Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the July 20 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
Veteran radio personality Jon Williams, as the Jay-Z song lyric goes, is not just a businessman. He’s a business, man.
Williams, 49, is president and CEO of Loyal and Royal Army Inc. (LRA Inc.) He is one half of the company’s primary asset, the long-running morning radio program “The Jon and Deek Show.” It ran for six years (2005-2011) on Clear Channel’s 93.3 KIGL-FM, five years (2011-2016) on Butler Broadcasting’s 104.9 KXNA-FM and since 2016 on Cumulus Media’s KRMW-FM 94.9.
The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal recognized Williams as a Forty Under 40 honoree in 2007, nearly 15 years after he launched his first morning show in 1993.
With Butler, Williams had a station for his morning show with longtime broadcast partner Derek “Deek” Kastner but also a business plan that earned him a percentage of sales from advertisers he brought in through LRA Inc.
“Steve Butler, rest his soul, had the vision to partner with us,” Williams recalled. “I wanted to have control over not just the content of my show but also who the advertisers were on my show.”
Williams said he modeled the idea from Chuck Barrett and Bo Mattingly, who hosted separate sports talk shows in the market several years ago.
“They owned their shows and controlled their advertising,” Williams said. “They were commissioned sales guys doing radio.”
With Cumulus, Williams still has independent ownership of the show and is responsible for securing all his advertising. But the signal strength is eight to 10 times stronger at the new station, which broadcasts into new markets, including Fort Smith.
With the show’s arrival, the station itself rebranded to 94.9 “Radio Jon/Deek.”
“Unless you’re on SiriusXM that just doesn’t happen for everybody,” Williams said. “In the eternal words of ‘The Godfather,’ they made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. We have complete musical control of the format, as well. We’ve loved it. We love our Cumulus team, and Derek and I love working together.”
“The Jon and Deek Show” airs twice a day Monday through Friday, from 6 to 10 a.m. and from 4 to 7 p.m. Williams describes it as a combination of local content and soundbites and observational humor blended with adult alternative music.
Even before starting a morning show, Williams and Kastner have worked together for 25 years. Williams is effusive in giving credit to his business partner for the show’s success.
“There are some talented radio people in Northwest Arkansas, but I have the most talented,” Williams said. “The reason our show is the best in Northwest Arkansas is that I can concentrate on sales, and I let Derek concentrate on imaging, content and producing our show. He’s also our music director. There is no way this would work if it weren’t for Derek. He is the last partner I’ll ever have, that’s for sure.”
Williams said he has a core group of 25 advertisers from year to year, dubbed “Official Partners of the Loyal and Royal Army.” The show’s Facebook page has about 25,000 followers, with roughly 5,000 more between Twitter and Instagram. That reach is a big reason why Williams says he isn’t just a radio DJ. He’s a content creator.
“Social media is a big component of what we do,” he said. “We have a fervent, hardcore base of people who interact with us, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Williams’ personality and talent have provided other opportunities in Northwest Arkansas. He is the public address (PA) announcer for several Razorback sports at the University of Arkansas, including gymnastics, women’s basketball, baseball and soccer. He also does some on-court promotional work during men’s basketball and football games.
Williams has also been a PA announcer for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals baseball team since 2007 and is the master of ceremonies for dozens of nonprofit events each year.
Because of COVID-19, however, Williams hasn’t done any PA work since March 11, a UA baseball game.
“I don’t know when I’m going to PA again,” he said. “Nobody knows. But I’m so fortunate and blessed to do as much as I get to do with the Razorbacks, Naturals, my show and nonprofits. I’m blessed that people ask me to do it.”