Hip-hop radio station refines local focus – Business Journal Daily
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – In an age when most radio stations rely more on pre-recorded broadcasts, Loud 102.3-FM takes the opposite approach.
The Youngstown-based hip-hop station fills most of its slots with local personalities and keeps the boots on the pitch with local appearances that make it a trusted friend to listeners.
Since last summer, its team of owners is also predominantly local. The station is now run by Charles Colvin, aka DJ Chip Banks, whose role expanded when the other managing owner, Pat Cerullo of Reading, Pa., Sold his share.
Loud-FM aired in 2019, becoming the first hip-hop station in the Mahoning Valley.
It has six employees, including program director Gabe Carrillo. His studio is located on the ground floor of the Amedia Tower, in the city center.
The local entertainment team includes Vel, Justin Luvv, DJ Maze Faze and Colvin himself. There are also a few syndicated shows, including DeDe in the Morning and DJ Grooves, which is actually Cerullo.
The letters of appeal for Loud 102.3 are WLOA, which is licensed in Farrell, PA. Its air footprint encompasses the areas of Youngstown, Warren and Sharon, stretching beyond urban areas on both sides of the state border for approximately 20 miles. It can also be streamed online.
Colvin, a Youngstown native who started out as a DJ at a club before becoming an on-air host at another local radio station, is the sales manager for Loud, while Carrillo oversees programming and operations. daily.
âDay-to-day management, I’m here and Gabe is here, and we’re hip when it comes to what we do in this market,â Colvin said.
Loud has already hosted some signature annual events he produces, including the annual Juneteenth celebration, backpack giveaways with school supplies, a Halloween trunk or treat, and health information.
Hip-hop has become an established radio format only in recent years, and Loud now has several competitors in the market, including Real 95.9-FM, which is owned by industry heavyweight iHeart Media.
Colvin enjoys competition, smiling when he talks about this rare opportunity to build a new station.
âThis is one of my most exciting endeavors,â he says. “I wanted to be able to sit down at the property level table and organize the plans for the future.”
Colvin and his staff are developing several new community initiatives and events to anchor their local and local approach.
The other side of their strategy is to have local sportspeople talk about issues that matter to listeners, whether urban or suburban.
âThis is how we became the favorite in the region,â says Covin. “We do not flood the airwaves with [pre-recorded] programming god knows where. It’s super local, and we show up in the community, give gifts, support families for the holidays. The community can feel our presence here. We don’t just broadcast and collect dollars.
Colvin adds that his staff forge just as close ties with advertisers. âWe know them personally and support their businesses,â he says.
While Loud seems to be going against the grain of the industry trend, Colvin is the only way for a startup to gain a foothold in the market.
âEven those stations which [are now using off-site recorded programming] started with a local presence, âhe says. âThink of car dealerships. So that local talent can talk about you [on the air] goes a long way.
In radio, the measure of success is in sales, and the number of listeners is usually determined by rating services. But director Carrillo says the results can be seen in other ways.
Originally from California who served as a program director in Milwaukee, upstate New York, Vermont and most recently in Canton, he says the Youngstown-Warren-Sharon market is a unique opportunity.
âThe challenges are the fun part,â he says. âYoungstown is not a flooded market. We have a small core of strong stations. Loud occupies a unique position among them and has people with a wide variety of radio experiences.
He admits that there are âgrowing painsâ associated with competing with larger stations that offer lower advertising rates. âBut we have a great ability to connect with our audience in ways that our competitors can’t,â he said.
Carrillo doesn’t rely solely on Nielsen’s books to prove the commercial viability of his station.
âI know it’s a default statement if your grades aren’t good,â he says. âBut the reality is that ratings are also a business. You spend $ 15,000 a year to be told you’re the fifth or sixth best, or maybe the best resort on the market … [advertising sales] agencies and they love those numbers. But Chip has done a great job leading the charge, making sure all team members are rooted in our advertisers. “
He loves Loud’s position in the market and sees an even brighter future.
âIn the future, small operators like us will focus on the one station we have, instead of letting it feed it. [a national radio chain], which just uses syndication numbers to feed New York, Chicago, and LAâ¦ we see success when we walk into a business client’s office and they invite us into their building. Or when we go from hosting an event on June 15 from a dozen vendors in year one to 50 in year two. That’s what a market like Youngstown needs in a radio station. More than music.
To make his point clear, Carrillo holds up his cell phone. âI have all the songs ever recorded here,â he says. âSo what’s the difference between that and what we’re doing? They are people like Chip.
Carrillo says agency advertisers also appreciate the reach of Loud 102.3 in the minority community. âWe have locals who can do live readings [on the air] and have personalities related to their products, âhe says. âYou reach more of your audience on a local show than on a mass show. “
As an example, Colvin points out that when COVID-19 hit, his station was the first to receive and share public service announcements from the Centers for Disease Control.
âIt was about ‘who’s a local voice’,â he says. âThis is the brand that we are building. We are a means of reaching that market for people who are outside the market.
Colvin says the fierce bond with the community has helped his station weather the downturn caused by the pandemic.
âIt has helped us stay afloat where others [radio station] the clusters had time off, âhe says. “Wd didn’t get the numbers we might have had in a perfect year, but it wasn’t a bad year.”
For Colvin, owning and managing a radio station is the natural extension of a life of music.
The 2005 Wilson High School graduate said his house was the neighborhood home with the big stereo.
âMy dad loved ’90s rap and my mom loved’ 90s R&B, and it all shaped my childhood,â he says. âI played drums at church and was on the drums line at school. In seventh grade I auditioned and joined the Warren Junior Military Band and we toured the country.
After high school, Colvin began translating his formal musical training into doing hip-hop. He started producing and creating music, then became a DJ at live events and in clubs.
âI was DJing all over town and I’m the official track and field DJ for Youngstown State University,â he says. Colvin graduated in Information Technology from YSU.
From DJing, Colvin made the natural leap to radio.
When Pat Cerullo of Reading, Pa., Sought to expand his station group in Youngstown, he tracked down Colvin – who he was told he knew about this market – to launch Loud 102.3-FM.
Colvin made it clear from the start that he would only come on board if he had capital in the business. Cerullo finally agreed and Colvin’s managerial career had begun.
This summer, Cerullo sold its stake in the station to Loud so it could focus on its other station properties in eastern Pennsylvania.
Now Colvin uses Loud-102.3 FM. He’s also part of the resort’s umbrella company, which includes other investors.
âIt’s hard to start a business in Youngstown if you’re not already part of the community,â he says. “My business connections and my concern for the community have helped me capitalize on my participation in this business.”
Pictured: Charles Colvin in one of the DJ booths at Loud 102.3 in downtown Youngstown.
Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.