The decision of when and if to retain an agent is an important one for a sports radio personality. When you rise through the ranks in this business, you do it based on your own hard work, and negotiating skills. But when you reach that point in your career when you’re beginning to make a mark on the industry, it’s fair to ask the question “what else am I capable of accomplishing”?
Having the right person in your corner who has confidence in your abilities and possesses the relationships necessary to open up doors is worth its weight in gold. But if the only reason you’re retaining an agent is to help put your resume and on-air samples in front of top decision makers, you have the wrong strategy.
Truth be told, most personalities won’t become dominant national figures or the next Mike Francesa in a local market. Sports radio is ultra competitive and for every person with talent, there are a thousand more with similar skills. It’s not always a question of whether you’re good, it’s a matter of whether or not you’re the right fit for a brand, and if you have the right relationships with key decision makers.
I’m asked for career advice on a regular basis by many members of the sports radio community. While I’m happy to pass along whatever wisdom I’ve gathered from two decades of experience, I don’t pretend to be an agent. I do have friendships with many executives, and understand how many of them think and operate, and I’ve been fortunate to develop friendships and knowledge of how some of the best agents in the business work as well. Whether or not an individual reaching out to me for advice makes sense to put on their radar depends on a variety of factors.
One of the biggest misconceptions I see involves upcoming talent, often younger people, and what they believe is going to happen if they retain an agent. They assume that the agency is going to spend each day chasing down leads for them, and making sure they locate employment. They approach the situation with the mindset of the agent being their personal recruitment center, instead of understanding their role as a career adviser and business partner.
That’s the wrong way to approach the relationship.
First things first, nobody will work harder to find a job than the person without one. But when an opening is identified, it’s often the relationship between the agent and potential employer that can help place the candidate at the top of the list, especially if the agent’s track record is considered strong by the hiring executive.
For example, FOX Sports 1 employs Colin Cowherd and Skip Bayless. Both individuals are represented by CAA. If FOX Sports 1 has a future need, and CAA recommends someone else they’re working with, hiring officials at FS1 are likely going to take a look. This doesn’t mean they’ll hire that person, but a strong track record gives them an advantage over someone else chasing the same opportunity.
There’s also this belief among some on-air talent that being skilled should be enough to warrant a high profile position. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by an on-air host “did you see who ESPN hired? I’m ten times better than him”. My immediate response is usually something to the affect of, “the hiring executive obviously had an interest in what they provide, and if you don’t have the right people talking to that executive, it doesn’t matter how good you may be or think you are”.
I’ve seen industry people with limited experience as a night or weekend talk show host apply for positions on First Take and Undisputed. I’ve seen board operators with one year of experience apply for afternoon drive jobs in top 10 markets despite not having hosted regularly at the radio station where they’re employed.
Newsflash folks, if you’re John Skipper or Jamie Horowitz, you are more than likely going to want to see more proof of performance than a couple of hours on the weekend in a local market. The same is true of those Top 10 market hiring managers who are going to see a resume with no hosting experience and toss it to the side when considering applicants for their vacant position. There are exceptions of course, but a strong track record in a top market often helps candidates stand out.
Hosts have little idea of how sought after these jobs are or who’s in the mix for consideration. Having hired people many times in various markets, the flood of activity is enormous. If a market is desirable, and a brand has a good reputation, a PD is going to receive hundreds of applications and air checks, and phone calls. That’s not taking into account the couple of people who drop by the radio station unannounced and decide to try and infiltrate the PD’s office to let them know they’re the next big thing. By the way, that approach rarely works.
If you’re in charge of a sports television network and under the microscope for every hire you make, especially when it involves large dollars, you’re more likely to pledge your commitment to someone with a strong track record and a relationship with a well respected agency than a possible diamond in the rough who nobody has given a big break to.
As it applies to sports radio, it’s slightly different. Local stations don’t work with the budgets that national television networks do, but that doesn’t mean that a good agent can’t be extremely valuable.
