We had a chance to chat with Fred Kennedy aka Fearless Fred from 102.1 theEdge. He opened up about his career, what makes a great broadcaster and shares advice for young broadcasters. Enjoy!
Taylor Shold: How important is networking in radio and how has it helped your career?
Fred Kennedy: Networking IS important. I always tell young announcers to pick a dozen or so markets they want to be at and send a monthly tape. Regardless of whether or not they even get feedback, just keep sending tape. I went in to Power 97 every day for three weeks before I even got a sit down with the PD (Steve Parsons …. this was a LONG time ago) and the key was continuing to come back.
BUT that being said, the most important kind of networking you can do is just being nice to everyone you work with. People will always remember that person who had no problem covering an extra shift or picking up a bit of slack when it’s needed. I started over 15 years ago and all the people on the bottom with me back then are now in management all across the country, and because I’ve made an effort to not be an asshole I’m confident if I was ever out of work I could find a new gig pretty easily.
So reaching out and stuff is important, but networking starts with the people you’re already working with, this is a small pond man.
Taylor: What makes a great on-air person?
Fred: Attitude. Being nice to your co-workers. The era of the big swinging dick radio DJ is long gone (Thank God) and we all need to be a lot more humble. Cause you are not nearly as important as you think you are.
Aside from that, the skills you need are… being a good reader, staying informed, being open minded, knowing when to talk and when to listen, being able to take the same thing EVERYONE is talking about and give a unique angle.
Taylor: How can someone just starting out in radio really stand out from the crowd?
Fred: Being unique. The fact is we NEED talent right now. There are so many mediocre announcers being taught and trained by mediocre announcers that the level of talent out there has dwindled. And here’s another thing. The fact is it will NEVER have the same level of talent because the incentive just isn’t there anymore to stick it out. It used to be there were no gigs anywhere cause there was always new people entering. They’d start at the bottom, grind away for a few years and eventually surface.
And I mean grind. Working for very little money, in a station with a lousy boss who resents anyone with more talent than them. But it was worth it, cause once you landed a gig in a larger market you would work with more open minded and progressive talent. You’d develop and there was potential to have a decent paying gig when all was said and done.
Now those high paying gigs aren’t there. The money is gone from the top…well there’s still a few monster talents getting paid monster cheques. But they’re the same people who were getting monster cheques in the 90’s. No one new is getting that kind of money anymore. Period.
So because of that new unique talent is getting pushed out from the time they start. So the key really comes down to getting that tape into as many hands as possible from the get go, and NEVER stop. Or you WILL get discouraged and give up. IT’s that simple.
Taylor: How did you land your gig at the Edge? Any tips you can share for someone looking to move from a smaller market to a large one like Toronto?
Fred: I had given up on ever getting to The Edge actually. It was a very clicky sort of station, and I just wasn’t cool enough. I must’ve sent at least a hundred skims and tapes over a 7 year period. Sometime 3 in a single month. I think I got maybe one reply?
BUT then there was a change in management and Ross Winters called me within his first week of being the new PD. It was pretty surreal, and I think winning the Steve Young award really helped, cause my tape was suddenly in front of the biggest programmers in the country. That was pretty wild.
So Like I said earlier, it all came down to sending in hundreds and hundreds of tapes relentlessly for years.
Taylor: What’s the best advice you have for someone trying to make a career in radio?
Fred: Not to? It’s not in a state where someone who’s 18 can expect to come in and work for 40 years anymore. The business is evolving. It’s not just radio, it’s the media. I would advise someone to have a secondary plan so they can take the skills they learn in radio and apply them to something else.
I don’t wanna sound dire, because good communicators will always have jobs waiting for them, but if you think that you’re gonna have it made in the shade sitting in a radio studio spinning the hottest new Jam from Drake in 15 years, you’re lying to yourself.
You can find Fred each morning on 102.1 theEdge and on Twitter @Fearless_Fred
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