Industry Feature Friday: Morgan James (MJ) (Music Director and Radio Host)
Welcome to Industry Feature Friday, putting the spotlight on the people behind the music! From producers, radio DJ's and radio trackers, to photographers, managers and everything in between. These are the music business professionals who work hard to help put your favourite artists (emerging, independent and hit makers) on the charts, DSP's, radio and on the map through their work behind the scenes!
This week, I have a very special guest and her name is Morgan James (aka MJ)! She's a rising star in the Canadian radio scene to say the least! It's so wonderful to have you Morgan, thanks for for joining me this week!
Anyone can call themselves a presenter these days. But it takes skill, determination, and heaps of talent to captivate an audience of any size. Morgan has all that and more! That is why she is not only loved by her Now 104.7FM listeners in Manitoba, she is very appreciated and well respected by the music industry as well!
Currently, Morgan is the Music Director of Now Country & NCI FM in Winnipeg. She also hosts a show on Now Country 104.7 and the MJ Show Podcast where she interviews Country musicians.
"With a passion for music like no other MJ works behind the scenes as a radio producer but her outgoing personality has led her to be an on-air personality at Rhythm FM and more recently into the spotlight on NOW Country 104.7. MJ is very knowledgeable on the current Hot Country scene, be it music charts, news or trends. She also has a keen interest in the local Manitoba music scene. As the Music Director of NOW Country 104.7 she ensures that the station offers a playlist that’s like no other station in the province. Tune in to MJ LIVE on NOW Country, weekdays from 10am -1pm!" - The Now Country 104.7FM Website
Morgan is passionate and committed to making sure her city is tuned in and riding the local airwaves. Of course, part of the appeal of her job comes in shining a light on up-and-coming performers. Morgan loves discovering emerging acts and rising stars from across Canada! Morgan also uses her voice and public figure image as an opportunity to support and advocate for women in the media and music scene.
If you don't already know Morgan James, let me introduce you to her! If you already know Morgan James, here's more about her you may not have known!
Get to know more about Morgan James (MJ) Here:
Sarah Scott (SS): Hi Morgan! I'm so excited to have you on IFF this week! Thank you for joining me. You are currently the Music Director & Radio Host for Now Country 104.7FM and you have the MJ Show Podcast! Tell us more about yourself and how you got into radio and podcasting!
Morgan James (MJ): Thank you for having me, Sarah! It is truly appreciated!
Long story short, an opportunity to work in radio was presented to me just over a decade ago. I began this incredibly bizarre but beautiful journey in broadcasting in the sales department at a new pop station in the market. Truthfully, I probably socialized just as much as I sold (some days, probably more). One day, I stumbled into a conversation about women with three guys at the station. One of them was the morning show host. I started expressing my opinions because what the hell did they know about women, right? Before I knew it, two hours had passed, and it was time to go home. The next day, the PD invited me to lunch. I was convinced he would fire me, but I thought, "Hey, at least I will get a free lunch!" Instead, he told me the morning show host thought I would make a good co-host based on the conversation we had the day before and asked me if I thought I could "talk" for a living. I knew I could talk for several hours straight once I got going, so the answer was, "probably, sure!" A few weeks later, I was on a morning show.
Less than a year later, when I left, I did so with my natural talent, now armed with the on-air skills I was masterfully taught. I worked for a promotions company and a couple of marketing geniuses who taught me so much as I figured out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was unsure if the radio industry was for me, convinced it would eat me up and swallow me whole. However, that became a challenge I could not resist. I thought to myself, "Let 'em try!" When I was ready, NCI presented more than an opportunity to be on-air again; they gave me a home. In the nearly ten years I have been at NCI, I have represented three stations on the same dial. At this point, I have said 104.7 more times than my real name, yet NCI is where I have grown and discovered who I am. Especially in the last few years as MD for NOW Country.
As for podcasting, I have to credit the pandemic for how that started, honestly. I was already doing interviews for a featured artist segment during my show. However, during the pandemic, interviews went from over the phone to Zooms. I continued to share the audio recordings on air and thought, "why not share the video?" I love learning to do new things, so I learned how and where to share the content. I titled it the only thing I could think of and hit upload. It has become a fun project.
SS: So many people tell us we make interviews sound so easy, but sometimes we get nervous too and our first interviews aren't normally easy nor did we make them sound easy! Just like an artist, we also have towork on our public speaking and interview skills! Tell me about the very first artist interview that you had! How have you worked on your interviewing skills over the years? Do you have any advice to other radio personalities or aspiring radio personalities on how to "ace" an interview?
MJ: Oh, I am nervous before every interview, and they are most definitely not always easy. We may talk for a living. Sure. However, at my core, I am an introvert, so I am grateful I am in a studio room, by myself, speaking into a microphone, and no one can see me. So, when I speak in front of people or with someone one-on-one, there is always a moment of anxiety. That was the case with my first interview over a decade ago, and it remains true today.
In honing my skills, I figured out that I genuinely like getting to know someone, what makes them unique, and that, on most occasions, people feel comfortable opening up to me. Eventually, I stopped doing "interviews" and saw them for what they were; conversations. That is what it comes down to for me. I love speaking with interesting people with whom I have at least one thing in common; a passion for music. I go into every discussion knowing this and go from there. Truthfully, I do not believe anyone can ever really "ace" an interview. However, if you have an open mind and can discover common ground with someone and make THEM feel comfortable, you CAN have a great conversation—every time.
SS: For many rising stars and emerging artists, getting on to radio seems and can be challenging. It's not easy sometimes, but it's not impossible. With that said, what's a common myth about getting on the radio (or trying to) and can you debunk it?
MJ: It is true. It is not easy to get a song on the radio. Emerging artists must find a way to stand out among many other artists fighting for space. The common myth and I think the most damaging one for artists to believe, is that you must TRY to get on the radio. Once that becomes the goal, some artists start creating from an inauthentic place. I think it becomes more about chasing success and less about the art. That is how we end up with songs that all sound the same, repeatedly rotating one hundred times a day. In today's landscape, and especially in the entertainment industry, artists must bring something different and original to the table to stand out. It will still be tough to cut through and get a song on the radio. It can be, unfortunately, more challenging when you ARE different. However, being authentic is how you grow a loyal and dedicated fan base. The fans are the ones who will support an artist and push them to keep going. The fans also influence Music Directors to pay attention because, in the radio business, the fans are its number one source of income.
SS: Radio is a big and competitive place, but oftentimes it lacks diversity. You are a huge advocate for women in radio and in the music industry. This may seem like a basic question, but I still think it's an important one. What advice would you give women wanting to be in radio or in any capacity in the music industry? What should we do so we can continue to make an impact and make noise?
MJ: Every woman is different, and we handle circumstances in different ways. Some are naturally outspoken and can express their opinions or speak up more quickly than others. However, on the other hand, it is easier for some women to listen, pay attention, and power through any challenges quietly. After years of being one way or the other, I eventually found a balance. Meaning I learned to trust my gut and I speak up when I know I will not sleep at night if I do not. However, my gut will also tell me when it is more beneficial to remain silent, pay attention, listen and learn. So, the only advice I can give to any woman who desires a career in the music industry, or any industry, is to trust their instincts and stay true to who they are.
Find MJ on Air: https://nowcountry.fm/about-us/
Listen to the MJ Show Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/mj-show-podcast/id1569264506
Watch the MJ Show Podcast: https://www.youtube.com/@MJShowPodcast
Find MJ on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mj_radiofm/