Personalities who have built a good foundation in a local market and choose to handle their own business often assume they’ve emerged victorious when negotiating with their employer. If they were offered a 2 year deal with a 2% raise and negotiated a 2 year deal with a 5% bump, they’re heard in the halls bragging about their big victory.
Except they have no idea if the company would have been willing to extend the deal to three or four years or if they had 10-20% available in compensation and other perks. In that case, did the host really get the best deal available?
When personalities handle their own negotiations they also have a harder time separating business from their personal feelings. Many can’t hear that the company doesn’t believe they’re worth more, and they want to believe that because they’ve invested the past 2-3 years of energy into the brand that they simply deserve to receive better compensation. Unlike the federal government though, a raise isn’t granted for time served in broadcasting.
In numerous cases, the host isn’t familiar with the station’s expenses, sales performance, budgets, or additional challenges. They also don’t know how they’re perceived internally when it comes to working with other departments and station advertisers who are attaching their dollars to the station and/or individual. Before they find out those hard truths at the negotiating table, a good agent is able to prepare them, and hopefully guide them along the way so they can fix any issues that arise and ultimately impact the talent’s earning potential.
This is why smart personalities with a long-term view of their careers invest in good representation. It doesn’t always result in an overnight success story, but having a strategic long-term game plan in place with someone you trust, who has your best interests in mind, who’s willing to invest in your development, and has the ability to present your story to prospective employers is how you ultimately help advance your career.
I wanted to get a better understanding of how agents think and approach a variety of these situations so I reached out to four people who I know and have a ton of respect for in the industry. These men have represented some of the best talents in the sports media business, and if you’re considering working with an agent in the future, or looking to gain perspective of what to expect from such a relationship, I encourage you to pay close attention to their advice.
- Matt Kramer – CAA
- Steve Herz – IF Management
- Mark Lepselter – MAXX Sports
- Matt Miller – Miller Broadcast Management
Herz: Personal character issues first and foremost. Are they hard working, passionate and committed to the business for the right reasons (a love of the craft as opposed to a desire for fame)? Are they coachable people (on and off the air), and do they have a growth mindset about life and learning? We have made a policy of meeting every potential new client so you can generally tell in that face to face meeting if your personalities are in sync, and that generally serves as a mutual weeding process.
We ask people to do a writing sample and reflect on their reasons for being in the business and childhood/life influences. It reveals a lot and helps us make an educated decision on whether we think it’ll be a mutually beneficial long term relationship. Obviously, we also look at their talent and skills and while that’s subjective, after doing this for so many years you like to think you develop a good gut/sense of the marketplace.
Miller: I look for a solid combination of talent, skill and radio business acumen. The latter can be taught or honed. Natural talent is of course a driving quality, but it’s not everything. I have known a lot of naturally talented people who just couldn’t get out of their own way on the business side, often because they weren’t willing to listen and learn. I would share their names but unfortunately you wouldn’t have heard of them. Had they received the proper guidance, and listened and followed that advice, they would be household names today.
Kramer: While there are many attributes we look for in a client, we first consider if he or she is a next level talent. If so, we try to determine how we can help elevate them to that next level across multiple platforms.
Lepselter: We are very selective about who we look to represent in the radio arena. We consider, in no particular order, depth of knowledge, ability to entertain and engage listeners, age, work ethic, background and experience.
Herz: That agents have magic pixie dust. This business is a process and careers take time to develop and involve a lot of factors including timing and luck. Agents who sell the career equivalent of lottery tickets should be avoided by talent. Clients who expect immediate results should be avoided by agents.
Miller: That all agents are equal and able to accomplish the same goals on behalf of their client. Our sole focus is to represent broadcast professionals on a local and national basis. Another misconception is that agents will represent anyone who inquires. Maybe some will, but we won’t. As much as an agent is a reflection of his or her client, a client is a reflection of the agent as well. I work with some of the best and brightest in the industry, and if I’m known as the agent that also represents that “nightmare” of a talent, it reflects poorly on all my clients. My clients are my family, and I won’t bring a negative force into my house.
