Are Home Studios The Future of Radio? By Andy Meadows

While the housing market continues to thrive despite high interest rates, commercial real estate hasn’t bounced back since the pandemic. The national commercial vacancy rate is 18.3%, an increase of 160 basis points year-over-year. That year-over-year number has risen even higher in the top 50 U.S. office markets. Within our industry it’s no secret that for years now the major radio groups have been shrinking their footprint in local markets, reducing office and studio sizes or eliminating them entirely. Then the pandemic hit, negatively impacting revenue while simultaneously teaching companies that most employees can be just as productive at home as they are in the office thanks to technological advances. All of these factors point to one thing in my opinion, we’re going to see a massive rise in radio utilizing home studios going forward. Here are a few keys for making the transition to home studios and reducing infrastructure costs without hurting quality or revenue.

Set a minimum standard for the equipment talent can use in their home studios. I would suggest providing a studio-in-a-box setup for employees that includes a quality USB mic (like the Shure SM7+ or Rode’s slightly cheaper version). For team shows, or to make it feel more like the studios talent are used to, a Rodecaster can be added to the mix that allows for the use of any XLR mic and has built in Aphex processing and a mix-minus for phones. Round out the setup with a good USB camera, a light, and remote recording and streaming platform like Riverside or Streamyard. This opens up a whole host of opportunities for talent, easily creating video reels (Opus Clip is another great resource for this), doing video contesting and virtual video remotes. Home studios also open up the job market on both sides, allowing local talent to work anywhere and stations to utilize talent from across the country. Provided that out-of-market talent has a studio that meets the minimum requirements.

Staff meetings shouldn’t stop just because everybody’s not in the same building anymore. If anything, they’re even more important since we’ve lost the hallway chats that helped keep everyone in the loop. The same goes for aircheck sessions, which too many stations have abandoned even when we’re all in the same office. The added benefit of doing airchecks remotely is that they can all be recorded so they can be shared with anyone who misses and serve as documentation if needed. Pairing all of this with a monthly get-together, or at least quarterly, will help to keep the lines of communication open so everyone doesn’t feel like they’re on an island.

Finally, running with a combination of home studios also requires staff that are more self-sufficient because they’ll have to be their own tech person. Of course, it also helps to have someone on staff capable of remoting in, fixing things or walking the employee through something. We can help on that front if a group doesn’t have that person in-house. Plus, we can assist stations making the home studio transition from a programming and operations standpoint as well, letting them know exactly what to buy and how to train their staff to get the most out of it. It also helps immensely to have an automation system that can seamlessly integrate home studios, we can either help with that or point you to an affordable system to upgrade to.

What do you think, are home studios the future of radio or just a passing fad? Comment below or email me at Andy@RadioStationConsultant.com.

Pic designed by DC Studio for Freepik.com.

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