Jenn Dalen-Gordon: Going Up To Country
Updated: May 31
Jenn Dalen-Gordon is the operations manager for the Interior stations of British Columbia for Stingray Radio. She also oversees about 20 other Country stations under the Real Country and New Country moniker.
She was raised on Country 105.1 in Calgary and attended the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. She worked at Golden West Broadcasting, before the tour of rural Alberta took her to Leduc where she apart of the launch of 88.1 the One, and then to Red Deer where she became program director at 24. In more recent years, Jenn was apart of another impressive launch when Stingray amalgamated their country properties under the banner of Real Country.
Since then, they have created a second network brand called New Country. Jenn currently works out of the studios in Kamloops, BC which houses NL Radio (News/Talk), K-97 (Classic Rock), and New Country 103.1.
We made mention of a few other people in this show, including Real Country morning show host Randi Chase who was on this program a few years ago. It was a really good episode.
As we talked about country music, I thought it would be a good idea to plug my one podcast episode that features a country music artist. I interviewed country superstar Meghan Patrick about her affinity for the Buffalo Bills. Meghan is up for a CCMA award in Calgary next month.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:00:01
The Sound Off podcast. The podcast about broadcast with Matt Cundill.... starts now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:10
This week we're going to be talking a little bit about country music in Canada, and we're going to do it with Jenn Dalen-Gordon, who's the operations manager for the BC interior stations for Stingray Radio. You're about to hear the story of someone who grew up listening and loving country music. Her first job was typing in all the metadata to a brand new country radio station and then she became a program director at the age of 24. Country music radio is popular in Canada. Just about every market except Montreal has a country music station that performs reliably. And Jen oversees a lot of radio stations in Stingray's country networks. Jen Daleyn Gordon joins me from the Stingray offices in Canloops, British Columbia, the home of new country 103-1. Tell me about your state experience because Professor Stroobant speaks very highly of you.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:01:02
I loves SAIT. I actually am pretty convinced that if I didn't go to SAIT, I don't think I would be one where I am or two, maybe even still in radio. It's one of those experiences where it probably hinges so much on the instructors because I had Richard Easily, steve Olson and Louise Ludic at the time, and everything they instilled in me in terms of like, the work ethic and stuff was instrumental and like, you know, we fought short. I've been out of there for over a decade and I can call and text Richard about anything, right? So if I have a problem where I'm trying to work through something, I can call him. He'll answer, he'll tell me the truth, the hard truth sometimes, or he'll make me feel really good about myself. So it works both ways.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:48
Tell me one piece of advice that he gave you that's instrumental I'm only.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:01:52
Laughing at because I don't know if, you know, it's almost like a cultish thing that exists with fake grass. Do you know about his wristbands that he gives to people like the old Live Strong bands? They're blue and across the band it says, how bad do you want it? And he basically lives and breathes and dies by that same and everything we would do in class, outside of class since I graduated, how bad do you want this? Do you actually want to do this? Because as we all know, this is not easy. I don't think there's anything really easy about the day to day of radio. And so how bad do you want to do this? And every time I'm having a challenge or going through something, I'm like, well, how bad do I actually want this? Do I want to go do something else? It's not as fun, doesn't offer as cool experiences, or do I really want to keep doing this?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:40
You went to the University of Calgary. You got a bachelor of communications.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:02:44
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:45
So what's that in between period where you graduate? And then you go to say, did you not think that the Bachelor of Communications would get you the radio gig?
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:02:56
Great question. And at the time, I was 18, right? So I went straight out of high school, did the thing where you go to university, had a literal 18 year old mental breakdown in a statistics class, learning about the poisson theory, going, I don't want to do this. I was going into business. And then that's where I found the communications lane and went, oh, that sounds kind of more interesting. And then I'm the typical radio person. I'm a huge lover of music. So then kind of went down the volunteer route, and I started volunteering at CJSW, which is the campus radio station at the University of Calgary. And I fell in love with that. And then I went, oh, how do I do this for real? And really, the reason why I went UFC and State was because I came to the realization that you could do both. They offer that program, right, where you can do two years at the University of Calgary, you can do two years at State, and then you wind up with a diploma in radio broadcasting, and you wind up with a communications degree, and guess what? You get two. And you only have four years, and you can do it like two for the price of one, basically, which is honestly the only reason I did it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:04:06
Is it safe to say you were raised on Country 105?
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:04:09
Yes, I grew up in Calgary, born and raised Country 105. Listened to that station growing up. I mean, absolutely listen to other stations. My mom is more of a classic rock fan, so classic rock, classic hits like She's, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, all those types of artists. But country 105, all my friends. Like, that was what we thought were so cool. We get in the car when we turned 16 and turn on 105 and go cruising like you do, like 16 year olds. Then eventually, when we got to be adults, you enter the bar scene, and we got to go to Ranchmans and live our best lives at the Calgary Stampede and all that kind of stuff. So, yeah, I was raised on 105.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:04:48
So what's in your CD collection that is not country?