Kramer: The agent is a facilitator who must be knowledgeable about the entire marketplace – television, radio , digital platforms, and beyond. It is important to remember that the network is king, and therefore, has the keys to the kingdom. The agent works for the client and the client works for the network, so the agent must be useful in helping to maintain, manage, and grow that relationship.
Lepselter: I think that’s a question you’d need to ask the talent, more so than an agent.
Once you’ve agreed to work with a personality, how do you help them in their career beyond negotiating their contracts and helping place them on the radar of potential employers?
Herz: We like to find out what the marketplace thinks of their strengths and weaknesses and if we agree and/or there is a general consensus on that, we try to work with them on improving the areas holding them back. For example, we’ve had clients where the feedback was about the lack of authority in their voice so we engaged a professional voice coach.
Miller: Once we dive in it’s more than just placement and negotiation of contracts. We work with the talent to improve their knowledge of the business, and guide them to be a greater asset to their broadcast partner and to their future success threshold. If you are looking for someone to “yes” you to death and just keep the status quo, we probably aren’t the company for you. If you are looking for someone to be honest and challenge you to raise your game to the next level, both on and off air, then we may have something to talk about. I’m tough (my clients reading this are nodding voraciously), but it’s because there are only so many hours in the day and if I represent you I dive in 100%. If you aren’t listening or working with me to raise your game, then it’s wasted effort.
As to getting on the radar it’s about career planning and taking advantage of our network of contacts and reputation with broadcast companies. But beyond that I am goal oriented. There has to be a plan. Let’s target particular companies for which your skill set is a match and start creating familiarity before there is an opening, so that when opportunities arise the decision makers are already familiar with you.
Kramer: A successful relationship is incumbent on the sharing of information. The agent has to obtain the information and then be able to help connect the dots for the client. The agent needs to convey information – positive and negative – quickly and efficiently to the client. As an agent, if you have information, and know how best to utilize it, your client usually wins.
Lepselter: Listening and reviewing their shows certainly is important. Helping them diversify their portfolio is imperative. You can no longer be a one trick pony in this business. Introducing our clients to the decision makers is critical for them.
For a personality to warrant consideration for a high profile national or local opportunity, what must they already possess? (track record, market familiarity, industry relationships, unique style, etc.)
Herz: They must have some track record of success, hopefully some level of relationship/connection to the potential hiring executive either direct or thru a referral, and they have to be consistent with the goals of the hiring company. Someone who might work on ESPN might not be a fit for CBS. In our case, since we represent a small select number of clients, we hope our clients merit a serious look based on prior success with those execs.
Miller: Track record of success, and a reputation for being a positive force in a company environment. Look, it should be enough to just be talented on the air, to garner ratings. But it’s not. This is a business and the talent who can drive ratings yet understand that we live in a revenue driven world, who can partner in and give the extra effort to help their company drive revenue, develop relationships with sales clients, get out and participate in promotional and sales events and meet current and future P1’s, will always find success. A good agent can get you in the door, that’s the industry relationship portion, but it’s very easy to find out everything about you through various sources. If you’re known as a pain in the ass or unable to work with sales, or countless other shortcomings, you will be passed over.
Kramer: You have to have a laser-focus on what you do to have a shot at making it. You must watch everything and have a strong take on what is happening and what might happen. You can’t fake it through a three or four hour daily radio show. It’s too easy to get exposed in a 24/7 social media world if you aren’t on top of your game.
Lepselter: All of the above. I always say that in this industry, timing is everything.
What advice can you pass along to a personality who has established a good track record and is considering utilizing an agent to help him get to the next level?
Herz: Make sure your personalities, objectives and expectations of each party are consistent and aligned when you enter the relationship. And continue to be an active part of the process of advancing your own career. Continue to build a track record and relationships. The best agent/talent relationships are partnerships.
