Do a radio show for free? Are you nuts? Maybe I am but….

The program director said a farmer in Middlebourne, West Virginia liked my show so much he wanted to sponsor it.
If he could.
WRSG is a non-commercial high school station that runs my program, Johnny Maraca’s Rock and Roll Riot. I’m hundreds of miles away, north of of the border in Wasaga Beach, Ontario and yet, the support of fans like that fellow in Tyler County is what makes it all worthwhile.
Flash back a few years when my humble little show ran on two Ontario radio stations, Sunshine 89 in Orillia and 97.7 the Beach in Wasaga Beach (I was, and still am that station’s commercial writer and producer).
The word came from above that The Roots of Rock Roll, as it was then called, was getting the axe for budget reasons. Revenue was down, cost-cutting measures were being taken across the board.
It sucked, but that’s the radio business.
Thanks to two Canadian internet radio entrepreneurs, Rob Reid at Swisssh Radio, and Todd Miller of Radio that Doesn’t Suck, the Roots of Rock & Roll came back from the dead. I renamed it the Rock and Roll Riot (http://johnnymaraca.com).
I was grateful but internet radio doesn’t pay. And then, I found an American online radio message board. WRSG was looking for syndicated programming.
A terrestrial station and an American one to boot! I’d be reaching thousands and getting paid.
Guess again, Johnny!
Greg Goodfellow, the adult volunteer who serves as WRSG’s program director, told me the station wasn’t commercial so, no cash for Johnny (even though I play Johnny Cash!).
At that point, I didn’t care. A year or so later, new PD Rockin’ Rod West brought the show back to 97.7 the Beach but said he couldn’t pay me. Again, I didn’t care.
Some of my fellow radio professionals think I’m nuts for putting so much effort into a program that doesn’t earn me a penny and I get that. Sadly, the reality of today’s radio is there are only two scenarios in which a non-staff radio host gets paid. Either they’re a celebrity like Alice Cooper, or they find a third party sponsor and offer the show at no charge to radio stations (Dan Aykroyd’s Bluesmobile does that latter).
I do have a mortgage and extra cash would be helpful indeed.
However, I get rewarded in another way. That farmer in Middlebourne, and the small but dedicated (and slowly growing) group of fans makes it clear they appreciate the unique nature of the Rock and Riot. It’s connecting with them and that is very, very cool. The time spent choosing the playlist, researching the songs and artists on my own time at home, voicing and producing the Riot, is well worth the effort.

About johnnymaraca

host of Johnny Maraca's Rock & Roll Riot, the rockingest show on the radio. 60 years of rockin' rhythm and blues, from the late '40s pioneers like Louis Jordan to Elvis, Chuck Berry, CCR, Stray Cats, Ramones and tons more. Friday and Saturday nights at 7 on 97.7 the Beach, listen live at http://977thebeach.ca, and WRSG in Middlebourne, West Virginia, Tuesdays 6-8 pm.
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