Where Is All the Radio Talent?

In my role of playing matchmaker between radio companies and on-air presenters I get a perspective on what makes that match so elusive.

For talent, the available jobs are few. The open jobs are sometimes are in undesirable markets and often overloaded with responsibility for low pay. Some have difficulty with the compromises required in the role today.

For radio companies, there are fewer qualified applicants every year. With some radio corporations regularly cutting investment with regular layoffs it is no surprise that talented people are moving to other media.  

A talent search is tough, but there is enormous return on investment. A cheap $20k syndicated show seems a no-brainer – until you do the math on the ocean of revenue lost from surrendering endorsements, remotes, events, podcasts, digital content and importantly – ratings performance.

Here are some tips to consider as you search for prospective on-air stars for your station.

Pay competitively. You are not just competing with radio. An on-air host making $35,000 a year is now on par with a worker at McDonald’s, Amazon or Costco, except they get a shorter workday for the same money. We once approached a YouTube star for a $55,000 radio job and were told (with a laugh) they were making $100k+ from their couch.

Consider remote hosts. Imagine you find an engaging on-air presenter. They want the job and the pay is agreeable — but geography is an issue. Maybe they have family in another town, or maybe your market is not exactly a glamorous garden spot. We have seen successful live shows with a host contributing from a far-away place.

Look around you. Mercedes In the Morning began as the receptionist at Mix 94.1 in Las Vegas. Jimmy Kimmel discovered Adam Corolla working as a boxing instructor. Notice great conversationalists who always crack a lot of jokes.

Get to know competitors. Nothing wrong with asking the talent across town about their plans when their contract is up. They may cross the street and join your team. They may also refer you to someone worth considering.

Go through leftovers. When one of your friends in the business is hiring, ask them to share the demos that they didn’t choose. One might be perfect for you.

Look at performers outside of radio. Get to know local improvisational theatre groups, sketch comedy actors, stand-up comics, and consider actors too.

Look at podcasters and social media influencers. Pandora is experimenting with TikTok stars hosting shows. Connect with people like Sarah Penna who represent YouTube talent through www.bigfra.me in Los Angeles.