A blog by Stephen.

 

1.

What research you undertook into the job market for your work experience and for gaining a commission for the Individual Audio Project.

Understanding an industry is vital to success. The best way to understand is to talk to those who understand. Whenever I can do, I spend time catching up with those with know-how or shadowing to pick up skills. At the moment, one of my favourite things to do, in terms of socialising as well as networking together as one, is grabbing a cuppa with someone working in radio. Wherever that be, for however long or whichever bit of our industry they work in. I thoroughly adore spending time these opportunities to build upon knowledge together with building relationships with those further down the line.

I wish I knew this next bit many moons ago mind. I email day by day and have done for years nevertheless it is only months back I came to a conclusion that sending essays worth of text aren’t productive. Let’s face it, nobody has time to read through them. Instead of sending irrelevant nonsense I challenge myself to craft short correspondences to get straight to it. I appreciate mailing oodles doesn’t make sense although back then I thought it was a necessary way of introducing yourself. My mind has since changed. Shorter emails have meant I have had a chance to catch up with industry professionals from all walks of life. Of course, spending time with someone won’t directly open a door yet that said building an impression is priceless in my opinion. Whenever I go for a meeting, I never don’t plan a list of questions, though all too often these aren’t ever asked because things come to mind when my passion starts flowing.

I have a clearer picture of what’s next now too. I have been emailing, meeting so networking for years on end. To start off this networking journey I had no real dream. By that I mean I learnt lots by touring here and there but nothing beneficial. I visited then got to know those behind the scenes at BBC Breakfast, Sky News, ITV News, ITN News, ITV Meridian, Channel 4 News, Loose Women to name but a handful still these aren’t too useful. With hindsight I wish I had a focus long ago.

I have a focus now. I plan on becoming an AP within a music radio production team, therefore, with such in mind I set out to talk with those doing something along those lines. For my work experience, I intended to do something similar too to spend time in a national station behind the scenes building upon previous experience. See I spent January of last year at Wise Buddah, now called Listen, getting to grips with what they do therefore planned to do something similar in my summertime but that wasn’t to be. This I, unfortunately, put down as a setback however didn’t fancy letting it set me back. Despite not securing a placement as such to start off with, I was thankful for getting to know many more so called ‘industry folk’ in what time I had left over including Radio X’s Pippa Taylor, Bauer’s boss Steve Parkinson amongst others too.

The minute I knew I was coming home to the south I had a new plan. I aimed to shadow or something along those lines at a radio station based nearby, however once more despite a lot of tactical pushing didn’t work out. Perhaps my pushing even then was a tad wordy. Who knows? We live and we learnt. Instead, I spent a summer home, most probably when I think about it my last. I spent time networking as well as working on ideas. I have ideas left, right and centre all day long yet let these slip sometimes because I don’t draft them up or send them off. This is something I need to work on.

When I was home I did some work experience too at a radio station dear to my heart. Hope FM is a Christian Community station serving Bournemouth. I have been with 90.1 Hope FM since 2013 and for five or so of those years I presented as well as produced a live two-hour music entertainment breakfast programme. Weekend Breakfast, my show itself, taught me a heck. When I returned, I planned to do something else on top of presenting producing that is. Soon as I got home I meet up with Dan, who runs Hope FM as Operations Manager, to make clear how I planned to do more. Thankfully that’s just what happened from then. Of course, as a community fuelled station with a limited budget to say the least Hope FM runs a completely ship to that of BBC Radio 2, however, I tried out as much as I could to build experience to take forward in years to come. From June to September or thereabouts, I sat in on different programmes offering presenting, production along with technical advice, covering programmes outside my comfort zone, programming content ready for broadcast as well as spending behind the scenes in the office getting to grips with how a small station runs day to day. Things I learned in my time at Hope over the years will stay with for a long time. Whilst I had plans to shadow at some big name station like Heart I think Hope let me be hands-on which undoubtably taught me more than what I would’ve ended up doing elsewhere.

I believe some lessons in life are universal. Bear with me. When I cast my mind back, I happen to believe one of the biggest and, as probably as cliché as it is to say, best lessons I have learnt is my approach to getting things. I mean I used to go about things in the wrong way. I didn’t quite understand back then, nonetheless, I would accidentally demand without even knowing I did so. I wasn’t asking for things in a human way. The lesson I learnt is to treat an email, not to forget all other forms of interaction, in a personal manner. Sounds straightforward, like with the emails bit earlier on, but it hadn’t clicked. With this in mind, I approach speaking to people now I don’t rush by seeing what happens first.

