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Dave Tepper Just Keeps Going

” I got my first taste of it and it was exactly what I was looking for. It was spontaneous. It was live. It was fresh every time you’d hit the microphone. Off I went into the radio world, man.”

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Some career paths are far from a straight line. Dave Tepper’s trail resembles Lombard Street, that crazy road in San Francisco. Although the journey has been unconventional, he prefers it that way. Dave started out as a stand-up comedian in Los Angeles. He was introduced to sports radio by fellow comic Jay Mohr, who used to cruise around in a Suburban with Dave and his Rottweiler Shirley while listening to Jim Rome. Come on, how many introductions to sports radio are as colorful as that?

Cool Facts and History About Lombard Street

To say Dave’s sports radio career started out rocky is an understatement. The Newport Beach native tells an epic story about not exactly receiving the red carpet treatment after moving to Austin, Texas for a gig. It’s seriously an all-time horror story. He stuck with it and after radio stops in Houston and Omaha, Dave is now the program director at Altitude Sports Radio 92.5 FM in Denver as well as the operations manager. From dissed to decision maker; it’s been quite the journey. Dave talks about covering more than just the Broncos in Denver, sticking a new antenna on a transmitter, and what he would say to the guy who inexplicably ghosted him. Enjoy!

BN: How long were you a stand-up comedian?

DT: A couple of years. I was doing the whole open mic thing. I did The Comedy Store, the Laugh Factory where you’d wait all day just trying to get on a list. I ended up getting an opportunity to be managed by the owner of the Laugh Factory, Jamie Masada. I was emceeing Friday and Saturday nights for some really big shows, bringing up big comics. You pretty much name it, there’s a good chance I probably brought them up on stage. I was also around a lot of comics I see right now that are successful. Bill Burr was a guy that I would just hang out with in lobbies. It was a good time.

Part of the reason I got into radio was I liked the idea of doing fresh material every night. I was so naïve. I didn’t realize that a lot of comics are like musicians; they hone their material. You work on a joke night after night after night. The owner had me doing that and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do like a monologue on a nightly basis. I just really resisted his direction.

In that time a guy named Frazer Smith, who was a long-time radio veteran, he was emceeing shows with me. He’s a long-time comic, he’s still doing it. He got an opportunity to do a Saturday night show on KLSX, which was the Howard Stern L.A. station. It was a real talk kind of a format. He said hey, I can see you’re a little frustrated with how the comedy stuff is going. He said you wanna come in one Saturday night, just kind of be a sidekick, just be yourself, maybe do some sports poetry. He’s like how about you write a funny sports poem based on that week of sports and we’ll kind of do that. I did it once and I maybe did stand-up a couple more times after that at the most. That was how I got into radio. I got my first taste of it and it was exactly what I was looking for. It was spontaneous. It was live. It was fresh every time you’d hit the microphone. Off I went into the radio world, man.

BN: You’re into the technical aspect of the gig, knowing transmitters and things like that. Why does that interest you?

DT: It can really separate you when it comes to the skills that you have. Where now, here I am in Denver, I didn’t come here to do operations, but there was a need. Our chief engineer, Barry Thomas, who was one of the most respected in the business, when I got here he was on the back end of a fight with cancer. I didn’t know that. I remember when he told me, my stomach dropped. Number one for him of course and his family, but also from my time in Omaha I’m going oh my God, if you don’t have a good engineer this could be something. And it has been.

He passed six months into me being here in the first week of December 2018. Our GM, she hired a chief about six months later. It was a challenge. One of the biggest projects that we had here was putting together basically a new antenna on a new transmitter for our FM sports station. The chief engineer that they hired was struggling with putting that project together. My GM knew I had some background on how to deal with engineers, nothing like this, but I was basically the best thing that they had at the time to give it a shot.

I jumped in basically just because there was such a need for someone to go in and spend some time with the engineer, be a second kind of ear and eye on what that project was. That evolved into me really learning a tremendous amount about it. Even more about engineering, more than I really ever wanted to know, but I knew that someone needed to kind of learn it. We ended up parting ways with that engineer and in between him and the current engineer we have now, I was basically like the interim engineer. My God.

