attention guidance counselors: on-air careers in radio are very dead


If you know the medical or psychological term for the feeling you get when you watch a function or service or job you really have an abiding passion and respect for just be ripped apart agonizingly slowly and painfully, please let me know.

Because that’s the word I would use to describe what all voice talents and on-air radio staffers have been feeling watching radio’s long enduring death spiral. I think we’re closer to the last third of the spiral than the first third of the spiral now though. The money is really running out for broadcast companies.

Not to harp on all the reasons most of us in the business know about but in case you don’t, radio listenership and usage is way down, that brings down ratings and advertisers won’t pay for a less useful marketing channel. The competition in the media world is too big. And radio companies over paid for their properties and are saddled with mind numbing debt.

Sales people (many of whom are hired as a first job out of college and are directed to a telephone and a phone book and ordered to “sell!”) aren’t coming up with the ad dollars.

The biggest line item in every budget is salaries. And the first people to get cut (excluding sales people but that’s always been a revolving door) are the on-air talent.

Clear Channel fired Rocky Allen at WPLJ and John Gambling on WOR both powerhouse stations in New York (the latest examples). Less known (but not necessarily less talented) names continue to be felled by HR in markets across the country. No one is safe and most sad of all is that the audience seems indifferent to the loss. There’s a full body paper cut for you.

I haven’t been on the air in years but it still remains one of my most favorite jobs. That and production director for a radio station. It was creative, it was fast, you interacted with the audience….that was a gift. If you’ve worked in radio, didn’t you feel the same way?

Sure, pay was lousy and you worked with a few idiots. But I have yet to see a job that didn’t have those issues…even now and I own my own companies!

But much of what was great about radio for those of us on air has changed. More syndicated programming covers our local airwaves with names like Delilah, John Tesh and Ryan Seacrest. Bland, awful stuff. But it costs less than local, real bodies running the board at your station.

Maybe I’m the only one who notices all this and who cares but if I’m not, I really would love to get your take (short or long) on all this. Angry? Resigned? Saddened? Frustrated? Past it? Let me know. Thanks.

8 Responses to “attention guidance counselors: on-air careers in radio are very dead”

  1. Peter,
    Spot on in your observations. I did 30 years in broadcasting and I am gratified by the people who go out of their way to say they appreciated radio the way is used to be. In the 70’s and 80’s it was creative and involved. We were part of the community.

  2. Peter,
    You’re right on target with this. I spent the better part of my career in radio, and the most fun I ever had was on-air. We all got into the business to begin with because it was a fun way to make a living. The corporations have completely destroyed that element. The syndicated shows are okay, but they’re not local. I was driving home from a meeting a few weeks ago, and we were under a tornado warning at the time. Little did I know that I was right in the path. I tried to find some information on the radio and every one of the 20+ local stations were useless. There probably wasn’t a soul at any of them. The “local” element used to be what made radio such a great medium. Not any more. I now own an advertising agency, and every week it gets harder and harder to buy radio for my clients. I don’t even want to think about what the future looks like. There’s a whole generation growing up with internet, music downloads, etc. that radio’s not even trying to cultivate. Maybe the business will come back around to what it once was, but until the corporations start talking about listeners, advertisers and employees, instead of stock prices, projections and debt management, I’m afraid it’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

  3. As a recovered radio employee, air personality, music director, and program director I share your sentiments on the current state of radio.

    Radio has become quite bland, predictable, homogenized and “cookie cutter”.

    I started in radio in 1970 when it used to be locally oriented, with in-house creative programming, imagination and community involvement. And we played NEW music. It was exciting!
    I have some friends who are still in, and have survived its tumultuous waters, filled with ownership changes, collapsing of airshifts, and going with board Ops, thus eliminating positions. There was THE PD, but now he/she is the national PD, and there’s a hallway and behind each of those 6 doors is a different station. Promotions are now national- the poor listeners don’t stand a chance.

    One friend in particular is on the edge of her proverbial seat in a very major market, and the new owner is making it very onerous on the AFTRA staff. There is a clear signal as to which way negotiations are moving….

    And then there’s the music issue, or lack of it. No wonder so many on-air folks and their audiences have defected.
    Thanks for “listening” heh…
    Bobbin Beam

  4. Peter, you hit the nail on the head with this post. I was on the air & later in the production department, and I agree with your assessment. And yes, hands down, my all-time favorite job was the one in Production!

  5. Peter,
    It’s scary and sad.
    I have what I’ve wanted since I was 4 years old, mornings on a top station, great ratings, I live in one of the best cities in the world, a wife, two kids, a house on the lake, but I go to work everyday wondering if it’s going to be my last.
    The crazy, fun, 9 years of working at KVIL in Dallas with radio legends like Ron Chapman, Larry Dixon and the boys seem like a whole different career away.
    What’s funny is that everyone thinks it’s only happening at their station or their company, but it’s industry-wide.
    Too bad, because radio and voice overs have been an exciting way of life.
    And now voice overs, every guy that answers a telephone and someone once said they have a great voice has his own home studio and is submitting auditions to Voice123.
    At least we still have our microphones.

  6. Wow folks, I think I hit a nerve! 🙂

    Doesn’t it break your heart even to have to write “…were a part of the community.” Because the reality of today is it really IS past tense. Unless its a live remote for a sponsor, there’s nobody to reach out to the community.

    The scariest part of that story is the truth of it. I was in a snow storm a few years ago and the same type of thing happened. I was reading a blog post from an old jock in Cleveland, they had a snow storm this past weekend and the same thing happened. It was a weekend, no coverage. Yikes!

    I’m not sure WHICH of the 12 steps in radio addiction this is but you’re always welcome here 😉

    You are a production wizard after my own heart! The best job ever….or it was anyway.

    Our only hope is that there will be a natural thinning of the herd. That way the voice over landscape will even itself out.

    Thanks all for participating, please subscribe if you haven’t already.

    Best always,
    – Peter

  7. ouch, indeed.

    to borrow from the title of another story, “Radio Doesn’t Live There Anymore.” at least, that’s what i tell people who want to know how to get into radio.

    there is no “radio”. there are only “satellite relay groundstations”.

    though i was never a rocker, my youngest years were spent in the company of Radio Personalities. during college i learned about what i had missed when radio had been Radio, but even in the 50s through the 70s there was still that element of entertainment, regardless of format.

    similarly, i was never a good “dj”, but it didn’t bother me because i was having too much fun in the production room and as a copywriter. and later, with my award-winning spots and my on-air characters on the morning guy’s long-running shift, i wound up with more real air-time than the poor “jocks” who put in all those hours of time/temp/and/call letters.

    after 20 years, the business dumped me before i could dump it, but it really did me a favor, because i made the lateral move from production guy/non-dj into production guy/voice actor. through good times and lean, i’ve been at it for more than 15 years now…still having more fun on my worst days than the guy, regardless the level of talent, who’s making minimum wage watching over the computer.

    and the ones who aren’t just watching the computer are fighting for on-air relevance, since the day the money-men figured out it was also cheaper to just open the phone lines and let the audience run the program…or worse yet — BE the program!

    no, when people ask how i got into the voice business, i usually say something like, “i’ll tell you, but you won’t be able to do it the same way…it doesn’t exist anymore.”

    who knew then we were working in anything even remotely resembling a “golden age”?

  8. […] the VO business under the title, audio’connell, recently hit a nerve dead-on when he wrote about the demise of careers in what used to be known as radio broadcasting. I just had to join the […]