Radio Star

As a suburban Boston teen, Bruce Wells ’83 became captivated by rock ‘n’ roll radio. He dreamed of a career in the industry, and arrived in Ithaca to develop his expertise.

While spinning records as a deejay at WICB, however, he discovered the substantial amount of manual labor needed to keep the campus station on the air.

“It was a real pain,” recalls Wells, who lives in Scarsdale, New York, with his wife, Anne, and daughter, Julia. “Everything was manual, and I thought automation would help.”

Wells, who majored in television-radio, found a summer job with Radio Computing Services between his junior and senior years that led to an entry-level position upon graduation. Twenty-nine years later, he’s still with the same company, where he rose to become vice president of development. The company, now called RCS, was purchased six years ago by radio giant Clear Channel Communications.

RCS is the world’s leading vendor of broadcast software, much of it developed by Wells and used by thousands of stations around the world. That includes software that helps music directors schedule songs, maintain a music library and create music logs; a scheduling system for nonmusic elements, such as promos and jingles; and an automation system that lets stations direct their music from a personal computer.

Wells says radio stations like to play good songs that listeners want to hear. But they don’t want their listeners to hear them too often, so they’re spaced in a rotation to breed familiarity without the sense of repetition. For example, the software lets the music director be sure songs play only once a day or don’t repeat during drive-time. It also lets them create theme programs, such as songs about the rain on rainy days.

The software has proved a necessity in the 21st century, as commercial radio, like other legacy media such as newspapers and network television, cut back on personnel to remain viable in the digital age.

“You can’t do radio without computers these days,” says Wells.

Wells’s expertise in the communications industry spills over into his civic life. He’s immediate past president of the Scarsdale Forum, a civic organization that promotes municipal reform, and webmaster at the 1,400-member Westchester Cycle Club.

Wells developed a website for the bike club that automated the club’s ride schedule and membership system. He also created an e-commerce system that allows members to register online for paid events. About 1,000 rides a year are scheduled with Wells’s software, which he has shared with other clubs in the region.

Wells, who commutes four miles by bike to work year-round, estimates he cycles about 5,000 miles a year, which includes rides with his wife and daughter on a custom-made triple—a bicycle built for three. Since 1989, he has led the club’s Double Century—a 200-mile loop from Purchase, New York, to Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and back. Wells and his riding partners convene in Purchase after 10 hours in the saddle to quaff their thirst with bottles of Wells’s ice-cold home-brewed ale.

“I love the physical exertion, the camaraderie, and seeing the scenery whizzing by,” he says. “There’s nothing like riding.”