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FMQB: Radio Industry News, Skywalker

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Skywalker APD, WSPK/Hudson Valley 

By Mark LaSpina

Skywalker

For the past 12 years he has been a fixture in the Hudson Valley. The well respected Skywalker juggles his daily duties and also can be heard every day via voicetracking on three other stations (WBPM/Kingston, NY, WZMR/Albany, NY, WZRT, Rutland, VT). He also does weekends at WMRQ/Hartford, WBMX Boston and WWRX New London, teaches a communications class at Orange County Community College and writes a weekly newspaper column. To say he’s busy is quite the understatement. He’s been fortunate to have learned under the tutelage of PD Scotty Mac. Those lessons learned have paved the way for Sky to continue to develop as a programmer and air talent. When it comes to social media, he was on board ahead of the curve and utilizes his knowledge in that area to the fullest. Hard work, passion and focus are the reasons why he’s consistently #1 in afternoon drive in the Hudson Valley.


First off, congratulations on being #1 again in your afternoon time slot. How many years in a row have you done this?
Let’s just say I consider myself extremely blessed to be given to the tools to perform. I don’t take anything for granted. I am extremely proud of K104 as well as my show. From 2 p.m.-7 p.m. I drive the ship and to be the most listened to show in our market is extremely gratifying. I credit my company, Pamal Broadcasting, for letting me do what I do everyday. I started at K104 in December of 2000 and have just recently celebrated my 12th anniversary here. My show has consistently been on top with varying competition through the years. We are now part of the newly created Hudson Valley market which tells a better story of the reach of our station. It measures Orange, Putnam, Westchester, Rockland counties and K104 continues to perform well amongst the NYC radio stations. I will stand by our quality any day.

Between your daily duties at the station and voicetracking stations, as well as teaching a weekly class and writing a column for the Times Herald-Record, you have to be a master at time management. How have you balanced all that and retained your sanity?
I would say time management is my biggest attribute. I keep my hands in a lot of things, not to remain busy for arguments sake, but to keep myself a marketable and diverse talent. You can’t always control the future but I can control a lot of aspects of the present. I take a look at the day and how to best attack what needs to be done. I am lucky that a lot of my duties are not time specific. The only thing I HAVE to keep to is my airshift in the afternoon. The rest of the items I complete when it works best. I have a home studio now as well which I have started to use. I think working at home is a double edged sword. It’s a convenience but can also become a distraction as the couch is just a few feet away. As far as my voicetracking I try to work one day ahead and make timely updates as needed. I have remained sane. An occasional adult beverage calms ones inner chi.

Last month you wrapped up the year with another successful KFEST concert event. What have been the keys to making it such a success?
The majority of the credit I will place on my Program Director Scotty Mac. He has a knack for booking talent at the right time as well as our amazing relationships with the labels. Record companies enjoy the atmosphere and stage we provide on KFEST Sunday. Having done twelve K-Fest’s in my tenure here it has basically become a machine. It is definitely a WORK day for me. I don’t really get to “enjoy” the show but my satisfaction comes from the feedback from listeners and clients as to what a great time they had. The goal each year is to put on as good as a show as the previous year’s, but obviously from a business sense produce more revenue. We have come up with creative marketing and sponsorship opportunities to do so as well as merchandise and revenue sharing. We really start working on the next year’s show soon after one is completed. The challenge is where we are geographically located. There are limited venues. We are just north of NYC and just south of Albany. Two places where large scale shows are put on. There is no 20,000 seat venue in our backyard. We use a minor league baseball stadium as the site for our show holding about 10,000. This is a challenge as it’s not obviously equipped like a concert venue, so staging, dressing rooms, etc. are all things we need to create. We have done a great job and have made the concert a profitable venture for the company as well as a branding homerun for our listeners.

You and Scotty Mac share a great working relationship. What have you learned from him and how has that made you a better programmer and air talent?
Scotty has the ability to think beyond the programming box and is able to “hear and understand” other department’s needs. He understands what it takes to make everyone “play nice” with the common cause of a great product. I respect and admire this attribute. He gives me the autonomy to be an effective Assistant Program Director and air talent. He is our best kept secret. I have also learned, well maybe I should say observed, the art of “patience.” He has more patience than I do in certain aspects. I am truly trying to adapt that. I also admire his brevity in emails. I can count on two hands the amount of “all staff” emails he has sent out. TALK to people IN PERSON. Yes email is a business tool, but the human contact is the ultimate.

