The importance of the hustle

November 14, 2017

Music industry and radio executives give advice in Bandier program panel

A photo of Bill Burrs
Bill Burrs, head of promotion for 300 Entertainment Kai Nguyen

In the music industry, particularly radio, it’s all about connections, intuition and the ability to hustle hard. On Oct. 26,as a part of the Soyars Leadership Lecture Series presented by the Newhouse School’s Bandier Program, Bill Burrs, head of promotion for 300 Entertainment, and Mimi Griswold ’79, vice president of programming for Galaxy Communications, advised students that if they want something, they have to give it all they’ve got.

“I don’t care what you do, you could literally be a waiter, but if you do it well, ask questions, have instincts and hustle, you can excel,” said Burrs.

Griswold agreed, saying that the first step to succeeding at any job, especially radio, is just getting through the door and showing interest. “Ask me questions because that’s how I know you’re interested,” said Griswold. “It’s okay if you say, ‘I don’t know how to do this’ because we’ll show you. You don’t have to come in as an expert.”

With the rise in commercial-free and streaming services like Sirius XM and Spotify over the past decade, many argue that traditional radio is a dying industry, but Burrs believes radio is resilient.

“Radio is still powerful, and you can still break an artist through radio,” said Burrs, who spends a lot of time networking with radio executives to get upcoming singles and artists on the air. He said it was much easier when he started his career in promotions to get his songs on the radio. Now, there are only about two slots each week for a new record, so the deals are much trickier.

“It’s much more of a corporate machine now,” said Burrs. He said he needs to do more research to prove to a radio station that a song will do well and should be in their weekly rotation; he must understand every station he’s pitching to.

A photo of Mimi Griswold '79
Mimi Griswold '79, vice president of programming for Galaxy Communications Kai Nguyen

That’s where Griswold, who receives the pitches from record labels, comes in. “We get a lot of stats and research, but is it right for my station?” said Griswold. “Does this sound like my station? I need that gut feeling in order to be sold.” Griswold takes her listeners’ interests and music preferences into consideration first when picking new music. Even if Griswold loves a song personally, it still might not perform well for her station. Her job is to keep people listening, so she can sell ads and keep the station alive.

Neither Burrs nor Griswold seemed worried about radio’s demise. Griswold said about 92 percent of people in America listen to radio at least once a week. “That’s still an A,” she said.

Although there aren’t as many jobs as there once were, there are still plenty opportunities in radio. This helps distinguish between those who really want it and those who only kind of want it, says Griswold. They both say hustle has become the most important quality in a job applicant.

“I was able to build a career doing exactly what I love because I started small, hustled hard and asked questions,” said Griswold.

Chloe Anello is a senior magazine major at the Newhouse School.