Jet Black, OM, KHTT/Tulsa
&
Stick, APD/MD, KTFM/San Antonio

Stick: As a peer, you beat me to the PD chair and are evolving as one of the really bright programming minds of today.  You know I aspire to be a PD in the future, what is the one piece of advice you can offer in making the transition from APD to Program Director?
Jet: First of all, I can't believe you wouldn't start the conversation without our favorite saying...RING RING RING, BANANA PHONE! OK, now that it's out of the way! The art and science of what comes out of the speakers is the easy part. Managing people is by far the most challenging thing about what a PD or OM does. The really hard part about it is there's no real way you can "teach" someone how to manage others. It's a lot of trial and error with high stakes; some of the rewards are great, some suck. But you sign up for both when you jump in. You HAVE to love it. Best advice, try to listen a lot and pick your battles.


Stick: Do you have any regrets in your radio career thus far?

Jet: Yeah, leaving Nashville! The best PD I've ever worked for was there (Rich Davis) and he REALLY believed in me even if I was a total train wreck of a 20 year old. He was patient, fair and was always willing to show me something new. I've worked with many great people, but we grew so close that he is still a mentor for me today and I haven't worked for him in ten years. Today, he's a high falutin' Operations Manager with a killer pad and like twelve years under his belt in one market, that speaks volumes to the kind of guy he is. But hey, everything happens for a reason.


Stick: You're still live and local 24/7, (even overnights) a rarity in our business.  Do you feel it gives you any kind of competitive advantage to have people in the building all the time?

Jet: ABSOLUTELY! We have a local personality on almost all the time. There are a couple of syndicated shows on the weekends that are un-hosted. The competitive advantage is that we have more hands on deck with one station than most clusters have which is a major advantage. At a recent concert I had 15+ people walking around with logos pre-show and that same amount handing out flyers setting an appointment to listen to our morning show the next day and win $500, the other guys had four people before the show and one after, with a bat light. Winning!


Stick: I remember during our time at 96.5 KISS FM in Cleveland your passion for politics.  Didn't you make a run at public office?

Jet: I did run for Oklahoma State Senate in 2010, but I didn't stay in the race very long. I made the mistake of not educating myself about the depth of Republican political talent in my district, the guy who's seat I was running for is now the Lt. Governor and little did I know that his seat was coveted by many. The woman who won the seat has had family in Oklahoma Republican politics since the turn of the century. I saw the writing on the wall early and bowed out before the race involved millions. But, it was a great experience and I made quite a few friends in the political arena that I will be able to carry on to another seat down the road when the time is right. 


Stick: Outside of radio, what are your outlets?  Where do you find enjoyment outside the building?

Jet: I've been flying airplanes since the age of 12. There's nothing like cruising at 10,000 feet with nothing but clear skies between you and the ends of the earth. It's quite an experience. As a side to my flying addiction, I've been involved with the civilian auxiliary of the US Air Force, Civil Air Patrol, since 1996. We perform search and rescue, disaster relief and assessment and we assist in homeland security missions nationwide. I'm a squadron commander and that's almost like having a second full-time job, but I absolutely love it. I also find time for a very full personal life that is super important to maintaining your sanity.


Stick: I've always been a believer of finding music organically just like our audience does.  Aside from industry sources, is there a go to spot for you to put your finger on the pulse of your audience?

Jet: I watch Facebook like a hawk. We found Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts" because a bunch of our female fans were posting the lyrics as status updates a full two months before the label was ready to work it. That record became a GIGANTIC smash for us! If it's not Facebook, I do a club gig that is packed with our P1s every Friday night. If there's a Rhythm record I'm curious about - instant call-out. So far, so good!


Stick: Between the two of us, we have been on stations all over the country. How do you parlay that experience and exposure into the big picture with your staff daily?

Jet: I've caught myself saying "When I was in..." and I absolutely hate that. But at times, it's tough to get the staff members who have never experienced radio anywhere else to understand the 'This is how it’s supposed to be done' concept. Most of the time, I will draw from my encyclopedia of experience by using the ideas or concepts as examples and let the wheels start to spin so they can put their own stamp on whatever it might be. But, if it's getting lost in translation, out comes "When I was in Cleveland, me and Stick…AT SPYBAR."


