KC PD Calls It Like He Sees It
By Kevin Fleming
Talk about an OG, Sam Weaver is one colorful character, and he’s been at the top of the Kansas City radio game for more than eight years. Currently the PD and OM of Carter Broadcasting’s KPRS, Weaver’s never at a loss for words and has a unique perspective on most topics. Rather than re-cap his illustrious career, let’s jump right in. Hold on tight!
Kevin Fleming: In the past eight years the business has made some dramatic changes…
Sam Weaver: There have been lots of changes. It’s just the evolution of radio. The terms have changed: there were no clusters eight years ago. The level of success has changed. The playing field has changed across the board, and we had to adjust and keep on going, it’s just radio, just business.
KF: Many operators have put people with limited experience in charge of stations…
SW: Those people never had a chance to learn the same way many others have. But that’s the way of our country right now-it’s not just a radio thing. The same thing happens in sports. It amuses me that people are all upset about these kids being drafted in to the NBA out of high school; they’ve been doing it for years with baseball. The difference is, in baseball these kids get drafted and go to minor league teams. In the NBA, these kids are expected to play relatively soon. In radio we don’t have the same type of farm system. At one time, to become a PD, you would have had to be a jock (a good one) or a production manager before you get the PD point. It’s just not that way anymore. Everything’s shifted.
KF: Isn’t there a down side to rushing people through the process.
SW: There always is, but that’s how it is today. The people who hire inexperienced PDs have to take more care in dealing with those young people. The national PD and consultants out there had a chance to learn their craft. Many of today’s young PDs haven’t had the seasoning. They didn’t work the small markets and move up through the ranks. So the guys who are responsible for these PDs have to teach and groom these guys like on-the-job training. These guys have to be able to do as much as they can right now. They’re qualified-they just haven’t had a chance to experience the steps. Again, it’s like sports-they’re being asked to play right away.
KF: We face many challenges in Urban radio today. We used to break records
on Urban stations before Rhythm Crossover stations would play them.
SW: Everything we see now is a result of the video channels. It’s been a great marketing tool for the record companies and artists. There are only so many video outlets, so if you’re watching MTV or VH1 you may be exposed to something that you normally wouldn’t have experienced and you might say, “Hey, I like that.” We’ve created a totally different generation of consumers and artists. take Jessica Simpson for example, she’s 19, she grew up in the video age. She’s no pretender. She’s been exposed to pop, R&B, country, dance-everything! And you can see it in her style. We used to use the term crossover. In the industry, all the little categories of music are great because it keeps people working. But in reality, in the video world, once it’s put on television, it’s already crossed. Everybody has the opportunity to see it. MTV, BET, and even VH1-they’re running the Notorious B.I.G. story on Behind The Music. That’s going to the masses, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s becoming harder and harder to define what music goes where, and that’s not a bad thing.
KF: What’s the difference between Top 40 and Rhythm Crossover?
SW: I don’t know, I didn’t make up the terms. The bottom line is everything in our country is like a game of “Simon Says.” Simon says “CHR/Pop,” so Simon has certain records for that. Simon used to say “Churban,” but now Churban is gone. So now Simon says, “CHR/Rhythmic,” so
what’s the difference?
KF: You’re Familiar with the LA market. There isn’t a great difference musically between Power 106 and 100.3 The Beat. Yet one is a Rhythm Crossover and the other is Urban.
SW: Those are categories defined by the industry. Go out in the street and ask a kid if the listened to the Rhythm Crossover station and he’ll say “what’s Rhythm Crossover?” These are industry term-they’re not consumer terms. The industry creates these divisions. I haven’t heard a kid yet that said, I listen to the Urban station.” It is interesting to me how people use terms to find their own comfort so they can market or sell a product. But the consumer out there-all they know is that they either like it of they don’t. But all this cross-pollination has been a blessing for Urban radio. Look at the charts of the different trade magazines and compare all their different categories-especially Urban, Rhythm Crossover, and CHR/Pop/Top 40 and you look at the sales. A vast majority of the sales are from what you would consider Urban music by black artists, or by artists that are directly influenced by black artists or black culture.
KF: Are you playing ‘N Sync?
SW: N’ Sync. No, not right now.
KF: Are you playing Christina Aguilera?
SW: Yes, it’s impossible not to play Lady Marmalade. As soon as the video came on it was over. the video made it happen. Look at the ages of the performers in that video. What [music] did they grow up with in the music video age? Urban music. That’s what they have in common. Take a look at Gwen Stefani. It’s the video age!
KF: Do we need more video outlets?
SW: I hope not, because if you have too many we’ll go back to the old way of doing things when we were all stuck in our own segments. Rock with rock, hip-hop with hip-hop and so on.
KF: So how does all this video exposure influence how you run your radio station?
SW: I play the music consumers are into. I don’t question it. I just deal with it. The music industry is not about likes or dislikes. It’s about what you do to advance your cause… rating, revenue… is it good for business? Is it acceptable by society’s standards? I’m a commercial radio station and I’m out there competing for just one color and that’s green.
KF: What do you think about Jennifer Lopez using the “N-word” in her latest song?
SW: From a social standpoint or how kids use the word.. it doesn’t have the same connotation as it did when we were growing up. The word is used completely differently. The way kids use it today, no matter what racial group they come from, be it African American, Asian, Latin, or Caucasian, they use it as a term of endearment.
KF: Do You play records with the word in it?
SW: Most of the companies send out clean versions of all their songs. I don’t think we play any song with that word in it at all.
KF: I’ve heard the word on some station.
SW: That’s up to them. I try and deal with what the majority will accept. I’ll take a look at the video and see what version they’re playing. I want all the listeners, I’m all for everything if it becomes acceptable by the majority of society.