stations have added exact dial positions in their name "93.1" Thanks for your question Al!

Have you ever worked at a station with someone who went on to be famous?

Asked by Nicki1997 over 5 years ago

Hi Nicki1997! If by famous you mean known country wide as opposed to only a certain part of the country yes...it has happened. Most recently that I recall was someone joining CBS news. It has happened the other way around too where we have hired someone who would be considered famous. It's not an everyday event but it does indeed happen. Appreciate the question...thanks!

Is the best talent these days on terrestrial radio or Sirius? Can terrestrial possibly match the huge contracts you hear about Stern and other famous radio personalities getting?

Asked by lolDUKE over 5 years ago

Greetings lolDUKE! "Best" is usually a matter of opinion but there are some talents you can hear on both terrestrial radio & Sirus/XM. Broadway Bill Lee for example is on Sirus/XM as well as WCBS-FM in NYC at different times of the day.  Depending on budget & talent, there are indeed terrestrial stations offering very nice contracts to various talents across the country. There are of course plenty of very talented people who work without a contract & are paid very nicely as well. An example would be a talent that has worked with a contract in a large market until the end of the that contract and then opted to work in a smaller area without having one because they desire the move. Thanks for the question!

Both Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel used to work in radio and they often describe the management folks in radio as extraordinarily stubborn and mired in the "old way" of doing things. Do you agree? Is radio stuck in the stone age, philosophically?

Asked by MANSHOW over 5 years ago

Hi Mainshow..I started in radio in the stone age (LOL) & clearly remember what stations sounded like & what they did in my market. While there are some stations that try to bring back this type of format, they still have to compete & be progressive on & off the air. Radio, like anything else is a business that needs to be with the times in order to survive. That does not mean playing current music necessarily...an oldies station may play older tunes, but they too need to be on top of current things going on in their market. Some "old school" rules still apply because they are successful & they work but every station I have worked at has always looked ahead & has not been afraid to try different methods of gaining an audience. Those methods do not have to be drastic either...a small tweak here & there can make a big difference. That said onto your question...

Management folks can indeed be stubborn when it comes to doing what they think is right for their station...if management approved every single idea that came along they wouldn't survive very long. At the same time they need to be open & listen to suggestions & be ready to act when a good one comes along. This can mean sometimes taking a chance. As a program dir., I have always listened to ideas, talked them out with the staff & reach a decision. Every place I have worked that's been the law of the land. My answer to your question would be no I don't think radio is stuck in the stone age. Thanks for the question Manshow!

What did you think of the whole Don Imus nappy-headed-hoes scandal? I'm not saying the guy's a humanitarian, but that just felt like a guy getting completely railroaded.

Asked by JimDuensich over 5 years ago

JimDuensich - I think Don himself summed it up very well with his apology as stated here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Imus

 

Will I still catch his show when I get the chance? Sure...life goes forward not backward.


Thanks for the question!

 

 

What's your insider's take on how good a radio host Howard Stern is? Is he objectively GOOD? Or is he just a shock jock type who was in the right place at the right time and blew into the stratosphere?

Asked by Stern over 5 years ago

I don't think anyone could argue that he is successful...whether being successful means you are good is opinion. It's true I am in the same business but that doesn't mean my opinion is worth more than anyone else's. In other words, if you are wondering if I can look "objectively" & find something that discredits him or makes him "not good" I cannot. He may have been in the right place at the right time a long time ago but his talents have taken him where he wants to be. We all kind of need to be in the right place to get going. Howard is a radio personality that builds an audience & knows the business. Personally I do think he's good but that does not mean you have to like or listen to every topic he brings up. I have never worked directly with him but have heard he is a very hard worker. You could ask a group of 30 people & get 30 different reasons why he is good or not so great. That's the opinion part of it. Appreciate the question, Stern!

What kind of music does your station specialize in? Have you ever worked at a station where they completely overhauled their format or theme, like going from Top-40 to completely New Country or something?

Asked by Apostlez over 5 years ago

The station I currently work at is top-40 with some variety - (some tunes from the late 80's up to today leaning mostly toward current songs)

On part 2 of your question...yes I used to work for an oldies station that after several years switched over to "smooth jazz". Nobody was let go even though there was a change in format. Very often if a station changes format many or even all of the staff could be let go.

