This time three years ago I was lucky enough to be nominated for Best Female Presenter at the Student Radio Awards, and then a month later I somehow managed to actually win it. If you’ve just been nominated for a Student Radio Award then CONGRATULATIONS, that is so brilliant. And if you are gutted that you haven’t? Don’t worry, it won’t define how successful you are.
I promise I wasn’t paid to say this, but the SRA really is amazing. If you want to work in radio then you are so fortunate to have access to it, as it really opens so many doors to the industry through countless events and training days. Take advantage of it!
At the weekend Timehop informed me that it was 3 years to the day that I was nominated for my Student Radio Award, pretty poignant as I was presenting my first regular show on Juice 107.2 in Brighton. It’s been quite an uphill journey to reach this point, this is how I did it.
I only joined Student Radio half way through my second year at university, so I was still pretty new to it but I was sure that presenting was a career I wanted to pursue and my award gave me the confidence boost I needed to do just that. I’ll be honest, I did think I’d just waltz into a job by Christmas after winning it – but I soon realised that really wasn’t the case.
I had just graduated so I really was being thrown into the big wide world, but I was quite lucky as my parents live in London. So that allowed me to have a good base in terms of access to radio stations, and meant working for free was less of a worry. The first thing I did was get myself back on air, I knew as an aspiring presenter being on air was incredibly important. I joined my local hospital radio station, Radio Northwick Park, as well as community station Vibe 107.6. Both of these places taught me a whole host of skills – this is where I learned practical skills such as back timing, how to read the travel, and how to drive a more complicated desk and playout system.
I also joined Heart Watford as a Heart Angel, so I had some cash coming in. Alongside this I was emailing all sorts of people in the radio industry to build up some contacts, I was making demos and going to meet them for coffees so I had a chance to make an impression in person. I also made sure I continued to attend SRA events the year afterwards, and I volunteered at The Radio Festival which is the industry equivalent of the Student Radio Conference (probably with less hangovers!). I just wanted my face to be as present as possible.
After winning my award I was taken on at The Hits Radio to do some cover presenting, which was a huge learning curve and such an exciting opportunity. I then got a job at Inrix as a Travel Broadcaster, they provide Travel Bulletins to a whole host of big radio companies and stations across The BBC, Global, Bauer and UKRD. Learning how to read travel bulletins to a decent standard is what got me the opportunity at Sam FM South Coast, I did some cover there on the breakfast show with Bam Bam. He’s a bit of a radio ledge, so that was pretty exciting. I then managed to get some cover work at kmfm in Kent, which was an exciting milestone for me as the shows were live on a commercial station so it was a much more professional standard of radio presenting than I had experienced before. It was after that that I eventually got in at Juice 107.2 doing some cover, which then lead to the regular Sunday show that I have just started. This all happened over the course of nearly 3 years.
The entire time I was doing this I was presenting regular drivetime shows at Vibe 107.6, as well as working breakfast shifts at Inrix reading the travel. I was making endless demos and sending them out to people in the radio industry, going in to do pilots and effectively audition for show slots, as well as interviewing for jobs. And to be honest, I just really felt I wasn’t getting anywhere, I wasn’t getting that regular presenting job that I really wanted. I was banging down the door in every way possible, but it wasn’t opening for me.
Behind the glitz and glamour it really was quite hard, on several occasions I had meltdowns and whined that I was the world’s worst radio presenter and I was never going to get anywhere (I appreciate that is a little dramatic…!). I was waking up at stupid o clock in the morning, spending money travelling around the country and missing out on a lot of social stuff because of my awkward working hours. I’ve worked 7 day weeks, bank holidays, unpaid radio work…you name it. But I just kept going, and I cracked it in the end.
I think what really helped was having great contacts in the radio industry, if you find people that will reply to your emails and give you an hour of their day for a coffee then make sure you hang on to them! If they are giving you that time it’s because they think you are worthy of it, so stick with them as they will really help you out. There are so many lovely people across the radio industry that have given me so much of their time over the years, and they have been a huge part in helping me along the ride.
Don’t exclude yourself to just people in the radio industry though, the student radio community is amazing – so don’t ignore it! I have so many friends that I met back in my student radio days who have gone on to have amazing jobs at big radio companies. As well as that it’s just nice to have someone to talk to who is on your level and going through the same stuff as you. Myself and the other girls who were nominated for Best Female Presenter in 2013 all befriended each other and met up a few times. I remember at the time it was really nice as we were all just as apprehensive as each other about taking the plunge into professional radio, it was good to chat to people in the same boat.
I obviously want to reach the point where presenting is what I do full time, but having a regular paid presenting slot is a huge milestone for me and I’m so excited for this chapter. I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading this! And that it has been helpful for someone out there. I’m definitely no expert on this, but I think everyone’s radio journey is so different that it’s great to find out about other people’s when you have the opportunity.
I guess my message is, don’t give up.
You can follow Emma on Twitter at @EmmaCLJones