Your station was actively involved in assistance after Hurricane Sandy hit. How did that all come together and what did you do to help out?
I need give a nod to our morning man Woodman and his crew and Promotion Director Megan Denaut. The moment we went on air and said we were collecting items to be distributed to the areas in need our parking lot was INNUNDATED to the point of we needed to STOP the donations. Then beyond just collecting the items the morning show and Scotty went to New Jersey and Queens themselves to deliver. It was above and beyond any “radio charity collection” I’ve ever seen. We are a live radio station with a human in our studio 24 hours a day. We have a broadcast responsibility to be there for our community in times of crisis and need. I am pleased to say we fulfill this responsibility more than adequately.

What are the advantages of working at a smaller company?
I know the owner Jim Morrell. An answer to a question is 60 miles north and easy to get. It just cuts a lot of red tape. We have some great programming and on air talent in our company and it is fun to easily network with each other. I am thankful to Jon Reilly the OM of our Albany cluster, Ally Reid of WFLY as well as former PD Kwame Dankwa and current PD Amber at our Vermont cluster for giving me the opportunity to voicetrack in their markets. When I do my voicetracking I treat it as a live shift as much as I can. There is no “throwaway” shift. These Program Directors have trusted me with one of their dayparts and I take that very seriously. Even though I am not physically in their studios I am going to give them a damn good product as if I were.

How vital has the digital space become in helping with brand extension and generating revenue?
Our company is fully committed to revenue and branding via digital initiatives. We have an NTR department which has since evolved into an Interactive department headed by Steve Vittoria and our Marketing and Event Manager Deanna Miller. Steve provided education to the salespeople and different ways to gain ad dollars using our web, web stream and texting platforms. Deanna is also a graphic artist and her creative touch is a brand extension to each of our properties. Selling a sixty on-air commercial is not the only way to bring ad dollars to the cluster. Having the support of the company and this department contributes to our bottom line. It is ever changing and evolving and we are sure to keep up with the digital landscape and how to best use it to our advantage. Peep at our website at www.k104online.com.

Your station is not known to lead the way on Rock-leaning records, but have there been a few that surprised you that went on the air earlier than they normally would?
It is the advantage of being a mainstream CHR. We can lean however music is leaning at the time. Our Music Director Michael Bennett and Scotty of course look at the charts, sales etc., but have the freedom to play songs on gut and just sonically.Mumford and Sons on K104 is awesome! A great song is a great song and if the story fits K104 we will play it. If you are going to list markets playing the song that mean nothing to us in the Hudson Valley you aren’t going to get very far.

What should up and coming talent who want to elevate their careers to the next level know to better prepare themselves for that next step?
Find a mentor….someone who will take an interest in you and guide you. Also be diverse. Gone are the days of air talent ad’s that say, “Wanted: Night Slammer…Hot Phones.” Today, you need to bring a lot more to the table. The reason I started teaching a college broadcasting class is that when I was in college I learned the X’s and O’s of how to write a newscast but no one ever told me what it was REALLY like to be in radio. The good, the not so good and so forth. I said that if I ever got the opportunity to give prospective broadcasters the FULL picture I would. I have taught (and hired students) for the past few years. It has been an awesome experience. These students come into your classroom knowing nothing and leave with a final project and skills that you have given them. It is a feeling like none other of pride. I have a lot of friends who are teachers and now I understand their passion.

Which programmers and stations do you admire the most?
Besides my PD and our station, I love WFLZ/Tampa and Tommy Chuck’s direction of that station. Also I drive three hours each way from New York to Boston to do weekends at CBS’s WBMX. Jay Beau Jones was my original PD there and APD Mike Mullaney has been running the ship day-to-day. I have grown to love Boston and pinch myself each time I do a shift there. The talent and sound on that station is incredible. I think it’s the best Hot AC in the country. I may be biased but they do things right.Sharon Dastur and Tom Poleman have been very kind when sending them an “updated aircheck” throughout the years. I admire what they have done with Z100.

Talk a bit about your Sky Sky Media website.
Thanks for asking. Please check it out! www.skyskymedia.com It is basically EVERYTHING about me, what I do and what I can do. I am currently on 7 radio stations in a variety of formats while doing a plethora of other things. This is a professional showcase of who I am and I am very proud of it. I am open as to what the opportunities the future may bring. I’d love everyone’s thoughts. I wanted a website that reflected me, was easy to navigate and update. Your digital footprint is so important these days that I really wanted to have a place I considered a perfect representation of me. I found a great web designer and worked with her giving me everything I needed to put this labor of love online.

