Chances are that when you listen to that little bit of radio magic, that bit of seemingly spontaneous design and brilliant production, will most likely be the work of a very talented and clever Radio Producer.
If you love music, the radio and great conversation then the radio producer career is probably a perfect fit. They’re the masterminds behind the show and bursting with creative ideas. You got what it takes? Read our guide below to find out how to make this a reality.
What is radio?
Let’s get into the basics: how does radio work? It’s a type of technology that communicates via radio waves. These waves are electromagnetic and run between the frequencies of 30 hertz and 300 gigahertz. The radio works by sending these signals over long distances to deliver information. They can also lock and unlock doors in a car from a distance. The sound is transmitted through Amplitude Modulation (AM) and Frequency Modulation (FM), which are the different frequencies radio production companies use. It’s also reasonably simple to make a radio if you understand what you’re doing and consists of an FM radio transmitter, an antenna, and resistors.
What is a radio producer?
A good radio producer is as vital as the charismatic radio music programme presenter. They ensure the show runs as smoothly as possible, bring creative ideas and manage the running in the background. Under the radio producer job description, it states that they are in charge of audio content of broadcasts, mobile platforms and the internet. They’re there for the entire process, from the planning stages to responding to the audience following the programme. Producers can work within independent radio stations or local stations. They’ll manage assistants, presents, DJs, IT staff and engineers to ensure the show runs as planned and they’re targetting their key audiences. In some cases, a radio producer will also manage commercial and business management. They can work within commercial, voluntary, or publicly funded sectors, and digital radio has allowed radio stations and programmes to expand.
For those starting in commercial or local stations, it can range from £13,000 and £16,000.
What is national radio? Independent National Radio is the term for the three commercial stations that broadcast on analogue radio. The two stations on AM were previously used by BBC Radio 3 (INR2) and BBC Radio 1 (INR3). They arrived following the Broadcasting Act 1990, which permitted the launch of independent national radio (INR) stations. The INRI licence, on FM, had to be for ‘non-pop’, and INR3 was for speech-based shows. Whereas, INR2 was open for all. The licences were then awarded to the highest bidder if they met the criteria set by the act. Well, known stations have been around for decades, including Classic FM, by Global Radio, which first aired in 1992, followed by Absolute Radio owned by Bauer Radio in 1993 and Talksport, owned by Wireless Group in 1995.
Famous radio DJs include Sara Cox, Chris Evans, Chris Moyles, Scott Evans, Trevor Nelson and Danny Baker. There is a long list of well-loved DJs across various stations.
What does a radio producer do?
Those who work in radio production can either take on a reporting or presenting role. But typically, producers research radio show ideas, pitch commissions, develop content and write bulletins, scripts and links. Sourcing contributors, interviewees and managing the organisation of people and equipment for the show are vital tasks.
A radio producer will select appropriate music for the target audience, station identity and the programme itself. They’ll not only bring contributors, presenters, staff and reports but will interview, edit and report themselves if it is required. They’ll manage audio files such as radio shows themselves, convert texts, video, graphics and media into various formats and become familiar with archive audio resources.
Also, producing user-generated content, editing software and responding to listeners online and social media and collating their comments and feedback, are everyday responsibilities. Following health and safety standards, as well as trade union requirements, are an essential duty.
How to become a radio producer?
Any graduate can enter the career, but studying media or radio production will increase your opportunities within the industry. Also, broadcast journalism and media studies students are successful in this job, as they cover knowledge and skills associated with a radio program. It’s not necessary to have a postgraduate degree. Still, it is useful if you want to study further, specialise in a particular area or if your first degree was not in a related subject.
Most radio producers have an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, so if you hold a relevant qualification, you’ll be in a better position job-wise. It’s also worth looking for courses at both levels that are approved by ScreenSkills - the industry skills body - or the radio industry as these degrees will include the radio creative specific skills vital for the profession.
You’ll still need relevant qualifications to be part of radio city presenters, as most have media experience, either through radio, TV, presenting or hosting. In some instances, you may be able to join the career without a degree but expect to work your way up over time. You’ll need to show that you have relevant skills, work experience and enthusiasm to potential employers.
