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So you want to work in radio? Two presenters share their experience and advice

For budding DJs and producers, like students on dBs' Music Production & Sound Engineering, Electronic Music Production or Sound & Music Technology courses, getting a tune played on the radio can feel like making it. However, working on the other side of the table at a station can also be a fun and lasting route into the industry. We spoke to two presenters to get their words of wisdom.

It's no secret that breaking into the music industry takes a huge amount of work, talent and dedication; especially if you're a producer trying to make a name for yourself. However, there are more routes into the industry than banging out tunes and waiting for your big break. If you love listening to the radio, have that natural desire to stay at the cutting edge of what's going on in your favourite genre and you're confident on the mic, a career in radio can be a great way to immerse yourself in the industry, meet your heroes and plug your own tracks.

We spoke to Kiss presenter and 24Hr Garage Girls founder Shosh and Apple Music and NTS radio host Naina to get their advice on getting started in radio and why budding producers and DJs should get involved.

How did you get involved in radio?Shosh Press Pic 2

Shosh: Like everything in the music industry, there's no concrete way in. Everyone's got their own story about how they got into their little niches. During lockdown, Kiss wanted to have more of a focus on diversity and equality - they wanted more female voices. They also wanted to specialise the genres for the evening slots. Kiss now has a section called Kiss Nights and every night of the week, there's an artist that's dedicated to pushing a different genre. The emphasis is on underground meets commercialism. They were looking for people that represented a genre, not just one aspect or pocket of the genre, but a holistic view of the whole scene. They also wanted someone who was up on their knowledge of their genre but also was very deadline-focused and reliable and I just kind of fit the bill. I got asked to audition and then I was given the job a couple of days later!

Naina: I used to put up a lot of mixes on SoundCloud - back in the day when everyone used to find new music on SoundCloud - and someone from Reprezent Radio reached out to me. She said, "I love your stuff, I would really love you to do guest mix for my show." I hadn't even heard of Reprezent because I wasn't in London at the time. I Googled it and found out it was an FM radio station run by young people, for young people. I thought, "This is sick. I really want to be involved in this." So I did the mix and I kept Reprezent on my radar. They did a call-out for talent and I just went, "Yeah, I'm gonna go for this. I've got no radio experience, but I've got a music journalism degree and I know how to DJ. I'm just gonna go for it." I planned everything down to a tee, went and did the pilot and then I got the gig!

I had a Wednesday nighttime show every week and I was building the show together myself because I didn't have a studio and I didn't live in London. I ended up getting relocated to London for another job I was doing and I started seeing more opportunities within music when I was doing this office job. I thought, "Okay, I can maybe try and give the radio stuff a go." Then the station manager wanted to move me to a flagship Friday night dance show which was live. I took that opportunity and ran with it and then the stars aligned and I got a freelance production role at Reprezent because they needed a hand with some stuff. Now, suddenly, I could quit the office job and I was immersed in radio... That literally changed my life. I was getting so many different opportunities from putting everything into that show. There was a phase when I was doing stuff on BBC, NTS and Rinse and I thought, "Oh, it's actually happening." You never know what the next step is going to be. Mine happened to be Apple Music and then eventually NTS with Hooversound.

Naina at Phonox by Rob Jones-1

Credit: Rob Jones

Would you recommend working in radio if you're a producer or DJ?

Shosh: Definitely. 100%. There are so many different benefits to it. The most obvious one is that you can play your own music! Every year, I do an annual release from 24hr Garage Girls. It's a huge compilation of music and I can promote that as much as I want because it's my show. So I can say to all the artists that are contributing, "We are going to have a six-week promo rollout for this, it's going to be aired on kiss every week for four weeks, we are going to do a guest mix." I can promote my own projects. I can promote the projects of people around me who I think deserve it and who are working really hard. I have the position of being a tastemaker. I have a direct impact on how the scene evolves and how the UK garage scene moves forward. Also, my collection of tunes is insane. I get exclusives on everything. You get to meet idols, you get to connect with your guests. I'm potentially getting some writing work that only came about because of a show on Kiss. There are so many things that you can benefit from. It connects you to everybody else. It connects you to your wider audience. It connects you to your fans, to your peers. It's great. Fully recommend.

Naina: Yeah, I think when you're a student, radio is definitely something that you should be involved in…I love the one-on-one connection that you have with the listener. I always picture someone in their kitchen cooking. I listen to the radio all the time. Whether I'm in the car, or I'm cooking, or when I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is put on the radio. There's always someone like me out there on their own cooking a meal and I'm their company; I'm talking to them. It's just me and them. I love that one-on-one connection. I also love being able to be the gatekeeper and introduce people to new music. When you get a message going, "Oh my God, what was that tune that you just played?" That's my job done. I want to share this music. I'm not trying to keep it all to myself.

KissFM_May21Portraits_Shosh0679

What's your journey been like so far? How has it impacted your career?

Shosh: It's made me very aware of how the industry has so many working parts. It's not just artists and their management and the labels. There are pluggers, there are people that are looking at different subscriptions, different rotations and different playlists. It's made me very aware of how people receive music on the other side, because before I was just an artist that was sending stuff out. Now I'm someone that sends stuff out, but also receives things. It's made me very aware of how important the pitch process and the promo process actually can be from both sides of the table.

