10 Questions with ... Brian Battles
July 12, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started out with a friend doing neighborhood "pirate radio" in East Hartford, CT, in the 1970s, and got into college radio in 1975 at WHUS (University of Connecticut). Soon I was hired for my first real paying gig, a part-time job at WINY in Putnam, CT, and I did some shifts at WXLS in Willimantic, CT (now WILI-FM) and then moved on to "the big time," WCCC AM/FM in Hartford, CT. By the way, that's where I met Howard Stern when he came up from WRNW in Briarcliff Manor, NY, to do mornings. From there I went to WBAB in Long Island, then back to WCCC, then to WAQY in Springfield, MA, and finally back to WCCC. After a few years out of the business, I was lured back to get on the air at WMEX in Rochester, NH, and WWUH in West Hartford.
1) What do you do to maintain a positive mental attitude and stay motivated?
I find that a fairly high level of insanity is essential to get through life.
2) How are you occupying your time, besides looking for a job?
I've done some writing and voice-ver work, for a while I was Features Editor for QST Magazine at the ARRL in Newington, CT, and I've been doing database programming for almost 20 years.
3) Some people get discouraged or enlightened with the business when they actually step out of it for a while. Tell us your observations from the outside.
At first I was relieved to be out of a business that paid terribly and where management treated on-air staff as barely trained monkeys who were as replaceable as toilet paper. Then as 1980s and '90s deregulation slaughtered jobs and encouraged huge, stifling dreary corporate conglomerates, it looked like I had made the right decision. However, radio broadcasting is an incurable virus, and I've been secretly hoping all these years to find a real radio job, if one still exists anywhere, that lets a skilled, creative and experienced professional entertain people without sitting on your chest. And that pays enough that you don't have to eat from a dumpster.
4) Do you plan on sticking with radio?
If my fairy godmother shows up and offers me the right job!
5) What's the best way to get your foot in the door?
Offer to do anything, for little or no money. And be prepared to have your career stay that way!
6) What has been your best resource for finding out about job openings?
In the "old days" of printed trade magazines it was Radio & Records, but AllAccess.com seems to be the definitive site nowadays.
7) What is the next job you'd like to obtain?
A full-time shift without uptight, uncreative, timid corporate micromanagement.
8) How are you finding the "courtesy level" at places you've applied? (Callbacks, e-mails, rejection letters, etc)
Most people don't get back to you if they aren't planning to hire you-in any industry.
9) Are you finding salaries/benefits lower than you ever thought, about the same, or have you seen some pleasant surprises?
Absurdly low. That's the main thing that's kept me out of broadcasting. In my last full-time radio gig I was a drive-time DJ and production director in the #30 market, making $30,000 a year. That was in 1985, and I have friends in the same market now, more than 30 years later, making about $35,000; that's equivalent to being paid $15,000 then. So if I had stayed in radio full-time at the same level, I'd be making about half what I was making after 30 years! I know one or two guys making around $60-80,000, and one guy I used to work with in Hartford pulls in about $90 million a year. So I guess the average among people I know personally works out to around $10 million a year!
10) What's the most unbelievable on air bit you were allowed to do?
Tame and quaint as it sounds, I joined Howard Stern and Fred Norris for their very first show ever in New York City, on WNBC in 1982, and, for its time, we were doing outrageous stuff, yelling out absurd cracks and laughing like hyenas on the air...that was just not done on WNBC in 1982! Afterward Kevin "Pig Virus" Metheny actually sent Howard an official memo banning me from NBC property because he hadn't given prior approval to Howard having me in the studio, talking or laughing on the air!
Your favorite new diversion is ...
Doing anything I want on a noncommercial station!