The Radio Production Series – What A Producer Actually Does

I get asked a lot about what it is I actually do for a living as a radio producer, especially by family members who believe that I sit around drinking tea and deciding which records to play on the radio… (To be fair, I do get to do that sometimes), so I thought it’s about time I wrote about some of the aspects of my job and what exactly it is I get up to (while of course drinking tea).

The best description I can give anyone is that I am a gatekeeper of the airwaves, standing proudly in front of a giant door.

The reason I give it that description is because that’s what life sometimes looks like at work. Everyday, like every other media outlet in the UK and around the globe, we get sent music, books and press releases about events from people hoping for a chunk of time on the radio to highlight their creativity. As producers, it’s our job to decide what the best fit is for the audiences we look after.

What will really capture the minds of the people who rely on us each day, who willingly choose to let us be a part of their lives?

This is a question I ask about every item that arrives in my post pigeon hole or inbox. I also ask:

  • Does it have merit or add value to what we’re already doing?
  • Does it fit a theme the radio station is covering?
  • Is it possible that what I have been sent would work better somewhere else on the schedule?
  • If it doesn’t work now, will it be useful for later?

Not every book, press release or piece of music makes it of course. With commitments to news, weather, ads, traffic and travel, paid for content, regular spots and features, liners, station info and any other pressing issues that must be covered, not forgetting playing some music and making room for the presenter to be themselves, there’s not a lot of room at times to squeeze everything you want into a show. Hence why I describe a radio producers job as a gatekeeper of the airwaves.

That description though does make us look like glorified doorman guarding the entrance to a swanky club, willing to bat off anything that looks untoward. But the truth of the matter is that behind the portals we guard you will find a new world entirely, one where we slip off the dinner jackets, put down the big pointy sticks, and slip on a scientists white coat to engineer something quite different.

With our white coats on, and usually a tea in hand, we concoct ideas, experiments and inventions. We put ideas on paper; work on formulas that look to dazzle and bang; and endlessly write thoughts and ideas down that might not even surface for several years.

Considering items that have been sent for airplay, mentions or even interviews is one part of what we do. However that would make us particularly bad at our jobs if all we relied upon were external sources to make our programmes for us. A good producer will go out of their way looking for stories to catch the imagination and attention of their listener. They will scan the world around them for unusual paths that might spark an interest, unearth ideas that have yet to see the light of day and highlight the unsung heroes who for years have been doing something the world has not yet heard or seen and have a story to tell. That above all is what makes being a producer, especially in radio, a rather special job to have. Being able to highlight some of those amazing moments are things we cherish and the reason why we love doing what we do.

This is just one part of the job that I do as a radio producer and making programmes. There are other types of producer making different types of programming (live sport, documentaries, debates, comedy, talk shows etc) and hopefully over time some of those people may even appear here – just let me know if you want to share your producer life.

In future posts I hope to explain more about some of the other aspects of my job, but for now I hope this gives you a better idea about what a radio producer actually does!

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