The Challenges of Working in the Broadcasting Industry

This article is brought to you by, and it is based on the College Talks & More podcast hosted by Hanna and Cari. Matt O’Sullivan was a guest on College Talks & More, and he shares his experiences on the ups and downs of having a career in broadcasting. Matt is a man of many talents. He works in everything from broadcasting, on air talent, voice-over work, editing, blogging, you name it.

I really enjoyed the humor on your show, especially hearing who the dumb ass of the week is. I would think that in today’s day and age, with so many people doing podcasts, that it would be hard to have a successful show. I can’t wait for Matt to tell us all about it. Matt, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us about your college and career background.

Matt O’Sullivan

Wow. Okay. So my name is Matt O’Sullivan. Wow. My college. Oh my God. I was on the 10 year plan. I can honestly say that I was not ready for college at all. You know? Right out of high school, everyone’s like, “Hey, let’s go to college. Everybody else is going to college”. And I went, “Okay, sure. College. Yay. More school after we just finished school.” I wasn’t really into it. I didn’t go back to school. Didn’t do anything with school. I was just working: work, work, work. And then, unfortunately, with my work, I had gotten laid off for eight straight years. And that got me back into thinking, “Okay, you know what? I’m laid off. Let me go back to school.” I then went to the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. And from there, I couldn’t find a job. So I went, “All right, you know what? I’m going to finish my college career. Let’s go get my Associates.” I got an Associate’s degree, and I still couldn’t get a job. And, unfortunately, the recession hit, and that put a huge damper on things. So, I’m going to go back to school again. I get my Bachelor’s degree in Communication and Media Production and still couldn’t find a job. It was crazy. Yeah, life in a nutshell: life is crazy. It was a real pain in the neck. I’m not going to lie. You’re going through these things, and you’re saying to yourself, “All right, I’m going to do my resume, going to put my demo together and get everything squared away.” I’m going out and looking for jobs, and I’m getting turned down left and right. I’ve gotten pretty much every kind of denial letter: “Nope, sorry, no experience; you don’t have enough experience; sorry, we chose somebody else that fits our criteria.” It’s not that there’s no future working in broadcasting. You can find a broadcasting job if you work hard enough. I’ve just learned, that talking with people in the broadcasting industry, that for what I do, I’m too creative. This is just an example of what I went through. I have a lot of friends that work for ESPN, both in production and outside of production. And one of them is a post-production editor, nicest guy. He said, “Yes, send me your stuff, send me your video, send me your audio, send me what you’ve got.” And I did. And the next night I saw him and he said to me, “Listen, you are amazing at what you do, but you’re too creative. You will never be able to work at ESPN.” And I went, “Why?” And he said, “Because you think outside of the box, you’re too creative. You would not fit in here.” And I said to myself, “How is that a thing?” When you’re trying to get experience in the broadcasting world, you want to do internships. You want to learn from the best. And that’s what they were telling me: “I’m too creative”. And I went, “All right, fine. I’m going to do stuff on my own. See you later.” And here I am doing stuff on my own. I think I would rather be my own boss.

You said that you were briefly in the Coast Guard. What made you decide to leave?

I thought maybe I could get enough money to go to school. That was my original thought on it. What happened while I was in the Coast Guard, I want to say I was about a month and a half in, I was almost done with boot camp, and I had gotten sick. I had actually gotten sick in the middle of February where I developed bronchitis with bronchial spasms. It got so bad. And for me, when I get sick , I don’t really feel symptoms. So even though I had bronchitis, I had no idea. We were doing PT training, which is physical training, and I had passed out. I’d stopped breathing. And then I was medically discharged from the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard

Was it a hard transition after the Coast Guard, and after you were laid off, to go back to college and do college life at that point?

Not really. I was 20 years old at the time when I went back to school. It was right around the time of 9/11. I briefly thought about joining the military again, since I’m a New Yorker, and I took it hard, but I went back to school instead. Getting back into the job market and then back into school wasn’t really too difficult for me.

After you got your degree at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, did you take any time off before attending Naugatuck Valley Community College to get your Associates Degree in Media Production?