Who have been significant influences on you throughout your career and what did you learn from each of them that have stuck with you?
Scotty Mac and Al Levine (WBLI) are the two people that have had the most influence on my career. Scotty on a daily basis, but I can never forget the foundation and aircheck sessions Al gave me. He is still the smoothest in the business. I’d also like to mention “Mr.Voice” Mark Driscoll. I do the imaging here at K104 and Mark (as well as Ann DeWig) are our voiceover people. Mark’s input and guidance has been invaluable. I also want to mention Kid Kelly. I appreciate how Kid would respond back to me when I was a newcomer in the business. He always had time for a quick communication and that always stuck with me. One of my professional pet peeves is non-responsiveness. I am extremely aware of how busy we all are today but always keep professional courtesy in mind. It may take me a few days but I WILL get back to you.

Do you have a bucket list of stations you would want to do a shift on?
I am a radio geek, so yes. I WILL crack a NYC mic in my career. I grew up on Z100 and PLJ. Out of the area, my favorites have always been Q102/Philly and 93.3 FLZ/Tampa. I was lucky enough to achieve my #1 station as the first station I was on, WBLI Long Island. I grew up listening and it will always be my sentimental favorite place ever working.

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Skywriting: Surviving Black Friday

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Skywriting: Surviving Black Friday | Recordonline.com – 11-21-2012

Some tips for your shopping adventure The smells of turkey, sweet potatoes and cornbread stuffing waft through the house. The family shares stories and laughs over the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Dessert, however, is another story. Mom is passing out the pumpkin and apple pie but suddenly you…

via recordonline.com – Times Herald-Record – Search.

Skywriting: No putts about a love for mini golf

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Skywriting: No putts about a love for mini golf | Recordonline.com – 08-08-2012

Perfect summer activity combines fun and competition There is a saying that “business is done on the golf course.” I have found that to be true in my working life, but this is an issue for me. I don’t have the patience or attention span for 18 holes of golf on a hot summer day. The payoff isn’t…

via recordonline.com – Times Herald-Record – Search.

Skywriting: Please, invent my idea!

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Skywriting: Please, invent my idea! | Recordonline.com – 09-19-2012

Inventions that could change the world This is the land of the American Dream. An idea and a little hard work can bring you wealth and riches. Well, it’s not that entirely simple, but the television show “Shark Tank” on ABC is where dreams are born. Everyday people, each with an idea and a…

via recordonline.com – Times Herald-Record – Search.

Skywriting: Bucket list item achieved!

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Skywriting: Bucket list item achieved! | Recordonline.com – 01-18-2012

Bill Clinton checked off for Skywalker About eight months ago in Skywriting, I revealed to everyone some of my bucket list items. A bucket list is a series of things you would like to accomplish, experience or do before you “kick the bucket.” I look at it as personal goals and achievements you…

via recordonline.com – Times Herald-Record – Search.

Skywriting: She's Blue, da ba dee, da be die

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Skywriting: She’s Blue, da ba dee, da be die | Recordonline.com – 01-11-2012

Blue Ivy, Apple, Moon Unit and other odd baby names What’s in a name? A lot. Your name is something given to you at or before inception, without having any say in the matter. You have two choices. You can either own and embrace the name given to you or choose to be known by a nickname or some…

via recordonline.com – Times Herald-Record – Search.

Skywriting: There's an app for what?

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Skywriting: There’s an app for what? | Recordonline.com – 07-20-2011

Get a load of these weird and wonderful favorites Let’s face it: No one really uses their cell phones to talk anymore. Cell phones have become day planners, text message machines and substitutes for digital cameras. One of the most important uses for a cell phone is pure “time wasting,” a.k.a….

via recordonline.com – Times Herald-Record – Search.

Skywriting: More new artists for your ears

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Skywriting: More new artists for your ears

Monroe-Woodbury grad Grammer among picks

By Skywalker

Published: 9:45 AM – 09/01/11

Last updated: 10:02 AM – 09/01/11

In my March edition of “Skywriting” I listed musical artist Adele as one to watch.

Sunday was the annual MTV Video Music Awards. This show is full of surprises, breakout stars, performances and a constant feel of “what’s going to happen next?” There were many performances on Sunday but by far the standout was of Adele and her new single “Someone Like You.” She sang with honesty and passion, and you knew she was feeling every single word. There was no Auto-tune, no dancers and no cable lines to have her swing in the air. It was a woman and her microphone.

It was a mesmerizing, pitch-perfect performance that frankly put everyone to performance shame. I have a new crop of artists to watch, like her, that are on the brink of greatness.

About Skywriting

Every Wednesday at 845Scene, join Skywalker from K104 (104.7 FM in Fishkill) as he discusses pop culture in “Skywriting.”

E-mail Timothy Malcolm at tmalcolm@th-record.com with comments.

Check out more Skywalker – who is on air from 2-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, by visiting K104’s website, k104online.com.

And get in touch with Sky @skyskymedia.

