(By Jeff McHugh) The biggest obstacle in hiring good talent is often geography. Smart broadcasters know that the survival of AM/FM radio depends more on talent than music alone. But finding personalities has never been tougher.
You might think that the obstacle is money. Even in top ten markets, some radio jobs offer the same pay as Wal-Mart. You might think the industry’s reputation for layoffs deters candidates, or that the young generation is more interested in hosting YouTube or podcasts than being a deejay.
But more often we find the perfect on-air candidate for a show simply does not want to live in that market. The deal-breaker could be culture, the weather, family ties elsewhere, or something else tied to location.
Here is my solution: Talent hosting your local show from someplace else.
Hear me out. I am not talking about overburdened voice track hosts rushing to voice multiple stations without time to prep good content. We have too much of that already.
Imagine a live, local hybrid two-player show on your station. Great content, fun, laughs and they relate to the listener’s lifestyle. One player is in-market from the local studio and the other is – wherever.
Most broadcasters would, of course, prefer to have all the hosts in-market, but given where we are in 2022 will you pass on a star player from Topeka, Toronto, or Timbuktu in favor of a C hometown player?
Could this work in real life? Gene “Bean” Baxter told me how they kept the former Kevin and Bean show together at KROQ Los Angeles while working apart.
I lived in Los Angeles almost the first ten years of the Kevin and Bean Show on KROQ but never really took to Southern California. I decided I did not want to live there anymore. I went to program director Kevin Weatherly and told him there was a way we could do the show remotely. (ISDN was a thing then.)
We were doing pretty well and he agreed to let us try it in July 1999. No one could tell the difference. We told the audience I had moved to Seattle, and then later to New Orleans but to them, it was the same show.
You might be wondering about the downsides of having an out-of-town player. I asked Bean about his experience:
I don’t think there was a downside on air, but it was definitely a disadvantage for some in-the-market things for the sales department. But I did over 20 years of the show working remotely so it certainly worked out overall.
A remote host can still do endorsements, social media, digital content, podcasts, and client/sales meetings via Zoom. Local hosts can do appearances and remotes although those are much lower priorities today compared to winning on-air.
What about producing the show with one player elsewhere? Bean told me that the show worked flawlessly.
I know some people prefer to be in the room, especially with guests. It didn’t matter to me. Thanks to WhatsApp (AIM back then) I could be in touch with everyone in real-time. And of course, when the mics were off, we could all talk off-air just like normal.
I don’t think it matters at all where the talent is now. The Patreon podcast I do now is with a former morning show colleague, Allie Mac Kay, and is called “A Cup Of Tea And A Chat. I now live in London and she lives in Maine.
The pandemic has permanently changed how people value lifestyle and choose where they get to work. If geography is the only barrier between you and a live, local show, consider how a strong remote player can be a long-term rating and revenue win.
Jeff McHugh is known for developing remarkable talent for both morning and afternoon drive. He brings an uncommon mix of positivity, creativity, and strategy to the shows that he coaches. He is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company. Reach Jeff at [email protected]