While the holidays can be the most wonderful time of year, too often they bring layoffs to the radio broadcasting industry. It's a hard situation to find yourself in, and one that many of us have been in at one time or another — including myself. Given the extraordinary circumstances of our current reality, however, the period of unemployment could be longer this time 'round.
What should you do with all that downtime? Once you've taken care of your immediate needs, I recommend investing in your skillset for the long haul. This is the time to pick up some new tricks that you were always too busy to learn while working.
I recommend starting with these skills:
A few years ago, podcasting was considered the domain of geeks huddled around a computer in their parents' basement. Today, it's become big business, as it is expect to pass the $1 billion mark in revenue next year. While that's still just a fraction of the overall revenue generated by the radio industry, podcasting is growing at a rapid clip. If you want to continue to make a living in the world of audio, it would be wise to embrace this medium.
Webinar: How to Generate Sales Leads with Webinars
Seth Resler shows you how to use webinars to generate leads for your radio station's sales team.
While there are several skills that can be carried over from radio to podcasting — including things like mic technique and audio production — there are also key differences. For example, while radio broadcasters are encouraged to be tight to play to the ratings system, podcasts often have a more relaxed, more intimate aesthetic.
Don't assume that just because you're good at talking on the radio, you'll automatically be good at talking on a podcast. Use this time to experiment with podcasts so you can learn the nuances of the medium. Don't tell yourself that your first podcast needs to be a huge hit. It's okay to start with a pilot season with a finite number of episodes. Make your primary goal to learn about podcasting, not to become a millionaire. If your first season is a success, you can always come back for more. If it's not, you can always take things in a different direction.
Don't podcast alone. Even if you're hosting a solo show, there are a number of different active communities full of podcasters who are willing to offer helpful advice. For example, the Podcast Movement Facebook group is a very helpful resource for the new podcaster.
You can start your podcasting journey with our guide here.
2. Video Livestreaming
Let's dispense with the obligatory Buggles reference and point out that in the internet age, every media personality needs to be a multimedia personality. While your primary form might be audio, it's wise to learn to produce video as well. Fortunately, the tools have become fairly inexpensive, enabling even the unemployed to build their own television studios at home if they want. Most of us carry smartphones that can be used to broadcast live to YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, and other destinations. Use your downtime to figure out how it's done.
While you'll eventually want to invest in some basic equipment, such as lighting gear, a suitable microphone, and perhaps even a video switcher, you can start with what you've already got: a laptop or phone with a video camera. As with podcasting, don't aim to hit a homerun your first time at bat. Start small, learn the ropes, and build from there.
You can begin by watching our Livestreaming 101 webinar.
Every radio personality ought to have their own website. If you don't, take this time to build one for yourself. While there are plenty of services out there that make website building easy, including Squarespace and Wix, I recommend that you teach yourself WordPress. WordPress is the free platform that is used by more than 20% of the world's websites, so knowing how to use it is a skill that is likely to transfer to many different employment opportunities. (Make sure you learn how to build self-hosted websites using the WordPress software found at WordPress.org, not the hosted blogs you can start at WordPress.com.)
WordPress is simple enough that you can pick it up even if you refuse to learn how to code, but powerful enough that you can expand its capabilities to do just about anything you want. I am a radio programmer, not a computer programmer, but I have taught myself enough WordPress to launch over a dozen different websites. You can, too. Start by picking up a beginning WordPress book and teach yourself.
4. A New Social Network
Employers increasingly expect public personalities to know social media management in the same way that they expect everybody else to know how to use Microsoft Word. Your extensive experience posting status updates on Facebook are no longer worthy of a bullet point on your resumé. If you want to impress future employers, you'll need to step up your game.
You've got two choices here: You can either learn a new social network, or master one that you're already on. Either way, I would rank them in this order:
If you already know the first network on the list, move on to the second. In addition to these platforms, you will also want to invest some time in LinkedIn. This, of course, is not because it will help you engage with your audience, but because it may help you find your next job.
Finding yourself out of work, particularly at time when there are so many other stressors in the world, can be extremely challenging. I empathize with anybody who's going through this right now. Once you've had an opportunity to absorb the shock and address your immediate needs, lay out a long-term plan to invest in your skillset. It may not get you back on your feet immediately, but in the long run, it will pay off.
If you are an unemployed broadcaster, you can add yourself to the Jacobs Media talent directory where potential employers can find you.
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Jackson Weaver says
Seth…all due respect. The truth is that anyone under 40 should look for a new career. We’re expecting people to work for $12-15 per hour in MAJOR markets. The world moves on and we need to be mindful.
The best example i can come up with is that the Titanic employed 117 guys who did NOTHING but shovel coal into the engines of the boat. Those guys were all displaced by oil burning engines and had to figure out how to make a new living.
The best advice for most of these folks is to find another career. We love radio…but it’s time for most to move on. And good luck to all of them…
Seth Resler says
I absolutely understand the sentiment. I think it depends on your perspective: If you are in the audio content business, things have never been brighter: the audiences are growing, the production tools are inexpensive, and the advertisers are paying more and more attention.
Radio is just a piece of the audio content business — one way in which audio can be delivered. But increasingly, other companies — from Spotify to the New York Times — are embracing the audio content creation game. I think we’ll see more of it on the local level, too. If a radio company won’t pay you to create audio, it’s possible that somebody else will.
But to take advantage of these opportunities, content creators will need to expand their vision of how audio can be used, and develop their skillset accordingly.
Jackson Weaver says
Well said Seth…appreciate you responding…
Alan Peterson (the Radio America guy, not the News-Talk guy) says
Performance skills will suffer as well, the longer one is away from the studio.
While very few radio automation suppliers will just give away free copies of their software to out-of-work music jocks, a free automation suite – “Rivendell” – provides the user with a full performance experience, including the ability to stream and do pro voicetracking. It’s a Linux-based environment so don’t expect to put it on a spare Windows machine, but it will work on an old dual-core clunker.
I use this suite at the day job (national network) and recommend it very highly to anyone who needs to keep from getting rusty while on the beach, or for anyone who just wants to “play radio”. And again, its drop-dead FREE.
Google “Rivendell” and “Paravel Systems” to get started.
Seth Resler says
I agree, performance will suffer the longer you are out of practice. Fortunately, there are lots of free or inexpensive tools. You mentioned Rivendell. I started podcasting with a free copy of Audacity and a $75 ATR2100 mic. And most jocks can start livestreaming video with the phones they already have in their pockets. These days, when it comes to keeping your skills sharp, time is the limiting factor, not money. So if you’ve got time, you’ve got no excuse.
walter Sterling says
The most important thing an out of work talent can do is watch BELOW DECK and BELOW DECK MED on BRAVO
Seth Resler says
Not gonna lie, I haven’t watched Bravo since they stopped airing The West Wing marathons.