John Robb: Inside his punk radio show ‘Louder Than War’
we talk to Brawlers about their radio fame
we chat with Maz about XFM’s communion presents Our top 3 radio related fIlms
radio 1’s Steve Holden talks NEwsbeat
A guide to your fIrst ever radio show 1
a Note from the
Editor Welcome to the fIrst issue of Freq. magazine. Here at Freq. we offer an insight into the world of radio in the UK. Whether you’re an occasional listener or a seasoned industry professional, we aim to both inform and entertain. this month’s issue is focussed on the budding broadcast journalist, and so we’ve spoken to the likes of Team Rock Radio’s John Robb, XFM’s Maz Tappuni and BBC Radio1 Newsbeat’s Steve Holden about their shows and their careers. We also have a chat with brand new band Brawlers about their fIrst radio play, take a look at exactly why the radio is better than Spotify and a variety of other articles. So why not stick on your favourite radio show, relax and have a read.
Communion presents with Maz Tappuni
John Robb: Louder Than War
Top 3 radio related fIlms
Going live in 3...2..1
Newsbeat with Steve Holden
Spotify vs. Radio
Communion Presents Communion took its first little steps into the music industry way back in 2006, with a monthly night named ‘Communion Presents’ held at Notting Hill Arts Club in London. Before long, those steps transformed into ground breaking strides. It stemmed from an impressive musical pedigree, with Mumford and Sons Ben Lovett and Kevin Jones from Bear’s Den as its founders. Communion Presents became an integral platform for emerging talent, and after helping the likes of Noah and The Whale, King Charles and Ben Howard along their way 2009 saw the creation of Communion Records. Boasting releases from Matt Corby, Daughter and Deap Vally (to name just a few) Communion Records are truly one of the leading voices when it comes to fresh, independent music – especially here in London. Thankfully, Communion has since branched into even more ventures. I sat down with Maz Tuppuni to discuss his show, Communion Presents, aired weekly on XFM. It was interesting to discover that Maz’s career wasn’t exactly straightforward. “I studied French and Business at university, which wasn’t really anything to do with this. But I wouldn’t be me without it.” He explained, before going on to detail how he ended up in the headquarters of Communion sat talking to me. It seems that the allure
of a career in music came from his friends, as he started by driving them to and from gigs, and eventually became a tour manager for a few of the bands. He then began organising his own nights in London, until around four years ago when he was approached by Communion to move his talents there. From then on he went from strength to strength, until just over a year ago when the opportunity arose to create a show for XFM. Of course, this would be a huge deal for anyone, but his passion for both the music and the station was obvious from the moment we sat down. “XFM approached us actually, which was like a dream. I’d been such a huge fan of theirs for years. I remember when I was younger; we’d listen to XFM on the half hour car journey to school.” He recalled fondly. “They used to have this competition where you’d have to ring up and do something, I think you had to make as much noise as you could or something like that, anyway, I used to ring and ring and ring until one day I got through. That was amazing!” I wondered for a moment how Maz’s younger self would have reacted to the news that one day he’d be hosting his very own show. I began to realise that Maz was the perfect example of how being a dedicated fan can be a real asset when
with Maz Tappuni Photography by Roo Lewis pursuing a career in radio. One of the most important things is your own knowledge, not just about the music you’re playing but the people you’re playing it for. However, it can make it a bit difficult to keep your cool at times. On recounting his first ever show, Maz could help but laugh. “It was quite nerve-wracking. I’m sure if you listened to it now you’d hear my voice shaking and it didn’t help that I was interviewing The Maccabees, which are one of my favourite bands. I was so lucky that it was pre-recorded so I got to do a few takes”. The idea of doing your first ever radio show is terrifying enough, but the notion of having to
us actually, which was like a dream. I’d “ XFMbeen approached such a huge fan of theirs for years. I remember when I was younger; we’d listen to XFM on the half hour car journey to school.
interview a band that you hold in such high esteem at the same time is enough to knock most people for six. This of course illustrates another musthave trait to work on the radio; a certain degree of professionalism.
Of course you can’t let that get in the way of enjoying yourself. As long as you create something that the audience will enjoy and you had fun making, you’re pretty much set. I asked Maz about some of the guests he’d had on that had stuck in his mind, and got some mixed reactions. “I remember when we had Bear’s Den in for a show a while back, I’ve known those guys for a long time. When it came to the interview they couldn’t even look me in the eye without laughing. Another reason that I’m glad it’s not live!” He explained that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but had the circumstances been different it would have been quite an issue. “Warpaint and Fink stick in my mind too” he continued. “I mean, Fink have been one of my favourite bands for such a long time, I practically spent my entire time at university listening to them. Then they came on the show a little while ago, and it was pretty incredible.” Communion Presents provides another platform for Communion to spread the word about their wonderful work. Nowadays, this is an important strategy to have for nearly everyone in the media. If you’re not present and alert across a variety of different platforms including social media, the radio, and live promotions and events you are going to severely hinder yourself.
