As a past student of the Radio Training Institute in Melbourne, I was honored when they asked me to speak about my radio journey at their recent graduation of their Advanced Radio Course. Gosh, what do you say to 11 passionate and eager students about the radio industry? How do you bottle the last 10 years of your radio career and share your wise words in 10 minutes without scaring the crap out of them, killing their dreams? I say it as it is and for those who know me well, I don’t hold back! So here we go… my wise words for making the most of your radio career!
I was sitting where you are now about 10 years ago, yes I did have less wrinkles and probably less grey hairs than I do now but I had just completed my Introduction to Radio Course, I had a killer demo but one slight issue, I didn’t have a radio gig.
I was realistic about starting out in Regional Radio. I wanted to be on breakfast radio, but I didn’t have the profile or experience of a Matt & Jo or Hughesy & Kate to knock them off their show. So I sent my demo and CV to anyone who would take me.
In one week, I received a job offer to be the Breakfast Host/Copywriter at Magic FM in Port Augusta. I was going to earn $22K but I could live next door to the station for 50 bucks a week… bargain! I also had an interview for a street team position at Sun FM (now Star FM) in Shepparton. Little did I know that they were sussing me out for the Breakfast Hosting gig and after a second interview with the Managing Director of the network, who happened to be Rhys Holleran, my recent CEO at Southern Cross Austereo and still good friend, I got the gig at Sun FM for a little more than $22K and well, I took it as it was two hours from Melbourne so I could still visit my family and friends on weekends.
From that start in Regional Radio, I have worked at 2DayFM in Sydney, NOVA 100 in Melbourne, Nova 919 in Adelaide, 92.9 in Perth, now back at The FOX in Melbourne and have done everything from being a Breakfast Presenter, Promotions Manager, Late Nights Announcer, Show Producer, Assistant Music Director, Music Director and now Assistant Content Director. Clearly I have changed my mind many times throughout my career but I think I’m pretty set now.
So for this occasion I would like to share my top 7 tips for making the most of your radio career and hopefully these tips give you some advice on getting a gig in metro radio. I did have 10 tips but remembered the art of word economy in radio so let’s keep it tight & bright! Of course, everyone’s journey is different and everyone’s advice is different so take what you will.
Tip #1 – Be prepared to move
You can probably tell from my introduction I’ve moved around a fair bit. Unfortunately, most people don’t get their dream radio gig handed to them on a silver platter, they have to work for it and this also means moving state to state for it. It’s not a bad thing though. I often say that during my radio career, my time in regional radio was probably the best experience, as I was a big fish in a small pond, it came with lots of perks and I learnt so much about radio. Yes it’s daunting, packing up and moving away from family and friends but it is an adventure and it’s what we call in radio ‘life experience,’ a term you will hear a lot of in your radio career. The hardest thing for me moving was probably remembering how to make friends, you seem to forget how to do this as an adult but one positive is that I can now pack up and unpack an apartment in record time! Happy to give you some tips on that another time.
Tip #2 – Learn as much as you can about radio especially in a regional market
It’s very common that in both regional and metro stations, you will have a dual role. For example, both the FOX’s Workday Announcers Aaron and Keegs have a second role. Aaron is the Assistant Music Director as well as our Mornings Announcer; Keegs is our Social Media Specialist as well as our Afternoons Announcer. It will most likely be the same case in regional. If you get a regional gig, learn as much as you can. Learn not only your sole craft if it’s announcing but learn how to put a music log together, or produce a show promo or how to put an event together. Find someone in that station or your network that will teach you. Ask questions. It will not only help you be a better well rounded radio guru but you will have those extra skills that are very attractive to future employees.
Tip #3 – Pick a mentor & learn from them
I always question younger announcers when they’re starting out about who they love hearing on air. Often it’s someone in our network so I suggest to them to listen to their shifts and learn how they sell the breakfast show, or do a passionate song sell. I also encourage that they make contact with them, and in most cases these announcers are flattered when they are asked to help with some mentoring or giving feedback. So try seek out someone who can be your sounding board. Sometimes radio can be a little confusing, a little stressful and a little daunting but if you have that someone who you can chat to and bounce ideas off, it will really help you throughout your career!
Tip #4 – Know the right way to apply for a radio gig
I would be a millionaire right now, if I got 10 bucks for every time someone told me they wanted to work at the FOX because they love Hamish and Andy so much! So do I… but that’s not going to get you a gig! When you apply for a job, research that station, know what you love about that station, what music do they play, who are the announcers, what competitions or features are they known for, know why you have to work there, how will your radio career be all the better for working at that particular station? Tell whoever it is you’re contacting why you have to work there, what skills you can bring & contribute to the station’s success. And know who you’re contacting – there is nothing worst than reading an email or letter that says ‘Dear Music Director, please play my song’ or ‘Dear Assistant Content Director, please hire me.’ There is no research that has gone into that and it’s not personable.
Tip #5 – Grow a thick skin
You are not going to love every bit of feedback that you are given. Your radio career is not going to be all lollipops and rainbows. Not everyone is going to like you or what you do.That’s life, that’s any industry really. When I started in Regional Radio, I used to get listener complaints about the way I laughed. Yep the same laugh I have had all my life. So I just kept doing it and louder – ha ha. My point being is as soon as I learnt to take the personal out of it and take it on the chin, life just got a lot easier. Your show, your station, it will have a strategy and you have to fit in with that the best you can, within reason of course. Some days your Content Director or boss will probably give you not great feedback, but take it as an experience that you can learn from for next time.
Tip #6 – Play hard but work harder
A great wise Content Director of mine when I worked at Nova told me once, that I could play hard but I always needed to work harder. It will be really easy to get caught up in the fun of this industry and trust me, it is fun! There’s station events, music gigs, parties, it’s all very rock n roll.But his point was, yeah go have your fun, have that ‘life experience’ but always turn up to work the next day and bring your a game! Somehow it’s easier to do this when you’re younger but the point here is know your limitations, look after yourself, know how much sleep you need to function at a high level! Especially in metro radio, if you don’t bring your best each day, you do let the team down, you can feel it around the office and you can hear it on air. This same Content Director also told me that reputation is everything in this industry. Sure you can change your reputation along the way (of course you grow up and get all adult at some stage) but try not be the person is constantly late to work (that probably doesn’t work well for an on air shift anyway); or the person who has too much fun at station events or the person who is allergic to hard work. Be the best possible form of yourself that you can be.
Tip #7 – Have fun!!!
It’s radio. It is fun! You’re not graduating from medical school, you’re not off to save lives, you’re off to make great radio. Yeah there will be politics along the way, there is in every industry but remember at the end of the day you are doing something your are truly passionate about and are excited to jump out of bed for each day! Starting out you won’t be doing it for the money… it’s going to be about the love for the job. You are working alongside creative and passionate people just like you and bonus, you don’t ever have to wear a suit to work, well if you work in sales perhaps you will! You are about to work in the best industry there is, so love it, learn from it and enjoy every moment.