I just knew if I didn’t learn this stuff then we didn’t have anyone else. We have a contract guy who helps out in town, but he wasn’t able to help out all the time. Look, I don’t know the ins and outs of a transmitter site, and I don’t want to know. I don’t want to be an engineer. There were times I’m like man, when the station would be off the air, if we had to switch it to a backup, my stomach dropped every time. There’s so much stuff inside these systems that you just know if you hit the wrong thing, my God. But fortunately, it didn’t happen.

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I took copious notes. The amount of engineering notes that I have now, it looks like Egyptian writing. Half the stuff you don’t even know what it is. But I was able to follow it enough to be able to keep it together until now we have ourselves a really solid chief engineer again.

I say all that because trust me there are times when I am literally responsible for switching over radio stations, and I think back to my days of sitting there on the stage at the Laugh Factory, like oh my God you guys, we’re really at a point where you’ve got some former comic who’s basically just an old sports fan, who spent many years as a talk show host, and is now literally piecing together switching over to a backup to stay on the air. Boy, we must be desperate. But you do what you have to do for your radio station and for your cluster. That’s why I took a lot of this stuff on.

BN: Denver sports talk was all Broncos for so long. Your station is owned by Stan Kroenke, so you’re going to talk about the Nuggets and Avs as well. Were you worried about those expectations when you first got to town, knowing what you did about the market?

DT: I was curious because obviously, you listen to a market before you come into it. You listen to the competition. I know Armen Williams pretty well. He’s become a radio buddy of mine from back when I was in Houston. He was in Albany. He and I stayed in touch when I was in Omaha and he was here. I’ve listened to our competitor. I knew what they were. At the time there was also another outlet, Orange and Blue 760; they were very heavy on the Broncos. If you have radio stations where the majority of their content is focused on the Broncos, in order to compete you need to be able to be in that space.

I asked in this process early on, our general manager as well as the executives at Kroenke Sports Entertainment, are you guys comfortable with that? If this is just meant to be a hardcore Kroenke-owned sports-driven station where you’re just going all-in on the Avs, the Nuggets, and the Rapids, let me know that. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still be interested. This is a great city and a great market but the ratings out here are obviously dictating that there is a heavy Broncos interest. That’s why the competitors are doing it. I believe in order to compete out here you do have to serve up a certain amount of that. Because if you completely go away from that, I think you’re seeking a different mission. 

To their credit they said no, we want to be a full-service sports radio station out here. Of course they love our teams and it’s very important that we talk about them. We’re fortunate because all three of those teams are competitive so it makes it even easier. Our competition right now is finding ways to get into that space as much as they can too because there is an interest for it. People do want to talk about good teams.

It wasn’t a concern; it was something that I had to know because, as you know, Nielsen is not cheap. My belief was if we’re paying to play this contest, the strategy is going to need to involve some football and some Broncos talk in there. They agreed. They said we don’t disagree that you have to mix that in too. I had their support with that.

My philosophy behind sports radio was basically look, we’re going to get to everything that’s relevant if you go with the vision that I want to bring you guys. I don’t think if it doesn’t include Broncos and NFL, it’s going to make things all that easy.

People forget too, not you, but we are an NFL group with Kroenke and the LA Rams. He is an NFL owner. We are an NFL company. We may not be an NFL company here in Denver obviously, but this company very much understands the value of the NFL, which I think certainly helps make sure that we get some of that content in there.

BN: Correct me if I’m wrong, it was you or another guy. There was a job I want to say in Austin. The guy drives all the way over there and then he couldn’t get ahold of the dude that said he had the job. Is that you or is that somebody else?

DT: [Laughs] Oh my God, I hope that’s not somebody else because it absolutely happened to me. I pray to God it doesn’t happen to anyone else. Wow, you heard that story?

BN: Yeah, I think you did an interview with Jason Barrett a while ago. I randomly thought of that story and I’m like I think it was Dave, but I’m not positive.