Sabi Soundz: Born with the name Jenice Sab-bion Portlock (Sabi) was a big fan of MTV like most her age growing up in California. Gaining commercial recognition Sabi landed the rap part of a Britney Spears track on Britney’s new album. Excited to be performing with one of her idols, this shot Sabi into the serious contender category. Her new single “Wild Heart” shows her vocal range and her various musical influences. Having been featured on songs by Cobra Starship and the New Boyz, Sabi is definitely a force to be reckoned with on her own. Her new single won’t leave my CD pile and my desk and I am excited to hear more from her. Take a listen to the single here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rc0-bHXYB4&ob=av2n

Andy Grammer: It’s always great to support local artists and one such artist is on the verge of breakout status. Already getting radio airplay, former Monroe-Woodbury High School student Andy Grammer has a inspirational single out titled “Keep Your Head Up.” Growing up in Chester, Andy, whose father is a musician as well, picked up a guitar in ninth grade. Grammer says his music is hardly “pink and fluffy”; he says he is just trying “to be real.” His album was released in June and is a great listen. Take a look at his latest video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmrOB_q3tjo

Big Sean: He was signed to Kanye West’s record label after an aggressive but ultimately successful move. Kanye was on a local radio station in Detroit. Hearing him on the air, Big Sean headed to the radio station and confronted Kanye in the lobby. rapping a few bars for him live. Kanye eventually signed him to his label. His new album is titled “Finally Famous.” A lot of the general public who don’t keep up on mixtapes or internet downloads are able to be exposed to Big Sean by checking out his new album, which is 12 tracks of quality. There are no throwaway tracks on the album, as each is a very good listen. Here is an interview with Big Sean: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmsfVP2Rnc

via Skywriting: More new artists for your ears | recordonline.com.

Snooki: The apple of my eye

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By Skywalker

Published: 2:00 AM – 02/02/11

I have a confession. It’s taken a lot of counsel, advice and support for me to be able to utter these words, but I think I’m ready:

I love Snooki!

Yes, that Snooki, the MTV “Jersey Shore” “Princess of Poughkeepsie.”

Skywriting

Every Wednesday at 845Scene, join Skywalker from K104 (104.7 FM in Fishkill) as he discusses pop culture in “Skywriting.”

E-mail Timothy Malcolm at tmalcolm@th-record.com with comments.

Check out more Skywalker – who is on air from 2-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, by visiting K104’s website, k104online.com.

“Jersey Shore” has gotten a lot of negative press as of late. It has been deemed a guilty pleasure among those less inclined to embrace the GTL lifestyle. Without fail, Thursday nights while scrolling my Facebook wall I would invariably see status messages from my friends informing everyone that “It’s T-shirt time” or “the cabs are here.”

Nicole Polizzi, a.k.a Snooki, is a local girl who just wants to have a good time. She was arrested for public intoxication in only the third episode of this season, which made me wonder how the rest of the summer at the shore will end up.

However, if you take a look at Snooki’s escapades and behavior as a whole, I’d argue that she is no different from many of us when we were that age. Her choices may be poor in some viewers’ eyes and may not set a good example for the younger people who idolize the show, but Snooki is not acting or pushing forth her values; she is living her life in a beach house on the Jersey Shore.

I can specifically remember the moment when I said to myself, “I like this girl.” In an episode from season one, the crew made its way further south to Atlantic City. You would think that this “mini Vegas” would be prime fist pumping opportunity, but J-Wow, The Situation and everyone else wanted to go to sleep rather then hit the clubs. Snooki could not find anyone to party with that evening, so rather than going to bed and calling it a night, she did the only thing she knew how … HOT TUB. With a bottle of champagne and many bubbles to soak in, Snooki did not allow the other members of her crew to ruin her good time. She made it an evening for one in the hot tub and she couldn’t be happier.

Snooks is often the comic foil in the show, whether she is inserting her derriere in the mini fridge to combat tanning bed burn or having conversations on the “duck phone.” She is also the friend to everyone in the house and has recently mended broken fences with Sammi Sweatheart. She is looking for love, or as she puts it, her “gorilla.” Sometimes she lets her heart get in the way of her head, and who of us hasn’t been in that situation?

Snooki: keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t allow the haters to detract from minute 17 of your 15 minutes of fame. Life is short, play hard. See you at the clubs. I love Snooki, and I don’t care who knows it.

via Snooki: The apple of my eye | recordonline.com.

Hello and welcome

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New year and new website. Please take a look around and give me your feedback. Let me know if I can help your company. This is going be a great year and welcome to Sky Sky Media!  -Skywalker

"It would be very difficult to find a harder working and more passionate person than Skywalker. No task is too great and he always meets a challenge head-on, while being the consummate professional in every way."
Mark LaSpina, Managing Director, FMQB

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