7 Tips to Starting a Broadcast Career

Tony Barnes By Tony Barnes, 4th Jun 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3zx-frxj/
Posted in Wikinut>Business>Business Opportunities

Ever dream of being a radio announcer? Here are some tips from a few veterans in the broadcast industry.

Broadcast Career

Ever fantasize about being behind a radio microphone? Have you found yourself yelling at a radio because the radio talk show's host IS NOT asking the obvious question of an antagonistic caller? Do you dream of spinning records in a closed studio broadcasting pithy comments to the world between tunes? Have you ever imagined cutting into a regularly programmed broadcast to alert people to some earth shattering news item?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may be infected with the broadcast virus. Most people who have this virus never really get rid of the ailment. Even when they leave a radio station for other opportunities, they will invariably find themselves at some point back behind a microphone. There's really no cure for this virus other than getting into radio. However, getting started in radio can be very frustrating at times. You have to be persistent and follow your dream.

1. Are you a pest?

Make sure someone in radio in your hometown at least remotely knows you're face. For many people in radio, there was some seminal point in time that someone took a chance on them. It may have been a shift filling in for a vacationing talent or maybe you got to sing a song at a radio remote broadcast. Be cautious…while being a pest…don't be a pest to the point that a policeman is pushing your head down while loading you into a police car. There is a fine line between being a pest and stalking. If you want to work in radio someday, be honest and tell them. A station manager would rather you tell them what you are looking for than to be hanging around on the fringes hinting at your goal.

Many radio stations will do remote broadcasts. Sometimes those are from a restaurant, book store, concert or a shopping warehouse type store around the holidays. Go by those tables and talk to the radio staff. Some of them are part time at the radio station and have full time jobs elsewhere. Again, don't come across as a stalker. But, in conversation you may find you have something in common with that person. If done properly, you are simply networking which in today's world is very important.

Nancy Harris is an advocate for pursuing an internship. Over a nearly three decade career in radio, she went from being an intern to working at a top radio station in Denver. Here's her account, "Pursue a six-month internship -- it isn't a paying gig, but you get valuable hands-on experience. I did that at KVOR (back in the day), and took that experience to get a job at KWYD in Widefield, CO. As for chasing ratings, that strategy eventually led to working at a #1 station in a top 20 market (KBPI , Denver)".

2. Do you have the voice?

While you certainly don't have to possess a voice that sounds like God raining down commandments from Mount Sinai, think about whether you have a voice that would be suited for radio broadcasts. If you listen to radio announcers, most of them sound like they are from the Midwest sporting an accent that is hard to pinpoint. For many, that is a radio voice which sounds somewhat different in real life.

But, don't despair if you don't have that golden throated voice of yesteryear. Karen Veazey, former general manager KTLF and KTPL in Colorado Springs, has a great perspective on the quality of a radio voice, " These days, a "real" delivery style is as important as a great voice. In your demo, be as concerned about the content as the sound of your voice. Think of it as speaking to a friend at a coffee table rather than announcing at a ballpark."

Veazey also encourages a person to see if the local radio station will let them cut a demonstration recording you can use in your job search. While you can cut a demo on a home stereo system, it is far more advantageous to record a demo on professional equipment in a sound studio. Station managers want to know how you will sound on the radio not on a home stereo system. The difference in quality can be significantly different.

3. How long can you exist on noodles?

Unless you have a name that sounds like you are in a hurry, don't expect riches and wealth to immediately rain down on your household. Except for the huge markets like Dallas, New York and Los Angeles, most radio broadcasters that you hear while channel surfing do not make very much money. Many of them may be on the radio in the morning while they spend their afternoons beating the streets to sell advertisements. By working in sales for their radio station, they earn commissions to augment what is usually a pretty low salary.

