24 Days Of Xmas – Day 1: Imaging the legendary…

This is our day 1 of 24 days to XMAS, which will give you a new blog article every day, you guessed it, till Christmas.
To jump right into day 1. Chris Mercado and I go way back. This time we had the time to connect on some questions I had considering his production style, his experience and of course the plugINs he is using on a daily basis.
Chris is a legend in the Urban imaging world, imaging the biggest Urban AC station in the country – WBLS. Check his bio, learn about his way into radio and what he is up to at the moment!
Enter Chris!


1. Which production system do you use and why?

Currently we’re using The Pro Tools HDX system running Pro Tools 12 but will be upgrading to Pro Tools 2018 and the brand new Mac mini’s by end of year. We love Pro Tools for what we do. It’s solid, powerful, predictable (in a good way) and has tons of support. The stock plug-ins are also great.

2. What are your favorite plug-Ins ?

We are plug-in junkies at the station. I choose the correct plug-in for whichever project I’m working on. I do have some favorites though. The Waves H-Delay is great. There ton of options to choose from plus controlling it in sync with tempo or tap helps keep everything nice and tight.

I also love the Waves C4 Compressor. I usually have that on my mix buss if not I’ll use the Avid Pro-Compressor. It’s a lot more aggressive but when you’re working with music that’s super low end heavy, you have to control and EQ it well. If not, you’ll have mud and conflicting frequencies fighting for the same space.

3. How do you schedule your work/priorities?

Even though it’s important in all market sizes, money, money, and money. What’s going on air first? Is it sponsored? Is it a partnership? Let’s get it on air and make it sound huge. After that, I usually work on the biggest most time consuming projects first then move on from there. I usually do mix show production like sweepers and drops last since they can be done so fast. I also do a ton of script writing.

4. What do you love about being the head of production for a legendary station like WBLS?

It’s truly an honor and I really mean that. This position didn’t really officially exist until our former General Manager created it. I work with a talented team of very experienced producers that are excellent at what they do. I have the responsibility of keeping the department together plus upholding the legacy of WBLS, HOT 97 and WLIB. We have a combined listenership of roughly 5 million every week. It’s a big gig. When artists come by which is all the time, there’s a genuine respect for the call letters and frequency.

5. What is the best pro tools or production trick anybody should know?

I want to keep the tricks in my super special production magician’s hat but I will share a few tips. Know as many short cuts as you can because when you’re in live sessions with artists and clients, you have to move fast and they’re going to expect a level of professionalism. Also, don’t be nervous to try different combinations of plug-ins to get the sound you’re looking for. It took me about a week to create settings to use on our station voice talent but once it was done, it was hot.

6. How do you get inspired and what do you use as source of creativity?

I rarely listen to other stations. I monitor to know what’s going on of course but I don’t fixate on it. I monitor stations outside of the market and believe it or not get most inspired by visuals. Movie trailers have to tell a vivid story in seconds like radio so I try to recreate that energy and writing when I’m coming up with ideas. I also listen back to older promos to see where I was skill wise then and where I’m at now then try to top that.

7. Who were your radio production idols, who influenced your work as a producer?

My first major market influence was definitely my former supervisor and Production Director Jay “Mixin’” Dixon at the former 98.7 Kiss FM in New York. Back then the major promos were all done on an Otari MX-5050 and a Yamaha SPX90 for reverb and effects. I have to also include Mitch Faulkner, Rick Allen, Ricky Roo, Dom Nero, and Bryan Apple. I’ve been really blessed to have worked or at least met most of these amazing producers.

8. What have been the key advices of your dad before you want in the radio business?

Wow, both of my parents trusted my judgment when I was offered an entry-level production position almost 30 years ago. They stressed finishing up college, having a back up plan and knowing when it’s time to get out. It was great advice and to this day I’ve never let them down.


