If you're a music fan, then one of your dreams jobs must be working in music radio – playing music you like to people all day long...and getting paid for it. And if you're an inspiring musician getting your first radio play is a career milestone. To find out about music radio in the UK I had a chat with the men behind the UK's two premier new music radio stations, Mike Walsh, Head of Music at XFM and Jon Myer, music manager at BBC 6 Music the BBC's new music station. Here, find out what Myer has to say about his job and check back soon for Walsh’s answers.
Question: How did you get started working in radio - was it something you always wanted to do?
It was something I wanted to do from a very early age. I did some volunteer work on a local BBC station while I was at university and was very lucky to be taken on by Capital Radio as a trainee studio technical operator when I graduated. I stayed with Capital for 14 years, gradually moving up "through the ranks" - technical operator - producer - executive producer, etc. I have been with the BBC since 1990.
You're now music manager at BBC 6 Music, what does that job entail?
The station's music policy is determined by Jeff Smith (Head of Music for Radio 2 and 6 Music) but the day-to-day implementation is my responsibility so than means administering the playlist, scheduling the music (with the help of a colleague), dealing with the record companies, keeping across release dates, etc..
What would be a good way for someone starting out to get a job in music radio?
So many people apply for every vacancy that, to stand out from the crowd, it really helps if you have done something in the media, however minor, already - maybe some work experience on a radio station or in a studio, that sort of thing. College radio or community stations are a good start. BBC 6 Music offers one month internships, giving people the chance to work on the Breakfast or Morning shows (click here for details) and a number of people have got their first breaks here.
You must receive a ton of music, how do you pick out the good tracks?
We hold a playlist meeting every week, chaired by Jeff Smith. I attend, along with the station music scheduler, the Programme Editor and the daytime producers. We look at the releases for a particular date (four weeks ahead of the playlist implementation date) and everyone brings along the tracks they feel strongly about that are due on that date. Then it is just a matter or debate and discussion. We usually end up with consensus on what should go on but there are sometimes more good tracks than there is space so they may be taken back the following week for a second attempt.
As well as the playlist, which governs those new releases which are played on rotation across the day, all the shows on 6 Music have a degree of free choice to allow the DJs to champion music. So, even if a track isn't playlisted, it can still pick up plays on the station.
Any advice to bands sending music into radio stations - anything they should do? And anything they shouldn't?
People are increasingly sending tracks electronically but, personally, I still prefer to receive tracks on CD. Having everything in the same format makes it much easier to keep track of what I have listened to and what is still waiting to be heard. It is depressing how many CDs I receive which don't have basic information with them - obvious things like contact details, date of release, etc.
6 Music plays a very broad range, but there are some styles of music that don't fit and it surprises me when I get phone calls or emails from people who are plugging tracks that are totally unsuitable. They obviously have never heard the station. I would advise anyone releasing a track to listen to the station they are contacting, just to make sure you aren't wasting yours and the recipient's time.
Should bands follow up sending in a CD with a phone call/email, or will you call them if you like what you hear?
I listen to absolutely everything I get sent so, if it doesn't get playlisted, it is safe to assume that it isn't suitable. I am afraid I can't write back with a detailed critique for everything I receive - there just aren't enough hours in the day.
The station playlist is published on the web site, as are the track-listings for all the individual shows, so people can easily check what is being played without having to listen to the station 24x7.
What's the best thing about your job? And the worst?
The best thing: I have always loved being involved in live radio. There is something very satisfying about the way a radio programme can grow organically. A throw-away comment from a DJ, or text from a listener, can grow into an unexpected feature. Although I am not in the studio as a hands-on producer any more, I still enjoy being involved. And I still get excited when the post arrives! Every day there is new music to hear.
But that pile of music is also the worst thing about the job. It's unending. I can never catch up. There is always a pile of CDs sitting there, waiting to be heard.
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