10 Questions with ... Trent Michaels
April 12, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started in radio back in '78 at WYSO, at the ultra-hippie Antioch College in Yellow Springs OH. I was the geeky 13-year-old kid allowed to participate in a weekly show, "as we see it, music and prospective by area students." I must confess, I first fell in love with the medium then. Even through the high school years, I was the DJ kid, working at skating rinks, teen clubs and later spinning in the grown-up clubs (with a fake ID) in and around my hometown. After high school I joined the Army, became a Military Policeman, served my tour, took my college cash and enrolled in college, majoring in Mass Media, and upon graduation in '92, begged Jonny Diaz for a job at WKZQ in Myrtle Beach. I did overnights, weekends and anything else a hungry, fresh-out-of-school guy does, and paid attention. At WKZQ I had guys like Banana Jack and Mixin Dixon Morrison to bug the hell out of and learn from.
Then I started the odyssey... Nights in Richmond doing the new "Hot Country." Garth, AJ, and Reba where all starting the new Country revolution and I put on a cowboy hat and ended up with a 30 share doing one of the first "All-Request Hot Country Parties" at night in the nation. I was then offered afternoons at the world-famous KYKZ in Lake Charles. There I was taught the art of real Country radio. R&R ranked my PM drive third in the nation. After KYKZ, I was hired by Joel Burke at WOGY in Memphis, where I became "Wart Cleaver" and had the chance to take a daily masters class in radio from Joel himself, one of the smartest guys I have ever met. I then bounced down to Jackson, WKTF, where I worked and learned from yet another one of radio's best, Buddy Vanarsdale.
After Jackson I made the jump to "Modern Rock" mornings in Roanoke. There, programming God Bob Travis himself and his wife bought a signal and built Z-101, truly one the best Modern Rockers on the East Coast then. From Roanoke, I went to Indy, where I did mornings, then off to Taiwan! ICRT in Taipei asked me to give Asia and Taiwan a taste of "American Radio," so I went and I did, and what a great time it was. 9/11 happened here in the States and I decided to work back on American soil, so I went back to Louisiana, where I did mornings at the Buzz in Shreveport, then off to mornings at Lick 106 in Little Rock, then Ranch Radio in Fort Worth, to my last radio gig, mornings and PD and WKMX in hell on earth, Dothan. Dothan is where I truly had my fill of corporate folk. After 19 years of full-time commercial broadcast radio, I was done. I moved west to Burbank, and through a friend of a friend, I started working in the voiceover industry, where I have been able to not only make a living, but have a life ... a very boring, mundane life. I have always been a radio dude, and I now I want to return. Radio is on its way back and I want to be a part of it.
1) What do you do to maintain a positive mental attitude and stay motivated?
Since I left radio, I have had the chance to work in the voiceover industry here in Los Angeles; apparently the thousands of radio spots I wrote, cut and produced over the years helped me develop the traits needed to work. Since I decided to try and return to the air, I feel like a kid waiting for prom night.
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 have been "enlightened." Stepping away has allowed me to take a more critical look at the industry, allowing me better insight on creating programming that not only hits the targets, but allows for built-in marketing pathways. If done correctly, radio has the best ROI.
3) Do you plan on sticking with radio?
Yes, yes, a million times YES!
4) What's the longest stretch you've had on the beach?
Now. I have been off the air for almost five years ... a much needed sabbatical.
5) What is the next job you'd like to obtain?
I'm holding out for a Top 100 opportunity. I fancy myself a "morning primary, and a very tactical programmer. This next phase of my broadcast life, I don't want to go the radio vagabond route. I'm looking for chemistry with my new home.
6) What's the most unbelievable on-air bit you were allowed to do?
"The Great American Penis Pump Giveaway" in Indy. I hosted mornings, got Doc Johnson, the maker of adult toys to not only BUY ad time, but allow me to give away five on air. I invited the girlfriends/partners to tell their tale of woe. The best story won. Fantastic phones ... great week on-air.
7) With consolidation, there are definitely fewer jobs. How do you separate yourself from the pack?
I worked very hard learning from the best in the industry. I'm very fluent in research, marketing and programming. Call this a bonus: I'm a master of connection across all platforms.
8) Are you spending as much time listening to radio as you used to?
Yes, the Los Angeles market is a Masters class in radio. No matter the brand, the executions are for the most part flawless. My kind of radio for sure.
9) What have you learned about yourself, others, or life in general in your downtime?
First, I learned how to be "human" again. Then I started working on not being a dick. It's a fantastic feeling to wake up and not be pissed off. My last signal made me hate what I was doing. I spent time finding out "why," and more time figuring out how to really deal with it. I really suggest everybody take a sabbatical at some point in their radio journey.
10) How will this experience change you when you get back to work?
Being out for a while has profoundly changed me. Have you ever said, "I wish I knew that then?" Today, I can say "I KNOW THAT NOW!"
Your favorite new diversion is ...
Riding my motorbike on PCH. Can't put the feeling into words. Dana Point to Ventura will change your life every time you ride it.