Communion’s use of the radio is a perfect example of how to utilise this to your favour. “When I put together my show it’s great that I get to talk up lots of the bands that we work with. I get to play their songs and promote gigs that we put on, so I think it’s pretty beneficial for both sides.”
also trying to arrange a guy called Hozier to come in. He’s “We’re an Irish musician and he’s incredible, he’s so talented. He’s really intelligent too, so I’m actually kind of nervous about that. ” The artists themselves are given the opportunity to share a lot more than just upcoming tour dates with us. Occasionally Communion Presents comes to us in the form of a takeover show, something that Maz seems quite proud of – and I have to agree with him. “Luke Pritchard from The Kooks is coming in to do a takeover show soon. He’ll play a track from his upcoming album and then about 10 other songs that he’ll discuss too. I love doing shows like that, because it gives you the chance to really get inside a band’s mind.” But allowing someone that kind of freedom will always pose a little bit of a risk. He’d even had to intervene for one of these shows. “We had Marcus Mumford in a little while ago, and he wanted to play Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus. I asked him why, and he said it was just a really good pop song. That is true, but it’s just not the right kind of song for the show. People would have been put off I think.” I discovered that there had been other issues with musicians on the show, mainly to do with conversations that were perhaps a little too open. “We’ve had quite a few bands in that have talked about doing drugs and getting drunk with other bands, and they’ve named then. Is we weren’t a pre-recorded show that would’ve been terrible to broadcast live!”
Communion are constantly moving and evolving, and they love to keep their following up-to-date with their every move. Their weekly updates are full of new releases, gig dates and occasionally even free songs, and the XFM show could be seen as an extension of this. I enquired as to what was next for the show, and as usual, it all sounds pretty exciting. “Well we’ve got Bear’s Den coming back in this week which will be great, we haven’t had them for a while now. We’re also trying to arrange a guy called Hozier to come in. He’s an Irish musician and he’s incredible, he’s so talented. He’s really intelligent too, so I’m actually kind of nervous about that.” I was limited to a short-term plan for the future however; as Maz explained that he’d had a few experiences that left
him tentative to talk up potential guests too much. “We’ve had people ring up and cancel on the very same day we were supposed to work with them, so I don’t like to say anything is 100% certain. If I spend ages talking it up and they do have to pull out, I’m left looking like a dick” He laughed. The majority of what I had learned so far had been positive, but there are very few things in life that come without any challenging aspects. “I think the main challenge for me personally is the technical side, I’m really not great at that, so I’m lucky I have an amazing producer at the moment. But he’s getting pretty busy now, so I’m probably going to have to start learning all of that so I can produce my own shows”. But this doesn’t seem to deter Maz at all, as he told me “I’d like to think I’ll carry this on for a long time. I’m really enjoying it!” Talking with Maz Tappuni about his inspiring career with both Communion and XFM prompted me to ask if he had any advice for someone looking to take a slightly similar path, and he had some pretty strong views on the subject. “A lot of people think that they can just finish their degree and walk straight into a job and that’s just not possible.” “I’d say you have to just work as hard as you can and put in loads of time and effort. I’ve seen so many interns come through XFM and you can tell who’s going to last.” He then went on to comment on something that isn’t often
lot of people think that they can just “ AfInish their degree and walk straight into a job and that’s just not possible.”
discussed when it comes to interns. “You don’t want to be too friendly and in everyone’s face, try to keep to yourself just a little bit so that you people don’t get sick of you, and just work as hard as you can.” This is something that I think pretty much anyone thinking about venturing into a career in the media needs to think about. Nothing will be easy at first, but the more you work for it, the greater that reward will be. You can catch Maz’s show every Sunday from 10pm-11pm on XFM, or listen later through the XFM website.
