Prospect Magazine: Alumni Stories

Music Man

Justin Roman '00 plays the hits on B96 when he's not busy making his own hits for MCA Records. Here, he tells his story.

Whether you’re on the radio or on tour, it’s all about connecting with your fans. At B96, we have people coming down to the studio all the time. They call the station and want to talk. It’s a very interactive show. We have fun with the fans on the air, joke around with them, let them talk about what’s on their minds. Every Friday we’re somewhere different for a live broadcast, maybe at a carnival or a mall, and we get big crowds coming out to hang out with us.

I was lucky to be somewhat prepared for that fan following. Touring with the group, I got to experience it, and in some ways it just carried over to the radio. My partner, Dougie Stylz, is a little more surprised at how loyal and enthusiastic the fans are.

At first I was unsure about radio. But I had been an intern at B96, and later my single, “Eyes Closed So Tight,” was a number-one record on the station. One day the program director, Todd Cavanah, called me up and said, “You know I always thought you’d be great on the radio. Let me get you in the studio and see how you sound.” At the beginning I was unsure; I had a lot on my plate already. But I said I’d do it. The station wanted me to partner with Dougie, who was doing the weekend show. We made a radio demo, and Todd said it was the best demo he’d heard in years. He offered us the night show on the spot.

My partner Dougie and I have been good friends since we interned at the station a few years ago. I think it’s cool that the station went with local guys who know the city and know the station instead of going to Seattle or Boston or wherever for talent. Since we’re good friends, there’s a natural chemistry there. The one thing we had to figure out was what our roles on the show would be. He went to school in broadcasting and has been trained in this stuff. I’m a singer and producer, but I had no training in radio. That’s a good balance. He knows how to hit the marks we have to hit. I’m more the voice of the music lover, with the outside perspective. I compare it to a baseball broadcast, where there’s a play-by-play guy and a color guy. He’s the play-by-play and I’m the color. It makes for a good partnership.

The biggest surprise about radio was how heavily everything is researched. When I was a kid, I thought you called the station and requested a song and the deejay played what he wanted to play. From being a performer and producer, I knew a little about the research; but I had no idea how much they study what their average listener wants to hear and when they want to hear it. I mean, they do surveys about how many times you want to hear a song in a week.

I feel like I have two careers now. I still think of performing and producing as my first career. Now I’m also going on casting calls for movies. But the great thing about radio is that I’m reaching so many people. It can only help my music career, just like my music career helps my radio show. If I can get in a couple movies here or there, that would be great.

Look at Ryan Seacrest. He’s doing eight gazillion jobs. I think that’s really cool. He’s doing American Idol. He took over for Casey Kasem on the Top 40 countdown. And he’s doing the morning show for KISS-FM in L.A. When I look at that, I think the sky’s the limit. This radio show is just one of the things I want to do.

Interview by Andrew Santella
Photograph by Nabil Elderkin

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