Rich & Famous In Radio By Andy Meadows

It’s easy to look at an industry that’s in transition, like radio is, and assume that the days of on-air talent making big bucks are all but over. But, they are not. I’m not going to lie and say there’s as many opportunities as there were a few years ago but it’s still possible for lots of on-air talent to make a comfortable living and a handful can still become rich and famous doing radio. However, here are a few things that need to be in place for that to happen.

They have to make it about the audience. A few years ago I wrote an ebook about the 7 habits of high-performing radio talent, because I noticed all of the great talent I’d coached, managed, worked with and known over the years had a LOT in common. A few of those include making show-prep a priority, learning brevity so they don’t waste listeners’ time, mastering teases and hooks to keep them tuning in, using digital tools to promote their shows and focusing on their shift by treating the studio like their sanctuary and not leaving it during live hours except to go to the bathroom. But, one I left out which I’ll certainly add in any rewrite is this: Successful air talent make it about the audience instead of themselves. They put the needs wants and desires of their listeners above their own. That’s the code they crack at some point in their careers that allows them to dominate the competition, fit a wide-range of formats and ultimately make a name for themselves and a whole lot of money doing something they love.

The right situation. Even though as I stated above, talent that focus on making it about the audience can fit on multiple formats, to really make it to the rich and famous level they’ll need to be in the right situation. A lot of talent get to that level through syndication and the path to syndication starts with either consistently dominating a small or medium market or a target demo in a major market. To do that requires being on a format capable of doing one of those two things. Plus, even with the right format a great talent doesn’t matter that much on a station that isn’t programmed, promoted and marketed well. 

The third key to getting to that rich and famous level is acting like a sponge and absorbing knowledge from everyone we come in contact with. We should watch and learn from the successes and failures of others, go to as many conventions and boot camps as possible and when we’re lucky enough to work with experts, soak up everything we can. As a consultant I’m mainly hired to coach talent by the owner, the CEO/GM or occasionally by the OM or PD. I’ve had a few on-air talent hire me directly to work with them, which is a vastly different dynamic. But, typically the talent I coach didn’t ask for me to come in so many of them initially approach the coaching sessions like court ordered counseling. They make it obvious they don’t want to be there, they’ve been doing this for twenty or more years without help and so initially they treat me like an adversary. For a select few of them that wall never comes down and the whole process is just a waste of all of our time and their company’s money. For most, however, they eventually realize that I’m a resource someone else is paying for that’s there to learn everything I can about them so I can customize a strategic plan to help them do their job at a very high level and become more valuable to their company and others. Because the truth is, virtually no one gets to the top without a lot of help along the way. But, regardless of how good we get at it, those of us who help radio personnel for a living can’t really help anyone who doesn’t want our help. As I always say, we don’t get in shape because we hire a personal trainer, we get in shape because we listen to them and participate in the process.

Of course, we all define rich and famous differently. For some that means becoming a local celebrity who makes a comfortable living over a long career in a city they love. While others hope to be a nationally syndicated host who eventually becomes a household name. Neither is wrong and both have their advantages and drawbacks. Personally, I never discourage ambition when working with on-air talent. A passion to get to the top of our industry is a good thing. It just has to be paired with a desire to put in the work necessary to do so.

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