The radio can really put you in a good mood. From upbeat songs to delightfully low-budget local ads, there’s always something to enjoy—so it’s understandable if you’ve ever wondered how you can be one of the people who make that enjoyable experience happen. So, if you want to break into the radio industry, we have a few tips for you.
Where to study the radio industry
Whether you want to be on the air or do behind-the-scenes production, you’ll need to study and spend a lot of time learning about the industry. Mike Adam, who hosts New York’s WNEW-FM every day from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., recommends looking into specific programs and schools that can help you really focus on the radio industry.
“I went to Connecticut School of Broadcasting after high school,” he told Lifehacker. “I liked that it was a trade school and that it guaranteed an internship. I ended up interning with iHeart Hartford, Conn. and getting hired on the Power 104.1 street team.”
From there, he said, he “worked [his] way up the ladder,” doing stints in the promotions, production, and programming departments.
You can study radio in your off hours or at a larger school, too. Ben DiCostanzo, a 28-year-old commercial content manager for iHeartRadio, told Lifehacker, “In college, I fell in love with my university radio station, WSOU, Seton Hall’s Pirate Radio. I got my broadcasting and media degree from Seton Hall and then started applying to any possible jobs in the industry after graduation. iHeartRadio was the first to give me a chance.”
Aim for a wide variety of experience
Did you notice how both Adam and DiCostanzo said they spent their first few years in the industry applying to and working a variety of jobs? That’s common—and you should do it, no matter what you think your end goal or dream job is.
For one thing, you need to make sure the job you’re aiming for is the one you really want. You could think you want to be on air, but fall in love with production. For another thing, it’s key that you have a wide understanding of other departments’ work because you might have to pick up slack or solve a little crisis at any time. If someone on another team calls out sick or there are technical difficulties, the radio can’t just turn off. It’s better for you to be well-trained and experienced in a variety of departments, or, as Adam says, be “a jack of all trades.”
“Day to day these days, I work directly with our sales team and programming team,” DiCostanzo said, “including on-air talent, producers, and program directors to coordinate, edit, and schedule their radio commercial sales on air for each of our six local iHeart stations.”
See? There’s a lot more to working in radio than having a nice voice or the ability to create a killer playlist.
How to be successful in radio
You’re not the only person out there who wants to work in radio; it’s probably going to take some time for you to break through.
“Just be patient,” DiCostanzo said. “It might not all be glamorous all of the time, but hard work always pays off. There is no shortage of ways to make yourself known these days. Stick to your own plan, make connections, don’t be afraid to branch out, and just have fun with it. Radio is what you make of it. It also opens the door to so many other various side projects that you might have never known you even had an interest in.”
Adam added, “I think the two things that helped me get to where I am today are motivation and resilience. I made myself available for every street team event back when I was in promotions and refused to take ‘no’ for an answer (and I got a lot of them). I would send my radio demo to countless program directors weekly, looking for feedback, job opportunities, or if nothing more, just putting myself on their radar.”
He suggested using the radio directory on AllAccess.com to find program directors, then “star blasting off those emails.”
You have to promote yourself, stay motivated, keep pushing, be patient, and not let yourself give up. It’s hard, but if you really want this career, it’s necessary.
Think outside the boombox
Yes, a job in radio is in radio, but a little cross-platform promotion never hurt anybody.
“Social media is as important as how you sound on air,” said Adam, who has nearly 150,000 Twitter followers and around 37,000 Instagram followers. “My success on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube has absolutely helped get me to where I am today.”
He added, “My advice is get those social media numbers up, but don’t bite off more than you can chew. You’re better off being a rockstar on a couple of platforms rather than just trying to be on everything for the sake of being on everything. Become a networking ninja (social media is great for this too).”
Build a personal brand to make yourself stand out and secure a few fans who will follow you anywhere. Then, send your YouTube videos, podcasts, stellar tweets, or Instagram posts to a program director. Be aggressive. Be pushy. Be open to failing and, most importantly, ready to get back up again.