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:04:52
Fleetwood Mac. I'm a huge Fleetwood Mac fan. I'm also a nineties kid. So there is Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears and In Sync, all those boy bands and pop stars of that era. And then I'm one of these weird people, too, where my music choices are so broad. So then I go into the gym and work out, and I use heavy metal loud type music to run on a treadmill. I'm like, let's do some Metallica. Rob zombie. Let's put on some old school nickelback, like when the actual rockers and like, that type of a thing. So my music collection is very diverse.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:27
Yeah, I can see you working out to Living Dead girl.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:05:30
Yeah, just cranking it up on the treadmill and the weights, lifting heavy and grunting in the back. I'm that person. Maybe some Corn 100%, like that's just real loud in my headphones. Or if I'm at a gym and they put on a playlist, I'm like, Please take some good rock and roll.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:49
Tell me about your placement after you graduated from State.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:05:55
So I was working part time with Golden West because I ended up when I graduated from State, I actually had two university classes that I had to finish. And it's funny, Matt, because I actually went, oh, I'm not going to do it. Whatever. I don't need this. I'm going to go into radio. I was so hungry to get working full time in radio, but Steve Olsen actually sat me down and said, you are two courses away from your degree at this point. Just finish it, just be done with it. And long term, like short term pain, long term gain, radio will still be here when you finish your two courses in like three or four months. Because I did them kind of during summer and online. So I was working part time with Golden West and they had me. I was the cruiser kid. I would do on air shifts. I at one point sat at the front desk because I just wanted to be around a radio station. And then I did a little bit of traffic with that. And then once I graduated from the UFC, I needed a full time radio job. At the time, they didn't have a position, so like, every other kid went on the hunt. And so I ended up getting a call from at the time, Mike McGuire was working up just south of the Edmonton area in the Duke, and they were getting set to launch a brand new radio station. It was country, which again, I grew up in 105. I love country music, so I'm like, this is awesome. And so I ended up applying for the position, which at the time was an on air position and some music role, and I got the gig, which was super exciting. So I moved up to the Duke, Alberta, and I truly believe that the experience of launching a radio station with an independent company has got me to where I am because we had to start from the literal ground up. It's not like when you join a radio station with a major company where they have a music library that they can just import into their market, and it has EOM set and intros. My first day, I sat in the production studio and I said, I like 400 songs. Because we had a music library and we had to put it in the system. Like there was no system. And then we had to build the traffic database. Guess what? I had done a natural log at State, so I got on the phone with a lovely lady and I think she was in Texas on the help line, mary was her name and Mary became my best friend for like three weeks where every day I would call her and we would build traffic clocks. Like I had to build them from scratch and we had to create accounts like we had nothing and then I would go and sit with Mike and we would literally build the music master, like build the clocks, build the coding, everything. And so I was just this brighteyed, fresh, graduated, super excited to do radio kid who just got to absorb literally every component that you needed to build a radio station from the ground up. And so it was an interesting experience but I got to do it kind of got to dabble into everything which I think if I look back where I am now and some of the things I'm doing now I'm like oh that really made an impact because I'm a big believer that to get to the next level you have to understand the foundational building blocks and so that's what I got to do there which was instrumental.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:09:00
I mean it's an incredible story having to put in all those end of time markers and then you're on the phone with Music master and I think I began to have a little bit of a mental switch in my head just hearing about all the shock and awe because you can't import that stuff, you do have to put it in. And so there's two things I do want to unpack though here and the first one is tell me about the one. It's placement. It's in La. Duke Le Duke is close to the airport in Edmonton and then it's country and does it get into Edmonton and was it treated as a rural station?
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:09:33
It was treated as a lady's radio station and we had to because you look at like as we all know in the Edmonton market is crazy. I think I've lost track as to how many radio stations are in there's so many stations and getting the license for that radio station was as everybody knew. A challenge because of the proximity to Edmonton and for a lot of people it is funny when you fly into the city of Edmonton you don't fly into Edmonton. You fly into the Duke County and that's where the airport is. Right? And so it's 30 minutes as Everton continues to sprawl and grow. I think it's getting closer at this point and so it was interesting because you have this little community just outside this big city and we really had to lean into the Le Duke angle. That was the thing is we were here, there and everywhere I was every single weekend at an event doing remotes being the boots on the ground, the faces of the radio station because if we didn't do that then what was the appeal because you have up the road major market talent, major market radio stations, big contests. There was no other way to do it. So it was a lot of almost like gorilla style marketing around the city. We had all these lawn signs that we got printed and then we would go to an advantage of the litter, like we're going to put 50 down the road leading into this little event because we want people to know who we are and that we're here, right? So in that sense it was kind of fun because again, a young kid at the time, I wasn't married, I didn't spend my weekends doing work, it didn't bother me. So I would go to all these things. But we really did have to work that angle, right, because you're right outside a big city and we ended up with access to some big city talent that definitely did help draw some attraction and attention to the radio station. There have been some changes in the Emmett