Airtalent vs. Monkey Grinders

Posted on March 25, 2011


Chris Clare, a fomer employee, current Talent Mechanic client and friend, sent me an interesting question recently. 

It started when he saw a post on coutry radio consultant Jaye Albright’s blog with this quote from vetean radio programmer  Tommy Kramer

“The plain truth is that most people listen to the radio for companionship, for information (Traffic, Weather), or to be entertained. That’s never going to change. The cure for all of radio’s woes–every single one of them–is to hire more entertaining people to be on the air,”

Chris sent me  a Facebook mesage that said, “I see this kind of quote in a lot of places and preached by just about every PD or consultant yet when it comes to hiring people many go with monkey grinders who specialize in, ‘That was…, I am, and this is…’ Why?”

The sad truth is there are a variety of reasons programmers often hire what Chris calls ‘monkey grinders’ instead of good talent. Here’s a few:

Confidence (Lack of): Many programmers are hosts who hung around long enough to get promoted. They never set out to be the PD so they aren’t confident in their position. They probably are not comfortable hiring a talent who is better on the air than they are.

Fear: It’s much harder, especially on music stations, to cultivate anything that will bring listeners to the station beyond the music. Talent especially is a high-risk, high-reward endeavor. If it works you’re a genius, if it doesn’t you’re polishing up your resume. That’s not a risk some people want to take.

 Laziness: Cultivating talent is a lot more work than managing monkey grinders. Even if you aren’t actively coaching a host, real airtalent need more attention for things like features, prizes, web pages, etc. than monkey grinders. Not everyone is up for the challenge, especially if they feel the station is doing ok relying on music.

Money: Monkey grinders are cheaper than real airtalent. Sometimes it really is just a budget issue.

 None of that means you have to settle for being a monkey grinder. Keep looking until you find a station that values and nurtures talent. You’ll be glad you did.