I met Gator when I was around 10 years old. He probably doesn’t remember this, but I do because it’s those special little moments that stick with us. The local radio station was promoting an event on-site and my mom took me to check it out. I don’t remember the event, but I do remember the nice man that offered to paint a gator on my face. I felt so special that the local DJ would talk to little ole me. But as Gator says in almost every interview when asked about the future of radio in today’s streaming world, it’s about human connection and trust. And that’s hard to get on a streaming service.
Trust is an interesting thing. I’m not going to get into a psychological discussion here, but I do know that my own exposure to new music has come from recommendations of trusted friends much more than recommendations from a cold algorithm.
You might say DJ’s become trusted friends. They ride with us in the car on the way to work, they play in the background while we catch up on house projects, and they often keep us entertained during those long drives to visit family around the holidays. A radio personality like Gator gives us inside looks into the lives of the artists we love through interviews on morning shows. Where else can you be privy to a quick morning call with Luke Combs while he makes his morning coffee?
Radio has also consistently been the gateway to the masses. Streaming services are now competing for that spot. But are they really a threat? We all remember when Taylor Swift took her music off of Spotify in 2014 claiming that she didn’t agree with the idea that music should be free. Back in the day, radio promoted albums because album sales were the primary driver of revenue for artists and labels. An artist knew they needed to get on radio to promote their album. Now that album sales aren’t the driver of revenue for an artist, do artists really still need radio? Is radio still the gateway to the masses? If so, what are they promoting if not albums? What is radio’s focus and purpose in the life of the artist and the music consumer today?
Gator Harrison was positioned front and center during the streaming revolution and is uniquely positioned to have valuable insight on the radio vs. streaming debate. His career started in the late ‘80s when he took over his brother’s job at a radio station in Sparta, TN at the age of 15. From 1990 to 1996, he was an on-air personality at Top 40 WYHY/Nashville before starting a 14-year run at Country WGSQ/Cookeville, TN as a skilled programmer and award-winning personality as part of the station's "Gator And The Stykman" morning show. He was then recruited by iHeart in 2011 to oversee its Chattanooga cluster and program the legendary WUSY brand. In 2016 Gator became the Senior Vice President of Programming for iHeartMedia’s Nashville market. The six-station Nashville cluster includes WSIX-FM, WUBT-FM, WNRQ-FM, WNRQ-HD, WRVW-FM and WLAC-AM.
See y’all Monday, August 29th at 6:30 pm at Photo Art Gallery on Spring St. in Cookeville.