Mark Hitchings. Breakfast Show Producer. Capital East Midlands
How did you become a producer?
At the age of 14, my school made me go out and find some work experience. Well I decided I wanted to do my work experience at my local radio station which was Severn Sound in Gloucester. I started a mail campaign to get myself work experience there and ended up writing 15 letters to several departments before they eventually said yes. After that they offered me work experience again when I was 16. This time though I managed to stay on as they were looking for people to “tech op”, which is looking after and running the studio desk as a presenter does a show. I spent 2 years at Severn Sound learning the ropes, how to tech op, load audio and generally doing all the jobs that gains you loads of experience.
I then applied for a job I was under qualified for at the radio station, GWR Bristol. I didn’t get the job but because of my persistence and enthusiasm, I was offered a different role at the radio station. My main job, amongst other jobs nobody really liked doing, was to record all of the radio stations songs that were on vinyl records, into a computer database. This was long before any of the technology we use now to transfer songs from one format to another was invented. So I had to listen to EVERY song, in full, as it was being recorded into the computer. It took 9 whole months to complete the job.
I started to do other odd jobs for different radio stations within the GWR radio group, and eventually I ended up as a producer for a Friday night show that was broadcast simultaneously on different radio stations in the GWR group. I had the knowledge to train the presenter of the show, on how to use the studio equipment. That was the main reason I got the job as the producer.
After a while I received a phone call from the programme controller of Trent Fm who was seeking a producer to work with the new breakfast show, Jo and Twiggy. I took the job and rest is history.
How did you know you wanted to be a producer?
I found out I wanted to be a producer when I was a kid, and it was all down to my Atari games console. I loved the sounds it made and I had fun making them sounds do something. It was like how I now use special effect noises in content I produce for the breakfast show at Trent Fm. When I was lucky enough to find myself alone in a production studio, all I wanted to do was use the equipment to mess around and create something. I also knew I didn’t actually want to be on air, so the role of producer was ideal for me.
What is the main role of a producer?
Creating and editing material for use on the radio is one part of the job, however it doesn’t stop there. I would say the hardest and most complex area of the role is talent management, more importantly, managing the radio presenter without them realising it. Then there are the ideas. Every good producer has ideas coming from anywhere and everywhere. Then most importantly, its getting them ideas on the air to create good radio.
Are there different types of producers?
There are 2 main types of producers in radio. Imaging producers – They are responsible for the over all sound of the station. The jingles, sweepers etc. And then there are Show producers – They are more about creativity and fun ideas for shows to use on the air, all the while still helping out with imaging, jingles and branding for that show.
What would you say are the key skills to being a producer?
The first key skill is to have a good “ear” for radio. Finding out what works on the air and what doesn’t. You can do this by listening to lots of radio, both local and national. Everyone who is successful in radio has a good ear for what works. You must also be organised, creative and flexible. Sometimes the hours are long and unsociable. You must also have the ability to edit material quickly and efficiently.
What would be your top tips be for somebody who wishes to be a producer?
Work hard and never give up. When you first start out you may be given mundane jobs that nobody else likes doing. Some of the staff levels at some radio stations can be very low, and these mundane jobs will always need doing. So keep writing, keep offering your help.
If you get a foot in the door, show determination and ambition. The hours can be long and the jobs can be boring, but if you play it right it will be worth it. The rewards are there. Some of the staff levels at some radio stations can be very low, and these mundane jobs will always need doing. So keep writing, keep offering your help.
Also, train the radio “ear”. Listen to lots of different types of radio and lots of different stations and train your ear as to what works on the air and what doesn’t. You can also practice how to edit material by getting free editing software for your home computer.
What are the best ways to showcase your abilities as a producer?
The best way to showcase your talents as a producer is to get some good production under your belt. Everybody can get editing software for free now, and you can practice your production skills in your own bedroom. More than anything, show enthusiasm. This can make up for a lot.
Who are the best people to contact at a radio station to offer my help as a producer?
It depends on the radio station. At the smaller stations it would be the programme controller. At some of the big city radio stations, they may have a senior producer or something alike. Its always best to call up the actual radio station you’re going to contact and double check.
And generally, how tough and competitive is radio for a would-be producer?
Very tough and very competitive. I have seen people do 2 weeks of work experience and then refer to themselves as a producer, they are not. It can take years of learning this industry inside and out to get this job. Years of experience building too, both in terms of your skills but also in contacts. But if you’re good at what you do, you’ll get a job.