Urban Music Meeting: Intelligent Gut
by Quincy McCoy
Sam Weaver has done it all. He was a tremendous Top 40 jock with the legendary Bartel Radio Group in St. Louis and Detroit; he’s programmed stations in Pittsburgh, Greensboro, and New Orleans; he was the music director for country outlet US99 in Chicago. Sam is the only PD to program the nation’s oldest black-owned and oldest black-operated stations. WDIA in Memphis is the oldest operated, and KPRS, owned by the Carter Broadcast Group in Kansas City, is the oldest. Sam is a veteran broadcaster, and dedicated to his craft. That makes him crazy, very smart, and the perfect choice for our first music meeting. We begin with his reasoning for adding BIG L’S single “MVP”… Sam: First and foremost, it’s getting serious video play on the video channels; therefore consumers have responded by calling both the retailer and us. Hip-hop and rap are easier to track. In your own marketplace, SoundScan’s great but if you have a serious retailer in your town, you need to establish a relationship with them. Don’t get in too deep, though, because they think they’re the expert, but definitely use them. I recommend having one of your people work with the store, because that gives added insight into who’s buying what. With hip-hop and rap we know what the majority demo is. I try to deal in majorities; that’s how I daypart my music.
Back to the videos. What is the effect of video shows?
They get the consumer’s attention. I know that if a record is barely out but it’s on the rap chart and I’m hearing about it, it’s probably getting good rotation on video shows. We don’t have a big club seen here that’s not a situation that’s stirs up retail action. However, when record companies market to the hip-hop and rap audience through video and college radio, they can get something going on the retail level. Video takes it right to the buying public, who respond instantly. BET’s and MTV’s music information shows have really helped hip-hop and rap.
So you can combine your retail, research, requests?
At this point you make an intelligent gut decision. I think everything gut. It’s a question of how much information you have that determines the gut. Gut is your feeling, plus what has determined that feeling. That’s intelligent gut.
Give us another song.
Okay, here’s how we came to the decision on playing Brandy’s “Best Friend.” She had a big hit her first time out. Intelligent gut tells you the listeners have a perception of her as a hit act. The audience has gained this perception from the label’s marketing by outside of radio. So you listen to the second single and if it has the right sound, you ask yourself what this record’s chances of being big. Well the chances are pretty good. The marketing was in place, the video was out, and product was in stores. Therefore, you go with it. That’s intelligent gut.
Is there a Kansas City sound?
No, not anymore, not with the information highway. Tastes are becoming nationalized. We had the group Lo-Key come out of here. They have a hit sound, their record company was behind them and they hit everywhere. The group Kansas City Sound came out of here. Their label did a poor job of marketing the record, but we played it because people knew them, and it had a good sound. We knew it wasn’t going to be big, but maybe the next one will.
How about another song, Xscape’s “Feels so Good.”
Once again, a group with a track record, the right sound, and the video was out. Intelligent gut tells you it’s a good chance this is going to happen. Their label marketed them very well. You can pretty much tell if a company believes in a record.
Who listens to the music besides you and your music director?
We use interns, volunteers, people who represent our target audience. We don’t let them know who or what about the music, because we want their gut reactions. Some people have a better feel than others for music, but don’t tell them that because then you’ll ruin what your after: Their honest response.
Do you check around other station’s play lists before making a decision on a record?
There is no one that influences me, because that’s dangerous. However, I will look around to see if a record follows all the bits and pieces of information I’m getting. So once again, I use intelligent gut. I don’t go off the top of my head. There’s no such thing as immediate gut. You have to think it through first.