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Radio is the Masterclass ‘Tune of the Month’, live from BBC’s Radio Theatre

Kicking off our first masterclass of the year was our star-studded panel live from the BBC’s iconic radio theatre, talking all things radio; showing us just where a little ‘grafting’ can get you…

Siobhan Kenny, CEO of Radiocentre, the industry body for commercial radio, took to the stage with Ben Cooper, Controller of Radio 1, 1Xtra and Asian Network, who said: ‘the harder you work, the luckier you’ll become’. This was illustrated perfectly by a fun game of ‘heads or tails’, the twist? The last person standing (Kenny from Goldsmiths Uni) won a day at 1Xtra and we all learnt a lesson on the importance of luck, yet also the value of working hard to make your own luck happen.

Reece Parkinson (Presenter, BBC Radio 1Xtra) hosted the panel, which included Joey Addai (Head of Events, Global), Josh Ryan (Producer, BBC Sounds), Neev Spencer (DJ, Kiss FM) and Keturah Cummings (Freelance Social Media Marketing, BBC)

They started with a discussion, each sharing their experience, knowledge, roles and skills of working in the radio industry. Reese asked the panel if anything had ever gone wrong during a live show, citing his own experience of forgetting to turn on the microphone during one of his first shifts at 1Xtra. Neev agreed, saying, ‘the technology will always let you down; you can’t rely on it.’ She also said: ‘As a freelancer, is it important to specialise – you have whatever your specialism is but you need to skill-up around that. This is important as it’s harder and harder now to be unique’.

As someone who had a love for both music and events, Joey managed to combine his passion with his profession and fuse the perfect role; events management for music. His favourite event of last year was the Capital Summertime Ball, saying that the roar from the audience when it started gave him such a buzz. He spoke about what goes into making a successful live event, saying you have to understand what the audience wants and you have to remember the 5 P’s (Product, Price, Promotion, People and Place). The most important aspect, however, will always be Health and Safety. He gave the audience this advice on how to work your way up to your dream job…

‘Know your strengths, know what you’re good at, never be afraid to ask a question. No question is a stupid question. You get to network through the floor. Every job I had since I was 16, I’ve known someone that works there.’

Neev conveyed the same sentiment about her career journey. Her objective was always to work at KISS FM. She secured her current role as Broadcaster and  DJ after producing for an award-winning radio show on the station. Although producing was not her goal, she ‘learned so much about radio’ and stressed that ‘you have to pick your moment and know when you’re ready. I watched, waited and took everything in.’

In such a competitive climate, it’s hard to know if you are attaining the right skills to pursue your ideal career path. Josh put our minds at rest, stating that ‘if you are focused and goal reaching – there will be more opportunities. Use what you’ve got, there are lots of transferable skills in all industries.’ Building on this, Joey added that ‘Don’t always think that progress means going forward, it could mean going sideways. When you’re starting out, the main thing is to get your foot in the door.’

Keturah told the audience not to put pressure on themselves, suggesting that people stay open-minded, ‘it’s ok if you don’t know exactly what you want to do when you start out’. She also advised that now everyone has the ability to be a social media producer so you can curate your own content.

Fun fact: what do 60% of people who work in radio have in common? Joey said this is around the number of people who were involved in community or student radio before reaching their professional roles. The panel raved about the importance of being involved in local radio stations, with Reece highlighting the fact that his first radio station, ‘Reprezent’ are still first on the scene for much new music.

The panel then shed some light on their experience being a minority in the industry. Keturah felt sheltered from this experience when joining BBC 1xtra, as there were people that ‘looked like her’ in all levels of seniority that she could look up to. Josh felt like as a black male, he had a better perception of the industry, saying ‘it is a strength amongst other producers. I wouldn’t be able to get certain things out of the show without that perspective.’

As the only British Asian female to have a solo show on commercial radio, Neev never felt like it held her back, even when people tried to pigeon hole her. She was told as a woman she would ‘never go far on her own’, only as a co-host for a show, and as an Asian woman, no further than Asian radio.

After some great questions from the audience and an excellent networking session, the night ended with interns feeling as positive as ever to achieve their career goals.

Thanks for tuning in to this month’s CA Masterclass. A huge thank you for our talented panel for their wise words of wisdom and to the Radiocentre and BBC Asian Network, Radio 1 and Radio 1 Xtra for hosting and organising such a memorable event. 

Photos by Kourtney Lore, London College of Communication