That was really the only complete overhaul that I have been through. That said just about every station I have worked for or programmed has tweaked or modified the format slightly at one time or another although that is nothing at all like a total revamp.

Thanks Apostlez for the questions !

OK, level with me: is there any secret to actually GETTING THROUGH when you call in for a radio station contest or promotion? I feel like I've probably dialed 1,000 times and gotten 1,000 busy signals.

Asked by CALL IN over 5 years ago

Hi Call In,

There really is no secret. All I can say is keep trying! There can be a lot of callers when a prize is being offered even to the point of overloading the circuits. It's not easy to be the correct numbered caller. One method of trying to win is calling the number a few minutes before the contest (if you know about when it will be) however most places clear the lines before asking for a certain numbered caller.

At any station I have worked for it has been done honestly...when you hear that the 10'th caller wins, they really do take caller 10. Some stations have several phone banks that places calls in order. So if say 5 banks are available, it's easy to get caller 5 simply by picking "bank 5".

The key is to keep trying...I wish you the best of luck in getting through & thanks for the great question!

 

When doing your music programming, how much of it is mandated by the charts vs. your own selections? If there's an unproven/obscure artist you feel is worth including, does it happen?

Asked by FaFaFooey over 5 years ago

FaFaFooey greetings to you. Formats are usually mandated by the station owner/program director. A station that plays hits would probably not stray from that format to play an unproven artist or group. Sometimes stations have special programming that plays songs from unproven bands. The band trying to make it has lots of work to do such as hiring a manager who can get them a contract & exposure. We have all seen on TV where a band brings a copy of their song into a radio station & that station loves it so much they play it causing other stations to play it. I never say never but this just does not happen. The Billboard charts go up to 100 known as the "Hot 100". For albums, it's 200. Hit stations usually play much of the first 40 & perhaps a few others from the Hot 100. Billboard has charts for every format from top-40 to rock to country. There are many songs that make it to say number 85 & never get much exposure. It's a tough business...asking a radio station that plays hits to play something that is not a hit can cost in people tuning out. If I heard a song that I feel should be included but is not a hit or already on the charts, I doubt very highly I would be able to play it on the station I work for. Unproven is different than obscure. There are many obscure artists that might get played on progressive stations but will never be heard on a hits type station. Commercial radio is a business...unproven & obscure artists can both usually be heard on many college stations but not always on commercial stations. Bands trying to make it can also perhaps get their songs on internet stations which could gain them exposure if they are well liked. Good question...thanks!

What are some of the biggest on-air fails you've had at your station?

Asked by Marinersftw over 5 years ago

Hi Marinersftw...I'm not exactly sure of what you mean by "fails". Do you mean mistakes on the air or bloopers? If so, we have had just about everything happen from equipment failure to the dj going down the hall after telling the computer to stop when the song is done & so the song stops & nothing happens...all kinds of things can occur. A big mistake can be saying a town's name incorrectly. It's considered "big" because if you are supposed to be serving a certain area & you don't say the town correctly you lose creditability.  It's hard to say what the biggest one really is. If you mean things we have tried & yet didn't go over well with the audience the number is very small. Thanks for the question!

Is there a reason why certain station numbers seem to appear in many markets? Like every city I've lived in has a 107.9 and a 99.9. Is it just coincidence or do are frequencies clearer or something that lead to them being more used?

Asked by Cohen over 5 years ago

Hi Cohen! It's not the frequency itself that makes it clear or not, it's what is already on the frequency or next to it. Example...if a station is on 97.5 & there is a 97.3 or a 97.7 some 60 miles away, the station on 97.5 won't make it to that area very well unless you have a very selective radio (most don't) The FCC can assign frequencies...people can bid on open availabilities. The FCC takes into account what might interfere, what is on the adjacent frequency, how strong the next 97.5 is down the road, distance, terrain etc. If a prospective station owner wants a certain frequency, he/she would have to prove to the FCC that it won't interfere with any other station, airports etc among other factors. Stations are allocated so many watts by the FCC as well. Whether a city has a 107.9 available depends on where the closest 107.9 is down the road, & where a 107.7 may be along with plenty of other factors. Albany, NY is an example of a city with no 107.9 because among other things they have a 107.7 there.  Thanks for the question!

