Charese Fruge’ Talks To Dominique Higdon

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “The Bigger Picture” series, written by Charese Fruge on February 8, 2022 

Dominique Higdon is currently the Programming Specialist and Curator for the Hip Hop department at Pandora, and the Music Director for Pandora Now on SiriusXM. One of her biggest successes has been the relaunching of the “Women in Hip Hop” station which was promoted by Cardi B when it first relaunched. This station has grown from having under 300k monthly listeners to over 950k monthly listeners since the relaunch. Her resume and experience are extremely impressive. The only way to describe her is “Badass!”

“My focus since joining the Pandora team is breaking emerging artists; I love to see artist’s win,” says Higdon. “As the Hip Hop Specialist, I work with a dynamic team that has a passion for the streaming space and has a hands-on impact with current and emerging artists in the genre. I love how my position in this department always keeps me on my toes. From programming Hip Hop stations and playlists to meeting weekly with record label representatives, we are striving to bring new and intriguing content to the Pandora music brand that will resonate with our listeners.”

“As the Music Director for Pandora Now on SiriusXM, my primary responsibility is assisting my PD, Joshua “J1” Raiford and APD, Melony Torres, with rotations for the station,” explains Higdon. “Alongside my programming duties, I’ve also spearheaded the growth of Pandora Now SiriusXM’s social platforms by booking emerging artists to showcase their talents and music on the station’s Instagram Live series. Artist’s that have been featured on this series vary from Earthgang to Lil’ Migo.”

Dominique started her career in traditional radio in college. She had her own radio show while at High Point University from 2011 to 2015. From 2012-2015 she also interned at WJMH (102 Jamz). “During my internship at 102 Jamz in Greensboro, NC, I worked with great people who helped train me and make me the person I am today: Waleed, Tap Money, Horse Rainy, Big Mo, and so many more,” she says. From 2015-2016 she interned at Radio One DC. “I started my internship for the “Russ Parr Morning Show,” she says, “I then became the local producer for the ‘Russ Parr Morning Show.’ Following my time doing that, I interned for Neke Howse, former PD for 93.9 WKYS. During my internship with Neke, I learned the basics of radio programming which included: Music Master, rotations, staff scheduling, and much more. In addition to my internship, I also worked as a board operator for 93.9 WKYS and Majic 102.3 and 92.7 during overnight shifts,” she explains. “I continued gaining producer experience by filling in as the interim producer for ‘The Fam in the Morning’ with QuickSilva and Lil’ Mo. As the interim producer, my responsibilities included booking guests, board operating, and providing daily show prep and content for each show.”

“Following my internship with former 93.9 WKYS PD, Neke Howse, Kashon Powell, OM and VP/Programming, promoted me to Programming Assistant for the DC Market working under her leadership. My responsibilities included assisting her with multiple tasks and projects for the Radio One DC cluster and assisting newly hired PD of 93.9

WKYS, Joshua “J1” Raiford as he took over the station after Neke’s departure. While working under Kashon’s and J1’s leadership, we created and produced major events such as station concerts, award shows, community events that benefitted non-profit organizations, and much more.”

As a little girl, Dominique always knew what her purpose in life would be. “I knew my purpose was to elevate and be a gamechanger in the music industry. Music has always been a passion of mine,” she says. “From visiting the radio station with my uncle, Russ Parr, back in the day, to watching one of my favorite movies, ‘Brown Sugar,’ I knew this industry was a space where I wanted to explore and flourish,” she says. “I can’t say I have just one person that has helped champion my career in radio. I’m so fortunate to have a tribe of friends and mentors that have helped shape me into the person I am today. Russ Parr, Waleed, Tap Money, Horse Rainy, Neke Howse, Kashon Powell, Talya Johnson-Floyd, Quicksilva, Lil’ Mo, and my current boss, J1, have all played an influential role in my radio journey. Their genuine advice and helpful feedback have taught me countless lessons that I still apply to my everyday tasks and productivity in my current position. Not to mention, I previously worked as J1’S Programming Assistant at Radio One’s Hip and R&B station in Washington, DC, 93.9 WKYS, which is how I got to where I am today.”

