Radio and broadcasting ace Joel Webner has developed a career that defines resilience and resourcefulness. Currently famed for his JB WeBB Radio Show, which blends classic radio values with a progressive eye on today’s Web communication, Mr. Webner brimmed with smart advice for broadcasting-passionate students, for both the short and long term.
Can you recall the moment when you decided to formally embark into broadcasting as a career?
Yes; it was in my teens that I knew I loved broadcasting. My brother and I would record little skits on a tape recorder. I think [my passion] may have [stemmed] from that pretend time, I really knew I wanted to use words and [my] voice to transmit things I believed in.
Throughout high school, I made great friends with a guy who was an alumni of the school. I was also a DJ for all the big dances at our school and other schools. By being [this alumni’s] assistant, I got to participate in some light audio engineering and promotions. Then, right out of high school, I was offered a job at an AM radio station. I did not start out on the air all by myself, but I did get to do a lot of the cool editing work, and some voice over for commercials. Back then the technology was reel to reel, much more difficult than what is available today. So this arduous aspect was not what appealed to me at first; rather it was the cool concept of “being on the radio.”
I had a healthy career there, not money-wise, but [in terms of] pure experience. After a few months I was learning to sell air time, and also had a DJ role in early evenings and weekends.
I was later brought into an on air talk format. After this, I had moved to doing some hosting jobs and DJ, voice over and the like to keep my listening and razor sharp wit in tact.
What professional moments stand out as the most challenging, or the most validating?
After some time away from radio, I had the chance to get back on the air as a co-host for a political talk show. Anyone who knows me knows I could really care less about politics, but loved to make people laugh. So the recipe was a good mix of insight political views from the host and color commentary on the erratic absurdities of our beloved political system. [There was] this crucial moment when the show ended after just a year or so; it’s when I took pride in my own sense/instinct to not give up.
I thought the odds were against me. Yet suddenly I realized that I didn’t need an actual station to broadcast. I could use all these things I had in front of me: a crappy video camera (which is really just a camera and had to plugged into the wall), a $10 microphone from Target, my gumption, and the Internet.
Needless to say, your Web presence is unmistakably effective. How has social media impacted your career?
Well, thank you. Social media was a huge factor in how people become aware of our humble little effort. Without this particular element, I dare say we would not have as much exposure. But I also have to give a big hand to my distribution partner, Blip.tv. I had done a ton of [research on] Google, [and] I’d started a YouTube channel. but after a month of blah, I discovered Blip.tv and quickly pulled everything out of YouTube.
Blip has, over the past two years, increased its technology, and actually encodes the video for all the correct technical outlets. This was an optimal distribution partner who allows me to monetize. Plus, last year we were approved for distributions to YouTube. Voila!
What are some common misconceptions about careers in contemporary broadcasting — in both radio and web broadcasts?
People think, “Oh, just fire up that microphone,” and they wing it… If you want to be successful, do research and be prepared.
How did your educational path lead to the current place you hold in your career, hosting your “QuasiRadioWebShow?
Well, it was really the discipline and do-not-give-up attitude that was the fuel. Granted, what I knew played a big role in what I am doing now. But I am also working in a few other related capacities. So I would say that a good education, mixed with a rock solid work ethic, [is what got me here].
We’ve learned that your radio program, The JB WeBB Show, “distinguished by unusual mental keenness,” was borne from the economic crisis of the late 2000s. How did your education help you generate and nurture the original idea for the show?
Well, I feel the fundamentals of discipline and learning how to learn are items you cultivate in your youth, and can really master with education. So more important than actually knowing everything under the sun is understanding what you like doing and discipline your self to work very hard, plus always be learning.
Once college is over, you’ll know more than when you started, but you won’t know everything. That’s why I would suggest looking at the ability to gain formal education as a way to teach your self a great work ethic, to foster an open mind for new things, technologies, and other business practices. Take notes from those you admire in the business world.
Do you feel that Web/radio broadcasting are subjects that can be studied online, or is a traditional class environment ideal?
Yes, of course, as far as terms and procedures. But being in a studio when a live or recorded broadcast is occurring is invaluable. Any option without actual studio time does not serve you well.
Can internships, apprenticeships, and other forms of on-the-job preparation be effective means of learning for these disciplines?
Sure, some of the greats started this way. Depending on what role you are looking to occupy, also try to learn everyone else’s role if you can. Being very observant in these types of roles is the key to advancement. Passion and enthusiasm are also essential elements to propel one from an internship into a full time employee.
What advice, or words of caution, would you give to a student who is considering a career in modern-day broadcasting, online or on the airwaves?
Always be learning. With today’s dynamic technology growth, you cannot afford to not stay in the know, [especially] when it regards the realm of broadcasting. Learn about your own network of professionals. Oftentimes, if you know the right people, they can bring you in under some of the most favorable circumstances.
Learn how to brand your self, in perhaps more than just one way — that is unless you are, for example, just into sports radio, or only have a passion for talk radio. And be aware that, although you have a passion for something you may not be doing, you should always try to have an occupation that has at least a few hooks into what you want to do.
Work hard every day. Keep your head on a swivel. Be curious, Be confident.