Fundamentals of Radio Broadcasting: Finding a Job

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When you are first breaking into radio, your best opportunities are in the small-market areas. Cities with populations of 30,000 or less are regarded as small market. Little 250 -watt stations in rural communities can be a lot of fun, and they provide excellent experience for the beginning broadcaster. Programming is generally fairly loose, with much greater variety than you will find in the metropolitan areas. Small stations may be more receptive to your ideas and might allow you to do a children's program or a man -on -the -street report. Frequently the small-market station will carry such things as Little League baseball games and live music from the Grange Hall. You may not make much money, but you will learn much and enjoy radio more than you will doing a tight format in a major market.

A college station can also give you good experience. It is one place where you can experiment without having to worry about losing sponsors or getting fired if your ratings drop. Moreover, you will get a chance to do every job there is in radio if you are willing to take advantage of the opportunity. At a college station you may be able to determine some of the programming, set the schedules, keep the logs, contact record distributors, work on promotion, and perhaps even do some of the maintenance. If you play a musical instrument, speak a foreign language, or have some other performing talent, the college station can provide you with an audience.

If you have gotten this far in the book, you are probably interested enough to consider broadcasting seriously. Begin thinking about what you can do to make yourself employable.

1 Get a restricted permit or third class license. Better still, get a second or even a first class license.

2 Get on-the-air experience at a noncommercial, college or com munity station. Learn to operate the equipment smoothly and efficiently.

3 Learn to type, and practice writing copy. Start by composing public service announcements; then begin writing news.

4 Be able to read aloud accurately and without stumbling. Develop the ability to use voice inflection to communicate the idea.

5 Practice interviewing. Learn to extract answers from knowledgeable people by asking concise, well-phrased questions.

6 Expand your vocabulary. Master unfamiliar words. Learn to use the pronunciation guide in the dictionary. Practice a few new words every night.

7 Listen to music. All kinds. Become familiar with titles, artists, and composers in as many musical areas as you can handle.

8 Read newspapers, current magazines, and books. Become a critic of movies, plays, and television shows.

9 Finish college. If you do not actually get a degree, at least take courses that will introduce you to the arts, sciences, and humanities.

Develop an appreciation for all aspects of culture.

10 Read up on FCC Rules and Regulations. Become familiar with the laws under which you will be working.

11 Learn something about electronics. Be able to read meters, solder a wire, and understand the language of the chief engineer.

12 Get some experience in sales. If nothing else, do some door-to door selling. Learn what it is like to make a dozen or more calls before making a sale.

When you have done these things you are ready to start looking for a job.


Your résumé should be an accurate reflection of your professional capabilities. It is your attention -getting device, your foot -in -the -door. It should be brief but at the same time reveal whatever a prospective employer ought to know about your competence. When preparing a resume, do not be modest. It is no time to hide your light under a bushel. It is a chance for you to set down in the record the things you have done and the experiences you have had that are really valuable and contribute to your professional stature.

The Basic Information

Include all the information the employer will need to get in touch with you. Your name, address (with zip code), and telephone number. Also give your age, your marital status, and the condition of your health.

Indicate how soon you would be available; if you are working, you will want to give your employer two weeks' notice. Tell what license you hold, and give the expiration date. If you have a college or university degree, say when and where you received it.

Professional Goals

Tell what job or jobs you are applying for and what type of work you are qualified to do. Put down only the jobs you are willing to accept. If you do not want a typist's job, leave that out. Also there is no need to restrict yourself to the job titles that already exist at the station. It is entirely possible to create a job for yourself by identifying a need that the station has. For example, the station may not have a public affairs director. If you are the right person at the right time, the station may make a place for you. You may want to contact a station that goes off the air at midnight and persuade them to run an all-night show. (Your position will be stronger if you are able to suggest several sponsors willing to buy time during that period.) It can be helpful for the management to know whether you are a "morning person" or a "night person," so specify the time period you feel best suits you.

Work Experience

Normally this would include radio stations for which you have worked.

But if you are just starting, you will have to list other experience. If you have been working at a college or community station be sure to list that, even though you were not being paid. Be specific about the number of hours you worked, the kind of equipment you operated, and the type of work you did.

Other kinds of work could be included in this section as well preferably that which is related to broadcasting, but almost anything will help. Employers want to know whether or not you have the "work ethic." They want to know if you can persevere and stick to a job, even though it may become routine. In almost every case they will choose to employ a steady, dependable worker that they know they can count on, over the "hotshot" who may or may not show up. So your résumé should attempt to demonstrate that you are this dependable kind of person. I would suggest that you not list jobs that you held for only a short period of time, or those in which you had a personality conflict with the employer.

It is quite possible that previous employers will be solicited for references.

Do list volunteer work you have done that is in any way related to the broadcasting field. Incidentally, you might think about doing volunteer work specifically for the sake of acquiring experience to include on a résumé. That is an excellent way to get started. Offer your services to a nonprofit organization and see if you can work in their public relations department. You could make yourself very valuable writing public service announcements for radio stations and news releases for the local papers. In this way you get experience and at the same time make contacts that could prove to be helpful when you start applying for a job.

