10 Questions with ... Ray Michaels
March 10, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
After several years, and several markets, I worked my way all the way back to the city of my birth, Kansas City, MO! There I did overnights, middays and several shifts until eventually settling in as the sidekick on Alex Valentine's PM drive show at Mark Feather's Top 40 KISF (Kiss 107.3.) Those in the know remember me as sidekick/traffic guy "Wrong Way Ray Michaels." In the Fall of 1994, I got a call from Dave Alexander who asked me to come back to Springfield, MO as the PD of the newly signed on Top 40 KHTO (Hot 106.7). It was a great experience to lead the new station and build it from the ground up. That low-power 25 kilowatt Top 40 did the impossible by beating the heritage Country station, KTTS 12+ in the Fall of 2000! During that run, I also programmed Active Rock "Channel Z, 104.5 Rock This!" I spent a couple of years in Springfield, IL at 99.7 "KISS-FM" and the Classic Rock station in the cluster. I've been OM twice. First, at the Zimmer Radio Group in Joplin, MO and currently, here in Hot Springs, AR with a seven-year stint in Wichita, KS at Journal Broadcast Groups' Rock KICT, T-95 and Classic Rock KFXJ (104.5 The Fox), sandwiched in between.
1) How would you describe your first radio gig?
My first full-time gig was overnights at a regional 100-kilowatt Top 40 in West Plains, MO, obviously, back in the days before automation. I did midnight to 6a, six nights a week. Within six months, I was doing mornings! .
2) What led you to a career in radio?
I've always been fascinated with radio. I was raised by my grandmother in a rural community in SW Missouri. We only got three TV stations at our house. When I was in my room at night, hearing the music and these voices from those distant locations, it was magical.
3) "Local, local, local" has always been radio's mantra. How do you keep your station visible and involved in the community?
You've got to take advantage of every opportunity. From the key charity events, festivals, fairs, parades, ball games, concerts, or any other relevant happening in your market, you've got to make the most of it! All it costs is time and a little gas money to take the station to the streets. Social media is a great tool, but nothing beats the face time of interacting on a personal level. The war is still won outside the building. Listeners don't perceive a station's "bigness" by its signal strength, but by how often they see and interact with it.
4) What is your favorite part of the job?
The coaching and teaching of talent. There's nothing more rewarding than hearing a jock grow and take his or her show to the next level. Even "old dogs" can learn new tricks. The beauty of what we do is that you never perfect it. There's always room to grow and become more "efficient" on the air.
5) What is the most challenging part of the job?
Time management is still the toughest part. We're all asked to do more with less, now more than ever. I take personal pride in my stations, and understand that they are a direct reflection of me, so it's not always easy to pass out responsibility, but delegation is the only way to survive in today's work environment. I try and find what my guys are into, help them learn the task, and let them do the job. Staffs are smaller today, so everyone must "carry a brick." Including everyone equally develops a sense of teamwork, responsibility, and pride.
6) If you could add one full-time position to your budget right now, what would it be?
A live night jock. Our night girl is local but the budget dictates her shift must be voicetracked. Nights on a Top 40 are critical. That daypart should be one of the most interactive on the station. We're using social media to connect at night but the lack of real time phones and interaction isn't the best situation.
7) What was your favorite station to listen to when you were a kid?
KY-102 in Kansas City. Again, I was raised by my grandmother in a small community in SW Missouri. When I was a teenager, I saved up my hay hauling money and ordered a huge external FM antenna. I crawled up on the roof of our house and attached it to the TV antenna, and ran the wire down into my bedroom, so I could pick up the station.
8) Looking back, which years hold the best musical memories for you and who were your favorite acts at that time?
Back in the day, music was central in a young person's life. The kind of music you listened to dictated what social circle you were part of. The Rock music of the '70s and early '80s will always be my best musical memory. Matter of fact, my love of Rock has helped me as a Top 40 programmer. Because I'm not necessarily a "fan," I've always been more objective about what music we should play. The question is always "is this something the audience will love" and it takes my personal likes out of the equation.
9) Do you have a favorite hobby outside of radio?
I'm a hardcore fisherman. Mostly largemouth bass, but I'll fish for anything that swims. I'm such a freak; I have three boats, from a high-performance bass boat to a tiny pond fishing rig.
10) What is it about our industry that keeps you wanting to do it for a living?
I've been doing this so long and I'm not much good at anything else. In reality, it's the creative part of the job that keeps me coming back to work every day. It's the building of the perfect clock, scheduling the perfect music log, to writing that great liner or promo, to coming up with a fun promotion. Also, nothing beats the satisfaction of making a difference with an awesome charity, or fundraising event.
For someone vacationing in your market, what one thing would you say they "must see?"
"Bathhouse Row." There's nowhere else but Hot Springs , AR where you can get a relaxing massage, soak in the hot spring water, and have a beer brewed from it, all within a city block!