Reflections on a life in Radio

Last week I walked away from a full-time career in radio after spending 44 years in the business. I started when I was 18 years old. I was terrible on the air to start with, but I loved the music and I guess that passion eventually shined through.

I have seen lots of changes in technology in the world of broadcasting. When I was on the air I played vinyl records and carts. I even spliced tape and was pretty good at it, but I never wanted to be a production guy. I always loved hanging around in the studio after hours and on weekends.

My view has always been that good people succeed in the long run. The people I’ve worked with and watched closely always moved towards their goals. Sure, there were false starts and set-backs, but most kept moving forward. I had worked out early on that the key was to embrace the overall growth journey. The benefits were not just in the goal, but also in the person you were becoming along the way.

I was lucky enough to learn from some real guns; people like Dave Charles, David Marsden and Liz Janik in Canada, and in Australia Gary Roberts and Greg Smith and Rhett Walker. These guys were very generous with their time and were and are highly skilled strategists. Not to mention highly creative!

I owe these guys a lot, but then at some point I realised success was as easy as discovering what works, and then just repeat.

Martial arts taught me never to give up even if you get knocked down. And I have been knocked down many times.

For newcomers trying to get a gig in broadcasting I always say – be flexible. Bend and stretch, but don’t get side-tracked. Don’t go dark or off the grid – stay focused. Oh, and be prepared to travel – a lot. I certainly did, far and frequently. The experience is about working with and learning from other people. It’s not just about the money. Always keep moving forward and keep an open mind.

For those of us who have been around ‘a while’, the same message applies, doesn’t it?

Radio is a fun job, but radio is a serious business – there is always a lot at stake.

So what now?

I have a lot of CDs (yes… CDs) to listen to and catalogue, and beyond that I plan to pay attention to the world. I read this is a great way to boost your creativity.

A little mindfulness can help with all kinds of things.

I want to learn another language, and write a children’s book about my three-legged cat. (Have you ever heard of my cat, Louie?) And I am excited to see where radio ends up in its fight for getting our attention.

It’s obvious to me that observation is a brain skill and for most of my life I have taken this for granted. But now I am watching. And listening. Still.

Brad McNally

October 2016

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