Is Radio Paying Enough? By Andy Meadows

The labor shortage in our country has been widely reported as of late, with a barrage of news stories touting headlines like ‘The Great Resignation’ and surveys published showing the percentage of workers who say they’d rather quit then return to working full time in the office. With the combination of unprecedented stimulus money from the government, and a robust housing market driving up the savings of American homeowners, we’ve entered a time when the worker has more leverage then ever. You’ve no doubt seen the signs on many area businesses touting higher pay, sign-on bonuses and a myriad of other incentives to lure back workers. 

But, how does this all effect radio, an industry that was already on the lower end of the pay scale when it came to some key positions? Can we compete for competent, productive and responsible employees by simply increasing our pay a few percentage points across the board or do we need to rethink our structure and compensation packages entirely? I would argue that there are a few areas where we’re going to find it increasingly hard to attract and retain employees if we don’t do exactly that. 

For years now on the technical side it’s been hard to find the qualified, reliable and knowledgeable engineers and IT employees necessary to keep a radio station on the air and all of its assets up and running. Makes sense, it can be a thankless job that requires someone willing to work long hours and to rarely ever be truly, fully off-the-clock. Plus, anyone intelligent enough to handle both the RF and IT sides required to be a modern radio engineer is certainly smart enough to work in a number of other industries that tend to pay considerably better than ours. 

With the rise of podcasting and many companies outside of radio realizing the value of creating their own original content, we also run the risk of losing some of our on-air staff who’ve already adapted to becoming all-around content creators, if we don’t embrace that and reward them for it monetarily. Plus, it’s not like there’s a massive amount of young people looking to get into radio to replace them. 

On the sales side, it’s always been a struggle to find account reps who are tenacious enough to withstand the no’s and respond to a wide variety of objections. Not unlike engineers, really good sales people are sought after by other industries because typically they can sell virtually anything, so we might have to get creative in how we compensate and incentive them as well. It’s also time to consider supplementing them with a direct to advertiser online sales process that’s similar to the one potential clients are use to on the digital side. 

A few years ago my approach to making radio competitive in the digital age was to employee experienced radio personnel to do the radio specific jobs and supplement them with a bunch of freelancers to help do the digital stuff. That approach is becoming less viable as the demand for those freelancers have risen exponentially during the pandemic, driving up their prices. I now believe it’s better to train our existing personnel on becoming more full service, pay them accordingly, and employ a handful of the types of digital employees we were previously using as freelancers. 

What do you think, comment below or email me at

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