Industry Insider: Want to work in radio? Radio Account Executive Tim Atherton of Astral Media gives advice

January 24, 2012
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Industry Insider AAA pass: Tim Atherton

Want to work in The Music Industry as a Promoter, Producer, Publicist, Executive, DJ, or Tour Manager? Industry Insider gives Music Vice readers an exclusive insight from inside the industry as we talk to music professionals. We find out the specifics of their position and how you can grab their attention. In the latest installment of Industry Insider, we speak to Tim Atherton.

Tim Atherton is a Senior Account Executive for Ontario based Astral Media and is responsible for sales on their three radio stations. He is a strong supporter of Canadian music and a regular face at concerts in the Niagara region. Ngawara Madison interviews.

Tim Atherton
Hi Tim, thanks for chatting with Music Vice! How long have you been with Astral Media for now, and what does your job involve? I know there are a number of stations in that group and you have your fingers in “a number of pies”.

I have been with the radio stations for 22 years as an Account Executive. Due to media convergence in Canada I have worked for a number of companies both public and private including Standard Radio, Redmond Broadcasting, Telemedia Radio, Affinity Radio, Coultis Broadcasting which all eventually were bought out by Astral Media. As a Senior Account Executive I am responsible for Sales on our three stations EZ Rock 105.7 FM, CKTB 610AM and 97.7 HTZ-FM.  I am also responsible for sales on our three web sites including Video Pre rolls, leaderboard ads and big box ads. Just recently, we will also be in charge of selling barter deals on Astral Radio Deals which is similar to Groupon where we trade products for advertising. I deal with local business owners and with ad agencies for major cross-Canada retailers.

A lot of people are quite ignorant of the job specifics for media positions that are not in the main light of the press. What are your responsibilities and what kind of personality is best suited for a job similar to yours?

In my job you have to be very self motivated. The job is 100% commission with very minimal supervision. Because of the intangible nature of radio, you have to have a passion for radio so you can convey marketing ideas and concepts to clients and get them excited. Another key point is you have to be very organized. I deal with over 100 accounts on 3 stations over the year, so you can have a lot of plates in the air at any given time, especially during holiday seasons.

A lot of people out there dream of working for a major radio station. You work for plural that! How did you personally get your ‘foot in the door’, and what advice would you give for others looking to get their own kick start?

I did my BA in Mass Communications with a concentration in Mass media/Advertising from McGill University (Montreal) and the University of Ottawa. My initial job out of University was an Ad Agency but my wife ended up getting a good job in the Niagara Region and I was hired at the local country station in Welland, Ontario  (CHOW).  I only stayed there for a short time as I was quickly offered a job with the top stations in the Niagara Market, CHRE and CHSC 1220 (CHSC is now unfortunately off the air).

The biggest advice I would give people wanting to get into radio is to understand it is a business. I know there is a large entertainment component to it but you will learn very quickly everything is about ratings and ratings translate in to advertising dollars and that is how a radio station survives.

What was your musical education and background growing up? Did you always want to work in the Radio Industry?

I have always loved radio being a musician. I played professionally full time for a few years after highschool and always played during University for extra money. I still do over 80-100 shows a year…part time to this day!!!! My original intent was to get my Recording Engineering Degree from Mc Gill University, but I went to an advertising symposium at the University of Ottawa and decided to switch to Mass Media which also gave me an outlet for my musical endeavours.Tim Atherton

Can you run us through a day in the life of Tim? What is the reality of your job? What are some of the challenges you face on a day to day level?

My job is pretty much never ending… you are always thinking about it. When you work on 100% commission you are always looking for opportunities. The biggest challenge I face on a day to day level is dealing in a high paced environment. Because I administer a million dollar account list, I also administer a lot of client issues and you have to deal with things quickly to keep people happy.

The music industry is rife with parties and social events. A big part is often ‘who you know’ and not just ‘what you know’. How  important is networking to you and your industry?

Networking is the most important thing in both my radio career and my music career. They have actually worked hand in hand as a lot of my contacts for radio also book live entertainment and I have been able to get my band to play some great gigs. It also puts you in touch with a lot of club owners, which in turn helps you book shows.

How can a band get onto the stations radar? What is the process?

A lot of people approach me and I always tell them I am on the business side. You need to talk to the Music Director and/or the Program Director. These are the people who decide what goes on air. The biggest thing I have noticed over the years is bands neglect the quality of their demos. Don’t bring us an unmastered, badly produced demo you did in your basement. If you want us to play  it on the radio it has to stand up to Metallica, Nickelback, Led Zeppelin, Katie Perry, Lady Gaga…etc.  Like it or not, this is your competition and you better provide a product of equal production and quality. It doesn’t have to sound like these bands but the quality of your recording better stand up to their standards.

What were the musical highlights of 2011 for you and which bands do you have on your radar for 2012?

My musical highlights this year were getting to meet Adam from Three Days Grace, one of my favourite hard rock songwriters.  It was also great to finally see Sloan live after all these years and I was really impressed by The Sheepdogs; they are on my radar for 2012. I guess they have just finished up their new album in Nashville, TN. A local band I would like to see do well in 2012  is Street Pharmacy and my friend Ryan Guay, check out their new album Divorce. Also keep your eye out for Danny Lamb and Mrs Johnston, they have a new album coming out as well.

© Ngawara Madison, Music Vice

Internet links:
Astral Media

Music mentioned in this article:
The Sheepdogs
Street Pharmacy
  SP on Youtube
Mrs Johnston

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One Response to Industry Insider: Want to work in radio? Radio Account Executive Tim Atherton of Astral Media gives advice

  1. Dan Plunkett on January 24, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    great article Ngawara; nice to see Tim and Mrs. Johnston.

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