Tim Leary has been in and out of radio since the age of 18. That includes doing weekend overnights for Loren (Loren and Wally) in Boston at 18, tech producing for Steve Dahl, and writing and doing on-air characters for Mancow. He’s worked in Boston, Chicago, Sacramento, Reno, Providence, Cleveland, and Savannah/Hilton Head, where he’s settled in working for Alpha Media. He’s a walking example of how to build relationships so you can succeed in this business and how to market yourself so you are consistently setting yourself up for success. Here’s our interview with Leary.
Radio Ink: How did you get your start in radio?
Tim Leary: I always found myself being attached to radio. I had left the biz several times, as I was a touring stand-up comedian, graduate of The Second City (Chicago), and The Acme Theater (Los Angeles), and a mainstage, resident performer with Theatersports Improv in Chicago, and then doing work with Warner Brothers in Los Angeles. I was working as a voice artist, producer/writer for an online ad firm in LA when my partner and I were approached by Brett Hudson (yes of the Hudson Brothers) and Chris Beard (yes from Laugh-In, Sonny and Cher, and The Gong Show). They asked us to develop an audio show for the Internet, because studios were buying up websites at that time. We went into the studios and cut the demos. I produced them up and my partner asked me, “So what do we got?” I told him, “If you really want me to be honest, what we have is a radio show!” We decided to send it out just to see the reaction. Six weeks later we were working for CBS in Sacramento doing middays at the FM Talk station. I remember being in the car going somewhere with my wife and telling her the news. “Hey, I have a job offer for CBS radio in Sacramento and I think I want to do this as a fulltime gig.” She looked at me and said, “It’s about time you that you said that! It’s where you fit.” A couple of years later, that show had been blown up and I was on the beach for 15 months. I was doing side-comedy gigs but money was getting really tight. A buddy called me up from Washington DC and said, “Hey why don’t you go into Country radio?” Not knowing anything about country music, I responded, “Hey why don’t I go into Brazilian Jazz radio…I know just as much about that format as I do Country!” I was picked up to do mornings for the Lotus Broadcasting Country property in Reno. Some years and markets later, I just started my 13th year as a morning man in Country radio.
Radio Ink: Tell us about your show in Savannah.
Tim Leary: I’m very blessed to have the show Tim Leary & The Morning Showgram in Savannah/Hilton Head. I’m also very blessed to have two of the most talented performers with me every morning, my co-hosts Karen “Red” Daiss and Claire Beverly. And we have the best listeners anyone could ask for! The support for the show is incredible. We try to make the show as interactive with our listeners as possible. Our callers are truly a part of the show. I want our show to be as multi media as possible, all of which becomes on-air content. We put new content on our website daily and update it. We also have to video components. We have our Showgram Live videos (live video on Facebook), and our Behind the Mic with Tim Leary videos (recorded videos we load on the website and link to social media). We bring a lot of our lives on the air. We have benchmarks, yes, but what you hear on the air is improv comedy. Going into the bit we know what we’re talking about, but the rest is listening and playing off of each other. The cast’s dynamic and chemistry is what makes the show. The one rule of the show is that your only job in the studio is to make everybody else in the studio look like stars. We love having fun with our listeners every day.
Radio Ink: And you also do a countdown show?
Tim Leary: Yes. We think it’s a pretty cool show. It’s called the 20Twenty Country Countdown. We countdown two top 20 country charts; the week’s top 20 hits being played across the country, and the top 20 trending songs of the week. It gives you a real look at how country fans are getting their music. You’ll have songs that reappear on the chart a year after the label is off the single, and you’ll also hear a song from an artist that is about to be released, but the fans have streamed and downloaded it so much, it appears on the trending chart even if the single is not yet on the radio. You hear artist interviews [that are] fun to listen to…personal stories that you would never expect to hear about. And the cast is fantastic! Contributions from New York City, Washington DC, Savannah, and Seattle, make the 20Twenty Country Countdown a three-hour weekend show that we think sounds young, fast, hip, and funny. Going into our third year with more than 30 affiliates, I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this show.
Radio Ink: You are vey involved in charities and a supporter of the troops and boy scouts. Why is that?