market at the time. I mean, that was how we got some high caliber talent right out of the gate. So it really made a voice when it launched. Obviously there's changes and stuff that all happened in this business as we know, and people moved on and whatnot. But at the same time we came out of the gate pretty hard, which was great. And then all this is going on and meanwhile they'd applied for a radio station in Stony Plain area, right? So now we are the south of the city and now they're looking at a radio station basically to the other side and we ended up getting that in my time there. So that was one of the last things I did with them was launched. That in fact this kind of funny story that I don't know if a ton of people know, but the day we launched 88.1, I got the call to come to Red Deer. So put the station on the air and what kind of happened is actually this Richard Stroban who called me and he said, what are you doing? And I was in a hotel room and I said. I'm in a hotel. I'm about to lie in bed and eat a Subway sandwich and then I'm going to take like an 18 hours nap because as we all know. When you launch a radio station. It's really hectic and busy and especially those last 48 hours before you hit the switch and you don't realize how stressed you are because you're just hoping that this thing goes on the air and when it goes on. It doesn't sound like a disaster. And so I was coming down from the high of that and that's when I got the call essentially that I was going to be called about a position in Red Deer. So the whole thing was a bit of a whirlwind. But again, one advantage we had when we launched 88.1. And again, we didn't have this with Wadeu because now we had a model. So we could just transfer music library and we could just kind of copy a music master database and traffic clocks, and we had a model for how we wanted to attack the actual little community side of it, where we would be lots of places and some of that gorilla style stuff. But it was still a whirlwind, that's for sure.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:16
So the other thing I wanted to unpack was your time at Golden West. We don't often have people from that company on this show, or at least who have worked there, shout out to Doug Anderson, by the way, who speaks very highly of you.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:13:30
Doug is great. Yes.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:31
The company is based out of Steinbeck, which is not too far from me, but it's unique. And so what were your takeaways?
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:13:38
I think there was a couple of things that helped when I got into the Ledouf market, because for those who know Golden West, their approach is very local. It's almost like the hyperlocal focus. They're in markets. Actually, it's kind of funny because they're in a lot some of their markets surround big cities. Like if you look at the city of Calgary, they've got stations in erdry, Cochrane, Okatokes, and High River, which are all little municipalities anywhere from 20, 30, 40, some minutes outside of Calgary. So same thing. And they can get their signal a little bit into parts of Calgary, but they don't focus on Calgary. Right. Their focus is those markets. So I had that experience as well because same sort of approach. We're going to go to whatever small town rodeo it might be or whatever parade, and we're going to be there and we're going to have a big presence at that because that's what we actually care about. Obviously, as we know in radio, what can happen is smaller than market, obviously revenue and the sales side might drive a bit more. So you might do some more sales focus promotions that you wouldn't maybe do in a major market, because that doesn't make sense for that, right? So that also taught me a lot about small market radio, which was super helpful when I got to the Duke and then actually when I moved on with Newcap at the time. Now Stingray because I had a ton of that small market type experience. Some of the fun parts with the Golden West era was the chance to kind of do a lot of different things because obviously we know the model of radio has changed and staffing and all this kind of stuff, but those smaller stations don't right from the beginning and they don't really have big staffs at that point. And so that meant somebody who did the front desk also did traffic, or that somebody who was in news might also be a reporter or might do something else at the radio station. And so that was the experience I got with Golden West is they brought me on as a cruiser kit. That was my first job, summer in between St years, I wanted to work in radio and I could have gone into Calgary and done like a straight team job, which would have been great. But at the time, Golden West, which was a 40 minutes drive from my house, was looking for a cruiser. So that meant I got to do cuttings, which at the time I kind of wanted to be on air. So that was a huge appeal to me. So I would drive out to High River was a country station, Sun Country 97 and Am 1140. And I would spend my weekends at all of these little events and rodeos and parades and stuff, getting to do cut ins and remotes. My first ever remote was at the Strathmore stampede in the middle of a tornado watch. So that was super interesting. That was back when you had to do the call in. So I was on a phone calling into the radio station, trying not to panic because there is like this giant storm cloud right in front of me, but lots of fun experiences like that. And then the summer ended and Golden West was really good to me and that they let me stay on board. So they asked me, do you want to still do some part time hours? And I was like, yeah. So then my second year at Sea got kind of crazy because what would happen was if they needed coverage on the morning show or the drive show, I would talk to my state instructors and say, hey, can I do this? Can we set up my school schedule so I can come into school, do whatever I need to do at school, and then leave, go do like a three to four hour radio shift and then do my homework or whatnot? And they made it happen. So that was really cool. And at the time when I grew up, I swam competitively. So then when I got to post secondary coaching, competitive swimming was how I paid for some of my tuition. So I was going to say working at Golden West part time coaching, competitive swimming. And then I was doing an online UFC course. So it was a little bit hectic and chaotic and I like to live my world in chaos, so it made perfect sense. But again, everybody was willing to work with me and make the scheduling work so that I could get that work experience, which was so valuable, and also still graduate school and maybe get a couple of hours of sleep.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:17:33
And you got to go to Red Deer. You got the call to go to Red Deer and what was that job and what did you do?