Stick: Many programmers believe the days of big personality morning shows are a thing of the past thanks in part to PPM methodology.  Do you agree or disagree with this mentality?

Jet: It's a delicate balance. There are some guys I've seen take it beyond what it’s supposed be. What I see more often than not, though, are personalities who refuse to adapt. So they end up being put in handcuffs. The difference between being good and being great is your ability to adapt. DIFFERENTIATE OR DIE! Constantly work to make yourself better and you'll have nothing to worry about. I have a guy right now who is a former morning guy and getting him to understand that doing a break at 11pm is supposed to be all over the intro is like speaking French...but it can be done.


Stick: What is one piece of advice one of your previous employers or PDs offered you, that you still implement today?

Jet: "FIGURE OUT WHICH END OF THE GUN THE BULLET COMES OUT OF" - Mike Wheeler, former OM Clear Channel/St. Louis. Best advice I've ever been given, hands down! I spent a lot of time, early in my career, getting in my own way. Once I figured out that I was my own worst enemy at the time, slowly everything began to improve. I still remind myself of this every once and a while, it's a good way to keep myself in check.


Stick: If you ever end up sleeping on my couch again, what are you not going to bring to my house?

Jet: So let me start this answer, for those unfamiliar with the story, with a little history. See, when I moved to Cleveland to handle nights (following Stick who was working afternoons), I didn't immediately have a place to live. Stick was gracious enough to let me sleep on his couch in his bad ass waterfront apartment in the Flats area of downtown C-Town. Little did I know, at the time, that his particular neighborhood was not the best place to be after dark. I had a car full of my crap and buried somewhere inside all of it was my 45 caliber pistol. One day, I came outside to drive myself to work only to discover that my vehicle had been broken into the night before and they only took two things, my notebook computer (which was also buried under 50 pounds of crap) and my gun. I went inside to tell the property manager so she could alert the residents to check for missing belongings and in the process my missing pistol was brought up. When that information found its way into her brain, you'd thought I'd ran over her puppy. Stick and I both had our ears bent for a half hour about the dangers of guns. It wasn't a very good idea to tell her that I "don't give a damn about your rules, I have the second amendment" because I was going to apply for a unit in the building. Liberals -- Can't live with ‘em, you can't shoot em, so to speak.

*CAR CRASH SOUND*
 



 

Jet: You are one of the few jocks who have practiced PPM philosophy before PPM was "in," why?
Stick: I always tried to think as a listener. Kevin Metheny and Todd Shannon helped mold my mentality where this was concerned. They forced me to listen to the radio not as a radio dork, but as someone who comes to it as recreationally as the average listener does daily. When I understood that it was acceptable to be 'funny' over a 7 sec intro and that I didn't need a 1:00 bit to be a kick ass jock, it all fell into place.


Jet: You, like me, have U-Haul frequent flier miles, what has been your best experience thus far?

Stick: Orlando captured my heart. I spent 4.5 years of my life at WXXL. It became the place I refer to as "home.” I had a nice little love affair with that audience. I worked with an air staff that lived the lifestyle of the city so well.  We created a vibe there. It’s very rare that you have three shows that can interconnect and have such chemistry on one station for as long as we did. We made Michael Bryan look smart (laughs). He pushed all the right buttons. I learned a lot from that dude.


Jet: How has it felt being the pale white boy in two Latino dominated markets? Has that changed how or what you do on the air?

Stick: No. When I was voice-tracked on your competition KTBT in Tulsa and tracking KYLD in San Francisco, I learned I could still be "me" on the air in a Rhythmic situation. As soon as I learned how to just be myself on the air, I learned altering my personality based on the station or situation made no sense.


Jet: I don't think I've ever asked you what your 'dream gig' would be. After all, you've worked at Z100. So, what is heaven?

