What do you love about your radio producer job?
I get to meet interesting people as the radio producer on the morning show. Live entertainers come into the Mountain Music Lounge, like Patti Smyth. This couple got to come in and watch her. 30 years ago, they had wanted to walk down the aisle, during their wedding, to “Because the Night.” But the minister wouldn’t let them. He thought a song by a rock star was inappropriate; I think most FM radio stations would disagree, heh.
So after the radio show, this couple told Patti the story, and this rock star puts her arms around them and sings “Because the Night.” Other benefits to the job are emotional benefits. I’m not a rock star, but I have very minor celebrity status in the city of Seattle. I’ve had people come up to me and say, “Are you Lee Callahan? Because I heard you screaming in the supermarket and you sound just like that traffic reporter on the radio in the morning.”
What did you do before your were a radio producer?
I moved all around, I’ve had many jobs. I was a human puppet in Hawaii for children’s theater.
What’s the downside of being a radio producer?
When I first got into producing, I was working on a talk show at a news station in town, and that show started at 3pm in afternoon; that was just fine. But the Fisher and West show starts at 5:30am, so the downside of being a radio producer is getting up at 4:17am. I never wash my hair and I come directly here; by 9am my teeth are brushed and my makeup is on. When I first started this job, the first six months, I woke up every morning and cried, “What have I done? It's 4:17am, I’m so miserable.” But I got used to it, and I’ve had the morning show radio producer job for 6 years now.
Do you have any advice for someone trying to get into radio?
If you knew by any chance that you wanted to work at radio stations before you went to college, just try interning anywhere to see which aspect of radio it is that you want to be in. There’s the sales end, you could make a lot more money than I do as a radio producer! There is producing end, that’s what I do. There’s the being on the air end, which I also do as a traffic reporter. Also, the industry is changing, in addition to traditional free radio stations, there is pay satellite radio and online free radio.
What is the typical radio producer salary?
A starting radio producer salary or traffic reporter pay is usually on the low side. It’s basically, get your foot in the door, its hard, because if you want to be on the air you have to prove that you have talent, to prove that, you’ve got to have talent, to prove that, you need a lot of experience being on the air. So don’t obsess about your starting producer salary, but rather get on the air.
So you need to do to what you can, anywhere in the United States, to get on the air experience, even at low starting salary, and that might be overnights in Oklahoma. You may be doing high school student morning show ideas. A lot of people have started in a lot worse. The guy I work with, John Fisher, used to do a Polka Hour Sunday mornings at 7am, and now he is one of the hosts for a morning radio hit.
There is this great thing that John Fisher says, “We’re show folk. And no matter how awful you feel, we’re show folk, and it’s our duty to be on for the people.” I love that because there are some mornings I come in and I don’t feel like I’m show folk, and he’ll say, “You are show folk."
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