Radio has been a hobby of mine for almost four years now, I suppose I’m what you could call an ‘anorak’; I love all aspects of the medium. Whether that is producing, presenting or my specialism in marketing, you name it and I’ve done it at some point… Yes, that even includes dressing up as a panda in an electrical store – don’t ask!
You can imagine my excitement then when I got asked to be part of a team working on Radio Festival Radio, producing podcasts that would cover every aspect for the pinnacle event for the industry held over three days at The Lowry in Salford Quays, which is appropriately just across the water from MediaCityUK.
While most people were getting their stash of sweets and fancy dress outfit ready for Halloween on the 31st of October, I was off to the first day of the festival attending Foot in the Door. This offers budding professionals the chance to ask questions and network with people who are already well established in the industry. This was an invaluable session with plenty of information and inspiration to boot.
Later that evening I had signed up to the inaugural John Peel Lecture hosted by Radcliffe and Maconie and given by rock legend Pete Townsend of The Who. Pete was talking about the impact that the internet is having radio as a way for listeners to source new music (or “Peelism”, as he called it). I was the only reporter from Festival Radio covering this session, so had a lot responsibility. Little did I know the lecture would break the news and become the most read story of the day on the BBC website! Why? Well, one of the quotes from Pete’s speech called iTunes “The digital version of Northern Rock” – controversial to say the least! Pete used the safety net of what he called his “inner artist” to deliver any criticism of Apple’s products, a bit of a cop out if you ask me. Although, the irony of all this is that questions from listeners were being taken via an iPod!
[This lecture was broadcast live from the Quays Theatre for 6Music. If you want to listen to it then it’s available on BBC iPlayer for a week and I’m sure snippets will be around on YouTube long after that.]
Day two is always a busy one at the festival and I was covering the People Power session, focusing on managerial methods that can be utilised within stations. Interestingly, insights here were given from those in fields outside of the radio industry. The panel included Barry Hearn and Tessa Sanderson from the world of sport as well as Dragon Duncan Bannatyne to give a business perspective. An interesting session where I thought the best moment was Duncan admitting that he isn’t a “people person” (despite the session being called ‘People Power!’) I asked him about this when I interviewed him after for the Festival Radio podcast… then I was ‘out’ and off to edit it all!
There were a lot of sore heads the day after, a good sign that the PPL Hall of Fame Dinner held at Gorton Monastery went down well then! Congratulations to Andy Peebles, Peter Allen, Jane Garvey and Sir Jimmy Young CBE, who all were inducted this year, as well as Ronnie Wood who was given the lifetime achievement award. I started Wednesday up in the Compass Room covering Terry Underhill’s session on playlists. The panel included controllers from BBC network and commercial radio who discussed the importance of audience research when deciding what music is the best fit for each station. A gut instinct is also required though too of course; something that BBC Radio 2 and 6Music music must rely on a lot, as it was revealed that they compile very little research in this area.
After a short break, the next session I covered was exploring a fairly recent development in radio which is something getting increasingly prevalent in our whizz-kid society – social media. This session was hosted by Scott Mills and featured Ken Benson from P1 research who had flown over from California to give his insights. Brett Spencer, interactive editor for BBC Radio 2 and 6Music, gave praise to BBC Three Counties’ John Vaughn Show for getting the, now infamous, ‘Angry Melvin’ rant about the Royal Wedding onto AudioBoo while that show was still on-air. Marketing expect Rachel Clarke then told delegates what not to do when utilising social media. The key lesson here being: “Don’t be stupid”.
Back to the production room to edit the content, then within a flash the final podcast was uploaded and my Radio Festival experience for 2011 was over. It has been a pleasure to work with so many talented people who I’m sure all have bright futures ahead of them – just remember that you heard them on Festival Radio first! Special thanks must go to Kate Cocker and Heather Davies for their advice and encouragement over these past few days.
If you want to listen to Festival Radio’s coverage of the Radio Festival then the podcasts are available to be downloaded here: http://www.radioacademy.org/podcasts/ For more details on next year’s festival stay tuned – as we say!