Exclusive Interview – Al Yardy at KB Radio
Indie Music Bus | Al Yardy, CEO & Host at KB Radio (internet radio) – Ontario, Canada
By Candice Anne Marshall
IMB – Hello Al! Let’s begin with your role with your station KB Radio in Ontario, Canada. Many of our readers on Indie Music Bus will want to know all about you – can you tell us about yourself and your role on your station?
Al- I have always been interested in music in one fashion or another. I was introduced to the world of DJ’s in my early teens. Through two friends, one was a private DJ for dances, weddings etc., and the other was friends with a morning man on a local radio station. I began assisting with the dances and weddings etc., and by the time I was 15 years old, I had my own DJ business and was doing dances for schools in the city. It grew from there towards the radio side over the next couple years. As far as KB Radio I am the sole owner, operator, on air personality at this time anyway.
IMB – Recently, an avid listener Carol Kaplan tipped us off that you were experiencing some troubles with your station – can you tell us what that is all about and how your Artists and listeners can help?
Al- I unfortunately had an incident where most of my studio and equipment went up in smoke. Something caused a short in the system and unfortunately, the breakers did not go, and it cascaded through my equipment. I was left with 1 computer that I have been using to broadcast in a limited fashion. I run KB Radio myself from my home. I am retired and do it more as a passion than for any income. I began a crowd funding campaign in hopes to raise the funds necessary to replace what was destroyed.
IMB – Which shows do you have on the station?
Al – The station broadcasts 24 hrs a day and I currently am doing 4 live 4 hour shows a week. A fifth show is not airing currently due to some of the limitations in my equipment. The shows include a 70’s show and an 80’s show. I also do a show that focuses on listener requests and our Indie Music show. It would normally have one interview per week with a new artist, plus we feature all of the new Indie music going into the KB Radio line up. Add in the Top 10 Indie song count down from the past week and fill the show out with other great Indie music.
IMB – What inspired you to get into Radio?
Al – I really enjoyed the entertainment side of the DJ business, but didn’t think doing dances and functions was what I wanted to try and live on. The idea of being behind the microphone, talking to thousands of listeners and getting paid to play and listen to music seemed like a dream job.
IMB – Can you tell us about your station’s format and the genre’s you support?
Al – I am very proud of the format and rotation I have set up on KB. I play a mix of music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s as the bulk of our music. I also play select music from the 2000’s and also mix in Indie music 24 hrs a day with the mainstream music. We won’t play Rap, Hip Hop, Thrash Metal or something offensive in nature.
IMB – Do you balance the radio play time for label Artists and Indie Artists?
Al – The music rotation on KB is something I designed and created myself. I use a vast library of mainstream music and than play the Indie music mixed in as well. I work with the Indie music in 2 categories that I created. One is a higher rotation and the second is less frequent plays. Songs in the high rotation list will usually get played 4 to 5 times per week and the other category songs will come up once per week on average. I found by integrating the music all day listeners quickly grew to recognize many of these songs and in fact Indie songs are the most requested category of music I get.
IMB – Who make up the majority of the listeners on your station?
Al – I have a wide-ranging audience though I often hear from the female listeners more than men. My approach is very real and honest, and think that is appreciated. The demographics are very wide ranging from teens to seniors.
IMB –Have you entertained the idea of hosting live acoustic performances on your station?
Al – It is definitely something I would like to consider down the road. Though even before our incident I did all the interviews pre-recorded. I find this allows us, being myself and the artist to speak freely for as long as we want. I am than able to edit and present the best parts of the interview without losing airtime. I also have a unique style of interviewing which would not lend itself to short interview segments
IMB – Do you have difficulties in finding music to fit your station? If so, what do you think is the reason for that?
Al – I do not have any problem finding new music. I have a full inbox with emails from artists, record companies and promoters looking to get their songs played.
IMB – Do artist’s send untagged music and in the wrong genres?
Al – Yes, and it is a big pet peeve of mine. I look at it as if I was shopping for a new car, and went to McDonalds to see what they have. I don’t want to use the word lazy, but its what fits. Whoever is promoting a song, take a minute to find out if my station will even play it. Then we have the music itself…It is beyond belief how many songs I receive every week that have only the title on them, if that. Nowhere in any of the tags or properties is the band name etc. Again, it is just lazy and I am forced to either go back through all the emails to try and determine who sent it, or just plain discard the song.
IMB – Do you get a many Artists messaging you on any of your personal social media platforms wanting you to listen to their music?
Al – I do see that frequently. It is not my preferred method of communication but it can work once in a while. The draw back is of course if that message gets missed, among the other 1000 notifications and messages a day, we will never know if the next big hit was just missed.
IMB – Have you seen or experienced many artist’s who are willing to work with one another very often?
Al – I have had wonderful experiences with the artists that not only I play but just interact with daily. The exchange of information and ideas is astounding also. It is an every day occurrence to see one artist complimenting another artist on a song, or parts of the song, etc.