John Robb: In short, John Robb is widely considered to be an industry legend. He’s had his fingers in various musical and literary pies since he formed his first punk band, The Membranes, in 1977. Since then he has gone on to manage, produce and front various sensational bands, all whilst maintaining a career that any journalist would find themself extremely jealous of. From penning various critically acclaimed books to discovering Nirvana and coining the term BritPop, he’s just about done it all. And now, he’s established his own incredible, no-nonsense punk show broadcast once a week on Team Rock Radio. Robb’s radio show serves as an honest extension of his successful website of the same name, and it is truly a treat to be guided through the music that exemplifies such a passionate person by the very man himself. Louder Than War kicks off the very first few hours of Sunday (or the remaining hours of your Saturday, depending on your sleep schedule) and airs from Midnight to 2am, along with the show being uploaded on the station’s website every week for you to catch up on, or indulge yourself with a second, third or fourth time.
I sat down with John Robb to explore his views about his (relatively) new venture, and here’s what I found out...
Is your First experience with the world of radio or have you dabbled with it before? Over the years I’ve done bits and bobs on the radio, like being asked to be a guest on radio shows. I’ve been doing that for about 20 years now. It’s always been quite difficult to get my own show really, because I guess a lot of the music I liked was a bit too noisy for commercial radio.
Would you say you prefer being able to show people the kind of music you’re discussing straight away through the radio, or do you prefer writing about it and waiting for them to discover it themselves? I think it’s always good writing, because I enjoy writing. But I like the idea of the internet now, that if you want to hear
Louder than war something you can just go straight to YouTube so I like that thing that on a website you can have someone’s soundcloud or you can have someone’s YouTube clip so people can instantly get to what something sounds like, because there is always that danger that you can sort of change things, you’ve got to be careful about then when you’re writing. It can’t be helped because you always have your own opinion on things, but you can slant it away from what it originally is, and I think that’s one of the best things about the modern media really. Most things, say if you write about a new band on a website you can always have it with the YouTube clip so people can actually make their own minds up about what it sounds like. So I think the task of a journalist has sort of changed now in a way, it’s a lot less about describing the sounds, and a lot more about putting the piece of music into some sort of context.
is so diverse that it seems odd to me that you “haveMusictonowadays have a specialist show to play what is actually quite a popular type of music ”
Do you feel like the Internet is helping the radio industry because of all the different ways it can now be accessed? I think it’s changing it quite radically really. In the old days there was a lot of reliance on Radio 1 as a conduit for music, but now the internet, with websites, internet radio sort of channels, and YouTube as well, and band’s own websites when they give away tracks, and Spotify as well it’s a multi-media platform now
Compared to your website, it’s defInitely more obvious that your radio show is punk-based, do you think that’s something that you feel like you have to do? Do you think it’s important to have to have more of a niche with a radio show as opposed to a website or a magazine? Yeah I think that with the radio show it was commissioned as a punk radio show, because it’s a
rock radio station. So I thought that was a good thing really, because it’s a genre of music that gets no radio play at all, so it’s good to have a space where you can actually hear that kind of music. It kind of shows the BBC up for what it is really, because they don’t play rock music at all. Like on Six Music you’ll very rarely hear rock music, so you have to have a whole station dedicated to rock music because the BBC won’t do it. So it was commissioned as a punk show because we’re allowed to talk about what we like there, but I just use the name for both because one advertises the other in a way.
How did you get into the radio business? Did they approach you with the idea or where you actively looking to start a show? Yeah they came to me and asked me if I wanted to do a punk show, and I sort of described the way they wanted to do it and they said yeah that’s cool, and it was as simple as that really. I mean once they made the initial contact about doing it then it all fell into place.
Do you travel down to London to record your show or are you able to do it at home? It’s a really fantastically modern way of doing it, I record the links at home, send them down to the people in London and they just edit the whole show together, which is great. I record it on garage band on my laptop and I think it’s so 21st century innit? If I had to be in London I’d go to their radio station to record the show, because I feel like it’s better to actually do it in the studio because you get a feel for what you have to do on your radio show instead of y’know, sitting at home, but both work in their own way. It’s just because of the amount of time and also because we’re in different cities it makes it a lot easier just to do it from here.
