The first day I stepped into the radio station as a part of the team, it felt good. I was taken on a mini-tour around the station. In the fabulous edifice, only three rooms struck me; the newsroom, the live transmission studio and the recording studio. My life for the next 12 months was going to revolve around these rooms, and I was determined to make my stay in that station count.
For days I sat at my laptop in the newsroom, internally brainstorming how I could make myself relevant. Since I was not given anything serious to do, I decided to pretend I was an uber-cool producer who had been commissioned to debut a music program on the station. I drew a sketchy program idea/format and started doing my research.
During my days of pleasurable and healthy delusion, I pestered producers to give me something to do. Soon I had the sweet job of selecting the music playlist for different love programs. This explains my temporary fascination with Whitney, Teddy, Robin Thicke, Barry White – name them.
I was your certified love doctor familiar with all kinds of relationship-issues you can imagine. We (the team) solved them all, from a cheating partner to a troublesome mother-in-law to office-romance etc. Agony aunt delivered solutions with her soothing voice, while I chose the best song to reflect the pain or joy of that situation.
My big break came the day a lady in charge of a Christian program called me to do a voice-over promo for her. She told me she wanted to change her jingle and needed a fresh voice. Warning bells instantly kicked off in my head “don’t ever go near the mics”. As badly as I wanted to do it, I told her the Chief had instructed me to steer clear of the mics. She persuaded me saying there was no harm in recording my voice first.
So we did the recording – and it was time for the Chief to vet it. He sauntered into the studio, his full height filling the doorframe. At the snap of his fingers the technician hit the play button. He listened intently, with his permanently stern face (except on rare occasions) betraying no emotion whatsoever. I watched him closely, nothing was registered- jeez – he is good!
He asked the technician to replay the track. At this point, my heart was securely lodged in my throat like an Adam’s Apple, beating in wild frenzy. Any moment, the verdict would be read.
Then his voice boomed, “whose voice is that?” … the producer responded. Without a backward glance at me he said, “let it fly” and walked out of the room. It was cool enough to hit the airwaves.
That promo was my debut on air.
As an intern or a full employee, make yourself relevant. Don’t wait for the world to tell you what to do. Find a gap and fill it. If anyone says you can’t, wait for the right opportunity and prove them wrong. I think this applies not just to working in the media, but anywhere you may find yourself.
From that moment on, I became the official ‘Jingle-Girl, Jingle-Girl, Jingle all the way’ LOL. Not long afterwards, I joined forces with the presenter of a Saturday music entertainment gist program as co-anchor – and shortly I was on the coveted list of newsreaders. The Chief was proud of me. At last, I was on the mic and the heavens did not fall.
My second big break was when there was a call for new program ideas. I put forth the idea I had been working on in my early days at the organization. I produced a pilot version and it was approved. From that moment on, working in a radio station was bliss. It had its challenges, down-moments, but it made up for the stress in many ways. The key is to always do what you enjoy, only then would big challenges feel like mere needle pricks.
On an endnote, I will share in 1-off lines what I learnt about working on radio as a presenter & a producer:
- Be real – don’t fake an accent if you don’t have it. If you have it, for the sake of your immediate audience, tone it down. I have seen listeners hit the knob and change the dial because of this.
- Design your content to suit your audience. If your audience do not know who Leona Lewis is, for crying out loud talk about the Danfo-Drivers ‘suwor’ (local acts).
- Watch your language. If you use swear words when you are with your mates, caution yourself on-air. You may get away with it once or twice, but like the African proverbs says “99 days for the thief, one day for the owner”.
- Along the same line, watch the music tracks you air. Most songs with bad language have radio-edit versions – ask your Deejay for those ones. I can’t count how any times the Chief stormed into the live transmission studio because he just heard “sh**t” over the air waves (I am not speaking for myself).
- Be on the alert. Your guest can say the wrong things and you would still take the fall for it. Be sharp and cut it off before it goes too far. For instance, a guest meant to comment on an event could start advertising his business while you are on-air. Trust me, the marketing department would siphon your salary faster than you can blink. Be mentally sharp to detect & cut off.
- As a producer, I would advise you draw up your scripts and have a backlog ages before the program is set to air. It’s a tough call but it pays – deadlines are killing – and dead air is an abomination.
- Producer/Presenter rapport is essential to the success of a program. A tension-filled atmosphere will affect output, in turn low listener ratings, in impact-filled turn – your pay cheque.
- Never turn on the microphone without a mini-script. You are NOT permitted to freeze on air.
If you have any more tips to share, drop it like it’s hot amala or pancake.
I am happy we have finally come to the end of these memoirs. Thank you for staying with me.