10 Questions with ... Gator Michaels
March 18, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
After a decade of success in Country radio, I moved to Nashville to work in record promotion. Bobby Young took a chance on me at YMH promotion and at Young-Olsen & Associates. From there I moved to label gigs at Dreamcatcher Entertainment, Warner Bros. and Davis Music Group. Last September, I opened InstiGator Entertainment and here we are.
1) How are things going with Instigator so far? What are you excited about in 2012 for the company?
It's been great so far. Reception to the new company has been terrific from the Nashville community and from radio. As we head into 2012, I am most excited about the group of people that have joined the InstiGator family. They are all fantastic at their jobs and wonderful human beings!
2) What was the driving force behind your decision to start Instigator?
I'm excited about the future of music. We're at a crossroads in the business and it's creating huge opportunities for artists. Kent Blazy told me recently "it feels like the 60's again." It's more about the music and not the company that delivers it. The perfect example is this year's Grammy winners, with 34 of the 78 awards were won by artists on Indie labels!
3) What first drew you to working in Country music and did you listen to Country growing up?
I grew up in Northeastern Oklahoma, so Country music has always been a part of my life, but not always my first choice of music. I will never forget the first time I heard George Strait on KVOO. At the time it changed my musical taste, but looking back it actually changed my life.
4) I know you started in radio. What made you decide to move to the promoter side and do you miss anything about working in radio?
I was a naïve kid from a small town in Oklahoma. I can't play, can't write and can't sing. Radio was my way to be a part of the music. I had no idea how the business side of the music worked and certainly didn't know how to find my way into that world. After a few years in radio Nashville called to me and I found my place in the world.
Radio is full of great people. That's what I miss, the people. I'm very lucky to still get to work with those people on a daily basis.
5) What's the best part about having your own company? The hardest part?
I have a lot of ideas and strong opinions on how things should be done. Being free of "how it's always been done" is liberating and invigorating. Our goal is to serve the music and make the right choices for each situation. That's also the hardest part. Doing the right thing is rarely easy. If it was, then everyone would all always do the right thing.
6) You have been a part of the team behind a lot of great singles in Country radio. Can you play favorites and tell us a few of the hits that you have been most proud of through the years?
"Buy Me A Rose" by Kenny Rogers was my first #1 at a label. I am so honored to be a tiny footnote in his career.
The launch of "Mississippi Girl" was a lot of fun. We were in Vegas for the ACMs and there were 3 or 4 of us in my hotel room calling radio together. The energy was incredible. We ended the day with 114 first week adds and Faith kicked ass on the show.
The Wreckers "Leave The Pieces" was a great ride and "Stand Still, Look Pretty" is a brilliant album of which I am very proud. And as long as I'm playing favorites, Michelle is at the top of that list.
7) I'm sure you have seen a lot of changes in the industry over the years. What do you think has been the biggest difference from when you started versus the current Nashville business music biz?
Technology, without a doubt. This has always been a fluid business, but it changes so fast now it's crazy. How can you not love it?
8) Are there any newer acts in Country music that you think will have the chance to make it big and what do you think is the key to success for upcoming Country artists?
There are a lot of artists coming up that will change the landscape of our format. There are no magical keys that will unlock their career. Hard work and persistence are required. Believe you deserve it more than the world believes you don't.
9) Who would you count among your mentors inside and outside of the business? What is the best advice you've ever gotten?
Personally, it's my Mom. She worked 2 jobs and raised 3 kids on her own.
David Haley is my hero professionally. I can't even begin to explain how much I learned from him. Bill Bennett, Tom Whalley, Kenny Rogers all were key in my development in this business. The best piece of advice ever...
"You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."
Seriously-Kenny taught me a lot about managing people. He told me to be careful about how I treat my staff "because people have a tendency to live up or down to your expectations". I think about that almost every day.
10) You're worn a lot of hats in the music industry but if you were to try something completely different outside the industry, what would your dream job be?
Head Football Coach at the University of Oklahoma.
1) What's your favorite place to travel to and what should we do there?
Southwestern Montana. Climb a mountain and just be with the one you love.
2) What was the first concert you ever attended?
Willie Nelson at Chicago Fest on Navy Pier in 1970 something
3) What's your guilty pleasure?
"GLEE" and I'm dragging Charlie Cook down with me. He convinced me to give it a shot and now I love it.