An excerpt of Chris’ work: 

Sweeper “Good Luck”


Sweeper Rejoiner “So Long”


Sweeper “Grinding At The Job”


Sweeper “#1 For R&B”


Promo “Eras Of Music”


Promo “Pay Raise”



Chris “In The Mix” Mercado Bio

Recording engineer and producer, Chris “In The Mix” Mercado has been recognized as a thought leader, contributing to the development of Urban radio’s sound for more than 28 years. Currently serving as Creative Services Director for 107.5 WBLS, HOT 97 and 1190 WLIB’s New York operations, Mercado steers all audio production reaching 5M+ weekly listeners across the tri-state region. Honing his craft under the influence of powerhouses such as WBLS’s Steve Harvey, HOT 97’s Funkmaster Flex and WLIB’s Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Erica Campbell, and Pastor Donnie McClurkin has afforded him a wealth of life lessons directly from trusted cultural leaders. It was here his passion was not only ignited but also nurtured, driving him to reinvest his skills and talent in those who follow, while continuously striving for new heights. As part of the Programming team, his skills also include in depth training in diversity, focus groups, and the role of African-American and Latino inclusion plus the value of the Millenial mind.

Chris is no stranger to hard work, having worked his way up through increasingly responsible positions, including programming and production internships at the legendary 98.7 Kiss FM in New York City, 1989 to various audio production positions at sister station HOT 97 as well as Sirius Satellite Radio and Inner City Broadcasting/YMF Media. While acting as HOT 97’s Commercial Production Director and Remixer, Mercado was instrumental in advancing the station to its record highest level of broadcast quality. The cross-functional leader led station commercial production garnering up to $40M in revenue annually. He navigated all of this while overseeing show production for industry giants, including DJ Funkmaster Flex, DJ Clue, DJ Kay Slay, Mister Cee, and DJ Enuff. This coupled with Chris’ exceptional copywriting and music editing skills have been an integral driving force behind HOT 97’s signature sound. Chris Mercado is the mastermind producer behind the famed “Go Flex” and “Flex’s Bomb” sound bites, being recognized globally for nearly two decades. His hard work and innovation has helped propel HOT 97’s distinctive sound and solid production reputation to become the very standard against which most other Urban stations measure themselves.

If that’s not enough, Chris maintains strong partnerships with WBLS and WLIB, producing national commercials for various high-value clienteles, including Def Jam Records, Comcast, HBO, and Essence Magazine. He delivers voice over services for national ads in conjunction with top artists such as 2 Chainz, Jennifer Hudson, 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, and Bishop Hezekiah Walker. He has lent his production expertise to mix show imaging for Clinton Sparks, DJ Self, and DJ Enuff. Mercado operates as Audio Producer for the rapidly expanding, syndicated show, “Café Mocha” featuring Hip-Hop icon YoYo, Angelique, and comedienne Lonnie Love. He has been Executive Producer for the iconic “Classic Flavors” show, featuring Hip-Hop legend Chubb Rock and Bent Roc and produced the internationally syndicated show, “The Coast 2 Coast Hip-Hop Countdown”, which ran across multiple markets worldwide and on Sirius Satellite Radio for four years, boasting a listenership of 14M+.

When not working on industry initiatives, Chris contributes to the community as an instructor and mentor, having taught at The New School University. He holds a Black Belt in the art of Ninjutsu, was 12 of 35 participants graduating from a mind-body conditioning boot camp taught by Navy SEALs, is a fourth-degree member of The Knights of Columbus, and a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated. Mercado has been selected as a guest lecturer and panel member at New York, Howard, Hofstra, and Northern Illinois Universities as well as SUNY Albany. He has judged both the Essence/Pepsi Youth Awards and the Guitar Center International DJ Spin-off.

If you ask Chris Mercado, he will adamantly tell you that the key to his continued success has been his unwavering commitment to maintaining a positive and focused attitude. “I have a strong love of music, I understand the business and I am my market,” he says. “I remain humble and learn from the best every day.

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