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:17:40
So that was, at the time, program director of Kg Country 95, Five and Southern Alberta. So at the time, southern Alberta consisted of Q 91 in Drumheller, q 157 in Brooks, q 93 in Stetler and Blairmore. So that would have been Mountain Radio at the time. And then Red Deer, Kg. So for me, the big draw to that position was Kg knowing the country format. Obviously I grew up on 105, but by this point I was well enough into the country format to know that when I went to the CCMA awards, kg country was a juggernaut of a radio station. Everybody knew what Ckgy was that year. It was Greg Shannon Taylor one personality of the year, I think Tim Day one, like music director of the year and the station, one station of the year. And you knew it was just this heritage station. It was about 40 years old at that point, and I couldn't believe that they were going to let me be the program director. And when they hired me, I was like a 24 year old kid and they were going to let me come and program this juggernaut of a radio station. I still think it is an amazing radio station. It is a special one. And so it was super exciting and kind of my role was obviously PD locally in Red Deer, but then I would go around and visit the markets in Southern Alberta and work with talent and boots on the ground with some strategy and then music assistance and whatnot too, and whatever else we needed to do. So that kept me busy and I got to tour around Southern Alberta and I can look back now and go, wow, that was a little bit insanity. I probably had no idea what I was doing in many ways, but I was willing to learn. And I had some really great mentorship and leadership coming from Jeff Murray, because at the time Jeff Murray was in Red Dear as well. He was overseeing Zed 98, nine and a good chunk of some areas of rural Alberta, but his specialty is classic rock. They need somebody who could be more focused on country, and that was where my role fitted. Right when I got to Le Duke, I realized that I didn't just love country music, I was like weirdly obsessed with it. And so I love the format so much. So even at my time on the Duke, I started to get really involved with the country music scene. So I got myself on the board for at the time was the ACMA, it's now called the CMA B, but it's the music association for Country Music in Alberta. So I was on that board and I was doing a lot of the liaisons with the labels and the artists and all that kind of stuff, and they would come through and just getting to know people in that whole community. And so they needed that in Red Dear because again, Ckgy was such a juggernaut of a radio station in the country community and so that's where I kind of kept growing that side, too, right? So I still can't wait to let me do that. But here we are.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:20:28
In just a second more with Jin, including tips and tricks on how to build an entire radio network. How does a music meeting happen across four time zones? And why is Alberta the home of country in Canada? The song you're hearing right now is by Megan Patrick. It's called Cool About It, and it's up for a 2022 CCMA award. And I know what you're thinking. Why are you playing this map? Well, it's because I recorded a podcast episode with Megan about how she became a member of the Buffalo Bills mafia, and I'd really appreciate it if you gave it a listen. It's up on the episode email@example.com, where you can also get a transcript of this episode.
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Matt Cundill (Host) 00:21:23
So you're 24 years old. I have wine that's older than that. And your program director in Red Deer. I mean, there's got to be some people who look side eyed at you.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:21:33
Yeah, I 100% experienced that. And why wouldn't they why wouldn't you look at that and go, this is interesting? Does this kid, because I was a literal kid, know what they're doing? And in some ways, no, I probably didn't know what I was doing, but I could at least figure it out. That's I guess one skill set that I have is I'm a really strong problem solver and learner. I like to learn. And so if I didn't know how to do something or how to handle a situation, I would go and figure it out. And again, that's where people like Jeff and Steve and stuff worked with me on some mentorship stuff. Right on. Like, how do you work with talent? How do you make your station better from the music side as well? Stuff I didn't know in Music master. And how do you write proper imaging? I mean, I was doing all that in the Duke for sure, but my skill set wasn't and, I mean, I'm still growing and learning, improving on that, but my skill set definitely wasn't quite at that a level at that point. So working with them and just learning and all of that, there were some challenging times where I really had to kind of prove myself by action to show people that I knew what the hell I was doing. And even if I didn't know what I was doing, I had to act like I knew what I was doing because I would lose their confidence. And so that was a lot of work. And there were definitely some moments where I would close my door and be like, I don't think I handled that situation right and then reflect on it and figure out how I was going to do it next time and come back and make sure that my team still had faith in what I was doing. But I think I can speak from experience now with the crew that I have worked with, like people like Randy Chase or Vinny Taylor, those type of announcers where they would say, yeah, she knows what she's doing. And there is a lot of ups and downs with that, for sure.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:23:17
How much country is two country in Alberta? Or is there such a thing?
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:23:21
I mean, I'm really biased, Matt, so I don't think there is too much country. But like, Alberta is yeah, I mean, if you look at the country, like Alberta is the country province, there's no doubt about that. There's a reason why the CC maids have kept going back there. There's a reason why the Calories sandpit is what it is. There's a reason why when Garth Brooks comes out of retirement, plays one show anywhere, he picks the centennial celebration of the Calgary Stampede like it is a giant country market. Rodeos, the light, it's lifestyle, right? Like up and down Alberta, whether it's a good thing or bad thing, sometimes on the redneck side is the country province of Canada. And I don't know if there is such a thing as two country. I mean, the interesting thing about country is we've gone through these areas and it happened in the 90s, but we've gone through these areas of polarization, right, because country music is it country music, right? That's the big question that so many people challenge on. When you look at acts like Florida Deli and Sam Hunt, the snap tracks, the pop influences, they're getting played on Chron hot AC radio. So is country really country? I mean, I think it is. At the end of the day, Nashville is the epicenter of country music. And if what they're doing is what they're doing, it's country, right? I think people sometimes get so focused on what country is, though, and how it has to have that traditional sound and whatnot countries kind of become like AC. The AC format doesn't really kind of exist anymore and it's like country is the one that people will flock to. It's just easy listening. And it's not like twangy. That's the biggest complaint you always get, right? I don't like country music. It's twangy.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:00
Yes, a rock can be anybody with a guitar and country can be anybody with a hat at times.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:25:07
Yeah, at this point, because I do.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:09
Recall the discussion in the country circles around Taylor Swift. And so what are the conversations today? Where will you get a call to say, maybe you shouldn't be playing that?
