The Radio Connection Advantage

by Dennis Daniel

So you want to get into the radio business, huh? You want to be an Announcer? A DJ? A Copywriter? A Newsperson? A Producer? A Salesperson? A Music Director? Maybe even a Program Director! You figure, “Okay, I’ll just go to college, study communications, get my degree, send out resumes and bingo: I’ll have a job.” Right? Wrong. Dead wrong.

For a career in radio, college is a waste of time and money. Yes, you read it right. In fact, I’ll repeat it. College is a waste of time and money. Blasphemy, right? How could I write something so stupid, so idiotic, so irresponsible, so untrue! You may be wondering if it’s worth your while to continue reading, right? You must be thinking, “This guy is a nutcase.” You may even think I’m like one of those infomercial types, trying to sell you my course on how to make a quick buck or how to buy real estate with no money, or how to lose 100 pounds in a week.

Well, chill out, my friends. I am not one of those hucksters. My name is Dennis Daniel and I’ve been in the radio business for the last 16 years. I am currently the Creative Director for the WDRE Modern Rock Network, a group of radio stations that broadcast WDRE’s Modern Rock Programming to several cities.

I am responsible for all the on-air, in-house produced commercials, comedy and programming-oriented production. I have a staff of six people under me. During my career, I have won almost every major award in radio advertising, including the Clio Award, the Sunny Award, The International Radio Festival, two Firsty and two Radio and Production Awards, and a Boli. For four years I wrote a column called “Tales Of The Tape” for Radio and Production Magazine. The column was designed to help Production Directors deal with the day to day demands placed on them for creativity.
I have consulted several radio stations around the country on production and creativity, and I lecture about it often at local colleges on Long Island. And … I do not possess a college degree. Never have, never will. What’s more … I never needed it.

Let me briefly explain my career. I had always been considered a funny, creative fellow. When I was in high school, I used to do crazy impressions of famous people and teachers. I acted in the school plays. I even made a few 8mm sound movies. I decided to go to college and study communications. I ran into nothing but bureaucratic road blocks. Everything from self-important stuck up college radio types, to teachers who truly didn’t have a clue. Plainly speaking, a bunch of has-beens and never-weres.

I bounced around three different colleges (both private and state run), trying to find a home. I never did. I decided to just stick it out, learn all I could, and hope for the best. During my junior year, I was working at a Taco Bell as night manager. A district manager came in one night and saw me goofing around doing impressions with my fellow workers. He said, “Say, you’re pretty good! You ought to talk to my wife, she owns an add agency.” So, I went to see his wife, played my tapes, showed her my reviews and basically put on a show for her and her staff. She hired me on the spot! All of a sudden, I went from taco maker to commercial maker. My foot was in the door. From that point on, it was just a matter of doing quality work and making the right connections.
Three years after that fateful day, I was the Production Director of a major market radio station. I stayed there for ten years learning and growing. I then moved to WDRE, doubling my salary and broadcasting to millions. Oh, by the way, I never did finish college.

During all these years, I’ve received many a resume from many a communications college graduate. I’ve read them. I’ve listened to their tapes. And I always say the same thing and ask the same question: “Yeah great but, what have you done?” At the same time, I’ve worked with many interns, both college students and people who just walked off the street wanting to learn. 80% of them have gone on to work in the business. Why? Because they did something! They were learning from someone in the business, at the station. We call it the real world. These people got a chance to write, produce and voice spots on a real radio station. They received real experience! When they presented their resumes and were asked, “What have you done?” They had an answer.
Which brings me back to my original statement: College is a waste of time and money. You want to do something with you life? You want to be somebody? There’s one sure fine way to reach that goal: extern yourself with a pro.

Extern, Familiar sounding work, right? I guess the first image that comes to mind is “The sorcerer’s Extern.” Remember that episode from Fantasia, the Disney film with Mickey Mouse and the walking brooms? The idea of an “extern” has been around for centuries. Think about it. Could there be any better way to learn than watching and being taught by a pro in his own environment? It is this basic concept that is the foundation for everything that Radio Connection stands for and wants to achieve.

Radio Connection is your “in,” your “foot in the door” to the wonderful radio profession. Radio Connection does what its name implies: it “connects” you to someone in radio. Someone who’s doing it. Someone who will teach you. Someone who will give you one on one instruction. You become the teacher’s extern! Through a combination of the Radio connection course and your teacher’s vast experience, you will end up with a professional sounding tape, as well as a very real possibility of landing a job right at the radio station you learned at!
It has happened for Radio Connection students time and time again. Best of all, it is totally cost effective! If you want to lean about radio, you’ll learn more taking the Radio Connection course then you would in four years of college! A bold statement, to be sure, but one that is totally backed up by the experiences of Radio Connection students as well as their teachers.
Let’s take this idea a step further. What would you think if I told you a degree could actually prevent your employment?