a journalist has sort of changed now in a “way,I thinkit’s thea lottasklessofabout describing the sounds, and a lot more about putting the piece of music into some sort of context. ” Do you think it’s important to perhaps have a show that’s just dedicated to showcasing new talent, because it’s such a good platform to actually get it out there and get it heard? I would actually like to have it so that you could hear that kind of music everywhere you went but we are an alternative station so y’know, it’s like radio 1 should play much more diverse music but they don’t, so in the end you’ve got specialist shows. I don’t really like the idea of specialist shows, I mean it’s kind of good that everyone knows where to go to listen to a certain type of music, but its also quite frustrating that its kind of pushed into the back corners so it becomes ghettoised, when it should be part of the mainstream. Music nowadays is so diverse that it seems odd to me that you have to have a specialist show to play what is actually quite a popular type of music but that’s
the way it is on radio. Radio kind of ghettoises all types of music. lk
Do you think that the Internet could possible be harming the world of radio? Do you think that there is room for the radio industry looking at the next 20 years? Well at the moment there definitely is, I mean if it carries on, I think that the Internet will eventually kind of morph into one, it’s the same as TV as well. It’s like eventually the Internet will be the TV, I mean that’s just the way things are going. I think a lot of the problems that the radio has in the same way that the printed music press has had over the years, is that it’s become almost a dying form. The internet is perfect for people to listen to music in a very eclectic kind of way, and it kind of dictates how people listen to music nowadays, but the radio and the press doesn’t seem to be able to go with that, so in a way they’ve been outmoded. It’s not because, I mean yeah there are certain things like people don’t want to pay for stuff and they don’t have to on the internet because it’s all free, but people get out of the habit of buying weekly music papers or putting on a radio station, and people are on the internet all the time. I mean there’s a lot of social networking, which is probably the mainstream media now for information, and from that you can only really connect to it with Internet websites or radio stations so it’s an inevitability. But also the fact is that the internet is a far better place to deal with people’s diverse music taste than radio stations who seem really not interested in moving with the way that people’s music taste is changing.
Would you have any advice for people that are thinking about getting into that industry, speciFically the radio? It’s quite easy for me to put together a show, I work out what I’m gonna play and I send that to them and that takes me about 20 minutes, then I spend about 20 minutes doing the links so really it’s 40 minutes work, so it’s not a lot of hassle for me, but for people just coming into this kind of thing, don’t forget to know your music, be really into it, think about it in a context, be enthusiastic about it, know what you like, know what you don’t like, and the way things are going at the moment. Really work your social media to get your stuff out there and to get people to come back to your website or your radio show. You’ve got to be proactive. In the old days, like people in the BBC, they could do their show, hand it to the BBC and they’d push it for them, but for freelance people, the old method for freelancing is that you’d have an idea and somebody else would put it in their music paper, but nowadays you have to put it up yourself and you have to promote it yourself, so you have to get people to listen to it or read about it so you have to use social networking. You have to know about social networking to be able to do that, there’s a few little tricks that you have to employ. And you have to be patient as well because it takes time for people to know that you’re there and to come to you as well.
Top three radio The radio has undoubtedly had a huge effect on a substantial amount of our modern culture. Each month we’ll bring you the very best of radio inspired culture, with everything from songs to books. This week we’ll be taking a look at the world of cinema and what we believe to be the top three radio related fIlms. Now, this is a little bit of a tenuous link here, but bear with me. ‘Radio’ was released in 2003, and follows the true story of Hanna High School football coach Harold Jones and James Effinhimer Robert ‘Radio’ Kennedy, and their lives in late 60s America. Ed Harris and Cuba Gooding, Jr. respectively portray these challenging characters in a film that draws from a full spectrum of emotions. James Kennedy struggled with severe mental disabilities, and found himself with the nickname ‘Radio’ due to his obsession with the inner workings of the machines. The film documents the meeting of Radio and Jones, and the difficulties Radio faces
attempting to integrate himself (along with Jones’ help) into a less-than-understanding society. Jones urges Radio to try and participate in mainstream education, and the implications that has on not only their lives, but everyone around them, proves to be a difficult, but rewarding, watch. It could be argued that the film also demonstrates how important the radio is for society, even to those who can’t understand it for it’s intended purpose and instead find whatever enjoyment they can from it’s basic form. Radio’s other obsession – football – gains far more screen time, but I still whole-heartedly recommend this film. It may not have been critically acclaimed, but there’s a stark honesty about it that is truly appealing.
Good Morning, Vietnam
Released in 1987, Good Morning, Vietnam offers us the opportunity to see Robin Williams in his absolute prime. The film takes place during the war in Vietnam, and is the perfect example of how an endearing radio personality can brighten even the most dire of situations. Williams portrays the lovable and eccentric disk jockey Adrian Cronauer, who is transferred to Vietnam to work for the Armed Forces Radio Service. Whilst there, his joyous, humorous and uplifting radio shows are met with both loyal support and annoyance from his listeners and his peers respectively. The film doesn’t shy away from the harshness and the awful experiences that were endured by those who fought in the actual war. Without giving
too much away, Cronaur and Private First Class Edward Montesquieu Garlick (Forrest Whitaker) find themselves experiencing the severity of the war torn Vietnam. Cronauer finds himself falling in love with a local girl, and pursues this to many people’s dismay. But that’s not the most important thing about this award winning film. What really sticks in your mind is just how much William’s character has an effect on the troops, exemplifying the idea that a passionate radio personality can truly make a difference, even with war and carnage all around. In fact, one of the awards that this film won was the Political Film Society Award for Peace.
