By Billy Dowling-Reid | 7th September 2016
Graduating in 2012 with a BA in Film Production, Matt worked with BBC Radio as a Broadcast Assistant and then as a Producer. He is currently working as a Producer with talkRADIO, overseeing flagship shows such as Paul Ross Full Set Breakfast, Julia Hartley-Brewer's Mid-Morning Show and Drivetime.
What was it like transitioning from being a film student to taking the first steps in building your radio career?
Matt: Although I went to film school and had a degree in film production, moving into radio was not difficult. I had been heavily involved with student radio at university which obviously helped, however, there are a lot of transferable skills. These days the majority of radio stations have a visual element to them including YouTube pages, so they are on the lookout for people with varied skills. As long as you are keen and happy to learn then you can always start off at the bottom and work your way up—no matter what your educational background might be.
Having produced radio shows such as Drivetime, The Weekend Late Show, The Vanessa Feltz Breakfast Show and 606, what would you pick out as some of the highlights from your CV and what were your key learning experiences in these roles?
Matt: Despite being involved in a lot of primetime shows, I still remember the first show I worked on and it was just me and the presenter, leaving me completely in charge. It might have been an overnight show with limited listeners but it is these experiences when you only have yourself where you really learn and develop as a radio producer, making important decisions and ensuring the show runs to a high standard.
Also, meeting such a varied amount of people from all different areas is always extremely interesting—from Politicians, journalists, authors, sports men & women and a lot more. When deciding the guests for a show it is always very important to know what makes your presenter tick and who they will want to speak to, because if they are not interested then the interview will not go well and it will not sound good on air. You always need to be thinking about what sounds good and what your target audience will find interesting.
You're now a Producer with talkRADIO, having joined the station in June 2016. What are some of the key skills you have had to develop over the years to make it to this point in your career?
Matt: A big part of being a producer in a live radio environment is being able to keep calm under pressure, manage a group of people and prioritising tasks. I often find several people asking me questions whilst a live broadcast is going on and you need to be able to deal with it. Making sure your presenter and everyone else has a good understanding of what is going on in the show and what they need to be doing. In live radio it is always possible that anything could go wron;, a guest might not turn up, there might be a technical fault or your Presenter might suddenly lose their voice and be unable to broadcast (it has happened). You need to be able to think clearly and quickly make a decision as people are relying on you to work out how to fix the problem.
You need to have a good contact list; you need to know who the best person to speak on a particular topic would be, such as a journalist or a politician, or who the press officer or PR person is to get a guest on. Finally, when you are starting out the most important skill you can have is just to say yes and smile when asked to do anything. It is very hard when you start out, but being that person people can rely on to turn up for a shift at an unsociable hour and the person who always answers their phone or replies to an email quickly can make you stand out and help you early on in your career.
Thinking back to your university days beginning in 2009, what advice would you give to your younger, student self, or to anyone else looking to build a career in broadcast radio?
Matt: The main pieces of advice I would have given myself are to have a lot of determination to get to where you want to be and be prepared to make sacrifices. I flew home early from a holiday for my first ever shift at the BBC. You might have to miss out on social events or work stupid hours when you would rather be asleep in order to get paid work at the start. While many of my friends work 9-5 office jobs, that was never going to happen for me and I had to accept that from the start. Also, be flexible with where you want to work. Originally I was adamant that I would work in music radio, however, I started off in speech radio and have never left. I found a love for news and current affairs so be prepared to end up somewhere a little different to where you might expect.
You can follow Matt on Twitter via @mattblom252