Posted by Steve Trevelise on February 28, 2009 at 13:00:43:
On December 19th, 2002, after 20 years of working in Philadelphia radio on fice successful morning shows, I was let go by Clear Channel. Merry Christmas! For the first time in 20 years, there were no call letters after my name. I never felt more naked or alone. I felt like a huge part of my identity was gone, but I also knew I'd be back and in the meantime, I would be all right. Here's why...
The best time to find a job is late spring and fall. That's when PDs are getting swamped with vacation requests from their full-timers ... and they need people. The job I ended up getting the following June was on Sportsradio 610 WIP, where I've been ever since.
But this isn't only about what you can do IN radio; it's more about what you can do in between radio jobs. There is so much opportunity for those who have the drive and desire, especially since you already have the radio name. Here are a few ideas that worked for me.
Mobile Disc Jockey
When I first started in radio back in 1978, I formed a mobile DJ company hiring the other jocks and doing parties for $200 a pop. Now you can make over a thousand dollars a gig! Not bad for four to five hours of work! Sometimes you even get tipped! My friend and fellow DJ, John Weber, who was also a radio personality once, said to me, "I've never had a GM hand me a hundred-dollar tip and ask me if I had enough to eat. On weekends it happens all the time."
Musically, parties aren't hard, especially weddings. It's pretty much the same combination of Oldies and Dance stuff that works across the board. The difference is the personality behind the microphone who can emcee the event and keep things moving. Since you've been on the radio, you've got experience in not only being a personality, but moving music. The way to learn this business is to hook up with a local company to learn the ropes and what you would do to make it your own. Then buy your own equipment, which will pay for itself in no time. As you grow, you can hire others both in and out of radio to work for you. People will feel comfortable hiring you because they feel being on the radio gives you an expertise over the other guy who just does it on the weekends. You can also spin in clubs. You are now not only putting your skills to good use, and making a lot of money, but you also have a sense of independence that radio could never give you.
If you can be funny on the radio, why can't you be funny on the stage? I started doing stand-up in 2000 when I was on Alice 1045 (WLCE/Philadelphia), and I am now the GM/House MC at Catch A Rising Star in Princeton. I perform over 250 stand-up comedy shows a year, and have opened for, among others, Robert Klein, Pat Cooper and the late Richard Jeni.
Comedy is not as hard as you may think, especially if you've been in radio or mobile DJ'd. You've already established the likeable personality. If you can write headline news, which is basically two lines of setup and punch, you can write jokes which are basically the same. I have a DVD out called "Cashing in on Comedy" which explains the whole business from writing a joke to setting up your own club. The sky's the limit in comedy.
You can go from playing small clubs to high-paying corporate functions to Atlantic City and Las Vegas to HBO, depending on how good you become. You start by writing and working your material out at open mic nights that most local comedy clubs have.
What club owner wouldn't want a former radio personality to host his show? How much better will this new tool in your box make you as you continue to look for work?
Comedy can also help you stay alive by keeping your name out there. While I was unemployed, I constantly wrote jokes for Stu Bykofsky, who wrote the gossip column for the Philadelphia Daily News. Stu would not only end his column with my joke, but credit me. Since Stu had the biggest readership in the city, I started to meet people who knew me from his column.
Teach at the local college or Broadcasting School
Mentoring others will make you feel great. You have so much to offer, and these students are grateful for any ear they can get. Just make sure you keep it positive, and not let your negative feelings about not having a job affect your teaching.
The important thing to note here is that even though your firing wasn't in your control, there are things that you can do about it that are. Don't turn down work because "I make more from unemployment." When it runs out, the job won't be there. Don't take anything that doesn't involve a microphone. You worked hard to be what you are. Don't give it up that easy. Don't turn your nose up at part-time or fill-in work. Over the course of my career, I've held just about every announcing job available: I've jocked, done mornings, news, traffic, sports talk and even comedy. The point is, be willing to try new things. A "radio personality" can be anybody, be it a jock, update anchor or traffic reporter, and of course, a talk show host. Even YOU.
Whatever you can do to keep your name out there can only help you. Most importantly, remember that if you're good at what you do, you will eventually get back in radio. These ideas will make you that much better and more confident when that day comes.
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