Living in Los Angeles isn’t as glamorous when you’re broke and in your early 20’s. Just ask Lance Taylor, who moved west to chase down a dream as an actor right out of college. Taylor had read an article on how Matthew McConaughey was found at a bar in Austin and landed a star role in the movie Dazed and Confused. To him, that made it seem simple. He had a great personality, all he had to do was mingle with the right people and make important connections. Sooner rather than later, he thought he’d be discovered just like McConaughey.
Less than a year later, Taylor was packing up and leaving the west coast to travel back home and look for his next venture. His plan to mingle with the biggest decision makers in Hollywood hadn’t panned out exactly has he had hoped.
What he didn’t realize, was how expensive of a city Los Angeles was. Instead of being out and about most nights, he instead found himself working long hours to try and make ends meet, something many young actors find themselves doing. Taylor’s dream didn’t die because he wasn’t talented enough, in his own words, he was just too naïve to know what exactly he was getting himself into.
With a degree in radio from the University of Alabama, as well as play-by-by experience in the Jayhawk League in Kansas, on his resume, Taylor set out to chase another big passion of his. Like most in the radio business, he wasn’t shy about his ambitions. He wanted to be on the air, no matter the role, and began searching for a way to get behind a mic.
The trouble with having a radio degree, is that it never fully guarantees you a position out of college. Taylor found this out the hard way, as he was only offered a position in sales after sending out his resume to multiple stations. If he was to chase down a dream in radio, he’d have to start off by proving his worth on the sales side.
Though it wasn’t necessarily where he thought he’d have to start, Taylor began his journey at Radio Disney in Birmingham. A 4-test market that included other cities such Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, Taylor actually found out quickly he was pretty good at his new position. Selling came natural to him, despite the fact that Radio Disney didn’t have any numbers at the time.
Soon after he started, he had already built an impressive client base. So much so, that the decision makers at WJOX in Birmingham plucked him away to join the team. The only sports station in Birmingham, Taylor saw it as a golden opportunity to finally make his way on the air.
Though he really found himself excelling at sales, Taylor was begging and willing for any opportunity to jump on the mic. He did so, by hosting random things such as a Monday Night Football show or a one-hour Friday roundtable that mixed and matched various personalities. No show was too small or unimportant for Taylor.
After continuing to sell at a high rate, one of the best, if not the best, radio station in Birmingham approached Taylor with a job offer. A country music format, it would take him away from sports, but the guaranteed offer was just too good to pass up. In his mind, Taylor accepted the offer and soon realized it was a deal he had to take. But sometimes fate takes over, and that’s what happened when he approached the GM at WJOX to inform him of his decision.
Clearly, Taylor had proven his worth both on the sales and talent side. He was a profitable employee that WJOX didn’t want to see walk out the door. The proposal to get Taylor to stay, was simple: He would now to be a co-host of a mid-day show on the station.
That offer was enough to entice Taylor to stay at WJOX. Though it was an un-paid role, he knew that would change after he earned his stripes on the new show. He was right.
After eight months, Taylor went from un-paid to 500 bucks a month. After four more months, the original host of the show was fired, which gave Taylor his own one-hour show. He was now making 1,000 dollars a month, not counting what he was still making on the sales side. His one-hour show turned into two after being extremely profitable. He would have two different co-hosts over the next four years, before finally being promoted to a four-hour show, a position he’s held for the last 10 years.
Today, Taylor is a host of The Roundtable on WJOX from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. every weekday, as well as a sales guy at the station. Amazingly, he’s nearly matched his worth on the talent side with his worth on the sales side. Talk about someone that means a lot to a station, right?
Taylor’s journey into the host seat is one that required him to practically beg to be on the air. But when you’re willing to take advantage of any and every opportunity, people notice and are more willing to give you opportunities.
Hearing Taylor’s story, there’s no mystery as to why he’s been so successful. Sure, it’s helped tremendously that he’s a huge asset on the sales side, but here’s a closer look at the day-to-day operations for someone that specializes in both sides of the radio business.
TM: How easy have you found it to be when you’re selling yourself to a potential client?
JT: I think it’s easy because it’s a popular radio station and the only sports format in Birmingham. We’re kind of a known commodity. With that being said, if I call on a business, not only have they heard of WJOX, they’ve heard of me because I’ve been on the air for so long. At least you get an audience for the decision maker and from there it’s a really good product and kind of sells itself.
