Tag Archives: Vince Barrucco

The Beat swaps morning, afternoon drive hosts

 

The Beat 92.5 is continuing its summer of transformation. On Monday morning, it announced that it’s moving Cat Spencer to afternoon drive and Cousin Vinny Barrucco to mornings. The changes take effect immediately.

Vinny will be joined in the mornings by co-host Nikki Balch, who has returned to Montreal after leaving Virgin Radio two years ago, as well as Stuntman Sam and Kim Kieran on news and traffic. Kieran is also moving to mornings from afternoons, replacing the departing Natasha Hall.

Spencer seemed excited about the change, even though morning host is traditionally the most prestigious of the radio jobs. (The 9-to-5 workday shifts are The Beat’s highest rated.) Spencer’s on-air time isn’t only reduced to two hours a day, but four days a week, Mondays to Thursdays. He’s joined by Claudia Marques on traffic.

Spencer explained on the air that he had planned to do mornings for five years when he joined The Beat in 2011, and wanted to move to afternoon drive and have his mornings back.

The rest of the schedule is unchanged. Donna Saker does 9am to 1pm, Christin Jerome does 1pm to 5pm, and Jeremy White takes over at 7pm. Rob Kemp and Nat Lauzon do weekend mornings and afternoons, respectively.

The changes (which also include new headshots for everyone) come less than two months after The Beat brought in a new station manager, Luc Tremblay. Tremblay, who had been working at La Presse+ since 2012, will also act as program director, replacing interim PD Martin Tremblay.

Italians are everywhere

CBC's Sabrina Marandola is among the Italian Montrealers profiled by Panoram Italia

CBC’s Sabrina Marandola is among the Italian Montrealers profiled by Panoram Italia

It’s not just me who’s been talking to English-language broadcasters in Montreal. Italian community magazine Panoram Italia has been profiling members of its community who have jobs in the media in Montreal. The magazine’s December/January issue is devoted to it, with CBC’s Sabrina Marandola and CJAD/CTV’s Laura Casella on the cover.

The young faces of Montreal’s drive-time radio

 

Gazette Culture section, Jan. 5

On the list of jobs everyone wants but nobody can get, radio DJ ranks pretty high. Right there with TV anchor and newspaper staff columnist. Those privileged enough to get these coveted positions seem like the luckiest people in the world, especially because the job sounds like it’s so simple.

In Montreal, the three big music stations all have announcers or hosts (what they call the DJs now) in the afternoon drive periods under the age of 35. Why is that? Shouldn’t such a prestigious position (second only to the morning drive slot) go to people who worked in the medium for decades, toiling at some obscure community station in a tiny town working as the overnight traffic announcer? What do these people have that’s so special?

For profiles that appear in Saturday’s Gazette, I met with these three announcers, all of whom got their current jobs in 2012, and asked them about their career paths. As you’ll learn, it’s a combination of good timing, talent, a lot of determination, and a bit of luck.

(These stories took a surprisingly long time to do. Astral was a bit nervous in light of the whole Bell thing, and even after I managed to do all the interviews, the story stayed in the bank for a month so it could work as a feature story in the first week of January when the local arts scene is pretty uneventful. To give you an idea, the photos of Bilal Butt and Andrea Collins, which I took during their interviews, were taken while CHOM and Virgin were still at their old studios on Fort St.)

The Beat’s Vinny Barrucco

“Cousin” Vinny Barrucco, 28, started at The Beat in May, after being poached from the same job at Virgin Radio. The Beat’s management apparently found him good enough to fire their existing drive guy and convince Vinny to stay off the radio for three months to comply with a non-compete clause in his Virgin contract.

A guy this young getting poached like this (Cat Spencer and Nat Lauzon were also lured to The Beat from Virgin, though they have much more experience) has got to get to a guy’s ego.

Vinny might seem like a goofball, and to a certain extent he is, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t work hard. He started by doing those right-of-passage jobs, interning for Mitch Melnick on Team 990 and then working at Kahnawake’s K103. He had his eyes set on Virgin, and as he tells it pestered management there for months to get noticed. Finally he was offered an overnight shift in 2009, but quickly moved up to afternoon drive, replacing Mark Bergman who became the station’s brand director.

Vinny’s story includes other tidbits, like his rejections from Concordia’s communications studies program, or the untimely death of his father that set his career back a year but also helped to get it started.

It’s the story of a man who is living his dream because he followed his passion and never gave it up. Yeah, it sounds like a cliché, but there were a few Oprah-like moments when I interviewed him at The Beat, so it seems a propos.

CHOM’s Bilal Butt

Bilal Butt, 33, is a more familiar name among Montreal radio listeners. He’s been at CHOM since 2005, and worked at CHOM and Mix 96 before that. He was mainly doing evenings until the unceremonious departure of Pete Marier led him to be upgraded to the afternoon drive slot.

