Friday, December 09, 2005

Radio Ga Ga

Today marks the first anniversary of my inaugural appearance on radio. Since then I have hosted a daily morning show on Local radio for three weeks and done a weekly show on hospital radio for the last six months. It was something I’d been interested in doing since I was young, so what have I learnt?

Well I’ve only done about 80 hours on air so I’d be arrogant to say I can teach you how to be a radio DJ, however perhaps I can pass on some tips new comers might be interested in.

Firstly most of your creativity is stifled from the word go. Thanks to various laws and regulations you have to be careful about what you talk about. Then you have the radio stations identity to live up to - i.e. you can only run features they want you to run and only play records they want you to play. It is a limiting problem but sounding original under these conditions is what makes the best jocks shine.

Forget glamour. Most radio studios, especially local level are nothing more than portacabins or single grubby rooms in an office block. They will either be freezing cold or stuffy and hot and at times you will be left on your own with a full bladder and no one to talk to.

Forget morals. It is an industry centred on backstabbing and slagging people off - well that’s if you want to get anywhere. You also seem to have to shag around to make friends and get jobs. Slagging off and shagging around are two things that aren’t me so I’m resigned to not getting anywhere in radio but to be honest with these two things being your main credentials I’m not bothered.

That said when a station works - it works well. In just three weeks the local RSL I was involved in built up a very strong sense of being in a team - if it was full time we would have made a great station.

To this day people are shocked when they learn I’m not bothered about pursuing radio – despite having in interest for quite a while. About 9 months ago one jock thought I was out right lying and refused to believe me. She’s one person that is slowly making progress in the industry and I’m happy for her but to be honest I’ve found my niche in hospital radio. In the studios are a group of people that are genuinely doing radio shows for the love and passion of it. There’s no pay & no fame thus no egos and certainly no falseness.

That said my main tip is that content is key. I find it far easier to do a show when I arrive up with pages and pages of news stories, trivia and observations. Failing that if you’ve nothing to say then don’t. After all apart from the likes of Chris Moyles or Scott Mills the majority of people listen to radio to hear the music – not you. That’s one lesson a lot of jocks could learn.

P.S. Happy birthday mum!


dazzle_v2003 said...


A really interesting blog! Lots of interesting tips which i will take on aboard.


Beks said...

Sorry but really feel the need to reply to this. I think I am the female jock "slowly making progress in the industry" who you refer to! Having been in the industry full-time for just about a year now I thought I'd pass on my own comments. Radio is a funny game, its my living and I love it so I am going to biased, but I do take objection to a few things you've said.

Firstly "slagging people off and shagging around" - well I know for a fact that's not how I've made my way into the industry, nor is that true for ANYONE, not one single person, that I know. More of a common misconception or at the very least something which is no more widespread than in any other industry. It's a very tight knit industry, I haven't met anyone in it for months who doesn't know someone I know and once you're "in" you very quickly meet a lot of other "radio people". These contacts are worth their weight in gold, 90% of radio jobs are never advertised so a tip off from a mate about a potential gap at a station can mean the difference between progressing and not.

There is a HUGE difference between hospital radio, RSL radio and full-time commercial radio. I love RSL's, I still do them now to help out mates, but you can't very well compare an experience on them to working at a full-time commercial station. The whole ethos and dynamics of the two are entirely different. RSL's are there to test the market, commercial stations are there to make money. End of. Of course jocks don't choose their own music (thank god!), what are the chances of the marketplace having exactly the same taste in music as the jock?? Millons is spent on researching music so that the target audience will get what they want to hear (and for anyone who moans about the same songs getting repeated, remember most people listen to the radio for 20 minutes a day, max). Also as a jock the last thing I want to do is be worrying about what song I'm going to play next when I could be spending those three minutes planning my speech content, which is what we do.

