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Britt Wray

This is really well put Ashley. I was at Third Coast and am an independent podcaster too who is looking to start pitching (I'm new) and I feel really similarly about the tone of the discussions. The hopeful tone was inspiring and uncertain; it fuels the idealist in me, which I probably have way too much of in the eyes of most working people. I am aware that this is only one slice in my pie of a hectic independent media life for the time being. Your suggestions for next time are great!

Ashley Milne-Tyte

I'm glad it resonated with you, Britt. Or rather I'm not exactly glad about that, but pleased you feel it's worth writing about and discussing further. Thanks for posting.

Laura Candler

I agree. I attended Third Coast as an independent producer very new to the field and while there were a lot of inspirational feelings exchanged, most of the discussions glibly omitted that very important word: Money.

And I agree, Ashley, that that's exactly what you need to hear when you're like me - young, new to the field, and trying to figure out just exactly how to make it work - the reality of radio jobs, monetarily.

Ashley Milne-Tyte

Glad you got something out of it, Laura. And I wish I'd known you were there. I didn't look at the list before going as was so busy beforehand. We were probably right next to eachother at the Friday meet and greet!

David Goren

Your analysis is spot on. It is troublesome how many of the new aspirants rotate through unpaid internships.

Still, there are glimmers of hope...the Kickstarter presentation Friday night was inspiring. Independents are starting to be able to fund a years worth of programming through this vehicle.

Ashley Milne-Tyte

David, I agree about Kickstarter - but it's all in the name, in that while we may be able to fund projects for a time via Kickstarter, we can't keep launching one campaign after another. We need to make our work sustainable somehow. I'm wrestling with this myself as I think about my podcast. We need to be like Jesse Thorn, ultimately, asking listeners for donations or getting sponsors. First, though, we (I) need an audience!

Diane Hope

Ashley - just read and appreciated your comments on pay rates. Couldn't agree more. I ditched a steady job as a university science research prof 6 years ago - so you'd think I could at least get some reasonable paid work bringing my extensive science knowledge to radio, right? But as you say, its piecemeal stuff, pay is terrible, only way to make a living is to have a trust fund, a rich spouse, a part time job in something else, or find commercial audio work that pays proper living wage rates - or as you say get a staff reporter job at a local station. Yes its great that loads of 20 somethings are enthused to make creative radio - but if its going to be something other than a hobby then a larger number of people need to be interested in listening to it - and paying to do so!

Ashley Milne-Tyte

Diane, thanks for posting. I hear you on every point. But as Studio 360 producer Eric Molinsky said when I posted this on Facebook, let's in fact not wait another two years to discuss this publicly. I hadn't thought when I wrote this that the next Third Coast was so far off.

Noah

Thank you, Ashley. I'm inspired by what you have shared even though the reality of the issue is not that great. I'm sure someone down the road will likely bring up that it's not just radio producers who struggle with this problem; artists in general will typically have to do a myriad of jobs to make it work. With their core art work not being what pays their bills. In my experience art schools don't talk about this issue either - at least not in any pragmatic ways. But keeping things focused on radio producers is the context here and I think that's wise to stay focused. And opening up a dialog that explores how each of us can and in many cases do make it work will only benefit the industry. Perhaps next years TCAF will have a workshop called "Demystifying the Money" or, in an homage to Tim Gunn, "Make it Work"...just a thought but more so, thanks for yours.

Ashley Milne-Tyte

Noah, good to hear from you and glad you got something (if only a familiar sinking feeling) out of the post. I just think we should talk about this rather than ignore it while celebrating creativity and swooning over Ira and Jad (who no longer need surnames).

Dave Goodman

Money. Americans have such a hard time discussing personal finances such as wages. This past Spring, Joe Bevilacqua complained on the AIR list-serv that PRX wasn't doing enough to support lesser known producers and a very awkward, somewhat antagonistic discussion ensued. But we have to convince the prophets and gurus of our business to make room at the table for these discussions. Speaking of Sisyphusian tasks, I've been advocating for living wages in the community radio world where the volunteer culture is completely entrenched. But I keep trying. (What's that Einstein or Ben Franklin quote about insanity?) In the meantime, I'm working in corporate communications.

Ashley Milne-Tyte

Dave, good to hear from you - wonder if you remember me from the AIR/Harvestworks Sounds Elemental workshop in the summer of '08. I almost posted during my mini essay here that having worked for Marketplace for 7 years, I have no problem talking about money! You're not the first person to have said that discussions about money on AIR aren't well received - or at least aren't that well handled. I am plotting a part-time move into the corporate world myself. Or maybe it'll be fulltime. Guess it depends on what happens with my podcast.

Lindsay

I think it's not a contradiction to celebrate creativity while being realistic about what it means to be an independent producer.

When I was at a steady radio job, I idealized the title "independent producer." Sure, now I get more choice in what I make and I always enjoy it. But it's a guilty pleasure of mine to secretly search for corporate jobs that I'm qualified for and fantasize about direct depositing paychecks (I just got a thrill when I wrote that - money just showing up in my bank account!) rather than searching for clients and then chasing down their checks.