In 2009, The Boat That Rocked meekly dipped its oars into the world of British cinema without making too much of a fuss. In a way, that’s part of its beauty. It doesn’t boast a cast of extraordinary fame, choosing rather to exemplify one of extraordinary talent. It has a story line that doesn’t yank you around with insane plot twists to try and keep you on your toes, instead slightly dramatizing our own amazing history of popular radio. It doesn’t even need as Oscar-winning director (although he may have been nominated), alternatively this beautifully British film is brought to us by Writer/Director Richard Curtis, without whom we wouldn’t have the likes of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones and Love Actually to name a few. In short, if you’re even slightly interested in British culture and, of course, the world of radio, The Boat That Rocked is an absolute must-see.
The unlikely ‘hero’ if you will of this film comes in the form of young Carl, played by Tom Sturridge. With Carl, the audience is thrust into the amusing, carefree and downright marvellous world of Pirate Radio. From his privileged, boarding school life Carl is introduced to a stunning cast of lovable characters that have all found peace, love and rock’n’roll at Radio Rock, aired from a boat anchored in the North Sea. He’s welcomed by the likes of Billy Nighy, Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, and the late, great, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Carl’s transition into accepting this new, liberal lifestyle is well documented and accented with an absolutely stunning soundtrack. Of course, with something as beautiful and free as the rise of music in the 60s, there has to be an evil force seeking to repress it. This is brought to us in the form of Sir Alistair Dormandy, who is the delightfully punchable antagonist of the film and
that rocked is brilliantly brought to life by Kenneth Branagh. Dormandy is a particularly uptight Cabinet Minister who has only one goal, and that is to destroy Radio Rock and everything it stands for. Of course, a film dedicated to the beginnings of Pirate Radio would be nothing without an incredible soundtrack, and again, The Boat That Rocked delivers. Within the first few minutes the audience is treated to the raucous ‘All Day and All of the Night’, a stomping hit from The Kinks. Simultaneously we are introduced to The Count (or Philip Seymour Hoffman as he’s better known to you and me) who acts as the life and soul of the station with his amazing shows. The film continues to provide killer tunes for the duration, including The Beach Boys, The Turtles, The Who, The Tremeloes, Jeff Beck, Smokey Robinson and a plethora of other magnificent artists of the time. At times, it could be argued
that the film flirts with a musical theme, in the sense that certain songs correspond directly with whatever is happening on screen. In particular, the introduction of new characters (The Turtles’ ‘Elenore’ and Leonard Cohen’s ‘So Long Marianne’ accent these scenes wonderfully.) There’s something marvellous about how certain songs are used in this film, and I’d urge you to pay particular attention to the use of ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ by Procol Harum. If I could go into detail about the scene I would, but in order to avoid any sort of spoiler I shall just say that as a stand-alone piece of film, it’s an artistic delight. And there we have it, our top three films . Of course there are a few films that we would have loved to include, but we’re here to bring you the best of the best. Look out for next month’s issue, where you’ll find our top three songs!
Going live in 3,2,1...
With ever-expanding platforms, an influx of new stations both local and national, and a popularity that’s yet to take a hit, a career in radio is one that a lot of people strive for. However, getting your foot in the door is truly a daunting task. When I decided, nearly three years ago, that this was the path I wanted to take, I had no idea quite how to go about it. But don’t worry, I have good news - I figured it out! What follows are the details of my very first live show, how I got there, and some helpful tips for anyone interested in a career in broadcast journalism without a clue how to get started.