Academic Background

Start with your most recent degree if you have one. Then, in reverse order, include any other colleges you have attended and course work you have done. Be sure to state your major and the specific courses taken that relate to broadcasting. Name the high school from which you were graduated, but not the elementary school.

Co-curricular Activities

Course work is not the only valuable experience to be gained in college and high school. You will certainly want to mention activities that you pursued and offices that you held. Here again, this is something to think about while you are in college. Active participation in student government, clubs, sports, and social functions not only contributes to your personal growth but makes you a more attractive job candidate as well.

Hobbles and Interests If there is anything that you are not able to work into the other sections you can include it here. Such hobbies as amateur radio operation or other work in electronics would certainly be relevant. "Interests" might include playing a musical instrument or doing magic shows at birthday parties. While these talents in themselves would not be enough to get you a job, one of them might just strike the right chord in the mind of the station manager and make your application stand out from the others. I know one young man who claims he got his job because he knew how to juggle.

The résumé should be neatly typed and prepared in outline form.

Generally speaking, it should not be more than two pages. It is not supposed to be a comprehensive description of all aspects of your personality; it is designed only to get you a personal interview. If it accomplishes that, you can consider it to have been successful. Make several copies of the résumé, update it periodically, and have it on hand when ever an opportunity arises. FIG. 1 is an example of a résumé that you can use as a model.


When you apply for a job, some stations will request that you send them an audition tape. This is a sample of the work that you can be expected to do if you get the job. The best idea is to tailor your audition tape for the station to which you are applying. That way you can use their call letters and play the kind of music that is consistent with their policy. But this is not absolutely necessary. You can make one tape and send out copies to several stations as long as there are not vast differences in their programming styles. Use a small roll of reel-to-reel tape of fairly good quality. Do not expect to get it back.

In order to make an acceptable audition tape you will have to have access to professional equipment. If you are taking a broadcasting course in college, the equipment available to you there should be adequate. The tape should represent the best work you are able to produce. Avoid putting yourself in the position of having to make excuses for it. Follow these important basic rules:

1 Bulk -erase the tape before you start. Do not take the chance of having your tape cluttered up with previously recorded material.

2 Keep it short. Probably not more than 2 or 3 minutes of it will be listened to. The first 30 seconds are critical, so be sure to get off to a good start. Otherwise the rest of the tape may not be heard at all.

3 If you use a stereo recorder, record on the left track or on both tracks; never on the right track alone. A recording made on the right track of a stereo recorder will not play back at all on some (half-track) mono machines.

4 Be sure the tape is clearly identified. Put your name on the box



Robert J. Smith 847 Columbus Avenue Sunnyvale, California 94086 Phone: (408) 555-1212 Age: 24 Birthdate: August 30, 1954 3rd Class Radiotelephone Operator's Permit Available on two weeks' notice Marital status: Single Salary expected: Union scale Health: Good Professional Goals I would like to do on -the -air work for an AM or PM radio station. I am familiar with a variety of styles of music, particularly top 40 and progressive rock. I also have knowledge of folk music and some country-western. I can operate combo and am familiar with basic broadcast audio equipment, In addition to disk -Jockey work I can also qualify as a newscaster. I can write copy and can type 35 words per minute.

Work Experience KSAN 345 Sansome San Francisco, Calif.

KFJC Foothill College Los Altos Hills, Calif.

Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream Store 267 University Avenue Palo Alto, Calif.

Academic Background Foothill College Los Altos Hills, Calif.

Sunnyvale High School Sunnyvale, Calif.

Co -Curricular Activities Debate team Speakers' bureau Hobbies and Interests Music Sports June 1977 to Sept. 1977. Record filing and general organizing of materials for on -the -air personnel. Some copy writing and production assistance. (Part time for college credit) Sept. 1975 to June 1977. On -the -air work as disk jockey and newscaster. Copy writer for public service announcements. Served on management staff as Public Service Director for four months (Part time) June 1976 to Sept. 1976. Behind -the -counter sales work. Operation of cash register.

(Full time) Graduate -AA Degree, 1977. Major: Broadcasting.

Coursework included: Radio station operation; Broadcast journalism; Speech; Television production.

Graduate -June 1972.

Sunnyvale High School from 1971 to 1972.

Participated in three tournaments. Also at Foothill College 1976 to 1977. Attended two tournaments and several on -the -air debates.

Sunnyvale High School, 1972. Participated in Lions Club Speech Contest.

I have been interested in music all my life. I have a collection of over 1,000 records; I play the guitar and sing. I attend concerts and am familiar with the current performers and their music.

I prefer participating in sports rather than being a spectator. I ski, play tennis, and swim.

FIG. 1 Resumé.


and on the tape reel itself. Also, give your name on the tape when you start to record. You can say, "This is Bob Smith auditioning for KLOK." Or you can simply use your name in your ad lib remarks.

5. Telescope the music. The person listening to the tape wants to hear what you sound like, not what the music sounds like. Ad lib into a record, play the first few bars of the music, and stop the tape recorder.