Naina: I'm not gonna lie, it still feels very surreal. I'll always remember a time when I was working in sales, doing a show on the side and trying to DJ. Don't ever forget that you did that. Now when people ask me, "So what is your job?" and I say, "Oh, I'm in radio and DJ and I run a label" and they say, "But what is your job?" I'm like, "No, that is my full-time week. That takes up my whole week." Never become complacent if this is what you want to do. It's about always trying to push. I think that's what's important. The consistency is the same for me now as it was when I was doing a weekly show on Reprezent trying to break through into the industry because I've not really broken through anything yet. I'm still trying to push new things and start new ideas and throw new things out there. Change is important. Pushing things forward is important. 

Naina DJing Portrait-1Where should students start?

Shosh: If working in radio is your ambition, then I would say your job is to know the scene; your scene, your pocket, whatever you want to represent - whether it's a genre or a city or a movement. Get to know that as well as you can. It's not limited to your taste or what you like, it's about you reflecting and representing that movement. Get connected and get your information. I think the main reason I got the job and I have got to where I am is because I was very well connected. I had my ears and eyes on everybody in the garage scene and what they were doing; old school, new school, new labels that were coming through. Be really informed on your specialist subject, you're scene or whatever it is you want to do on the radio. That's the first thing to do... If you're good at TikTok, make that TikTok about your understanding of your genre. Reflect what you could bring to the table at a radio station. My socials were all about the garage-focused lineups I was doing for Glastonbury or for Boomtown. I was promoting the fact that we had all these amazing artists, and we were supporting people from the old school and the new school. One thing I would say for students, in particular, is that you're young, and there's nothing more powerful than being young and fresh and a new name on the scene. You're only a new artist once and people love that. They eat it up. I don't think you realise it when you're young, but it's so powerful. If you're a young person and you get TikTok and you know how to make cute videos and make them engaging and funny, then that's your strength right now. Market yourself in a really fun way, get the engagement levels really high so that when people think of you, they think, "That person knows how to talk to people, they know how to make it fun, they know how to make it engaging, and they know what they're talking about." That's the best thing you can possibly do right now.

What advice would you give to students if they start working in radio?

Naina: If there's something the station isn't doing, you can start doing it. Have ideas all the time. I remember saying, ‘Reprezent doesn't do any events. I'm going to start running some events under Reprezent’s name. Is that cool?’ My manager said, ‘Yeah, go for it. Why not?’ You may as well try these things. If it flops, it flops. If it doesn't, you're suddenly running events for a radio station. Go in with an open mind and chat to everyone. Whether they call out for help with producers, or they want ideas for new shows, just get involved. Immerse yourself in it. If you want to do it and you have a love for music, something positive is going to come from it. Throw ideas out there and if no one wants to do them say, "I'll do it! I have this idea." That's how things start. If it doesn't exist, make it happen… Also, you have to love what you do. You have to have a passion because that always comes across. When people used to see me in the studio they would say, "Wow, you really do love this." I was never doing it because I wanted to make money off of it and I wanted to do it full-time, it was just something I loved and I was doing on the side. I think the consistency of every week putting everything into that show led to more opportunities because they could see how much I loved radio. If you're doing it for the right reasons, it really, really shows. 

Shosh press pic 1

What have been your highlights of working in radio?

Shosh: I think the number one highlight was doing my Kiss residency in Ibiza. That was just amazing. Kiss gave me the job and they gave me a whole bunch of dates to go out there. The brief just said, "In your own style, have fun." It was the best brief ever. That was amazing. Other highlights were interviewing Craig David for my Kiss special from Ibiza. That was pretty amazing. We had Bad Boy Chiller Crew on the show a couple of weeks ago, I had Steve's from Kurupt FM in for a Christmas special. There have just been so many highlights. We did a show live from Outlook Festival and I had to carry all the kit with me on my backpack. We were setting up in 40-degree heat and trying to film live with drunk people screaming all around us. That was pretty fun, too. There have been loads and loads of good, good times. 

Naina: I don't know if I have one particular highlight, but I think all of the guests who came on my Reprezent show made it so incredible for me. There are too many to mention, but I was able to tick off pretty much everyone I've ever wanted on there. Being able to meet them and hang out with them and for them to come through to the studios and do a mix and an interview. It was a really, really fun time.

Naina at Phonox Digital by Rob Jones-1Credit: Rob Jones

Anything else?

Shosh: Yeah, for anyone that wants to submit music to a radio station or a radio DJ, there are some tips that I would really suggest. One: look at the DJ, what genres they mix and what music they represent. Do your research and find the person that is actually assigned to look after your genre of music because they will be out there. I'm a garage specialist and if someone sends me a DnB mix, I think, "You haven't even bothered to research." You can't just fling your shit at anybody and see what sticks. That's not the way that people like to work. Two: never ever send WeTransfer or download-only links. You will just get ignored. If you want people to listen to your music, you have to make it as easy for them as possible. A streaming link, Google Drive, Dropbox, MediaFire, private SoundCloud link or something like that. Make it downloadable so that they don't have to ask you again for the file and make sure that the file they're downloading is a good quality file. Three: remember to put your name on your tracks. So many people miss out because the file is called 'Get Down With It Master' or something like that. If I downloaded that tune a week ago, I'm at the kiss station and I'm pressing play, I have no idea who's written the tune! So they missed their PRS. They missed their royalties. So, send it to the right people, send it in the right way and make sure they know who you are. Those are my three top tips!

Naina: Don’t try to juggle too many things at once, because you want to perfect a few things at a time rather than trying to do loads of things at once... Keep an open mind about what you want to do eventually as well. I would have loved to be able to produce music at this point and I really look back and think there was a lot of time when I was learning how to use the software for one thing, but actually, I could have opened my mind a little bit more to be able to learn how to use it in a different way as well.

FIND OUT MORE:
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