DT: Oh my God. Yes, when I was trying to figure out my next step, I couldn’t get into L.A. sports radio. It just wasn’t meant to be. 1300 The Zone was the flagship for the Longhorns. When the Aggies still played Texas the day after Thanksgiving, I reached out to them and I said hey, I’m coming to Austin. I’m just a young dude. I have a little bit of experience at KLSX; I’m trying to get into sports radio. I’m coming out, can we meet up? The PD said sure. So we did. He was great. He gave me a tour of their old facility. He drove me to the new facility they were building out, a gorgeous layout of a place. The guy says to me yeah, if you want to come out here I’ll get you some hours doing promotions and I’ll get you an opportunity on weekends doing some fill-in stuff.

I remember flying out there and picking out an apartment. I say to the guy hey, I’m coming out to look for an apartment. Is this still happening? Yeah, it’s absolutely happening. Let me know when you get here. Okay. All right man, I found an apartment. I’m going to take it. Are we still good? Yeah, we’re still good. All right, I’m quitting my job out here in L.A. at KABC. I was doing that and I was driving around movie scripts at the time for Jerry Zucker. It was okay. It wasn’t a bad life. He was like yeah, come on out, promotions hours, we’ll get you going on weekends. I said okay. Off we went.

I packed up my U-Haul. My dad helped drive me out. He drove the U-Haul; I had my truck. I get to Austin, Texas and the guy would never return a phone call. He never returned a call. I remember going and sitting up in that lobby and being like hey, is so-and-so here? They’re like who’s asking? I told them and they’d come back up and say yeah, he’s busy. I’d be like okay, can I wait? Ehh, we’d rather not, he’ll reach out.

I remember going to some of their live events. Kevin Dunn and Chad Hastings had an afternoon drive show; they’re still doing it out there. I remember thinking am I crazy? I was losing my mind, man. I’m deep in the heart of Texas knowing nobody but my wife and some of her friends because she went to UT. My family’s like you idiot, I told you. What have you done with your life? I was losing it. I’m like I don’t know, but I’m out here for a reason.

I was like did this even happen? I’m like checking emails and like yeah, he says come on. I went out to one of their events and I said hey, is so-and-so here? They’re like well no, he’s not here, but why are you asking? I was like I’m supposed to be out here for a job with you guys and I cannot get ahold of this PD. They said oh, are you that guy that moved from San Diego? I was like, yeah kind of, Southern California. He goes yeah, we heard about you. We heard that you were somebody from Southern California with some radio experience and might be helping out on the weekends.

I’m like all right, so I’m not insane. Yeah, that’s me. I’m like where is your boss? He’s like he’s not out here at the remote, but we’ll tell him that you’re looking for him. I’m like great. Never ever calls me. Never once. I just kind of accepted, like look I’ve got a year lease here. I love this city. I still love it. I believe I’m here for a reason, I just have faith in that. I guess I just need to figure out my radio resume.

BN: What did you do once it was obvious your initial plan didn’t work?

DT: My wife who was my girlfriend at the time, she found this random hosting for a news talk station that was looking for an unpaid intern for their morning show. I’m like well this is talk so I applied for that. I go in to interview and a guy named Jon Madani is looking at my resume like how in the world did you get here? What’s the deal? I gave him a little bit of the background. He goes well, what if I told you that we were going to be flipping this station to sports in a month? And we’re looking for people to get their foot in the door. There are no sports people in this building for the most part. You could be coming in here at just the right time. If you’re worth a darn, it could be nothing but opportunity here for you.

I said man, I will take whatever you’ve got. I started working with their morning show. I was there when it flipped and I was really one of the closest things to a sports guy that they had. Off I went. The host Paul Pryor broke his hip. I remember getting a call 15 minutes before the show, it’s Jon Madani going hey, you ready? I’m like what do you mean? He goes Paul can’t come in. He had a co-host named the Rug Man who was a sports guy out of Cincinnati. This crazy, long-haired dude. It was Pryor and the Rug Man.

He’s like you need to jump in with the Rug Man and don’t screw up our morning show. I jumped in. I did it once. I did all right. Paul came back and then a couple of weeks later because of his hip injury he like fell in the shower and he was never able to come back. They said in the meantime why don’t you try Tepper and the Rug Man in the morning and see what you can do. Within months man, I’m doing morning drive in Austin, Texas after that. I guess you can’t tell the story without it being a little bit long. I wouldn’t change a thing.

