Stephens went from radio DJ to voice actor.
In some cases, entertainers and entrepreneurs circumvent traditional paths to fame out of necessity.
I know from personal experience at WTDY that the local radio industry is struggling to find its place in a broadening media landscape. Increasingly, seasoned radio professionals aren't being replaced. Their positions are simply being eliminated.
But former Q106 morning host Jason Stephens says he's been able to market the skills he honed in radio to clients located far beyond Madison's airwaves.
"Without the Internet, I wouldn't have a business.... What I do is very specialized, and the demand on a local level is only high enough to supplement a full-time career," he says.
After 10 years in Madison radio, Stephens is now landing voice acting jobs around the country through his website, Jason's Voices. His specialty is impressions of celebrities like Morgan Freeman, Winston Churchill, Ted Nugent, Barack Obama and Christopher Walken.
Even before his departure from radio, Stephens displayed his talent for voices through collaborations with Madison comedians Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda, creators of the YouTube megahit Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager (see sidebar).
"I think it would have been incredibly difficult if not for my partnership with Matt and Aaron," Stephens says. "I'm a regular guest on their Internet show Beer and Board Games. I voice Christopher Walken through a series of videogame play-throughs, as well as the recently popular Obama Plays videos."
Add up all those YouTube views, and it totals more than 30 million. This audience is much bigger than that of your average country music DJ. But Stephens says fame is not the only perk of making a living online.
"Not having to leave my family to go to a job every day is huge," he says. "That and I'll never have to listen to another Toby Keith song for the rest of my life."