10 Questions with ... Phil Michaels-Trueba
April 26, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- WHQT/Miami, 2006-2007, PD
- Promo Only/Orlando, 2005-2006 Dir./Programming
- WHDR/Miami, 2005, Interim PD during the transition
- WPYM/Miami, 2002-2005 PD
- WPYO/Orlando, 1999-2002, PD/on-air
- WHQT/Miami 1991-1999 APD/MD/on-air1)
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
I did my college internship at WHQT and ended up being hired full-time as Asst. Engineer/Promotion Asst., helping out the Chief Engineer and Promotions Director. This was instrumental in my development because it helped me become a "valuable employee" and "jack of all trades," as I learned the many sides of the business quickly. To this day, if we go off the air, I can pretty much get us back on rather quickly.
I have been blessed to have worked and been mentored by some of the best and brightest in our industry. My first mentor was Willie B, APD/MD and longtime South Florida radio personality at Y100, I95 and Hot 105. He ran into me in the sales department during my first two weeks of interning and he said, "What the hell are you doing up here? Follow me..." and the rest, as they say, was history. Even though he's out of the business, Willie is still a part of my inner circle of mentors. He's been very influential in my career and a dear friend. We speak at least once every two weeks.
Keith Isley was the PD at the time. Tireless work ethic. Genius with research. Hector Hannibal gave me my "radio name" -- Phil Michaels. He was the first programmer to let me near the on-air studio and actually run a board and dub music on carts. (Carts, what's that? That is old school.)
In 1993, Tony Kidd came in, truly saw my potential and passion and took me under his wing. I was part of his team that helped bring WHQT (Hot 105) from Top 20 to Top 5 Adults 25-54 in the '90s. At the age of 24, he promoted me to MD and three years later, APD. He's been a major influence in my development. He's lifelong friend and mentor. That's my man!
In 1999, Rich Reis gave me my first PD job at start up WPYO/Orlando. Great station that will always be close to my heart! It was training by fire, baby! This brought the amazing opportunity to work with the world-famous Bill "Whaaaat!" Tanner as my consultant.
He's an amazing person and personality!
In 2002, another startup that brought me back home was WPYM, America's first pure Dance station. What a ride! We debuted Top 3 18-34 in our first book and beat the legendary Y100 in the process. Those three years are a blur. I had the opportunity to be a part of something special with special people and we did some amazing things.
Some other major influences in my life and career are, of course, Bob Neil, Jeremy "Go Mets!" Rice, Mike Disney, in the short time I worked with Jay "Mixin'" Dixon, Steve Smith and Jerry Rushin, the godfather! Every day -- school is in! In my career, I've learned and picked up something from the many talented people I've worked with or for.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
Radio led me to radio. Growing up as kid, I was the loner type. Very shy. Introverted. Radio fascinated me. The sound coming out of the speakers mesmerized me. I would lock myself in my room for hours listening to the radio. I'm sure my parents thought I was taking drugs or I had a sock in my hand, but it was neither ... I was recording hours of radio and then playing it back and trying to emulate the DJs and creating my own unique mixes by starting and stopping the tape recorder. Man, I swear, some of that stuff sounded dope!
I called Al Chio at Y100 and asked him how I could do what he does. I never forgot how he took the time to explain his career path to me and that was instrumental to where I am today. I finally had the chance to tell him that story a couple of years ago and blew him away. And I tell this story to all of my staff because you never know who's calling you on the request line.
3) If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now what you didn't then, would you still do it?
4) Where do you see yourself and the industry five years from now? How do you feel about the PPM replacing the diary?
Definitely involved and entrenched in the broadcasting/music industry. It's my passion. It's in my DNA! I want to continue to grow and develop as manager, leader and mentor. Possibly overseeing stations as an OM or consultant.
Regarding the industry, I think it's a very exciting time for us, like it was for the Old School broadcasters transitioning from AM to FM. It's now FM to HD for us. I don't believe the hype of the "doom and gloom" of radio. Radio will always be a part of people's lives and tradition. Families grow up with the radio on, and it's FREE. How many things in life are still free? Not much.
