2022 will stand out as an odd year as America and the world have navigated out of COVID. Most industries are suffering from remote work reverberations, as companies try to manage hybrid workplaces and systems. Last week, we tackled the so-called “work-life balance” issue in this blog, a post that was one of the most-read and most-talked about of the year.
And no wonder. Many businesses – from technology to nail salons – are having trouble retaining employees, not to mention retaining their current workforces. Except in radio, where the losses continue to mount, and will likely continue through the December holidays.
Tomorrow, Jacobs Media is hosting a free webinar where I’ll present AQ4 – our research study conducted this past summer among 750 card carrying members of radio airstaffs. Registrations are well ahead of last year’s sign-ups. I’m hoping to have a diverse group of air talent, but also radio management – both of whom will benefit from seeing this data.
I’ll have more time to dig deeper into the data, so it will be a more robust presentation than what I put together at Morning Show Boot Camp last month. One area I’m going to focus on is compensation, and how air talent are managing their careers.
Like other industries, radio personalities run the gamut. This year, more than a third (36%) describe their financial situations as “struggling” or “in debt.” And many tell us they’ve had to take a second or even a third job to make ends meet.
And then there are those who are “on the beach” – out of work and trying to figure out their next career moves. In AQ4, 72 respondents were out of work, a majority of whom last worked in PPM markets.
What’s their plan? While some are focused on getting back into the radio game, more than four in three are done with the business.
And overall more than one-in-four are seeking out new careers. Figuring out a strategy to take those radio skills to develop a new, sustainable, and money-making option may, in fact, be a trend. Between years of RIFs and then the pandemic, we’re seeing signs these “side hustles” could become a go-to career path.
And it looks to be women leading the way – and that’s no surprise. In all four AQ studies, women on the air are heavily outnumbered by men – by 2½ to 1. But even more to the point, a majority of women on the air in radio don’t feel they have an equal chance to get ahead as men. And wouldn’t you know it – guys behind the mic are far more likely to believe their female counterparts are getting a fair shot.
To no one’s surprise, women may be leading the way in getting hold of their careers. We got a taste of this at Boot Camp in the “Women’s Forum” session moderated by Big FM‘s (Local Media of San Diego) morning host, the multi-talented Corey Dylan. She moderated a session comprised of five other women called “Rising to the Top.” It may as well have been called, “Taking Control – Carving out New Career Paths” because that’s exactly what they’re doing.
Each panelist has impressively pivoted, applying their acquired skill sets to new endeavors. Corey is a case in point. While “on the beach” herself prior to successfully landing in San Diego, she did VO work for a decade as well as local television in Tampa, on TMZ, and on-camera the past five years on HSN.
Corey explains the phenomenon this way:
“We’ve reached a tipping point in our business where your company has to need you more than you need them.”
And the women who joined Corey at Boot Camp support their radio employers, but they’re also investing time, money, and effort in creating their own franchises that will be viable long after their radio gigs evaporate. Here’s Corey again:
“Build your own brand and if it can stand alone and exist outside your current job, you’ve put yourself in a position to be needed. The best way to (do it) is to lean into the things/hobbies you’re already good at: social media, voiceover, on-camera work, TV, podcasting, memes, YouTube content creation, auctioneering, web design, whatever.”
- L-R: Corey Dylan, Nina Hajian, LauRen Merola, Falen, Evelyn Erives, AC the Plug
LauRen Merola (third from left above) is morning co-host in Charlotte for iHeart – by day – but she’s created a successful blog called “All of the F-words” – fashion, family, food, and fun. Instagram is a source of revenue as well.
Evelyn Erives (second from right) is on the airwaves on iHeart in Riverside. In addition to commercial VO work, she landed an audiobook contract with her local school district. And she started up a family business with husband, Chris Donovan, called “This is Funner,” a production company and podcast network.
Falen (fourth from left) is KDWB Dave Ryan’s well-known co-host. But her other claim to fame is her podcast, “Heartbroken,” boasting 2 million downloads in as many years. Falen is also an artist, and has sold her creations at local art shows and fairs – in addition to earning thousands to post about a hemorrhoid cream, after authentically talking about it in her Instagram posts.
Marie LaMaitre is the creator of TheRadioFam.com, while Westwood One’s Nina Hjian also does television work. Ashley (AC the Plug) Trybula had an outsized presence on the panel. As Director of Content for Radio One + Reach Media in Chicago, she brought smart, savvy social advice to those in attendance.
This panel told me loud and clear how self-branding and “side hustles” aren’t just good ideas – they’re essential to most women trying to make it in radio today. In fact, men on the air should have been taking copious notes in this session, because these same takeaways very much apply to them.
Bottom line: there are web opportunities to be had by applying effort and imagination. In fact, there are people now working in and around the audio space – who have never been on the radio.
Last week, CNBC profiled Alice Everdeen in their “Make It” series of columns. The title says it all:
She joined Fiverr at the start of COVID, and hasn’t looked back, earning more than $200,000 since starting an on-the-side VO business.
And between commercials and voice attendant jobs, she has worked for clients that include Amazon and Southwest Airlines. Alice and her boyfriend are in the midst of renovating the “Life’s Too Short Bus,” an former school bus they bought at auction for $7,500.
Her Fiverr page is a great example of what anyone with a voice and ambition can accomplish. Here’s a sample:
Here’s what Alice told me about her burgeoning VO career:
“I worked in cable news and local news but not radio. I would certainly enjoy it if I did, though! I was hoping to make a couple hundred bucks each month for gas money and figured I’d try creating a gig, as I’d done a few voiceovers for clients at my job. Before that, I ordered a jingle on Fiverr and figured if they could do it, I could too!”
We’ll be talking about these and other related topics in tomorrow’s webinar on this year’s AQ4 study, “Radio Talent in the Post-Pandemic Era.” Details and registration here.
To buy a “Will DJ For Food” piece of merch, visit RedBubble here.
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