Everything should have a value…

the perfect studio...

A tough decision

So, over the past six plus years I have produced, hosted and podcast three radio shows every week. I have loved every moment of it, but have now decided to stop.

I thought it may make for an interesting read if on this weeks blog, I gave you an idea of what was behind my decision.

The way it works

When I started to broadcast on this particular station, it was still the old format of ‘pay-to-play’. Outside of the 8am - 6pm slots, every presenter on the station was expected to pay subs (subscriptions). I was no different and knew this from the onset. The station made little revenue and had big bills to face such as PRS fees, studio overheads and the big one at that time, being on Sky and giving listeners the chance to listen through that platform.

As listening behaviours changed, Sky became an expensive luxury, so the station elected to come off the platform, and in fairness, at that point, they stopped collecting or expecting subs from us. Two of my three shows were sponsored. The sponsorship money was paid direct to the station, and in turn, I received 50% of that. But….trust me, the money involved was small. We are not talking corporate rates, believe me!

Status Quo

As the months trickled on this year, an itch started to develop deep within me that needed a good scratching. Through the various lockdowns, the need for radio, podcasts and content soared. With many working from home with little or no social contact, that calming voice coming through the radio speakers was a huge comfort.

I can clearly only speak for myself, but I love to be well prepared and produced. If listeners were kind enough to give me their time, then I should put in the work to give them a show worth listening to. I would never just turn up with a stack of tunes ready to play and simply ‘wing-it!. Shows are a certain length, so you have to time that and of course top of the hour and ad break timings also have to be factored in. My two hour shows would take, typically, anywhere between 2 - 4 hours in production. One of my shows was centred on interviews. I started these at the very beginning of lockdown to help give the artists a platform - somewhere to still be heard as their livelihood had been stolen from them. Researching my guest, recording the interview, editing, EQ’ing etc…that added hours to my weekly production schedule. Then of course there is the on-air time, podcasting afterward, promotion…..all of this added up to around 30 hours a week and all unpaid. Not only unpaid, but in its own way, it was still costing me! One of the shows was all about rare vinyl, and to keep the show unique, it was not unusual for me to spend £100 a week on new ‘old’ albums.

Having always run my own businesses, I realised, this could not continue and I started to look at options to monetise my work. This started off with discussions with the station. At the least for more social hours and to establish nothing had changed on their stance of not paying presenters. I then sent out show reels and had chats with corporate, mainline stations and also put my podcasts behind a paid barrier.

Whilst I had many loyal listeners that were kind enough to get on board with me and pay, sadly, not enough, so no revenue was earned there either. Their subs, I am glad to report, go to the artists first. It is only after a certain amount of money has accrued, that I would generate any income.

Why the change?

Like many of us, through the pandemic, my ‘outside’ radio business life suffered. I am lucky in that it survived, but the future looked as if it could be perilous. I began to look at what else I was good at and realised hosting a radio show I very much enjoyed and would love to continue, but it had to have a value attached.

My eyes opened to the fact that to give over so many hours per week, of what I considered to be professionally produced and presented content, a value should be attached to that. Paying monkeys peanuts comes to mind; if you want shoddy, amateur sounding ‘bedroom’ presenters, pay nothing. But if you want well researched, timed professional content and promotion, then pay. Is that unfair line of thought?

The world of music….

…it’s not in a good state. I know the gig fees that some of the very finest jazz musicians work for, and it is unjust. These are guys who paid their way through university in many cases, have learned their trade and are at the very pinnacle of their game. Then there is the whole devaluing of their music through streaming and the lack of physical sales or downloads. So, my point is, if they can’t earn a good living through music, what chance do I stand? Compared to their talent, I pale in to insignificance and am, deservedly, some way down the food chain.

I had hoped that one of the specialist shows I hosted, which was sponsored by a nightclub, may pay me directly to produce and host a podcast for them. Again….wrong time, wrong place. That sector has been hit hard by recent events.

So, I have pretty much, as far as I can see, explored every option to continue with something I love and am not bad at and which I think folk enjoyed. I love broadcasting and the rapport and relationship that develops with listeners. I took my time on air very seriously and over those six years, I think I missed at most, five shows. It was a huge personal investment, but it was worth it to me. Listeners often have very personal reasons for listening; that mattered and I wanted to deliver for them.

Time for change

I am not saying I love change, but equally, I did not want to be doing the exact same thing in five years time that I was doing today. I wanted to stay relevant and fresh. I wanted listeners to look forward to my shows and not be bored at the prospect.

So, with unsocial hours (I had two after midnight slots), 30+ hours of work, and it really must be viewed as work, the cost of vinyl and also the personal cost to my quality of life, I knew time had come for change. Sad as it was, just as I had finally finished building my perfect studio, my mind was set; I would step down.

I have a huge creative side to my soul, and I knew I needed to be creating something. So, I decided to venture in to the world of YouTube. That whole platform is there to encourage monetisation. Whilst I am a very long way from earning yet, if I give that content all my energy and creative time and thoughts, I’d like to think, I will get financial reward for my efforts. I clearly need to learn my trade there, and rack up some hours, but I have just won back 30 hours of creative time a week, so I am hopeful. I am also enjoying writing these blogs, so with the extra time, these too can be written and hopefully generate some income. It all just takes time.

The future?

Heavens knows. It’s a shame that I am being forced to turn my back on both radio and music which are two things I love dearly. I’ll miss the artists and the interviews. The corporate radio world is odd, very odd and fragile. I know may be four or five people who present on mainline stations, and the majority in no way wanted to help by even giving email addresses or suggesting to whom I should speak. And I get it…..why risk having shows taken from them by me? One comment that stands out from a guest this year, was when I was talking after the interview about getting a paid corporate gig and they said simply “you’re the wrong colour and the wrong sex”. In other words, I am just another white, middle-aged, male radio voice. I like to think that a voice with some knowledge, may be more than most, but still, just a voice.

Initially, I had agreed to host one show per month on my old station, but I felt I had to be true to myself and my beliefs. My time has, or should have value. I would not expect an electrician, a plumber or a decorator to come in to my home and work for free. Nor would I expect to go watch a live DJ in action and assume he’d do it for free. Why, therefore should my time and talent as a radio presenter be viewed any differently?

So, I have put the word out to as many as I can. I’d love to still be involved in the world of specialist music radio, but until there is a value attached to it, my mic hangs in early retirement.

Am I foolish, greedy or mistaken? Let me know in the comments, but, in the meantime, wish me luck over on the ‘Tubes’ as I try to learn a whole new world.

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