Miller: I have spoken with hundreds of personalities for whom the timing wasn’t right to hire an agent. Every circumstance is different. I would say reach out to an agent if you think it’s time, but be wary of the agent that will rush to sign you. Research that person or company, and talk to them more than once. As I said earlier, your representative is a reflection of you, and the right agent can reflect positively on your reputation and be effective in accomplishing your career goals.
Kramer: Be meticulous when it comes to the actual representation agreement. Agents know when a client wants to be represented by them. Too many agencies use that to their advantage; pressuring a new client to sign an agreement that requires them to pay that agency in perpetuity – literally forever – for what, in many instances, may be an unsophisticated approach to representation. I would advise talent to take a step back and understand why an agent, who has a fiduciary responsibility to put the client first, would ask for this.
Lepselter: If you truly believe you have the “it factor” you have to decide if you are willing to invest in yourself.
Two Great Formats, One Kickass Supersite
“This is a strategic move aimed at making things easier for the reader, and showcasing the best of two great brands and formats on one kickass supersite.”
It’s an exciting day for all of us at BSM and BNM, because today marks the start of something special. Yes we have an awesome new look and layout for our content, made possible by the great Andy Drake. I encourage you to sift thru a few of the different tabs at the top of the website. You’ll find popular features from our writers in the Originals section, podcasts we’ve produced over the years, the Member Directory featuring nearly forty radio professionals, access points to content from all twenty four of our writers, and shortcuts to our sports and news media sections. We’ve even built three columns to the right on the main page to make it easier to maneuver thru daily sports and news content, and the latest columns from our writing teams.
If you were reading carefully, you picked up on my use of BNM in the first sentence, and the word news in the last sentence. And if you browsed the website today, you likely noticed news and sports are now presented in the same location.
I took the risk and launched Barrett News Media eight months ago. We came out of the gate with a staff of twelve, which was twelve more than Barrett Sports Media had when it was born in September 2015. Like with most new brands, tweaks were needed, and lessons were learned. I initially wanted to put BNM and BSM under the same roof, but there were too many unknowns. For that reason, I launched the brand as a separate entity.
I had to find out if my interest in news would remain high or fade out after a few months. I had to learn if our staff would produce content consistently or leave us plugging holes regularly. I had to discover if media stories would remain hot after a heated presidential election. As important as those all were, one mattered even more – would anyone read our work?
After studying the peaks and valleys of our news brand for nearly a year, I know that people will consume our content if it’s original, interesting, and timely. But asking them to follow us in two different places is a tall order. It’s also harder to reach people in the news media space because social media activity is lighter due to a lack of trust in big tech, and some folks in the format still don’t know me.
Since launching, I’ve overseen two websites, two staffs, two email addresses, and multiple social media accounts, worrying about maintaining separation when I had no reason to worry in the first place. Newspapers have spent decades blending sports and news, online brands across the internet do the same today, and Chrissy Paradis, Pete Mundo, Rick Schultz, Douglas Pucci, Ryan Maguire, Ryan Hedrick, Eduardo Razo and Jordan Bondurant have done more than enough good work to deserve having their material presented to the most amount of people.
So now we move forward as one unit, fully dedicated to serving both the sports and news/talk formats in one location. We will continue prioritizing columns from experienced professionals, the latest industry news, and original ideas that spark interest and discussion. Our email blasts will come from one source, social media promotion will emanate from our BSM channels, and all of our website content will be housed in one spot. If visitors type in the URL for BarrettNewsMedia.com it will automatically redirect to the BSM website.
To help us manage the content cycle and strengthen our brands further, I am pleased to announce a few new additions. First, Troy Coverdale joins BNM as Editor, McGraw Milhaven as a weekly columnist, and Jordan Bondurant and Ryan Hedrick add opportunities to write feature stories multiple times per month. Meanwhile, BSM will gain the writing talents of Ryan Maguire, and semi-regular contributions from Rob Taylor and Scott Seidenberg. Kate Constable and Ricky Keeler will also get more involved writing features. I also plan to add one more news writer soon to fill Brandon Contes’ position.
