(By Jeff McHugh) Radio layoffs are in the news — again. If you were “restructured,” my heart feels for you. Ed Ryan at Radio Ink asked me to share some hopefully helpful insights from my experience as a talent consultant — and as someone fired four times from radio and television jobs.
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
Business is bad. Our largest radio companies got themselves into so much debt buying the stations that they now cannot afford to run.
When companies consolidated, AM/FM had virtually no competition in the car, but today’s dashboard plays Spotify and podcasts.
Consolidated companies began cutting salespeople at about the time advertisers were discovering cheaper, targetable digital advertising as an alternative to radio commercials buried in the middle of seven-minute spot clusters.
Talent layoffs are a long-term radio strategy. Behind the scenes, large U.S. companies have invested in automation that can run cookie-cutter music playlists across hundreds of stations with inserted imaging to make it sound vaguely local. They now even have artificial intelligence voices that I am told sound indistinguishable from humans.
Great AM/FM radio with memorable personalities will survive. Like other entertainment industries, the CEOs and VPs who oversee mediocre content will face the chopping block as their ratings and revenue underperform. Evolution will bring new leaders who put product first.
HOW DO I FIND A JOB?
Write down your goals. A Harvard study years ago proved that those who wrote down what they wanted from life and career with pen and paper made 10 times as much money as the people who did not. Where you want to live, the job you hope for, the money you expect, what success looks like – write it all down.
Distribute your demo everywhere. Now is the time to apply to Country, hip hop, AC rock, talk and other formats you may not have considered working in. Send your demo to consultants like me and consider a basic portfolio website where managers can hear/see your work.
Network. Touch base with old friends and contacts. Meet up for a drink if they are local, call or write if far away. Use social media to connect and make new friends. Out of sight is out of mind, so stay present.
Consider investing in a convention. Some will give you cut-rate admission if you are out of work. Head to an event where there are lots of people in charge of hiring. Shake hands, make small talk, and create a good impression. You never know which two-minute chat might lead to an interview.
Consider investing in your brand. I got a magazine-quality photo shoot for $250. Think about hiring a videographer to do a short on-camera demo.
Consider smaller companies and markets. Many of us aspire for New York or LA but most of the happiest radio people I know today work for companies like Saga Communications, Dick Broadcasting, Reno Media Group, and Leighton Broadcasting.
Consider getting out of radio. I advise every talent I coach to think of themselves as an entertainment personality brand. Your skills and character apply to podcasting, television, social media, stand-up comedy, event hosting, corporate training, public relations and more.
Consider getting out of entertainment altogether. One day, I made a list of non-media companies I admired on a napkin and one of them was fitness wear company Lululemon. I loved it and was there for nearly three years before Randy Lane dragged me back in with this dream job. If you were going to work outside of broadcasting, where would you be excited to go apply?
Get a lawyer. Shop around now for someone who can review your next contract. Find someone you vibe with and can afford.
Learn negotiating. Go to the library for Negotiating for Dummies, or something similar, to brush up on your deal-making skills. If you are anxious and overwhelmed with negotiating, consider an agent.
Jeff McHugh is known for developing talent for radio, TV and podcasts. He brings a mix of positivity, creativity, and strategy to the shows that he coaches. He is a member of the team at The Randy Lane Company and coaches on-stage presenters with Own The Room. Email him at [email protected]