Having worked in both traditional and now satellite/streaming radio, of course I had to ask her the obvious question, “What is the benefit of satellite vs. traditional signals?” Higdon told me, “The benefits of satellite services are that they are an easy listen. Satellite services are commercial free, focus primarily on the music and are more aggressive when it comes to breaking new music and artists. Traditional radio is more content driven. They have frequent commercials and breaks for jocks to talk during stop sets etc. Traditional radio tends to move a little slower when it comes to the pace of music, and they don’t take huge risks like satellite services do when it comes to the constant evolution of music.”

Dominique admits the business has been good to her so far. “I’ve always had a passion for breaking artist’s records and seeing them succeed. During my tenure in the industry, I’ve assisted breaking records for major artists such as Lil’ Baby, Moneybagg Yo, City Girls, DJ Khaled, and more.” she says. “Not only am I constantly learning new skills in programming, but I’ve also worked alongside a successful team during my time in radio creating events that varied from concerts and awards shows to experiential meet and greets with major artists,” explains Higdon. “In streaming and satellite radio, one of my biggest successes thus far has been the relaunch of our ‘Women in Hip Hop’ station in which Cardi B was one of the artists that helped promote the station. This was such a huge win for me because her promoting the relaunch would aide in significant growth and listenership to the station. Lastly, being selected as a member of the Recording Academy Class of 2021 was a simple reminder that my hard work is being noticed and recognized.”

Higdon admits, nothing worth fighting for comes without its challenges. “As we all know, working in this industry can be a thankless job and during certain moments in my career

I’ve struggled with feeling overlooked and not getting compensated properly, she says. Perseverance and a strong work ethic helped me to realize that hard work will pay off. As my career continues to evolve, I’m grateful I went through these hardships because they’ve helped shape me into the careerwoman I am today. It’s important to remember this is a marathon, not a sprint.”

“We can all also agree that the pandemic has taken an emotional and mental toll on us these past two years,” she adds. “Although we continue to push through this time of uncertainty, I feel like the pandemic has impacted my life in a positive way. I’ve prioritized creating healthy fitness goals and normalizing self-care. Yoga and daily meditation have been key exercises that have helped me manage my stress and anxiety,” explains Higdon. “While I’m a perfectionist, and put a lot of pressure on myself, during those times – I take a moment to talk with my family and friends, volunteer in the community, and stay active with my health and fitness goals to help with balance in my daily routines. I also love getting dolled up in my favorite pair of heels and going out to a restaurant because #selfcare. Self-care is one of the most important principles to balancing mental peace in a fast-paced industry.”

As a programmer, Dominique understands the lack of equality among men and women in management, particularly on the programming side. She sees a big need for the encouragement of more women to take on these kinds of roles moving forward. “Women are the main consumers of music, and we need to capitalize on that,” she says. “Artists’ and their teams heavily rely on a woman’s feedback and musical insight. We play such a major role in this male dominated part of the industry, so I think it’s important to have more female programmers and curators. From my experience, women program, and curate primarily on the R&B side, so I would love to have more women join me in Hip Hop.”

As for what’s ahead for Dominique in 2022, “Although we are still in the midst of a life-changing pandemic, I’m extremely optimistic and excited for what’s in store this year,” she says. “I want to continue to break more emerging artists along with gaining more traction and recognition to the Pandora/SiriusXM brand. I’ve also given myself a personal goal to give back to the community and share my journey with women who are interested in getting started in this industry. On March 5th, I have the pleasure of speaking during Women in Radio’s 6th Annual Conference about my experience in music. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and looking forward to giving insight to women who are hoping to get their start in this industry.”

Higdon added, “Major shout out to Cathey Hughes for paving the way for black radio and my time at her company. Russ Parr, J1, Kashon Powell, Colby Cob, ,Waleed, Tap Money, Horse Rainy, Neke Howse, Sherri Warren , Akil ,Kelson , DJ Gemini, Wilt Wallace, Keinon Johnson , EZ Street , Monique Davis-Cary, Chris Green, Jackie Paige , Paris Nicole , Leah Bekele, Amir Boyd, Brittany O, Jaosn , Troy Marshall , Danielle Lott , Damon Lott, Lorel , Angie Ange , Geo Bivens ,Madelne Woods, Janine Brunson- Johnson, Talya Johnson-Floyd, Quicksilva, Lil Mo, Melony Torres and more have all played an influential role in my radio journey.”

Follow Dominique Higdon on Instagram: @fancydomo