How realistic was the TV show Frasier re: the depiction of life at a radio station? I know it was a sitcom, but is there anything you think they got particularly right or wrong?

Asked by 2fer over 5 years ago

Hi 2fer...Usually, sitcoms push the truth in order to get a lot of mass appeal humor in there. It's been a long time since I have seen Frasier & due to time I don't usually watch a lot of TV. As I recall one episode mentioned something about 28 seconds of dead air, spilling coffee into the control board & messing up the call letters. Things like that do indeed happen every now & then although maybe not all in the same day. Sorry I couldn't be more specific but as I said it's been a long time since I've seen Frasier. Appreciate the question 2fer!

What are some songs that you had to play repeatedly because they were so popular but that made you want to put your fist through the wall?

Asked by judeinlaw over 5 years ago

Hello judeinlaw...I like most music that I hear & understand that as someone on the air, I will hear some songs repeat in any given day sometimes several times. Even though I might be playing a song for the third time that morning, I still like knowing that it is being enjoyed by the audience. I can't list any songs that make me want to put my fist through a wall as I don't have that kind of temper. If during a show a DJ does not want to hear a certain song they can turn their monitor down &/or tune it out. Thanks for the question!

How much data did you have access to about listener behavior? Could you tell when listeners would change stations and did you use that to add/remove songs from rotation?

Asked by Bill over 4 years ago

Hi Bill

Just about everything we do is a barometer to tell us about behavior. Requests give us an idea of what our audience wants to hear to the town/city they live in & that can tell us to a point where a lot of our audience is listening from. Station ratings are the report card which tells us when people listen & how many are listening. All of the tools are taken with a grain of salt & are used as a guide as well as a sales tool. That is one tool that can help us determine when listeners change stations.

Adding/removing songs is another story. Not every listener calls to tell us he/she likes or dislikes a song. So when someone does we pay attention but can't use that as a final say. It would take a lot of calls to get us to remove a song. That decision is usually left to the program director. Different stations have different rules as to when & what to add, rest for awhile or remove for good.

Thanks for your question Bill!

Who makes the decision about what words in songs to censor? I'm always surprised when I hear relatively innocuous words like "gun" or "high" bleeped out. Seems like someone's taking censorship way to seriously.

Asked by Adele over 5 years ago

Hi Adele - It can come from many levels. Stations could do editing in-house or, if they are owned by a company, perhaps that company decides. Some stations that I have worked for feel that a song might be really good except for a certain line or 2. It depends on what audience they are trying to reach. If a station subscribes to a music service it could be edited there. Of course, certain words are illegal to broadcast. If the station edits just the words "gun" or "high" it's probably because they don't feel their audience would like to hear that but otherwise the song deserves airplay. Also, some single versions of songs come from albums but are edited for time while the album version of the same song may be longer. To be honest, I am not sure why "Gun" or "High" would be taken out of a song but I suppose it's the context in which they are used. Thanks Adele!

So I think my kids' (11 & 14) favorite music is horrendous noise, but my parents said the same thing about my Sabbath, Ramones, etc. Do you think parents will just always hate their kids' music or am I right that today's stuff is objectively awful?

Asked by CP over 5 years ago

Sorry for the delayed response...been a busy week. This is a fun question that is talked about a lot. I have seen it work both ways...parents who have no use for their kids music & the other way where a child got heavy influence from his/her parents. As an example a 50 year old mom or dad may like The Doors, Jimi Hendrix etc & their child(ren) love those groups as a result. My parents never really cared for the music I liked but "put up with it" while I wanted control of the radio in the car. I happen to like older stuff & currents as well. So then CP as far as parents always hating their kids music it depends on their taste & everyone differs. This question is a great one for the dinner table...you might get all kinds of answers! Take care CP & thanks for the question.

What on-air incident generated the most listener letters?

Asked by Mike over 4 years ago

Hi Mike

Stations do receive letters about different things. Usually the bulk of any audience however does not write in or call. If they are upset they change stations, turn it off or keep on listening.

