Get to know Q106 PD John Sebastian

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Posted by on December 16, 2009 at 21:12:20:

10 Questions with Q106 PD John Sebastian
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John Sebastian, PD
Station: WWQM
Market: Madison, WI
Company: Midwest Family Broadcasting
Born: Denver, CO
Raised: Portland, OR


I've worked in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, DC, Boston, Seattle, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Portland, Nashville and too many more markets to mention as a program director and consultant engaging in CHR, AOR, Rock, EOR, Classic Rock, NAC/Smooth Jazz and Country! I thrive on turning around radio stations and maximizing their ultimate potential. My passion for working in radio has never waned. I still have that "fire in the belly" for this profession!

1) Your forte has always been to turn around a distressed radio station, like you did in Nashville with WSM-FM here a few years ago. Where you are now, WWQM seemed to be doing pretty well when you got there. What kinds of things have you set in play since you got there, and why are these turn-around situations so much fun for you?

Q106 was 11th 25-54 in the winter book from earlier in 2009 and even during good Arbitron results were usually in a dead heat with our competitor. So, I do consider this another turnaround opportunity. As always my contrarian approach to programming has delved into a myriad of fine-tuning, streamlining and details that create a unique radio station. The two powerfully new benchmarks we've established are: The New Q106.3 plays more music than any other Madison radio station and I believe The Q now has the most diverse variety of country music of any Country station in the nation!

2) When you joined the station, you decided to shake things up a bit did some stunting for a few days, even though the station went back to the Country format. What was your goal in molding the sound of the new Q106, and how do you choose songs for the Q playlist now?

We wanted to grab the attention of everyone in the market, that indeed there was a fresh new sound in Madison radio. The stunting did that very effectively. I wanted to make our radio station sound like a "Madison" country radio station, not a generic sounding country station one could hear in any market in America. This is a very open, progressive area, musically the 5th most impressive city in the US and I want our station to reflect this in everything we do! We choose songs the same way I've always done so: we look for new and older songs that fit the vision of a broad-minded, inclusive radio station that makes it comfortable for country P-1s and listeners that previously didn't think they liked country music alike to enjoy our radio station.

3) What sets Madison apart and makes it unique from other markets that you have worked at?

It's been called the San Francisco of the Midwest and the hippest town in the Midwest. I think those descriptions are accurate. The influence of University of Wisconsin is huge. More traditional artists and songs do less well here and the more cutting edge music in our format do particularly well in Madison! As examples, we've led the nation in spins on the latest huge hits for Lady Antebellum and Zac Brown Band!

4) Did you always know that radio was something you wanted to do for a living? What/who inspired you to pursue a career in this industry?

No, I wanted to be a pro basketball player and a lawyer, possibly the President of the United States. :) Radio people in Portland and San Francisco and L.A. were great influences on me, particularly The Real Don Steele!

5) Is this still fun for you, even after all the changes that have been made in broadcasting, and why?

I'm saddened by some of the changes in our business, but all in all I still absolutely love it. I can't wait to get to work every single day.

6) Who have been some of your personal mentors - both inside and outside of radio?

Gary Stevens (my manager at KDWB), Todd Wallace (one of the early PDs I worked for) and Bob Brooks (my big brother in the biz). I've known him and admired him since the beginning of my career. And there are probably a dozen others that have inspired, encouraged and motivated me over the years.

7) What would you consider your strongest talent?

Understanding what will resonate with the public. Since I was sixteen I've had a knack for picking hit songs and knowing what it would take to create a successful sounding radio station. It's instinctual for me in many ways.

8) What would be your dream job, outside of broadcasting?

I'd love to be an NBA basketball coach! Since I'm too old to be a player that would be my fantasy gig!

9) In the bio that you sent us, you write that you love "the best music from every genre." What are some artists/songs you are particularly high on - in Country music and across all genres?

That's like asking a person with a family to name their favorite child! I think Keith Urban is an amazing artist in so many ways. He's sort of the Eric Clapton of our format. Zac Brown is a great new talent; Lady Antebellum has the goods to be hot for a long long time. Coldplay slays me. I still love The Moody Blues, Zeppelin, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, old Motown and some New Age music that is "out of this world." I could really go on and on.

10) You've done a lot in your career. What are some of your proudest achievements?

Making WCOZ in Boston the hottest rock station in America in the early '80s, Recreating the NAC/Smooth Jazz format at The Wave in Los Angeles, spectacular turnaround at KSLX in Phoenix, consistent dominance at KDWB in Minneapolis, dramatic, to some shocking success at KZLA in L.A. despite an inferior signal-first time I did my "twisted country," worst to first at WSM-FM in Nashville, creating that Wolf from scratch and there are others.

Bonus Questions

1) We hear you are an avid basketball player and that you almost got to play in college before breaking your back in high school. How did that happen? Are you still able to shoot any hoops these days?

I like to think I could have had a shot at college hoops at University of Oregon. I could shoot it! Still can actually. Yes, I can still play a bit; pick-up games and I love to shoot around anytime.

2) You are a self-proclaimed movie freak. Name your top five favorite flicks of all time.

That's another tough one: Camelot, Primal Fear, The Usual Suspects, It's a Wonderful Life, Juno. Yes, I'm a softie and I might give you a completely different top 5 tomorrow.

3) You love politics. Would you ever run for office?

I've contemplated that move in the past. I wouldn't rule it out at some point if the stars align correctly. :)

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