It isn’t cheap to run a radio station. Ownership groups are always looking to cut costs. That forces program directors and market managers to sometimes have to figure out how to run a brand with a bare bones staff that is making a nearly unacceptable salary.
Sports radio is a format that demands commitment. It’s not just hosts that have to make sacrifices. Programmers do too, and more importantly so do owners.
The desire to cut costs is perfectly understandable, but some positions demand investment. If an owner wants his sports station to sound its best, he has to make a financial commitment to the programming staff. As a format, we have to demand that full-time jobs stop turning into part-time positions. If you’re cheap with your people, your station will sound cheap.
Why is producing at an all time low in our industry? Because the industry treats producers like crap.
A producer has so much control over the way a show sounds. How can anyone expect to get quality people in those roles if management is only willing to pay them for 30 hours a week? A good producer is on the clock 24/7. It’s not that they don’t have lives, but they are constantly thinking about how to turn what they see on their TVs and phones into content on air.
A producer can’t just show up 30 minutes or an hour before the show goes on air and start pulling audio. There’s strategy to discuss. There’s prep to be done. Even hosts that like to map their own shows need a producer to go over ideas with in order to turn their opinions into great content.
When you’re trying to fill an opening for a producer, you’re looking for someone who is creative, organized, knows how to hold a conversation, and can multi-task literally every second of their workday. Does that sound like someone that is worth only $10 or $12 per hour? Does it sound like the description of someone that would be willing to work for $12 an hour?
Making the executive producer position a part-time one is not only disrespectful to producing talent. It is unfair to your hosts. A good host knows how valuable skilled, experienced producers are. They can make flat conversation sound better by pulling the right sound. They are dogged in their pursuit of the right guests for the show.
Even shows with a single host cannot possibly be one man productions. Stripped to the bare bones, a show has to at least have a second person to run the board and answer the phones, but if a second person to run the board answer the phones is the only support you are willing to give your host, the message you are sending is that quality doesn’t matter.
I get that profits are down for a lot of station owners. I get that that means there isn’t always enough money to go around when it comes to hiring. But anyone in a position of making a budget has to do their homework. If you’re on strict orders to make only essential personnel full-time employees, you better understand which personnel are essential.
On the programming side, our job is to create a product that is entertaining enough for the sales staff to sell the ad space around it. There is no entertainer on Earth that can create a show that is engaging for three to four hours, five days a week, fifty to fifty-two weeks a year all on his own. Not investing in full-time producers is a disservice to your sales staff.
Being successful in radio requires that you invest the right way. That means you identify the positions that need to be filled and pay what is necessary to fill them with the people that will put you in the best position to succeed. It doesn’t mean you try to invest as little as possible. If the latter is your goal, maybe you need to reevaluate whether you should have invested in a sports radio station at all.