Here’s the thing, it’s not very likely that you will find your feet instantly. I began by contacting just about every radio station I could think of over the course of about a month, and I faced quite a few setbacks. As I had no prior experience a lot of the stations I got in touch with completely ignored my emails, some showed a little
It’s very diffIcult to create a show using music that you’re not familiar with, and I found out that’s exactly what I had to do. I was asked to do my very own show, live on air for an entire hour in just one weeks time.
interest, but nothing came of it for quite a while. I had hopeful feedback from a small station in London, but due to an unknown reason, our agreement fell through and I was back to square one. Then, at long last, a community radio station in Guildford granted me an interview and I secured a work experience placement at Kane FM. That’s one of the first tips I believe is worth remembering – nobody jumps straight into the massive companies. By contacting much smaller stations you have a far better chance of gaining at the very least a little bit of experience. It’s also a lot easier to make connections and attain the training you actually need if you want to progress, but I’ll get into that a bit more later. On my first day I was pretty much observing, soaking up as much information as possible. I was encouraged to ask as many questions as I wanted, and that’s tip number 2. You will get nowhere if you don’t ask questions. It’s all well and good to watch someone operate the DJ software package Traktor, or the mic channels, or even the EQ stabilisers, but unless you ask what they are doing how can you be expected to know what to do with it yourself? I was lucky to witness several different DJs working over the next few days, all with very different methods. Some preferred to use vinyl, a method typically used on Pirate stations, some brought in pre-recorded shows and just dipped in and out to interact with their audience and discuss different topics. A tremendous amount of care and effort went into each show, and it was here I learned just how much time goes in to making a single show. You need to take into account the time of day, what your listeners are doing, what songs work well played together, and then create a playlist that fits everything. This is where I found my first issue. I pride myself in my music taste being quite broad, but I found myself working on a station that played EDM, Electronica, Reggae and Dance, among other similar genres. I had nothing against these different types of music, but I also had absolutely no knowledge of them. It’s very difficult to create a show using
music that you’re not familiar with, and I found out that’s exactly what I had to do. I was asked to do my very own show, live on air for an entire hour in just one weeks time. And so, for the next week I immersed myself in as much of this music as I could, deciding what I liked and what I didn’t like, and learning everything about it. I also found myself working with the legendary DJ Michael ‘Jazzy M’ Schiniou, who pioneered House music in the UK working for The Ministry of Sound and has since turned his hand to creating wonderful radio shows. He urged me to include music that I truly had a deep passion for, so I scoured the Internet for remixes of a few of my favourite songs. I found fantastic remixes of songs from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and even Cage The Elephant, and worked them all into my playlist. I also unearthed a few new favourites, such as Time by The Pachanga Boys and Til It’s Gone by Umami, songs that I still listen to over a year later. I continued sitting in on as many shows as I could, badgering everyone with questions and soaking up as much as possible in preparation. I sat in on a few shows to talk with different DJs live on air, in an attempt to get myself used to the idea and alleviate some of the nerves. Then, it was finally my turn. I had finalised my playlist, uploaded them to two separate memory sticks (to make the switches between songs easier) and familiarised myself with as much of the technology as possible. Thankfully, Michael stayed to help produce my show so I could concentrate on interacting as much as possible with my listeners. I was advised to prepare around two hours worth of music to help the flow, if you only have just enough songs to fill your hour what happens if you chance your mind about a song halfway through your show, or one of the files is corrupt and doesn’t play? Admittedly, I was terrified when I began, but that quickly disappeared. One of the most important pieces of advice I have to offer is to make sure you’re enjoying what you’re doing and to just have fun. If you’re happy and relaxed it comes across in your voice, and if you’re not, it doesn’t make for very good listening. After all, you’re true purpose is to entertain your audience, not just yourself. Again I found myself to be incredibly fortunate, and the positive feedback I had from my show prompted the station manager to offer me another amazing training opportunity. I was asked to stay on indefinitely and they would teach me how to produce shows myself, expanding my skills for my future. While this was truly wonderful, and I’ve learned a stupendous amount, this does highlight another point. It’s unlikely that you will able to go straight into a paid job, so expect to do a lot of work for free! But then again, what price can you honestly put on your first venture into a career that you adore? There’s one last thing to remember. This happens to be how I was able to procure my very first experience in the world of radio, and yours will be different. There are a few tips and bits of advice that I think are important, but you will have different opportunities and trials. The intention of this article is merely to highlight a path that you illustrate the benefits of the path I took, and I hope that if you remember some of these tips, it will work out for you too.
Radio famous Every now and again, new talent bubbles up from the depths of the British music scene, and at the moment, that’s coming to us in the form of Brawlers. Hailing from Leeds, the bouncy quartet released their debut EP ‘I Am a Worthless Piece of Shit’ on the 5th of March, but don’t let the title fool you - this six track EP is more frivolous than volatile. Their songs are genuinely enjoyable to listen to, and even disguise interesting social commentaries such as the track ‘Instagram Famous’. It’s very difficult to pin them down to one genre, but there are definite hints of New Wave Pop-Punk woven into this effervescent EP. I had a chat with vocalist Harry Johns about their recent airtime on Radio 1.
