by Johnny George

The copy is written. Your VO guy in another city has just finished his ISDN session with you, and now you’re trying to figure out what music would sound perfect at this next bridge. An hour has passed and you’re still looking for just the right tempo and attitude. Is it that important? Sure it is, for you. Is it for the overall sound of the promo? Will anyone else notice if you found the right tune or not? Does it matter? Did that tribute to the American tragedy need to be done last night? And the re-write of all of that week’s promos really have to be done right NOW and produced?

You see, that’s the problem. You DO care. You, my friend, are a dying breed. In this day of consolidation, wearing two and three hats, and cutbacks from that corporate headquarters–sometimes it just has to get done. But you’ve got to ask yourself at some point: are there any warm bodies working their way up into this profession as there have been in the past? As YOU did?

Whoa! So many questions…and not enough answers.

I got the radio bug when I was in grade school. My dad’s hobby, when he was a kid, was that old ham radio set-up in my grandparents’ attic. I also loved to invent things and stick screwdrivers in electrical sockets. Hey, I was inquisitive. Radio stirred my imagination. Radio DJs like Bouncin’ Bill Baker at WIBC and Jay Reynolds at WIFE in Indy, Larry Lujak at WLS that I could listen to at our summer cottage, many miles south of Chicago, and many other DJs and creative sorts throughout my adolescent years, developed my taste for that “theater of the mind” and elusive stardom emanating from those tall towers that I’d drive by and give wonder.

But today, you and I need to be looking over our shoulders and looking around for that next generation of radio talent. Because I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but NOBODY’S COMING.

So true. Everyone’s talking about voice tracking taking away those weekend and overnight shifts, where you and I learned our craft. It’s becoming harder and harder to fill these vacancies. Even radio engineers can’t find interested “Peabody’s” because they all can make three times as much being an Internet Technology guy. The old days of staying at a station for 40 years, because you were so good, are also a thing of the past. But that’s another story.

If you are fortunate enough to have a young intern or part-timer that shows any interest in commercial or imaging production, grab ‘em quick. They’re a dying breed. Keep your eyes open and watch to see if they have that sparkle in their eye that you knew you had. See if they have that desire to stay late and tweak their work until it’s juuuust right. Hang on to them. Don’t just make your summer interns file production requests for those three months—you just might miss that one-in-a-million chance that you have a diamond in the rough. Watch for someone who has that hidden talent that you knew YOU had and just wanted the opportunity to prove it to some lucky PD or Creative Director. (And remember how bad you wanted to have that chance.) Someone who may actually be as anal as you. Someone who loves R-A-D-I-O. Nurture them. Challenge them. It’s mentoring time.

My desire for on-air stardom was short-lived when I finally got the taste of the production room and found out what I could do in there with a few records, a good reel-to-reel and grease pencil, and a few cart decks, instead of a daily 4-6 hour grind on the weekend or overnight. Not to mention the encouragement from my peers. (I think some of them were just glad they didn’t have to stay and do the production.)

Keep your eyes open. Look around and find them if you have to. The old so-called Broadcast Schools don’t seem to be as prevalent as they used to be. And high schools, colleges and trade schools don’t seem to be pushing them out like they used to either. Not that you’d actually look there, but the talent IS out there. You’re a professional. You know what it should take. Take the time to look at who’s coming.