Music Director interview with Keri Fico of WUSB
It’s been a few years & a few music directors since I first discovered WUSB. I’ve been glad to have them as part of the Silber network of friends.
QRD – Why did you want the position of music director & why do you think got it over other applicants?
Keri – I wanted the position of music director because I wanted mail to come in with my name on it… honestly. I thought that would be really cool & it was. I wanted to talk to record labels & be the first to hear all the new music. I think I got the job because I was overly excited about it. My enthusiasm seriously proved how much I wanted the position.
QRD – What do you think the job of a good music director is?
Keri – Being a good music director means checking in CDs on time, keeping close relations with labels & promo companies, encouraging DJs to play new music, & tabulating the weekly freaking top 30. But that’s all office work. I think the job goes a little further, meaning an MD should know what’s going on in the music world. There’s certainly a lot to know, so a good MD is willing to be exposed to as much as possible & pass along the information to other music lovers.
QRD – What did you initially think you could accomplish as music director that having obtained the position became obviously impossible?
Keri – I really don’t think I knew what I was getting myself into when I decided to take on the position as music director. WUSB has had an inconsistent MD history. I needed to revamp the entire music department & start from scratch. I spent an entire summer getting the station back on track. Nothing’s impossible.
QRD – How much do you let your personal taste in music effect your station’s music?
Keri – All music is treated fairly & equally. All music is checked in & is accessible to all DJs. I’d start a riot if I tried to turn the station into something else. But man, I wish more people loved my happy punk rock music. I get excited when we get something other than indie in.
QRD – How have streaming online radio stations affected the purpose & competition for your station?
Keri – Eh, WUSB doesn’t fear competition. We’re comfortable doing our own thing & we’re not worried that other stations will steal our thunder. The station has a really great listener base. & that’s all that matters. Our station streams online as well.
QRD – What are some things bands/labels can do to get on the fast track into rotation & to eliminate themselves from getting into rotation?
Keri – WUSB doesn’t have a “rotation.” If a band wants to get airtime on WUSB, all they need to do is mail a CD. All new music gets into the on air studio. It helps to call me up & tell me why the music a band or label is sending is worth checking out. It’s also really awesome when they take the initiative to suggest a show that their music might fit.
QRD – Do you read the charts of other stations & if so how do they affect your charts?
Keri – I don’t read other station’s charts. They have no effect on WUSB’s charts because our DJs play what they want regardless of what is popular at the time.
QRD – Do you solicit labels for servicing or just generally stick with who finds you?
Keri – I solicited all the labels & promo companies we talk to now. I reestablished connections & reached out to new friends. I love when people find me, but I have no problem calling someone new to say hi.
QRD – Do you like to deal directly with labels or do you prefer to deal with some sort of radio promotional team about what is going into the station library & rotation?
Keri – I deal with labels & promo companies directly! It’s the best part! They’re the best phone friends ever!
QRD – What’s the longest time you feel comfortable keeping a record in rotation?
Keri – WUSB does not have a “rotation,” but new music goes into the on air studio for three months. I think that’s a reasonable amount of time to consider something new.
QRD – Do you listen to & review the majority of records you receive yourself?
Keri – I listen to & review all of the CDs myself. It sucks because it’s time consuming; but at the same time, it allows me to be super familiar with what’s in the studio. I’ve discovered some new bands that I really like from doing check ins.
QRD – How much control do you let individual DJs have over what they play & how do they deal with requests?
Keri – Most DJs are open to requests. All WUSB DJs have complete control over their show & the music they choose to play.
QRD – What’s the importance of specialty shows at your station?
Keri – Specialty shows seem to have the best following. Most of our shows are specialty shows & those DJs know their stuff! Their listeners look forward to it as well.
QRD – How is your station involved in the local music scene?
Keri – WUSB encourages local artists to send in their music. Local submissions stay in the studio for six months instead of three. WUSB also encourages local acts to stop by the studio for performances, interviews, etc. We promote local shows & give away tickets if we are able to.
QRD – With your experience in radio, are you jaded or hopeful for the music industry?
Keri – Hopeful hopeful hopeful! The music biz doesn’t seem so bad. There’s so much good stuff coming out of it.
QRD – If your position is temporary, what do you plan to do with your interest in music in the future?
Keri – I’m going to work for Pirate Promotions or Capitol, Vagrant, or Fearless Records. & that’s that.
QRD – What are the best & worst parts of your job?
Keri – The best part of being music director is feeling cool. It’s really awesome to say I talk to labels. It’s awesome to get CDs. It’s awesome to be a part of CMJ. It’s awesome to go to shows for free. I get to be the first to hear the newest music. The worst part of the job is that it is life consuming. All my free time is spent doing radio work.
QRD – I imagine a lot of the younger generation of DJs pretty much exclusively use MP3s over CDs (much less vinyl). How do you feel about the situation?
Keri – I think the younger generation is underestimated. Vinyl is still highly used & valued at WUSB. A lot of people have an intense CD collection as well. MP3s are definitely taking over & I think that’s fine. DJs can hook up their Ipod or MP3 player & play their tunes from there.
QRD – Do you try to get your entire catalog digitally encoded on a hard drive for radio play? If so, at what compression rate do you feel is appropriate?
Keri – No way. There’s been discussion about digitally cataloging our music library, but those are plans for the future. There is some music available on the hard drive, but everything can be found in the new music rack or the CD cabinets.
QRD – How do you feel about automation for overnight or unfilled DJ slots? What program do you use for automation & how does it decide what to play?
Keri – Someone is required to be in the studio at all times. If a DJ is unable to make an overnight time slot, then he/she finds a fill in. If an automatic playlist is set up on the computer, then an engineer needs to be there to make sure it runs smoothly for the entire slot.
QRD – I know that some labels & promotional teams are pushing towards digital download links over physical copies. How do you feel about this?
Keri – I hate it! Our station isn’t ready for the work to make everything digital. We’ve gotten physical copies for so long & that’s how our system is based. It’s also what our DJs are familiar with. I tell all labels & promo teams that digital stuff will never do as well as physical copies. I understand that sending digital downloads are easier than dealing with the mail, but CDs are so much cooler! You get artwork, lyrics, & a thank you section.
QRD – When I worked in radio, there was a big problem with theft at the station. Since so many people these days just use MP3 players, do they just steal the music rather than the physical disc & do you feel as a DJ they have a right to personally access any music from the station library at any time?
Keri – There’s a little bit of both going on. We used to have a really bad problem with theft of CDs. DJs are more than welcome to come in at any time to check out the music, but nothing is allowed to leave the station.
QRD – Anything else?
Keri – Check out wusb.fm for a list of shows & more info about WUSB!