UK Student Radio Association Conference 2015 - Exeter, Devon

UK National Student Radio Association Conference 2015 at the University of Exeter

The national student radio association holds a conference which happens yearly during the Easter holidays, and since I have been doing radio (with Insanity radio) since October (so around 4 months term-time), I thought I would go along. This year it was at the University of Exeter in Devon, the south west of the UK. 

The campus was very beautiful and I met some really lovely and enthusiastic people.

Here are some notes I made during the conference, and some tips that I took away. 


13:30 - BBC Radio 2 - Tim Johns

Vital things for working in radio, that no-one talks about, but everyone needs to know.

- A good telephone manner. When booking guests for example, be charming and charismatic
- Be good at e-mails. Be dependable: a quick reply-er, and not flakey.
- Be nice. Speak and be generally nice in situations such as work experience
- Have good spelling and grammar
- Be good at editing
- Practice - talented people also practice!
- Ask to "sit in" on radio shows, rather than for official 'work experience' - as this (esp. at the BBC) is highly bureaucratical and the people who run the shows rarely have a say in who gets work experience. But if you ask to sit in on a show, you can see how it all works, and by-pass the forms and official-ness of a work experience placement.

Recommended sound editing software -
'Star Track' and 'Audition'

At the end of the talk, Tim got one of the audience members to 'test out' their skills learned during the session, to attempt to arrange an interview with Jeremy Vine (although he definitely knew that this would be happening, since Tim works with him etc etc) - was a good stunt though!

14:30 - BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra - Clara Amfo & Rhys Hughes

Routes into radio

"I love radio because it's so instant" - Clara Amfo

Rhys Hughes:  

What does Rhys look for? -

1) Passion for music
2) Ability to tell stories (eg. Scott Mills / Sara Cox)
3) a "weird mix of two things" - the aspirational showbiz side, and the grounded / normal life side (eg. Grimmy AKA Nick Grimshaw). The second part makes it relatable for the audience.
"prick the pomposity"
4) Be yourself

The difference between daytime and specialist shows.
- Specialist show presenters must have a deeply ingrained music knowledge, out there in the clubs - for example BBC's "In New DJs We Trust"

Visualisation (eg. Listen, Watch, Share)

Apple are launching 'something' in June 2015 - nobody knows what it is, but everyone in the radio industry is scared.

Changes in radio.
Competitors used to be Capital Radio etc, now it is Spotify and Pandora etc.

Rhys Hughes quotes:
"[We need to] make content cut through" and "punch through in a global media market"

On Annie Mac - "we turned her into the world's biggest female dance DJ", [she] "used to be an indie kid".

"I'm not hugely bothered if you got a first or a 2:2"

On catering to the audience vs. being yourself: "[I like] taking raw talent and moulding them into something more Radio 1"

Clara Amfo quotes:
"[It's] important not to festishise your gender for a job"

"It's a time for women to be less afraid in the industry"

"I went into this industry delightfully naive"

Clara's top tip - Speak slowly! Even if you think you are speaking too slow, you probably aren't.

15:30 - Presenting with Capital & Free Radio

Ben Burell - Free Radio
Adam Wilburn - Free Radio
Christian Williams - Capital Radio

I thought Christian sounded strikingly like Jeremy Vine...

Christian Williams' tips / important things -
Really live the show
Clocks (they are difficult but important)

Sell other shows! The station is one package.

Use a 'daily'

16:30 - LBC - Nick Ferrari

Leading Britain's Conversation - Political / Topical Radio

Quotes from Nick Ferrari -

Why radio works -  "[there is the] loyalty aspect of radio", and the way that it is "more intimate".

On phone-ins - "[you] must be able to sell it so that they give a damn"

"Just because they are your boss, doesn't mean they're right"

On what topics to discuss - "anything that makes the audience say 'gee whizz'"

On interviews with politicians / interviews more generally - "focus on what they are struggling with"

"get the message over quickly - because you haven't got them for long"

On filling in time - "Show the confidence to talk"

"The bigger the story, the less it needs building up"

20:30 - Demo Factor

I submitted a demo. It got played. It wasn't a disaster, but I didn't win either. Thought it went quite well considering I had only done radio for less than 4 months. They said that they liked my voice, but that they would have preferred my second link first.


10:00 - Radio 1's visualisation journey - Sam Bailey

Radio 1 now uses 'Trigger Mix' which vision mixes on reaction to audio output. Ie. if someone is talking into mic 1, the camera will cut to mic 1.

On parodies - you only really have a 48 hour window in which to get it popular and trending

Radio 1's visual now functions like a "small TV channel"

11:00 - Global - Ashley Tabor in conversation with Greg James

Didn't have loads of notes on this.

11:45 - Specialist Music - Radio 1 / Capital / Somethin' Else

Quite probably the best session of the while conference.

Adam - Radio 1 and 1Xtra
Duncan - Capital Radio
Chris - Somethin Else Productions

"There is specialist on commercial"

What does it mean to be 'specialist'?

Depends of the station. 
For example, on Capital it would mean "playing music that we wouldn't play during the day"

Specialist presenters need to have - connection (with the audience), authority, credible and engaging.

Do we 'need' specialist presenters?
Yes, because the trust that they build up with their following helps listeners to cut through  "so much noise" - Chris

Send a track-list along with your demo.

Make sure that the music you play is "not too noodley" for too long - Adam

"Pepper [the show] with something a little easier [to listen to]" - Adam

"Spikey-er stuff with easier stuff" - Duncan 

12.45 - Radio 1 - Greg James & Adam Heyhurst

Right platform, right time

Strategic content -

3 Key Things:

Timing (eg. look at recent google search requests)
Jump on the Bandwagon
Engage (relevant) talent and brands

Videos as promotion - as a way of bringing people to the radio, not as great audio content.

14:00 - Radio 2 - Stephanie Hirst & Graham Albans

Content is King

1. No-one is born creative (read/watch/listen to stuff you wouldn't normally)
2.There are no truly original ideas
3. Surround yourself with creative people - say "yes and...", not "no because...". Build, not block.
4. Question are better than ideas - think of the what, not the how (you can deal with the how later)
5. The freedom of a tight brief - define the problem before the solution (make clocks!)
6. No idea is perfect
7. Innovation is sometimes more about what you don't do (do live sessions in weird places?)
8. Speak it out loud

15:00 - Radio 1 - Mixing Live Music - Andy Rogers (BBC R1's Live Lounge)

Listen quietly to better assess the vocal level / judge the sound mix & levels.

16:00 - XFM & Classic FM

Make sure you know the 'perceived age' of the listeners.


20:30 - I Love Student Radio Awards

Insanity radio won highly commended in the best outreach category.


10:00 - How to win a student radio award

There are 16 Categories and the awards will be held on November 5th 2015.

11:00 - Radio 1 - Matt Edmondson

Radio ideas - it needs to be something that "we can do again and again" without "too much  effort".

On Guests - you need to have something to "snap them out of autopilot", to form a human to human interaction. An element of surprise helps.

More quotes from Matt -

"I like to be a bit of a dick sometimes"

"form a connection so that you can be a twat"

Video coming soon.

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