Even though the economy has fallen into a recession, and many
investors have had to say “goodbye” to large amounts of
money, there is good news for radio industry professionals. This year's
Salary Survey revealed that people in the radio industry have had the
good fortune of maintaining their current salaries and even say
“hello” to an increase in some cases.
In June, a Radio magazine-sponsored salary survey was
e-mailed to a random group of more than 4,000 subscribers who were
selected on an nth name basis. The results of this study are
presented by job title group and market rank (top 50 and below top 50).
The survey's objectives were to determine salary levels among
Radio magazine readers for select title groups and to examine
salary trends over time.
The information gathered in the survey is intended to illustrate
broad trends in the industry. Treat the data as a starting point for
salary ranges. Factors such as cost of living and the demand for a
particular job are important in determining salary range.
Most of the respondents said they work at radio stations.
Eighty-four percent of the station managers, 80 percent of the staff
engineers and 67 percent of the contract engineers work for a radio
station or multiple stations.
The station formats these respondents work within varied. The
majority of respondents (41 percent) work within a news/talk radio
format. Thirty percent work for a rock station, and there was a tie for
third at 29 percent between the adult contemporary and country
Estimated median salaries for station
The survey also divulged that the number of engineers surveyed who
are SBE certified has increased in 2002. This year, 37 percent of
engineers are SBE certified, as opposed to only 32 percent in 2001. In
2002 the median annual salary for an SBE-certified engineer was $61,666
compared to $47,916, which was the median annual salary for
The average age of the respondents was 47, with the majority falling
between the ages of 35 and 54. This is a slight increase from 2000 and
2001 when the average age of respondents was 44.5. Does an average age
of 47 indicate less new blood and more tenure?
Listen to the money talk
For the fourth consecutive year, staff engineer salaries remained
stable. Last year the median salary for this position in the Top 50
markets was $54,999 but in 2002 the median salary for a Top-50 market
staff engineer jumped to $64,999. In 2001 staff engineers in markets
below the Top 50 received a median salary of $43,844 and received a
median salary of $43,749 in 2002.
This year's salary survey results showed that station management
salaries in the Top 50 markets remained steady at $57,500, compared to
last year when the median salary was $57,498. However, the survey's
results also showed a decrease in the median salary for station
management in the Below Top 50 markets category. In 2001, the median
salary for station management in these small markets was $44,998, and
in 2002 the median salary for the same group was only $39,999.
“I believe the decrease in under Top 50 management salaries
may be due to the ‘clustering’ of stations under common
ownership in most markets,” said Milford Smith, vice president of
radio engineering at Greater Media, East Brunswick, NJ.
“Typically these clusters have a well-paid ‘cluster
manager,’ but rather than having individual GMs at each station
(as in years past and each of which earned a good salary) individual
stations now have an operations or station manager who is typically
Estimated median salaries for staff
John Caracciolo, general manager of Jarad Broadcasting in Garden
City, NJ, believes the decrease in station management salaries in the
Below Top 50 markets is because most management salary structures
include commissions that are tied to overall billing. With the tough
economy and budget tightening, revenue projections have slipped and
therefore have bled out of management's salaries.
The estimated median salaries for staff engineers in the Below Top
50 market segments remained stable at $43,844 last year and $43,749
this year. Staff engineers in the Top 50 markets saw an increase in
their salaries from $54,999 in 2001 to $64,999 in 2002. Competition for
experienced engineers is seen as the driver behind this 18 percent jump
in Top 50-market staff engineering salaries.
Smith said he attributes this increase to the fact that a highly
trained electronics/computer technician or engineer now has many
opportunities for employment outside of broadcasting. These outside
opportunities generally offer more money and the hours are more
predictable. It is taking more money to keep the quality engineers in
the broadcasting business.
Caracciolo offered a similar sentiment: “This is definitely
more of a competitive nature rather than a shortage of qualified
trained workers,” he said. “We are competing with cell
phone companies, pager companies, cable TV, satellite radio, etc. Our
industry has always underpaid the engineering department. Now we need
to pay market value for qualified technical help.”
Survey results showed that 61 percent of station management
respondents in large markets (Top 50) received salary increases this
year. Only 52 percent of station management in small markets (Below Top
50) received raises this year. Fifty-eight percent of staff engineers
in large markets received salary increases, compared to 67 percent of
staff engineers in small markets who received salary increases. Forty
percent of contract engineers in large markets increased their salaries
this year, while 50 percent of contract engineers in small markets
received a salary increase.
Median annual salary with and without SBE
Overall, the median salary increase for station management was 4.2
percent and the median increase for staff engineers was 4.5 percent.
Average the two together and the median salary increase for all
respondents was 4.4 percent in 2002.
Will terrestrial radio say goodbye?
The Salary Survey also asked a non-salary-related question: How do
Internet radio and satellite radio compare to terrestrial radio in
terms of financial competition and audience segmentation? While most
respondents believe they have not seen an impact on terrestrial radio
by either type of radio, they do think satellite radio has the
potential to increase competition for listeners.
“I don't see Internet radio as much of any financial
competition, especially in light of the recent copyright ruling,”
one respondent said. “At this point, satellite radio is also not
much of a financial competitor, since most of it is (at present)
commercial-free. However, both Internet and satellite will continue to
pry away listeners from terrestrial radio because traditional radio has
become too cluttered (too many non-music) elements and too homogenized.
With the advent of large groups, terrestrial radio has become like
McDonalds, there's one in every town and you get the exact same product
Another respondent said, “I handle the computer IT work and
most of the studio satellite work. We do no Internet radio. I am
finding that in the short run, the financial gains and audience pickup
were great. We are three years into this, and I am seeing a long-term
down side financially and with the audience. We are looking at going
back to a mix of satellite and terrestrial. Terrestrial sure was
“Other, primarily music, stations with cookie-cutter formats
are going to get creamed by satellite radio,” another respondent
said. “Listeners with the wherewithal to do so will flee
terrestrial radio in those markets at an increasing pace … the
devastation will be widespread for terrestrial radio. It's the
|In addition to the Salary Survey,
Radio magazine has posted a survey that looks at some of the
benefits associated with a radio engineering profession. The link is
under Site Features at www.beradio.com.