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:25:19
So, I mean, it's drastically changed kind of even from the Taylor Swift era. I think. Obviously, right now one of the hot things that a lot of people are watching is the Netflix documentary of Shaniah Twain. So. We all know that Shania is arguably one of, if not the biggest influence for how country music sound changed in the early two thousands, which then Taylor Swift picked up and it was that pop sound. What you'll notice the shift of Taylor was she had that last her last song, I think it was Red, like the last song that kind of had success. Like she had some other songs that she tried to release to country radio and they didn't do as great because they really had at that time lean, so pop. But Red was an interesting one because if you go back and listen, it's got that red red. It has some really interesting production cadences to it that at that time it's funny because I look forward now and I'm like, well, that's not going to sound absolutely fine. It wouldn't really stick out like a sore thumb, but it kind of did at that time and that's where she was considered to have lead to pop for country radio. Right. But in terms of today, where I've questioned it, you know, like we've had a few Sam Hunt songs come through in a music meeting where we've had discussions and gone, oh, man, are we going to play this? Are we going to have an issue with this? And Florida, georgia. July was the same. I mean, that meant to be song that they did was very different. And you look at some of the duets that have come out recently, we've got country artists paired with rap artists paired with pop artists where the song is getting crossover and stuff. I mean, you've got artists like Mary Morris who goes and releases the biggest song on country radio for the year, The Bones, but also has just come off a song called The Middle, which obviously we didn't play that, but she's getting airplay all over Top 40 Hot AC radio. So at this point, if I'm honest, I don't really know where the line is because I get sent a song and go, okay, well, this I mean, really poppy. Like tons of Snap tracks and stuff in it and we'll put it on the air and I'm waiting and I'm waiting for complaints and phone calls and they don't come. So I don't know if the country audience at this point is just kind of accepted that that's a part of the music and that could very well be it. Again, I'm a country fan and some of these things don't bother me. I'm going to listen to these songs and I'm going to love them. But then I get a song sent to me via Chris Stapleton and it's super traditional and I'm in love with it. One of my favorite songs last year was Jordan Davis and Luke Bryan did a duet called by Dirt. And if you look at that lyrically, it's got some very traditional themes and stuff to it, right down to putting a church collection donation in, like, that's very traditional country type music. Or Cody Johnson, he had one of the biggest songs of the year, and that song comes on and it's so traditional country and I love it and the fans love it, but at the same time, they're okay with a really poppy Thomas Red song. So I think it's just the listener has changed and it's more so that they just like music that I think it's a mood thing. I think they're listening to the songs and some of these songs will make them cry and then some of the songs will make them think of their kids growing up, and then some of these songs will make them want to crank it up really loud and dance. And I don't think they're not as worried as they were 20 years ago about is this actually country music?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:28:42
Tell me about getting the Real country network together, because I look at it now and all the stations that you oversee, how the real country network was.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:28:53
That was the first network that we built as a company. So it came across Jeff Marie and mine's desk, and it was this idea to match these stations, make them a little bit more, I guess, in line, so the scheduling music would be less of a task and from a sonic perspective, they would sound more in line. And then from like an imaging perspective, you could produce one batch imaging tag with different frequencies, right. So it made sense, like, from a business perspective and from even just an execution perspective, yeah, this makes a lot of sense, but we'd never done a network before. I had worked with two stations that we kind of had linked with Stony Plain and Le Duke. We had shared voice tracks on those radio stations so had a real basic understanding of what we needed to do. But that was, again, Jeff Murray and I, let's get on the phone and music master and let's figure out how to do this because we're going to match voice tracks and we're going to sync these radio stations and they're going to play the same music basically at the same time. And we're going to have these as one brand, right? And then from there, okay, we got to get logos, we got to get gear ordered. It's the little things, right? Like write down a building signage and you're like, oh, yeah, we got to change that sign. There's a little thing that somebody's printed in the door that has a mountain radio logo on it with the hours that the front door is open and we got to change, like, little things like that, right? Because as we all know, every time we flip a logo, it's like, wow. So that became interesting because there was no pushback in any sense. It was, how do we do this? We're about to kind of create something cool. And at the time, we only did it for the Real Country stations. So it was just basically the province of Alberta. It just made more sense on how to program all of rural Alberta because you're right, if you look at our company, we've got a ton of stations over in the east, few in Ontario, and then you get to the province of Alberta and it's like, whoa, we're everywhere. Like Stingray has a lot of small market stations in rural Alberta. And on the Real Country side, if you count Red Deer, there's ten of them. So we have ten real country stations. So what we do is we left Red Deer to its own devices because it made sense. It's a rated market, it's a bigger market. It's the Juggernaut. We're still going to rebrand it, which was interesting and a little terrifying. And at the time we weren't sure if this is the right choice. Do we take this Heritage brand and this Juggernaut or radio station? Do we give it a new name? And it made sense because of the things we were just talking about with the music style of country. That logo looked old. Like, it looked like an older logo. And as we know, in this competitive world, you got to stay