When I talked to him last summer and again in the fall, he apologized for leading such a boring life. He’s just a guy with a job on the radio and a musician in his spare time.

To Butt’s boss, André Lallier, that’s what makes him so relatable to listeners: he’s just a regular guy.

Not that his life has been entirely vanilla. His home didn’t have music in it when he was growing up, and his parents didn’t approve of his career goals at first. But he loved radio too much. After interning for Cat and Nat at Mix 96, he began working for CHOM, then took a job in Fort McMurray, Alta., before coming back to CHOM in 2005. And though maybe someday when he’s older he might make the jump to mornings, he’s more than happy where he is right now, with a schedule that lets him both sleep in and go out at night, and a job that lets him play rock music and sit behind a microphone.

Virgin’s Andrea Collins

Andrea Collins, 28, is the newbie to Montreal radio. She started here in 2011, taking over Virgin’s daytime shift after Nat Lauzon left to focus more on her other projects and do weekends at what would become The Beat. In April, after Barrucco also left for The Beat, Collins was bumped up to afternoon drive.

So I guess Collins owes a lot of her career here to The Beat, even though she’s never worked there.

Collins came to Montreal after a career that led to her working at stations in Winnipeg and Victoria at stations called Kool, Curve, Bob and Q. It involved a lot of moving, but that helped her get so far in such a short time.

As I spoke to her, it had become clear that she’s embracing this city. She’s fallen in love with the Plateau (yeah, she’s become one of those people), and is working on improving her French.

One thing noteworthy about Collins is that she’s the first female solo drive-time announcer at a major commercial English station in Montreal, at least as far as anyone knows (correct me if I’m wrong here). Not that there haven’t been other women in strong positions in Montreal radio, with Sue Smith, Nancy Wood, Nat Lauzon and Donna Saker among them. But the afternoon drive post has been a pretty male-oriented slot, or with a male-female team (conversely, the workday has been mainly female-oriented for music stations like this).

What’s perhaps most remarkable is that this isn’t a big deal, either for Collins or Virgin. It may be a historical footnote, but gender wasn’t really a consideration in choosing Collins for this job, and there hasn’t been some huge feminist revolution that has opened the door to this. It just happened.

There are still some aspects of radio that are sexist in nature. Morning shows, like TV newscasts, are paired male-female, even when some of the most popular teams have been of the same gender (see: Aaron and Tasso, Terry and Ted). But it’s nice to see that another glass ceiling has disappeared, even if Collins didn’t feel it smash as she passed through.

Five things you didn’t know about professional music radio announcers

1. They listen to themselves. You might think these people just show up to work, talk about random stuff they have in their head and then go home. But they actually review a lot of what they say, and so do their bosses. It’s the best way to improve how they sound, and constant improvement is necessary in a world where success is measured by ratings. So these announcers will listen back to recordings of their breaks (in music radio, a “break” is the part where the announcer talks live into the microphone, which sounds like the exact opposite of what a break should be).

2. They’re not rich or famous. Collins and Butt drive old beat-up cars. Barrucco takes the commuter train. Though they can’t claim to be poor, radio announcers in their kinds of jobs have pretty middle-class salaries. Add to that the complete lack of job security and it’s less glamorous than you might think. As for fame, these characters walk the streets undisturbed pretty often. Butt recounts the one time someone recognized him at a Subway. Being recognized in public is the exception rather than the rule.

3. They spend a lot of time at fundraisers. It’s even written into contracts now that radio personalities have to participate in certain events to help promote the station. Add to that events that they’re asked to participate in outside of work. Part of it is because they’re perceived to be locally well-known, and part of it is that radio announcers like these tend to make good emcees.

4. Many of them work alone. Morning shows still have a concept of team, with multiple hosts, a news announcer, a traffic announcer and a technician. But most other shifts at these music stations consist of a single person, who hosts and operates the boards, cueing songs and taking calls. There’s enough time to do it with all the music that plays, but it’s quite a bit of multitasking, and it takes a while to get it all down without screwing things up. Adding social media communication to the mix only adds to that workload.

5. They plan what they say. A good deal of research goes into these shifts. Music announcers have to keep up on the latest news and get everything from celebrity gossip to concert announcements to relay that information to listeners. Even finding little bits of trivial information to send out between two songs requires going out and finding it. It’s not exactly like putting together a Master’s thesis every day, but it’s still a lot of work.

Cousin Vinny joins The Beat

"Cousin Vinny" aka Vincent Barrucco

Cat Spencer, Nat Lauzon and now Vinny Barrucco. “Cousin Vinny” has become the latest personality to jump from Virgin Radio to competitor The Beat, even though the latter is less than a year old.