The new look of the website has me fired up and excited about the possibilities ahead. A big tip of the cap to Point To Point Marketing, Core Image Studio, and the great Jim Cutler for helping us pull this off. I’m eager to increase connections with news radio and television professionals, and showcase their great work. With that in mind, if you have a news tip or story idea for either of our brands, send it by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. With the website makeover complete, I’ll now focus on the next project – the 2021 BSM Summit. I’ll have news to share next week on that endeavor, so stay tuned.
If you’re a fan of what we do for sports media coverage, have no fear. The same great content experience you’ve come to enjoy for the past six years is not affected. If news radio/television coverage interests you but didn’t know much about BNM, now you’ll be able to access the content without jumping thru extra hoops. This is a strategic move aimed at making things easier for the reader, and showcasing the best of two great brands and formats. I’m pleased with BNM’s start, but know that if we can do a few things for the brand that we’ve done for BSM, it’ll make the content experience better, the industry relationships stronger, and the work more meaningful. And that is the reason we do this in the first place.
Thank you for continuing to visit, and afford us the opportunity to inform and entertain you. We understand the media business and are passionate about it, and that’s reflected in our team’s writing. Some you may know that about. Others you may not. But having them all under one roof should make your ability to find out a whole lot easier.
BSM’s Sports Media MVP Tournament Bracket
“The field of 64 for the BSM Sports Media MVP Tournament is now set! “
The field of 64 for the BSM Sports Media MVP Tournament is now set!
Congratulations to ESPN’s Jeff Passan on knocking off FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal to earn the final entry in this year’s tournament. To see the full schedule of when matchups will take place, scroll down below.
A reminder, all voting for each round of the tournament will be done on Twitter thru @sportsradiopd. The people’s votes determine who advances, and who goes home. Be sure to print off your bracket, make your picks, and follow along to see how they stack up against the actual results.
As I mentioned previously, there are no layups in this tournament. Round 1 features many difficult and compelling matchups. Those who advance will have even harder matchups awaiting them in future rounds. There will likely be debate over who should’ve made the list that didn’t, and who deserved a higher or lower ranking. We expect that noise, and welcome it. But this is the bracket, we feel good about it, and whoever wins this tournament, will have gone down a long tough road to earn the voters respect, and ultimately the MVP championship.
So, let’s have some fun, and find out who is the MVP of the Sports Media industry.
BSM Presents ‘The Sports Media MVP Tournament’
The BSM MVP Tournament begins with a play-in game on March 16th. Tournament play gets underway on March 18th.
A year ago at this time, Barrett Sports Media rolled out its ‘Greatest SportsCenter Anchor‘ tournament. It was a fun event that generated over 4 million social media impressions, hundreds of thousands of votes thru our numerous poll questions, big traffic on the BSM website, content on sports radio shows that were working without live events, and recognition for Scott Van Pelt who edged out Stuart Scott in the finals to be selected as SC’s best of all-time.
Given where things stood in the world at that time, the SportsCenter bracket was a fun needed distraction. Most were worried about the coronavirus and how it might hurt them or their families. Would it have an affect on their job? School? Church? The American way of life? How soon would it be until we could enjoy some sense of normalcy again?
Fortunately, here we are one year later, and though we’re not entirely out of the woods yet, things are heading in the right direction. Games are back on our television screens and radio airwaves. Teams have started welcoming fans back into buildings. Vaccine shots are being distributed to millions of Americans, and god willing, we’ll soon be past the nightmare that we lived thru in 2020, and on our way to greater prosperity.
So with sports back, and optimism higher, a bracket contest isn’t necessarily needed to add light during a dark time, but as we learned last year, fun is contagious, and there’s never a bad time to use a creative event to bring people together.
