Love that new-station smell.

It's been a week since we launched a brand new radio station in Billings. Mix 97.1, "Billings Best Mix of 2K to Today" took over the airwaves from 97.1 Kiss FM last Friday, and what a whirlwind it's been! As one-half of the morning show, I thought it would be fun to share with you a behind-the-scenes look from my point of view.

Michael Foth, Townsquare Media
Michael Foth, Townsquare Media
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Nationwide candidate search.

Things can move slowly in radioland. The concept for the new Mix 97.1 began well over a year ago. We knew we needed just the right person to co-host the morning show and we interviewed candidates locally and from around the country. The process seemed tedious, with months passing as our launch date rapidly approached. Then we found Nikki. Actually, she found us.

Rachel Helgeson, TSM
Rachel Helgeson, TSM
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Like an awkward blind date.

After Nikki made it through our various HR hiring stages, I first got to "meet" her on a Zoom call. Quick introductions commenced between her, me, and two bosses on the call. There was some random chit-chat about the job, how excited all parties are, and a "we'll see you in a few weeks when you come to visit Billings."

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What if we hate each other?

Our first face-to-face meeting was even more awkward than the video call! Myself, Nikki, her spouse, our Market President Aaron, and Director of Content Johnny all met at a completely empty restaurant that none of us had ever tried. Seriously, we were the ONLY table. The food was "meh", but the conversations seemed to go well.

Photos by Aaron Consalvi, TSM
Photos by Aaron Consalvi, TSM
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Flipping the studio.

So many people were involved in revamping a studio that has been unused for years. Dust bunnies were everywhere. In the next few weeks, old, unnecessary electronics were removed. The 1983-era countertop was replaced with fancy new quartz. They installed a huge new flatscreen on the wall, color-changing lights, and a special sound-deadening foam wall that resembles bricks.  A team of electrical/IT engineers spent days doing their thing. It's honestly one of the nicest-looking studios I've ever worked in.

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Ready, set, go.

Putting two strangers in a studio for the first time and turning on the microphones can sound pretty cringy, so they had Nikki and I do fake, off-air practice shows every day for a week, leading up to the real thing on Monday. As we got to know each other, I thought, "yeah, this is going to work out just fine."

Rachel Helgeson, TSM
Rachel Helgeson, TSM
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The first week flew by, despite a slew of random technical issues. On Day 1, the glue they used to hold down our microphone stands did not cure properly over the weekend, causing a frantic, last-minute scramble. Our phone line has been a fiasco as well, but 406-245-9700 should be working at this point. Save that number because we're LIVE, we're local, and I think you're gonna want to call our show.  We'll catch you in the mornings, starting at 6.

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