Broadcast demos – an inexact science

This is what many people call the “silly season” for minor league baseball announcers. Starting around October, and concluding over the next month or so, there’s the annual “broadcaster shuffle”. Basically it’s a combination of events that lead up to a decent number of job openings, both public and unadvertised. As a hockey broadcaster, my silly season usually begins not long after the Stanley Cup is hoisted.

Depending on your level of experience, you might be searching for an entry-level gig or something a little higher up the broadcasting food chain. With some exceptions, the climb up the minor league sports ladder isn’t unlike what a player goes through when trying to reach the major leagues, start off in Class A (or lower) and hopefully one day reach the major leagues. Unfortunately, the odds that one of you reading this will actually be calling MLB games (or choose the highest level of your sport) are quite slim.

Unlike ballplayers, your odds of getting a job at a higher level aren’t as easily quantifiable as those who take the field for a living. There simply isn’t a statistic that a GM can look at to determine that you’re the best fit for their broadcast opening. The GM can look at a variety of things, but ultimately it’s a judgment call.

Without getting into the discussion of “it’s who you know”, or whether the job includes other responsibilities (like sales or media relations), the number one thing that you have as a broadcaster is your demo. Previously, a demo simply meant your best clips on a reel (or cassette, or CD). Today I consider a “demo” really to be the full package of what is sent to an employer. Depending on the request, it still could be a hard copy of your audio (or video) on a CD/DVD as well as a printed resume, but more often than not it’s an online presentation.

My definition of demo includes audio tracks (or video if it’s TV), resume file, and any other clips that might be worthwhile to show an employer (written clips, game notes examples, recommendations, etc.) housed in one location (a website, either your own personal website, or a hosted solution like the ones offered by sites like STAA).

The Internet provides great flexibility in how you can present your demo. But for purposes of this blog piece, I’m going to limit the topic to the audio tracks that represent one section of your overall “demo”. This is a topic that has been discussed before but in regards to when we were limited to hard demos. In the “olden days”, when you had to present your work on a cassette or CD, it was very important to offer careful consideration over the order of your tracks. However, what I’ve noticed today with many demos is that because we’re freed from these shackles via the Internet, some broadcasters are now making a major mistake with how they present themselves. Basically, just because you can present an abundance of content on your demo, it doesn’t mean that you should.

I’ve always believed that a demo is meant to tease the hiring manager into wanting to hear more. The goal is to get a response from the person responsible for hiring the opening, and if you give them too much (and they stick around long enough to listen), your chances of receiving a call for a phone or in-person interview is reduced, unless you really blow their doors off.

As a result, while I’ve offered a little bit more then I might have in the cassette/CD era, I stick with some of the same philosophies that I’ve had for a long time with my demo:

  1. Lead with a highlight track, preferably short—no longer than about 90 seconds.
  2. Keep the highlights to the sport you’re applying for. Have separate highlight tracks based on the sports that you call.
  3. Avoid a music bed under your highlights, it’s distracting. Let the GM hear you and what you bring to the table, not a false dramatic moment from the music.
  4. Have a mid-range track available. For hockey, I use a few minutes of continuous play-by-play starting from the beginning of a power play (a faceoff) and concluding at the end of the period, and the clip runs about 4:30. For baseball you might want to have a full ½ inning of work.
  5. It’s easy for me to send a whole period or game if requested, but it’s not something I offer up front unless specifically asked to do so. If a MLB team requests a full game up front for example, then certainly provide it. If a GM provides certain rules or requirements, provide what they’re looking for.
  6. I also include an interview as well, since it’s generally a requirement for any job that I end up with, that at a minimum you would have to do some sort of pre-game coach or player interview.

So to summarize, in my contention, “less is more”.

What’s on your demo? Do you agree or disagree? The one thing about demos is that it does seem that everyone has their own opinion, and the lack of continuity over how GM’s review applications certainly makes this an inexact science.