kind of fresh and hip to be relevant. And we weren't sure the music we were playing because of how the style of country music had changed. It didn't match. Like you'd play a pop Thomas Rhett song and then you'd look at the station logo and it was like that older horse and Kg country and it just, it didn't feel like it fit. And so we decided that we would spice it up. We'd give it a new logo. And one thing that if you go and look at the logo, this is my favorite part about it on Real Country. The province of Alberta is hidden in the logo. I'm looking at it now. It's the bottom of the A. The province of Alberta is actually right in that logo. And that was kind of a fun thing that we did that again, I don't know if anybody notices it, but we noticed it and think it's super cool. And why we chose Real was the idea to still kind of fit with Alberta is a country market. It's real country. You got rodeos, you got people who their kids go out and they mutton bust on the weekend, and then you've got people swinging hay and you've got people who just drive that QE two stretch all day long. And so they're real country. Like their lifestyle is real country. And that's why we went with that for that province, right? So it took us about six months and we figured it all out. How to link the stations, how to link the music masters, the voice tracks, the music categories, all this kind of stuff, and hit go and then flash forward. And we have a lot of networks. We have the Boom Network and the Hot Network, and now New and Real Country are actually one sustained network, right? So they're all one network. At one point, they were kind of a little bit separated, but we realized there was a shared voice tracks, and we were able to acquire amazing talent like Paul Maguire and wanted him on all of our properties, so we were able to link those brands. And it's been a ride, that's for sure.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:33:22
But one of the things I know you didn't have to worry about was talent, because it was Randy and Vinny. I mean, Randy, there's a pro, and you got a veteran and Vinny, and I guess that was the easy part of the rollout.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:33:35
And, I mean, I know you've talked with Randy and her and Vinny. I say this with so much love. They're the weirdest thing that's ever come together. And what I mean by that is we weren't sure how it was going to go. You have two very different people lifestyle wise, and they are like best friends. They love each other so much, and it's so awesome, but they are they're so different. We have always run stuff on the air that's like peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper. They're so opposite. Vinny will go home from the show and sit on his deck in a bathrobe and have a smoke and yell at his neighbors. That's just who he is. And Randy is everybody's friend, right? She'll end up in a supermarket, and she's talking to, like, 18 people in the aisle about their day and probably sharing a lot of information that they don't want to know. She's an open book, but you put them together, and they just have this great dynamic, and they've made each other better. Broadcasters. Like, Vinny is a stronger broadcaster. His storytelling and his vulnerability is so much stronger because he has Randy, who he's watched just be this open book and willing to share her ups and downs. She shared so much on the air challenges. Her and her husband are going through challenges with trying to have kids, like all this stuff. And Vinny hears that, and then he's willing to open up about his story, which is also very interesting, and you get them together, and they're just like two best friends on the radio that maybe without this crazy business would have no business being friends. So they made that super easy. And that was part of the reason why it came to the decision we were going to syndicate them because the content was so strong. And that was that crazy conversation where we went, is this content only country? And it wasn't. It was lifestyle driven. It was stories. It was the things that we want to share. And so we made the decision to put them on Boom, too, which was probably, from an outsider's perspective, a little bit nuts.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:35:36
I think back to when I worked with randy in Montreal back in the early two thousands. And she said she was moving to Edmonton and I said, okay, here's some good places to live and here are five friends. And I left the names and of course this was before Facebook and all that stuff. And then the next thing my friend Phil calls me up and goes, hey, I'm with your friend Randy, we're having a great time, we're drinking. I was joking, but they all got together and they're still friends to this day.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:36:00
That sounds like Randy.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:36:02
Tell me about the music meetings, because an ad on Real Country, that's a big deal. That's a lot of stations, that's a lot of spin, that's a lot of reporting.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:36:11
If you get an ad with our stations, like you're on all 20 property or yeah, 20 properties now between Real Country and New Country. So it is it's big. Five of those are reporting. Well, six if you count BDS, and then the rest are still secondary spins where if you're an artist, you're music is getting into markets where you can go play shows and all this kind of stuff. So it is a big deal. Which is why, like, we should we take them pretty seriously because we know that the impact that that can have. And so we do actually a lot of different chains and groups. Now, committee meetings, if you want to call them, that rates our whole group some key players from each kind of area of the country and stations. So obviously I'm on the calls. We have somebody like Jackie Ray Greening, who is a bit of a legend in the country music world up in Emmett, and she sits on the calls shiloh out in Monton, who again is super well connected. No one in the country world on the music side too. And then some up and comers that they want to get there. They love country music and they want to grow in their radio career and they want to learn more about the music side. And so they come in as well. That weekly meeting, depending on holidays, six schedules, you're looking anywhere from six to 810 people that are involved in that, which can feel like a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but at the same time you get different perspectives, right? Like for example, when we are looking at a song, sometimes we'll throw it out to the women in the group. We target women