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Career Chat: Phil Stocker Talks About Life As A Producer At BBC Radio 1

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It's that time again to talk careers. This time, I'm focusing on the radio industry, asking questions about daily life in the studio, work experience and the best bits of the job. My guest today is Phil Stocker who works at Radio 1 for the Fearne Cotton show.

EG: Hi Phil. We'd love to hear what you do at Radio 1.

PS: I produce Fearne Cotton on Radio 1 (weekdays 10-12.45am). Cliche alert but I do think I have the best job in the world. My role alongside Fearne and the programme team is to lead and come up with creative, fun ideas for the show, book bands for Radio 1's Live Lounge who play each week, programme the new music we play, book guests for interviews, and make sure that we're connecting with Radio 1's young audiences in the digital space (making sure there's always legacy for a show - be it videos on the Radio 1 website, Radio 1 Facebook or Twitter pages - the days of simply "making a radio show" are long gone!)

Radio 1's Live Lounge is still the go-to destination to hear the biggest names in music, and new artists playing live. We've had Live Lounge Specials (30 minute uninterrupted 'sets') from Usher, Katy Perry, Florence & The Machine, Cee-Lo Green, and Adele. A part of the Live Lounge artists uniquely deliver a mystery cover version. The choice of song and how artists interpret that cover is also hugely important. For instance we had Ben Howard in the Live Lounge at the beginning of May and he covered Carly Rae Jepson's 'Call Me Maybe' - which received a big reaction on our text console and Twitter feed when it went out live, but after the event we've had huge figures for that performance on YouTube with over 3.6million views (and growing), so the right performance can really 'live on' afterwards and connect with people who might never have heard the radio show before, but come to us after finding video content of their favourite artists online.

A real highlight this year for myself, Fearne and the team was winning Gold at the Sony Radio Awards in May for 'Best Music Programme''. The Sony's are often described as "the Oscars of the radio world" so getting industry recognition for what we do on a daily basis was amazing. Oh, and being given the award by Chris Evans - who inspired me to get into radio in the first place, that was pretty good too.....

On our show specifically over the last 12 months we've 'broken' a number of acts: Lana Del Rey (unsigned until we played her), Rizzle Kicks (again unsigned at the time we played them), Nina Nesbitt (great young singer songwriter- look out for her!) . We've also championed Ben Howard, Alt-J, & Rudimental.

EG: That's awesome. What a fantastic year you guys have had! What's your favourite thing about working in the industry?

PS: The opportunities to develop yourself (BBC specifically feels much more interested in equipping and encouraging staff to have a broad skill-set). I recently went to a 'Learning Lunch' where instead of sitting at your desk eating lunch, going through your emails, you can go to seminar on how to pitch creative ideas. Far better use of my time.

Also, working with creative people. It's funny how certain industries attract certain kinds of people (certainly radio could & should be more diverse, not just staffed by people who help out at student radio or get involved in local radio because they're keen - I'm guilty as charged on both counts by the way!) but I really enjoy being around creative people who you only have to describe your one-line pitch of an idea, and you can tell they can already see & feel the idea, and before you know it you're both standing there enthused at the idea and "what might be". Part of that is the culture of working at the BBC and Radio 1 in particular, but also people I meet outside work. People who're starting up their own creative business ventures, or who alongside their day jobs set up club nights, youth projects, T-shirt printing businesses, fanzines or funny blogs - just for the hell of it. Because they can. Because they've got a brilliant idea & want to do things differently. That's what makes working in the industry exciting.

EG: Sounds like being in a creative environment is really important to keeping things fresh. Where do you get inspiration for new shows?

PS: Honestly? Everywhere! Working at Radio 1 there's so many starting points for ideas, the challenge is knowing where to start and where to look! Sometimes it can be easy - what's everyone talking about right now? What's interesting to our audience right now? A large part of our audience are now off school or college for the summer, some will be off to T in the Park this weekend, some are watching Wimbledon (some don't care about tennis but are watching anyway!) so one one level there's the big national talking points but adding some kind of creative twist. Last week Dan from the office went to Wimbledon for the first time (we christened him 'Wimbledan') and he asked whether 'Henman Hill' should still be called that seeing as Tim Henman didn't actually win Wimbledon and its been a while since he played...!

Ideas come from all around, from TV, films, other radio shows, what's topical, what makes us laugh, what we think will mark sour audience laugh, what has potential to be shared online once we've broadcast it and what's relevant and entertaining to a 15-25 year old in the UK today.

From a personal point of view I really enjoy what Jimmy Kimmell and his team are doing right now. Also there's a channel created by Vice magazine 'noisey' who do a featured called 'You Review' which is kids reviewing new music - including Skrillex 'Bangarang' if you've not seen it yet, it's worth a look.

EG: I will definitely check that out! Sounds like your days are jam packed - how do you find working in such a fast-paced environment?

PS: I love it. One of the things that's great about radio is that it's so immediate - in a way that few mediums are. It's also what I like about our show team (Fearne, myself and Assistant Producer Anna). We discuss our favourite ideas, plan the next day's show (or rest of week's shows) and before you know it there you have almost 14 hours of national music radio ready to go (or at least planned in to-do list form!). As in any role, it can be a challenge "keeping all the plates spinning" especially as there's always a new band to be aware of, social media that needs updating for the show, or finding the time to come up with your next big idea, but they're challenges we all face and it comes down to how you manage your own time. I tend to use my tube journeys each day as "thinking time"!

EG: That's good advice. What are you most excited about at the moment?

PS: I'm excited about where radio & visuals go next. Radio 1's been at the forefront of pushing what our audiences expect from a music radio station - be it streaming live video content through mobile - as happened at our Hackney weekend - you could watch bands playing live though your mobile as it happened, as well as online at a desktop browser, or the Moyles show providing 'alternative commentary' on red button during the recent England v Italy Euro 2012 game. The challenge for us and the rest of the radio marketplace is working out how closely we draw the line between radio and TV when visualising content. We're adamant that we visualise radio, the danger being as soon as you make something look too much like TV (rather than radio that we film) the audience expectations change and it's not nearly as effective as a form of entertainment for all involved.

EG: What would you say to anyone wanting to get into radio?

1. It's not rocket science (thankfully).
2. Build up your skill set. Be it at local radio, Internet radio, student radio. Anyone can learn to edit or drive a desk, but don't forget to practise building up your 'creative skillset' too. What ideas make you laugh? Why do you like something? Try and break down what makes a presenter or TV show entertaining and then come up with your own version of it.
3. Remember, you're never there to make the numbers or just get the tea. Your ideas matter!

(Oh, and best not turn round and say "I'd like to work at Radio 1 because I really like meeting famous people". Just a tip.

EG: Great tip. For anyone interested in a career in radio, is there any work experience currently available at Radio 1?

PS: We have our monthly Access All Areas work experience placements on both Radio 1 & Radio 1xtra, although this is currently suspended with our August candidates being the last through the door until we are set-up and moved into Radio 1's new home in the redeveloped Broadcasting House. Radio 1 & Radio 1xtra get hundreds of applications every month. These candidates are shortlisted & chosen for each network who then receive a weeks placement working across of variety of production teams.

For more information on work experience availability at BBC Radio 1, visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/careers/work-experience/

 
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