(Original Photo By: Bill Ratel)

When it comes to music, everyone has his/her own set of favorites. Whether it’s an entire genre or a specific artist, we gravitate towards the sounds we love. But how do we find them? How do we sift through the endless wormholes of the music world and identify with a certain sound that conjures a following? Mike Popadines, Associate Manager & Programming of Indie & Dance/EDM at Music Choice is one of the men behind the curtain that helps us find the perfect song.

Growing up heavily involved in athletics, Mike and his brothers were able to develop a great sense of healthy competition. Although he didn’t pursue sports long-term, he was able to take a lot of those self-motivational skills and apply them to his future career in the music industry. He eventually discovered an interest in writing during his middle school and high school years, which sparked the idea of a career in journalism.

Mike went on to attend Kutztown University in Pennsylvania where he pursued a degree in English, but it wasn’t until he started working for Kutztown University’s radio station that he started to really find his niche. With freedom to create his own playlists geared towards students in various genres and moods, Mike made the job about sharing good music that people would love rather than churning out the top hits of the week.

“I started thinking about all of the awesome people on the radio who had been doing it for years, and I was probably a little naïve about it because I was so young. I assumed audiences would want a young person who could just jump right in and talk, but those guys had been doing it for years and all over the country. They totally deserved to be where they were and I respected that. However, after graduating I thought I could really be something because of my prior experience. I told myself ‘If I could just get to know the right people…put myself in a great town or city and find openings every single day for something, something has got to happen.’ That’s when I got my first radio job. Whenever I’ve been given a huge opportunity like that I know I have to give it everything I have. I was working overnight, working in promo departments, doing street team stuff, etc. I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to really show these guys that they picked the right person to be there and that I was going to stick around awhile and climb up.”

Soon enough, Mike’s hard work paid off as he networked, built relationships with others in the industry and finally settled into the rhythm of his career with Music Choice. One of the most important things Mike found he could do as he climbed the ladder was meeting people. By attending conferences and finding a way to grasp what the generations before him had done to make it all work, Mike was able to appreciate the hard work required to become successful. That sort of understanding has inspired him from day one.

On the other hand, a career in the music industry, whether on the artistic or business side, can be scary. The general public’s change of taste over time plays a major role in who makes it and who doesn’t. Music Choice, however, seems to stick to the very same values Mike upheld in his time in college radio. Play good music, and the rest will fall into place.

“What has always been pretty intimidating is when new platforms arise every couple of years like Pandora, Spotify, or Apple Music and you wonder if music consumers are going to suddenly stop listening to what they’ve listened to in the past and just jump ship. That’s a little scary. What has given me reassurance is that Music Choice is well known – people know who we are, we’ve been doing this since the 80s, and I think we do it great. What I think makes us stand out is that we aren’t robots. There are no algorithms behind what you see and hear on our screen; it is someone’s actual mind and work going into it. We know our audience. And we’re nation-wide, so we know what might work in New York isn’t necessarily going to work in LA.”

Outside of maintaining the integrity of Music Choice’s listener-first values, Mike Popadines would love to see the return of a program along the lines of the original MTV. Growing up watching shows like 120 Minutes and Headbanger’s Ball, there was a lot more dialogue between artists and jocks and significantly less of the “you can only listen to this new single if you subscribe” type of services.

“I still have these childhood dreams of MTV being what it once was – the emphasis on the music video. I think that sadly over time it has been swept under the rug. You can find music videos on YouTube and everything, but to have a hub on TV again would be incredible. I’ve read so many articles about how it’s impossible and there is no money behind it and ‘why would you want to wait to cycle through the TV lineup when you can go and find it online.’ It would be great to have that again, but I also understand that there is a reason it went away. I would love to see more polarizing directors and people that are really just in it for the music. If they like a song, they’re going to play it. They aren’t going to care if the label is pushing it or some other outside source. A hit is a hit, and good music should rise to the top. I think that applies to any genre, not just the dance world.”

Until the day comes that our nostalgia is replaced by the original MTV programming’s return, or something unforeseeably better, Mike plans to establish himself as a mentor figure for others that wish to build a career for themselves in the music industry. By taking on more leadership roles in his future endeavors, he hopes to offer a lifeline of sorts for those who may be facing the same fears that he once did in his beginning stages.