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November 28, 2006 | 7 Comments

Dear Mr. Keillor,
I am 18 years old, and I believe that my generation has lost touch with what is really entertainment. I want to someday host a variety show like yours and wonder what route I should take to get into the business in this day and age. What education do I need, and what can I do to make this goal a reality? To me, radio has really gone downhill. My dream is to entertain people with music and radio drama.

Colin L.

Radio is in a period of swift transition, Colin, an interesting time to watch and learn. The Internet and podcasting are changing things, opening up the field, bringing down some of the old empires, and opening things up to new voices. You can listen to just about anything and everything just surfing the Web. Try listening to "This American Life" and "Studio 360" and American RadioWorks documentaries and go on from there. I recommend a good solid liberal arts education, the best you can find, with a major in history or whatever most moves you — not communications, not radio — and try to develope your writing skills. A key to success in radio is having your own distinctive voice and writing will help you develop that. Four years from now, when you're done with college, radio will have turned itself inside out and then you'll have a clearer idea what might be possible for you. Good luck.


Good advice. Thanks for giving this guy a straight answer.

to hear someone making radio drama today, check out It's the Willamette Radio Workshop, a producer of both old time radio in new ways and modern drama.

Thank you Garrison. I have a daughter who attends a small liberal arts college in Indiana whose tentative major is History, with a Journalism minor. She was editor of her HS newsletter and continues to enjoy journalism. I've forwarded this PHC newsletter to her, not necessarily to encourage her towards a career in radio but to show her the possibilites available to a bright young lady pursuing a liberal arts degree.
Tom Scanlon

Excellent advice, particularly the observation regarding the Internet. The face of radio and the entire audio publishing industry will change dramatically in the next several years, IMHO.

The technical barriers to access have been removed for broadcasters and artists, and the artists and broadcasters are taking advantage of these tools. Users have access and are comfortable with the new methods of obtaining media. All that leaves is the economics--and the thing that is likely to have the most impact in this regard will be the "Creative Commons" movement.

Traditional publishing schemes (big broadcast networks, music publishers, etc.) cannot compete over the long run with the model of artists selectively offering works for free, in exchange for greater exposure and links back to their online storefront, and the more artists that take this route, the greater the pressure to move in that direction. Broadcast systems and strategies will become very modular. Loosely affiliated broadcast 'networks' by genre with their own top 40 ranking systems will come along as the approach matures. Hopefully, the quality of material will improve too. ;-)

(Actually, there are many, many fine artists providing excellent material in this manner--you just need to look them up.)

The future looks very bright for artists--the middleman is getting cut out of the deal. This is a great time to get involved with broadcast media.

Excellent advice and superior models. I would also add theatre studies, which encompasses literature, story-telling skills, history and performance. Experiment translating into a variety of media--comparing PHC radio shows with the new film and older books is a great way to see the metamorphosis in action.

My father worked in the radio business for many years. What a tough market! So much competition. But, so many great memories for us, too!

The story telling advice is the best, there are several great books out there about how to get people to open up and tell their story...and everyone has one which is fascinating to everyone...except their teenagers and spouses that is.

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