If you have a desire to work in radio or have worked at a station and want to get back in, here are some ideas and descriptions about the job you want.
First a little about me. I have worked in radio for over three decades and have written, produced, voiced, promoted, hired, fired, and generally done almost every job in radio.
How to get on the air-
My college interns were always asking me when they could be a DJ.
While it is possible to be on the air very quickly, it is not likely that you will walk in and start the first day. Usuallly there are other jobs that lead to the possibilty of being on the air. Working as a board operator is a great way to learn the behind the scenes techniques while getting used to the operations of a radio station.
The best way to get on the air is to have something good to offer. But how? If you are not actually on the air working as a DJ how will you get good? Here is the answer. Practice in a production room or at home. You can practice your speaking skills, reading, ability to introduce records, deliver a weather forecast, handle emergencies, talk with phone callers all without it actually being on the air. Practice is very important even after you are a seasoned professional. You can always learn something new so the idea of practicing in an off air studio or even at home is perfectly legitimate.
When you have a chance to get on the air live, record it. Always record what you do on any radio station. Just get some kind of recorder, turn it on, and forget about it. When you get off the air you will have it to critique.
Radio needs people to deliver news. If you have an interest in compiling local and national stories, then delivering them in a newscast, this could be the job for you. Radio news people are often part time. If the station you work for is music dominant, then the news positions will be only in prime or drive times– early morning (and late afternoon in a few cases).
If the station is all talk– news, weather , and sports gets done around the clock. News people usually handle other tasks as part of their duties as well. Public affairs plays an important role in commercial broadcasting. These activities include talk shows, written reports, and serving as a community resource.
Sales is important to the operations of any commercial station. A radio business operates by selling advertising. This is done by a team who sets goals and meets them month after month. It is a highly intense, driven mode of operation and requires serious dedication, and a willingness to build momentum over time. The rewards can be great.
These are a few of the jobs in radio. There are other support departments such as promotions, continuity – the assigning and scheduling of commercials. Engineering, billing, administration, accounting, and human resources are also common.
Obviously, small radio station employees wear many hats ( do many jobs), while large operations offer more specialization.
Having a job in radio can be very rewarding.
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Here’s the way I work to put together a radio commercial using my own voice or an outside voice talent.
Just click below to see the quick video explanation step by step. This is how your spot will come together whether it is for radio, TV audio, a slide show, YouTube video, or a phone message.
First comes the voice, then music and sound effects, mixing, adding some processing and then dubbing it down to an MP3 or wav.
Transcript of the video–
Ok Welcome back and here’s the video where I show you how I make a commercial for you.
What is the process., how does it work, how fast is it or how much time does it take, music, changes, and all the juicy details. Well not all— I do have a few secrets that I keep under the radar.
After we get a good script, there is a basic set of production decisions to be made in this case I will be the voice. But often we might want a another voice. Casting the voice can be a refined process where you look through and listen to about 20 voices or more until a decision is made. I like to just do it. I have found over the years that a good generic voice is just fine for almost any commercial, narration, or TV ad.
So we lay down the voice like this in a session—and I’ve got one here.
Then, we add the music, and a sound effect or two. Now this process can take a while depending on any editing that needs to be done. For example, if you are producing imaging for a radio station there is usually quite a bit of editing. Using processing on the voice, doubling, EQ, phase shifts, harmonizing effects and things like that.
I like to stick with a solid , straight ahead sound and only produce involved imaging for a premium price because there is so much to do in the editing. Another thing I will often do is simply produce your voice—or another person’s track that they send me.
So, for a straight ahead commercial we make a few edits in the voice to tighten up a space here and there, or take out an obvious mistake, add the musi adjust the levels, get sfx if they are needed., and then save it as a wav and an MP3. and we’re done. Now that spot can be on the air for weeks, can rotate with others or can be run again months later if it’s generic enough.
If it is dated with a limited offer,special or something of course it will have a shorter run.
The recent tornado damage in the South has knocked radio and TV stations off the air and left others damaged. To make matters worse, many of the people who work at these stations have homes and communities that are also damaged, loved ones who are without services, and the resulting challenges.
One Production Company, RadioProducer.ORG has offered free radio and TV audio production to disabled stations to help get things rolling again.
