Double Duty: Orlando Davis
Orlando is a PD as well as a morning show host at CBS Radio’s Wild 94.1 (WLLD). He hosts “Orlando and the Freakshow” each morning at the station in Tampa Bay, Florida. He is one of the most respected Rhythmic programmers in the industry with an infectious energy plus a hilarious presence and a take on life. Without question, he’s a comedian but at the same time, he’s a great programmer who understands that being surrounded by a winning team is paramount to a station’s success. He’s been in the industry for about 26 years, and took the time to talk to Radio Facts and All Radio News about his show, the station and his programming philosophy.
Give me some detail about your history in radio?
I've been lucky in my run. I started in Tallahassee with WFHT, WXSR, WWLD, and WHBX (1990–1998) then joined WLLD/Tampa in July of 1998 – not a lot of stops but I've worked with some awesome people.
You do both mornings and you program the station. In today's industry climate, that's a Herculean task. How do you do it?
It isn't if you hire well and empower people. Many don't share the shine so it's hard to share the responsibility. It's always my neck on the line but I work with people who believe it's “our” necks out there.
Why you think it's important to do both jobs?
PDs that are on-the-air get a different perspective of how their station sounds and how it's reaching the audience. Again, this is only possible with a great support team. My APD/MD Christine Peters is my boss. She runs the office. My morning show producer Mark Baggio, and co-hosts Meredith Andrade and Davy Rolando make the wake-up process work a lot better. So I'm held up by many hands.
What's a typical day like for you?
I'm in the building at 5:40 A.M. and usually out around 6:30 or 7 P.M. However, it's not like we're pouring concrete. We're being creative and that sometimes comes at strange times. Your success comes from harnessing those moments.
You have a great presence on social networks. That's important for the morning show but how important is it to your programming?
Information is key (“Major Key”…as Khaled says). Wherever it is, that's where we have to be. It's a total ‘other job’ – to stay connected with your audience – but I'm put onto a lot of music and events through the platform that I use, so it's necessary on both ends.
When you hit the road and hear other stations, what is the common denominator that you would like to see changed?
Honestly, I love hearing other stations in other markets. When something is different than I would do, I just credit it to communication with their respective city. There are no wrongs…if it's working. No outsider can drive your bus better than you.
Give me two social networks you check daily and that you feel are the best content providers.
I don't want to give away my recipe but following the Snapchat of some people keeps you up one what's popping. Also IG is a good connect with our core artists.
If you have 2 slots but 5 great songs, how do you determine which songs win?
In our current landscape, I look at what those 2 slots are doing to the balance of the station. If I'm heavy with Bryson Tiller and The Weeknd, I might look to do something other than down tempo vocals.
Do you think research is more important than directly connecting with your audience, or a combination of both?
You cannot find all you need solely in “research”. The way we use the term ‘research,’ the other sources are the breadcrumbs that connect the big research map.
Why do you think directly connecting with the audience gives you an added advantage?
You find out about great ideas fast and crappy ideas faster.
Why do you think more programmers are not in the streets more often?
I've sacrificed a lot to be as out there as I can but it affects your family time. Wives start feeling your absence, etc., so those who don't may be smarter than I am!
Give me three people that you greatly admire in the industry why?
- Scott Herman: he taught me a lot in my time with CBS. He's a great coach – that's in him as a dad.
- Vince Pellegrino (deceased?): he taught me to never stop being a music guy. No matter what you're fighting professionally or personally, a music guy has to stay a music guy – never mail that in.
- Thea Mitchem: I'm inspired when I talk to her. In our male-dominated industry, she's learned from the best and “Thea-rized” the rest. Now she is one of the best radio execs in our game…and my friend. I'm lucky.
Do you think radio is behind or ahead of the curve on technology? What do we need to be paying more attention to?
We're behind but growing at a much faster rate than tech. Tech does what’s cool and then the money comes. In radio, the great idea comes and we try to monetize it from day 1! That hurts the building of brands, in my opinion.
Do you think streaming will continue to impact commercial radio or will it reach its peak and people will lose interest?
Streaming is here to stay but so are great radio personalities. Technology and the abundance of material will never outperform great communicators. Even church has announcements. Speakers welcome.
What is your philosophy on jocks at your station when it comes to connecting with the audience?
Be necessary. If you're plugged into your city – the loves, hates, feelings, pulse – then your being that source makes you necessary. People have to find you.
What creates a great winning on air team?
Giving the talent the room to stand or stumble, and enough attention to tell them why either occurred so they learn and build.
What's the difference between Rhythmic and Urban?
Our format is about vibe, tempo and the current place that music resides. When it gets “dancey,” we shift to one side. When it got more hip hop, we shifted there – always as a result to listeners demand. Urban, which was the first format I fell in love with as a kid listening to Chicago radio, has a different responsibility. Urban is Fantasia, Tyrese and the like, in addition to other genres, yet one unifiedsound. It's “Soul” purpose is to attract one ethnicity. However, urban radio will also tell you “who has our best interests in the election.” Better yet, how we need to get our cholesterol checked and many more “let's make sure we're good” methods that protect the black community. It's not a small undertaking but I'm much happier presenting to everyone. Diversity has always been the thing that my stations convey but we all have our sides of the volleyball net.
What's next for Orlando?
I hope to continue to entertain while doing my part to raise two girls: Kaelyn, 8 and Brielle, 6.
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