and go, okay, if we're looking at this song from a female perspective, like, what's the message? Is this a song that women are going to relate to and love? And so there's that perspective that we look at. I mean, obviously, like everybody else too, you're looking at data and you're looking at relevancy of the artist and you're looking at the song and production and all of those factors. But I love that we've got such a diverse group because some of our group is really numbers focused, which you need. And then some of our group is really like heart and soul focused, if that makes sense. Like they just love the format and they can hear the song in the playlist because if we just programmed only based off of numbers, I don't think your radio station, I don't know if it would sound that great. I think you'd get a lot of the same songs kind of running back to back. I think Cadence Temple. I think all of that. I don't think you would get a nice playlist and so I think there's lots of other things you have to take into consideration, which is sometimes where the heart comes in and the texture and going, you know what, this song, let's take a chance on this one. Because in our playlist, which right now is really mid tempo male, let's say maybe a little bit Love Wimpy type songs, this song is going to come in like a rocket and it's going to break up that cadence so the listener doesn't just think they're listening to the same song over and over and over again. It's going to punch you in the face. This is going to sound really good in the mix. Or this ballad from this female artist is insane. Like, it's so well structured and written and yeah, it's a ballad, but holy crap, right? It's going to hit the fields all over the place. And so that's kind of the balance of our meetings is we've got this group that's focused on that side and the number side and you put them together and you get a really great combination and different perspectives, different age groups are in that meeting, different skill set levels, different knowledge of the industry is in that meeting. And I think when you put all those people together, it creates a really nice dynamic. Obviously there are some days where we had a song and I'm like, it's not my choice and whatnot, but I'm going to respect in my role, I'm going to respect the committee because that's the decision that we've made. And I've been wrong before.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:39:44
Oh, listen, I'm the guy who didn't add Kid Rock Bob with the bot to the bear in Edmonton. So been there, done that, in amongst a few others as well.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:39:54
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:39:55
Does everybody come to the meeting with the songs listened or do you listen together?
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:39:59
Yeah, we don't listen together. A big part of that is actually just the one. We're all remote. It's not like we're in a room and it's easy. And as we know, sharing audio on this space is not always the easiest and sometimes it cuts out or it comes through and if you don't share your screen right, then we're not actually getting the audio. So we've kind of made it. We have a list that gets sent out and updated as new music comes through and whatnot, and then it's everybody's job to when you come into that meeting, you've got the notes and that's Shylo's role a little bit. So Shiloh will help curate that. He'll come to the meeting with some suggestions on moves as well, and then we discuss through them. And sometimes we go with what he suggests and sometimes we throw it in the kitchen, we throw it out the window and we start from scratch. But that's kind of our structure is listen to the songs, we'll chat. If somebody brings up a song that not everybody's familiar, because that happens, then we got to listen to it or come back to it, unless it's a super, super star song, which is that might happen if somebody releases the song on a Monday morning before a meeting, which is rare, but for the most part, you come in prepared.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:41:06
So I had a phone call from Warren Kopnick at Sony and he asked me for a technical idea because the entire radio industry comes to me, and record industry, too, whenever they have a technical question, they're calling me. And he brought up an interesting question, which is, how can I play music for music directors and program directors and give them a taste of what the song is going to be like? At the time, it was a chain smokers song, but it is an issue. You just can't play this stuff over zoom or we're doing now with the squad cast because it's just not the same thing. It's got to come barreling out of speakers.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:41:39
Well, we tease Warren all the time because he must have learned a few tricks from you, although he's not as polished as you, because I've had many a call with Warren over the last two years in Pandemic, where he freezes or he doesn't have a sound turned on right. But damn, he looks great. He's got the headphones, he's got the mic. I'm like, Warren, you can start your own show here. Do you want a job?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:42:01
Oh, he got it worked up. He's got a whole studio thing going now, so he's up to his game when it comes to doing his calls and whatnot. And speaking of reps and record reps, how do you balance the time to take their calls? Because you're obviously one of the top ones when it comes to making a phone call for country, there's a few.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:42:21
Of them that we have scheduled. I have scheduled weekly calls or bi weekly calls. So we've actually built it into calendars. And that is for the most part, some of your major players on the country scene will spend some time chatting with them every single week, which is great. Use that time to catch up on some stuff, chat about how the meeting went this week and if the song didn't get in, why, and then what's coming. So they'll give me a little update. And then, of course, if we have any ideas, we want to do in the country format for our company in terms of activation contesting, like whatever it is, or specialty programming, like I can chat through on that side with them. Otherwise for the remainder. I've been fortunate to build some pretty good relationships with these folks over the years, having worked so much in the format and so if they need to call or to chat about something, it's a quick text or an email and we'll schedule a time. Or sometimes I just get a call of the blue and if I've got time, I'll make the time. I'll answer the call. But for the most part a lot of the stuff is scheduled calls. It's been interesting in the Pandemic though. Because there's been a few people who have forgotten that I don't live in Alberta anymore. I live in British Columbia. So sometimes I'll get a call and I'm up early anyways. But I'll get a call at like seven in the morning or I'll get a call. Somebody will call my old Red Deer number and they can't get a hold of me. I'm like, yeah, because I'm not there, I'm not sitting at the desk anymore, so maybe try this number instead. But for the most part and that's just because nobody's done radio tours, nobody's been around and we haven't seen each other for two years, so everybody forgets what that's like, right?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:44:00
