Getting Started in Radio

For some people radio will be a good way to get into the door of show business. Then you might decide to stay at the microphone or use the experience to move into other fields of entertainment. There are some of you who will not want to get into radio at all. There is no need to go to a radio school other than to learn the electronics end of the transmitter and equipment. Better than going to a radio school I would suggest meeting deejays and announcers where they do live shows and give them some comedy material if you are a good writer. Offer to work on holidays and times the regular jocks are likely to be on vacation. Help the radio station when the station needs a voice.

The door to radio that opens easiest is the small town radio station or the college or public broadcasting arena. That doorway often opens into acting opportunities.

It might help you get a job in radio if you have some engineering ability. If you know how to "run the board" it makes the learning process for a job in radio much easier. If you are able to work in a recording studio first (help out for free if necessary to get a start), that will be very similar to a board operation at a radio station. Every board is different, but they have common features. It is also necessary to be responsible when entering information on logs that are kept for The FCC and for the music license organizations such as ASCAP and BMI and SESAC. There are schools which will train you to pass the FCC tests for licenses which will lead to employment at radio and TV stations as an engineer. That is a real stepping stone for becoming a radio or TV announcer.

Listen to the station before you go in to apply for a "board shift." Some stations are all talk format with loudmouths. Some are Deejays playing Rock or Country music. Some announcers are doing the news with careful pronunciation and enunciation and another might be analyzing a stock portfolio. You know who you are and what you do well. Do not try to work at a college Rock radio station if your voice is like Dan Rather's. But if you sound like Dan Rather and you really want to do a Rock show and you know the music, go ahead and try. Be sure to tape record your voice and do a "pretend" show before you audition. If you say "Like, Man..I" or "Uh, I, uh, see the weather forecast for, uh, today, is..." just start correcting your speech patterns. You do not have to speak perfect English or any other language to start in radio. Keep improving.

Big Bucks in Radio

When you are starting you do not worry about the money. Some college radio stations are volunteer and that means zero pay. You might even be asked to contribute to help buy some equipment. I have worked for free in radio. I have worked for minimum wage in radio.

Radio Employment

I once was hired at a radio station because I was in the station when an announcer quit in the middle of his show. I was a writer (for free) of comedy material and news stories for the radio station and I was the only one there who knew how to run the board and who was immediately available. There are times when the radio station will have several weeks notice about an opening and they might audition talent. I have often got a radio job by just going into the program director's office and letting them know I was available. When I first started my radio career I wrote not just for one station but for three. I quickly got to know most of the announcers in town (Las Vegas, 1960s) and I also was known by the program directors. Shake hands with everyone you meet in show business. Tomorrow they might be your boss.

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Internet Radio

It would be a fine thing to have your own radio show on the internet, especially if you are doing a talk format show. If you are doing music you will want to check with ASCAP and BMI and SESAC before you play their music. Each song that is copyrighted has a publisher. The publisher is usually affiliated with BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) or ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers). SESAC is rarely necessary and it usually represents gospel song publishers. (UPDATE ON SESAC; SESAC is becoming more involved with pop music publishing. Be sure to contact them for permission to play any of their represented music.) To be legal and to keep attorneys away it would be best to pay a small fee to each organization to broadcast their musical property. You can broadcast public domain songs without fear except for public domain songs where the recording itself is copyrighted. An example of this would be if you played "Silent Night" by Barbra Streisand, the song is public domain but the recording belongs to the producer. Read about copyright on the internet before you do a radio show with musical content.

Almost any subject can become the focus of your own internet radio talk format show. You can discuss politics, history, sports, cooking, community affairs or favorite movies. Use your imagination.

Before you turn up your nose at radio listen to this story. In Las Vegas in the 1970s I worked at a radio station called KVEG. Joe Behar also had a show at the station. I ran the board for Joe's show. Long before other stations had talk formats, Joe had a call in type show and I was his engineer. He was about 30 years ahead of today's talk personalities. I did my own show earlier in the day and stayed to engineer his program. Joe invited me to his Community Drama Workshop. He believed in my ability to do comedy and music and even acting. His encouragement helped me to become first an extra, then an actor. I might not have met so many show business people without my radio background.

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