Regardless of how long we’ve been on air on a particular station, but especially when we’re new to a station/market, the average listener doesn’t care about what kind of day we’re having. They don’t care whether there are technical issues in the studio, whether the temperature in the building is uncomfortable, or what kind of day we’re having in general. They tune in to our stations to escape their own lives and their own problems for a few seconds, not hear all about ours. When I’m working with a show that leans negative, I put it this way. Why would someone who’s driving to work to go to a job they quite possibly don’t like, or even hate, want to hear us complain about what they perceive to be a dream job?
There’s a social contract we sign when we agree to make a living talking on the radio, at least if we want to have any real long-term success. We’re going to leave our problems at the door, put on a good face and be a professional. That’s easy to do in ideal conditions broadcasting from million-dollar studios with every possible piece of equipment/software we need to pull off a great show at our fingertips. But, real pros can do it an any studio regardless of the situation. Star quarterbacks don’t sit out the big game because the starting left tackle is out and the backup isn’t nearly as good at protecting their blindside. They don’t ask to sit on the bench for a while to warm up when their playing in Buffalo during a snowstorm and they grew up playing all their games in sunny California. They adjust, adapt and find a way to win regardless of the situation or how they feel, because that’s what winners do. The greats don’t make excuses, blame teammates, their coach, the organization or even the elements. Because winners know that they’re the deciding factor, that regardless of what’s going on around them they are talented and prepared enough to excel as long as they set aside the distractions and focus. On air the greats live by a simple motto that directs every decision they make, what’s in it for the listener?
Our industry is going through some dramatic changes behind the scenes that not everyone sees and nobody wants to talk about. Despite what some outside observers might say, radio isn’t dying, it’s just changing. However, radio groups that refuse to adjust their approach and business model will in fact die. The ones left standing will need to run lean and efficient. To do so they will exclusively hire self-sufficient, self-starters who are coachable, trainable and willing to learn new skills. There will be no place for prima-donnas who can only perform under ideal circumstances or have massive egos and love the sound of their voices too much to listen to the voices of their audience or anyone else. Nor will there be any room for people who often utter phrases like “That’s not in my job description,” “I can’t work in these conditions”, or my all time favorite, “I’ve been doing this for X amount of years and..” blah blah blah. I have little doubt, nor does anyone who’s paying attention to the statistics, that there will be fewer on-air talent working in radio next year, and each successful year for a while. However, those that make the cut will be paid substantially more because they’ll have to be. Radio isn’t the only industry in need of people who can create compelling content from scratch and that demand will force broadcasters to pay a premium for each member of their smaller, more efficient staffs.
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