R.A.P. Interview: Casey Van Allen

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R.A.P.: Which one are you considering?
Casey: The AKG DSE-7000 is the one I think I'm going to get. That's coming at the first of the year. I'm really looking forward to that. I think it will be a real lifesaver for me. The MCI is a great machine, but I just don't like to have to spend time waiting for machinery. I'll be real glad when everything is done in the digital domain, and we won't have to make cartridges anymore. If there is one thing that takes up more of my time, it's waiting for a 99B to go through its erase and alignment cycle. That's probably the biggest time waster in the production studio that I know of, in addition to waiting for tape recorders to rewind and fast forward. Once we get it all into the digital domain, I think you're going to find the level of creativity fully increase in all radio stations because you're taking away a number of the time restraints that we're all having to deal with.

R.A.P.: Do you have an assistant?
Casey: Yes. His name is Roger Brand who is also our fill in traffic reporter.

R.A.P.: Do you both solely handle all the production for the AM?
Casey: Yes, we do everything. Anything on this station that's recorded comes through this studio or Roger's studio, anything other than news and sports.

R.A.P.: With such huge ratings, I would imagine most of the spots on the air are pre-produced agency spots. Are you producing very many commercials?
Casey: Yes we are. Unlike all the other radio stations in town, we're running eighteen minutes of commercials an hour.

R.A.P.: ...and getting a bunch of money for each one of 'em, I bet.
Casey: Well, one morning drive spot...I'm not sure about this, but at one time anyway, it might have been last year, a morning drive spot cost more than a prime time spot on TV. But the good part is that you were getting twice the audience of any prime time television show. In morning drive, on the average, we carry thirty to forty percent of the entire listening audience in St. Louis.

Anyway, in an average day, we'll pump out anywhere from a hundred to a hundred and fifty carts. Of course, on Friday that goes way up.

R.A.P.: Is this all being done out of two production studios?
Casey: Well, we have eight production studios here.

R.A.P.: Between both the AM and the FM, KLOU?
Casey: No. Just for KMOX. Two of them are main production rooms with 8-tracks. One of them is mine and the other one is Roger's. The other production studios are used for various things. One of them is used for network feeds like baseball and hockey games when we're feeding them to other stations. When it's not being used for that, it's used for news and sports. Then we have one backup on-air studio that we use. Of course, we have our main on-air studio, and the rest are for news and sports. We have some auxiliary studios where it's just a tape recorder, cart machine.... Sports has their own little production room back there.

R.A.P.: Your background is basically CHR. Do you feel you were brought into this news/talk station because you had this CHR production style?
Casey: Oh yeah, absolutely. I've listened to this station for a number of years, and I used to think, "Boy, this station needs some pizzazz. It needs to get up and move!" When I first came here, I wanted to do the laser blast promos, you know, coming from a CHR background. And I did that for a period of time until Mr. Hyland came in and said, "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm putting pizzazz into this station, boss!" He said, "Well, un pizzazz it a little bit. Crank the energy level back just a little bit." I found that the real highly produced production really does not work. When you use a lot of different sound effects and make things really highly produced, it's a little undiscernible on the AM dial, and it just sounds too confusing. We're a communication station. We're dealing with information, and that is what they need to hear in commercials and promos. They need information. They don't need to be whiz banged.

There are a number of things I do whiz bang, but, for the most part, things are pretty simple. Music beds, a couple of sound effects, and a voice is pretty much the way we do most of the spots here. The accounts are more adult in nature. When trying to communicate to adults you don't really need that high energy production.

R.A.P.: Still, would you say you've taken a CHR production approach and adapted it to news/talk?
Casey: Right.

R.A.P.: Would you say that is pretty much the trend of news/talk stations these days?
Casey: It seems to be. This station is unlike most news/talk stations. It won't sound like a WBBM or a WJR. We are more talk intensive than we are news. Everybody has a show on this station, and generally, we'll stay on one subject for a whole hour, whether we're talking about politics or talking about some new book that came out. We're sort of like a TV station on radio to some degree.

R.A.P.: Is there any humor injected into the station, in the morning show for example?
Casey: Well, we kind of have two morning shows. We have what's called "Total Information AM" which is more news intensive, and that goes till about 8:30. Then at 8:30 we have a show that you can consider humorous in that it's the morning meeting show. We have two hosts that take an irreverent look at just about everything, and it's pretty funny. We probably have the most fun doing their promos. I can be a little crazy with them because we're not so serious during that time period. That goes till about eleven o'clock. Then we concentrate a little bit more on news from eleven to one. Bob Hardy, who's the Master General of the station, hosts those two hours. Then Ann Keith comes on at one, and that show is pretty cerebral. Then we have "Total Information PM" which is information based news/talk. Then sports takes over at night, followed at ten o'clock by a guy who is very conversational and sort of like Bruce Williams.

R.A.P.: It sounds like programming a news/talk station is a lot like programming a music station when it comes to different types of shows for different times of the day.
Casey: Oh yeah. The station is very much day parted. We know what kind of people listen to the radio station at what times, and we gear the programs to meet those demographics that are available for those time periods, much like a top 40 station will daypart records.

R.A.P.: Has KMOX had many stations try to compete for some of the huge numbers you have?
Casey: We've had many people come in and try. A couple of years ago, we had a guy come into town and buy KXOK. He took it from a top 40 station and made it news/talk. He tried to absolutely duplicate our format, hour for hour, putting on the same kinds of guests and everything. Well, they never got any higher than a one share. So, imitation does not necessarily work because, even thought they had a good signal, they still couldn't compete with the kind of personnel we have here.

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