Being young in the sports radio industry isn’t always easy. More times than not, young people are asked and required to do the jobs nobody else wants to do, all for the opportunity to gain invaluable experience. Nights and weekends may be spent alone in a studio with the non-glamorous job of running the board for a high school football game or Minor League Baseball game. It’s in those times where you may ask yourself, is this really worth it?
Hard work and determination really do pay off. That’s what Brad Kellner kept telling himself as he woke up every morning as an unpaid intern to be a board op for a morning drive show in Austin, Texas. While his friends were routinely questioning his life choice over drinks on Sixth Street, Kellner never wavered on chasing his dream of becoming a sports radio host.
That relentless attitude is what helped ‘BK’ land in the host chair at the ripe age of 22. Just months removed from graduating college at The University of Texas, he was hosting weeknights and weekends at 104.9 The Horn in Austin. But just because he caught his first big break, didn’t mean the hustle was about to stop for Kellner. By making himself available for any and all duties at the station, he made himself a big asset to his employer and proved he was capable of any position. Once he proved his talents as a skilled show host, The Horn moved him to a mid-day slot with co-host Trey Elling.
Today, Kellner is only 24 years old, but is celebrating the one year anniversary of “Middays with Trey and BK” at 104.9 The Horn. BK is a prime example of someone that started from the bottom, did everything he could along the way to help himself, and earned the rewards that come from hard work. Though this business is cutthroat, tough times don’t always last, but tough people do.
Though better days are surely to come. Happy one year anniversary to Trey and BK.
TM: You started out as a host at 22 years old. How difficult was it to gain respect with listeners or co-workers because of your age?
BK: I was really fortunate, because I was able to intern at four different radio stations in college, including the two I worked for in Austin. So I had some connections at The Horn, the station I work at now. I’m lucky, because people here were really supportive and receptive of me. Obviously, I was just doing weekend stuff in the morning, so it wasn’t like I was going to screw anyone over if I had a bad show. I worked hard to prove myself and had everyone at The Horn in my corner which gave me confidence and meant a lot.
TM: Did you have a chip on your shoulder at that age? Especially when you first started hosting?
BK: Oh man, I’ll always have a chip on my shoulder. That’s what motivates me. I’ve been lucky in life and had a lot handed to me, sure, but I just live by the motto to never be satisfied. I think the people who get content, whether it’s in sports radio or any other line of work, that’s when you start losing at life. You become too satisfied and content with what you have and it causes you to stop working. I want to be better every day and continue to move up in this business.
TM: You interned at four different stations. Did you find that starting off at a smaller station where they give you more opportunities is better? Or at a bigger station where more people get accustomed to your name and who you are?
BK: Two of the stations I worked at were in Austin and the other two were in Dallas. I got put on the air at least once or twice at each station. For the most part, it was behind the scenes work. I knew the main purpose of doing these internships was to make connections. That was important to me. I knew it was a case of who you know versus what you know. I put all my eggs in the internship basket and tried to meet as many people as I could. In terms of what’s better, bigger station or smaller? It was all pretty similar, I just wanted to learn from as many people as possible, so when it was time to get a job, I actually had a couple contacts I could go to.
TM: I’m sure you probably ended up working alongside a lot of the hosts you grew up listening to. Who were some of the guys you found yourself wanting to pattern after?
BK: The station I grew up listening to was Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket in Dallas. I got the opportunity to intern there in college and I’d say any of the hosts they have. That’s a self-made, self-grown station that started in the 90’s and it’s pretty much the same hosts from when they started. They just won the Marconi Award for best sports radio station for the third time. I’ve always been fond of those dudes and try to listen to them every day. I try to hone my craft off of what those guys do. Nationally, I’d say Colin Cowherd does a pretty solid job. I know he irks people sometimes, but he’s incredibly good at his craft and he’s one of the most successful guys in our business. He’s someone I listen to and take pointers from. But I’m pretty receptive, if anyone has words or tips, I’m always willing to listen. I try to study as many sports radio hosts as I can across the country to pick up things and learn.
TM: What about frustrating times in the beginning? Did you ever have any as an unpaid intern?
BK: Sure it’s frustrating, but you have to remember that you’re getting a chance to talk about sports or push buttons as a producer and listen to sports for a living. Before I got this job at The Horn, I was just out of college and looking to get away from The Zone. Not because I didn’t like it there, I loved it there, I just wasn’t making enough money and I didn’t want to pick up a second job, because I was just producing at that time. When it came to applying for jobs, that’s the frustrating thing. You feel like you’re talented enough to be in one spot, but because of a lack of experience and a lack of age, you don’t always get the respect outside your station that you deserve.
TM: With that being said, what advice would you give to someone young who hasn’t caught their big break yet?
BK: You just have to put in work. You’ve got to grind and do whatever is asked of you. Go around the station and talk to as many people as you can. See if you can help out in other ways, because people think fondly of that. If you can make yourself multi-faceted in terms of talent…if you’re good at producing, find ways to be better on air. Work on making promos for the station. You can even go beyond radio and see if you can write stories for the station’s website. Get some video, do some TV stuff, whatever you can do is always going to help. The more time you put in, you’re going to catch some breaks. A couple of my internships were at 5am. I was doing morning drive shows and making no money to be an intern at the station. My friends were calling me crazy and an idiot, they didn’t understand why I’d wake up so early while I was still in college. I’d be up at 4:30 in the morning on a Friday after a night out on Sixth Street. I just told them it was going to pay off down the line and I knew at some point it would. Just keep grinding and doing everything you can to make a difference with people at the station and good things will come.
TM: Waking up that early, still in college and not getting paid. While you were gaining a lot of experience, do you think you also gained a lot of respect from fellow show hosts for doing that?
BK: Yeah, I think so. I just put my head down and did whatever I could to make the shows successful. To quote the great LaVar Ball, I stayed in my lane. I did what was asked of me and tried to please the hosts and make their jobs easier. But yeah, I think I was able to gain their respect by working hard.
TM: Your co-host Trey Elling seems like a really good dude and a talented guy. Seeing as he’s your partner for your first-ever weekday show, how important has he been to your growth?
BK: It’s been great. Trey and I are great friends and we even hangout off the air from time to time. I know his two kids, they call me Uncle Brad which is pretty cool. He’s been in the business for a while and worked in places like Chicago and Portland before coming to Austin. He’s got a good grasp on how things work in this industry. I think we’re doing extremely well, and have a strong connection on air and great chemistry off air. That has helped us create a quality show and I’m fortunate to have a guy like Trey as my first co-host.
For more on Brad Kellner and 104.9 The Horn click here.