BN: Wow, man. Did you ever run into that guy that didn’t return your calls?

DT: No, never. Never once.

BN: What would you have said back then if you bumped into him, and what you would say to him right now?

DT: What happened? You know? What happened? I always believe that there’s another side to it. I know the guy remembers doing it. In the moment when I was younger, I’m sure I would have had a lot of angst in my voice. If I saw him now — and he’s still around — I’d probably thank him. It was a lesson in perseverance that I would probably not wish upon others, but one that really tested my faith and my instincts and what I was trying to do. It really made me dig deep. It really, really tested how bad do you want it? But I mean it; I’m grateful for it. I wouldn’t change it a bit because it’s helped make me a lot of who I am. I know that I’m in this for a reason and that good things are ahead even when things can be a bit tough and aren’t going your way. I’d ask him hey man, what happened? But I would thank him for it.

I read the Phil Knight book Shoe Dog, the Nike book. He’s got this great thing when he was young and just started coming up with this whole concept, it was just keep going. Don’t stop; just keep going. That’s kind of what it felt like then. This is a mess. This is crazy. But something just told me, just keep going.

Amazon.com: Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike eBook : Knight, Phil:  Books

That’s something where I read that book a couple of years ago, it’s really stuck with me because I remember feeling that way then, and that’s how I feel now in this current adventure that I’m running here in Denver, which I believe is for a reason. It’s tough. It’s tough to start a station out against such a really respectful competitor, but I believe we’re all here for a reason and you just keep going.

BSM Writers

Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call

“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”

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I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.

The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.

OKC Radio Host Sam Mayes Fired After Racist Audio is Leaked

Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.

Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.

We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.

I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.

You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.

People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.

How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.

All About the Lucky Star Casino in El Reno, Concho
Courtesy: TripAdvisor/Adam Knapp

Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.

If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.

In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.

Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.

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What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.

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BSM Writers

Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!

“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”

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Struggling to get new business appointments? Dreading making prospecting calls? Having trouble writing creative emails that seemingly never get a response?

Generating responses to new business outreach is easier than you think. Just make sure you do your homework first and keep it “Simple Stupid”.

To do that, start with asking yourself these (3) simple questions:

#1: Did I do my home work on the business itself, their competition and those I plan on reaching out to?

#2: If I were on the other end of the phone and/or email with myself would I want to engage in conversation and/or reply to that email?

#3: Am I prepared to make a one call close given the opportunity to?

If the answer to any of these is “No”… do NOT pick up the phone and by all means do NOT hit the send button on that initial outreach email! Doing so will all but ensure you fall flat on your face. On the off chance you do happen to get the decision maker on the phone you won’t make that great first impression that sometimes can be so crucial. First impressions are always important… ALWAYS!

Skipping over these critical steps is a sure-fire way to ensure your email is completely ignored and will not generate the engagement from the prospect you’d hope for. Successful prospecting is all about the front end digging and research. Do your homework first then strategize a plan of attack for your call and/or email. Taking these extra measures on the front end is absolutely “Mission Critical” and will set you up for much more success with your prospecting endeavors.

Now once you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above, you’re ready to attack with the knowledge and confidence that should set you a part from your competition. It’s all about the Game Plan, and if you don’t have one, you’re destined for failure time and time again. Incorporate these (5) things into your prospecting Game Plan for your next call/email and watch your results dramatically improve:

#1: MAKE IT PERSONAL & CASUAL – Be informal, find out something interesting about them.

#2: MAKE IT SHORT & CONCISE – Be straight forward and to the point, people are busy.

#3: MAKE IT TIMELY & RELEVANT TO THEM AND/OR THEIR BUSINESS – Give them a good Valid Business Reason.

#4: MAKE IT INTERESTING, COMPELLING & INFORMATIVE – Be the expert they’re missing.

#5: MAKE IT FUN – Fun people are easy to do business with and make it less like “work”.

Lastly, and most importantly, Be Yourself! You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days. When clients do find it trust me, they value it and appreciate it way more than you’ll ever know!

