It’s been a pivotal couple of weeks for people looking to transition from radio to podcasting. Where to start?
“There are two kinds of people in radio…”
If you know how that saying ends, you still work or used to work in radio.
Recently, iHeartMedia summarily canned a large percentage of their radio employees. Entercom, Cumulus and several other radio companies have also recently let massive amounts of employees go. We’ve spoken to many of these “dislocated” employees over the past couple of weeks.
All of the people we’ve spoken to are intrigued with the opportunity to make and own their own content. Everyone likes the lifestyle benefits that come with self-employment, the lack of typical “radio” content restrictions, and, quite frankly, the idea of exiting a dying industry before it’s too late.
The main two things keeping radio talent from committing to a career change are a lack of confidence in certain aspects of launching a podcast or stream and a lack of a regular salary. Even with the understanding that radio companies have been slashing salaries and budgets for well over a decade now, the lack of a guaranteed salary seems a bridge too far. Talent has accepted that radio companies see more value in cost savings than in their own ability to monetize talent and content.
I’d like to share what we’ve learned from these recent conversations in the hopes that you can consider moving forward with some of these ideas today, whether you are employed or unemployed.
Now is the time.
If you have recently been let go, you’ve probably heard from several groups of people. Listeners, advertisers, and industry friends. Don’t wait too long to communicate with them and get them active in your next steps.
Let’s expand on this.
Your listeners will hit you up and tell you they are pissed at the station for letting you go. They’ll follow you wherever you go. Just say the word, and they’ll go where you go.
That’s great to hear, isn’t it? These people mean what they say. They really are disappointed with the radio station. They really will follow you wherever you go…today.
Today. That’s the key. There’s a window of opportunity here for you, but it won’t stay open forever. No matter who you are, people will forget after a while. Executives at the radio companies know this. They count on it. They put out a press release, they lay low, they wait for listeners to forget about you and everyone else they laid off in the name of “efficiencies”, they cut themselves huge bonus checks, and then they move on.
Don’t let that happen.
Be very active in having conversations with your fans and followers on your socials after your exit. Thank every single one of them for past and present support. Relive moments with people. Share photos with them. Tell them that you are considering a transition from radio to podcasting. Ask them to support it. Ask them for their email address and create a database. Let them know you want to be able to communicate directly with them so that, when you get back on your feet, you’ll be able to let them know where you are. Ask them to help spread the word about the mailing list.
Again, take advantage of the opportunity at hand. When someone makes an offer of support, take them up on it in that moment. Create that email database and take pride in growing it. You’ll need it!
Immediately record a one-off podcast and tell the story of being let go.
People will want to check that out if you can get it to them while they still care. Get a feel for podcasting and get a feel for the response that you get. Use it as a way to move fans into your ecosystem.
The last thing you want to do is hand over YOUR fans to this radio station. Round everyone up and take them with you. You don’t need to burn a bridge with the radio station to do it. You aren’t asking them to boycott the radio station that let you go. You’re letting your people know that your association with the radio station has no bearing on your relationship with them.
Your relationships from advertising agencies and individual sponsors:
You’ve endorsed countless products and businesses. You’ve created solid relationships with these clients. They care about you, they appreciate you, and now they’ve hit you up. They, too, are pissed at the radio station. After all, the radio station made this move without speaking to them. The rug got yanked out from under them and now they get a bullshit phone call from their AE or Sales Manager to let them know that a different air talent will need to endorse them?? The nerve. The disrespect. That’s not how a partnership works. The client reaches out to you and lets you know that they will take their business to whichever station hires you.
Don’t just thank them for the sentiment. Meet with them immediately.
These clients or agency reps really ARE pissed about your being let go. They really will follow you wherever you go. So meet with them and pitch them. Ask them if they would be interested in helping you transition from radio to podcasting.
Any business or product can be the founding sponsor of your podcast and/or streaming show. You will use your content, your likeness and your socials to drive business to them. Maybe you do your show from their location, if that makes sense. You will keep doing for them what you’ve always done for them–vouch for them, drive traffic, drive awareness, bring in revenue.
Yep. I’m telling you that you can take business away from the radio station and keep it for yourself.
I’m dead serious.
If you act immediately, if you include the your agency and client relationships in the process of building out your show, you will be very pleasantly surprised how much revenue you can generate.
Collaborate with the agency or client on the show’s budget. Lay out the cost of the equipment you’ll need, carve out a couple hundred bucks an episode for a freelancer that will edit the audio, write episode notes, create the transcript and create social media deliverables. Carve out 49 bucks a month for audio hosting, website hosting, licensed music and sound and other show building tools. Carve out money for social media marketing. Back all of that out of the sponsorship money and agree to split the remaining revenue with an agency if you need to, or keep all the revenue for yourself if working directly with an advertiser.
Brainstorm revenue streams with them. Live events, an online storefront with show-specific products and merchandise, email marketing, database building. Make them a true partner.
These agencies and clients aren’t living in a bubble. They know that buying radio doesn’t yield the same results for them that it once did. They understand podcasting is growing like crazy. These people hear that buzz. They’ll likely be intrigued with the idea of sponsoring not only a podcast, but YOUR podcast.
Again, this can be done even if you are still employed. Maybe don’t immediately hand a rate card to station sponsors for whom you endorse, but certainly you can have informal conversations with people. You can gauge response and brainstorm ideas. These are YOUR relationships. You aren’t out of bounds.
Your media and community relationships:
Make sure you reach out to all these people as well and let them know what’s going on with you. Don’t assume they’ve heard the news that you’ve been let go. Tell them yourself. Tell them you are considering transitioning from radio to podcasting and see where that leads.
You can still do those regular entertainment segments for the local TV station. You’re still available to host charity events. You can write guest columns. No reason that you can’t keep making on-site appearances. After all, your listeners will still want to hang out with you and support you.
In fact, you have more time to do those things than you did before. Let ‘em know. The more you do for and with them, the more people you’ll see and meet, the more email addresses you collect, the more value you’ll have.
Your industry friends:
You’ll hear from them, too. The ones that say they’ll help any way they can, probably will (if you make your ask soon enough).
If other radio folks in town reach out, talk to them about your ideas. They can be very helpful to you in your transition from radio to podcasting. They’ll promote your podcast. You can count on them to be a guest on your podcast. They will, of course, listen to your podcast. One of them may very well want to be your co-host. Why not? Reach out to them immediately.
The radio station didn’t make you a star. You brought your star to the radio station.
Don’t believe me? Put it to the test.
If you do take these actions immediately after being let go or even start taking them before further imminent layoffs affect you, you’ll be able to quickly determine whether or not you are ready to make a living by creating and owning your own content. Furthermore, if you find success with your own podcast, you’ll likely improve your odds of commanding an even higher salary at a new radio station, should you decide to go that route. You will have increased your market value. Radio stations won’t like losing business to you. If they want that money flowing back to them, they’ll need to pay you.
Final note for those still employed:
Do NOT put out your podcast thru the radio company for whom you work. That doesn’t mean you don’t want the show on their platform, but we’re seeing radio talent contracts with language in them that would make it possible for radio companies to make intellectual property claims on podcast content. Keep it separate.
Thank you dislocated talent.
The last couple of weeks have been hard on too many of our radio brothers and sisters. I am very grateful for the conversations that I’ve had with them over the past couple of weeks and I am excited for all of them. So much potential. So much opportunity.
Hopefully by now you know you have some options. You have a way to unlock your true value. Let’s see where it leads.