January 17, 2007
Shawn Stewart, program director for KMTT-FM (103.7) "The Mountain"
As program director for KMTT-FM, Stewart is ultimately responsible for almost everything happening at the Seattle radio station, from deciding on what will be the most appealing mix of music to play, to finding and managing the best talent to work as DJs, to overseeing things such as the station's Web site and public events.
Q: How long have you been The Mountain's program director?
A: I've been program director at 103.7 The Mountain for just about a year. Prior to that, I was the music director here for six years.
Q: What sort of background is needed for your job?
A: In many ways, radio is an old-fashioned business where mentoring is key. Great radio programmers aren't born, they're made. I learned my trade from three of the best programmers in the business: Kevin Cole at REV105 in Minneapolis (now at KEXP here in Seattle), Bruce Warren at WXPN in Philadelphia, and Chris Mays (former program director) right here at The Mountain.
Q: Does experience as a DJ help you as a programmer?
A: Absolutely! For one thing, your staff respects you because you know their challenges firsthand. And it also helps because you have a great sense of what records will and won't work for your audience. You know the kinds of songs that get a strong reaction. Anything that helps you understand your audience better is a plus.
"A lot of program directors started out as DJs and got into the business because they loved music, and I'm no different. I was a college radio DJ and an English major ... in that order!"
Average DJ's salary?
"It varies so much from station to station, market to market, even format to format. It could be anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000 a year, or up into the millions if you are Howard Stern!"
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants a career in broadcasting?
A: Just get in there and do it! There are a million stories of high school kids who annoy their way into an internship that leads to a part-time air shift that leads to a full-time gig and so on. We had an intern at REV105 whose dad dropped him off at the station every day until he was old enough to drive himself. He worked his butt off and learned everything he could. We used to joke that he'd be all of our bosses one day, and now he's program director of a great station in Ann Arbor, Mich. He's not even 30.
Q: Is broadcasting school or formal training essential?
A: I think they are helpful but not essential. College radio is a great place to learn. And internships can help you get a foot in the door, so you can determine if a career in broadcasting is right for you.
Q: What are some of the best job perks you have?
A: Getting to work with the smartest, funniest, most creative group of broadcasters in the business. Not having anyone tell you to turn the music down while you're working. Watching the entire industry change right before my eyes. Meeting musicians whose work I admire ... I could go on and on!
Q: And the worst part of your job?
A: That rare occasion where you feel insanely passionate about a song or artist and your audience, well ... doesn't!
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