Radio is a great media format, it informs us of the news during our commute to work, lets us enjoy music on road trips and allows us to eavesdrop on interesting conversations between our favourite hosts. Despite the introduction of the iPod over 20 years ago, we still love to listen to the radio. Even with constant advancements in music streaming and the endless hours of podcasts that cater to our specific niche interests and likes, it’s a wonder so many of us still click the button to listen to the radio – but yet we do.
Even those of us that have perfectly curated playlists for any mood, feeling or event will sometimes switch to the radio when we just want easy listening or background music. It offers a bit more personality and a feeling of community. Whether you enjoy BBC Radio 2 or Kiss FM, there’s a radio station out there that anyone can enjoy. I’m sure we all have fond memories of childhood trips to the seaside where we listened exclusively to the radio before Bluetooth or aux cables were commonly found in cars.
But radio goes beyond the car – many of us enjoy it while we shower, as an alarm when we wake up or while we work. Radio is everywhere and it shows no signs of leaving. So how are your favourite radio shows recorded and broadcasted for us to enjoy? Read on to discover the magic of radio production.
Radio production involves the creation of a radio show, from organising music choices, organising guests, competitions and timings to creating audio, writing scripts and producing jingles. There are two types of radio production – audio production and show production.
- An audio producer creates jingles, sweepers, promos and station imaging. This is the work that is mostly hidden behind the scenes and incorporates a lot of technical production to produce features for the show. It is a creative role that requires a lot of forward-thinking in order to make the show fun and entertaining.
- A radio producer has more to do with the live show as they have to work closely with the presenter to research interesting topics, come up with exciting content and find callers to be a part of the show. While the show is running they are in control of the timings, checking when songs will start and end and keeping the presenter on track.
Radio studios have a lot of high-tech equipment in order to ensure the show goes off without a hitch. Each producer and presenter needs to know how to use all of the equipment flawlessly.
Here’s what you’ll find in a typical radio studio or recording studio:
- Audio console
This is sometimes called a radio panel, sound panel or sound desk and is the interface used by the radio presenter to control what is heard on air.
This captures the sound in the studio and transforms it into electrical impulses. It’s attached to a microphone arm for ease of use.
- Playout and automation software
This plays back music, spots and sweepers. It is specific software that allows for continuous playback of music.
- Level meters
Different level meters ensure the radio output is consistent and allows the presenter to see if the audio is too loud or too quiet.
- Studio speakers
These are high-quality speakers that allow you to hear the broadcast without headphones and enable you to pick up on any abnormalities. Studio speakers are automatically muted when the microphone is on so headphones are needed to hear the audio output.
- On air light
Reminds everyone that the mic in the studio is live so producers and presenters know to be aware of what noise they’re making.
This allows people to communicate between studios, for example, if the producer needs to remind the presenter of something.
There is also a lot more complex equipment in the rack room and at the transmission site that helps get the show on the air. This includes encoders, mix engines, audio routers, network switches and receivers.
A lot of the hard work is done before the show is even broadcast on air. There are many different types of radio programming that require different aspects of production. Whether it is a morning show, news and weather, genre-specific, talk show or sports. Throughout the day, many radio programmes will have allotted time slots for each show. It’s a strict timetable and no show should run longer or shorter than their allotted time, so it requires a lot of planning.
The producer will have to consider the demographic they are creating it for, their personal characteristics and behavioural patterns. Sure, you can create a radio show full of your own favourite songs, but will anyone tune in? Probably not, unless you have a miracle music taste that appeals to a large group of people.
The generation of the audience is usually the most important one so it’s dependent on the year they were born and what group they can be filed into. Either baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y/ Millennials and Gen Z.
The preparation of content before a radio show helps to avoid rambling, a lack of confidence and focus or a disorganised show. If there is a segment or guest that the radio programme would like to highlight, they usually create a story structure that pulls people in and brings them on a journey.
This includes an exposition where the presenter explains the background information and establishes the setting. This is followed by a rising action that introduces a conflict. For example, a true crime podcast would highlight the details of a murder and then leave the audience questioning who did it. The climax offers the highest point of drama, such as the emotional peak of a heartfelt interview or the win or loss of a live competition. The presenter then cools things down with a failing action and then offers a resolution to the segment.
In order to complete a story, scripts must be written, guests called in and briefed, time allotted and interview questions planned. Some interviews are recorded beforehand so that there is room to work with anything unexpected and it ensures the show segment goes smoothly. These recordings then go to the editing team to be prepared for the show. This way, once live on air, the recording can be played with a click of a button.
If the show isn’t live, such as a podcast, the content will be recorded and then put together afterwards before being uploaded or played live on air. Once the recording is complete, the editing team must add in commercial content and programmatic ads as well as sound effects, jingles and break music. This can be a lengthy process and requires an editing service with a good ear and technical ability in order to catch any audio issues and fix them.
Do you have your own podcast or radio programme? As you’ll know, there is a lot of work that goes into creating high-quality podcasts and radio features. From recording and editing to show notes and promotion, you often need extra support to produce something that will stand out from the ever-growing crowd. At Listening Dog Media, we already have plenty of knowledge that enables us to create great audio experiences. We have over 30 years of experience in radio production, supporting clients such as the BBC. If you’re creating a radio show and need some expertise to help your show grow its listeners, choose the team at Listening Dog Media. We can support you every step of the way, whether you are new to the industry or have been creating a radio show for some time.
We also specialise in podcasting, helping you develop your concept, create branding, record, edit and distribute your project. Get in touch with our team to learn more about what we do. We love working with a range of niche interests and ideas, so don’t hesitate to take your podcast to the next level today.