Monday, March 3, 2008

"Good talent is hard to find"

I hear this all the time from people in radio. "We just can't find enough good air talent", they say. But, what are radio companies and radio stations doing to find talent? Most general managers and program directors are now responsible for 3, 4, 5 or more radio stations. They really don't have time to develop the talent they have let alone look for more. Most are hoping the next Kidd Kraddick, Rush Limbaugh, or Howard Stern will walk through their door. I don't think that's likely to happen.

Gifted artists don't view radio as a place that welcomes what they do. They don't hear a lot of original ideas on radio. Instead, they hear lots of Howard Stern wannabes, Rush Limbaugh copies, sound alike morning shows presenting a narrow view of pop culture obsessed with Britney Spears and American Idol and voice-tracked liner card shows.

Gifted artists would much rather try their hand at blogging, creating videos for YouTube, or producing the kind of show they'd like to hear on BlogTalkRadio. Makes sense to me. Who'd want to face almost certain rejection by a radio program director fearing the loss of his job if he tries something new and unproven. How inviting is the typical radio station employment ad that screams "NO CALLS" and implies we don't want to get to know you? I don't think I'd be giving much consideration to radio if I were an artist seeking to do something truly original. It's no wonder radio is not exactly a magnet for gifted artists these days.

What to do. How about this for starters? Create a new position -- Vice President of Talent or Director of Talent. Find someone who knows how to evaluate talent and understands and appreciates the difficulty of working with artists. Make this person's sole job and only responsibilities to find extraordinary talent and create an environment where they will thrive and grow. Don't ask them to do anything else.

Next, announce to all employees that the company is now in the content creation business. Let everyone know they are responsible for helping create content. Encourage them to be on the lookout for interesting people and cool ideas that turn them on wherever they go and whatever they do. Ask them to report videos they love on YouTube, people and ideas that excite them on MySpace, or Facebook. Reward them when they help find people and ideas that can be developed and used.

Next, let the world know you are looking for gifted artists capable of creating extraordinary multimedia entertainment and information content. Recruit nonstop. Use the reach and influence of your radio station or stations. Run announcements on the radio and on the web that describe exactly what you want. Make it easy for talent to submit their ideas. Set up a special place on the web where ideas can be uploaded -- audio, video, whatever.

Finally, set up a talent incubator on the web. Create a website where artists you select can display what they've created -- audio, video, games, etc. -- and do shows. Make it a fun place where gifted artists will want to come to play and try stuff out. Promote the website on the radio. Send radio listeners there to check it out and provide feedback on this gallery of artists and ideas.

The Web provides a low cost and no risk place to test anything and everything. Radio people constantly complain about not having a "farm system" for talent. This is the ultimate "farm system". It's like having access to an infinite number of broadcast frequencies capable of reaching the entire world. What a deal.

Great talent is hard to find, particularly if you're a radio station or radio company hoping it will find you. However, there's never been a better time for a radio station or radio company to go looking for talent. There are so many places to search and so many ways for artists to put their talent on display. The primary requirements for finding great talent today are focus and commitment.


Anonymous said...

Bill's idea for a "farm system" is doable -- not only from the "open to everyone" model, but also from those within your company's "chain".

For those of you old enough to remember, several radio chains (LIN, RKO, McLendon) employed the farm system with great success and afforded all talent the opportunity to move up in both market and daypart opportunities. Many a talent and promotion "star" was launched this way.

Making opportunities available like this encourages new thinking, breeds commitment, and develops fearlessness -- three things the Radio industry could sorely use after years of looking over their shoulder.

One of you who reads this IS in a position to make it happen. Let's see who it is.

just me said...

Take it one step further.

Let station clients sponsor any of the web demos they like. A trickle-down effect in terms of payment to the podcaster or performer will really bring out the talent... and increase web traffic. The next Rocketboom or Tiki Bar is out there. Give clients the opportunity to add webertainment to their broadcast schedule.

Vermont Neighbor


Anonymous said...

where are the conservatives hosts when its time to do a re-make of Crossfire and have a Left/Right show? Its work for H&C and many tv political talk shows. I've been ready, from the Left, Don White

Anonymous said...

Why not use HD radio channels to experiment with formats and talent? Otherwise, HD's a waste.