One incident that I remember is one of the DJ's did not know how to pronounce "Paul Masson" (The winery) & as a result called it Paul Mason. A Paul Mason who was very prominent in the city I worked had unfortunately passed away a few weeks prior to that. We had many letters from upset people & although the error was not on purpose it was embarrassing.

Thanks for the question Mike!

When did you first hear about satellite radio, and what did the industry initially think about it? Was it viewed as a fringe thing, or were stations immediately concerned about what it would do to AM/FM?

Asked by roller about 5 years ago

The industry naturally was concerned about it but didn't really think it would do too much to hurt the business. Down to our local level, I am not worried one bit. Local radio will always have something to offer & competition is healthy. I first heard about satellite radio around 2001-2002...somewhere in there. Appreciate your question, roller!

What songs were initially hated by the listening public that eventually became big hits?

Asked by Bear over 4 years ago

Hi Bear...that's a tough one. Songs become big hits because they are well liked. There are probably many songs that can "grow on you" but I don't have any specific answer to this question. At most if not all places I've been, a new song that is liked gets requested by a lot of people & thus the song becomes a hit. If a song is released that is hated by the listening public as you say, it probably would not become a hit. There are songs that are released & don't fare well & then get released once again and succeed. It usually is not because the public hates them, they just didn't get enough exposure for various reasons.

Did you ever bring artists into the studio for live segments and who were the biggest jerks or sweethearts? Was anyone completely different than what you were expecting?

Asked by Matthew about 5 years ago

It's been awhile since we've had a really famous artist in but as I recall, all of them acted like what you see...very nice & enjoyable to talk to. I can't think of anyone who acted like a jerk!Thanks for the question, Matthew!

Do you think the old-timey radio drama genre will ever make a comeback? I have some very fond memories of listening to those with my parents, but it feels like they've more or less disappeared now!

Asked by Ham Radio over 5 years ago

Hello Ham Radio - It's possible it may make a comeback...with streaming available you might be able to find a station that plays radio dramas from time to time but they are certainly not common...many radio dramas were done live way back when & I'm not sure what's available today...good luck & thanks for the question!

What specific events or programming decisions led to the most substantial rises or drops in listener numbers? Would hiring a hot DJ or running a specific promotion be enough to see an immediate spike in numbers?

Asked by Conan123 over 4 years ago

Hi Conan123 - Usually patience is required after any change as it's not a quick thing. You can introduce a "hot DJ" but it still could take awhile before the audience shifts away from other places. Promotions work the same way...they need advertising to get the word out as well as word of mouth to attract listeners from other stations. Some of the most successful promotions offer a cash prize. We all can find a use for money!

Do you think there will always be a place for terrestrial radio, or does it feel like it's something whose obituary is being written, like video rental stores or print newspapers?

Asked by Steve almost 5 years ago

Steve - I really think terrestrial radio will be around for a long long time to come! Thanks for the question!

Have you heard of the software that some companies claim can predict whether a song will be popular based on running it through an algorithm and how much validity does that stuff have?

Asked by tarun singh almost 5 years ago

Hello tarun - I have heard of things like that & I hope real human ears couldstill beat a computer program for determining if a song will be popular. Still, there are times the computer would be right...personally I don't put a lot of faith in that method & I would never depend on it as gospel. Have a good one !

What kind of behind-the-scenes commercial arrangements are there in radio? Can a record label pay a station to give its star a certain # of plays per day?

Asked by Sines almost 5 years ago

Hi Sines - No a record company cannot pay a radio stationin consideration for playing a certain song or songs. That is payola & is illegal & has never happened at any stationI have worked for.

Thanks for the question Sines!

Hi. Today, 7/25/17, I heard a song between 12:45PM to 1:15PM approximatey. It starts off with only sax for a while and then the vocals. I have to find the name of the artist and the title (or I'll go nuts!) Please help.
Thank you very much.

Asked by lolalady over 2 years ago

Hi lolalady,

I would need a little more info to narrow this one down!

Can you have a song with the word codeine in it! Or can you say the word codeine in your song?

Asked by BJM 5 months ago

Hi BJM,

Yes you can...hope that helps!

how would I go about finding an internship?

Asked by srudent about 4 years ago