R.A.P. Interview: Lonnie Perkins

R.A.P.: WIBC is news/talk. A lot of the material you use is humorous, which is characteristic of the material used in morning shows. Do you think this is common in news/talk formats, to use humor in the promos and drops, or is this rather unique?
Lonnie: I don't get out much, so I don't really know. A lot of this is new to me; production is new to me. I've always pursued the on-air career, so that's what I've listened to, the personalities and hosts and whatnot. But I think I have the same observation as many, and I'm amazed and bumfuzzled by it because, to me, talk radio is where the cerebral stuff belongs. I mean, that's where you find the people who are listening closely and evidently enjoy thinking, as opposed to the passive listener that the music formats attract. So, I guess I'm amazed that talk radio is not the bastion of those types of things, the humorous and cerebral material. To me, it would make sense that news/talk is where it originated, but it seems to have originated more on the AOR and CHR stations.

R.A.P.: What are your responsibilities as Creative Services Director?
Lonnie: In a nutshell, I guess you'd say I handle the on-air marketing and all the programming production. We've got another guy, Dan Osborne, who is our commercial production guy. He handles virtually all the commercial work for WIBC and for WNAP-FM, which is a boat-load of work in and of itself.

R.A.P.: Who's handling the programming material for WNAP?
Lonnie: Johnny George. He would be, I guess, Creative Services Director for WNAP.

R.A.P.: One person handling the commercials for two stations, and two people handling the programming material. That's a beautiful setup. Is it just the AM and the FM?
Lonnie: Well, when Emmis bought us, they also owned WENS-FM in town, so there are three stations. WENS has their own Production Director. We're in the process of getting everything under one roof, but that's still way down the line.

It's a great setup, and I guess I've been amazed to see it survive. When I came here -- and they're paying me respectfully -- I came fully expecting for them to come up any day and say, "Look, this is a fat position, and we just can't live in Disneyland any longer." I have just been amazed that I've survived.

R.A.P.: Generally, a good morning man is going to make a heck of a lot more than a Production Director or Creative Services Director. Without giving up any numbers, would you say you have been able to maintain, if not improve upon, your salary as a morning man?
Lonnie: Yes. I've maintained and even improved some. And I was not one of those seven-figure morning men, so don't be deceived by that. I've also been able to free up a little more time to develop my free-lance more, so that's helped the income a lot, too.

R.A.P.: You're obviously talented enough to be playing this game in the majors. Is that a goal, or are you pretty content where you are?
Lonnie: I've thought about it. One of my problems is that I've got a life, and I love that. I guess my stint in Oklahoma City got the travel bug out of me, and I guess it also helped me see that I really enjoy being close to family. And that's far more fulfilling than any career, I think. So I guess it's just a matter of priorities. If I had my way, I'd pick up my family and my wife's family and move them all here to Indianapolis or move them to Chicago so I could get a major market job, but the thought of moving far away again.... I think Chicago would be the only place where I would have any interest at all, either there or moving back to WHAS in Louisville. That's the station I grew up on, and that would put me about an hour and a half from both families. I enjoy having a life, and, to me, radio is not worth revolving your life and your family around.

I've always worked at the big, full-service station in every market I was in. A lot of it has to do with the kind of show that I did, the real heavy personality. I just got tired of the fact that every time I needed or wanted to change jobs, it meant I had to move and leave all the roots that I'd planted. With this format, there's only one possible station for me in the entire city. But with production, I kind of have the option of living here and working in the major market through voice work, especially as this digital technology develops, the ISDN stuff. As that develops, things will only improve.

R.A.P.: A couple of your lines quoted in the newspaper article about you were: "It's like a Nordic Track for your brain. Your news and talk station, WIBC," and, "More energy efficient because we use hot air. Your news and talk station, WIBC." Did you ever do any networking of your writing or comedy bits, like a comedy service?
Lonnie: I just dabbled in it a bit. But I hate hearing substandard humor and substandard bits, and when you're cranking lots of that stuff out, the quantity destroys the quality. That's why Letterman has fifteen or so writers to do his five minute monologue. And yet you've got radio guys who are doing four hours of fresh material every day by themselves or with one or two contributors. And doing radio bits is such hard work for so little payoff versus applying that same creative energy into doing commercials and selling those to clients and ad agencies. There's a lot of money in that.

I'm just coming into my own with the free-lance, and I'm just beginning to start marketing myself. I've picked up a lot of stuff by word of mouth. I've had a banner year this year, doing half my salary in free-lance work, and it's all been by word of mouth. I've never done any kind of serious marketing. So, as I look at pursuing that more seriously, I've done a lot of thinking on whether I should market just the voice work, or should I do a package for voice work and writing and that type of thing? The problem is that most stations don't want to pay out the kind of retainer fee that you'd like to get for that much work.

R.A.P.: What kind of studio are you working out of?
Lonnie: Well, after being here eight or nine months, I finally pulled the sales job of my life and talked them into getting our first 4-track. So I've got a 4-track deck and a couple of two tracks, and that's basically it. I lay my music down on two tracks, and I usually throw my voice on one track and go back and throw all the sound effects in on another track. However, Johnny, Dan, the engineering department and I have all been kind of scouring around, looking at different digital workstations and weighing the options. We haven't narrowed it down to a single workstation yet, but we've weeded some out.

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