Kyle Whitford of Radio Producer.ORG said, ” I have been through situations similar to this and know it takes a big effort to get back to normal. So, I am offering my services free of charge for voice work, some copywriting, and basic production, until these folks can get back on their feet.”
Radio Gives.com, a domain also owned by Whitford is dedicated to services for those in need.
“I think it is a necessary part of life, to give back. So, I do. ” Whitford added. ” When Katrina hit New Orleans, I gave a jingle away and other production work for people who were put at a real disadvantage because of the natural disaster.”
“I am independent so my offer goes for anyone in the recent tornado zone in the South, even competitors across the street from each other. Just contact me and get my work at no charge. I have been given a lot over the years. Giving back is natural.”
Contact – Kyle Whitford 704-408-9235 1235 East Blvd. 184 Charlotte, NC 28203.
What are the most common sound effects in radio and TV ads? I’ll tell you in a moment, but first-
Is making your own sound effects worth it?
Yes—for learning how easy it can be.
And No—for learning how hard it can be.
Need a water splash sound effect? First be careful not to wet the equipment!
It’s an easy effect to make. Just be careful. Seriously, no dunking the mic and recording device.
Other than that, water sfx are easy and they usually come out sounding great, even with so-so equipment.
Note- Research has shown that the sound of water is the single most appealing sound.
Some sounds can be a real challenge. Race cars zooming by are fairly easy but getting the few people standing
nearby to stop yelling is another thing.
A typical small town parade will sound like a city parade so use one for both.
Cue the Referees whistle
Basketballs in a gym can reverberate too much. You have to take a slow approach to that. Six balls on the court and nobody will be able to tell what the sound is!
Some easy sound effects to make are-
Commode flushing, birds outside in a park ( be aware of traffic—a plus or minus depending on your goal), high school football game, sidewalk people.
But the most common sound effects you will need are a whole different story.
You will seldom need a high school football game sound effect. Even though it’s a cool sound and takes you there instantly, my bet is you won’t need it but once a year, if that.
Top sound effects
The ones you will need are these—get good ones and save them forever.
Car doors closing
Car starting and engine , the car takes off—get a few great ones and use them for a decade at least.
Traffic background, jingle bells, ( buy some at a toy store and shake them as needed. You can control the rhythm instantly and even record them behind any production bed to turn it into a holiday bed. That’s much easier than searching for good jingle bells sounds) ,
Five o’clock whistle blowing. Nobody lives in a town where that actually happens anymore, but everybody still likes to hear it, especially on Friday.
Car tires squeal to a stop and peel out. ( careful—most radio organizations have agreed not to use emergency sounds as an alarm to get attention—but everybody does it—especially TV news stations during ratings—including sirens and car horns – I personally don’t use them because they are annoying and dangerous to actual car listeners, If you must use a siren – just catch the last blip of it to establish the scene, then start the typical dialogue of the officer pulling the speeder going to the big sale at Acme Discount.
- Crowd milling around—need small to medium—seldom ever need large crowd.
- Medium restaurant crowd,
- large concert crowd going crazy with applause and whistles,
- small to medium cheering- applauding crowd,
- Big truck hydraulics sound,
- phone ring and pick up,
- light to medium office sounds,
- door knock and open—close,
- golf swing,
- cash register ( big and loud),
- woman laughing,
- child laughing,
- baby coo and laugh,
- dog bark.
That’s about it for the most needed list.
Can you make them all? Of course, over time. You’ll need a decent mic and something to record to, and no wind. It is time consuming but once you get the hang of it, easy.
Should you make them all? It’s great practice but no, they are all easier to buy.
Be careful what you pay for. Thousands of sound effects for sale are very old and sound awful. Listen before you buy.
Sound effects are fun to make but easier to buy. I suggest making a few of your own as an insider education on how it works. Try to get a good clean recording and save it in more than one place. Make a CD to file and save your audio as MP3 or wavs in categories for quick reference.
* photo by David Blackwell
The rule of equipment in radio production is this- If the equipment detracts from the quality or efficiency– it’s time to upgrade.
Until then, you can use old equipment for years.
Willie Nelson’s guitar has been in the shop quite a bit– but it is still the same old beat up instrument after decades of playing. It works fine.
Radio producers can get creative and use just about anything as long as ‘the rule’ is followed.
It is nice to have the best digital audio workstation to produce with, but it does not have to be that way. Pro tools is a very cool set up, but Saw or Cool Edit ( Adobe Audition) will do a more than adequate job.
