Director of Programming: XHTZ and XHRM – San Diego
President: Fusion Radio Networks
Creator and Host: Sunday Night Slow Jams
ALL RADIO NEWS: Your appearance on Shark Tank was ingenious as a radio pro. When you appeared on the show did it matter whether you won or lost of was the publicity more important?
R DUB!: The money never mattered to me; not on Shark Tank, not for Slow Jams, not for radio. Not yesterday, not today, not tomorrow. I do everything in this business I do because I love it. I’d do it for free. I really would.
In reality, I went on Shark Tank 50% for the publicity and 50% just because I seriously love the show and thought it would be super fun—which it was! I’m a total P1 of Shark Tank, and I figured they must be running out of ideas—I kept seeing people on the show pitching their cookies and jellies and cakes. Being in the “content” business myself, I figured they might have me on the show because the “radio” pitch had never been done on Shark Tank before. Sure enough, I was right—and eight months after my initial application, Brian McKnight and I were talking into “The Tank!” It was unbelievable! I really had a blast—definitely goes down as one of the best days of my life. It was surreal!
ARN: What’s the latest since the appearance?
R DUB!: Immediately after the appearance, we got funded for the money we asked for, by a private company who wanted to be a part of the show. A week after that we got a record deal through Universal, Thump Records and Wal-Mart—to create a “Best Of” album, featuring the most requested songs from the show. Holy crap, I’m in Wal-Mart!!! Not to mention, we’ve nearly doubled our affiliates. We were in the 60s when our Shark Tank episode ran. Today we’re nearing the 120-station mark. Very exciting.
I’ve was able to hire a VP of Affiliate Relations, and that is Mark Wilson, and he’s crushing it! Along with Dave Denes, Masa, and the team at Benztown Radio, we’re going to close 200 affiliates by mid-2016. It’s a great synergy. Along with our classic “Rhythm/Urban” Slow Jams show, we’ve added Pop/Top 40, “Throwback,” and content-only versions of the show. So programmers have a lot of choices now; they can run the version of the show that best compliments their station’s format and audience.
ARN: What’s the top 3 to 5 hottest songs in the market?
R DUB! For us, in San Diego, at Z90—The Weeknd can do no wrong. We’re powering both of his songs. This Nicky Jam is fire. Bieber no one can deny. Look out for Lost Frequencies’ Are You With Me. That’s my joint!
ARN: If you could have dinner with 3 to 5 other PDs at the same time who would they be?
R DUB!: Dude, trick question!!! I would want to have dinner with every one of my Sunday Night Slow Jams affiliate PDs, so that’s no fair! But aside from them, it would be my mentors—the programmers that took chances on me early in the game, and really gave me some amazing opportunities. I’d take them to dinner to thank them: Bruce St. James (KTAR-Phoenix), Mark Medina (WHTZ-New York), and Tim Richards (KZON-Phoenix). They are such fantastic programmers and I am so lucky to have been trained by them. There are many more, like Tracy Johnson, Joe Lindsay, Larry Watkins, Rick Thomas, Fred Rico, Luis Alvarado, James Rivas and more.
Bonus: I’d love to take Rob Morris out for some din-din. I am fascinated with WPOW-Miami and Rob is an amazing and dynamic programmer. I have been following him for some time now. The restraining order expires next month, so we should be good.
ARN: Do you have any original Holiday promotions coming up, how well do they work in your market?
R DUB!: For our Rhythmic AC, Magic 92.5, we do Jagger and Kristi’s Christmas Wish. The promotion is pretty formula (accept “wishes” from families who need help, and grant them), but what makes the project dynamic are the personalities. Jagger and Kristi are San Diego staples and do an amazing job connecting with the listeners. They really are difference makers. Christmas Wish does such a great job branding Jagger and Kristi and the station and most importantly helping the community. I wish I could say there was a direct and correlating ratings impact, but the truth is that Christmas Wish isn’t done for “the numbers.” It’s done because we truly care about the community. You can hear it in every wish that is granted. I know radio is a “business,” but sometimes you just have to do the right thing. I guess “radio karma” has been good to us…we’re currently #1 6+. Thank you baby Jesus.
On Z90, Morton in the Morning does Home for the Holidays. What makes this promotion stand out is the expert crafting of the story; eventually filmed, edited and presented on Z90.com. It could be featured on Oprah. Rick is that good. So is our digital team. People be bawlin’ when they see the stories!
ARN: What sets your Top 40 station apart from other stations? Do you miss the Rhythmic Format?
R DUB!: Z90 recently was moved to the Pop panel. We’ve been heading down the “Hit Music” lane for about five or six years now. We play what our audience has an appetite for, and they’ve told us that Hit Music is what they want. And it’s paid off!
