My first post on this blog is dedicated to the wonderful world of student radio. And rightly so. For me it was the best fun ever, provided the best training ever, and I’m confident I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
WHERE DO I START in trying to justify why it’s ‘the best’?! I could write a (short) book on the matter, but that won’t hold your attention, so I’ll try and pick out just five points. They’re mostly based on why student radio could be good for your career, rather than all the creative and fun reasons…
1. It’s where the big names look for new talent.
It’s not a very romantic notion of why you should partake in student radio, but it’s true. There’s no other voluntary radio sector that has the remarkable attention from industry giants that student radio does. Radio budgets are tight. So it says a lot when BBC Radio 1 and Global Radio compete over who should pay out as main sponsor of the awards, only to decide it’s mutually beneficial to sign a three-year deal costing them thousands every year for the honour of sharing it.
It’s not just them, each award category has a big-name sponsor and big-name interest. At a time when radio presenters are newly-employed on salaries of peanuts and cuts are being made wherever possible – those very same employers line up to financially support what they see as a vital source of talent for the future of their industry.
Simple. The more time you spend doing radio the better you’ll be at it. Sure, it’s helpful to have guidance and teaching along the way where possible, but it’s the hours of creating terrible features, conducting awful interviews and making horribly-bad radio (which at the time you think is great) which is invaluable. Being told how to make radio, or taking a course where you’re allowed one hour structured broadcasting a week – is not enough.
Student radio can provide hours of airtime that you can fill with all your early mistakes, and give you the freedom to be excited about what you’re doing and make you want to learn more and practice more. There are no professional radio stations, and remarkably few community and hospital station that afford you such true freedom (though don’t get me wrong – community and hospital radio are remarkably important in many of the same ways student radio is).
3. Networking. Or…accidental networking.
A lot of radio people say…
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.
No. Of course not. When wheeling out that phrase most forget to mention that you have to have skill and ability before people take notice of you – networking can’t solve everything. However there is, in radio or pretty much any industry, still plenty to be said for who you know. Perhaps a better phrase would be…
“If you’re very good at radio, having a good network of people in the industry may well help your career at some point”.
It’s not so catchy, but I think it’s better. So let’s assume you’ve done some student radio and become pretty good at some radio-type-skills. It’s astonishing how by doing student radio, attending a student radio conference or two, heading along to the awards and so on – you can accidentally build up an incredible network of contacts. At the time it may just seem like ‘I said hello to Jim from LSR’ or ‘I ended up meeting that tech-bloke from Xpress Radio’, but have enough of those little connections and five years later you realise you sort-of know half the radio industry.
4. It’s full of DO-ERS and POTENTIAL!
People are remarkably lazy. Some think they can sign up to a media course and magic up a media career. Of course, you need some experience to go alongside it. To get on in student radio you have to at least bother to sign up, make a demo, turn up for a radio show (and hopefully prepare it too) on a voluntary basis. Those who are really passionate end up entering awards and getting involved with SRA stuff.
So almost by default you end up with a bunch of people who are passionate and motivated about radio, which is perhaps why if you’re involved in student radio you probably know someone right now (or a few people) who will go on to a paid radio or media career. So just by being part of that group you’ve improved your chances!
5. It’s fun.
The old ones are the best eh? But yeah, it’s masses of fun. The friends, the parties, the ridiculous radio programmes and the incredible achievements you’re so proud of because you feel like you gave Radio 1 a run for their money despite your £10 budget.
Hang on though – obviously I’m totally biased. But if you want to work in radio and are in any doubt as to whether getting involved in student radio is worth it – it is. And I’m not just talking about your local station, embrace the Student Radio Association too, and all it has to offer!
What your favourite bit about student radio?