Engineering Spotlight: Craig Bowman

Nominate an engineer you know!  Email Dan Kelley at dkelley@michmab.com.

bowman_275Craig was nominated for the Engineering Spotlight by Caleb Gordon, Assistant Engineer and Radio Journalist at MacDonald Broadcasting.

Q: Please share with us a brief engineering resume.
Craig:
I sort of live multiple lives as a contract engineer for Krol Communications (WRSR, WJSZ, WMLM), Liggett Communications (WPHM, WSAQ, WHLS, WHLX, WBTI), and Synergy Media (WWKR, WKLA A/F, WKZC, WMLQ, WLDN), where I am an owner. In addition to these Michigan stations, I also serve as SVP of Technology for Futuri Media and Futuri Canada Corp (FCC).

Q: How did you get started in broadcast engineering?
Craig:  I began my radio journey along the banks of the French Broad river in Marshall, NC while in High School. My best friend was working in radio and his older brother (Jobie Sprinkle, former APRE President) was an engineer at a local station and had a lot of contract clients in Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee and I was more than willing to help do whatever unskilled thing he would let me do. Jobie mentored me and he led me to my first engineering endeavors. We built AM’s, studios; you name it. While getting my start, I worked as a land surveyor, at the National Forest Service, at a Mobile Home Supply company driving a truck, and even as a USDA inspector in the apple packing houses of WNC. All this to support my radio hobby.

Eventually I landed a full time On-air (afternoons) and Chief Engineer position in Waynesville, NC. From there I moved to Greenville, SC to build WMYI, a move-in from Hendersonville, NC. At WMYI, I worked closely with Bob Herman of Herman and Associates, who was our consulting engineer. When Bob decided to take on partners and expand his consulting business, re-branding it as RF Projects Corporation, and, he recruited me to join the new company as Director of Special Projects. RF Projects allowed me to learn more than I ever knew existed about FM antennas and how the mounting arrangement changes (usually not for the better) the actual pattern of the antenna. We had clients all over the country and even the government of Morocco. Our biggest challenge was to add WYNY to the master antenna system at the World Trade Center in NY. There is nothing quite like the pressure of taking 10 NYC radio stations off-the-air on a Sunday night and holding your breath at 5A when they all come back on. We worked closely with ERI, Tom Silliman and Robert Rose in particular, to manufacture the hardware to modify the RCA combiner.

In 1990, I got a call from Dan Stewart at WHNN (Saginaw). They were unhappy with the signal they had in Flint after building a new 1,000 ft. tower in Quanicassee, MI.  So, off I went to test the range of a full scale model of the new antenna. Before the FCC approved the new antenna, I traveled to Saginaw to do some studio work for Dan.  I also went on another trip to Lansing to help WFMK with a pesky Harris FM-25K transmitter problem. It was this trip that I got to know Jim Jensen of Liggett Broadcast Group.  Soon, Jim convinced me to move from Raleigh to Lansing. Since being a Director of Engineering was clearly missing from my resume I figured I would move to Michigan, live here for a couple years, then go off to work for Westwood One, AM-FM, or one of the other big groups I had worked with while at RF Projects. Well, that was August 5, 1991 and I am still here!

I did leave Liggett to work for Scott Studios, helping Dave Scott design and install automation systems, which allowed me to stay in Michigan while traveling for them.

About six years ago, a kid named Daniel Anstandig called me with this crazy idea of placing a voting window on a radio stations web page that would allow listeners to vote for songs to play on-the-air and have it connect to the automation system. At first I thought this was the craziest idea ever, but Daniel’s contagious enthusiasm quickly spread to me and a partnership with Listener Driven Radio (now Futuri Media) was born. I, along with Daniel and Brian Seeders, am named on several patents surrounding the technology we developed, so it was a natural progression for me to focus more and more on our products.

In November of 2015, Futuri purchased Stream-On, a Canadian company based in Edmonton, AB. Stream-On is the only broadcast streaming company using HLS streaming technology and integrates with AdsWiz for commercial replacement. We wanted to create a new four station Streaming Transmitter made with commercial grade motherboards, processors, audio cards, etc. I pivoted from my role as the head of development in Cleveland to overseeing the operations in Edmonton and growing the product line. Responding to the cry for easy podcasting (I do hate that term, btw) or on demand audio on social media, I began development of Futuri Post. Post captures the station like a logger but via now playing and mic logic cuts the entire broadcast up into easy to find elements. A new feature of Post is a very quick and easy audio editing system that displays only the stations talk breaks, has a built in editor, pre-licensed images from ShutterStock that will simultaneously push to all of your social media, RSS feed, etc. and posts to a widget embedded in a stations webpage to allow for immediate sharing of content.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Craig:  When I worked in Greenville, SC at WMYI, the station owner was George R. Francis, Jr.  George was a bigger than life character that truly had a “nothing is impossible” attitude. One day very early in the station’s history, during a staff meeting, George gave us his typical pep talk assuring us we were the best and brightest in the business and then paused and sincerely asked us to enjoy ourselves and emphasized that life is too short to work a job you do not like. Please, he said, don’t stay around out of some strange sense of loyalty.  You’re not going to hurt my feelings by pursuing your dream. Out of the countless times in my life I had heard the “Life’s too short” speech, I think this was the first time someone actually meant it; and I try to live up to that standard each and every day. You can probably tell by everything I have written above that I clearly love what I am doing!

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