I had an amateur radio friend of mine call me on Skype a few days ago and said, “Jake, doing radio is REALLY hard.”
Really? REALLY? The Zach Ryder inside me is thinking, “Are you serious, bro?” If my friend hadn’t been living on the other side of the world, he’d receive a SPECIAL DELIVERY slap to the face. (Okay, maybe that was a little extreme.)
But the question that arose to me was: “Why is doing radio so difficult?“
I really hate to contemplate and think about that question and applied it to what is heading toward my seventh year in radio:
Did I really know what I was doing when I got my first radio gig in 2005, when I joined student-run KCSW-LPFM on the Culver-Stockton College campus in Canton, Missouri?
Heck no! I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. The station only gave me a pre-recorded gig because they thought I was too quiet for live radio. (Not to mention that college freshmen weren’t allowed to do live shows anyway.) I did get my chance at live sports radio covering C-SC Volleyball, but I froze like a deer in the headlights: I forgot everything I learned about volleyball in high school. I got tongue-tied saying athlete names and I almost didn’t want to speak.
I didn’t get used to it until I received some guidance from a few members of the station, including Dr. Steve Wiegenstein, the station advisor at the time. I got into the flow of things and went back into live radio for only one other time: during the Lewis County Relay For Life event at the football field. I got used to the radio jitters and talked like I was talking to an ordinary person.
Did my experience at KCSW set me up for potential success in future endeavors?
Let’s be more specific here: did my experience at KCSW help me when I joined KTRM in Kirksville the following year? Yes and quite significantly. I may have not gotten the chance to go live there, but I noticed that I wasn’t stuttering near as much and there wasn’t near as much dead air as before.
How about beyond KTRM? I have to admit that I was mainly doing R&D on the technical and ownership aspects of a radio station. My prior experience in radio would result in the creation (and eventual death) of two Internet radio stations.
Did I set myself up for failure in Internet radio?
As for any Internet radio station, there’s always three major issues that cause the rise and fall on that very station: technical issues, lack of outside financial support and lack of personal financial support. Other factors could include lack of Internet service and broadcast licensing fees.
I experienced technical issues and lack of funding for both WWPM Radio Network and WWPM Media Networks when I launched them in 2007 and 2009, respectively. The lack thereof of an external hard drive caused a lot of issues when you had a 3500 song music library and a 120GB hard drive with a pathetic excuse of a processor on a Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop computer.
What has changed since then? I used the same laptop when WWPM MediaNet launched in August 2010, but it was during my BlogTalkRadio days that the Dell Inspiron laptop was stolen (while working a camp in June of the same year). Gone was the extensive music library. Gone was our original broadcasting software. (Thank goodness that I backed my files up with an external hard drive that I bought in December 2009 after Christmas or else I would be in a world of hurt. The first five years of my tech company’s financial and consumer records were in there – despite each document being password-protected.)
That laptop was replaced with our current computer, a Compaq Presario CQ62. To date, we have a 1350 song library, which is nowhere where we used to stand at one time. At least this computer doesn’t crash as often. We use SAM Broadcaster as our broadcast software and we’re extended the amount of servers we can broadcast on (thanks to free Shoutcast and Icecast servers).
We have our own website, listeners who continue to be interested in our station, marketing partnerships with companies and an expanding band of friendships we’ve acquired since WWPM MediaNet launched.
How has WWPM MediaNet managed to stay on the air, despite lack of funding?
Simple – people have been tuning in, period. Some of them eventually purchase advertising. The only thing different between this station and its predecessors is those stations played music only. We combine music with radio programs. Add in a little shock jock comedy, some sports, some politics, some music-oriented, some gaming and some other elements. Without radio programs contacting us (or we contacted them), the station would have been gone a long time ago.
What has my experience as a station owner done to expand our overall business structure?
When WWPM MediaNet celebrated their first anniversary on the air last August, I knew I wanted to expand the overall business structure. I wanted to help other stations get on the air and be under one company banner. I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to pursue this, but I snapped at the opportunity, this Heartland Internet Media Networks being birthed. I also threw in the independent media association I chartered last year.
I had a feeling I wanted to make it larger than it already looked, so I decided I wanted to pursue radio production services. Not the voiceover production stuff, but ACTUALLY producing a radio program with intent of broadcast syndication. So on top of what I’m already doing, I’m being a content creator by producing radio programming.
Do I have any clue what will come next? Only time can tell – hell, I could have an Internet radio empire on my hands here!
So, yes, there is an aspect of difficulty in radio……if you allow there to be difficulty to throw you off track. In my case, even more so in 2012, I refuse to let it get in my way of broadcasting success, regardless of whether it’s today or 10 years in the future. It takes a little bit of optimism, confidence and some guidance to send you in the right direction.