The PPM is a scary thing. It's no longer about TSL but all about CUME ... and that will have a major impact on ethnic-targeted stations. Just like anything else in life, it involves "CHANGE" and you know what that does to people. It's Arbitron's new way of measuring our audiences and it's still developing, but we will adapt and make the transition. It's the rules we play by.
5) How do you feel about being made to wait on a record you hear until the research validates it? Are Urban AC programmers such as yourself going to be slower in adding and playing new music?
We play the hits! Hits are defined by our listeners. As programmers we shouldn't get in the way of a "hit." Let the people decide. Research will lead you to the promised land of high passion scores and validating your gut. I believe in the philosophy that "not playing a record won't hurt you, but playing a bad one will."
6) What is going to happen to the training of tomorrow's talent and programmers if the current trend continues? How do you feel about syndication and voicetracking?
Mentoring is still happening. At least in my company it is. We have a "mentoring" program in place to develop and train employees. If you're ambitious and driven enough, you'll seek out the mentors and not wait for them to come to you. That's what I do. I ask a lot of questions and try to learn something new every day.
Regarding syndication, I'm a believer to a certain level. Having Tom Joyner on our team is a major advantage vs. back in the day when he was fly-jocking back and forth to Chicago and Dallas and that was it. Now he's fly-jocking around the nation every morning in syndication. I'm too competitive; I like to win and Tom helps us win!
I am not a believer of syndicating the rest of your major dayparts. Our stations must serve our local communities. That should always be the first priority! Tom Joyner does that every morning on a bigger scale; like the Today Show does for the mainstream audience, Tom does it for the black audience. He's been a part of our listeners' lives for many years in South Florida, entertaining us and keeping us informed about what's happening in the black community, then the rest of the day we're local and talking about what's happening in our local neighborhoods. I believe stations that syndicate major dayparts are not fully committed to their communities and not keeping it real with the audience.
7) According To the Latest Arbitron Monthlies, you're #1 again. What adjustments have you had to make in your new position in order to remain competitive and give Hot 105 the competitive advantage every programmer wants to give his station?
If I told you, I'd have to kill ya.
Seriously, though, we have an amazing team. It's all about the team and we're all focused on what we control. Every one of our team members brings a different quality, talent and/or skill to the team and that's what makes us strong. Doing Top 40 radio for me was a great training ground because it taught me to think way ahead and act fast when an opportunity breaks. Top 40 PDs are sprinters, and Adult-targeted station PDs are marathoners. I'm ready to run both.
8) Of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
Patience. It's still a challenge for me.
9) How do you feel the current competitive environment in Miami is going to affect future programming decisions?
I will answer this question like this: Every signal in our market is a competitor. Our sister stations are competitors. Every decision we make on Hot 105 is a strategic one and not an emotional one. When I'm facing a decision, I always ask myself -- is this going to make us better? Is this going to be a 10-yard gain or touchdown? Every decision doesn't have to be a touchdown, but we'd better be getting a lot of first downs on the way to scoring. In the end, we should only be focused on what we can control because that's all that matters.
10) As you look back over your career, any regrets? Missed opportunities?
What would people who think they know Phil Michaels-Trueba be surprised to learn?
That I used to have a very bad stuttering problem when I was younger. I had to go to speech therapy for years to correct it. That I am not white; I'm light-skinned, dammit. And that I am of Hispanic descent (Cuban/Columbian).
How did you get your present job?
I didn't know it at the time, but I was on a job interview for three years when I worked in the same building with Jerry Rushin. He observed my work ethic, management skills and how everyone respected and enjoyed working with me. He wanted those qualities on his team and gave me the opportunity to bring my career full circle by bringing me back to Hot 105.
What is your biggest challenge facing you?
Actually taking a vacation.
What do you do with a song you don't like?
Let the audience decide.
What's the best piece of advice anyone's ever given you? The worst?
Be patient. Focus on what you have control over. Make strategic and not emotional decisions. Wait a day or two before writing the angry e-mail. Brevity is the soul of wit! Invest your earnings for the future. Live every day like it's your last. Thank God for your blessings. Don't take anything for granted. It's so easy ... even a caveman can do it.
The worst? "It's Arbitron; they'll get it right." I kid! I kid!