4. Do you only know about George Strait?

When you are first trying to get into radio, you never know who you will meet. Learn about different genres of music so that you can speak intelligently in a social setting. Your first job in radio may not necessarily be the kind of music or broadcast platform you really like. However, you have to start somewhere and it's important to get your foot in the door. Jerry King, 20 year veteran of radio and former host of KTLF's Sonrise, captures the thought, " Don't TRY to come off as an expert if you don't have the credentials and heart. Phonies are immediately "found out"."

5. Are you willing to put the Benjamin's upfront to get into radio?

Most people have experienced the frustration of being told you don't have enough experience for a position for which you are applying. One way of gaining experience is to actually buy time from a radio station. You could talk with a station about doing a program that revolves around your passion. You can leverage a hobby such as rebuilding cars, creating unique clothing, or collecting antiques. Talk with a local station manager about doing a weekly 5, 10 or 15 minute program that focuses on your hobby or passion.

After a few months of dealing with this radio station, start inquiring about any part time positions that may be available. If you are already broadcasting on his station, you are a known commodity and they will be more likely to look favorably on your joining their team. It may cost you a few thousand dollars over time. But, the experience and proven performance may go a long way into getting you into that radio job.

6. Do you have the skin of an elephant?

Radio is incredibly competitive. As you meet and talk with people who have been in radio, you will soon notice they have worked at several stations. Because stations often live and breathe off of ratings, when the ratings start to slip station owners and manager begin to break out in hives. Well, maybe not actual hives. But, they do start trying to figure out the best way to change the recipe which will sometimes involve you walking out of a studio at the end of a shift only to find your services are no longer needed. It's important that you learn from the experience and let it refine you instead of letting bitterness define you.

Keep that resume current because you never know when you may need it. Nancy Harris has some further advice in this realm, " Once you have some experience under your belt, canvass the entire market, sending packets to every single station, regardless of format (cover letter, resume, demo CD to a specific person - i.e, Program Director, General Manager); call that person and follow up, and if you get so much as a phone interview, remember that radio is still very much old school -- hand-write a good old fashioned thank you note. It can make all the difference. "

7. Remember its not about you!

Jerry King is adamant when he advises that you talk to people…not down to them. You may be the greatest expert in the field of what you are broadcasting, but you need to connect with people. If you come across as arrogant or condescending people will find something else to listen to on their radio.

Karen Veazey also offers great advice in this arena, " Radio hosting is about the audience, not about giving (most) announcers personal platforms. When you're starting, remember that the programming staff are interested in on-air people who can serve the audience. That doesn't mean you have to be in the target demo - I was 23 when I started at a station for 45+ - but you need to be willing to find out who the audience is and tap into their interests and needs. Talk radio is a little different, but even then its about researching and addressing the things that matter to your listeners."


Keep at it. If this is your passion, you are already a radio person. Your job is to find what slot you can find to plug yourself into so that you end up with a microphone in front of your face. Be patient while being persistent. There are no guarantees, but if you stay focused on your goal you will likely see it come to pass at some point. Radio can be incredibly satisfying and it can be incredibly frustrating. But, once you have the broadcast bug there is really no hope for deliverance. You tend to have it for life. Good luck in your broadcasting endeavors.


Broadcast, Internship, Jerry King, Karen Veazey, Kbpi, Ktlf, Ktpl, Kvor, Mount Sinai, Nancy Mitchell, Radio, Remote

Meet the author

author avatar Tony Barnes
I am a native Texan who spent 3 years in the Marine Corps Reserves and 25 years on active duty in the Air Force. I have been a Christian since 1985 and am an ordained minister. I am conservative politically and love to study history. I publish a mont...(more)

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author avatar motrojam
17th Mar 2014 (#)

Wonderfully written article. Thanks!

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author avatar Jim Robinson
30th Oct 2015 (#)

Connecticut School of Broadcasting is the perfect place to get the skills needed to start a career in the radio broadcasting industry. Here’s a student testimonial that really explains why Connecticut School of Broadcasting should be your first step towards a rewarding broadcasting career… https://youtu.be/6G0kJqu7gPw

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