IMB – I know that your station is always supportive of local community events – do you find many new acts through the summer festival season? Do you attend a lot of live shows to discover new music?
Al – I was in the process of starting to do that more as well. I talk to many people locally in the music industry and am trying to build my list of connections in the region.
IMB – Have you been invited to live shows where the expectation was to play the Artists’ music on your station? If so, how did you handle that if the music wasn’t what you expected?
Al – It hasn’t happened to me before, and personally I wouldn’t put myself in that situation. I hate these con artists who charge artists for plays of their music. If a song fits the format, and is a quality recording and I can play it, I ask nothing of an artist except to send me a copy of that song.
IMB – how is your station taking advantage of new technology and listening trends?
Al – I follow listeners, and trends not just with my station but others quite a bit. When I studied broadcasting in the 80’s I learned about reading ratings books etc. Well before the internet and the digital age, that knowledge has helped me to interpret just what I see with listeners.
IMB – What is your stations’ filtering process for artists? Perhaps their reach (average listeners) & what they’re looking for song wise, genre wise, etc.
Al -My listeners seem to have pretty eclectic tastes in some ways. I tried to program a station that you can put on and leave it on. The kind that used to play in people’s homes, and when company came over it wasn’t turned off, it may have been lowered so people could talk over it. The kind that is comfortable and fun. The reach is growing shall we say. When I began KB Radio as a Podcast, it was 5 live shows a week only, 3 hours at night. My first night I had 3 listeners. In 11 months, I had more than 12,000 listeners and that’s when I turned it into a 24-hr station. That number has grown significantly since then.
IMB – What is the program director looking for in terms of new acts?
Al – What I really would like to see is not only good quality production, not music recorded on I Phones, and artists that like to interact with the station, being me, and with my listeners. If you have a great song, but have no interest in taking part in any way, even once in a while, then your music will move down in the number of plays.
IMB – What does it take to be featured on your station?
Al – Honestly, just ask me. I have a list of artists that are slated to be interviewed. I don’t do more than one a week so each one gets the spotlight for themselves.
IMB – How would your station prefer to be introduced to new music?
Al – In a perfect world, email me email@example.com Include a few words to introduce yourself. If you have some bio, include it and make sure the song(s) are labelled correctly.
IMB – What are your Listening statistics?
Al – Well they dropped a bit after we had the technical issues but they are coming back. I know they have never dropped below where we were as a podcast, so let’s say north of that number still.
IMB – What has been the greatest challenge for you so far?
Al – To be completely honest the equipment issue was pretty rough. I was ready to shut down the station and call it quits. I had started the fund-raising campaign but I am just not the kind of person who puts his hand out, and after less than a week, I realized the effort I would need to put into asking others for help was more than I was prepared to do.
IMB – What has been your greatest triumph so far?
Al – The follow up answer is what happened when I prepared to shut down. I posted a note on social media explaining the circumstances and the immediate reaction from listeners and artists telling me they not only enjoyed the station and didn’t want to lose it, but thought it was doing a good job of supporting the indie music community. It was very humbling actually.
IMB – Can you tell us of a time that may have been difficult with an Artist who may have reacted poorly to rejection? How did you handle it?
Al – I have been fortunate and not in that position with an artist. Though I ran into it with another broadcaster who had a show to potentially run on KB. I ended up just blocking the individual from all contact and social media. I like to think that things will take care of themselves and people like that won’t be in the industry too long, because of their bad attitude.
IMB – Can you tell us of a time where you had a sticky situation where you promoted an Artist and they may have not reciprocated their thanks, or worse, made you regret supporting them in the first place?
Al – That is a difficult question to answer. I am not really looking for any thanks from an artist, though I do tell them when they accept their first Grammy say hi to me. I have very few regrets in life. There is an artist that has created an awkward situation. I played their music, and actually got a request for one of their songs about a week ago, and still played it. I don’t think I regret supporting the person or band, but I think I regret not seeing clearly the true character of this individual in the first place. But I will not publicly bash or shame them normally.
IMB – What do you feel the trend in Radio is heading for in the next, say, year to five years?
Al – Terrestrial radio is in dire circumstances these days. With large corporations owning vast numbers of stations they have changed the entire face of the industry. But while it seemed like a good idea to many at the time, all it has led to is cuts and slashing of budgets and staff. Stations simulcast or have no on-air talent to speak of. Many stations that do have on air personalities, they are mostly young newer employees, lower salaries or minimum wage jobs. Stations have completely lost their community base. I think as we see financial trouble for companies like I Heart Radio that we will see more small operations, mom and pop type stations again. This won’t happen in the big markets, but in smaller and mid sized communities where someone can own, and operate the station the way they used to do things. But the number of terrestrial stations will drop all around the world until programmers stop trying to compete with iPod or MP3 players.
IMB – What can an Artist look for in terms of acceptance or rejection from your station?
