The NY Daily News’ David Hinckley interviewed Thomas, Corporate PD and PD of Cumulus 94.7 Nash FM in NYC—the first station to flip to the NASH format and brand. Country music is not only here to stay on New York radio, says Thomas, it’s going to keep growing. And not just a little. A lot. From the interview:
“Thomas, best known in New York radio as the program director who flipped WCBS-FM from “Jack” to classic hits in 2007, jumped from CBS to Cumulus in April to become program director of country WNSH (94.7 FM).
Thomas is also corporate program director for Cumulus, but he sounds particularly excited about the possibilities for WNSH, the flagship of Cumulus’ national Nash format and brand.
“I wasn’t looking to leave,” says Thomas. “But this was too good an opportunity to turn down.”
Cumulus launched WNSH in January 2013 and its ascent since then has been quiet, amid some complaints that it has yet to develop a New York sound. In the most recent Nielsen ratings, it was in 20th place, averaging 1.8% of the audience. Thomas says Nash is doing better with the younger audiences it can sell to advertisers: “We’re up to 2.8% in the afternoon,” he says. “That puts us close to the top 10.”
Equally important, he says the total audience who listen at some point in an average week has finally cracked the million mark.
“We’re up to 1,051,000,” he says. “Which says to me that people are still discovering us. I guarantee there are country fans who don’t know we’re here.”
He sees a million as only a start.
“We can double that number,” he says. “I really believe that.”
First, he says, sales and concerts prove country fans are here.
He also buys the theory that a lot of people who grew up on pop and rock find country a natural transition. “There are country stations that play Fleetwood Mac songs,” he says. “With today’s country sound, it fits.”
The infusion of some pop rhythms into country has also made country fresh and even cool to younger audiences, who traditionally were its weakest link.
“A lot of younger fans like country today,” he says. “A Taylor Swift, or Jason Aldean, has brought them in.”
Now Nash has to bring them to the radio station.
“We need to do two things,” Thomas says. “First, we need to give Nash a local identity. We need to make it a New York station.”
The main way to do that, he says, is the oldest trick in radio: putting the station’s ear to the ground.
“There’s so much music going on around New York,” he says. “We need to find the next Luke Bryant or Florida Georgia Line.”
Once it has found the rising artists who have a New York flavor, he says, the station will get them to events in the city, or Long Island and New Jersey, where country fans can see them play live.
“We don’t need to bring in a top artist for half a million dollars,” he says. “There’s so much great music out there. We just need to be the place people can find and hear it.”