Search for experience
In my search for work experience, I pursued a number of avenues. Included among these was a search through LinkedIn to find a suitable candidate for both work experience and to commission my project. I also reached out to a number of personal contacts, to see if they would be amenable to allowing me to work with them or if they had any leads on possible openings for work experience. Additionally I searched the websites of a number of stations to see if they had anyone I could contact to obtain work experience. These included Classic FM and the BBC’s various stations. I also thought about seeking work experience in the United States, however, I decided against this, as the practicalities of attempting to stay over long enough made it virtually impossible for me to actually be able to accomplish this.
However, while I was in the process of contacting these stations, I was informed that a contact of mine had recently joined a newly founded radio station in Marlow, by the name of River Radio. I reached out and asked if he could put me in touch with the station management, which he agreed to do. Fortunately, his talking to River worked and shortly afterwards, I exchanged a number of emails with Sam Sethi, the station manager and eventually arranged for a phone call to speak about my participation within the station. During this phone call, it was originally suggested that I work on Extra Time, a sport show, as a producer however, when I spoke of my previous experience with presenting, and in particular my previous experience presenting a gaming show, Sam decided instead to put me in contact with two other members of River Radio, Tom Stevenson and Gabriel Senior, who were working on creating a gaming show for the station.
Later, when looking for a commissioner for my individual audio project, I decided to contact River Radio again. I had an on-going and good relationship with them, and believed that they would be amenable to working with me. Therefore, I contacted the Director of Operations, Tara Deane. I contacted her in particular both because she was a part of station management, but also she was the primary point of contact with our show at that point in time, meaning it was both easier to get in touch with her and I believed she would be more likely to agree to commission me. She agreed in principle and set up a call for me with the station management team, where I pitched my project to them and they accepted the pitch and gave me a commission.
What I learned
The experience from working at River has been very interesting. I have been given an unusual amount of freedom, probably due to the small size of the station and the fact that I joined when the station and the show I work on were both relatively new. Creating the show from no real foundation beyond the broad general strokes has been particularly rewarding. As the show had no structure to begin with, I have had to work very closely with my co-hosts to make sure everything is up and running. Furthermore, the focus the station has on selling itself is understandable, but very different from my experiences while at university.
I think I have perhaps learned most from simply needing to create a show every week like clockwork. As the show is a talk show and not a music show, it has been a particularly interesting challenge to generate enough content to fill out our timeslot. We have had some particular difficulties as we have transitioned more and more into features and away from interviews which we had been doing previously. On top of this, the lack of time for most of us (as working at River Radio is not the full-time job of myself or my co-hosts) has also presented interesting challenges.
A unique feature of working at River has also been the focus on working from home. As the studio itself is a fair distance away from the homes of myself, Tom and Gabriel, we have largely been doing pre-recorded shows. They are still very close to live, because they are recorded only a day or two in advance and we have no ‘in the moment’ sections that require us to be live. It has been a very different experience to learn the best methods to record like this. For example, sometimes we have had internet issues and have had to institute a system to account for delays on the call we are doing, so as to allow everyone to talk one by one and not to talk over each other.
We have also had some other difficulties due to our lack of free time. As the show must take a lower priority than work for Tom and Gabriel, it has not always been possible to coordinate our schedules such that recording the show has been possible. While we have brainstormed a few times and thought about a number of solutions, it has thus far proved to be difficult to find one that is reliable enough to implement.
A good experience I have had while working at River has also involved the freedom the show has been given. As there is little in the way of oversight, we have created all our own content including our stings, and branding. While I have had some experience with this before at university, the requirements to ensure that the social media branding and similar match the style that the rest of the station has used has been an interesting chance to experiment within constraints I have not had to deal with for the aforementioned university work.
Ultimately I believe that the experience at River Radio has allowed me to grow largely by coming to understand how much time and effort is needed to be put into every show, week in and week out. Unlike at university, where there was always a fixed endpoint for anything we did, even the pop-up station, the ongoing nature of the work at River means that the effort effectively increases over time as we strive to create more content without rehashing old ground. I have also come to further appreciate how hard it is to schedule a recording session for programs like ours, where there is no guaranteed free time for us all to get together and record our material. I do not believe that this experience would be typical of every show, as anything that is sent out live is in some ways easier to schedule, as they require that everyone appear at a fixed time and place, as opposed to our setup of needing to schedule an hour and a half free whenever all our schedules align, which change from week to week.
Looking to the future is an interesting experience. I am no longer sure I wish to work in radio professionally. However, were I to choose to do so I would begin by looking abroad. I am in something of a unique position, as I possess both an English passport and an American green card. This means I have the capability to work in both the UK and the United States. Given that my accent is somewhat unusual in the US I believe I would be best served to begin
looking for a presenting job there, using my accent as a unique selling point, something which is an advantage I do not believe can be discounted.
I would start by looking for any radio jobs in Rhode Island, and particularly in Providence. This is because my parents live there already and this would therefore be a good base of operations if I were to seek to start a career abroad. It is unlikely for me to instantly be able to present, so I would find a job that could support me while I continued looking for a presenting opportunity. While this would preferably be within the radio field, likely as an intern or similarly entry level position, it is equally likely this would be outside of the field and instead I would work in a supermarket or other job and volunteer my own time to involve myself in radio as I currently do. The best place to start would be a smaller radio company, or with a community radio station, such as Providence Community Radio. These would be more likely to accept me and would work as a jumping off point to begin a career.
Once I had established myself on such a station, I would seek to either move to a bigger station or to a better time slot within which to broadcast. This would either increase my career prospects through giving me more visibility or by increasing listenership. A likely result of moving to a larger station would be that I would no longer have a show that I would be personally responsible for, instead I would likely need to become a co-host. This would be perfectly practical and would allow me to get to know how that larger station operates. Finally I would hopefully move to broadcasting my own show on said larger station. If this were to be in Rhode Island, an ideal station would likely be one of iHeartRadio’s stations. A particular preference would be for Now 93.3, as that is what I listened to when I lived there, but as iHeart aggregates much of its content across stations, the specific station would likely not matter.
As an alternative, I could instead continue my work at River Radio and look for entry level jobs in the UK while I did so. Even though moving to the US would not prevent my ability to work for River, it would certainly be easier to continue to do so were I to remain in the UK. Further to this, this would allow a similar plan, but would give me something of a different boost. Rather than relying on a unique selling point, I would instead trade on the contacts and experience I already have more effectively. In effect, this would likely play out in a similar fashion as in the US, however, I would have already completed the first stage, and have better resources with which to continue on into the future stages.
However, as I mentioned, I am no longer sure I wish to work in radio as a profession. A different path for me might instead be to look into a different audio career. My first choice for this would likely be as a sound effects or a Foley artist. While I would need further research to put together a comprehensive plan of action into becoming either of these, I would start by reaching out to some of my contacts. I have a number of such contacts who already work in film and television, or in audio fields themselves. They could help guide me into the first steps, which may be further training, if my current qualifications do not suffice, or help me find openings in companies that currently possess them.