It took a year off. And that was mostly because I was starting The Sully Show after grading Connecticut School of Broadcasting. I had gotten the idea for my show while I was there. And the thing is, when you do radio, the first thing they tell you, and this was the greatest advice I’ve ever gotten is, “If you are going to be the next Howard Stern, get out, get out right now. We don’t want you. We want you to be you.” That hit me. I don’t want to be Howard Stern. I don’t even like Howard Stern. I don’t want to be like these shock jock guys. I want to be me. I want to have fun. And from then on, I tried getting into radio. Some people, not all, but some people, if you don’t do what they do, or what they tell you to do, they don’t want to help you. That irks me a lot. So for me, that’s where I came up with the idea of my show, The Sully Show. And on my show I was able to use my creativity. After a year on the show, I was still trying to get into radio. I was still trying to get a job in broadcasting. I had to pay my bills. And that is why I went to get my Associates Degree in Media Production at Naugatuck Valley Community College after graduating the Connecticut School of Broadcasting.

After you got your Associates degree and had a hard time getting a job, why did you choose to go get your Bachelor’s in Communication and Media Production already knowing that the job market was going to be a hard one to get into?

Yeah, that is a great and easy question. All of the job openings in broadcasting were looking for a Bachelor’s degree. Every single broadcasting job application was asking, “Do you have a bachelor’s?” And I would answer, “No, I have an associates, but I have years experience.” That’s not what the broadcasting companies want to see. That’s not what the computers these days look for. They want to see, do you have a bachelor’s degree? “Yes, I do.” Where from? “Here.” When did you get it? “This year.” Perfect. Then they may look at you

When you were getting your Bachelor’s degree at Western Connecticut State University, did you live on campus?

I did not. I couldn’t afford it. I was unemployed. I had a girlfriend at the time and we were living together. I was doing odds and end jobs to help pay the bills. You have to do what you have to do in order to eat. Right? So I commuted from Bristol to Danbury, Connecticut, every day and battled the traffic.

So far, through all of your colleges, you had a hard time finding a job. After you got your Bachelor’s degree, did you still have a hard time finding your job, or did you then decide, ah, screw it, I’m going to go out on my own?

I’m always looking for any type of work. I love doing audio recordings. I love doing podcasts. I love live-streaming. It’s my niche. I love post-production editing. I love writing scripts, making movies and all that stuff. So I’m always doing that. Now with that being said, there comes a time in college where you have to start paying your student loan. And depending on the loan, you usually have about six months from when you graduate to start paying it. So I had to get a job. I couldn’t find one. It was still really hard to find a job. So I went to a temp agency. It turned out that the hospital right up the hill from me, Bristol Hospital, needed help. And the temporary agency got me the job. Five years later, I was still working there, because I had to pay the bills. My girlfriend was now my wife, and we had a baby on the way. I had to pay the bills for the kid, had to buy a house, had to had to deal with life.

Usually when you think of people working in entertainment, you think of someone living in Los Angeles or you think of someone living in New York City. How difficult is it to be in the entertainment industry living in Connecticut?

Live gaming

That is a very good question. So I’m going to give you two answers. My first sarcastic answer is, “It fricking sucks. ” There’s not much when it comes to the entertainment world in Connecticut, you have ESPN, you have NBC. There was Blue Sky Studios for computer animated movies, which is still here in Connecticut, but Disney owns them now. When it comes to working in entertainment in Connecticut, you usually have to go with the smaller outlets, which is your local news channels. Trying to get a job at ESPN is doable, but it’s like trying to get into Fort Knox. You need to know somebody, and you need to know somebody high up in order to work at ESPN. Or you let your work speak for itself. And they tell you,”I’m sorry, you’re too creative.” So it’s difficult. It’s very difficult. But now in the year 2020, where COVID-19 is running a muck, I can tell you that doing your own thing will make you a much happier person. This is the perfect time for live streaming. Think about it. You don’t have to go anywhere, case in point, this podcast. We’re doing it remotely. You can do anything from a live stream these days and make money at it. People are even making money with live gaming. They are playing for thousands of people, right from their own house. And their viewers are donating money or subscribing to their channel for $4.99. It takes a lot of work to get into that, but it’s a perfect opportunity for some people.

You mentioned that the idea for The Sully Show came about while you were in college. How did you put the show together?

The Sully Show

I wanted to have a show where it’s three guys that just shoot the shit. We are having a great time talking about different articles we read or a new movie that just came out. One thing I hate to talk about is politics, so we stay clear of that. I have, no joke, gone through seven different co-hosts. The show itself is fourteen years old now. And we always have new material to talk about, because a new movie comes out about every three months. Or we talk about new video games and systems. At one point, we were the number one rated show on an internet radio station. However, they started censoring me, because I made a comment about a guest. They didn’t like my comment. It happened to be about a rock singer making a Christmas album. I wasn’t a fan of the Christmas album. I hate censorship, and I don’t believe shows should be censored.

