A few years ago, B. Eric Rhodes, founder and publisher of Radio Ink Magazine, shared this essay with our member stations. As I was cleaning out my email inbox I stumbled upon it again and thought that maybe now more than ever it was an important message to read again.
Is a Great Life in Radio Still Possible?
By B. Eric Rhoads, Founder of Radio Ink Magazine
CEO of Streamline Publishing, Inc.
Originally shared with IBS Members August 2019
As I write this I’m celebrating 50 years in the radio business, having started at age 14 in college radio. At the time I had dreams and visions of being a famous radio personality, and at the time, if I accomplished even part of that goal, if I manage to get any paying job in commercial radio, I would have been thrilled. Little did I know that I’d become the youngest major market radio personality in America, or that I’d become a winning programmer with 25 top stations at once, or that I’d end up owning multiple radio stations, or that I’d have a trade magazine, then another and another.
So what can you learn from someone who you may perceive to be old, and out of touch? After all, you are a digital generation and I come from an analog generation.
Though I’ve predicted the future in the past and most of what I predicted came true, I can’t possibly predict your future. Each of you has your own path, your own interests, your own passions.
If you’re reading this, there is a strong chance that you’re involved in college radio and that you have a dream to be involved somehow as a career. With all the talk about online media, online music services, online radio, and everything else online, why could you possibly think that radio has a future?
Let me be clear. Radio’s future is in YOUR hands, and it’s up to you to INVENT that future. You will see things that no other person on earth sees and it's important that you believe in yourself and your ideas.
Don’t ever assume what can be invented HAS been invented. Don’t ever assume what others say is impossible actually is.
I made that mistake on several occasions. For instance, I thought that an AM radio signal could be used to create a digital signal to make AM sound as good as FM. I was told it was not physically possible, so I did not pursue it, yet someone else invented it and was able to create digital radio on AM and FM.
On another occasion I believed a satellite could broadcast to radio’s in cars, but again, I was told it would not work. Five years later it was invented.
Had I listened to my gut instead of others I might have made millions or billions.
I did follow my gut that radio could be on the internet, and that it could be fast without long buffering and with high quality. I was told it was not possible, but developed and perfected the tech to make it possible, being one of the first to make it happen.
Radio is an old medium, invented in the 1920s, yet it's part of every day life for millions. Most American’s still listen to the radio, and even most people your age, though their listening habits are not as much as their parents.
Never lose sight of the fact that people will follow the best content. If you offer the best content, the best most entertaining programming or personalities, people will find it and use any medium to listen to it. This was proven with AM radio when it was declared dead. Talk radio saved AM radio, though much of talk radio has moved over to the FM dial now. (Note: Experts said no one would ever listen to talk on FM. Again they were wrong).
So, my advice to you…
I once predicted that internet radio would kill radio. It did eat into listening but it did not kill it. It may someday, or maybe not. But the reality is that you should NOT get hung up on the definition of radio, meaning how it’s delivered. Radio, as an entertainment and music medium is viable, though it can be on AM or FM it does not have to be, and I can guarantee it will end up on something not yet even invented. Maybe you’ll be the one to invent it.
My generation is mostly stuck in the past. They will tell you why you’re wrong, why it won’t work, and why they won’t support it. Don’t listen to them. They can’t see the vision you can see.
Live for your vision, live your passion, and spend your life doing what YOU love, not what others want you to do.
Radio is in your hands in the future… and it’s in good hands if you follow the voices in your head and do what you dream