10 Questions with ... Michael Bower
February 3, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Until recently, I was the "ringleader" of "The Bower Show," a Sports Talk show on WUCS/Hartford, CT that was also simulcast on WAVZ-A/New Haven, CT. Recently, I fulfilled a childhood dream of being a "Jack Of All Trades" as a regular fill-in host at 96.9 Boston Talks (Political Talk), 97.3 KIRO/Seattle (News/Talk), 810 KGO and 560 KSFO in San Francisco (News/Talk) and 104.3 The Fan in Denver (Sports). I began my current East Coast residence after hosting a sports/pop-culture game for EA SPORTS in Orlando, FL. and hosting "The Bower Show" internationally on "Maxim Radio" for Sirius Satellite Radio.
1) What do you do to maintain a positive mental attitude and stay motivated?
A lot of little things that when totaled, don't give me the time or opportunity to feel un-motivated. An eight-month old daughter ... first and foremost. Additionally, I have been building a voiceover business out of the home doing audiobooks (three in total now) for Audible.com, commercial work for Justin Case over at Benztown and I am desperately trying to get an ISDN line put in my home with Frontier (they just took over for AT&T in CT) to give me some wiggle room on radio fill-in work for the rest of the year. Also, my producer/partner from my sports show in Hartford and I have been doing The Bower Show podcast twice a week for our listeners. It's doing very well and we are lucky enough to have established great relationships with some of our regular guests who have offered to join us on the podcasts as well.
2) Some people get discouraged or enlightened with the business when they actually step out of it for a while. Tell us your observations from the outside.
I don't think that discouragement is something I am capable of feeling right now. Having been in radio for over 20 years now, it's in my blood. It just is a part of me. The burning desire that I have to host a daily show just compels me to listen to more radio and really look for the good parts of what each host does. Regardless of whether I like the show or not. I listen to find things to make me better rather than spend time distraught that this guy has a job and I don't. I guess that is enlightenment, but I think the true enlightenment is just knowing that hosting is what I do, it's what I'm good at and what I keep learning. Every opportunity is an opportunity to improve.
3) Do you plan on sticking with radio?
Radio? Huh ... I don't know about radio. I'll stick with some form of spoken word entertainment, for sure. But I'm not sure that radio and its current yardstick to measure ratings is where I would choose to be. I'm also frustrated by the way things are being run in the business nowadays. So I am exploring other opportunities that will let me keep my feet based in entertaining, personality-based radio, but will also let me be my own boss. I feel like if I could find the "golden ticket" to help podcasts or online radio generate revenue, I'd feel pretty satisfied. Until then, I keep pursuing my dream of Talk radio domination.
4) What is the next job you'd like to obtain?
I have been holding out hope that there would be an outlet for FM Talk to be re-born. I don't think that the "Free FM " version of FM Talk was the right way to eschew that format out of the radio world. I think it needs to evolve. I think it can and it is with help from programmers like Larry Gifford and Owen Murphy when both were at KIRO/Seattle, Bo Matthews (formerly of WMMS, now of WEBN/Cincy), the vision of Grace Blazer (formerly of 96.9 in Boston -- now at Clear Channel/Miami) and Nate Lundy at KKFN/Denver. Additional programmers that I think can make that evolution occur are Andrew Paul (formerly of KNXT/Las Vegas), Ryan Hatch at KTAR/Phoenix and Jared Hart, now at WPHT.
5) Are you finding salaries/benefits lower than you ever thought, about the same, or have you seen some pleasant surprises?
How are all of these companies making radio work by turning full-time positions into part-time "gigs?" I think the biggest surprise has been the "hiring freezes" going on in our business, coupled with the seeming overflow of big companies hiring part-time people to do the job of what has always been two to three full time employees at a radio station. I get the need to save some money, but to see how those part-timers are working as opposed to how they are treated, all while executives in the company are signing massive contracts, is a huge motivating factor in deciding which companies to apply to.
