Monday, October 3, 2011
Want to get into radio?
Be prepared to learn your craft at a college or community radio station. As will become obvious pretty quickly, theory or simulation will never substitute for the real thing. If you are young leaving town and heading for a small market station might be easier and a lot more appealing than if you are past the age of thirty.
I guess the biggest question is whether you necessarily need to go to school to learn radio. There is no yes or no answer to that question. It does not hurt your chances of employment if you have completed a university program or a course. I’m going to be brutally honest now about my personal experience… I had wanted to study communications and journalism when I was younger. I wish I had. If you are able, you can’t go wrong with a credible university program which will offer you honest-to-goodness internship possibilities. It is getting your foot in the door that is so desperately important and the earlier you get that opportunity the better. Of course, that in and of itself is no guarantee of success. It is still very difficult.
If you can’t go to university or just are not able to commit to the time and money, there are other ways to get behind a microphone. There are radio schools that offer courses that can teach you the basics in a relatively short period of time. That was the route I ended up taking. At the time, I believed it was my final opportunity to give radio a shot. Back to the brutal honesty: Not all radio schools are alike. Keep in mind that most radio schools are above all else businesses. Be very careful about your realistic expectations. Be weary about success rate claims as well. If you look very closely, the number of graduates who actually end up landing long-term successful “paid” large-market gigs is actually relatively small. Unless the school gives you real internships and the opportunity to produce programs and learn how to deal with your radio entourage, watch out. These courses cost a lot of money and you really have to think things through before you make a decision. There is no easy road to land a job, forget that right away.
That will bring me to my final suggestion. There is an easier road to land on the airwaves, even in a major market like Montreal. There is no better place to learn radio than at a college or community radio station. Many campus and community radio stations continually offer training sessions for people who want to learn the technical or on-air side of broadcasting. It is hands-on from the get-go. In Montreal, CKUT is a great place to learn as is a station like Radio Centre-Ville, which is always looking for new volunteers. There are normal constraints, but you can attain a level of creative freedom which is practically impossible for all but a select few working in commercial radio. The experience you gain at one of these stations can definitely help prepare you for the big leagues. You might never be called up, but at the very least, you’ve got to experience your dream.
You might also try and make contacts with people working in the business. It is not a guarantee to success, but it can’t hurt. Also set up an Internet presence. Above all else, you want people to know that you exist. And podcasts are a wonderful thing - use them! Keep in mind the preceding comes from someone who has yet to land a radio job, and from someone who’s always done things the hard way.