Z100’s Elvis Duran talks about his career in radio

Originally Published August 8, 2012 – 11:04 AM for Examiner.com

As host of one of the most listened to morning talk shows in the U.S., Elvis Duran is a household voice and name. His business is as simple as it is profound, to connect to the people who listen. His show, Elvis Duran and the Morning Show  airs on Z100, a Clear Channel radio station based in New York, and often his voice is one of the first his audience hears each and every day.

Recognizing the magic his show generates, Clear Channel recently extended his contract and added to it, making him the spokesperson for the company as well as recruiting his expertise for program and talent development. I caught up with one of America’s most beloved morning show hosts to discuss what it’s like behind the curtain in the radio business, as well as the scope of his illustrious and memorable career on air.

Marian: You’ve been on talk radio for decades. How did you get your start in industry?

Elvis Duran: I was sucked into radio as a kid…loving the music, the flashy contests, etc. But what was most impressive to me was the way I felt as if I was listening to a friend. The DJ’s not only knew everything about the artists, songs and contests, they also made me feel as if I was never alone. Still, to this day, I make it a point to be “in the car” or “in the kitchen” with the listener as they go through their daily routine.

M: Whom are some of your favorite radio personalities, either currently or in that past that you enjoyed listening to yourself?

ED: By far, Howard Stern. Howard was the pioneer of honesty on the radio. Whether you like him, or not, you have to agree he tells it like it is and he has trained radio listeners to know when they’re being served a pile of b.s.

M: The Chairman and CEO of Clear Channel has called you a “creative genius with an unparalleled ability to connect.” What does it take to be a successful morning show host on one of the most listened to programs in the U.S.? How much of it is intuition?

 ED: It’s a little bit of learned habits and a whole lot of intuition. My strength is knowing who to surround myself with. The people I work with are the driving engine behind the show’s energy and direction and I would be a lunatic without them. Connecting with a rainbow of listeners takes a ton of different ideas and opinions. Me, alone, would make a boring show and I would have two people listening. When I used to do afternoons on Z100, I would get bored and beg anyone and everyone to come into the studio and play. I wanted, so badly, to stop the music and talk to listeners on the phone. I believe I connect well with listeners because I crave to be connected with. You can hear the desperation in my voice. Please call me.

M: How much creative liberty do you have on air and what is your criteria when determining topics, themes and content for the show?

 ED: We have total creative freedom. Topics are usually determined 10 seconds before the song ends. I love it that way. Never could get into the habit of mapping a show the night before. Every time I tried it, my mood swing the next morning would make me hate what I had written. We walk into the studio with a stack of ideas, the show members add their stories and thoughts and there you have it: a show is born. Freshly hatched every morning.

M: What has been one of the most difficult situations or scenarios in your career to either broadcast or improv while you were live?

ED: The first thought is 9/11. But, then…it was actually the easiest for me. It was on 9/12 I realized that this is what radio needed to be: open, honest and serving the community. Making our listeners feel safe and loved. Every day’s show philosophy should be modeled after our 9/12 motivations. Even though a listener’s day isn’t as sad and frightening as those days back in 2001, the day-to-day routine they have to endure can, indeed, be a big stinky drag. It’s our job to give them a segment of time that makes them laugh, think and…feel safe and loved.

M: What is one of your favorite memories spanning your career?

ED: My first day at Z100. I didn’t know then how important that day truly was.

M: Having spent decades in the radio business, you’ve watched the music industry trends and evolution. Give me your feel and perspective on Pop music and the industry today?

ED: I am actually a fan of the artists, again. There is a huge chunk of my career where I did not connect with the artists and songs. NOW, I am really into it. I find myself listening to the Z100 music feed during the show and forget I have an upcoming break to plan. It’s good to be a fan of the music again.

M: Brave enough to predict any new trends or where you see the industry heading?

 ED: Really? You want me to sit here and burp out my big predictions? I WILL tell you that I am a huge fan of where the delivery systems are heading. iHeartRadio is a great example. I have been asked by many to give my “expert” opinion on iHeartRadio and, sure, I can pontificate til the cows come home about where it’s going and how it’s revolutionizing how we fine tune our content choices…and the business model…and blah blah blah. What I REALLY want to say is how much I enjoy using it. I have so much fun creating artist driven stations and listening to live radio from across the country. I am more of a consumer than an expert. And I like that way.

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