10 Questions with ... Bob O'Brien
December 3, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I studied Communication at Seton Hall University in my native state of New Jersey, and worked extensively on the college radio station, WSOU-FM. While still in college, I found work with the brand new "Shadow Traffic" network in Union, NJ. From there I worked at numerous New Jersey radio stations such as WIXL, WRAN-A (Cousin Brucie-owned), and WMTR-A while singing and touring with the "Oldies" vocal group, the Duprees of "You Belong to Me" and "Have You Heard" fame. Always a fan and historian of "Oldies," "Classic Hits" and "Doo-Wop," I then broke out of the nest, spread my wings, and found work at WDRC/Hartford, WMEX/Boston, WOCL/Orlando, WYUU/Tampa (where I won the "Air Award" for "Best Midday Show"), WCBS-FM/New York, KRWZ-A/F/ Denver, KOLA/ Riverside/San Bernardino and finally KDES/Palm Springs, where I was PD and morning-drive host. I've also done a lot of writing. I used to write and produce a weekly five-hour oldies show for United Stations called "Solid Gold Scrapbook," and I recently published my first book for McFarland Publishing titled "Single Season Sitcoms, 1948-1979, A Complete Guide," and I have a 3-volume music series coming out for Scarecrow Press called "Who Did It First?," which reveals the original versions of famous songs most people have never known about before this book series. Besides being a music historian and record collector, I'm also an avid TV show historian and am working on yet another TV book for McFarland Publishing to be released in 2014 (can't yet reveal the title). I'm an avid jogger, voracious reader, crossword puzzle junkie, and baseball fanatic seeking my next great radio adventure.
1) What do you do to maintain a positive mental attitude and stay motivated?
I'm very lucky. I'm self-motivated - a self-starter. It comes naturally. I feed off of accomplishments. Keeping busy with my writing keeps me positive, knowing that I'm creating something that others will enjoy is paramount. Also, staying active is important - not becoming a couch potato. I'm an avid jogger, and that keeps those endorphins flowing, thus the positive outlook and demeanor.
2) How are you occupying your time, besides looking for a job?
Luckily, the day after I was laid off I got the green light to write four books - three about music for Scarecrow Press, and another about classic TV for McFarland Publishing. The timing couldn't possibly have been more timely. This is akin to a full-time job in and of itself, and I've worked on this behemoth project every day since the layoff. It keeps my mind off of being "on the beach" for the first time in my long career. I'm still creating, doing something very positive and fun, and not just frittering away the time.
3) Do you plan on sticking with radio? I absolutely intend to stick with radio.
I have many years of experience and success under my belt and don't intend to "give up." I've learned not to "jump into" a bad situation or environment. When the right opportunity arises, I'll know it and embrace it.
4) What's the longest stretch you've had on the beach?
This is the longest stretch I've ever had on the beach. Prior to this, every job has led to another job, and then another job, and so on. I guess I was long overdue. Friends of mine have been on the beach for extremely long stretches of time, but they hang in there and persevere. Surely I can do the same. I've learned a lot from watching them handle the situation with grace, acceptance and a positive attitude.
5) What's the best way to get your foot in the door?
So many "radio lifers," as I call them, think it's beneath them to take a part-time position at a radio station, but we don't see eye-to-eye. I would gladly accept part-time employment to get my foot in the door and display my abilities, my tireless work ethic and positive attitude. It's worked for me before and it will work for me again.
6) What has been your best resource for finding out about job openings?
Of course, allaccess.com is the number-one source when one is seeking work in broadcasting, but word of mouth, social media (Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In) and one's many contacts and former co-workers/references are an excellent job source as well. Consultants are very handy, too, as they are in touch with myriads of radio stations and radio companies across the country. I'm fortunate to consider several of them good friends.
7) What is the next job you'd like to obtain?
I wish to return to a large market, even if it's only in a part-time capacity. I love being surrounded by professionals from whom I can continue learning. One should never stop learning in this business. I've seen so many people who coast and so many unmotivated people who stagnate in this business. In my opinion, there is always more to learn, and I love absorbing kernels of knowledge from others who know much more than I.
8) How are you finding the "courtesy level" at places you've applied? (Callbacks, e-mails, rejection letters, etc.)
While I fully understand that PDs are very busy, all of them should remember what it felt like to be ignored when they were getting started. Because of this, even upon receiving a rejection notice I invariably compliment said PD for his or her manners. Just knowing that what you sent was reviewed and the recipient had enough respect and humanity to respond is awesome. People skills are a lost art, and I always make certain to compliment good people skills when they are exhibited.
9) With consolidation there are definitely fewer jobs. How do you separate yourself from the pack?
Persistence. Many people merely apply for a position once with no follow-up. I whole-heartedly believe in "being a pest to stand out from the rest." After sending one's package, several follow-up e-mails are a must to exhibit your interest, your intensity. They keep you "top of mind." PDs receive a plethora of mp3s and resumes - make sure yours is noticed. If you gently nudge them a few times, maybe you'll come out on top. It's worked for me before. Maybe, just maybe they'll give your mp3 a second or third play.
10) Having been through all you have dealt with in this biz, what advice would you give people trying to break in?
I see a new generation coming in to the business with a sense of entitlement. They want it and they want it now without paying their dues. Getting one's foot in the door is the most important thing one can do to advance one's career. Swallow your pride and take a crappy and demeaning first job - it builds character and shows the powers-that-be how seriously you want to advance in the business. It shows them you're serious.
Any books you can recommend to people who need something inspirational to read?
Why, yes. I would heartily recommend "Single Season Sitcoms, 1948-1979 - a Complete Guide" by Bob Leszczak, and also "Who Did It First? Great Rhythm and Blues Songs and Their Original Artists," also by Bob Leszczak.