When most people think of what they wanted to be when they were younger, I would bet that radio presenter or producer was probably not on their list. For little 14 year old me, it was top.
What on earth made you decide that? I hear you shout. Well 14 year old had looked around and discovered that she had a rather good head for lyrics and random, pointless, music facts. One problem. There aren’t that many jobs that involved needing a stupid amount of popular music knowledge. All that 14 year old me could come up with was being a member of a professional pub quiz team…
For as long as I can remember there has always been radio in my life. Capital, Virgin Radio (now, Absolute Radio), Radio 2 and Radio 1, were always on somewhere and I learned a lot from them. So I set about looking for ways to get experience in radio and came across Hospital Radio. Which was great…Until I realised I had to be 18 to volunteer…Damn it!
However, 14 year old me did not give in and as soon as I turned 18 I applied and volunteered as a producer on hospital radio for a year, before heading to university.
Uni. seemed like a bleak place when it came to radio. When I arrived, my university didn’t have one. So, taking on the challenge, myself and a team of likeminded people set about setting a student radio up. No word of a lie, it was hard, but we did it in the end. This gave me the chance to continue producing and now presenting shows.
So what’s it like to present a radio show?
To be honest, it’s a bit scary, but you soon get used to it. When you’re starting off the microphone in front of you becomes the most terrifying object, but having a producer or co-presenter fixes everything. They present as something to bounce off for talking points and release any anxieties that the mics create. Radio on your own is harder, but just as doable. I recommend using a producer or a co-present if you are new to radio.
Encountering the large amounts of tech that a presenter must deal with is also a scary prospect. Sometimes it can feel like one wrong switch is the end of the world. In most cases it isn’t and you will soon learn and get used to it. This is also a great skill to have.
The key thing to remember, is that you must include the listener in all aspects of your show. This involves understanding your target audience. Talking points and music playlists must suit your audience to keep them engaged. There is no point playing Opera and talking about current foreign policy, if you audience is you average 15 year old. The temptation is to play all your favourite songs, but this doesn’t always fit your audience (especially if you love a sub-genre, that isn’t mainstream). However, that doesn’t mean you can’t play the odd one, once in a while. Or design a show that is aimed to attract like mined people.
Another trick to keep listeners engaged is to talk directly to them. Ask them questions, relate topics and stories you are discussing to them and if you are social media savvy, get them to comment and join in on your show! People like to feel involved and everyone loves a shout out.
Finally, remember your planning and timing. Don’t go on air without a plan of what to talk about, as you may think you can wing it. Trust me, I’ve tried it and you can’t. Plan topics, songs and timings with your producer and try to stick to it. It will help.
So what’s it like to be a producer?
The producer is just as important as the presenter (never let anyone tell you otherwise!).
The producer’s role can vary a lot depending on the station. Basically, the producer’s job is to ensure that the show is running smoothly and to time.
My experience as a producer involved mainly research. Looking for interesting talking point to bring along to the show, which can be discussed. Also, if your radio show has a news or weather section, it might be the producer’s job to find up-to-date news stories and weather forecasts for the area in which your radio show may reach.
Working with the presenter, as a team, is vital to a producers work. Producers may work with the presenter to choose music for the shows playlist. For example, if you had found a relevant topic about David Bowie, then it might make sense to fit a Bowie record in after or before that topic. Research linked to the playlist is also important. A producer might go away and research facts about that artist or song, which can be used in the show.
Producers also work with presenters to formulate the running orders. This can involve ensuring that vital topics, such a news or adverts are played in the correct places. In addition, they can suggest orders in which talking points will run or if you are lucky enough to have guests. Producers will organise when they will be on air.
For pre-recorded shows, the producer will play a vital role in the editing process. Choosing which topics make the cut and deciding the best order of flow. They will plan out shows and then cut and order sound clips, using software, to create the show. This is important if you are adding sound clips that are from outside broadcasts or recorded on different days.
Finally, some producers may be included in the speaking element of live shows. Examples of this are seen throughout the BBC and other stations. They act as a base for the presenter to bounce topics and talking points off and can create interesting conversation that listeners can relate to or feel involved in. This also enables the producer to keep a close eye on the running of the show and prompt presenters if they are running under or over time.
Radio is a difficult, yet fantastic industry to be involved in, both in front and behind the mic. It can feel like you’re going nowhere, but stick with it. Record all you shows (they could be useful if you ever want to make a demo tape) and learn from you mistakes. Really, my best piece of advice for you, if you want to be involved in radio, is don’t give up and take any opportunity you can. Who knows where it may lead?