Eddy Says

Eddy Says: Actually, Marsha says (well Eddy first, then Marsha)…

By | Published on Monday 5 October 2009

Marsha Shandur

Questions, questions, always questions. I get a lot of them. Mostly about music and demos, and a lot about radio, and how to go about getting involved in it. I’ll deal with demo/music advice another time, but will offer some tips on radio right now, albeit mainly by borrowing from Xfm’s Marsha.

I always help aspiring radio DJs when I can. I remember a young student called Annie MacManus asking me some questions a few years ago, and I talked to her and gave her some sound advice. She turned out rather well… best DJ on Radio One now, Annie Mac.

To be honest, it’s an awful time to get into radio just now; the whole thing is in a tailspin. But there are still radio stations and a need for talent, in front of the mic and behind it, so don’t give up if radio is your dream, just go in with your eyes open.

With that in mind, the best thing I can do right now is paste below a message that the wonderfully big hearted Marsha sent to a mutual Facebook friend last week.

****************

Here is my advice. It’s quite tough love, so brace yourself.

So, first of all, here’s the bad news: because of changes in the law, a lot of stations’ shows have become networked – ie with Xfm Manchester, there are only three shows that actually come from Manchester (Breakfast, Drive and Weekend Breakfast) with all the rest coming from London and going across both stations. This has happened to many radio stations across the UK (cf. The_One_Network). The BBC are going to be carrying out similar cuts in staff across the next two years. What it means is fewer jobs and more people (now out of work) competing for them. It’s a very tough business to get into just now. However, someone’s got to get employed, right?

Next comes the reality check: We DJs don’t usually pick the music ourselves. Actually, on Xfm, between 10pm-2am the presenters do, but this is extremely rare on commercial radio. On my show, I have three choices an hour (which I have to pick from an appropriate pool) and the rest are prescribed by the management.

It’s also an incredibly insecure industry. We’re all freelance (which means if you take a day off or have to miss work through illness, you don’t get paid), and could get the sack at any time. I know these days that’s true of many industries, but I think in radio it’s particularly brutal – there’s usually no notice period. You just get a phonecall informing you that the last show you did was the last and please clear your desk. So you often spend most of your time feeling worried you’re about to be let go.

Also, the hours suck. I have worked every Christmas Day, Easter Sunday and Bank Holiday since I started. For three years I woke up at 3am every Friday and Saturday. Which meant I could never go out with my friends without one of us having to be up for work the following day. Your employers generally don’t care about you. You are treated badly, and any years of good service means nothing. Outside of the BBC, there are very few staff. If you’re lucky there will be a producer on Breakfast, on the bigger stations one on drive, but otherwise you’re on your own, doing everything (including research, editing etc etc) on your own.

However, in spite of all of this, I still think it’s the best job in the entire world. That’s why I’ve been doing it for so long. Assuming I haven’t put you off, here’s what you have to do…

Broadcast/media courses are good, but by no means essential – much much much more important than this is experience. As such, if you’re going to uni or college, find make whether the course has a student radio station affiliated to it a very serious consideration. Get involved in hospital radio asap (look online for stations). Look into community radio as well (look online for stations) – if you want to be a presenter, you need as much on air experience as possible. Then start trying to get as much work experience in professional stations as you can.

Your best bet is to tap up small local stations. Have a look on the internet at what smaller stations run in your area, call them up and ask who’s in charge of work experience, write to that person telling them specific things you like about the station (if you’re not familiar with it, get familiar with it, listen or listen online), outlining your experience etc.

You can approach presenters direct too. Tell them you want to do work experience on their particular show, tell them what it is about that show you like. I get requests like yours all the time – if I think you’re just some chancer I’m not interested. If I think you are a genuine fan of the show or someone who’s bothered to make the effort to (a) find out which show I do and (b) listen to it, I might be.

Then if you hear nothing, pester them about once every couple of weeks with a “just wanted to check you got my email” type email. Do this by hitting reply all to your original email (so they can scroll down and remember who you are). In fact ALWAYS do that when emailing someone more than once (though you only have to ever do it for one email – they don’t need to read through four ‘just checking you got this’ emails before they get to the original one you sent).

Also, apply to as many stations as you can, regardless of whether you like that particular station or not. You need to just get loads of experience under your belt. Although it’s better to do more at fewer stations than do less at more stations. When a job comes up, they’re more likely to give it to the person who has already done a lot at that station than someone who’s just been there one day.

Every single time you meet anyone in the radio industry, chase them up with a “nice to meet you” email (email addresses are either obvious or easy to find on Google). If you’re still a student, go to as many student radio conferences as you can (www.studentradio.org.uk). If you’re not, go onto www.radioacademy.org and go to as many talks as you can.

Tailor your CV. Put all the radio experience in one section at the top of your work experience. Doesn’t matter which is paid/unpaid – the experience is most important. Two pages is acceptable length. Don’t bother with your postal address, age/martial status, and don’t waste space on writing the words “email:” and “mobile:” – it’s obvious it’s an email address. Don’t write CV at the top, just your name in big letters, with your email address and mobile number underneath.

**************

Obviously Marsha is a mainstream jock, so unfortunately she doesn’t get the musical freedom that lucky bastards like me, John Kennedy and Ian Camfield enjoy, so it’s not all doom and gloom on that front. There are and always will be ‘specialist’ shows, especially on BBC stations.

I’d add to this that demos should be as short as possible, with your absolute best at the top. People are so busy and usually make up their mind about you in the first twenty seconds.

Re starting out in lLocal radio, Marsha is spot on, it is the breeding ground. I started there. So did Chris Evans and countless others. You learn a bit of everything, it’s brilliant. Be prepared to work for free at the beginning, we all did, that’s normal.

The best thing about radio is the people. You get a much better quality of person in music radio than on music TV, in my experience. Of course there are exceptions – both glorious and horrible – to the rule, but generally, coked up arseholes go into TV and nice, normal, people go into radio.

Good luck, enjoy the ride and know that there are good people, like me and Marsha, who are always there, easily approachable and willing to help and give advice to those who need or want it.

eddy X

Eddy Says from this edition of the CMU Remix Update.


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