Home > Brand, Job Search, Management, Programming, Radio, Talent, Uncategorized > Radio Talent is Art, Not Manufacturing

Radio Talent is Art, Not Manufacturing

I’m in the process of hiring several hosts and anchors. Nearly every day I hear from talent who try to convince me that no matter what kind of talent I’m looking for, they can do it.

“Updates? Sports? Talk host? Farm Report? I’m your gal!”

More than one applicant has told me, “I can do anything and everything. Just tell me what you want.”

That’s a warning sign to me. I believe talent is art, not manufacturing.

I want unique. I want different. I want authentic. I want clever, creative, and distinctive. I want someone who fits in to my station and stands out. I am always looking for talent who are true to themselves.

When I listen to demos I’m listening for talent who have found their voice, who are certain who they are and know what they do best. If talent tries to cater their demo to what they think I’m looking for, I can hear it.  It comes across as trying too hard to impress, uncomfortable, uncertain, or as playing the role of a host or anchor, instead of being it. 

How do you do that? Practice, practice, practice. And it probably takes 10,000 hours of doing radio to truly find your voice and personality. (see: Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule from “Outliers”). Your voice is an instrument. It takes time and reps to figure out all that it can do and how to do it. For me, the journey included re-learning how to breathe to better support my voice, how to use pacing, pausing, pitch, tone, enunciation, intonation and body movement, and how to write specifically for my voice and listener’s ears and not for my eyes.  

The other thing to remember is one program director‘s opinion is just that — one program director’s opinion. What I perceive of your talent is personal to me and my experiences. The next program director that listens to your demo will evaluate your talent differently. That’s why it is so important to be yourself. Otherwise, you’ll have to reinvent your style and personality everywhere you go. That’s a lot of work and will make it very difficult to build your brand. Imagine if Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, Rick Dees, Carson Daly, and Ryan Seacrest changed who they were and what they did at every stop along their career path. 

The balancing act as a talent comes when you get hired. It’s a delicate dance of being yourself and integrating your brand into the radio station brand. Ideally, the sum is greater than the parts (1 + 1 = 3). You AND the station are exponentially better. That means working with the program director and station colleagues to maximize results without compromising your art.

  1. Steak
    July 4, 2011 at 9:35 PM

    You hit that one outa the park. Nicely done. Very timely advice for me and anyone else trying to land the gig. Your point about 10000 hours is right on. Over time, you just figure our who you are and have to trust. No matter how intimidated, you have to trust and be yourself. Gold, Larry, Gold!

  2. July 5, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    I second that “gold” motion. As I read “Outliers” I wondered, is it possible to begin counting the 10,000 hours from my internship? Thanks Larry.

    • July 5, 2011 at 12:05 PM

      Bower – yes, internships count. I count doing the morning announcements in high school…

  3. Steven Stills
    July 5, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    A little spell check goes a long way, Larry. Breath should be BREATH-E and annunciation is actually enunciation. I think your blog shows a distinct lack of training on YOUR part as well. A good program director is also a good coach. A smart programmer understands that market loyalty and local talent are also smart enough to have a voice and adapt to any situation. They may have 10-thousand hours of experience, but maybe they have not been given the opportunity to find their authentic voice in their home town because they are very tied to their hometown. It takes guts to lead and guide new and experienced talent into the right situation. You need to balance personality, ego, intelligence and wit with that “sound”. Otherwise, you get a bunch of self-centered children screaming “ME! ME! ME!”.

    Maybe another 10-thousand hours in the programming chair will teach you this lesson.

    • July 5, 2011 at 3:35 PM

      Steven, thanks for reading and responding to the blog. I’m always open to discussion. You’re right about ‘breathe” and “enunciation.” That’s not a spell- check issue though since both “breath” and “annunciation” are actually words, that’s operator error entirely. I agree a good programmer is a good coach. The rest of your comments seem to be very personal to your situation. I would just say anyone who gets into radio without the intention of moving to where the work is, is going to get very frustrated. As I mentioned in the blog every programmer evaluates talent differently. The programmer who is a fan of yours isn’t likely working in your home town. I wish you the best of luck in your journey.

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