By: Mase Brazelle
Randy Malloy has pretty much done it all in radio, except for one thing. He’s never worked for “The Man.” After 25 years WWCD (CD102.5) in Columbus, OH had managed to be one of the last privately owned ALT stations in the country. From intern to owner, Randy has kept CD102.5 dynamic, focused and on-point as he’s helped craft and brand a compelling radio station that is truly part of the fabric of its city.
The old adage of when you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life may apply in many cases, but when it comes to Randy Malloy he has invested a lot of very hard work in loving what he does. After graduating from THE Ohio State University Randy got his first taste of the music industry working at a theater/club in town called The Newport Music Hall. But not long after that he had a chance to be the first intern at WWCD (CD102.5). He took an upwardly mobile path to holding mostly every job there, outside of programming, and finally ascended to station owner. He experienced just about everything from a frequency change, to the passing of his long time PD Andyman Davis, to basically rebuilding their current location on his own time, and most recently opening The Big Room Bar located upstairs from their studio. Through it all, Randy and station staffers have continued to build on a legacy brand that indeed makes a difference in its community.
Congratulations on WWCD’s 25th anniversary as an Alternative station. Given as fickle as the ALT format is, what enhanced the longevity of the format in Columbus?
Sometimes it feels like sheer will, but it is actually the staff that works so hard every day and the audience that cares. We get feedback from our listeners and we have evolved over the years. We are constantly reinventing ourselves, but that’s because the format is dynamic. We pay attention to the listeners and they dictate the direction we have taken over the years.
It’s my understanding that Columbus has vastly changed over the last 25 years. How has the station managed to pace the changes of the market while still being true to itself and the format?
I often say, “It’s evolution not revolution.” We have been extremely lucky to have such a passionate staff over the years that care not only about the music and the artists, but about the wants and needs of the fans. We have paid close attention to the audience and have been responsive to their needs. I truly think that is one of the main reasons we have been here for all this time.
Upon your graduation from THE Ohio State University, your first gig was in the “music industry” at The Newport Music Hall. What lead you down the path of radio and not the concert business?
I’ve been a lifelong music fan, back to when my friends and I would camp out at the Ticketmaster location at a local record shop waiting for tickets to go on sale, or many a times call into a radio station to try to win tickets to a concert. (I never did win!) When I moved to Ohio the first job was as a bouncer at a local music venue and it was great, but there were not any good stations in Columbus at the time. When CD102.5 (then CD101) came on the air, it was like finding the lost city of Atlantis. When I had an opportunity to do something with the radio station and a club I was involved with in college, I jumped at the opportunity. From there it was history. I was hooked and still am.
Your initial position at WWCD (after asst. Marketing Director) was Marketing Director, a position that hadn’t formerly existed at the station. What were your learning points in basically creating and growing into this role?
I received a book called Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson and it was my gospel to marketing the radio station. I learned to ask for forgiveness before permission and how to create a buzz with little to nothing in hand. It was almost as if the book was written from my thoughts. It just gelled and worked out well for the type of promotions and marketing we were engaging in.
At what point did you make the leap to OM/GM?
When the previous owner gave me a manila envelope and told me not to open it right away. I waited about 30 seconds and tore into it. When I first read it I thought I was out. I was devastated and not sure what was what. On my second reading of the pages, I was struck with a different emotion; wait, my boss is out and I’m the boss? I read it one more time word by word painfully slowly, and yes I was the boss. So it was less of a leap and more of a catapult that threw me forward.
In the past few years you had to change frequency from CD101 to CD102.5. What were the challenges you encountered during that transition?
When we started in 1990, the station was at CD101.1 FM and now we are CD102.5 FM, same format, people and philosophy for the most part. As I said earlier, we just evolved. This is version 2.5. The previous owner, after 20 years, sold the frequency to The Ohio State University. They did not want the station, only the frequency and license. So when the deal was announced, we had to find a new home.
