Amalgamation Executive Profile: Damon Williams, VP, Music Choice

With so many ways to experience music nowadays, Amalgamation decided to visit with Music Choice which can be viewed or heard in some 50 million households through television, online and mobile devices. The video and music network has come a long since its initial concept as a digital cable radio platform more than 20 years ago. Damon Williams, who has been with the network since 1998, can attest to that. He is currently Vice President of Programming & Content Development for Music Choice overseeing and implementing the network’s numerous advancements in recent years, such as the revampment of their appearance and launching the new Living Music campaign.

How many channels are you personally programming, and what goes into your choices for bringing in new music, and introducing new artists?

Music Choice has over 46 music channels and I have an incredible team of program directors who handle the day to day programming of each one. In my role, I oversee the direction and strategy for all video and music programming. I also work with various departments on the development of our company’s products that also includes SWRV, our 24/7 interactive music video network, and Music Choice On-Demand.

We look at several factors in bringing new music and artists to our products. It always starts with a great record whether it’s from a major label or independent. We currently have a strategic artist initiative in place now that calls for artists to participate with us on-an ongoing basis so we try to partner with artists who love to connect with music fans via our platforms and social media. Social media buzz is also an important component to our artist initiative.

As a program director and content developer, how much influence does terrestrial radio and ‘the hits’ have in determining your programming choices? And is there a true rotation method for music at M.C.?

Radio has ratings based on quarter-hour listening. Our business doesn’t have that same metric, so we can program a lot differently. We’re not fighting for quarter-hours and we’re not fighting with a local competitor. We’re fighting to create a great consumer experience that gives our audience a reason to tune us in all time.

The biggest difference between programming a channel for terrestrial radio and one for a service like Music Choice is having an understanding of how the listener experiences the product. Our service is primarily used inside people’s homes. We know that eight out of every 10 users indicate they listen in a group setting, using our service to set a mood. We have tremendous time spent listening, often getting upwards of 25 hours per week of listening from the audience while radio is at about 15 hours per week.

Because we are commercial free audio service, we also have the ability to play more songs per hour, add more new music and more new artists to each station. I don’t want to give away the secret sauce but we really feel like we have created a clock scheme and rotation strategy that leaves consumers with a very curated experience. We have a 96% satisfaction rating from our viewers on programming.

Damon pictured with the kids of Mindless Behavior

People have so many arenas in which to get music nowadays, how does Music Choice remain relevant in keeping audiences tuned-in?

We always develop and improve our products to keep our audience engaged. For example, we are launching a show called U&A (You and Artists) that will allow our viewers to chat with their favorite artists at 4pm on Music Choice platforms. We are creating this product to allow artists to leverage the 7 million plus daily listeners we have just on our Hit List, Hip Hop and R&B Channels.

We are also adding a lifestyle channel to our lineup called MCU (Music Choice University) that will be the ultimate soundtrack to college life. Audiences want experiences that go from passive to emerging to immersive—we see increased interactivity in compelling products as the way to get there.
How is Music Choice’s video on demand platform able to break audience records, especially when so many fans have gravitated to viewing videos online via You Tube or Vevo.

Audiences still want to see music videos on TV which is more social than the web in many ways. Music Choice is the No. 1 On Demand Network with 1.2 billion annual views. We are currently in 51 million households and not only have videos from established and emerging artists; we also have great original programs including The F Word, Co-Signed and Decoded. (Take a look here: www.musicchoice.com/originals)

Last summer we broke the record for the hottest month ever for a video transaction of any single VOD network – music or other genre.  Over 136 million views were recorded for July, 2011 from nearly 7 million unique set-top boxes (STB’s).  That is huge! We feel good about the product now and look forward to several enhancements that will make the experience even more engaging in the very near future.

On SWRV we have also seen high consumer interactions.  The network is totally controlled by consumers from the video that plays next to taking over the networks as DJ for 15 minutes on our show SWRV Takeover. Since we launched in 2010 we have had close to 50 million interactions.  (Take a look here how you can interact: www.swrv.tv)

Compared to satellite, terrestrial and internet radio audiences, what do you believe Music Choice audiences want? How do those fans differ?

Our fans are very passionate about music and loyal to the Music Choice product. They expect a highly curated music experience that differs from companies who let an algorithm or shuffle play define the experience. We pride ourselves on delivering that immersive, engaging, and personal music experience to our 50 million-plus fans.  We live music; we work hard at making that emotional connection with our audience by delivering the Programming and Products they want with access to their favorite artists.

What do you like most about working at Music Choice?

The best part of working at Music Choice has been the people and the opportunity to innovate. Music Choice has a great company culture and tons of synergy across the business that has enabled us to do some really cool and relevant things to keep our business growing. Leading the Programming strategy for several platforms and developing new products like SWRV has been great. I am really thankful to be part of the team.

Interview Conducted by David A. Mitchell

 http://www.musicchoice.com/