By Lori Spencer

 

If you’re reading this, you’ve likely already decided on a career in radio broadcasting. Maybe you have a great idea for a unique program, or an encyclopedic knowledge of music. Or maybe people have just always told you what a pleasant and resonant speaking voice you have. Whether you’re young and choosing your major for college or a professional switching careers at mid-life, the radio business brings many rewards to those who strive, although be warned: Unless you’re Howard Stern, the rewards are not often of the financial variety.

Step 1

Utilize every networking resource you can for employment opportunities: your college’s job placement office, your state’s workforce commission job listings, temp agencies, even the local classified ads.

Radio stations are required by law to advertise job openings to the general public, but they usually only hire established on-air talent or people already known to them. If you can befriend someone who works at the station, they might be able to put in a good word for you with the Program Director.

Step 2

Produce a professional demo tape of your show (in industry terms, this is known as an “aircheck”). If you’ve never hosted a radio show before or don’t have access to a recording studio, you can make one at home using your computer and some basic audio recording/editing software.

Keep your aircheck brief and to the point: no more than three minutes and short, punchy breaks. Consider this your “greatest hits”–make it a quick sampler of your best moments.

Step 3

Call program directors for every station in town and ask if they’re hiring. Don’t waste your time emailing or sending airchecks through the mail. These usually wind up in the trash without being heard. Unless the job ad specifically says “No Phone Calls,” then by all means give them a ring. Talking to the program director personally establishes a rapport and gives them a chance to actually hear your golden voice.

Many PDs will be encouraging to new broadcasters and give helpful career advice on how to get started, even if they don’t have any suitable on-air openings for you.

Step 4

Be prepared to settle for less than an on-air position in the beginning of your radio career. Try applying for a receptionist position. Or a sales account rep. Or a promotions intern–anything to get your foot in the door. Then you can start making connections inside the station, learn the ropes of the business and eventually work your way up to an on-air slot.

Step 5

Try to convince the program director to give you a chance on the air at a time when not many people are usually listening: in the overnight hours or on an early weekend morning. Let him/her know that if a DJ should happen to call in sick, you’re always available and willing to fill in at the last minute. This is how many famous disc jockeys (like Wolfman Jack, “Sunshine” Sonny Payne, and Dr. Demento) actually got their start in radio.

Step 6

Develop your show idea into a written business plan and copyright it before you start shopping it around to stations. Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous types in this business who might take your show idea as their own and not give you due credit.

Step 7

Bring your own sponsors. If you can find a local, regional, or national business to sponsor your show, a station will be much more likely to put it on the air. This ensures the show will create revenue and the sales staff won’t have to work as hard to sell advertising time.

If you own a small business and can afford radio advertising, be your own sponsor.

Step 8

Persist in knocking on every radio station door in town. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. You never know when an on-air slot might suddenly become available due to format changes and high turnover rates for talent and management in the radio industry.

Step 9

Start an Internet radio show in the meantime while you’re waiting for your big break in terrestrial radio. Not only is web radio a great way to hone your skills and build your audience, it’s also a useful marketing tool for selling your show to radio stations or syndication networks. You can also earn extra income from member subscriptions, pay-per-download shows, and sponsors who advertise on your show’s website.

Step 10

Continue your education by attending night classes at a local broadcasting school or community college. As technology continues to change in audio and radio production, you’ve got to change with the times. Improve your existing skills and learn new trends in audio technology to remain competitive. Most stations are completely programmed by computer these days, so make sure you’re computer-literate and know how to use audio recording/editing software.

Tips

Shop your aircheck to advertising agencies, too. Doing commercial voice-overs is a great way to get some announcing experience under your belt, build up your resume and pick up some extra cash.

Post your aircheck on radio talent portals. There are many on the web and prospective employers do check them. Include your bio, a clear, recent photo and samples demonstrating the range of your voice talents. For example, post samples of commercial voice work, accents, character voices, narration, news, talk radio or various music formats.

The best way to get a job in radio is to befriend someone who works in the industry. Having an experienced mentor who can show you the business is invaluable, and that person can open many doors for you. Ask a local disc jockey if they will let you come to the studio and watch them work, without being intrusive.

Broadcasting schools like Radio Connection offer one-on-one mentor programs with industry professionals; an effective alternative to attending traditional college for four years.

Warnings

Familiarize yourself with FCC rules on obscenity, indecency and profanity, as well as your state’s libel and slander laws. The fastest way to the unemployment line is to blurt out something on-air that could get your station sued or fined by the FCC.

The second fastest way to the unemployment line is failing in the ratings. Getting to the top in radio is hard, but staying on top is even harder. That all-important Arbitron ratings book determines your fate each quarter. Stations routinely fire disc jockeys who slip in the ratings. The loss of ratings might not be the DJ’s fault, but it’s just the nature of the radio business beast.

Key Concepts

  • radio broadcasting careers
  • radio careers
  • disc jockey jobs
  • voice over work
  • voice talent work
  • radio jobs

References

Resources (Further Reading)

User Bio

Lori Spencer has written professionally since 1986. She is the author of three nonfiction books, is writing her fourth and provides content for eHow and LIVESTRONG.COM. She also produces and hosts a weekly radio show. Her subjects of expertise include history, media, music, film and the performing arts.

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