Right after we wrapped up the BSM Top 20 in February, Demetri Ravanos and I started talking about ideas for this year’s bracket contest. A conversation about difference makers in the industry and who was critical to their brands success got my wheels spinning, and as we dove in further, we quickly realized there were hundreds with a case to be made. That laid the groundwork for creating BSM’s Sports Media MVP Tournament.
Choosing 65 people to complete a 64 person tournament bracket like this is not easy. The mixture of accomplished studio hosts, debate specialists, analysts, reporters, play by play voices, radio hosts, podcasting personalities, etc. made for some exhausting email exchanges and phone conversations, but time, thought, and effort is necessary if you want to create cool things. What was especially important to us with this year’s tournament was trying to capture some of the same spirit and fun from last year, without focusing on a particular brand, show or company. Too many people in this industry make a difference for various groups and we want to highlight as many of them as possible.
But when you put 64 of the industry’s biggest difference makers against each other in a tournament style bracket, who’s truly capable of going through five tough rounds to emerge as the most valuable performer in sports media? Better yet, who has strong enough staying power to keep fans on social media invested in their advancement?
Well, we’re about to find out.
We’ll kick things off with a play in game for the final spot in the tournament on Tuesday March 16th. That play-in game will feature ESPN’s Jeff Passan vs. FOX Sports/The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Voting will be done for the play-in game and ALL tournament matchups on Twitter for a period of 24 hours. The results of the play-in game will be revealed on Wednesday morning March 17th. Whoever has more votes between Passan and Rosenthal when time expires, will gain the final spot in this year’s BSM Sports Media MVP Tournament.
The release of the full bracket will take place right after the results of the play-in game are known on Wednesday March 17th. I will though let you know which four individuals earned #1 seeds in this year’s tournament, along with the naming of each of their regions. They are Stephen A. Smith (Stay Off The Weed Region), Colin Cowherd (Backwards Hat Region), Dave Portnoy (To The Moon Region), and Tony Romo (That’s My Quarterback Region).
The official start to the tournament will begin on Thursday March 18th. Matchups will then continue each week until Monday April 5th when the final contest takes place. The results of that last battle will be announced on Tuesday morning April 6th. At that time, we will officially put a bow on this year’s tournament and crown the champion. To see the breakdown of the upcoming schedule, click here.
Before the floodgates open and complaints are made about some people getting in, others being left out, and certain folks having harder matchups than others, remember that this is supposed to be fun, everything in the sports media industry is subjective, and regardless of one’s matchup, if they’re seen as the best at what they do, they’ll move on regardless. There are very few layups in this tournament. We knew it’d be impossible to create a field of 64 without leaving some super talented people out, so if you work in the industry and didn’t make the cut, don’t take it personally. It doesn’t make your accomplishments or value to your brand any less important. It simply speaks volumes of how stacked this tournament is with successful people.
I will point out that we involved eight people in the voting process to help us determine this year’s field of 64. There were 225 sports media professionals on our initial list. That got trimmed down to 85, and eventually to 65. The play-in game will be how we get down to 64. As is the case with the NCAA Tournament, the NFL Hall of Fame, the NBA All-Star Game or MLB MVP or Cy Young award voting, there’s always a case to be made for someone who didn’t get in. But when you’re reviewing game changers from multiple areas of the industry and a number of different brands and companies, it’s impossible to please everybody.
What I hope you’ll take away from this year’s tournament as it picks up steam is that there are a lot of really talented people in the sports media industry, many with different styles and approaches to success. Earning the top spot in this bracket will take consistent voting support, respect from fans and friends both in and out of the sports media business, and a whole lot of luck.
We extend our thanks in advance to everyone who will participate in this year’s voting process, as well as to the 64 men and women who will be part of this year’s tournament. We can’t wait to share the full bracket with you next week. It’s going to be a fun few weeks, so let the madness begin!