From Student Radio to Commercial Radio

Capital North East presenter Alex Burgess; how she broke into the industry.

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Meet Cliff.  *Ahem.*  Meet Alex Burgess.

Formerly a Broadcast Media Production student at the University of Sunderland, & DriveTime / Local Music Show presenter on Spark (a student-led community radio station in Sunderland), Alex shares her journey from student radio to commercial radio – from being noticed after a silver-winning “Best Female” demo at the Student Radio Awards 2013, to starting out by covering shifts on Capital North East, and everything in-between.

Alex shares advice for emerging radio presenters / producers; on how to create a stand-out demo, enhance your voiceover technique and get into voiceover work, & how to make the most of your time in student radio / university.

Alex Burgess on breaking into Capital North East:

“It’s been like a whirlwind, I suppose.  I started commercial radio whilst I was a student.  It’s great to say you’ve written essays, and that you’ve got skills down on pen & paper, but for me experience has always been the most important thing.  A lot of people will ask you what your experiences are, before they ask you about university and your degree.

“So for me, ialex burgesst started by doing some demos for Capital.  A lot of the time, you’ve got to send demo after demo after demo to a radio station before you hear anything back.  I was lucky that my demo was heard [by one of the judges at the Student Radio Awards], and they gave me a go.  It was a shock at the time, but I was proud of myself for putting in so much effort, and that paid off in the end.

“So I started at Capital North East by doing some overnight shows to get used to being on air.  It was very different to being in Spark; at the time, I thought volunteering on student radio was terrifying.  And then I started doing breakfast cover, and it’s all progressed from there.  It’s exciting.”

“I still love presenting.  I know that because I still get nervous.  It’s good to be nervous because that drives me.  I do absolutely love working at Capital.”


Alex Burgess on making ear-catching (award-winning) demos:

“It was the first demo I’d ever put together – and really kind of terrifying to make it.  I’d never really thought about putting one together, as I was only in my first year.”

“We sat in the studio one night for about 7 hours, and just listened through to loads of shows.  We listened through, had our notes with us… 

“We planned it as a story; we wanted an intro, good bits of features and bits of fun, but also showcase my personality and my passion.”

Click here to hear Alex’s full demo, which attracted the attention of Capital North East‘s producers.

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Alex Burgess on student radio:

“I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for student radio.  Student radio is such a good place to do things and not be scared.  If something doesn’t go as well as you want it to, that’s fine.

“You’re here to make mistakes, you’re here to learn.  Student radio is where you find out what you’re good at, what you’re not so good at, what you’d like to do in the future.

“At Spark, I had a tendency to talk a lot, some links [what happens between the songs] were 10 minute.”  Since starting at Capital, Alex has learned how to let her on air personality shine through in shorter spurts.

“For us, student radio was a really good learning platform; so we wanted to try as much as possible, get ourselves out there, and do some daft things.  If you’re having fun on air, it’s going to sound good for the listener.”

“I started by interviewing local bands and smaller bands.  That works upwards; because you learn interviewing skills and editing skills (the boring bit), you know how to craft it…  Which means in the future, if Two Door Cinema Club come along, you’ll be given that chance to go along and see them.  You’ve got to put the graft in, and then you get the rewards.”

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Alex Burgess on tips for emerging audio producers:

“Get a good producer.  Someone who you can bounce off.  I was very lucky that my producer Alex Whelan was a very good friend.  And seek other people’s advice.  If you’ve made something, but you’re not sure about it, always ask other people at the radio station, at university.  We’re all here to help each other, and it’s a nice way of getting people involved.

“Other people have different ideas to you; you can learn things from them, they can learn from you, and you can help each other out.”

“You’ve got to be willing to jump at the opportunity to help others out too, because it’s going to help you in the future.  In commercial radio, even in student radio.  Work will come first because I want to push myself, I want to get as much on-air radio experience as I can.”

Alex Burgess on BA Broadcast Media Production at the University of Sunderland:

“I’d never listened to audio dramas & documentaries; learning to make dramas and documentaries was helpful when putting radio demos together.  Really basic things like learning how to use http://editing%20software Adobe Audition, & learning about how to craft stories.  You pick up different skills, you hear what’s good & what’s not, and it helps you to become better in yourself and your own work.”

“When I dropped out of the film degree at Northumbria University, and started Broadcast Media Production at Sunderland, I was learning all the time.  Being at Spark watching someone else’s show, helping out on something, being at university and learning these different skills; it all comes together and forms your personality.  It’s all helped me present on Capital North East now.”

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As ever, we’re keen to hear your thoughts.  Leave a comment, @99Podcast a tweet, or join the 99% Podcast networking group on Facebook & share your views with our network of artists and creatives of all pursuits.

Anyf-gold-award-jay-sykes-circle-crop1nd, as always,
Stay productive, stay awesome!

Jay Sykes
Executive Producer, 99% Perspiration

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