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Lisa Miller - "How I Got Into Radio"

Joe Schwartz

11-21-2012

With Friday being an extended Thanksgiving weekend for most people, we're  running our special feature from Lisa Miller today. This week, Miller spoke with Cherry Creek Broadcasting CEO Joe Schwartz about his early days in the radio business. Cherry Creek now has a stable of 60 stations in eight states in the western part of the United States. But, as Schwartz tells Miller, radio wasn't his first choice. He says he always wanted to be a teacher.

 



How I Got Into Radio

by Lisa Miller

One of the unusual factors of this business is that a rare few people stay in your life and career from the beginning (and hopefully to the end), and one of those people is Joe Schwartz. Joey, as Ive always called him, is one of the funniest, warmest, hardest-working, sales-driven professionals I have worked with. Steve Goldstein calls him, the funniest guy in the business," but to me Joey is smarter than he is funny. He has always seen the future well before anyone else. He has gone about ownership in an unconventional but admirable way; the old-fashioned creative way. Not to be taken lightly, Joe can smile in your face, make you feel extremely comfortable, and say "no" to you in the most frighteningly delightful manner. And when he says no he follows it up with sound reasoning. Hes tough as nails, and as warm as a memorable summer night. He is one of my favorite dinner companions and if you dont know Joe, I urge you to make a point of reaching out; hes the definition of  added value."  

So, Joe, how did you get into radio?
I can't say that I always wanted to be in radio. At one point I wanted to teach English to high school kids. At another time, since I was an English major in college, I thought Id be a writer. But radio? As a kid, I was an avid listener of AM Top 40 radio in New York City, and followed all of the popular jocks. But, though I fell asleep every Tuesday night listening to Cousin Brucie count down the weekly Top 40 on WABC, I wasn't one of those 15-year-olds who hung around radio stations looking for a way to get on the air. Instead, at 15, I was, mostly, a jock, and hung around schoolyards and gyms trying to hone my skills to become the starting point guard for the New York Knicks.

My first gig out of college was in the insurance business, which I really hated. I worked with my younger brother in that business and, even though we went on to start our own insurance agency, we sold it shortly thereafter since it wasnt a "fun" business. After that, I moved in with my older brother in NYC where he was a media buyer at Ketchum, which was a pretty big ad agency. In those days, Ketchum was unusual in that the media director, Dan Borg, liked to hire young, aggressive male college grads when the industry standard was to hire mostly women to become buyers. In any event, my brother left the agency business to sell for McGavern-Guild, and when his assistant was promoted to replace him, the media director asked me if I wanted to join the agency as assistant buyer/media estimator. So for a whopping $8,000 a year, I took the job. Within a short period of time, I was promoted to media buyer. At the ripe old age of 23, I became a major radio buyer in NYC, and spent a great amount of money, locally and nationally, for accounts like Ford, Westinghouse, and Air Jamaica, which spent millions in radio. At $11,000 a year (they gave me a raise), I had exposure to all of the major networks and rep firms as well as access to every sporting event, rock concert, and Broadway show in NY.

All of the local and national reps called on me and most of them made a great deal more money than I did. I knew I could do a better job selling than 99 percent of the reps calling on me. So, within a year, I targeted the companies I wanted to work for and finagled a job in radio sales. Since I did business with almost every company, I discovered that I really liked the way CBS operated and was known, at that time, as the "Tiffany Network." In the late 70s, CBS recognized that FM was the way of the future, and went about creating a rep firm to represent all of the owned and operated CBS/FM stations as well as other non-CBS stations in major markets. I pitched the job aggressively and was hired as one of the five original reps in the NY office of the new CBS/FM National Sales. Being a national rep gave me the background to learn what was happening in all markets and gave me experience and expertise with every type of format and exposure to different radio ownerships and management styles. It prepared me well for my move over to the local side three years later and prepared me for my future in radio station management and ownership.

Reach out to Joe Schwartz to give him grief about how he got into radio: jschwartz@cherrycreekradio.com

Lisa Miller is the President of Miller Broadcast Management in Chicago. She's also one of Radio Ink's Most Influential Women in Radio. Miller can be reached at Lisa@millerbroadcast.com or 312-454-1111.

So, how did you get into radio? We'd love to hear the story about why you're passionate about radio.

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