Firstly, I’d like to know how and when you guys fIrst got together? Well we’ve been best mates for ages but we had a meeting about starting Brawlers in April 2013.
Do you fInd it challenging fronting a band like this?
I think the band is full of challenges for us, I’ve never been ‘just’ a singer before. Matthew and Ant are amazing musicians but they ‘dumb’ themselves down because the music sounds best simple, which I think can be difficult. It’s all a new experience that’s very different to the bands we’ve been in before.
Do you prefer your time in the studio or playing live shows? Man, I get weird in the studio, I have mad ADHD so being stuck in a room for days doing the same thing heaps of
times makes me crazy, I prefer playing live any day of the week.
Were you approached by Radio 1 first to play your songs, how did that come about? I honestly don’t know, I guess we have a pretty immediate sound, you know? We don’t take three weeks to walk a fortnight in Brawlers!
How did you feel when you fIrst heard one of your songs being played on National radio? We freaked out. HARD.
How has this affected the members of the band personally, and the career of the band itself?
National radio play has increased our scope to reach new fans, which is what we’re all about as a new band. But personally not at all! If this was 1997 we’d have some money maybe but alas, its 2014 and until you’re as big as Elton John aint no one making any money! Thankfully that’s not why we do this band!
Have you noticed an increase in popularity in person and on social media?
I guess, we’re getting there you know? The gigs are getting better attended, some people even sing along now, I’m not huge on social media but we all understand the bonus of its importance so we try hard to keep up with everything on the internet and get back to all the nice people .
Newsbeat with Steve Holden BBC Radio 1 and Radio 1Xtra serve as the soundtrack for many of our day-to-day lives here in Britain. Within this, we get such a wide variety of different segments and shows that cater to pretty much everyone. Another integral role that they play in our lives is keeping us up to date with world news, which is a task that is completed admirably. I was lucky enough to discuss this with Newsbeat reporter Steve Holden in an attempt to find out what it’s like the other side of the mic.
How exactly did you manage to get where you are today?
It took about 10 years in total to get to Newsbeat. I studied a broadcast journalism degree at Leeds uni, and then worked for a local station in Sheffield called Hallam FM on a news team of six people. Then I moved to London in 2006 to work as part of IRN - that’s a service that provides news to commercial radio stations across the country. After going freelance in 2009, I worked at several organisations including BBC 5Live, BBC London, ITN and Sky News Radio. Finally, a job came up at Newsbeat in June 2010 as a reporter... I went for it and got it. So I’d say my experience counted for something!
Can you remember what it was like to present for the fIrst time? I remember what it was like to get my first report on air... Newsbeat is so prestigious and even though I’d had my
script for the news piece checked countless times I was still nervous when it went out on the air. My heart was beating, as I didn’t want to have made a mistake. Reading the news for the first time was also scary; you just don’t want to fluff any lines. After though, it was exhilarating as I’d wanted a job at Newsbeat since I was a teenager.
What kind of preparation do you do for each show?
Prep-wise, I make sure I’m across the news agenda every morning (sometimes though I have to set the news agenda which can be daunting) - I listen to Radio 4’s Today programme or 5Live in the morning to see what stories they’re covering. I check the BBC News and Sky News apps and then read through the newspapers and several different websites. I’m always trying to find stories that are both Newsbeat relevant (aimed at 16 to 24 years olds) and that have not been covered by the rest of the BBC.
How is each show put together?
A large team of reporters, editors, researchers and techies put together each show. The editor decides which stories to cover and assigns a reporter to cover them. It’s then up to each reporter to go off and study the story, find the correct audio clips, think of a treatment idea for the story. The presenter also comes in and checks the cues (the intros to the stories) and puts
their own stamp on them so that the whole programme gels together.
What are some of your highlights from working for Radio 1?
I’ve had loads of highlights but working at the festivals is always great. I’ve covered 3 Radio 1 Big Weekends, 3 T In The Park festivals as well as Leeds festival. It usually involves 3 hectic days of interviews, editing and writing. You always get good access so you’ll be backstage interviewing one band, then running to another stage to catch another. Always in the mind is that the material needs to be good enough to end up on air, so you always try to get good anecdotes from the bands to use as either on air clips or online write-ups.
remember what it was like to get my fIrst report on air... “ INewsbeat is so prestigious and even though I’d had my script for the news piece checked countless times I was still nervous when it went out on the air. What is it like to work for such a hugely popular station?
It’s great to work for Radio 1 and 1Xtra but the audience ALWAYS comes first. It’s no good putting your feet up, every story you do has to be engaging, intelligent, accessible and fun. It’s a nice challenge to work with.
