Utter the name Tim Roberts in music radio circles, and you will quickly realize you are talking broadcast royalty (although he doesn’t agree with the use of that term to describe himself). To be sure, program director at WYCD-FM (99.5), Roberts is widely recognized among the top Country programmers anywhere. In fact, the prestigious Radio Ink just named him the #1 PD in America, while, Country Aircheck Magazine has recognized Roberts as one of the most powerful people in country music. (Oh, and under his watch, ‘YCD was the first major market station in the United States to play a then unknown Taylor Swift).
Why is he so adept at his craft, culled over more than 30 years in the industry? I had an opportunity to ask him this week.
To what do you attribute your tremendous radio success?
I’ve always been a student of radio history from Jack Benny to Orson Welles. Growing up in the 60s and 70s I was influenced by stations like CKLW (Windsor) and WLS (Chicago) as well as WRIF (where he interned as a young broadcaster) and the tremendous air talent that worked there. Those jocks were my idols and those stations followed the philosophy of live and local with personality, providing a total on-air package. I adhere to that philosophy today.
How has the Portable People Meter (PPM) changed the way you program?
It may have altered a few tactics but it hasn’t changed basic philosophies. Now as before, it is important that all elements of the station – from personality to music – are tight and to the point; focused, not rambling.
What is your secret to discovering and “breaking” new artists and music?
Some of it is innate gut. I just love music. I was a crappy musician who got into radio to play music. As a result I have a lot of respect for musicians and their craft. It has helped me relate to artists and their songs with a sense of what will resonate with the public – in short: good music.
There are those who say that radio as a medium is dead or dying in the wake of iPods and downloading. How do you respond to that?
I totally disagree. Studies show that 95% of the population listens to the radio as much as ever – in all demographics. Radio can always be better and unfortunately, some companies concern themselves too much with the bottom line. Providing an entertaining product, at the end of the day, is key.
A student of the medium. An adherence to live, local talent and programming. A knack for musical variety and taking a chance on new artists. It’s a winning combination that scores listeners, station and programming accolades and serves as a case study for what all radio should be. You may not know Tim Roberts like the air personalities he guides but know this: we and radio are lucky to have him.