I've had lots of people ask me how I got my podcast on broadcast radio, so here's the story.
In the Spring of 2005. I set up a meeting at the most popular radio station in the city, which broadcasted from a 30-story office building that looked over downtown Nashville. The purpose of that meeting was to pitch the station’s management on letting me get behind a mic as the host of my own talk show.
For the previous five years, I’d run a national conference that focused on the music business. At its peak, we had 2500 daytime attendees who came to watch me and others in the music industry speak about marketing. At night, we showcased roughly 400 acts in just five days, each night filling 22 different music venues across the city. Even during down years, we were still bringing in at least 250 acts.
It took 51 weeks to plan and prepare for each five-day event. Each year, when the conference ended, we’d go to bed, swearing we’d never do it again, but the next morning we’d wake up and immediately start preparing for the next one.
But the previous year has been different. I was tired and I needed a break.
I wanted to break this cycle. And my hope was that radio would allow me to do it.
I’d started my music business career doing radio promotion and that experience was how my "big idea" was born – instead of having people come to see me speak, I’d spread my message via a syndicated radio show that would go to them.
The Quick and Dirty
I talked my way into it. Sort of.
As far as getting my foot in the door, it helped that I had a friend at the radio station who'd set up the meeting for me and could vouch for my work ethic. As far as keeping myself there, it helped that I was able to think of my feet, at one point changing my pitch mid-meeting when my initial idea of a "specialty" program just for musicians wasn’t met with the glowing enthusiasm I'd imagined it would be.
That change was simple – take one segment of the show and do a "demo review" with music that had been sent in by listeners. That would allow the show to still appeal to the core musician audience, perhaps even more so than a straight talk show, but also be interesting to the stations core audience of music lovers.
My "big idea" was only part of getting the show made though...
I’d been on broadcast radio before, first in college and then a short stint at a small station in Mississippi after college. This was real radio though – it wasn’t as easy as going to a station, turning on a mic, and talking. Before anything was going to hit the air, there was a lot of work to do and there were a lot of people to convince.
There were format issues to consider. What would the content consist of? Would a specialized radio show, even with my newly-added "demo review" segment, be of interest to general listeners?
There were staffing issues. Who would engineer? Who would be the producer? Who would edit? How were we going to make enough money to pay for everything?
These were all things the station had to think about and I had to have answers for. Beyond that, did I have what it took to host the show? It had been almost ten years since I'd been on the air and that experience barely counted.
In the end, I got my shot. It took a year before the first episode aired though.
Which Comes First – Radio Show Or Podcast?
Podcasting wasn't part of my original plan. I knew it was an option because of my relationship with Dave Jackson, but like the "demo review" segment, it was added mid-pitch as something we could do to get more people listening to the show.
In 2005, radio broadcasters thought one of three things about podcasting:
- What are podcasts?
- Nobody listens to podcasts.
- Who will listen to radio if the same content is available via podcast?
Today, radio broadcasters are more open to podcasts and understand how podcasting can actually help radio stations stand out in a crowded marketplace. Having an established podcast, because you've hard a real opportunity to work out all the kinks, put together a proven format, and test audience reaction, can actually help you to get on broadcast radio.
Alternatively, radio stations looking to get more attention outside of their local markets love having their broadcast content available via podcast. If you can get connected with a broadcast station before you launch your show, this can be a great option to launch a big podcast since you'll have the backing of the radio station to help you do it.
Pros of starting your show via podcast:
- total control/ownership over podcast concept, name of show, imaging, domain name, and other content
- ability to test ideas, content, and everything else about your show
- ability to easily change/tweak idea, if necessary
Pros of starting your show via broadcast:
- help from experienced broadcast professionals
- perceived credibility and professionalism that may help you get better sponsors and guests
- an existing audience
Will Being On The Radio Help Your Podcast?
The answer is maybe.
The perception is nice. Potential guests will likely take your podcast more seriously if they know it's also on the radio. Advertisers will definitely take you more seriously, at least when you first approach them.
In the end though, your distribution method doesn't matter to anybody. The only thing that matters to listeners is whether the show is good or not, the only thing that matters to advertisers is whether or not people are buying the stuff they're selling, and the only thing that should matter to you and your guests is whether or not people are listening.
Broadcast radio is a tool for distribution, just like podcasting is. Having a show on the radio is valued by some audiences, but there's nothing special about it.
My show started on broadcast radio, yet most people still think it's just a podcast – "what it is" depends on how you receive it.
Same for networks. None of this stuff matters to most listeners. It might matter a great deal to you though if you have to change what you're doing in order to get a broadcast station or network to work with you.
Times have changed. Podcasting is a legitimate form of media now. You can be "only a podcast" and still have the impact and income if your show is good enough.
If I Had To Do It Again...
I've had a great experience with radio. I've learned so much by working with people who have been in broadcasting for years and live in the studio.
Podcasting is often a solo effort. A lot of what we learn as podcasters is by trial and error. Sometimes, we get help via online communities for podcasters on Facebook and elsewhere. Sometimes we connect at podcasting conferences.
Nothing will help you more than being mentored by somebody who's in the same room as you are. Beyond that, there are a lot of things people in broadcast radio do that we should be doing with our podcasts.
Working with experienced broadcasters is worth the effort it takes to get your podcast on the radio.
The downside about doing a traditional broadcast show is that you're limited in the amount of air time you can get. Because of this, you'll also be limited in the amount of studio time you can get. And when you do get on the air, you're limited by how far your message can travel.
You don't have these limits with podcasting.
Your best option may be a hybrid. Do a radio show that stands on its own, but add a related podcast element, such as a behind-the-scenes show or Q&A, that allows you to take advantage of all podcasting has to offer. This is what I've chosen to do.
I love radio. I wouldn't be here without my experience in radio. But the way we distribute audio messages is changing and it would be stupid to neglect podcasting and its power to do exactly what radio can, but in a different way.