6) With consolidation there are definitely fewer jobs. How do you separate yourself from the pack?
Depth and range. Having a great package to send perspective stations and a wide, WIDE range of abilities. I have heard time and time again from programmers that some of the resumes, airchecks and overall packages that they were receiving in regards to the opening were are all well below standards. I have done all forms of Rock radio, Top 40 and Talk radio. Music Director, APD and even Promotions Director ... Even regular shifts on Comedy radio. I have depth as a person and that reflects in my depth as a broadcaster.
7) Are you spending as much time listening to radio as you used to?
Frankly, yes and no. I do, but it's not through the "radio." It's through apps on my phone like Tunein that allow me to listen to The Sports Hub in Boston or The Ticket in Detroit. I get to listen to Real Radio Orlando and Fox Sports Radio -- even when they are nowhere near my current market. But I would have to say, I find as much -- if not more -- entertainment value in listening to podcasts. Not technically radio, although more and more are former radio hosts now hosting podcasts ... as soon as someone figures out how to harness those podcasts and generate revenue, radio may become the red-headed stepchild.
8) Are you able to slow down and enjoy free time doing things with your family and friends that you probably did not have time to do while you were working?
Yes. 100%. But there is always that feeling in the back of your mind that you have to make your house payment or to get the kids camp payment in. It's fantastic to be home for dinner with all of my girls, and I enjoy every second of it. My desire to get back to work and host an amazingly entertaining show is sometimes hamstrung by the love of teaching my eight-month-old how to sit up or by playing a very happy game of Uno with my seven-year-old.
9) What do you miss most about radio?
The least? I miss the passion for the music. The passion for the lifestyle. The ease with which prep and material came was presented and was received. There is something about appealing to the lifestyle that seems to only be prevalent in music radio. Talk seems to be required to be more "newsy" since Justin showed the world Janet's boob. Can't get too much into the lifestyle in Sports Talk because there are too many facts and opinions to dish out ... whether they are yours or not. But don't you dare bring your life on the air ... not when there are more LeBron stats to dish out. It's sad. It seems like programmers don't look at the big picture and apply an entire view of their audience when considering their programming. It's like they have become the person at the party who only has surface conversation with you and all the while is looking around for the next person to have a surface conversation with. Shallow and a severe lack of an attempt to understand your audience. Develop a relationship with your audience? How?! You have to win these five minutes of the PPM world ... no time for development.
10) What have you learned about yourself, others, or life in general in your downtime?
I have learned that there are a lot of really good programmers who "get" the way successful radio was done and where it has gone wrong. But they have also met up with unfortunate stat-driven decision makers who don't care about that. The analogy I heard that best described this is in relationship to the NFL. There was a time when the quarterback, running back or wide receiver were the star of the shows ... the ones who the fans bonded with. The personalities of radio won the game. In today's radio, the scorekeeper is the star. PPM, the MVP. I have learned that, with a few exceptions across the country, the word "entertainment" should have nothing to do with the radio medium. In radio, the stats on the back of the baseball card have become more important than the player providing them.
Care to contribute a recipe for our "On The Beach" cookbook?
"The Betty White"
My wife is a celebrity makeup artist and had been doing make-up on Betty White for a press tour. Betty was on The Daily Show and received a nice gift basket from the show. The basket included a bottle of Cherry-flavored vodka. Betty doesn't drink and gave the bottle to my wife. We didn't know what to do with it, so we went in search of a nice Summertime cocktail. This was the simple answer:
- 1 part Cherry Flavored Vodka
- 1 part San Pellegrino Limonata
- Fill glass 2/3 of the way with ice
- Pour in Cherry Flavored Vodka
- Add equal part San Pellegrino Limonata
- Enjoy your "Betty White."
Quick note: feel free to try the same mix with a Blackberry-Flavored Vodka. Enjoy a "Black Betty (White)."