Individual audio project now. When it came to looking for a commission I put all those bits mentioned into practice. Things didn’t get off to the best start. I have a lifelong unexplainable fear of ink on skin which I have wanted to produce a documentary on for some time though If You Wrote On Me wasn’t meant to be. I contacted what seemed like every private clinic within London though still my luck wasn’t in. I couldn’t get this off the ground. Bad news isn’t ever straightforward but when you understand why something hasn’t worked that helps.

Once I worked out If You Wrote On Me wasn’t to be I had to change plans a bit and by a bit I mean quite some bit. I decided to produce a documentary taking listeners behind-the-scenes at a bus company, another nerdy passion of mine, to see what happens and listen to the stories too. To produce said doc, titled The Wheels on the Bus, I needed to work with a bus company in some way or another which wasn’t an easy deal to crack.

 

2.

What did you learn from your work placement and what you learned from working with an external commissioner for Individual Audio Project?

Working with an external commissioner was certainly an experience and it was oh so useful. Chances are, as a producer making stuff you will have to run stuff past someone. Working with a commissioner was a good opportunity to work out how to take criticisms then move forward. Not only did we run content past one person, we had to run it past two. In the case of The Wheels on the London Bus (name changed a tad) it was checked off by Dave from Stagecoach London as well as my lecturer Aasiya too.

I worked on one thing within this project. One thing on top of the doc itself of course. I worked on taking criticism. I take things far too personally. I need to work on it. I take feedback too personally. I don’t mean to yet whenever anyone says something bad about something I have done, even when I can hear they are adding constructive advice going forward, I let stuff build up. I have to change this. I plan on doing this by remembering to take a step back then never forget that whatever is said, no matter how negative this could be, that I can go from strength to strength by keeping what they said in mind. I’m not there yet but I can and will be.

I thoroughly enjoyed producing The Wheels on the London Bus because of this chance to improve taking feedback. Lots changed along the production process. I liked many bits of The Wheels on the London Bus which didn’t eventually make it to the final cut. Now I can understand why. One bit upset me the most, when it wasn’t included all too much, but I appreciate why not. When recording I had an opportunity to fulfil a lifelong dream of mine. I got to drive a bus. Driving a double-decker was an extraordinary experience which I believed listeners could join with me on through the power of audio. Dave and Aasiya didn’t agree. Now I look back I agree with them because the audio of me driving is pretty naff. Despite liking what I had done, I understood where they are coming from. I think the best thing to take from this lesson is to not get caught up in your own bubble. Try to see criticisms are someone trying to point out a better way forward. That is easier said than done though.

 

3.

Where you hope to go next, what sort of career you are aiming for, drawing on your work experience and Individual Audio Project, and FIVE practical steps which you will follow to help you on the next phase, post-graduation.

Choosing where to go next has been on my mind for so long. Never not on my mind to be honest. Deciding what’s next is a near-impossible thing to crack. Nevertheless, I feel I, at least at long last, have a direction. I believe I would be most happy to pursue a career in music radio production, ideally as a BBC radio Assistant Producer.

Through years of studying radio production, I have practically gone from pillar to post week by week wondering what I believe I want to do with my life next. It’s not been an easy one. However, going from one thing to another what I have actually come to think is I would be bloody happy to be doing a number of things. That doesn’t really answer things. That’s why I put some criteria, to suss out what works for me plus what doesn’t.

Within a future position I take up I have to be (this is number one) coming up with ideas, (this is number two) making a difference as well as (last of all is this which comes down as number three) producing things. So long as I get to do those things, I believe I would be a happy soul. One pathway I am particularly keen to follow at the moment is becoming a BBC assistant producer as this would follow on from my current work at BBC Radio 2. I have met a number of people who do that job as well as oversee people doing that job and that’s what my next steps plan revolves around…

(1) Spend time, by that I mean getting cuppas, with current assistant producers to get to know them as well as what they do.

(2) Learn by researching what an assistant producer does by reading job descriptions then comparing my skill set with which.

(3) Trying to arrange as much shadowing as is possible.

(4) Build experience within similar roles. Find these at independent production companies, different radio stations, outside of London and any other places that pop up.

(5) Formally register an interest by applying or start sending a CV to those in charge. Then see what happens from that point on. And, do not forget, to be open to other roles at the same time to see what pops up.

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