With SiriusXM Program Director, Ben Harvey

Photo by: Andres Nieto

My Background:

I got started at WBRU in Providence, RI, when I was in college at Brown. It’s one of the only student-run commercial stations in the country, so it was a great training ground and helped me get noticed by major market radio. After graduation I got hired to do the night show at Y100 in Philadelphia, my hometown, and then I went on to do nights at K-Rock in New York City. Once Howard Stern left K-Rock for SiriusXM I hopped around from gig to gig. Like many people, I experienced the consequences of the recession, and I realized that early success in your field doesn’t guarantee stability. Life isn’t always a straight trajectory, it’s a zig-zagged line.

Eventually I managed to work my way in to SiriusXM, hosting on BPM, the electronic music channel, and I’ve been in my current role as program director for the Chill and Utopia channels for almost four years now.

My Passion for Radio:

I was obsessed with Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. Every Sunday I listened from start to finish, all the way up until his sign off line: “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.

My uncle worked at WABC radio in New York City as an engineer, and I loved going to work with him to see what radio was like behind the scenes. Since I was too young to work at a real radio station I created my own in my parents’ attic. I built a transmitter, connected it to CD players, a cassette deck, and a mixing board. I called it “WBEN.” I think the signal went halfway down the block!

A Day in the Life as Program Director at SiriusXM:

It’s the best of both worlds, getting to be a host on-air and also involved behind the scenes programming music. I spend my mornings prepping for my BPM show, which airs from 2–6pm every weekday. In the afternoon I work on scouting out new music, meeting with record labels, scheduling music logs, and writing station imaging.

There’s never a dull moment at SiriusXM — some days you’ll walk into the lobby and see a member of the Real Housewives alongside a member of the rock band Korn alongside a priest from the Catholic Channel. It’s wild!

Overcoming My Biggest Challenge:

I got a rare blood disorder called HLH, which is treated with chemotherapy. It sidelined me from work for a good few months, followed by another few months of gaining my strength (and my hair!) back.

Basically, I got sick as a result of a medication I was taking for Crohn’s disease, which I’ve had since a teenager. You know all the things they read really fast at the end of those commercials for Crohn’s meds? I got one of those freak rare disorders they allude to, and one with a low survival rate, so I was incredibly lucky to come out on the other side. On Facebook I found a small community of people affected by HLH, and every summer there is a 5K run to benefit HLH research and awareness. I’m celebrating 18 months healthy, and this July will be my second 5K run.

Lessons Learned:

I’ve always joked that working in radio we aren’t exactly curing cancer… but in all honesty I know that music is transformational and has the power to heal people. Listening to Chill helped me with my recovery, for sure. Electronic music in particular is so emotional, and listeners are all going through their own experiences, good and bad. So from this whole weird experience I gained another level of perspective that helps me with programming my channels.

Key to Success:

I think it’s finding a balance between confidence and humility. In this day and age of over-sharing, you have to tread the line between being yourself and being TMI. It’s a tough balancing act, and I’m still trying to figure it all out. But whatever your medium of choice — radio, TV, podcast, blogging, YouTube, or social media — if you present your authentic self — that should do the trick. And if being you doesn’t work out…then there’s always politics.

~Ben Harvey

Catch Ben Harvey on BPM: 2–6p ET weekdays ch 51. Program Director and as SiriusXM Chill ch 53 | SiriusXM Pop2K ch 10

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~Feature in collaboration with/produced by: Jeff Gorra