I’ve known Hurricane Dave Smith for close to 20 years. I remember him best for being the PD at WBLK in Buffalo, my hometown, but he has consistently created an impressive resume of various additional experiences including a stint at Reach Media before returning to programming for Urban One (formerly Radio One).
Dave is the Vice President of Programming and Operations at Urban One Atlanta. Atlanta is a market that dominates the urban radio landscape with, at last check, 11 to 13 urban or urban leaning stations. He oversees The Rickey Smiley Morning Show, The Ed Lover Show and he consults the Richmond Urban One stations.
Dave’s an admitted “computer geek” who loves technology and enjoys animation software, graphics software, flying drones, augmented reality, mountain climbing and the great outdoors.
Undoubtedly, Dave is one of, if not THE most active radio PDs on social media. I am consistently impressed at how Dave thinks outside the box and understands branding relevance. I actually talked to a couple of Dave’s staff members, unbeknownst to him or them about the interview, and they confirmed working with him is the best experience they have had in radio. I have to admit, in our industry that is rare. We took a minute to talk to Dave about radio and more…
RADIO FACTS: You are all over social media. What are your follower numbers for Twitter, FB, and Instagram?
HURRICANE DAVE: (LOL) no one’s ever asked me that before. (Pauses to check)
- Instagram – 18k
- Twitter – 7,1
- Snapchat a few hundred
- Facebook 1,600 it’s a private page
- LinkedIn 1,7
Why is social media important to you?
Social media is like a living resume of or what you’re doing, who you’re communicating with or whatever image you want to project. We know how important social media is to branding, especially when it comes to talent. I also post more than most Program Directors because it’s required for my staff. I try to lead by example. So my goal is to post something every day.
“I’m a big believer that if there is something that my audience likes I need to understand it and be at the party when they arrive.”
Describe what you think “passion” is (for work)
I often say I have the greatest job in the world. I wake up every day excited about being a part of the broadcast business. I’ve been doing it most of my life. When you’re passionate about something you’re going to learn to master it. After you’ve mastered it then you need to master other elements as it relates to your current position. The great thing about the broadcasting business is that it’s constantly evolving. There’s always some new curve or facet to learn. Only your passion will keep you on top of emerging trends. I’m a big believer that if there is something that my audience likes I need to understand it and be at the party when they arrive.
What is a typical day for you?
My day starts at around 5 AM. I try to hit the gym 4 or 5 days a week, but you probably couldn’t tell from my exterior, (LOL). I make a point of listening to the morning shows while working out. I remember when you only had to listen to your morning show and maybe your competitor. In Atlanta, we have more syndicated morning shows and we are in the most aggressive radio market for African-Americans in the country, if not the world. That makes it difficult to spend quality time listening to all the brands. You just make the best of it. It’s still very exciting to me.
I get in the office a little after 9 AM most mornings. I typically leave about 6:30 pm. In Atlanta, there’s literally something happening seven days a week. Our stations are very active so I try to attend almost every function we have going on.
My days are like those Program Directors filled with conference calls and meetings. Talent development, managing egos, making decisions and finding solutions. I’m really big on TEAM. It’s amazing what you can get done if everybody’s working on the same page. I’m also big on training the next Program Director.
Tell us about your staff?
I think I have one of the best staffs in all of radio. We’re pretty much like a family and with that, you’re going to have some family squabbles from time to time. At the end of the day, they all understand that I expect nothing but excellence from them all the time.
All of my talents are considered brands. My job is to help them build their brand while building the station’s brand. The bigger their brand is the bigger the stations brand will be. I also keep a dose of reality that you’re never going to be bigger than the brand you’re on. Take care of the station first with social media and getting out in the streets and I make it a point to help you build your individual brands. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.
I’m really big on TEAM. It’s amazing what you can get done if everybody’s working on the same page. I’m also big on training the next Program Director.
How do you pick your staff, what are some of the most important qualities?
One of the biggest things is being authentic. You don’t have to go to a broadcasting school in order for me to select you for hire. Just be true to the format that you’re interested in. If you’re a millennial I also look to see what you’re doing on social media. Are you building your brand do you have followers?
That old saying you have a face for radio doesn’t apply in today’s radio market. You need to be the complete package. Looks, swag, followers, etc.
With so many stations competing on the urban side in Atlanta how to you stay ahead of the pack?
I could say things like were innovators of the format or some other clever cliché. The reality is we just stay true to our core. We are a pure hip-hop station with talent and personalities living a millennial lifestyle on Hot 1079. The same holds true for our adult station Majic 1075/975, Boom 1029 and Praise 1025. Have people on your brands that live the lifestyle of the brand and you have a good chance of being successful.
What’s the benefit of working for a company like Urban One?
I think one of the things are founders realized years ago is that radio must diversify. The fact that we changed our name to Urban One says a lot. This year more than 50% of our revenue will come from sources other than radio. We have TV One, Interactive One, Reach Media, and Urban One has an investment in a casino in DC. We’re a pretty strong company.
How do you make time for a personal life?
I think your question says it all. The most important thing was “make time for a personal life.” I’ve learned the hard way many years ago if you don’t have balance in your life you don’t really have a life. I will always make time for my family and personal mental health time just to be alone. I find it hard to believe that anyone can truly enjoy life without proper balance. So to answer your question, you just do.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
President of a division of a media company. It could be radio, television or some media company. I also see myself owning some sort of tech company that deals in augmented reality or something in the drone Industry.
What are some of the changes you would like to see in the radio and music industry?
For the music industry, I would love to see the good old days return of artist development. I doubt that will actually ever happen. When I say development I mean teaching them how to enter a radio station. How to interact with professionals. The artists are absolutely running the industry. Most do not care about the record labels or the relationships with radio stations.
From a radio station standpoint, we need more training grounds. Most stations are automated overnight and have very short part-time staffs. Program Directors have so much on their plate with little time to develop the next superstar in radio. We will probably find that star on social media. Of course, that person will not have any real loyalty or respect to the radio broadcasting business. An industry they have not grown up depending upon for entertainment and news. Everything is on their phone right now.
What big events do your stations have coming?
We just finished Hot 1079 Birthday Bash. The biggest hip-hop concert in the south and some considered the most important hip-hop concert in the country when it comes to talent on one stage.
In late July we present Praise in the Park with Praise 1025. The largest inspirational concert by any radio station anywhere.
BOOM and Majic along with the other brands also do our Christmas Angels program, where we sponsor Christmas for 50-100 families in the Atlanta area.
We are always looking forward thinkers and innovators in the industry to interview. If you can think of anyone we should consider email [email protected]