I don't think anyone at Third Coast or pub radio workshops would evade the question of money or say that it's easy to make a living, but there's no reality check. I'm astonished by Ashley's story of the lawyer - but I actually did a radio story involving a woman who quit her $230,000/year job and dreams of becoming a freelance food writer. Let's just say she had a husband. I kind of wanted to say something about it, but I don't want to stomp on people's dreams - maybe that's the challenge that we're up to as a community.

Ashley Milne-Tyte

Lindsay, I feel exactly the same about paychecks - what, money, just arriving in my account every 2 weeks? It's a huge thrill these days when it happens. Agree with you about Third Coast - it's simply stating the reality of things that needs to happen and currently doesn't. The problem is people who work in public radio or want to are arty, idealistic types, and that doesn't help any of this. We're grateful to be able to get the chance to do this and that means money too often gets shoved onto the back burner as a topic of importance.

Paul Ingles

Yes, a lot of the radio now labeled as 'great' were programs incubated at stations or by virtue of the CPB talent quest. Not to diss the incredible effort and creativity of the people involved... talent met opportunity there... but in celebrating that and heralding the 'dark forest' moments of suffering for the art, something is lost. Lots of 'good-very good' radio can be made along the way and their are paths that can lead to some serviceable income. I would like to hear those stories at TCIAF too. I could share some myself. But my ability to survive (with what I'd have to say is a very modest income) as a radio producer meant being able to do a little of everything well enough to maximize my ability to get paid for radio/audio work from many different sources. Some paid well, some not so well, some not at all, but I've been able to stitch together a career with some fulfilling projects that I feel good about. www.paulingles.com

Abdel Saleh

Hi Ashley,

I'm one of the Co-Founders of The Super Times. You reached out to us about you're podcast on twitter a while back.

Love the article. Agree with so many of the points made. The funny thing is that shows like RadioLab and This American Life have fuelled a new generation of listeners that appreciate that type of content (I'm one of them) and want more of it.

I've written up something that relates to you're article here: From Airwaves to Online Radio to Podcasting: What’s Next? - http://bit.ly/TlVi8V

Basically, I'm making the argument that if we can re-think the technology even slightly we can create an ecosystem where listeners can discover awesome content made by independent producers while producers can make money in the process.

Would love to hear you're thoughts on my post.

Again, you're article highlights precisely why we have started The Super Times. I'm glad we're not alone in our thinking :)

Cary Barbor

Ashley, this is so true and thought provoking. I got that same sinking feeling when we were applauding the size of AIR at the WNYC event this year -- I was thinking, but how many of these people are self-supporting through radio work? Another "dirty little secret" is how many unpaid interns are shouldering so much of the work at public radio stations. An infinitesimal percentage actually get paying jobs in public radio at the end. I'd love to hear/talk more about this. Thanks for bringing it up.

Marc Baizman

Ashley, this is something that gets discussed a fair amount with the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, www.ynpn.org. Although not specifically an audience of public radio folks, I think you'll find a lot of the same issues: barebones budgets, interns being asked to shoulder way too much, and salaries that are laughably small. Check out @ynpn or ynpn.org - there may be a chapter near you, and it would be a good place to start mobilizing some like minds, of which there are many. Hope that helps, and hope that you one day will in fact make a living from your passion.

Emily Eagle

Thank you for this post Ashley--it's the kind of thing I wish I had heard about five years ago when I started in radio. I used to have a great (contract) gig working at World Vision Report, but there was no possibility to make that position full-time. When the show closed in the spring of 2010--less than two years after I had started working there--I did some soul-searching and decided to move away from radio. The reasons were money and opportunity. I wouldn't be able to find even a part-time radio job without relocating, and I knew being an indie would be tough.

Now I'm in a graphic design and web design program, so when I graduate I'm likely to have the kind of skills that mean I will make a living and have a lot of choice about where I want to live. I don't regret going into radio, but I wish it hadn't been such a heartbreak to leave.

If folks are considering trying to find part-time corporate work, I would recommend looking into "contextual inquiry" user research. I went to a presentation about it at a conference this past weekend, and nearly everything they talked about was the basics of field reporting. I think y'all would be great at that.

Ashley Milne-Tyte

I just tweeted a link to this using your 'heartbreak' quote. I can't quite bear to completely leave myself but everything you say is true.

Julia Barton

For some context in this discussion, I urge everyone to check out this member survey from last year that the Association of Independents in Radio did. On p. 69, a full 49% of respondents say they made less than $10K total annual income from their work in public media. And these are the hard-core indie producers!

http://airmedia.org/PageInfo.php?PageID=656

We're in a profession that pays like a hobby.

Ashley Milne-Tyte

Thanks for the heads-up about YNPN Marc, I will check them out.

Pathak

What a great idea!I was going to share this post last week, but glad I waited so I could share it here. My post was acatully written by Ashley last year. She was writing her traditions for school. It is interesting to see our traditions from a child's perspective and see how THEY see life!Many blessings!

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