Terrestrial radio seems to be dying, because you have so many options out there. There’s so many podcasts, XM, Sirius, the fortunate thing for us is that we’re in a market that’s so passionate about SEC football. Therefore, if you want up to the minute Alabama and Auburn football, you have to get it through us. We’re always going to have, what I would deem, as a base listener show.
TM: Do you think sports radio is harder to sell, than say, a country music or rock format?
JT: It’s much easier to sell sports radio. You’ve got so many options when it comes to music, including regular radio. There’s iTunes, Spotify, XM, Sirius, you can listen to what you want, when you want. Again, with sports talk, you’ve got a captive audience that’s loyal, constantly listening and doing it longer. I’ve always said that the two easiest formats to sell, because they’re passion driven, are sports talk and Christian.
TM: Just about everybody in your market is an Alabama or Auburn fan. Have you ever seen a scenario where a host portrays themselves as more Bama or Auburn sided, you try to sell him to a client, and they reject because of the loyalties they show on the air?
JT: Well, what we have are personalities that actually played at the two universities. I recently just got switched to the morning drive, I had done mid-days for 15 years, and two of our previous hosts in the mornings were a former Auburn kicker and a former Alabama quarterback. You always have to balance and for me as a sales guy, the way I would pitch a client, you don’t want to upset one of the two fan bases, so why not buy from both of them? Why not let both of them endorse your product? That way you’re getting a good balance from both fan bases.
TM: Last college football season is probably a good example for this question: Let’s say both Alabama and Auburn are both having strong years and in the College Football Playoff discussion. Who’s more relevant on a show?
JT: Well, we’re a bigger Alabama community. I would say, if you did an Alabama-Auburn split of our listeners, probably 65 percent are Bama fans. I think that’s an accurate portrayal of what our audience is. Obviously, it’s more important if Alabama is doing well, just from a listener standpoint. You either want the product to be really good or so bad that someone might get fired.
TM: Now that you’ve seen both sides, what do you think is mostly the biggest disconnect between the sales staff and on-air personalities?
JT: For me, it’s the sales staff not knowing the product and not knowing their personalities. To me, I think I’m a guy that could probably sell anything, but I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy selling just anything. I think your better sales people are ones that know the product, inside and out, and the people that are passionate about the product.
I think the disconnect becomes, I’ll see a sales person that I don’t even know, I don’t know their name or anything. I think it’s very important early on, and this is something I took a lot of pride in before I got on the air, I got to know the personalities. I sold them all equally because I thought each of them brought something to the table. Obviously, they had their own shows, so they were a strength of certain day parts. The station knew how important these guys were, well I think they can be important for my clients. So I got to know all the guys and the more I knew about them, the easier selling became. The problem with some of the sales staff is they don’t necessarily know everybody that’s on the air, what we do and I just think that can be a big disconnect.
But that can work both ways. We, as on-air guys, benefit from the sales guys and endorsements. I think it’s also important that on-air staff take the time to get to know the sales staff, as well.
TM: A lot of stations like to do sponsor interviews on the air. What’s your thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks of having a client on the air during a show?
JT: It’s interesting you ask this, because I’ve seen it from both sides. As a sales guy, I live on commission, so I enjoy getting that, but I think it hampers our product. For example, I’d have a metal roof guy come in that was a buddy and had a great business. The problem, is that there’s only so much of the market that is interested in purchasing a metal roof. When I say that, you’re probably talking about one percent. You’re tuning out 99 percent of your audience talking about metal roofs for five minutes.
Although your station can benefit from that revenue stream, it can also crush your ratings. It’s hard to sell a product without good ratings. If I had to make the decision, I’d say to not have the clients on the air. There are more creative ways to do things that get more for the client.
TM: Is digital that avenue?
JT: Yeah, I think so. It’s hard to explain to a certain generation how important the digital aspect is. But yeah, there’s so many different things you can do with digital. Having banners, pre-roll videos, you can really get creative on that side of things.
For someone that’s a diehard fan of the station and always listening inside their car, it might be harder to sell them that 10-15 percent of our listeners are actually siting in their office and listening on the website. It’s becoming easier to sell digitally, I still don’t know how educated some of our potential clients are on that .