How to Build a Lucrative Radio Career in 8 Easy Steps*
Sunday marked 5 years at Entercom which is the longest I’ve been going to the same building every day since elementary school, and Monday was National Radio Day. I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of symbolism in there, but rather than try to figure it out, I put this list together in case you, too, would like to bask in a career filled with extensive travel (read: move across the country every 3 years).
- Don’t. No seriously. While radio’s definitely not a dying industry (you can argue with me but the stats will prove you wrong), it is a rapidly consolidating industry that’s increasingly paying less in money and more in stickers and tshirts that don’t fit. You stick it out long enough, and you’ll never have to actually buy clothes. Which is good because if you stick it out long enough, you’ll never be able to actually afford to buy clothes.
- If you’re still here, you’re clearly not listening so I don’t know why I’m even continuing this list, but here we are. Step 2 is to pick a side hustle. Remember when I said radio pays in temporary tattoos? The side hustle pays in actual money. This will come in handy when you one day decide that things like sleeping in a real bed rather than on an air mattress sounds like something you might be interested in. Some people DJ, some people voice track multiple stations, some people do outside voice work, some people sell drugs. The options are pretty much endless.
- Radio stations tend to have an influx of trade with various local businesses. Don’t be the one who’s forever asking for that trade. No one likes that guy. In fact, we all judge that guy. We call listeners who win all the time prize pigs, and we call the trade guy a trade turkey. (I actually just made that up, but it sounds good so let’s make it a real thing.)
- Come to terms with doing crap you don’t want to do. I once did multiple 2 hour remotes at a restaurant where my talent fee each time was a sandwich. A sandwich. How the AE locked me in to such a lucrative deal I’ll never know.
- Either a) perfect the art of sarcasm and develop a love for the f bomb or b) call your lawyer to prepare your will because this industry is about to eat you alive.
- A radio station kitchen/break room is also known as Temptation Island. 90% of the time it’s filled with random free food. Choose wisely: if it’s from a restaurant, you’re okay; if it’s from a listener, you’re probably okay but I recommend not even looking at it just in case the poison can work via eye contact. Also pay attention to how long said food has been sitting on the counter. For example, we once had what appeared to be ribs and salmon start their kitchen residency at 10 in the morning and they were still sitting there when I left at 5. I didn’t feel like dying that day so it was a hard pass.
- Be chill. At some point you’re going to get to meet someone famous, and if you fangirl, you’re just going to embarrass yourself (and probably guarantee that you never get included in meeting anyone famous ever again).
- Don’t be a dick (sorry, Mom). Remember back in step 1 when we learned that radio is a rapidly consolidating industry? That means it’s like 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon but more like 2 Degrees of I Know Everyone. We all talk so if you’re a dick (sorry again, Mom), I can pretty much guarantee you’ll never work in this town again.
*It would be 10 steps, but it’s radio and we’re not exactly into things like extra work.