Last week, Andy Masur did everyone with play-by-play aspirations a favor. If you are one of those people and have not read his column about what it is hiring managers are looking for on a demo, stop reading this, click here, and go read that!
Now, for those of us that aren’t in the business of calling games, I thought it would be helpful to be able to give the same advice to aspiring hosts. Whether “aspiring” in your case means you want to become a host or it means that you are already a host and you want to move up in market size of time slot prestige, it is always helpful to know what matters most to the people listening to and judging your demo.
Scott Shapiro of FOX Sports Radio told me that he likes to listen to demos just like he is listening to the radio. He wants something that is memorable and sticks with him.
“I want to learn something new,” he told me in an email. “I want to be challenged to think differently about a topic than I initially believed before pushing play. It’s easy to cover time on the biggest story of the day, but I like to hear a unique, well-prepared take that’s thought-provoking.”
Brandon Kravitz, program director go 96.9 FM the Game in Orlando, listens to demos looking for answers. There are a lot of questions when it comes to making a new hire, and he wants the audio job candidates submit to tell him a lot.
“I want to hear simple things like how you come in from and head into commercial break. I want to hear how you set up and interview and converse with a guest. What is your particular style? Are you better with a companion/co-host, or do you like driving the bus yourself? Make that apparent on the demo or show your range as a host,” he says.
He noted that it can be tough to really come away with a clear idea of what a PD is getting in a candidate from a demo.
“My issue with demos is that they’re like social media profiles, everyone looks picture perfect,” he says. “I want to know what life is like for you behind the mic when things don’t go right. If there’s a way to highlight in a demo, you adjusting on the fly, that can go a long way in putting a Program Director’s mind at ease.”
It is an interesting question. How often do job applicants think about showing their ability to get back on the horse after a fall? Probably not often. What they would rather a potential employer see is them riding the horse with ease, jumping over obstacles and perhaps even perform a dressage routine.
“I always want to hear passion and curiosity in a topic,” Shapiro says, noting that delivery is always more important than perfection. “If you don’t care a great deal about what you’re discussing, why would I as a listener want to spend valuable time consuming it?”
I asked Shapiro something else all job seekers want to know. I talk to PDs all the time about job openings and responses to those openings. Do you know that most times, when a respected brand in a top 100 market posts a job opening, they receive more than 100 replies? The larger the market, the bigger the response.
So how does an applicant even begin to have confidence that a PD will see his/her email or hear his/her demo? The answer is persistence.
“Follow up is important,” he told me. “There is of course that fine line between aggressive and annoying. But for anyone who only sends a demo one time, they are doing themselves a disservice.”
Another important thing to know is you may get a call back and it may not be the one you want. Brad Carson, program director of 92.9 ESPN in Memphis, and I have become good friends. That started with me applying for an EP role at his station and him calling me for no reason other than to tell me that I was good, but he was not interested in hiring me.
Brad values people that know Memphis, and having spent a total of four days there in my entire life, I am definitely not one of those people. It was a hurdle he knew I couldn’t overcome, but he wanted me to know that there was plenty of reason to be confident and keep looking.
It wasn’t a bad call at all. It just wasn’t the call I wanted.
Shapiro told me that he hears a lot of demos and often finds himself feeling the need to deliver news that isn’t bad, but it isn’t necessarily the news the applicant wants either. Finding the right fit isn’t all about talent.
“Whether it’s a national or local spot, there’s times when it’s very clear that reps are needed to refine delivery so a host gets more comfortable delivering premium content,” he said. “There’s a lot of hosts who can deliver ‘good’ content. But in order to turn good into great, it takes a great amount of hours, reps, and time spent honing the craft. This is a subjective business where success is measured in masses of people choosing to spend time with a host. Even with talent, the ability for a host to appeal to a broad audience, to hold their attention and then to garner ratings takes a great amount of skill and development paired with that talent.”
So here’s what we’ve learned:
- Be aware that different programmers are looking for different things.
- Don’t go for perfection. Send in clips and segments that show you in real situations.
- Send clips that demonstrate passion for the topic you’re discussing.
- Follow up!
- Understand that receiving a phone call may not always mean you’re getting the news you want, but if a PD takes the time to pick up the phone, it means you are doing something worth paying attention to.
I am going to throw a tip of my own in here. Working with the members of the BSM Member Directory, I hear a lot of demos. I listen and give feedback to try and help them put their best foot forward in the job market.
My advice would be ask for feedback and advice. Ask friends both in and outside the industry what they hear when they listen to your demo. Tell them to be brutal. Would they listen to this guy? Where did you lose them?
Ask questions. Brandon Kravitz laid out all of the technical questions he wants answered when he puts an applicant’s demo on, but he says he tries to put himself in a listener’s shoes when listening to someone new. In those shoes, there is only one thing he needs to know.
“Why should I spend my time listening to your opinion or analysis when I have a bevy of options to choose from?” he says. “There’s a lot of talent out there, highlight what makes you unique, without being over-the-top about it.”
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.