Barrucco left CJFM suddenly at the end of February, and was purposefully vague about why, saying he had “a new opportunity” coming up. This was apparently because of a non-compete obligation that wouldn’t allow him to jump directly to a competing station. So after three months off (during which he said he missed not being on the air), he’s back behind a microphone.

The new hire was introduced to listeners on Monday’s morning show and answered some short-answer questions:

His first shift is Monday at 4pm. His show is weekdays from 4 to 8, leading in to Paul Hayes’s Heartbeats.

Barrucco replaces AJ Reynolds, who was let go from CKBE the same week Barrucco left CJFM. Christin Jerome has been holding the fort in the meantime, and will remain with the station in her unsung-hero capacity.

UPDATE: Mike Cohen interviews Barrucco and program director Leo Da Estrela. Vinny explains it was tough to be off the air for three months and is kind of vague about the reason he decided to move from Virgin to The Beat (which I guess means it’s because of the money). Da Estrela says The Beat’s goal isn’t to steal talent from Virgin, but to get talent that knows Montreal and knows radio. He also acknowledges that the two stations sound a lot alike and have similar playlists these days.

Cousin Vinny leaves Virgin Radio 96, AJ Reynolds let go from The Beat

This post has been corrected. See below.

"Cousin Vinny" aka Vince Barrucco

Vince Barrucco, better known as Cousin Vinny, has resigned from his post as afternoon drive announcer at CJFM to explore “a new opportunity” in the city after a few months off the air.

Mark Bergman, brand director for Virgin Radio 96, confirmed that Barrucco submitted his resignation letter Monday morning. Bergman said Barrucco didn’t say where he was going.

Through social media, Barrucco was coy about his destination, saying only that it was “a new opportunity” and that he’d be staying in Montreal.

AJ Reynolds: gone from The Beat

But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that another Montreal drive-time announcer has been scrubbed from the schedule: AJ Reynolds is no longer part of The Beat, his name and face gone from the website (for the most part) and his Beat Twitter account disappeared, all about the same time as Barrucco left Virgin. Barrucco’s sudden disappearance from the air, the lack of announcement about his leaving, and his forced vacation from behind the microphone are all consistent with him being poached by a competitor.

Reynolds, whose Canada’s Top 20 Countdown has been picked up by seven new stations across Canada and will expand to four hours daily as of March 5, according to an ad it’s running on the Airchecker blog, said he was leaving the Beat on good terms and wished them well.

The Beat’s station manager, Mark Dickie, said the station had decided to “make a change” because of disappointing performance at drive time* “things not working out as expected.” He wouldn’t confirm or deny whether Barrucco had been hired to replace Reynolds.

Reynolds’s syndicated show, Canada’s Top 20 Countdown, will remain on the Beat, at least for now, Dickie said. It airs 5-7pm Sundays.

Claudia Marques, the traffic announcer paired with Reynolds, is on maternity leave (as is morning traffic announcer Natasha Hall, which led to plenty of jokes about the fertility powers of the traffic announcer’s equipment there). Dickie said Marques’s job will be waiting for her when she returns.

I asked Bergman about what a trend that seems to have developed, if it is true that Barrucco is heading to the Beat. Barrucco would be the third Virgin star, after Cat Spencer and Nat Lauzon, that has been poached by the Beat in just the past year. This is noteworthy because CJFM consistently does better than CFQR/CKBE in the ratings, so you have to wonder why people are leaving the No. 1 music station for similar jobs at the No. 2.

Dickie also downplayed the trend, pointing out that the Beat has plenty of people from the old Q combined with new talent from elsewhere.

Bergman, who said he didn’t know where Barrucco was going, said he isn’t worried about losing talent, because the team at the station is stronger than any individual announcer. And the numbers suggest he’s right, at least so far. Nevertheless, Bergman stressed that he has the utmost respect and admiration for Barrucco and that he wished him well. Barrucco had been at CJFM since 2009, and on the afternoon drive show since he replaced Bergman in April 2010.

Barrucco told me he’ll be starting his new job at the end of May.

“A great opportunity presented itself that was hard to refuse,” Barrucco said. “I enjoyed my time at Virgin Radio and wish the entire crew the best! Looking forward to the future!”

Astral has posted a job opening for a full-time announcer (the deadline is March 16), though Bergman says he hasn’t discounted the possibility of using someone already on staff to fill the afternoon drive slot and taking on someone new to fill out the schedule. He says he’s searching around for what’s out there in the talent pool.

He’s been doing a lot of that lately, thanks to Cogeco.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post said Beat general manager Mark Dickie expressed disappointment with the performance of the afternoon drive show hosted by AJ Reynolds. In fact, he said that things had not worked out “as expected” – a statement I had apparently interpreted a bit too much. My apologies to Dickie and Reynolds.