Forget the old adage about being a jack of all trades and a master of none. Today the opposite is true, says Radio 1 broadcast assistant Ele Beattie.
Place of work
We Are Grape Productions/Radio 1.
How long have you had the job
I’ve been with this company around nine months.
Describe a typical day
If there’s a celeb gracing the breakfast show, you can find your first challenge is wading through a throng of over-excited teenagers and grumpy paparazzi. It’s very glamorous around these parts…
Each day varies depending on whose show you’re recording, but day-to-day staples are communicating with DJs about running orders then sourcing, uploading and checking all their music pre-show.
The day Azealia Banks released her Fantasea mixtape I spent my morning commute scouring it for a new, clean track. You don’t want to be the one on duty when a DJ drops a potty-mouthed track as it’ll be your neck on the line. With only one n-word and two ‘bitches’ to edit out, the title track was the winner.
There’s also booking up guests for future shows, editing features and interviews, etc.
Highs of the job
Being one of the lucky people that gets to turn their vague and flimsy hobby of ‘liking music’ into a profession. As part of the team that works on the specialist music shows we are the people who suggest underground artists for daytime radio play. A few months back we got Grimes on the daytime playlist and it felt like a proper triumph to sneak some future-facing music in amongst the Maroon 5s and David Guettas.
Another perk is working with legendary people like Annie Nightingale, the first ever female to grace Radio 1’s airwaves. She’s been going strong for over 40 years and knows more about grime than your average MBE.
And nothing beats turning on the radio to hear one of the shows you’ve worked on.
Lows of the job
The guilt you feel when you drop a godawful promo CD in the bin knowing some poor wee soul has poured their heart into it.
Who are the people who’ve had the biggest influence on your career and why?
Listening to John Peel fumble his way through links, play records at the wrong speed and yet stay utterly charming and cutting-edge. And following Annie Mac’s rise from work experience to presenter is evidence enough of Jimmy Cliff’s advice that you can get it if you really want, but you must try.
In all honesty, I learnt everything from a senior producer who took me under her wing at my first job. Viv Perry encouraged me to pitch documentary ideas to Radio 1 and when my first idea got commissioned she was the one who told me to aim big. The Beatles & Black Music included original interviews with Sir Paul McCartney, Q-Tip, Questlove, Common, Roots Manuva and many more. But, more importantly, she was the one who saved the day when, a week before deadline, I finally admitted I hadn’t got a clue what I was doing…
Viv also gave me work on The Story Of J Dilla for 1Xtra. A programme about a legendary producer with a never-ending back catalogue and a host of A-list artists he inspired, it took ten months of sweat, blood and tears to create something that would do that man justice. Just like Apocalypse Now had Hearts Of Darkness, the Dilla doc deserved its own ‘making-of’.
How did you get your job?
Like most of my fellow radio geeks, I started out doing a student radio show and got the bug. Work experience at XFM and Galaxy Scotland eventually got me a job tech opping (firing cues and adverts) on the Friday night dance show. Radio jobs are rarely in abundance and they were especially scarce when I moved to London two years ago during dip number one of the double dip recession. I emailed everyone and anyone vaguely connected to radio and asked if I could meet them for a coffee to pick their brains. Even though you’re jobless and skint, make sure to pay for their coffee and make a good impression and you’ll be the first person they ring when they’re looking for a new recruit.
Another bit of advice is keep busy. Whilst I was scrabbling around for radio work a friend and editor of the album reviews of Dummy Mag suggested I contribute to them. Initially you’re doing it for free but you start meeting people, interviewing great artists, going to gigs and making good contacts, then paid job opportunities begin to arise. This soon led to writing features for DJ mag and BBC album reviews, then last summer I spent on the white isle as the editor of DJ mag’s Ibiza issues. Although I never wanted to be a writer, whilst I was still searching for full-time work I would take any job that kept me in music and took me closer to where I wanted to be.
At one point last year I was working as a freelance writer, freelance radio producer and taking on extra work video editing celebrity showbiz video bulletins about Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez buying a puppy. It’s wise to accumulate a portfolio CV of varying skills such as writing, radio production and video editing. Forget the adage ‘a jack of all trades and a master of none’ – today the opposite is true.
I’ve pretty much spent the last two years inching my way towards my dream job as a producer of a specialist show on Radio 1. Every role I took on or sought out has been a stepping stone to this point.
I'd take any job that kept me in music. At one point last year I was editing showbiz video bulletins about Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez buying a puppy.
How would we get a job like yours?
Hard graft, a love of music, a Rolodex of good contacts and an ability to work a dancefloor.