Got a mic that sounds too edgy or too bassy? You can EQ them and make something happen regardless of the limitations.
Got a squeak in a machine ? Every time you turn the mic on you get a noise competing with your sound? If you have to, you can build that sound into the audio. Mask it with environment sound effects, change the script to include that sound– There are work arounds for anything.
Of course it is great to have a perfect set up with controlled inputs. But you don’t always get what you want. You get what you get. Sometimes you have to work with it.
Some folks are still using tape and surprise, it sounds great, especially for vocals.
The machine you are using in your studio is probably way better ( quality) than anything the Beatles produced on. Control has become so common with digital machines that to compare the old days with the new is not a match at all.
It’s all in how you use what you’ve got. The legendary producer, Jimmy Jam ( with Terry Lewis) says– Send me a demo but let me know what you produced it on. That tells me more about what you can do.
Radio Producer – The rule is– if equipment chronically detracts, upgrade.
Many radio producers are not writers. Others write every day.
Here is a simple formula to use as a guideline for writing copy.
Start with a sentence that includes these three elements-
2- Self interest
Like this- (News) There’s a great new grass seed that will ( self interest) reduce your yard work by ( curiosity) growing slowly.
Then give facts-
Tests prove that Slow Grow grass grows 30% slower than typical types of grass seed.
And at a cost that is up to 30 percent less, it makes sense to consider it.
Then , paint a picture of the buyer owning and using it .
Just distribute your Slow Grow grass seed evenly on fresh soil. In a few weeks you’ll have the beginning of a new lawn. But don’t worry, Slow Grow really does grow slowly so you’ll have plenty of time between mowings.
More facts. Slow grow has been tested by the University of Maryland Horticulture Department and found to be 30% slower to grow, while maintaining a uniform pattern of coverage.
The perfect grass seed for hard to maintain yards or other areas where low maintenance is needed.
Where to get it- Slow Grow is available at all Lowes Home improvement stores.
See this weeks Village Couponer for a 30% off coupon.
Recap the spot in one sentence—If you need slow growing grass—try Slow Grow at Lowes.
Action with limit. This offer is limited and is only good through Saturday so go in to Lowes today and ask about Slow Grow Grass Seed.
That formula will work most of the time for any spot you write. You don’t have to follow it but it is
- and will give you a decent spot .
You can be as creative or conservative as you wish while staying within the format.
As a radio producer, you don’t always write. But there will be times when you need to know how to
construct a well written piece of copy.
The beginning of Chicken Man– Just for fun. I heard the series, dubbed it for air, but never this one. Just goes to show my point in this article.Thanks Dick Orkin.
As a radio producer, announcer, or DJ, it’s natural to make the mistake of thinking that everybody listens to your masterpiece from the beginning.
It’s more accurate to understand that a handful of people are half listening, not paying close attention at all.
Others are joining your message about half way through, still others could care less about your messasge and are even annoyed.
That’s one reason I have problems with ‘creative’ in depth story lines with a lot of detail.
Granted, those creative spots can be great when they work and the listener follows along step by step.
But I would rather produce a spot for the real world.
That might include
- a decent , simple story line–
- usually it includes repetition,
- ideas that are easy to understand,
- clear articulation,
- one basic idea such as Kiss in Concert– or hearty grass seed for sale.
That’s why radio production has ended up with so many rules that might seem odd and some spots sound contrived. It just seems to work.
When something works, you should repeat it. That’s how ‘evolution’ does it and the logic behind it often seems lost.
Direct mail ( junk mail) works. That’s why you keep getting it.
Remember the bottom line with
- news stories,
- phone call,
- talks with your Mother in law
- and political rallies
is to get a certain predetermined outcome. When you find a formula that works despite your ‘good sense’ approach– why not pay attention, perk up, and use it again?
It feels good to think the listener is with you all the way from the first word of any message. They are not. Trial and error has taught me to produce as if the audience is a complex of spurts with little attention span while at the same time– I keep in mind that we humans do communicate start to finish, so I try to write and produce a radio or TV ad for the best and worst of all worlds. That’s the job.
There are some amazing moments in a radio producer’s experiences and many of them are sadly, tragedies.
The Hindenburg was one such event on May 6, 1937. Listen and watch as it unfolds.
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