I Am Entertainment Magazine interviews Jon Zellner, the Sr. VP of Programming at Clear Channel Communications (now known as iHeart Media).
Can you please tell us where you’re from and what inspired you to pursue a career in radio?
I was born and raised in Northern New Jersey so I grew up listening to some of the greatest radio stations of all time from New York…WABC, WNBC, WPLJ, WNEW and 99X. I met Wolfman Jack on the NBC tour when I was eight and knew then that I wanted to be on the radio and program radio stations.
What college(s) did you attend and what was your major?
I attended Ohio University and majored in telecommunications and minored in broadcast journalism.
What was your first professional job in radio, and how did you get it?
While at OU, my first paid job was working nights at Q-105, a Top 40 station in Athens, Ohio.
Recently, you departed Sirius XM to take your currently held position as Sr. VP of Programming at Clear Channel. What does your job entail?
At Clear Channel, I oversee the programming on about 200 radio stations in 27 markets across the country. At Sirius XM, I oversaw the programming on the 75 music channels.
How has the economic downturn effected how terrestrial radio stations operate?
Like many businesses, radio has learned to do more with less. Many companies are identifying their assets and utilizing technology and creativity to centralize programming where it makes sense. The good news is that we are seeing early signs that the advertising fallout has bottomed out and 2010 looks like there will be some bright spots when it comes to revenue growth.
How do you choose what songs get added to Clear Channel station play lists?
Our programmers utilize many tools when making those decisions including local and national sales, downloads, requests, online and call out research.
For the person out there who are interested in getting into radio, what are some of the steps they need to take in order to get started in the right direction?
Internships are a great way to get hands on experience and really learn from the experts. There are many universities that offer excellent programs in telecommunications including Ohio University (my alma mater), Syracuse, University of Missouri, Emerson, University of Florida, USC and many others.
You have accomplished a great deal in your 20 years as a radio executive. What would you say has been the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
I love surrounding myself with people who love radio as much as I do. It truly has been a joy to realize my dream and work in the radio industry.
If you could change anything about the music business, what would it be and why?
The music industry needs to do a better job of utilizing young people to stay ahead of technology and remain relevant. The next great idea is not coming from within and certainly not from someone who has been in the business for a long time. Music industry executives need to sometimes look outside the industry to find the right path.