Within a little over two years, radio entrepreneur Bryce Johnson '09 has taken his student-run SPORTS YAPP® program from Appalachian State University's 90.5 WASU-FM to the Charlotte market and now to a national audience through faith-based The Core Media Group.
"It's been a crazy couple of years," said the 25-year-old, who is known for producing a positive, upbeat and family-oriented sports radio talk show in an industry often plagued with negativity and brashness.
That difference in programming has set him apart and opened doors for him—and he hasn't been afraid to walk boldly through them.
His first step was to apply for a low-interest loan offered to participants in Appalachian's Kellar Radio Talent Institute, what Johnson called a 10-day "radio camp" the summer before his senior year. In it, he engaged with top industry leaders and learned all aspects of the radio industry: sales, on-air, marketing and more. After graduation, he used the $25,000 loan to purchase air time on WAVO 1150 in Charlotte for SPORTS YAPP®.
Seven months into his professional gig, Johnson and his show were picked up by FOX Sports 730 AM and broadcast to an even larger audience in the Charlotte market, among the top 25 in the United States. Soon after, an opportunity opened at The Core Media Group, a multimedia production company based just outside Charlotte that has published the faith-based magazine Sports Spectrum for 26 years along with other books.
This opportunity puts Johnson on the cutting-edge of media convergence: He'll be adding an audio/podcast component to Sports Spectrum, which highlights Christian athletes of all sports and levels.
"SPORTS YAPP® will live on but will have a new sound," said Johnson. "There are respected, openly Christian athletes sharing their faith and I want to reach those types of listeners who are excited about that."
Johnson said he got into radio "to inspire people and to be positive and encouraging," so he feels that he is exactly where he's supposed to be. "I'm thankful for the doors that have opened. The loan allowed me to create a job for myself when my classmates were looking for one, which led me to Fox Sports 730, which led me to The Core Media Group," he said.
His mentor at Appalachian, radio industry innovator Dan "Vallie" Hill who serves as general manager of 90.5 WASU-FM, says Johnson was the first student to apply for the Kellar loan and was "professional in the way he approached it... It helped him get that first break to do his show in Charlotte. No other students have applied for the loan," Hill said.
"I think most students can't yet comprehend owning their own business, but Bryce has always been focused on what he wanted to do. I always encourage students to 'start thinking like a pro now,' and not wait until some moment after graduation. Bryce was like that from the beginning. It's one of the things that helped him begin his career in a top 25 radio market in Charlotte," he said.
Kellar Institute participants have up to 10 years after completion of the institute to apply for the loan.
Johnson apparently took Hill's advice to heart while a student on campus. "The standard set at Appalachian was so high," he said. "I've only been out of school two years, but I feel like I've been working professionally for six."