Maybe you feel like you have things worth saying in a public forum, or maybe you’ve just always loved the idea of being on the radio. Today’s technology means that creating and broadcasting a program is possible for everyone — from a teenager with deejay dreams to a retiree with a history passion project. Whoever you are and whatever you dream, if you have radio show ideas and aspirations, there are a few basic premises.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Before diving into creating a radio show, listen to all the radio you can, figure out what kind of show you want to create. Then learn about all the technology behind studio radio programs or podcasting.
Types of Radio Programs
There’s the genre, and there’s the media itself. For the media options, there’s AM radio and FM radio that air over public airwaves regulated by the FCC, and then there’s satellite radio like SXM that’s often subscription based. Finally, there are podcasts that have commanded public attention as of late. All of these are “radio shows" because they’re audio-only entertainment.
Genres include topical talk-radio shows where hosts debate news of the day, true crime serials that explore old crimes, comedy shows that can have all kinds of premises and cultural programs that might discuss movies or music. Don’t forget sports, stocks, business, entertainment or any of the more niche topics, like space, education, cooking, science, discovery and travel.
Whatever you can imagine, there’s potentially a market for it, especially in the low-tech, accessible world of podcasting where everyone’s radio dreams can come true.
What Does Production Entail?
To produce a radio show, whether it’s on student radio at a university or co-op radio out of some nondescript studio downtown or even a podcast from your bedroom closet (don’t laugh — it’s great for sound quality), it’s critical that you understand the technology behind broadcasting. Luckily for you, it’s an era where tech and broadcast tips are everywhere on the web. NPR made a guide for starting your own podcast, for example, that’s loaded with great tips. Producers, by the way, tend to be responsible for the technical side of the show and the guest planning.
Beyond the tech, start with a radio show planning sheet and make notes about things like show structure, guests, topics that could be covered over the long term, marketing ideas and your plans for learning the craft of radio production.
Skills you’ll need include communication, obviously, since you’ll need clarity and tact with generous helpings of patience when dealing with interviews. There are all kinds of interviewing techniques you’ll need to learn, like how to pace the conversation or interrupt a guest who can’t find his point or who has gone off track. You’ll need to know how to get good-quality interviews over the phone and in the field. Editing and mixing mastery is mandatory too, of course.
The best thing to do as an aspiring radio producer is to listen, listen, listen. Tune in to radio shows of all kinds in all formats. Listen to garage podcasts and high-end national programming and take note of moments you love and why. Devour helpful articles on technology, editing and production and listen to shows about production too.
It’s also helpful to dive into some best practices regarding giving credit where it’s due for other stories or creations that you discuss or share on your show. By doing this, you could even market your show a bit by reaching out to people whose work or ideas you’re sharing and letting them know how they can listen.
If you dream of being on the airwaves, reach out to your public radio station to see if there’s a way you can pitch the station, and maybe you can work toward making your radio dreams a reality.
Steffani Cameron is a professional writer who has written for the Washington Post, Culture, Yahoo!, Canadian Traveller, and many other platforms. Some writing projects have included ghost-writing for CEOs and doing strategy white papers. She frequently writes for corporate clients representing Fortune 500 brands on subjects that include marketing, business, and social media trends.