Willy Tyler was just 15 years old when he landed his first radio job at KATQ in Plentywood.
He was so enthralled with the job that he’s never thought about doing anything else for a living.
“I was hooked,” Tyler said, recalling those first baby steps in what would become a long career in radio. Tyler moved to Billings in 1999 to attend a broadcasting school, May Technical College. But it went out of business before he had a chance to plug in his microphone. Undaunted, Tyler landed a job in Billings radio and has been a fixture in the industry ever since.
“I never say that I’m working,” Tyler said. “I would rather do radio, even on a hard day, than have any other job.”
Tyler is director of programming for Connoisseur Media, which operates six stations in Billings: 730 am KYYA, ESPN 910 am, KSKY 94.1, The Zone 96.3, Classic Hits My 105.9, and The Planet, 106.7.
People who work the morning shift in radio have to keep some challenging hours. Tyler arises at 4 a.m. each day. That’s by far the hardest part of the job, and it took a bit of adjustment switching from the late night slot, he said.
The Billings radio market has undergone numerous changes in recent years. Several stations have been purchased, and new owners change formats frequently. Through it all Tyler has often been called on to shoulder extra duties.
“Every time there has been a change, I’ve taken on whatever responsibility was needed,” he said. “I’ve never said no to taking on a new job or position. I love it.”
During an era in which many listeners turn to Pandora and other digital music and talk formats, Tyler continues to appreciate a bygone technology. His collection of vinyl LPs numbers in the thousands.
“I still like to pull them out,” Tyler said. “It’s interesting that LPs are making a comeback. I never really stopped loving vinyl. You can buy a record player that turns the tracks into MP3 files so you can listen to them on your iPod. I’ve been collecting records since I was a kid. Even my grandparents were music lovers. They saw Johnny Cash during the '50s.”
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your job? Deadlines. Most of our day is 30 or 60 seconds at a time.
What’s the best business advice you have received? Be kind to others in media. It changes fast and you could be someone’s boss tomorrow, or they could be yours.
Who gave you that advice? A former co-worker.
Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Many of the problems in our community are directly related to mental health and drug abuse. We have far too many homeless adults and children for a city our size. Our stations work with the Tumbleweed Program, Family Service Inc. and the Center for Children and Families to help awareness.
Outside of work, my biggest passion is: Music. I have always loved live music of any genre. I probably attend more than 50 concerts a year.
Which living person do you most admire? My father. He was a police chief for many years and now helps low-income Montanans with winterization of homes.
Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Happiness. I love what I do, so most days it feels more like a hobby than a job.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Gaining the respect of some of this city’s radio legends. Working at a young age in an industry with lots of egos can be difficult but some of the people I most admire and respect, have shown the same to me.
I’m happiest when I’m…traveling. Some people work their whole lives so they can retire and travel. I work so I can travel now.