Tim Leary: I see it as part of our job. As broadcasters, I think we have a responsibility to help and support people and charities in our market. I like when we as a show can get involved in a charity or special event because it’s not only helping out those in need, but it brings awareness to listeners, and it gets us out and involved in our community. That’s why a market will take ownership of a show. It’s not just them hearing a bunch of gabby voices reading a PSA or community calendar…they can actually see and talk to them out where they are getting involved right alongside them. I’ve always been a
huge supporter of the military. If you don’t support our men and women, I guess that’s your choice…but I think you’re an ass. In my market we have all branches of the military, and five major bases. (Two Marine, two Army, and one Coast Guard.) These are our listeners. We get the calls/texts in our studio that never go over the air about how, “Steve passed his written exam for rank,” or “Allen deploys for nine months tonight, and I won’t know where he is.” I was at a charity appearance once and a dad (Army) came to give, and he had six boys with him. I said, “Wow, you could almost field a baseball team!” He proceeded to tell me how three were his buddy’s boys and he and his wife promised to watch them until he got back from deployment; and how his buddy had done the same for him. So yes, I support the troops. In fact, I’m always trying to find more ways to do so.
Radio Ink: What’s with all the tattoos?
Tim Leary: It’s an annual event the show does. (This year was year 4.) I came up with the idea four years ago to raise money for breast cancer while paying tribute to those who have fought the battle. (Won the fight, lost the fight, or currently in the fight with cancer.) So I came up with “Tats for Ta-Tas. The idea is that every person’s tattoo tells a different story…so does breast cancer. Stories of hope, sadness, anger, happiness…Each tattoo that is displayed is designed to tell those stories. For three weeks each year we collect $10 from listeners and the name of the person(s) they want to have honored. At the end of the campaign we take the money and turn it over to the cancer pavilion here in Savannah. Then a local artist comes in for four days and freehand paints every name and logo on me and my 2 co-hosts with real ink, and we run The Savannah River Bridge Run as human memorials. (The first two years we gave the money to Susan G. Komen and ran the Rock n’Roll half marathon…we switched the race to the bridge run because it was ultimately more local.)
Radio Ink: How important is it today for talent to market themselves?
Tim Leary: I think if the talent wants a career and not just a job in radio for a few years marketing is paramount. It’s a pretty basic business model. If a company has a product that they want to sell and compete with, they have to market it, or the product goes bye-bye. Same exact thing in radio, except this time the talent is the product and it’s the company that has to market it. If they don’t, then the product (talent) has a good chance of going bye-bye.
Radio Ink: What specifically do you do to market yourself?
Tim Leary: I have a manager/agent Jim Robinson, and a business manager Tracy. They make sure that all of my content is updated constantly; for the social media pages (Facebook, Linkedin) and the website. I try to be involved in the events and activities in my industry — Country Radio Seminar, and I’m a voting member of the Academy of Country Music. I try to keep the trades updated on what’s going on with the show. Most of my press is handled by my company, Alpha Media, but some is also handled by United Stations Radio Networks in New York, and some is also handled by Jim. I keep close contact with the local media, and the show works very closely with the local ABC affiliate. Doing pieces together on each other’s air can really lift up and promote everyone.
Radio Ink: Do you have plans to go national and syndicate?
Tim Leary: That’s a loaded question. Do I dream of bringing my show to the national level and have it syndicated…yes, absolutely. I think the show has appeal that could go national, and it would be successful and profitable. It’s been brought up before and if the situation is right, then cool. But there’s an advantage of being local in your market, stuff you can do and things you can talk about and reference that the syndicated show just can’t do. That’s what helps you win your market. We have amazing momentum and an amazing team with United Stations in New York and The 20Twenty Country Countdown. It’s grown so much over the past 12 months. Every time I get a call from Andy Denmark or Sue Falco about another station signing on…it’s just the greatest feeling in the world and I can’t thank them enough for supporting the show.
Radio Ink: You have a cool website. Easy to navigate and very informational about you.
Tim Leary: And not my idea. Although I’d love to take credit for it. It’s timlearyshow.com. My agent, Jim Robinson, called me one day and told me that he thought we should take everything that we do as a brand; morning radio show, syndicated countdown, video production, TV projects, charity events, media, social media should be housed on one website. That way, anyone who wanted to get a true glimpse of a cross-section of the show can view it there in a couple of minutes.
Radio Ink: What advice can you give others about marketing their talent?
Tim Leary: Don’t burn bridges. Too many times I’ve seen talents lash out at their management regarding their situations on social media or even a podcast. All this does is end your career. Get involved in your industry, and get out there and meet people. Also you were NOT sent to a radio convention to do #YagerBombs. You need your “village.” Build your team (agent, manager, publicist, biz manager) that has the game plan in mind. Most importantly, be prepared to invest in your own career. If you (the talent) are the product being marketed, there are production costs. Agents, events, memberships, website set-up and maintenance, all cost you money, but they are valuable tools that you need as a talent to get to the next level.
Reach out to Tim to congratulate him on his stellar career so far at [email protected]