Can you imagine? You invest US $50,000 dollars in your education and receive not a degree, but a big scarlet letter on your forehead! My God, it’s the biggest scam of our age! Why is a communications degree worthless? Because when you apply for that job, a degree and the same resume are also going to apply. What can you offer that they can’t? Never mind if you have a great personality and you’re a hard worker. I’m sure other applicants will say the same thing.

Let’s say you luck out and get an entry-level position with a salary that’s a joke! You wonder how in the hell you’re going pay back that student loan. It’s going to take years! After a while, you’ll begin to despise that job. Sooner or later, you won’t be able to contain that feeling. You’ll openly badmouth the place or just slow down. You then become a “bad employee.” It’s a loud slap in the face when you realize that you’re going to have to start at the bottom and work your way up. For some, this is no big deal. But for the majority of people, people who want to move out of their parent’s home, people who have to pay back student loans, people who want to just make a living in radio and survive, it is a very big deal!

In many careers, college gives you the impression that you’re going to graduate, get a job, and start at the top or at least the middle. Nobody says anything about the bottom or not starting at all. In reality, Program Directors blow off most college graduates. They’d rather take on a Radio Connection student, train them and see if they deserve a shot. Why? Perhaps the college graduates expect higher salaries. Perhaps they might have a know-it-all attitude. The reasons vary, but the end result is the same. If experience has taught me anything, it’s that I want to hire people with a fire, a passion for what they do, first and foremost! Money is important, but it’s a secondary priority. Creativity is born out of passion and love for something. I myself worked for free as an intern for two years, learning all I could before I ever saw one penny. I was so amazed that I was being given a chance, I didn’t even think about the money. I knew that it would eventually come if I became good enough. And it did!

Radio Connection is an alternative educational program. Its success is rooted in history, the history of the extern. And the idea doesn’t stop with radio. Want to be a travel agent? How about a photographer? A recording studio board operator? No matter what the job, the principle is the same. Learn from the people who are making a living at it right in their place of business, one-on-one.
Almost any position in the “talent” business is perfect for the extern approach. Start at the bottom and work your way up in a cost-effective manner. Why go through all the trouble and expense of college? You could get an internship while in college, actually get a job, then spend years paying back your college!

With the Radio Connection principle, you skip all that. It’s a “direct line in” for an affordable fee. They pay the professional to give you direct attention. You are his/her student and you will be treated specially.

Does this concept really work? You bet it does! 80 to 85% of all Radio Connection students are now working in radio. These are documented facts. What school or college can say this? How many people do you know who have degrees in one field and are working in another because they couldn’t find a job? Best of all, many people never had to leave their local area. Radio Connection has radio stations near you to help teach you the course. The same would hold true with any other Connection externship . In the talent business you name it, they’ll find reliable, local pros to help teach you the ropes. There are so many pros out there who would love to have an intern learn from them and give them a hand. And, since Radio Connection is paying them, they love it even more!
It’s a simple fact of human nature that people who teach, love to work with students who are excited about learning. That learning excitement wears off pretty fast at college. Oh sure, for the first few months, maybe even years, you’re psyched and eager. You party and have a great time. But that eventually wears off and reality sinks in. “What will I do when I get out”? “How will I find a job?”

With Radio Connection and their extern-related courses, the psyche lasts for the whole course! You can’t help but be excited about working with a pro and they, in turn, feed off that excitement and really show you the ropes. An eager student is great student. Add the cost-effective nature to the whole deal and everyone ends up a winner. And let’s not forget Connection element. Maybe your teacher can make a few calls, right? If he can’t hire you, he may know someone who will. What better job reference than a former teacher who’s working in the business? That’s a trusted reference if ever there was one.

Does this all make sense? I hope so. In life, you can only speak from your own experience if you want to have any validity. My experience with Radio Connection has been one of extreme joy and wonderful results. My students have all gone on to radio oriented careers. I’ve spoken to many other former students and current teachers of the course and the results are clear. The concept works, it’s cost effective and it creates job opportunities. It opens doors.

If you have the talent and the drive to succeed, combined with a unique student/teacher relationship, it’s almost impossible to fail. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for more success stories from Radio Connection and their growing crop of other “connection” related courses.

In these tough economic times, an affordable course taught by pros in their respective fields can almost seem like a godsend to people trying to start careers.

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