I missed that tweet. I didn't know that you moved to BC.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:44:03
I do. Yeah. I live in BC. So basically what kind of happened was during the Pandemic we made some shifts. So I was living in Red Deer and in 2019 I took over the role to oversee Red Deer, rural Alberta and BC from afar. So I was a regional program director for basically I guess those stations in the west. And then kind of in the midst of the Pandemic, my role shifted and they wanted a little bit more boots on the ground in the BC interior. They needed some strong leadership skills here to help grow these stations. And so I moved out to Camloops, which is where I'm living now, to oversee the three operations in Kamloops and then two in Colonials. So operations manager for BC interior and then kind of shifted my role with country. So took on a more official capacity as the brand and content leader for the country format. So basically overseeing everything on our country properties, assisting in marketing promotions, the national music stuff, national shows like Paul and other syndication like Casey's and some of our regional voice trackers like Susie Burge and Alberta and stuff like that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:45:14
Who is your favorite record rep and why? Is it Laura Fraser?
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:45:18
Oh, my God. I love Laura Fraser. That's a really good one. Can I say? I love everybody but Warren Kopnick.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:45:24
Yes, absolutely you can.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:45:26
I'll say I love everybody but Warren Kopnick. I actually have more recent blackmail for Warren Kopnick and I've saved on my phone because I went to an event. He brought some folks in to see a new country artist named Nate Smith. And the timing the Glory Boys were there, and they have a song called Float. And Warren ended up on the stage in his bathing suit and snorkel gear dancing around. So I made sure to capture that so that I've got some blackmail.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:45:50
My only experience with country music in the last ten years has been I met Aaron Goodwin in the hallways of the office that you're in right now. And Megan Patrick was on a podcast that I did, and we didn't really talk about much country music. We talked about the Buffalo Bills.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:46:09
That sounds about right. Okay, I will say that the country music format, if you have not worked the country music format, you don't get it. And then you work the country music format and you go, oh my God, I just love this format, and I love the people in the format, and how do I keep working in this format? Which is why you get legends in this format who worked the format for so many Bajillion years and know the format inside and out. And it's because it's literally I call it the Country Music Family. The country music community. Word it however you want. Yes. Do we have our own 800 Bajillion Award shows? Yes. Do we have lots of different associations? Yes. But that's what creates all this community. It's unreal. The friendships and relationships that I've been able to build over the years are just because of this little world that is country music. And then you throw in the fact that in Canada, we have our own version of it, the Canadian Country Music Group, and it's like a giant family. Like I'll be in Calgary in September for the CCMA awards and country music weekend. I can't wait to hug every single person there.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:47:12
You answered my next question. What is something that is exclusive to the country radio format that is not country music?
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:47:19
Yeah, it's the community. You don't know it until you're in it. And it's kind of hard to explain, but, like, associations where I go and I spend time working with new artists and how do you get radio airplay and educating them on the radio side of stuff, but also watching them perform and grow, and you get to witness that, like, you know, Brett Kissel is for so many people. It's funny. Like, I was just listening to an interview that Paul Maguire did with Dean Brody, and he talked about Brett in the interview where he said he was at. He thinks it was the Juno's or maybe it was the CCMAs, and he was on the red carpet. And at the time, Paul was working at CMT, and Brett walked by him and said, hi, Mr. McGuire. I'm Brett Kissel. I'm 15 years old, and one day you're going to interview me on this red carpet and I mean, Paul has interviewed him about 100 times on Red Carpets. Right. So it's his own little culture and world that is kind of special.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:48:13
Quick question, how many stations do you program?
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:48:15
Well, I've got the five MBC interior and then oversee the 20 that we've got for all of our country stations.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:48:23
And how did you ever manage to do this on a Friday afternoon when there's about 800 logs due?
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:48:29
Well, that's part of the advantage of how we built our systems, which is great, and we got really good people. But yeah, as we all know, Fridays are maybe my least favorite day of the week, which is weird.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:48:39
Jen, thanks so much for being on the podcast. I appreciate it.
Jenn Dalen-Gordon (Guest) 00:48:42
Well, thanks for asking me.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:48:42
The the Sound Off Podcast written and hosted by Matt Cundill. Produced by Evan Surminski. Social Media by Courtney Krebsbach Another great creation from the Soundoff Media Company. There's always firstname.lastname@example.org.