minus-3-percentBy Michael R. Lee, Ph.D.

How much is a Production Director worth? More than any other talent at the station outside of the morning show? More than the promotion director, assistant engineer or traffic announcer? How about being worth more than the year before?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’d be wrong. After years of being underpaid and increasingly overworked, Production Directors in the new R & R 2002 Radio Industry Salary Survey can now add the adjective “insulted” to the list. Because last year, Production Directors actually received on average 3% less salary than they did the previous year.

Perhaps this would be understandable in radio’s new economic landscape if other radio personnel were faring similarly. But just the opposite is true. Other than morning show members being down 6% (but still earning on average 50% more than Production Directors) here is a breakdown of other job categories:

General Manager: +12%
Director of Sales: +37%
Program Director: +7%
Promotion Director: +13%
Midday Talent: +11%
Afternoon Drive Talent: +13%
Evening Talent: +17%
Late Night Talent: +8%
Continuity Director: +12%
Chief Engineer: +8%

The range of average salaries for Production Directors is $61,100 for top ten markets to $28,250 in markets 151-200. While not poverty wages, it suggests that Production Directors shouldn’t have large families. And since the responsibilities of Production Directors have risen so sharply in terms of the numbers of stations they produce, there wouldn’t be much time to spend with the family anyway. Hey, why not just live in a camper on the station parking lot?

To put this in further perspective in top ten markets (where presumably Production Directors of greatly superior talent have worked their way up to), the General Manager is paid 5-1/2 times as much, the Program Director almost three times as much and the average Account Executive almost 33% more.

Having reviewed this salary survey for a number of years, it is obvious that the disparity between Production Directors and other station personnel, between Production Directors and reality has gotten silly. The main reason given for air talent salaries increasing so much is that they are getting extra money for voicetracking other stations. Where is the salary compensation for Production Directors who produce three to six stations in-market and several others outside the market? Where is the salary compensation for the longest workday at the station, the greatest technological knowledge, the most creative pressure? Where is the quid pro quo for interfacing with more wacked-out people at a radio station than anyone else there?

In past years, there was hope. While Production Directors were being similarly underpaid relative to other station positions, at least the salaries weren’t going down. The reliance of radio on the creative efforts of its producers has been on the rise. Less air talent has meant more importance for imaging. Sagging national spot sales meant more emphasis on getting local spots produced well. It would be hard to believe that ad agencies paid secretaries/administrative assistants much less than Production Directors are now making.

What are the reasons, you ask. Who is responsible for this backward approach to compensating Production Directors? Some of those people are the ones listed above who got your raise and then some. Some of those people you’ll never meet and probably don’t care to. They sit in offices in distant cities and pump up stock prices with your sweat. There are still other murky characters who are not even in this business who have determined that teachers and policemen and Production Directors just aren’t worth as much as an average Account Executive. There is also the trend to move imaging outside the station, thereby decreasing the value of those who remain.

You could say that minus three percent is just a small show of disrespect. Or you could say that minus three percent is the kind of message that is hard to ignore.

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