R&R ‘The Industry’s Newspaper’
Urban Contemporary: On Guard
By Walt Love

While the station currently has no direct challenger, Carter notes, “We keep a close eye on our market, because we’re aware that someone may want a share of our lucrative audience. We stay aware of different stations’ formatics and what they’re doing on the air. But we certainly don’t go to war with or challenge other stations about what they’re doing. Nor are we going to change format or what we’re doing, because people here know what we do, and we’ve been doing it a long time. We’re just continuing to improve our product, and right now it seems to be working.”

But what if a challenger arose? Cater explains, “It depends who. Most Black stations don’t have the dollars to fight off a major player with billboards, television, and large promotional giveaways. The bottom line here is that we have heritage, loyalty, and an excellent community reputation, and we’re not going to roll over and let anyone come into our market and take anything from us.

“What we’ve got to do is be ready for the fight, and that’s what we’re doing. And remember, the guy who is already at the battle is not as weary as the person who has to come to it. We’re already in the battle, and it’s our battlefield. We just have to put up our shields and be ready for any type of flanking.”

Ratings Into Dollars
What does Carter hope to accomplish in this down economy and with a new administration in the White House? “What I plan to do is make money. We are going to try everything we can – new marketing plans and special packaging and the whole nine yards – to be able to offer our clients something that makes sense as far as their dollars are concerned. Everybody is happy and optimistic with the new administration in Washington, and I think that in the next few quarters or so we’ll see people – and advertisers – come out of the woodwork a little more.

Historical Perspective Carter paused to pay homage to the man who started the KC dynasty he currently heads. “We’ve changed our company’s name from KPRS Broadcasting to the Carter Broadcast Group in honor of my grandfather. We’re trying to set the future foundation of the KPRS family, which began with my grandfather, Skip Carter. In early spring we’ll be having a formal ceremony to dedicate this building to him.

We feel none of this would be possible if my grandfather hadn’t been a visionary and taken action like he did. We can never thank him enough, even after his death, because he looked further down the road than most people do. All we have to do now as a family is make sure this facility is here for the rest of our family and our employees as a way to make money and have a decent place to work for the rest of their lives.”

Talent Is As Talent Does
Sam Weaver, OM of Urban AC KRNB/Dallas, raises the concern that while programming strategy in the format has improved, programming talented needs more direction. He says, “There are many qualified people in programming, but, because of the times we are in, many of those programmers may not have the same experience that a PD at their level did 10 years ago.

“There was a time when a PD would have had more years to develop, maybe doing different jobs, like on-air, promotions or working as an MD or Asst. PD. They would have ripened before they hit the PD chair. “But today we’re seeing more younger programmers who are thrown into the position simply because they are there. You can compare it to sports. For example, in basketball you see more players drafted straight from high school. Now, they may have the talent, but they don’t have the experience.”

SW: I use the term old school, because that’s what the listeners call anything old. As far as hanging on to an audience, an Urban AC will not hang on to anything unless it has done focus groups, had its music tested over and over and done things to see if its audience liked that music. Nothing is ever done on a personal whim.

SW: It depends on what version of Urban AC you’re doing. If you’re doing something like Derrick Brown is, yeah, you can break new artists. It depends on the situation – especially now, with consolidation that’s going on across the country – and how your particular Urban AC fits into the overall game plan for the company and the marketplace. That’s what it all boils down to. I don’t know if the term breaking fits much anymore. It’s a different ballgame. You try to be as quick as possible to stay on top of all music fronts. If it’s got the right sound and you think it’s going to run and people are going nuts, you can run with it.

SW: We live in the streets. We’re out there in the streets a lot with vans and concerts. Once you get past the music, it’s all about the personality. Personality is not just being on the air. A lot of it has to do with being out there. We go to events, and we create situations to be at. Service Broadcasting, in general, does that for all its properties. We’re not doing television currently, nor are we doing billboards.

SW: If you’re looking for a definition that fits all of Urban AC, you’re not going to find it. Musically speaking, the demos, their musical tastes are changing, potentially opening up new musical formats. There are now niches within niches.

Moving On Up?
It appears the format is healthy in terms of having more tools available. The talent is there, but it needs to be nourished, and the music is hotter than ever – and will, hopefully, continue to be as long as the record industry can survive its business woes. But are there greater opportunities for those programmers and talent coming out of Urban radio? Weaver says, “There seems to be more grooming within each company now than there was previously. In other words, if you’re at Clear Channel, you’re more likely to be able to move up within that structure than to try to move up by moving to another company. “Look at KPRS/Kansas City, where my old interns have moved up to be promotion director and morning co-host. Look at Myron Fears, who was just a jock. He’s moved up to be MD, then Asst. PD and now PD. I think companies are now trying to grow their own.”

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