Entertainment Jobs Q&A: Breaking into the Radio Industry

entertainment jobs radio jobs achy breaky 2

Despite a tumultuous year for Miley Cyrus, this could be the moment that breaks her

The other day while volunteering in my daughter’s 1st grade class, I feel like I may have embarrassed her amongst her friends for the first of probably many times.

I won’t get into the details, they aren’t important, but for a moment my 6-year old daughter and Miley Cyrus had something in common.

The big news this week from the music world, a hip-hop remix of Billy Ray Cyrus’s 1992 “hit” Achy Breaky Heart hit the interwebs and no one will ever be the same. The video features women twerking (inspired by Miley?), scantily clad extraterrestrials, a dance party in space and breaking news from Larry King…oh, and some really, really terrible excuse for music.

I didn’t know it was possible, but Miley Cyrus may actually be embarrassed this week. My daughter sure would be.

On to this week’s Entertainment Jobs Q&A with a question from Johnathan in Santa Clara, California – if you have a question you’d like us to dive deep into, just add it to our LinkedIn group, Tweet at us or add it to the comments below.

The Q:

I’ve always had this passion to work in the radio industry, to me there is just something magical about being able to converse with a wide audience of people. I’m a senior in college, I’ve worked at our campus station and interned a few places…is there other advice you would give me to prepare for my radio job search, or specific skills I should learn?

Johnathan G. Santa Clara, California

The A:

Johnathan – it is great to hear you have such a passion for the radio industry!entertainment jobs breaking into radio jobs

Almost every executive, host or producer I speak to in radio says the same thing: “we need more people who are passionate about working in radio!” Passion goes a long way in entertainment jobs, since the industry requires something different from people (i.e. the willingness to work odd hours, be in the public eye and be reactive and proactive all at once)

So let’s talk about preparing for your radio career.

You generally have two career paths in radio: creative or executive.

Creative radio careers include the hosts, producers, audio operators, promotions assistants etc. These are the people whose job revolves around creative/artistic elements. Being a radio producer requires creativity, as does being a host or any of the other jobs I mentioned.

If you want to go down the creative side your first step could very well be in promotions.

You may be driving the radio station van to some grocery store opening promoting the content of the station or giving away goodies or glamorizing a station sweepstakes. It doesn’t sound all that thrilling but it is a stepping stone job so do it with all you have.

The reason this is a logical starting point is because it takes energy, organization, communication and passion to succeed. Your bosses will want to see you have these skills, which translate very well to creative radio jobs like being on-air or as a producer.

As far as skills go, the most important skill in radio is digital audio editing.

Most other things can be taught rather easily, but digital audio editing is a skill, an art form, that when properly executed can enhance a radio show greater than just about anything else.

If you can master digital audio editing, you will always find radio jobs.

radio jobs digital audio editing

Digital audio editing tools like Cool Edit are something you should master for radio jobs

Start learning programs like Cool Edit/Adobe Audition and/or Pro Tools. Pro Tools tends to be the industry standard, but the others are similar so the skills are transferable.

Now if you want to go down the executive path, with a goal towards being a station general manager or something on that level, start in media sales. Look for account executive jobs (which if you click the link you will find a plethora of) at a station and start building you way up through the business side of the industry.

Most radio executives I’ve spoken with started in sales, primarily because it teaches you about the revenue generating side of the radio industry, not just how to make funny or compelling content.

Since I don’t know what side of the radio industry you want to pursue, lets talk a little more generically about surviving and thriving in radio jobs.

1: Studios are confined spaces, so be an easy person to work with. Get along with people and it will make the environment much more comfortable. If you are the person that helps create a positive work environment you’ll also be the one most likely up for promotions.

2: Be prepared to fight for what you want, because it will not come easy. That may seem to conflict with #1, but it doesn’t. If you can, respectfully, make your voice heard and bring your ideas to the forefront rather than being a wallflower you have a greater chance for success.

3: Stay ahead of problems. I always think of Bobby Fisher, the world-renowned chess player who was marveled for being able to see multiple moves ahead. If you can be the person who sees problems before they happen and takes action to fix or change them, that is an incredible attribute in any industry.

4: Get extra experience wherever you can. If you start out working in promotions, ask to shadow the show producer or audio engineer on the weekends so you can start learning their skills. When you are exposed to new skills, you can apply them to your next assignment.

5: Never deliver a halfhearted performance. If you don’t want to put in 100%, don’t bother.

6: Stay relevant by always knowing your way around computers and electronics. Everything is automated in one way or another. Don’t be the old man of the radio station, afraid or unaware of new technologies and how they apply to various radio jobs.

That should be enough for now to keep you busy!

If you have other suggestions for Johnathan please add them to the comments below, and if you’d like us to answer one of your questions for an upcoming Entertainment Jobs Q&A you can post it to our LinkedIn group, Tweet at us or enter it below in the comments – we’re always listening!

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.


  1. […] comparison because Larry King never hosted the Oscar’s, and lately has been starring in music videos with Billy Ray Cyrus, which I hope Ellen would never do, but there is a reason I picked this […]