Secrets Of Small & Medium Market Recruitment


(By Mike McVay) Last week my Radio Ink column was about the Small and Medium Market roundtable sessions at the NAB Show. This week I’m sharing the discussions from the table that I hosted which focused on recruitment. Finding air talent and sellers for small and medium market radio stations isn’t the easiest task to execute, but the opportunities may be greater than what one would naturally expect.

To begin with, the times have changed dramatically from when many of us were beginning a radio career. There was a time when radio stations aired public affairs shows and blocks of religious programming on the weekend. Wannabes would start on the weekend running the board for such programs and sports broadcasts. That’s how I started my career. Didn’t crack a microphone for the first two years … unless I thought no one was listening. 

Before that, many talent started on pirate radio, low-power broadcast stations, and carrier current in your parents’ basement … or in my case … my parents’ attic with my school friends who served to fill out the air shifts. We had a fake radio station that we even gave call letters. It was training. The same as throwing a football through a tire 50,000 times to become a Quarterback. If you were lucky it led to weekends and/or overnights.

The challenge today is that there is, for the most part, no need for overnight or weekend talent because of syndication or voice-tracking being available. Often with better talent than beginners. There are also those that air nothing overnight beyond sweepers and music. Which is a missed opportunity to have someone acquire actual airtime to learn and practice their craft. I understand the need to be budget conscious, although it is a missed opportunity to “grow your own.”

Despite the general feeling that there is no longer a farm team, many outlets exist where talent can train, just not necessarily on the radio. Talent can be found online streaming their own shows via the internet. Podcasting is taken advantage of by many hobbyists and is another place to find talent. Social media is also an area where training and practice take place and is ripe for recruitment.

It is generally accepted that social media is an arena that is touted as an environment of discovery. However, it’s a rarity to find a potential radio entertainer on TikTok or on any other platform that posts Reels. Not impossible, as there are examples of performers who came from the digital and social space. Just not a lot of them. It is worthwhile to be a part of the program and the scavenger hunt could pay off. 

The search for talent today, when looking beyond radio, should include downloading the Amp App and the App for Clubhouse. These two programs have talent on them that want to be heard, are putting on a show, and have the type of personality that they enjoy being in the spotlight. They’re performers.

Amp from Amazon is a platform where anyone can host their own radio show. It’s my number one “go-to” to find personalities who come from somewhere other than radio. They are “putting on a show.” The type of person you’ll find on Amp is the type of individual who wants their own show. They’re clearly not biased against radio. They’re looking for an outlet. The same can be said for Clubhouse, although that platform lacks talent executing a radio show. 

There are few radio programs at the high school level, although I always run into student broadcasters at the annual Intercollegiate Broadcast Systems conference in New York City. You’ll find more and better radio programs in colleges. It’s not widespread, but there are some amazingly good broadcast programs around the nation. 

Reaching out to educational radio programs, and engaging their students as interns, is a great way to find potential recruitment candidates. People who attend college in order to have a career in media and those who attend Broadcast schools are the types of people who will move to have that first job. The schools themselves want to hear from broadcasters. They want to be able to point their students to potential employers. Contact schools and introduce yourself. Communicate with them on a regular basis.

There are several unusual places where you can find and recruit talent. Local theatre is one of them. The actors and actresses in Community Theatre have day jobs, rehearse at night, and perform on the weekend. They’re the type of people who may consider a career change to be a performer. It’s easier to teach someone to operate a studio system than it is to teach them to be a performer.

Retired police are possible recruitment candidates. They can retire after 20 years of service. If they came out of the academy and started young, they’ll still be of an age where they can and may want to work. Same for firemen or women, nurses, and teachers. These are people who can communicate. Their life experiences may be very valuable to your station. Look at exiting politicians, the ministry, individuals from public relations firms, and ad agencies. The latter two often have people in their ranks with media experience.

It’s true. We no longer have a farm club. What’s untrue is that there’s nowhere to find talent. Start the search.

Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]. Read Mike’s Radio Ink archives here.


  1. Thanks for giving state colleges some love, Mike! Vol State Community College is trying to be a “farm team” for local radio stations looking for talent in the Nashville area and yes, in small markets. While Tennessee might be on the naughty list for many things lately, the state community college system’s Tennessee Promise lets most of my kids (and returning adults) take courses for free. The majority of my students are working to put a roof over their heads in addition to attending school, but that doesn’t stop them from volunteering at my stations, and getting experience as air personalities.

  2. Hi, Mike!

    And there are guys like me who will be going into semi retirement next year, but would still love to put my 50 years of experience to work, perhaps in a warmer climate. I know there are still independently owned stations out there in those climates. I just need to be able to either make a wage I can live on in whatever town it is, or be able to cobble enough consistent work together to be able to do it.

  3. Good info Mike. Add to the fact here in small town America, not many folks want to “move” to my town….for anything especially to work in radio. Not even many high schoolers are interested like I was when I got started forever ago. We have 3 traffic lights, not much of an attraction here.

  4. Let’s not forget the National Radio Talent System which has 5 Radio Talent Institutes this summer including the one in Atlanta next month at which you are speaking, Mike. There are others in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri, all with a very singular mission. The NRTS (a divison of the RAB) is to dedicated in educating, enlightening, empowering, engaging and inspiring young, passionate people on the cusp of making career choices. Each institute is a 10-day, program at the various universities, covering virtually every aspect of broadcasting (including sales, podcasting, proidctions, video, digital, social media, et al and is taught by pros working in the industry today. We need to show young people that this is not your parents broadcasting industy. Radio covers so much more than it used to. Sure it’s changed but the career opportunities have cast such a wider net and most young people have no idea about the many choices they have. I totally agree that we need to look everywhere for the amazing talent that is out there, but we also need to show those who aren’t yet doing it – how much fun and exciting this industry still is and that there are decision makes out there looking for them now!


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