As for studios being a single room in an office block or a portakabin, true for RSL's, but I don't know of one commercial station that's true for - there's too much kit to fit in a office room for a start! Ok so not all are "glamourous", but a peek into the Red Dragon studios in Cardiff Bay or the new Metro studios in Newcastle shows that studio complexes can be, and very often are, stunning.

You mentioned I "didn't believe" you when you said you didn't want to go into radio full-time - I don't remember saying that myself! I remember offering you some advice- i thought you, like many many others, had some raw talent and I like to see people grab opportunities. Some people will go on to develop raw talent and become hugely successful, some will try and develop it and find that actually that's all they have, some will not bother developing it at all. There are thousands and thousands of people who aspire to be on the radio, there are not thousands of jobs. At the end of the day you not only need the talent but absolute drive and determination to make it and survive in the industry. You also have to be 100% committed, if you're not, forget it, because there'll be 100 people queueing up behind you with the same amount of talent who are. If radio full-time for you, you just want it as a hobby that's great! But I don't think you should slur an industry you haven't actually worked in. It may look like a lot of things from the outside, but we all know never to judge a book by it's cover.

If there are any aspiring jocks out there, as someone "slowly making their way" (although having only been in the industry a year and worked at the Arquiva station of the year and currently one of the youngest breakfast presenters in the UK I'm not sure how true that is..... ;o) )here are my top tips.
1. Get involved in RSL's - hospital radio is great too (although I never did it) but unfortunately a lot (not all!) of stations are run by bitter old men who never made it in the industry and therefore don't want to see anyone do well. RSL's often have former jocks involved which is a bonus as you should make some great contacts.
2. Make and utilise those contacts - it's not all "who you know not what you know" but having friends in the know certainly helps - even if it's just to offer you advice on demos.
3. Do not give up. Unless you really are rubbish. If you genuinely have talent - and friends in the industry will be able to tell you if you do - keep at it and something will come your way. Honestly. If you love radio but aren't ever going to be that great, pursue it as a hobby. Get involved with your local hospital or community station and just have a bit of fun with it.

After all, we're entertainers. That's what it's all about....

smeg_head said...

My knowlege has obviously been tainted by a few 'bitter old men' ;)

Some good stuff there, thanks Beks (tune in to Valleys Radio for Beks show; I do if I'm online in the AM and well worth it is is too!)

Beks comments have served to highlight our differences though, especially why I'll never progress further than Hospital or RSLs. Her line "Also as a jock the last thing I want to do is be worrying about what song I'm going to play next when I could be spending those three minutes planning my speech content, which is what we do." is exactly the opposite to me. I love the music and would rather an hour of music and a minute of me. I really enjoy having an oppertunity to play some different stuff that you just don't hear on commercial. I often spend a few hours before my show planning what I'll be playing and about 30 mins on what I'm going to say... that said I do love delving into daft news stories from over the world too!

Cat said...

Just had to add my comments to what has been said before....
I have to say that i agree with smeg_head - it does appear that there is a lot of back-stabbing in commercial radio as you are always fighting for your job, as beks pointed out - there are plenty of others out there just waiting for their chance.
Hospital and Community Stations are great because they are run very differently to commercial stations - they don't have to worry so much as to who is listening to them as a commercial station who has to sell advertising space in order to keep the station alive. RSL's are sort of the middle between hospital and community and commercial as although for all of them you need a certain amount of people listening, an RSL is a test to see how the idea of a station would be recieved by the 'public' and whether anyone will invest in the idea both in advertising and possibly investing.
I agree with beks in that content is important - nothing worse than some idiot droning on, but also that the music is important to the show - no good doing a rock show if all that has been chosen by the computer is love songs (that would also be the fault of the programme controller as well)
The beauty of having so many ways to broadcast radio and sound programmes in general is that all types of presenters and wannabe's can now get involved. For both of you and everyone else who wants to have a go at radio - you need to have the commitment to take you to where you wanna go. And if you don't have a 'radio voice' there is always answereing the phones or making the tea!!!