Stick: Z100 was my dream gig.  For years, I harassed Kid Kelly and strived to get there. I was very fortunate to have the privilege to do weekends and pull swing shifts for Tom Poleman and Sharon Dastur for almost three years. I never took one shift for granted, before I'd leave at the end of a shift, I'd stare out at the Empire State Building, in my home town. I'd think, "My goal is to come back here next week." I learned so much from the pros, I even used to drive in for the Thursday jock meetings. An experience I will take with me for the rest of my life. Nothing beats setting a large goal such as that and crushing it!
          That all said my 'dream gig' is hard to say. I get to pick the hits and schedule them in a way that a listener would find appealing. I also get to talk about all the things I discuss with my friends (well most of them) and live the lifestyle most people read about. I'm living a hell of a life, and it's been a hell of a ride. 
          I'm getting to the point in life where I am picky about where I want to be (mostly because I've lived so many different places.)  You were one of the only radio people who have crashed with me who didn't annoy me to high hell! Dream gig is living in a place similar to the experience I had in Orlando working with great people who have vision and focus, all while enjoying my surroundings.


Jet: You LOVE to travel, do you try to stick with places you know or are you all about exploring new destinations?

Stick: For the longest time I had never been outside the U.S. In '09 we did a station trip to Amsterdam as part of a station promotion. It forced me to get a passport and see what else is out there.  I love seeing the U.S. but have expanded my horizons, recently went to Canada. I've also been to Grand Cayman Island and Mexico.  I'd like to see more of Europe, but some time in the next ten years, I want to back pack through Australia.


Jet: In your opinion, what is the next big sound for POP? What is dead?

Stick: Nothing dies in music, it just evolves. I strongly believe in Guy Zapoleon's theory on music cycles. It becomes harder to forecast what is next because technology puts new music in the hands of the listener faster than ever. I still allow myself to be a fan of all sorts of music, it helps me pick up on the trends quicker. As programmers we're not tying to reinvent the wheel and be 'ahead of the curve' rather, we try to spin it a little more efficiently and be on point with what our consumers want.


Jet: We're both super passionate about our craft, do you find yourself picking battles with the 'grasshoppers' carefully or do you give them the full flavor? The parental curse?

Stick: I was a real S.O.B!  I think the reason we get along so well is that we were eerily similar in our approach!  I was also my own worst enemy in certain situations. But I have also evolved so much from when I got going in this business. I learned not only how to be a jock, but a personality, a good co-worker, a good employee, and a man. I attribute it to the large market experiences I had so early in my career. I was immature.
          I find now in management situations, the importance of managing people differently, it's a delicate balance.  I see a lot of situations I put myself in years past and now view them from the other side of the desk. It's eye opening to what a jerk I probably came off as. The trick is learning from it, and now being able to see the writing on the wall before someone else makes the same mistakes you made.  Picking my battles is one of the best life lessons I've ever learned.


Radio has changed a lot since we hopped on board this train, what do you miss most about the old days? What are you missing the least?

Stick: I miss some of the great cities like San Francisco and Philadelphia. I miss some of the truly cool people I have met along the way and contacts I've made. It's fun when I travel, to know someone in every freaking town!  I miss having budgets and elaborate promotions.  But I don't miss the hoops we used to make people jump through to get to the prize. I don't miss the over explaining things. Overall, I like how radio has challenged us in recent years. It's forced us to streamline the product that continues to offer a viable music/entertainment source for listeners for years to come. Just because it's 'not the way it used to be’ doesn't mean it sucks.  It's just different than when most of us started.


Jet: T-Shirt and Shorts or Shirt and Tie to the office?

Stick: I'm the guy that if I came to work in a collared shirt, people would ask "did someone die?"  I'm painfully casual almost to a fault.  This may evolve, but for now...t-shirt/vans or chuck's/shorts.  Maybe it's the FL in me!


Jet: Uncle Stick, tell us a story about a trip to Vegas.

Stick: You mean the time at the Radio Music Awards when I lost two grand at roulette because I started placing bets with Gavin Degraw while hammered drunk? Or the time you, Mack at Night and I played Rock Paper Scissors when all I wanted was In-N-Out Burger. Or maybe it was when I walked across Vegas to find a Del Taco with Kade from KYSR. Yeah, I gotta stay outta Vegas!

[FMQB ORIGINAL CONTENT, published June 2011, please do not republish or reprint without the express consent of FMQB. Make sure you visit us on the Web at www.fmqb.com]


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