I do miss the Rhythm format, but it’s certainly not what it was ten years ago. Back when Top 40 stations refused to acknowledge Hip-Hop, the Rhythm format owned its music. The format was on fire and no matter how big a Dr. Dre song got, the Top 40 stations wouldn’t go near it! All that changed. I knew the format was headed for trouble the day that I heard Lil’ Jon on Z100 at 1PM. Think about it, we used to own the music—now anytime a Rhythm record gets big, Top 40 radio says, “I’ll take that, thank you!” Which leaves you only “owning” the stiffs. And what’s fun about that?
We do tons of local, in-house research and I’m proud to have such a great programming staff who are experts in the music and this market, including my APD Tre, Music Director Kat, and mix team including DJs Al and Mission. My Ops Manager Joe Lindsay and consultant Tracy Johnson join in our music meetings each week. Each of us comes to the “event” packed to the hilt with lots of research, opinions and passion! We’re not mandated by “corporate” (what’s that?!) and love making our case for the records we believe in. Sometimes we all agree on records, sometimes it’s an all-out riot! But we have a great time and all realize we’re going after the same vision and goal. It’s one of the most productive music meetings I’ve ever been a part of, at any station I’ve worked for.
ARN: What do you like more or less about San Diego over LA?
RDUB!: I love making the comparison of San Diego vs. L.A. You know, when I moved here in 2011, my intention was to take the gig, save some money, and then head right back to Tucson to concentrate on Slow Jams. I had just finished programming KHHT in Los Angeles and made the decision to leave local programming and do Slow Jams full time. I had just bought a little crib/studio on the beach in Brasil that I was staying at for half of the year. Life was good. No PPM pressures, no sales meetings, no staff to worry about…but God had other plans. I literally fell in love with working for this radio company in San Diego. You know how your first two weeks at any job is usually awesome, and then it gets real? Well here, the honeymoon never ended. It is seriously such a great group of people, and I give all credit to my GM Gregg Wolfson who is responsible for the culture here. We are all family here above everything. These aren’t just words—I see it every day, in every way. I hope to be here for at least a few more years.
But wait, that wasn’t the question now, was it? Okay, so I grew up in Los Angeles as a boy, so I have nothing but love for L.A., but I prefer San Diego, for so many reasons. First off, San Diego is a pretty big city, but still has that small-town feel. The air is clean here! People are polite. Not in a rush! We boast so many beautiful landmarks and parks. All you have to do is fly into our airport and you get it—you fly right between the palm trees, downtown, on the bay! High rises, sailboats and water—it’s gorgeous! It’s also only two hours from L.A., and twenty minutes from Mexico. And do I even need to mention the weather? Best in the world—always 74 degrees! Paradise!
I still love L.A. My roots are there. But it’s just way too crowded and sprawling. When I programmed there, I remember how hard it was to get a “grasp” on the market…it’s just so enormously large and spread out. It was hard to take it all in and wrap my hands around. I don’t feel that way about San Diego. I’ve fallen in love with the 619 and I have a feeling this will probably be my home for a long, long time.
“I would encourage every PD and jock out there to find their “other” passion and go after it. “
ARN: Even though you have worked for corporations, you still mange to have a level of independence as a programmer to promote your other brands, in today’s industry how important is that and why?
R DUB!: You know, some people leave their job at the end of the day to go to their kids’ soccer games and school plays…others enjoy spending their time outside of the office on the golf course, or at sporting events. For me, Slow Jams is my child, and my hobby. I simply choose to devote my time outside of the radio station to my other brands. I look up to and admire people like Ryan Seacrest; his terrestrial radio job is just a small part of his overall brand and business plan. He does an amazing job at KIIS and helps them bring in a ton of ratings and revenue—he just also has many other irons in the fire. I try to do as much as I can and do those things well. Aside from programming two amazing radio stations and hosting a live afternoon show here in San Diego, I’m addicted to Slow Jams.
I would encourage every PD and jock out there to find their “other” passion and go after it. It may have to do with another facet of radio (as in my case), or it could be something completely different. If you love it, go after it. I will tell you that the day my “Slow Jams” revenue outgrew my radio station salary, was one of the best moments of my life. It was absolutely liberating! It didn’t make it me cocky, but rather allowed me to work in local radio without fear—without the day-to-day worry of “what if they fire me!” And I believe that makes me a better programmer. I’m lucky enough to be here at the radio stations because I want to be, not because I am dependent on that check to feed my family and keep the lights on. I wish that for everyone.
R Dub! is also the author “Coast to Coast: The Radio DJs Guide to Syndication,” which is a A-Z instruction manual on how to syndicate your radio show.