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BSM Writers

Good Producers Can Teach The World A Lot About Christmas

“A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition.”

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Who is Carl Christmas in your house? Who is the one that makes sure everyone that needs to get a card does? Who comes up with the plan for the lights? Who takes the reins on the shopping?

Chevy Chase, aka Clark Griswold, to light up stage in Berks | Berks  Regional News | wfmz.com
Courtesy: Warner Bros./National Lampoon

Every home needs one and in my house, that’s me. December (including the last week of November) is my time to shine, baby!

One thing I have tried to impress upon my mom and wife this year is that shipping and supply chain delays are real. So, if you are planning on procrastinating on your online shopping this year (you know, like usual) someone (me) is going to have no presents under the tree.

Veteran producers are used to operate this way. Young producers, listen up. Your job involves the most delicate balance of any in sports radio. You have to help bring your host’s and PD’s visions to life. That means you have to be able to take their direction. But you also have to keep the host on target. That means you cannot be afraid to be forceful and lead when the moment demands it.

There’s no value to being an unrepentant asshole to people, but you do have to hold them accountable. Look at that Christmas shopping example again. If you want to get what you want, you need to keep on task the people you know aren’t paying attention to the potential roadblocks. It isn’t selfish. It is making sure everyone gets the holiday W they are expecting. Sure, you would be disappointed if your gift doesn’t arrive on time, but so will the gift giver.

Being a stickler for the clock or moving a host off of a topic that has no value is the same thing. Of course there is something in it for you, but you are also helping the host do his or her job better. They may get annoyed with you now, but if you save them from an ass-chewing from the bosses or slipping ratings, then they have reaped the benefits.

I guess the unfortunate difference here is that there may be no acknowledgment of what you did or helped them to avoid. Oh well. Every producer has to expect a certain level of thanklessness.

Producers have to take on that Carl Christmas role in dealing with sales too. Remember, just because the producer’s name isn’t on the show doesn’t mean that isn’t every bit his or her show that it is the hosts’.

It’s like decorating your house for the holidays. You may have a certain design in mind. Maybe you have a traditional look you stick to every year. If your spouse or your kid comes home with a giant, inflatable Santa Claus in a military helicopter that they want on the lawn, you have a decision to make. Are you going to say no and suggest an alternative that aligns more with your goal or are you going to let your plan get run over?

25 Best Christmas Inflatables - Top Inflatable Christmas Decorations

Sales has a job to do. It is to make sure their clients’ messages are heard and to make money for the station. Both can be accomplished without sacrificing your show’s quality.

If a seller comes to you and says he wants his client to come in for five minutes and talk about now being the time to book an appointment to have your garage floors redone, you have to speak up. You have an obligation to make sure that the seller knows that even five minutes of that will hurt the show and have listeners diving for the preset buttons on their car stereo. That isn’t good for the station or his client.

Instead, offer to work with the seller and the client to come up with a piece of content that the client can put his name on and a 20-second ad read behind. Will the audience stick around to listen to some dude named Jerry talk about garage floors or will more people listen to you talk about the NFL playoff picture in a creative way and then still be there to hear Jerry’s message about garage floors? The answer seems obvious.

A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition. If the background work wasn’t done though, the problems would be right out on the front lawn for everyone to see.

“Gatekeeper” is a term I really hate. It implies that someone is telling others what they are and are not allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary term though to properly describe what it is that a great producer and a great Carl Christmas do.

We don’t shut people out from being able to enjoy or be a part of what it is we are creating. We set or are handed down expectations and we block anything that can get in the way of achieving them. Sometimes, that is more thankless work than it should be. It is necessary though.

Kevin Anderson on Twitter: "Just noticed that I've been blocked by the  international civil aviation authority @icao Have others working on  aviation emissions also been blocked? Appears to be that their commitment

As my home’s self-appointed Carl Christmas and a former producer, let me give my countrymen the thanks others forget. We are the ones that make it possible for everyone else to be mindless. Wear it as a badge of honor. We may not get the kind of recognition we deserve everyday, but when plans go off without a hitch, we are usually the first to be recognized for making it happen.

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