Are there any particular challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Newsbeat’s audience is very specific. Often, it’s people who have no interest in the news, but they are interested in issues arising from the news. So a politics story may be boring to them, but the consequences usually matter - the budget is a good example. People think it’s boring, but it ends up affecting what’s in their wallet. Newsbeat’s challenge is to make every story accessible for the audience and inform them. So complicated subjects need to be made relevant, international stories need explaining and we have to come up with original ideas that will have an impact on the rest of the BBC, as well as the listener.
What have been some of your favourite news stories that you’ve reported on?
Favourite is probably not the right word but I have been sent abroad several times to report on serious stories (for example, the coverage of the deaths at the Love Parade dance music festival). It’s always tough being sent abroad to cover a difficult story, but rewarding when you manage to present something on air from another country. Obviously I’ve enjoyed interviewing some of my favourite bands too - that’s a huge perk.
Is this something you see yourself continuing with for a long time?
I certainly want to be reporting for the foreseeable future, whether that’s at Newsbeat or somewhere else in the BBC.
Never give up - show passion - show willing - be brave - be bold - be persistent - don’t be afraid of personality.
Do you have any predictions for the radio industry over the next few years?
For younger audiences, Radio will no longer be able to be a sole medium - it has to work in conjunction with a visual identity as well as a strong social media presence. Radio 1 is the first radio station in the world to achieve more than one million YouTube subscribers. Eventually, Radio 1 will have its home on the BBC Iplayer. I think more and
more radio stations will start putting vision first, audio second. There is a way of combining them both (so that you get a visual radio station) and we’re almost there with it.
Do you think that the Internet and social media have affected the BBC positively or negatively?
HUGELY positive. The BBC has embraced social media very well; we are now reliant on BBC News social media accounts as much as we are reliant on UGC (user generated content) - to find out stories through what people tell us on Twitter.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to pursue a similar career?
Never give up - show passion - show willing - be brave be bold - be persistent - don’t be afraid of personality.
Since it was first launched in 2008, Spotify has grown to reach an incredible amount of users. Its benefits are obvious and plenty, but, as with most things, there are a great many number of drawbacks too. Especially when compared to the radio stations we have available to us here in Britain. Spotify allows nearly everyone, everywhere to access hundreds and hundreds of thousands of songs in an instant, all from a nearly equal number of artists. Its fast, its simple, and its easy to access, so what could possibly go wrong? The answer to that is - not a lot. I use Spotify all the time, and I know that a lot of other people do to. It’s only when you start to analyse it against the radio that you realise how much you’re missing. The radio industry boasts such an incredible amount of talent that you’d be a fool to miss out
on. Sure, its great to listen to whatever music you want whenever you want, but what about the new music that you don’t know about? You could use Spotify’s Discover feature, but nothing quite beats that feeling of hearing a song on the radio and suddenly realising that you actually love it and need to look up everything you can about the artist. You have the option to pick and choose with Spotify, which could lead to you missing out on your feel good hit of the summer. Not to mention, the radio plays host to such a large amount of presenters that truly can make your listening experience. There’s a certain familiarity and trust that you build with different radio presenters, even if you’re not doing it consciously. If one of your favourite radio personalities suggests a new artists or a new song to listen to, you’re
far more likely to do so than if it was suggested to you by a impersonal piece of technology. You can get far more personal experiences with your favourite artists too. There are a large amount of radio shows that have interactive elements between popular musicians and their fans that you don’t get with Spotify. For example, Radio 1’s Live Lounge offers you the chance to hear your favourite artists in a whole new light. Sure, those tracks might end up on Spotify, but if you listen to it on air you get to hear them being interviewed too, so you’re getting even more for your non-existent money. Not to mention, if you want an ad-free experience you’ll have to pay for a subscription for Spotify Premium, whereas there are a number of radio stations that offer that service for free. You do the math! The radio is not just better for us as listeners, but it can be better for artists too. There are a large
number of shows, or at least segments within those shows, that dedicate time to playing up-and-coming, unheard musicians. This gives bands that are struggling to reach a wider audience the opportunity to do just that. As is detailed on their website, Spotify have deals in place with labels to arrange for bands music to be available on Spotify, which insinuates that a band or their label have to pay for that privilege. On the other hand, as we found out earlier from Brawlers, they didn’t even have to ask to be played on Radio 1. On the whole, both platforms do have benefits for both the artist and the listener, but it’s pretty clear which option provides a more entertaining, straightforward and easier experience for both.