Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Flashback: How not to land a gig in radio


June here is Flashback month and today we revisit my helpful guide to make your radio demo actually a worthwhile exercise..
Make your demo tape really sing. Put your best stuff on first. If you make it to the interview stage, wear a tie. Be prepared to travel. Bribe the program director. Remember that you might not get a reply back for a while…

I learnt all that helpful stuff on how to land a job in radio 10 years ago as a just-finished-being-pimply teenager in radio school, ready to take the world on. The course had finished, I bought a stack of blank tapes (yeah CD burning hadn’t really taken off by then), borrowed the family mobile phone in case anyone called with a red hot offer and then proceeded to flood every station within a 1000km radius with tapes, resumes and even Kit Kat’s to try and land that all important first gig.

Four months later and I was reading about dead people (funeral announcements) and lost dogs (lost N Found) in a small town which a population of less than 10,000. It might have been miles from home but it was a job and I was over the moon to get it.
Thankfully the days of dead dogs and lost people are long gone and the world has upgraded to mp3’s over demo tapes. Promo cars are now decent, phones don’t explode anymore and most reel to reel machines are festering away in collectors attics the world over.
However one thing that hasn’t changed in my time is the amazing stories you get at each station for people applying for jobs and missing the mark completely. Radio is a deadly appealing mistress with whispers of money (no), glory (some) and truckloads of fame (not really) and while it brings in both new radio students and seasoned media veterans into the fold yearly, it also attracts its fair share of people that probably go a touch strange when there’s a full moon and howl at their neighbors cat.
So rather than ramble on with a helpful guide on how to land a job in radio (depending on replies, I might), here’s how NOT to get a gig. Helpful tips and tricks I’ve seen in person that will get you plenty of attention around the radio industry, but not actual paid employment (yeah we’ll just laugh at it for a long time). These were from real people and thankfully, I haven’t run into any of them since.

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Don’t write an application on a bit of Spirax note paper, explaining how your mum reckons you’ve got a great voice and you’d make a great breakfast announcer. Then forget to attach any kind of demo.
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Don’t stick a giant box of toy soldiers with your demo, explaining in your cover letter that you’ve brought an army with you to take on the radio war. You might think it’s awesome, management will think you’re a bit weird.
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Spray painting your demo in a funky color is creative. Blowtorching another 9 blank tapes to black sludge to create a ‘base’ to put your demo tape on, that’s a little excessive. Especially if you apply for more than a couple of jobs…
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Don’t turn up to an interview 45 minutes late and not explain why.
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Don’t write an application in anything that looks like a crayon.
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Don’t use cut out letters from newspapers and magazines to ‘be creative’.
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Additionally don’t draw hearts on all the ‘I’s’ in your resume.
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A video you attached of you skydiving is…well just a video of you skydiving really.
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Don’t bag out any of the announcers currently on air in your letter of application. There’s a reason why they’re on air…and you’re not.
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Don’t rock up to the interview on a scooter. And then use said scooter to buzz around the hallways while waiting.
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If the best break you have on your demo is a 10 minute rant on the evils of abortion, you need a better best break.
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If you get some work experience, don’t use it to stare at the ceiling. Or suddenly become a mute.
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If an in-depth look at the world of politics is the first thing heard on a demo tape, a job in FM breakfast radio you will not be receiving.
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Name dropping is only good if we actually recognize the names you’re dropping. And if they know the names personally, they’ll usually check. Hope you’re friends with who you say you are.
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Play your demo to random people. If they don’t laugh at your comedy, we won’t either.
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Don’t get the Program Director’s name wrong. Or the general managers name wrong. Or even better, the station you’re applying for a job at wrong. As amusing as it is, they still won’t employ you.
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The word awesome is of course, awesome. Used in every line in your application about how awesome your stuff is, how awesome you are and how much more awesome the station will be is not as awesome as the word portrays it to be.
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Demo tapes should be 3 mins roughly. 3 cds of 72 mins each is a touch too much.
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If you were fired from your last radio job for sexual harassment, fair chance someone in your previous station will let someone in your current station know pretty quickly…
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Check your references actually don’t hate your guts when listing them as contacts.
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Don't send 13MB .wav files. And don't resend it time and time again if it bounces back. If you don't know what an mp3 is, learn.
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A list of demands is handy if you’ve abducted someone. A list of demands when applying for a radio job will quickly find your demo in the bin.
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Don’t put the Program Directors, General Managers or any announcers email on a joke list. Radio people get enough crap email already…
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From 3HA's Program Director B-Mac: Don't sing songs in your demo and especially don't say 'and now here's a treat for you' before you launch into song! That was one of the more interesting demos I have had cross the desk.
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From Assistant Group PD of ACE Radio Mike Pfeiffer: Don't introduce the song you're going into as 'Here's...music'.
Don't start every break with 'Hello everybody, my name is_______'
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From Jon Vertigan, superstar of Coast Fm Warnambool: I like it when they say 'the quality of the sound on the demo is not good, so please ignore that'. (Bad move, never showcase your 'work' with bad sound!) OR... I love it when they say 'here's my demo, i had a bad shift, I'm normally better than that'...
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From Brad Arnoldt PD of somewhere: I had a demo come in that started with "Hi, this demo will start after 30 seconds of tone..."
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Got all that? Good luck...

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