Al – I attempt to answer every single email and message myself. If we will play your song I will let them know when it is going into the rotation, and how we use social media so they can track when it plays themselves. I try to stay in contact with those artists after that who wish to maintain more of a constant communication. For songs that are rejected it is a graceful email explaining that at this time their music does not fit our needs.
IMB – How can an Artist send you their overall best presentation of themselves?
Al – Their best presentation is very simple. Make sure you supply good information and treat me the way I treat you. That’s all I can ask and offer myself.
IMB – How much is ‘too much’ information that can be submitted for your station?
Al – At one time, I wouldn’t have thought there was such a thing as too much information. Than one day I got an email from an artist which included one song attachment and three bio type document attachments. Where this person went too far was it included interview questions I could ask them and how I should include interviewing their girlfriend because it would be good pr. I still laugh every time I think of that.
IMB – Are there any specific Artists that you favor over others and why?
Al – I do not give preferential treatment to any artist. I chat with many on a daily basis and if doing so while on air I will drop their name and plug their music. That option is open to everyone though.
IMB – How is your Station different than others? What sets you apart from the crowd?
Al – I am real. I am honest and present great music, in a mix that works for many. My live shows are entertaining and very real. I am human, and love to laugh at myself. Many listeners tell me that’s part of the shows they like best is the laughing. I also think I have one of the best music rotations in the industry anywhere. That isn’t me being arrogant though. The number of listeners etc. tell me that. The radio station website has had almost 120,000 hits in the last 12 months. That number comes from the host of my site. That’s not bad for a little internet radio station.
IMB – Do you feel there is a lot of competition among stations in your area?
Al – I feel there is competition but in many ways, there isn’t much. Many of the internet based stations are simply running music non-stop, with no live DJ. Equivalent to running your iPod nonstop. I think with my radio back ground and training it helps to set what I am doing apart from other operations.
IMB – What are your thoughts on music platform trends like Spotify and Pandora?
Al – I think they are great platforms for artists to get their music out and available to people all around the world. I think their weekly charts are often self serving for some but of little to no use to the average user or artist contributing music to the sites.
IMB – What is your biggest challenge when competing for listeners against other stations?
Al – I don’t really consider it a challenge. Peoples tastes are varied these days and I think I offer a specific format for some to listen to. From their if they are interested in other genre’s I would encourage anyone to listen to other stations. The cream will always rise to the top, and we need the support of radio across the board.
IMB – Who would you like to give a ‘Shout out’ to in terms of being a huge supporter of your station?
Al – There truly are a number of people I would like to do that for. Artists and listeners who would fit that mold. Plus, I am very open with people and those who have supported have been told before how much I appreciate everything they do in that regard.
IMB – Have you ever come across an Artist whose high demands were a turn-off?
Al – Absolutely. No names. Haha
IMB – Have you ever come across an Artist who was a ‘dream Artist’ to work with?
Al – One of my all time favorite artists I ever had the benefit of working with goes back many years. Doug Bennet of Doug and the Slugs from here in Canada. I had an opportunity to meet him and emcee one of his shows and he was an interesting person. He had an onstage persona where he was introduced as the worlds most obnoxious entertainer, but he was anything but off that stage. A true gentleman, and a delight. We sadly lost him too early in his life.
IMB – Which Artist has brought your station the largest number of listeners?
Al – I don’t know that any one artist has brought the most listeners. I know I can see trends when I add a new artist but it would be hard to say one has brought more than others. I did have one artist whose fans thought they were responsible for KB Radio being what it is. They no longer listen…lol
IMB – Is there a trend you watch out for and notice when that certain Artist is being played?
Al – You get to know certain people that click the links, the likes etc. for an artist. When a song is played you expect to see a certain group of people commenting through social media, but I like to watch for different people chiming in to those comments etc. If I see a new people liking on the music or commenting I know that the song is getting out there and being heard by a growing audience.
IMB – What are the top five things you look for when sourcing out an Artist in terms of their Social Media and media platforms?
Al – I look for a number of things that would be more negative than positive. I personally am not a fan of using my social media to endorse pollical candidates, to weigh in on highly controversial subjects etc. I believe it is too easy to alienate potential listeners doing these things. As such if an artist is out spoken in these areas, I like to know ahead of time. I also don’t want to see things like porn or degrading images or videos on their social media. There are some things that will make me cautiously aware but not afraid to play or promote their music. There are other things that can get them removed from the station permanently and blocked. Than I look for the positives. Who else they support. The kind of things they post about. Is it all music or is there personal items mixed in. the last item I look for is the automated answers from someone. They annoy me so I will leave that one at that, but its good to know when I read something that it really isn’t a personal note, it’s a computer-generated message
IMB – Alright, final question: If you were not a Host at KB Radio, you would be _______________. (finish the sentence)
Al – Still retired and still enjoying life to its fullest. But I would never be bored or without music in my life.
IMB – Thank you Al! We look forward to sharing this insightful interview with our readers at Indie Music Bus!
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