Your Company Does Not Owe You Anything


Those are the words of veteran radio consultant Jason Barrett who says in his latest blog, “The Cold Dose of Radio Reality,” that a radio company’s primary responsibility is to make sure your check clears every two weeks, and provide you with access to the building to showcase your talent either on-air or behind the scenes during the hours you’re assigned to work. Your contributions matter, Barrett says, but in the grand scheme of everything, we’re all still replaceable parts. Some may have greater value, but none of us are irreplaceable.

Barrett says one of the most common mistakes people make in radio is believing that their contributions to a company entitles them to something greater. “Managers believe the brands they run are ‘their radio stations’ and the hosts, producers and contributing members all feel their presence and value to a brand is vital and difficult to replace. Their contributions certainly do matter, especially to those they work with, but in the grand scheme of everything, we’re all still replaceable parts. Some may have greater value, but none of us are irreplaceable.”

Barrett says that as an employee, if you’re smart, you’ll appreciate and take advantage of everything at your station because that experience will benefit you no matter where you go in the future. “As we all know, the only thing guaranteed in radio is that something will eventually change. Many people desire to work in this industry, so there’s always going to be someone standing behind you wanting what you have and willing to accept the position at a fraction of the cost.”

“Too often I hear complaints about the way companies operate. A host may not like what they’re being asked to focus on from a content standpoint or they may feel restricted from using specific words or tackling certain stories. Producers bitch about the pay, demands of the job, and hours involved to tackle each task. Programmers become frustrated when companies push self-serving initiatives on them, market managers meddle with their product, and corporate folks limit their ability to hire or retain good people. In many cases I’ve agreed with their concerns, but whether I think they’re right or not, it’s still about convincing those above you to reevaluate a situation because they ultimately have the final say. There is no Mr. Cumulus, Mr. Entercom or Mr. iHeart standing in your way. There are people tasked with representing each company and looking out for its business interests, even if it means halting your plans and complicating your situation.”

And Barrett also has advice for managers. “The station you manage may be part of your identity, and you may love it dearly, but it is not your property. The company owns the brand, you simply operate it. The day you leave, the show goes on. You may not like the direction of where the ship sails next, but it’s no longer your ship to steer when you take your hands off the wheel.”

The point behind his latest column, Barrett says, isn’t to cast a black cloud over the industry, it’s to provide broadcasters with a cold dose of reality. “Radio is a business, but the line of work you do is special. The people around you share a similar enthusiasm for sports, and it’s a common bond which brings us all together to distract us from the pressures we face each day in life. Yes it’s a job, but it’s a rewarding one whether you’re making $8 an hour or seven figures.”

Read Barrett’s entire blog HERE
You can reach Jason Barrett by e-mail at [email protected]


  1. It’s interesting that a lot of the comments here are taking this column as being about radio. It’s not. It’s about being an employee in any line of work, in any size company.

  2. Note to Mr. Cohen:
    Please set aside a minimal budget to construct a small, secular shrine to your own organization.
    In days to come, it might serve as a strange and curious reminder to the rest of us about what might have been possible.

  3. Our radio group functions like a four legged stool. Production, Sales, Administration and Ownership must all work together. We are interdependent and team obsessed. However, it is still show business and without the business “there ain’t no show”. Making our ads memorable is Job One! Making our stations memorable is Job One! Making our Reps and Announcers memorable is Job One! There is no room for apathy in a truly creative workplace. Maybe that explains why we’ve grown from two stations to EIGHT since 2007.

  4. I worked at an IHeart station in Nashville.
    The only training new reps got was to listen to and watch a video.
    The sales manager would tell new reps to just ride with or annoy senior reps for any training needed.
    The managers excuse for lack of training was that they really didn’t have time to train.
    Too busy in too many meetings.
    The cluster had Mandatory meetings everyday at 8:30am and 5:30pm.
    The managers once said that if they had to be in the office all day, the reps should have to “check in” each morning and evening as well.
    The managers never left the building, except for two hour lunches.
    Senior reps were allowed to keep all of their lists, even if there had been no billing for years.
    New reps had to beg and crawl for any possible crumb.
    Sadly, the turnover was never ending and the station lost many good people.
    Many of those went on to do very well with other companies in other sales positions.
    A managers job should be to train and help everyday, not stay in a office all day.

  5. From here:
    It seems to me that some extremely sinister and toxic concepts are being, not only bandied about here, but are being justified, while in the process of identifying them.
    It is one thing to recognize that corporations have every right to, essentially, operate with certain legal impunities, they are also not held responsible for exercising gross examples of the lack of, what were at one time, standard-issue and useful business ethics and morals.
    Behaving in these ways demonstrates a twisted irony – they do nothing to advance the goals of anyone in the industry.
    Ownership, management, employees, audiences and advertisers, however, do get to take it in the ear.
    Is this, then, an industry where critical thinking has been tossed aside for the easier conveniences of accepting and serving suspiciously tainted dogma and ideology?

