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Lara Scott & Big Wave Dave
KFSH Los Angeles  95.9 The Fish

How To Get Into Radio

 

                                

If you’re in radio, chances are at some point you’ve gotten the call, email, text, or note on Facebook saying something like this:  “People tell me I have a great voice.  How do I get into radio?”  Your first instinct might be to encourage them to go into another field, or at least beg them to stay in school and get as much education as possible, but we’ve seen enough hard-working youngsters come through our office over the past few years with a passion for radio that we always try to answer this question with some helpful advice. Advice that you can now copy and paste and use to save some time!  We didn’t get into internet radio or podcasting, as that is another whole article (or maybe even a book), so this is just for the peeps interested in getting on a terrestrial station.  At the end of the day, there is no way to get around the fact that hard work and persistence are involved, but we hope that these offer a bit of direction. 

Move to a tiny market, where folks have time to train you.  This is what happened to Lara, who was living in the bustling metropolis of Bend, Oregon, when a friend dared her to call the local Top 40 station and see if they were hiring.  They were, and they were so desperate to have someone (anyone) keep the station on the air overnight and on weekends and holidays that they showed her the basics and then turned her loose on the air.   She cracked the mic and promptly forgot her name, the name of the station, and had tons of dead air when she didn’t have three songs playing at once.  But she was on the air, and improving (very slowly) with every shift. The same holds true for Big Wave Dave. BWD worked Friday nights at the college station, and then while everyone was recovering from their Friday night escapades, Dave would get up at 4am Saturday morning and drag himself to WLAC and produce a talk show about gardening from 5-10. Summers, he did everything from taking out the trash to reorganizing filing cabinets for stations in Derry and Milford, NH! He also played the “morning show” lackey: fetching coffee and donuts to washing the station R.V. 

If someone is not afraid to cold call or email PDs, the small market station is a great approach.  You freely admit that you have no experience, but let them know that you will work the shifts no one wants and do whatever needs to be done if they will give you a shot, whether that’s loading voice tracks from a bigger market or running the board during remotes.  A strong work ethic seems to be a rare thing these days, and it’s exciting for a boss to encounter someone who has passion, even if they don’t have experience or knowledge (yet).

School.  This could be radio school, or a regular two or four-year college.  People always seem surprised that a degree doesn’t seem to count for much in the real world of radio—we’ve seen folks with experience and no degree get hired over folks with fancy degrees and no experience time and time again.  And certainly, when it comes to radio schools, you must encourage people to do their research and make sure it is a credible institution.  We always tell anyone planning to go the school route that the most valuable things they will get out of it will be relationships (with other students that might go on to work in radio, and teachers, who are usually working radio professionals), experience on a school station (getting comfy behind the mic is essentially the same process everywhere, whether you have 100 people or 100,000 listening), and an internship at a local station (where you will meet more people and get practical experience).  It’s also great to ask the school for contact info for former students, who will be brutally honest in how and if the school helped their career. The important item to stress here is that you have a command of the language and know how to use it. That’s where a two-punch combination of classes like English, Creative Writing, Drama and/or Voice are worth their weight in gold. Once you have a working knowledge of the basics, you can learn how to run a board, operate a microphone and run software just about anywhere.
 

Starting off at a station (in any size market) in an off-air capacity, such as the street team, receptionist, or sales assistant, and then shifting to the programming department. We’ve seen street teamers put in a few months of washing the station van and helping listeners spin the prize wheel and then move up to a board op position…and they didn’t have to move to a new town or go to school for that.  Plus, you’ll be getting free training!  The important thing is to get a foot in the door, be nice to everyone you meet, and volunteer to stay late or come in on the weekend if someone is willing to train you on the board or help you do an aircheck in the production room.  The off-air jobs usually don’t require any kind of experience, so if you are fresh out of high school or college and desperate to get in with a station, this might be the way to go.  Did we mention that you should be nice to everyone at the station, and cheerfully go above and beyond the entry-level job you’ve been hired for?  Plus, most jocks love to hear themselves talk (or maybe that’s just us), and sharing their thoughts on radio with an eager youngster sometimes helps us remember why we got into the biz. Check your sense of “entitlement” and pride at the door. Ask permission to use the production room at 2 o’clock in the morning and work on your hand and vocal skills. Be engaged and self-motivated. Believe us when we say, someone will notice.

With the way things change in radio, the person that you take a moment to point in the right direction or show how to run a board might one day be your PD, so we hope you will take a moment to encourage a future jock when they call and announce that they are ready to be the next Ryan Seacrest.  We’d love to hear YOUR story—how did you fall in love with radio and get your big break? 

 

Who helped you?  Email us at lara@thefish959.com or dave@thefish959.com  

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Scott’s voice has been heard on programs for Bravo, VH-1, and WE, the Olympic Encore on Universal Sports, commercials for the WOW Worship series and Beth Moore, promos for the Way-FM Radio Network, plus 12-Inch Saturday Night 80’s Dance Party and in-flight programming for Delta Radio and Air Force 1.  Scott has been featured on the popular radio industry websites HisAir.net, LARadio.com, Christianitytoday.com, AllAccess.com, and R&R.

Big Wave Dave's (BWD) career began when he moved from his native New Hampshire to Nashville in order to attend college. After four years, he graduated with a double major in Theater and in Communications-Human Relations. After working for radio stations in Boston and Norfolk, BWD became Creative Services Director for what eventually came to be the Clear Channel-Nashville cluster of stations including legendary WSIX and WLAC. In 2001, after almost ten years in the service of this cluster of radio stations, he accepted an offer from The Fish to move to Southern California.
 

 

 

 

 

 

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