We strive for the comedy aspect of our show. We strive to tell the jokes, and all three of us have served in the military. My co-host Adam is a former paratrooper who just retired last year. JT was in not only in the first Gulf war, but he did tours in Germany, and he had gotten hurt in a tank accident years before. So we were all vets, and vets pick on each other. We crack the jokes. We make fun of each other, but at the same time we are brothers. We have fun. We love the same stuff.

How did you develop a listener base of over 2000 listeners in less than six months?

For somebody who’s looking to start their own podcast, the best way to get people to listen is through Twitter, Facebook, and start telling your friends and family. I also use Twitch and Periscope. I broadcast my show anywhere I can. People will listen. It doesn’t cost a lot to start a show. Just buy a microphone for about $50.00 and set it up. With everyone having cell phones these days, we’re all connected, and everyone can listen to your show. Anybody can click on an RSS feed and have it automatically downloaded onto their phone. You can broadcast live anywhere, at any time. For editing your podcast, there are a lot of free software you can use, such as Audacity or Adobe Auditions. For professions working in audio production, they mostly use Pro Tools, but that’s expensive. If you are just starting out, try Audacity or Adobe Audition. They work just fine.

We noticed that you’re also a freelance media specialist. What exactly does a freelance media specialist do?

A freelance media specialist works on a variety of media production jobs, such as 3-D graphics, Photoshop, Recordings, Voice-overs, and writing film scripts. It requires a lot of hard work.

In your media career, what have been some of your largest or biggest struggles?

Recording an Audio book

My biggest struggle has been getting the experience I need to land the jobs I want. If you can’t break into the industry, then how are you going to get the experience you need? At the same time, it’s been getting a little easier over the past 10 years or so. More and more companies are starting to use video and audio. And if you have the knowledge and skills to edit audio, edit video, do 3-D graphics, do animated transitions, and you know Photoshop for graphic design work, then you will have an easier time finding work and getting the required experience.

I’ve also started getting into doing voice-over work. I’m really enjoying doing voice-overs, and I’ve started doing commercial work for that. You can also get into audio books. Amazon sells a lot of audio books, so if you can break into that field, you can make good money there also.

Have you happened to have met any famous actors or actresses while you were working in the entertainment industry?

Actually, I have. I have met Ernest Borgnine. He won an Oscar for best actor in the movie Marty. My wife is actually related to him.

So, you have to tell me, out of all your weekly dumb ass of the week clips, which one is your favorite?

I actually have two favorites. My first favorite is was Crazy Make. Crazy Mike did his own stunts by jumping off things. Mike decided that he was going to do a back-flip off a soda machine and then land on his feet onto concrete. Well, he missed and landed flat on his face. That’s the stupid part. The dumb ass part was that he tried to do it again! After a year of practicing, he gets back onto the soda machine. And this time, not only did he land on his face, he broke his face. He also broke his collarbone and his ribs. Third time will not be a charm, he’s not doing that stunt again. My other dumb ass of the week favorite is, four friends were driving in a car. They are having a great time, but the taillight is out. A cop sees the broken taillight and goes to pull them over. Well, the idiots speed away, all for a broken taillight. The cop gives chase. The four friends end up crashing into a telephone pole. Two of the friends get out and climb a face with barbed wire on top. They get cut up on the barbed wire, and they get to the other side. They had climbed into a women’s prison! They ended getting locked up.

For anyone who wants to get into the entertainment industry, you know, the voice-overs, the radio show, not the other kind of entertainment industry. What advice could you give them?

Make sure to set goals. Know what you want to do. Also, don’t be one of those people who goes to school, reads the textbooks, and then thinks you know everything. You have to practice, practice, practice. You need to set goals and make it happen. More and more companies are making podcasts, and they are going to need someone to do the work. You can practice on YouTube, you can practice by talking with your friends on the phone. A lot of podcasts start with friends.

Would you ever train someone to do what you do?

Absolutely. I’ve always been one of those people who enjoys helping others. If anyone wanted to learn from me on how to talk into a microphone, I’ll teach you. You will learn the right way to do it.

College Talks & More

Thank you Matt, for coming on our show and offering all those valuable insight in how to succeed or semi succeed in the entertainment industry. I really enjoyed listening to your show and I know that our listeners will too. We’re all about humans helping humans, and we hope that you will join us again on another episode.

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