Radio is a broadcast profession, ensure you want to work in this area over television or print. Understand that radio is an ever-changing industry, from digital radio to the effects social media and the internet have on programmes. You should try to listen to a wide variety of radio stations, programmes and shows in and out of your interest to get a grasp on how they form together.
Try to network as much as possible, as it could help you further down the line. Any experience in podcasts, blogs, YouTube or social media managing is also beneficial. If you want to learn about the history of the industry, you can visit the National Radio Centre in Bletchley Park.
A good radio producer is as vital as the charismatic radio music programme presenter.
What skills are useful for radio producers?
Excellent written, communication, organisational and time management skills are essential. You’ll need to ensure the show runs on time, has enough content and work with various staff. Therefore, being able to work independently and well with others is vital, from technical staff and presenters to interviewees and contributors.
Having the ability to make decisions quickly, working under pressure and constant deadlines are very important for the role. Radio producers tend to have superb interpersonal skills and are curious about all people, which allows them to think up creative ideas, source people to speak on-air and write questions for the interview itself.
Being able to become knowledgeable in a new subject quickly is a great asset, as well as embracing new tech and learning skills. Usually, people who are determined, self-confident and persistent do well in this career. Above all else, being enthusiastic and passionate about radio is vital.
How to get work experience for radio?
Is the dream to be a BBC producer? Regardless if you’re hoping to get started in BBC radio careers or another station, any practical experience will set your CV apart from the competition. Work experience is usually available through university (student) community or hospital radio stations.
There are opportunities through national radio stations which cover broadcast and radio production. The BBC offers a variety of work experience. You may end up shadowing someone in BBC audience demographics where you can learn who they target, why and how effective their programmes are to this demographic.
Another option is to contact particular shows to ask whether they have any work placements available, for example, the opportunity to shadow a Match of the Day producer in TV or radio will help to add to your broadcast experience.
What is the average salary for the radio department?
The average salary for a radio producer tends to be between £21,000 and £37,000 for individuals with relevant experience. For those starting in commercial or local stations, it can range from £13,000 and £16,000. But this can increase to up to £20,000 for broadcast assistants at the BBC or those who work in London.
Commercial stations pay less than independent national radio stations. For senior radio producers who cover more extensive programmes, they may earn more than £45,000. Freelancers can set their rates and make between £150 and £300 per day; however, self-employed producers have extensive experience and a great book of contacts from networking to ensure they receive enough work. Also, the level of expertise and managerial responsibilities affect the pay scale.
Where to find jobs on the radio?
Large commercial groups, media groups, the BBC, independent radio stations and community stations are the most common employers for radio producers. They tend to advertise pro audio jobs and producer roles on their websites and through social media. You may find vacancies on job websites as well. Before applying, you should find out what's on their radio schedule, research their key demographic audiences and listen to the programmes for insight into their distinct radio features. You can even listen to radio via the internet, digital radio, and in the car, examples, to be able to show how you understand there may be different audiences for each platform.
You’ll need to show that you have relevant skills, work experience and enthusiasm to potential employers.
The BBC and independent radio stations broadcast live but also feature pre-recorded shows. The BBC is considered more speech-based in comparison to independents, who focus more on music. It may mean there will be more producer roles available in local and national radio over independents.
For commercial stations, the smaller organisations do not always have a production department, but you may find opportunities in the larger commercial stations. However, with the new technological advancements of digital radio, there are more opportunities with online radio stations. To increase your chances of securing a job, complete work experience and voluntary work to gain the necessary skills and contacts.
What are the prospects for radio producers?
A lot of producers work on a self-employed basis who move from various employers. Career progression is usually self-driven and motivated, and determined individuals make well with this career. Therefore, it’s vital to make contacts and network any opportunity you have, especially during the beginning of your journey. Any chance to link with potential employers and to gain more work experience will always work in your favour whether that be your radio station locally, or through experience at university.
Other opportunities include working in a specialist area, like drama, news or documentaries. If you work on current affairs or news programmes, you can progress into the role of a senior producer as they tend to have a team of producers and a structured career path. After some time you can move to a managerial position, for example, a network controller.
If you ensure to keep up with the ever-changing technological world, the radio industry and current affairs, you are more likely to succeed. There are also further training you can embark on, from news writing, website editing, media law and voice training. Individuals may also choose to transfer into the academic field and teach or lecture in relevant subjects.