Do you work in audio in TV or radio or interested in pursuing that line of work in the media? Then you may be interested in the work of Sound Women, a network of over 900 inspirational women working in audio. If you’re male stay tuned – there are useful tips for you too!
Ann Charles a sound engineer kindly agreed to write about Sound Women for us and also offers a couple of tips for those thinking of entering the profession:
Sound Women – the coolest support organisation for women in radio
“Sound Women? They’re a bunch of militant feminists who whinge that there aren’t enough women on the radio!” said a (male) colleague of mine in the pub one night.
Brilliant! We’ve made it as an organisation! We’ve even inspired a spoof Twitter account – @soundblokes. We must be making an impact.
On a serious note, no we’re not a bunch of militant feminists who whinge about the lack of women in high-profile positions in radio and audio. What we are is a group of people (men are welcome) who want to support women working in the radio and audio industries.
We’ve commissioned research which found out that many women leave the industry at around the age of 35. We’d like to change that, so we organise mentoring schemes to help you reach the next stage of your career.
There are social events and talks and workshops happening under the Sound Women umbrella all over the country. We’re lucky to have high-profile broadcasters from across the industry volunteering on the committee.
Sound Women has only just reached its first birthday. It was set up after Maria Williams, a radio Executive Producer, got so fed up by the lack of women winning Sony Radio Academy awards (the most prestigious awards in UK radio) that she wanted to do something about it. She gathered together a collective of like-minded women and Sound Women was born.
We don’t just concentrate on production and presentation skills. Some of our members are of a more technical persuasion and we’ve had Sound Women volunteers organising engineering conferences and promoting technical skills to young people. There are some great opportunities available if you want to get involved.
On a personal note, if you are interested in media, then radio is a great industry to join. If you already work in tv, you will have many transferable skills – and vice-versa! For example, I have done sound for tv as a direct result of my experience of being able to mix radio programmes. Interviewing people and making contacts are requirements in both industries. And although the debate rages about the value of the visualisation of radio, it’s certainly the case that video skills are becoming essential in the world of audio.
Most of us who work in the world of radio/audio are really passionate about it. It’s a very creative medium and although there’s a lot of teamwork involved, it’s much easier for one person to have an idea, do all the necessary recording, edit it and play the item out themselves. There’s more room for an individual’s own creative vision and control. And if you want to ‘send someone into space’ for a drama, doing it on the radio is way cheaper…
So if you want to meet some amazing people, get all fired up about your media career and have some skills you’d like to pass on (don’t be shy – I know you’ll have a skill or talent to share that the rest of us aren’t so good at), please pop over to the Sound Women website and join us. It’s a fiver a month.
Thank you, Ann, now onto practical matters – do you need any particular qualifications to start a career in audio for radio or TV?
No. Experience is good. Some people choose to do MAs in Journalism if that’s their thing. Broadcast engineers may or may not have done an engineering or electronic degree (I was at an event for broadcast engineers yesterday and I think it was a 50/50 split between those who’d got a degree and those who’d learned by experience). I turned down university and did three years working at my local station instead – not an uncommon route.
What is the most common entry-level position for a career in audio?
It depends on where you work but the most common entry-level position – after work experience – is often called a ‘Broadcast Assistant’ or a ‘Production Assistant’. Broadcast Assistant can be a misleading term, however – some BAs have got 20+ years in the industry! A BA is usually a multi-skilled role that might cover everything from programme admin and research to co presenting, answering and producing phone calls, making packages and operating sound desks. On the broadcast engineering side you might find people doing roles such as technical assistant or being a trainee on a graduate programme as a first paid job. But most people will have some unpaid experience in local/community/student/hospital radio first.
And finally, what is the difference between a sound engineer and a broadcast engineer?
I’ve worked in production (as a radio/online producer/reporter), sound engineering and broadcast engineering. They have lots of overlaps but aren’t all the same thing! Lots of people get ‘sound engineer’ and ‘broadcast engineer’ confused – one is a person who is an expert in creating and mixing sound, and the other is the person who knows how to get and keep your station on air and all the equipment working correctly.
Ann Charles is a radio and online producer who went a bit feral and ended up as a project-managing engineer. She’s passionate about all things radio and audio, and especially loves helping producers get the best use of technology. She likes chocolate and singing songs about socks in Bulgarian.