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Modern Rock Under the Spy Glass with Ferris O’Brien

Ferris O'Brien

Ferris O’Brien is living out many a DJ’s dream. He is currently in the process of acquiring KINB (105.3 Spy Radio)/Oklahoma City from Citadel, which is spinning off the station as part of the Last Bastion Trust/ABC Radio deal. O’Brien is already running the station and has flipped it back to its former Modern Rock format as “The Spy.” O’Brien kept the name alive as a specialty show on sister Citadel Active Rock KATT for the past few years, but hoped that someday the Spy would rise again. Now, five years after the station flipped formats, the long-running Spy name is alive once again in Oklahoma City. O’Brien spoke to FMQB about his love of radio, his hope for increased localism and creativity in the business and how Oklahoma City is on the verge of being the next cool music town.

eQB presents excerpts from the February FMQB magazine
Modern Rock Under the Spy Glass with Ferris O’Brien

I walked into my GM’s office back in February. He looked at me like, “Get the F out of my office. I’m not giving you any money. I’m not giving you more hours. I’m not adding another hour to Spy Radio.” I said, “I don’t want any of those things, I have a real crazy idea.” And he said, “Oh crap…” And that’s how it began.” 

“I’d never owned a radio station before, obviously. Technically it’s still in the process of being sold, with all the FCC paperwork. It’s in the final stages of the sale and Last Bastion still owns it at this time. Hopefully, the summertime is really when I’m hoping everything gets approved and it’s a done deal. But as far as right now, I’m owner/operator of Spy Media which is 105.3 The Spy.” 

“Musically, the station is very focused on new artists and Alternative-leaning acts…we’re playing a lot of Metric, Vampire Weekend, Band Of Skulls… We’re also heavy on the classic Alternative from The Velvet Underground to The Smiths and R.E.M. to Depeche Mode…it’s all there and it’s melding nicely. I believe Oklahoma City, is really millimeters away from being “cool.” Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips lives here, for God’s sake! Right now, at any given time, there’s a giant gorilla in his front yard or a space ship in the backyard…” 

“I really hope that this station is the last piece of the puzzle that maybe pushes this city to that next little level and it’s around forever. I have no intentions of flipping it or changing it. It’s The Spy and it’s going to stay The Spy. I’ll go down with the ship as The Spy if I have to.” 

“Corporate stations seem to take the stance, We don’t want to be different. We just want to meld in with everything else. I understand it from a macro management standpoint, but for an individual station it seems you would want your product to be the shiniest, newest, coolest toy in the box. It doesn’t seem like any of them want that. They just want it be the old, standard, wooden toy that’s thrown in the toy box.” 

“I had no idea of everything that goes on. I always knew the boss man in the glass office was always in a bad mood, but now I really understand why he’s always in a bad mood! I’m pretty laid back, but I can feel definitely feel that my blood pressure and stress level has gone up a bit. I leave the house before 8 a.m. and don’t make it home until 3:30 in the morning. It used to be when I closed the mic and there was a problem I’d pick up the phone and call somebody. Well now, there’s no one to call!” 

“I also want to re-think our relationship with advertisers. If our advertisers want to come in and personally talk about their “burrito of the day” or a dance at their club, I’m cool with that. It makes the advertiser as much a part of the station as everyone else. It’s kind of a re-thinking of the way people see radio having to work. The lifeblood of sustaining this thing is the advertisers and that revenue. I want their commercials to work for them. We’re going to do those quirky little things and different campaigns with them, or take the extra time to re-work their spot.”

**QB content by Joey Odorisio**


Nikki Nite,
VP of Prog. & Ops,

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