Move the needle over to the end of the selection, and then start your recorder again. On playback the listener will hear only about ten seconds of the music but will hear your remarks at the beginning and at the end.

6. Ad lib and read copy. The two kinds of radio announcing are reading and ad libbing. In order to work on the air, you have to do both of these well. Many stations require their disk jockeys to read news, so your tape should demonstrate that as well as your proficiency in reading spot announcements.

The list above includes the basic features of any audition tape. You should bear in mind that several other people will certainly be applying for the job you would like to get. How are you going to make your audition tape stand out from all the others? Are you more entertaining than those other people? More credible? Are you giving more information? Is your timing better? Is your voice quality superior? Do you have a style that fits in with that of the station? It is very difficult to second guess what a station manager or program director is looking for. They may not know themselves, only that they recognize it when they hear it.

But somehow you will have to give them a reason for selecting you over the competition. The decision may actually be made on factors other than your vocal delivery; there probably are dozens of people who sound just as good on the air as you do. But that certainly is not the only factor that managers will consider. Other skills, such as writing, will be very much to your advantage. Along with your résumé, include some copy that you have written. You may even want to read that copy on your audition tape. Production work is also a factor that station managers will take into account. If you have produced a spot announcement that includes sound and music under voice, send that along, either separately or as a part of your audition tape. Make sure the prospective employer is aware of the special talents that you have.


The job market in broadcasting varies just as it does in any other industry. Jobs are generally more prevalent when business is good and the economy is expanding. During recession periods people tend to hang onto their jobs more tightly, and there are fewer openings available. But in general, a characteristic of the broadcasting industry is its fluidity.

People tend to move around a lot. There are opportunities for beginners, if you are willing to look for them. There are several things you have to understand:

1 You must be willing to move. There are jobs available, but probably not in your home town. The best opportunities are in the small market areas. The pay may not be good, but the experience will be excellent.

2 Working conditions may not be the best. You have to love being on the air in order for the job to be worthwhile. You may have to work a split shift, and perhaps a 6-day week. Rather than working in the downtown studios, you may be assigned to the transmitter site which could be located in the middle of a cornfield or a swamp.

3 You may not get the job of your choice. Beginners sometimes fail to get employment because they confine their job search to their own favorite stations. You can not afford to be this particular. Apply at what ever station has an opening. You do not have to regard the job you take as being a lifetime post. Plan on working at several stations; that is the nature of the industry.

While it is perfectly permissible to apply to any station for a job, your efforts will be more fruitful if you have some way of discovering where the openings are. One way is to look in the trade journals. The magazine Broadcasting, for example, has a classified section which al ways lists a variety of jobs available all over the country. There are other agencies such as Job Leads that also provide information about job opportunities.


You may feel that being a disk jockey is the greatest job in the world.

You may possibly continue to feel that way for several years. Certainly there are people who do become so successful at it that the job does become a lifetime career. But most people who go into the broadcasting business are disk jockeys only for a relatively short period of time. There are reasons for this, many of which we have mentioned in earlier Sections. For one thing there is very little job security, even in the large metropolitan markets. Highly paid disk jockeys with many years of experience frequently get fired for a variety of reasons-their ratings drop, the station changes hands, their material begins to get stale, or the management just wants to take a fresh approach. Getting fired is painful under any circumstances. But it is particularly difficult when you have a family to support and a mortgage to pay. This is why people in the broadcasting business, as they get older, tend to look for positions in the field that offer a bit more security. You are not going to be a disk jockey all your life. If you have not found a fairly secure spot by the time you are 30, try some other business.

FIG. 2 Employment newsletter. (Courtesy Job Leeds.) Look to the future-not only yours, hut that of the broadcasting industry itself. What changes can and will be made in programming in the next several years? What new equipment will come onto the market, and how will it affect the business? What social trends will broadcasters need to become aware of? If you can anticipate the answers to these questions you are on your way to becoming a professional radio broad caster.


The opportunities for a career in broadcasting are as good as they are in any other field. There is always room for good, qualified people. One advantage you may have is that a great many unqualified people are also trying to get into broadcasting. The person with talent and ability will clearly stand out from the rest. Consider that you are competing with many others, and remember that you have to make your application stand out from the rest. Take some care with your résumé; prepare a good audition tape. The rest is a matter of perseverance. If you have a professional attitude you can become a professional broadcaster.


Audition tape



Telescoping music Union scale

1. Prepare an audition tape and a résumé. Have a friend or a classmate play the role of a station manager who reads the résumé, listens to the tape, and interviews you. See if any questions are asked that you have trouble answering.

2 Contact teachers and former employers, and see if they will write letters of recommendation for you. Ask them if you can use them for references.

3 Make a package that contains your résumé, letters of recommendation, copy you have written, and an audition tape. Duplicate everything before you send it out.

4 Practice doing spontaneous auditions. It is entirely possible that this may be thrown at you when you apply for a job. Sometimes employers would rather hear what you can do on the spot rather than listen to an audition tape that you have prepared in advance.


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