10 Questions with ... Bill May
March 1, 2016
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
My first job was at 1340 WBGN in Bowling Green, Ky., while I was attending Western Kentucky University. Every piece of equipment was early to mid-'60s gear, which was challenging. The cool part was cueing up 45s from the '60s, including Vee Jay Records singles from The Beatles and an original "Stairway To Heaven" single that was only serviced to radio.
My early influences were Tom Owens, Ron Clay, Terry Meiners, Brian Christopher, Bill Baily, George Lindsey, Smokey Rivers, Bryan Locke and basically anyone on WQMF, WKQQ, WLRS, WKDF or Rock 106 in Nashville in the late '70s or early '80s.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
I was such a music fan growing up (I have ZERO musical talent). Rock radio was my passion, but I don't think I fell in love with the business until I got to work for Tom Owens at WQMF and one of the best morning shows in the history of Louisville -- The Show with No Name with Ron Clay and Terry Meiners. Ron and Terry showed me that great radio is about creativity and content, not voice quality or hitting a post.
3) You've programmed in big markets like San Diego, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and New Orleans, but you also had a nice run as regional VP/OM for the (then-called) Clear Channel in Albuquerque, NM. What are some of your proudest programming moments?
I've had so much fun everywhere I've been. My proudest moments are seeing the people I worked with continue to grow and succeed. Salt Lake was a magical time. I took over a dead station, and in 18 months, my morning show with Mick and Allen went from 16th to 1st with Persons 25-54, and the station moved from 19th to 3rd. Kayvon Motiee was my night guy then and now he is a station manager in Salt Lake.
Seeing Shauna Moran grow from the Promotions Director at KIOZ in San Diego to being the PD of KIOZ and KGB is AMAZING ... she is a brilliant programmer. I also got to watch Tony Manero in Albuquerque grow into my replacement there.
I am so lucky to have worked with so many great people. I even got to go home and program the first Rock station I worked for -- WQMF in Louisville.
4) You joined Premiere Networks in 2010 to oversee programming for the syndicated Sixx Sense with Nikki Sixx and The Side Show Countdown with Nikki Sixx. The show reaches nearly 3.5 million listeners per week. You must love how this show has developed over the years. What's the secret sauce that makes it work?
Well, first you have to find someone with something to say and Nikki is never without an opinion! The main goal from the time I walked in the door was to show his humanity and to let the audience see the normal world through his lens.
He is a ROCK STAR in every sense of the word, but he is also a family man with four kids and a wife. He goes to the grocery store, he watches football. He is a guy who has a lot going on in his life (a couple bands, radio shows, best-selling books, photography) and we try and show who he is every night. His on-air partner Jenn Marino is an amazingly skilled and talented air personality in her own right and has really helped Nikki grow even more as a talent.
5) Your role has since expanded to oversee programming for many of Premiere's leading Talk and Entertainment programs. Give us the highlights of what shows you're working on in addition to Sixx Sense?
In no particular order (although if you are on hundreds of stations around the world, you have to go first):
- Coast To Coast AM with George Noory. George and his team are a dream to work with. He understands what his show is about better than just about any talent I have ever worked with.
- The JohnJay & Rich Show. It's a great Top 40/Hot AC morning show out of Phoenix that we started syndicating a couple years ago. They are such students of the craft, extremely talented and hilarious. The two of them are so different, but they have a shared focus on the success of the show that's inspiring.
- The Rendezvous with Simon and Kim. One of the more unique shows I've ever worked with. It's a relationship and love advice show for late nights on Hot AC stations. Simon was born and raised in France and has a strong French accent that the ladies just love. He is the romantic on the show and Kim Iversen is the skilled and talented pro who drives the show and will tell you how it is. *
- My newest show is America Now with Meghan McCain. Yes, she's Sen. John McCain's daughter. We put her on the show last July and she just keeps growing and improving by the day. She is never without a strong opinion, and as a millennial Republican, she has a unique point of view!
6) What's it like to work behind the scenes for some of iHeartMedia's biggest live events including the annual iHeartRadio Music Festival. What's in store for this year's event?
Most people look at these events and all they see is the incredible performers. I am such a radio geek that all I see are these incredible on-air personalities I get to work with. At last year's festival, I had the pleasure of working with Elvis Duran, as well as Danielle and Bethany from his team, The Breakfast Club, Big Boy with Natalia and Louis G, Bobby Bones and Amy, Kane, JohnJay and Rich, and Woody. I get to work with all these wonderful people and see the magic they can bring to an already magical event. The part I am sure no one will believe, but it is the absolute truth, is that every one of these talented people leave their egos at the door and work together. Two years ago, we closed the show with Elvis, Nessa, Bobby, Amy and Charlamgne Tha God doing a recap, and it just made me smile to see Top 40 guys and Country guys and Urban guys having so much fun together.
As for this year's event, I am waiting like the rest of the world to find out what surprises are in store!
7) You've had a strong career in Rock programming and I know you have no shortage of strong opinions. What's your take on current Active Rock music?
It sucks. Many major labels are out of the Rock business or close to it. Our industry is trying too hard to find the next Five Finger Death Punch (great band), but we need new sounds. We need to look on the fringes of our format to find real hits that can crossover to other formats. Not sure if The Struts (love them) are it, but we need more variety of sounds like The Struts in the Active Rock world.
8) I spoke with you recently after the State of Active Rock panel at the recent Radio Contraband Rock convention. Give us your programming thoughts on Active Rock radio and its future moving forward.
Play real hit records! Look at what Shauna Moran is doing at KIOZ. She plays a lot of so-called Alternative currents with Active Rock gold. She is killing it in San Diego. We have to quit looking at songs as Alternative or Active or Classic sounding; we need to play anthems, songs that worm their way into your brain. If a song rocks, and can be a hit, PLAY it. A couple years ago, Active Rock stations did not want to play "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons. WHY? It is a great Rock record that could bring in new cume!
9) I like to ask this question to all the programmers who do 10 Questions. While programming is always essential, how important today is a solid social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?
It's VITAL. Nikki has 720k Twitter followers and 1.4 million Facebook followers, which allows him stay connected with his audience before, during and after the show. We can make appointments with the listeners; we can show them what goes on behind the scenes. Social media gives the audience an unfiltered, 24/7 look at the talent.
10) Finally, a personal music question for you. You're stuck on a deserted island and you only have five CDs with you. What are they?
- Lyle Lovett - The Road to Ensenada
- AD/DC - Powerage
- Black Sabbath - Master Of Reality
- Rage Against The Machine - Battle of Los Angeles
- New Grass Revival - Seven By Seven