  6. Jason’s title, “The Cold Dose of Radio Reality,” is perfect for this piece. As a radio talent, over the past 10 years, I have experienced exactly what he writes about. I am one of those people who has made the mistake of thinking that my contributions to the company entitled me to something more. But not because I was delusional, but rather because I don’t know how to do the job without immersing myself in it.

    Radio is family to me, a very screwed up and dysfunctional family, but family nonetheless. When radio was at its best, everyone in the building felt they were part of a family. They felt valued and respected.

    Sadly, Jason is spot on. There is no more sense of family in Radio. It’s simply about showing up, doing your job and hoping that at the end of your shift you still have an opportunity to do what you love tomorrow.

    You would think that after 10 years I would learn to separate my love of the business from the reality of it. I can’t. This business is in my heart so I still hold out hope that one day a company will view my talent, integrity, loyalty, and dedication as an asset and not simply as something that is replaceable. If that makes me crazy, so be it.

    I won’t give up on Radio even thought Radio seems to have given up on talent.

    Thank you, Jason, for this Cold Dose of Radio Reality…

  7. At the root of Radio’s problem today is the miscalculation of the benefits and pitfalls of consolidation in the 90s.

    The idea that “one plus one equals three” simply hasn’t worked.

    Books like “Who Moved My Cheese” and other “your’re on your own” concepts tear at the very fabric of what makes a Radio station great. They destroy the synergy necessary for Radio success. You can’t win the Super Bowl with just a quarterback. You need a team to win in Radio too.

    The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    T = Together
    E = Everyone
    A = Achieves
    M = More

  8. Who hires the manager who “owes” it to them…someone above them…the manager’s manager. Who employs the manager’s manager? Does the chain become clearer now? He owes it to the station to train those under him. You have it all wrong, Jeff. Good article Radio Ink.

    • Really? You think a recognition of a chain of command isn’t implicit in my comment? Nice try.

      Yes, loyalty has to flow up the chain as well as down. But breaking that loyalty in either direction renders the organization dysfunctional. So, yes, your station — recognizably as the leadership and management thereof — OWES you something when you come on board, especially as someone new to the industry or new to your position.

      Specifically they owe you quality training, professional development, and proper acculturation to the radio industry, to your new craft, to the station, and to the Entercom / Cumulus / iHeart / Hubbard / etc “way,” assuming their is such a thing (and there ought to be if the organization is worth a fig).

      When this doesn’t happen you end up in the position that too many stations are in: with massive churn in entry level positions, mostly from people leaving the industry rather than moving up; with clueless, unprofessional sales reps who anger prospective clients rather than selling them; with low-grade copywriters who churn out hack work because they don’t know any better, thereby putting ads on the air that ensure the client will be one more business owner who “tried radio and it didn’t work”; and with producers who might have technical knowledge, but no sense of radio’s past knowledge, and little incentive to produce anything of true quality, such that most agencies feel the need to outsource ad production to someone other than the station.

      When it does happen, not only do you fix all those problems, but you ensure loyalty back up the chain of command, wherein every professional in every position feels a responsibility to do first class work and to uphold the culture, status, and performance of the station. But only a moron would expect that loyalty flowing up unless it is initiated with loyalty down. And loyalty down is a lot more than a paycheck.

  9. As an admitted outsider to the radio industry, I have to say that Jason Barrett’s column is a perfect example of what’s WRONG with the industry and a large example of what’s holding it back.

    First, let me quote one of the more telling passages: “There is no Mr. Cumulus, Mr. Entercom or Mr. iHeart standing in your way. There are people tasked with representing each company and looking out for its business interests, even if it means halting your plans and complicating your situation.”

    That idea that “there is no Mr. Cumulus…” works both ways. If there is no Mr. Cumulus, only a collection of people trying to do their best, then there is no “station” that doesn’t owe you anything either, there are only your colleagues, your managers, your subordinates, and your leaders who, according to Mr Barettm, don’t owe you anything.

    Does the problem with that become clearer now?

    Yes, as a manager and leader you OWE your people something beyond a paycheck.

    Let me say that again: as a leader you owe your people a great deal more than just a paycheck.

    Not the least of those things is high quality training and professional development. If you hire a new sales rep for your station, you OWE it to them to teach and train them properly so they can be a decent, professional rep. And the same thing goes for copywriters, producers, etc. Heck, even as a more experienced colleague who was mentored and given a hand when he or she first entered the business, you OWE it to the new guys to do the same for them.

    This is how institutional knowledge is safeguarded, maintained, and advanced. And any organization worth its salt takes it VERY seriously. Just try telling a Marine that he doesn’t owe anything to his men. Imagine, if you will, how Sec Def Mattis would react to such a notion.

    Institutional knowledge is how stations improve and advance, and how the industry as a whole maintains its overall professionalism. And Jason Barett’s attitude towards it explains much about the current state of radio.


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