There are two types of rock stars.
There’s the kind in skintight leather pants, gyrating on stage in front of a wind machine for hordes of screaming fans. And there’s the less conspicuous, behind-the-scenes type, controlling every detail of the show with technical precision.
On paper, Ben Bonora, the director of engineering at Audacy, reads like the latter. But pull back the curtain just a little and you’ll find, he’s actually a bit of both.
Growing up in California, Bonora was fueled by his passions for food and music. He postponed college to work in his father’s restaurants and make music, until he enrolled at Central Washington University to study information technology. Eventually, he was able to combine his interests and education with a career at Audacy in Seattle.
“My love of music is what attracted me to work at Audacy,” Bonora said. “Audacy owned stations that I grew up and identified with, including 107.7 which broke out bands like Nirvana, Weezer and Beck. It was exciting to see how the sausage was made and have access to the stations that I’d idolized for so long.”
Audacy is a Philadelphia-based multi-platform audio content and entertainment company encompassing broadcast radio, podcasts, digital audio platforms and live events acoss music, news and sports. Originally founded in 1986 as Entertainment Communications (aka Entercom), the company got its start by acquiring popular FM radio stations across the country. By 2017, it took a leading role in the innovation of audio content, first acquiring CBS Radio to become the second largest radio broadcasting group in the nation, launching RADIO.COM the following year as the exclusive platform for streaming its portfolio of stations, developing brand partnerships with the likes of HBO and Netflix, and diving into the podcast market through its acquisition of brands such as Pineapple Street Studios, Cadence 13 and Podcorn.
As the company has evolved, so has Bonora’s role. Twelve years ago, he began as the digital director for Audacy’s Seattle cluster of radio stations. As such, he created and maintained the digital promotions, marketing assets, email campaigns and websites of each station. The job also came with a life-changing perk for music-obsessed Bonora.
“One of the walls in my office was glass and looked directly into our studio performance space,” he said. “I was able to watch some really big acts come through and play live music 50 feet from me in the most intimate setting. It was super cool.”
From there, Bonora moved on to the corporate digital team, taking a leading role in selecting the technology and building out the functionality for a new open source content management system.
When the company later merged with CBS Radio, Bonora’s skills were again called upon to begin Audacy’s transition from broadcast company to audio technology company.
“At that time, it felt like we took on a startup mentality,” he said. “We were trying to be present in the space, moving fast to get things out there and be at the table. We had to transition how we thought about ourselves — to look and act like a technical company in terms of our processes and becoming agile.”
Today, still located in Seattle as the director of engineering for internal tools and workflows, Bonora leads a team of 20 in developing and maintaining Audacy’s content management system, and building out the next generation of microservices for the brand’s latest and greatest native iOS and Android apps.
“It’s been exciting to watch the company’s evolution and digital transformation,” said Bonora, who has had two children over the course of his tenure at Audacy. “I enjoy the emphasis on engineering and being a tech company that views our teams as a critical part of the company’s success.”
Over the last 12 years, Bonora has been center stage throughout Audacy’s growth from broadcast to tech company. And though he may not wear leather pants or own a wind machine (that we know of), his continued commitment to music and audio innovation is most certainly deserving of rock star status.
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