Changing “addresses” for a radio station is a big deal because the old familiar dial number is the call sign, the name and identity. We also had 20 years of assets to deal with from bumper stickers and tents, to trucks and sponsorships. We were CD101 located at 101.1FM so to change we had to educate people to the change and then get them to come along with us. It took us a year to transition to the new name and have all of the old identifiers and assets moved out or over to the new frequency of CD102.5 located at CD102.5FM. The other component to all this was that we moved our physical location at the same time and had to recreate a studio and all the parts and pieces that make a station able to broadcast. So yes we had a few hiccups along the way.
Can you elaborate on your quantum leap to ownership?
Ownership is a tricky word. I am not sure who owns who at this point, but yes I am the “owner.” The old owner had done this for 20 years and put in his time and money, sweat and tears, and everything else that goes into something that you have a love and a passion for. When the frequency was sold, it just seemed like there was an opportunity to step in and take on that role. He had done his time so to speak. It takes an enormous amount of time and energy to run and own a station, let alone one that’s a stand-alone. I thought of it as not only an opportunity, but as my duty to have the station continue to be part of the community I call home.
Can you comment on your unique sales strategy of your sales force not necessarily selling the ratings, but selling the station brand and its essence?
Well the station is part of the community, so having a client know who we are and know our audience, is very important. As with any advertiser who is looking to share a message with potential clients, we try to make the connection on a level that not only gives results but helps the needs of the client.
In 2010 former PD Andyman Davis passed away which had a profound effect on the entire industry, especially the station staff. Andy obviously meant a lot to the people at CD 1025 and the day after tribute was a wonderful acknowledgement of his very essence relative to the station. In what ways did he influence you over the years and how did this shape the station as a whole?
A PD can and does have a great deal of influence on the music selection, but also on the overall direction of the station. Andy had a great deal of influence on the course the station took while he was with us. He cared deeply and was passionate about causes like helping children. He started the CD1025 For the Kids movement when he took it upon himself to stay on the air for 48 hours to raise money for children less fortunate. Andy was just the type of person that made you want to be a better person.
His passing was a blow to the staff as well as the listeners. Andy had a passion and belief that this place was more than a job; it was real and it mattered. A sentiment you still see and feel from all the staffers here.
You were lucky enough to have Lesley James step into Andy’s shows and take over as PD. What kind of student was Lesley and how did you coach her to take on such a responsibility?
We have a Friday program that allows listeners to be on the air with their music for one hour. Lesley walked in to do her “Guest DJ” set of music and it was history from there. Lesley was hired to be Andy’s assistant and a part-time DJ. She was and is a natural. She has a great passion for music and great relationships with listeners, bands and the record community. So to be honest, with Lesley I did not need to coach her. She learned the basics from Andy and the rest was natural ability and intellect.
How involved do you get in the actual daily programming of the station and do you partake in the music meetings at all?
I will occasionally walk into the studio and say something about how much I like this or that song, but I leave the programming to the professionals. It is not an easy task to be impartial to your own musical likes and know what songs and artists are good. I put my faith in the decisions that Lesley and her team make regarding music for the station.
What are the key factors to a successful partnership with the music industry?
The key word is partnership. Reps bring us music that will fit our playlist; we play the hits and sell the tickets. If we don’t have good relationships with our reps, the partnership is not symbiotic. I find it so amusing to hear stories of PD’s that don’t take calls from some labels or reps. I liken this to walking onto a car lot and then telling the salesperson to piss off when they ask, “Can I help you find a car?” The label’s job is to bring music to the PD so they can in turn bring this music to the audience.
What is the one stand-out feature between the station and the labels?
For us personally we have forged strong relationships with the record companies/labels over the years and it is one of mutual respect.
You recently moved into a new building and after you were up and running you decided to take the upstairs performance room and open a full fledged bar/restaurant…I guess the question is why? (Editor’s note: I’ve had both food and drinks there and they are great!)
Crazy. The building was an old heritage club, The Swiss Club, so it had an old kitchen and little bar already. We had been using the space as our performance area, “The Big Room” for about two years when the idea was hatched. It was just a crazy idea to let the audience have a different level of access to the station and what we are all about. Plus it could be a live music venue to showcase more local talent as well as national bands. Check out our YouTube Channel Alt for videos.
[eQB Content By Mase Brazelle]