Today's lesson: Everything I Needed to Know About Working in Radio I Learned From Nick
My first job in radio was at WSLR-AM/WKDD-FM in Akron, OH. I was a cocky college sophomore, 19, and ready to set the world on fire with my deep understanding of Kajagoogoo and Thomas Dolby's artistic sensibilities.
I worked for a guy named Nick Anthony. He was the PD/OD at the combo, and in the four years I worked there while finishing up college (I was on the 5.5 year plan), Nick taught me a lot. Not that he sat me down and lectured me, but I was watching him all the time. Here's what I learned from working for Nick, all lessons I try to share with my students every day.
1. Be Persistent.
One of my college buddies, Doug, was working at WSLR and told me they needed another part-timer. He gave me Nick's name and told me to call him. Well, Nick was just about impossible to get a hold of...he was working, running 2 stations. In order to get the job I finally had to march my resume down there and put it in his hands. You children of today, sending your emails. I had to DRIVE there. With a resume that I had to PAY someone to print. Bah....
2. Ratings Down? Tighten the Playlist.
First, I should say that the mid-80s WKDD rarely had low ratings. But I remember sitting in the studio one day and in comes Nick, pulling carts off the wall. "What's going on?" I asked. "Ratings went down," Nick answered. He was pulling out anything that was slow, or old. It seemed to me, a music geek, like the response of a crazy man. The guy had clearly lost his mind. Next book? Ratings back up. That taught me that though it might seem counter-intuitive for me, a guy who wanted a huge play list, the audience for WKDD didn't care that much about depth. Play the hits and shut up!
3. You Want to Threaten to Leave? Have Your Bags Packed!
So, I'm on overnights. There's this guy working 6-midnight. He's 16. I want to get off overnights. One morning, I'm complaining to the morning drive guy about how I'm gonna go into Nick's office and tell him he better move me to 6-midnight. Or else. The morning drive guy says "Or else what?" I said "I'll quit!" "Better have your bags packed kid. If you threaten something like that, you're gonna be outta here."
I was shocked. You mean, I can just go in and tell my boss how to run the station? What??!!
I never went in to Nick's office and threatened him. And I never forgot that if you're gonna threaten to quit over something, skip the threats. Just go find another job.
Eventually I got canned from WKDD/WSLR after three dismal months on the sales team. I was a very poor salesman. I deserved to get canned. But I learned a lot while working there. And I learned that sales just wasn't the place for me.
And to this day, I still think Nick is great at his job. Akron-owned Rubber City Radio group (WQMX/WONE/WAKR) is one of the few remaining local groups that's still alive and innovating.