Editor’s note: Talia Augustidis is Junior Producer at Message Heard, a UK-based podcasting company. For the past year she has been collecting resources that have been helpful for her as a new producer in the audio industry. We are republishing an adapted portion of the document focusing on useful resources for people to make their first steps in podcasting and audio. For a full list of useful resources, check the full Google Document; you can also follow Talia on Twitter.
Step 1 – create
If you want to get into audio, make things!
If you’re interested in narrative audio, experiment with small audio documentaries about people in your immediate vicinity: friends, family, that woman in the dog park who once told you an interesting story, anyone you can find! The podcast Sound School did a great episode on What it Takes to Produce a Story At Any Level.
If you’re interested in podcasting, then start your own podcast. Don’t worry about listeners to start; even if no one hears it it’s great practice and you can use it as a sample of your work in a job application. Misha Euceph’s guide on How to Make a Podcast is a helpful resource.
If you’re interested in radio, volunteering at your local station or, if you’re a student, sign up to your university’s station. In London Resonance FM are always looking for volunteers, or there’s Soho Radio, Riverside Radio, or Gaydio if you’re Queer. There’s loads more – just look up your local station and send an email.
In terms of equipment, you can record with just your phone, and build your way up to better kit later. As for editing software, Reaper is great and intuitive with a long free trial period. Jeff Emtman’s series “Reaper for Radio” is a really useful introduction too.
Step 2 – listen
The best way to learn is to listen. If you’re unsure where to start, have a think about what genre of audio you want to make and have a look at that category in major audio/radio/podcasting awards like the British Podcast Awards, Audio Production Awards (APAs) and the Audio and Radio Industry Awards (ARIAS).
Keep a little note of what you liked and disliked about the production. This is also good practice because some scheme applications ask you to write about series you have enjoyed recently.
But it’s also important to listen to more than just audio of that particular genre. Listening to other styles can help you to experiment and innovate. You can even take inspiration from other mediums – what was it about that YouTube video that kept you watching? Is there a way you could apply that book’s structure to your podcasts? Or that film’s use of music?
Step 3 – join groups
Facebook groups are a good way to keep your finger on the pulse, and are (usually) supportive spaces to ask for advice and meet people. There’s The Entry Level Audio Network (ELAN), for example, run by Tess Davidson and Bea Duncan. It hosts a lovely community of emerging audio people. Members share job postings, resources and ask all sorts of questions.
There are also listservs like the UK Audio Network (UKAN) – an email chain for all things UK audio – where people advertise jobs, ask for advice, share courses etc. You can change your settings in Google Groups to “abridged” or “digest”, which will send you an email a day that you can quickly scan through without getting overwhelmed.
Step 4 – attend meetups
Attending in-person meetups is a good way to network and build communities. Here are a few:
Entry Level Audio Network – they often organise meet-ups for those new to the audio industry, both virtually and in-person (usually in London).
In the Dark – listening events in London and Bristol (and occasionally other cities in the UK). They’re a great way to find new and inspiring audio. It’s all volunteer run so reach out to them if you want to get involved!
The Bad Podcast Club – semi-regular London meetups typically held in a central London pub. When these happen they are advertised in UKAN.
Sound Me Out – a friendly audio open mic night in London for narrative pieces which are works in progress. It’s a great place to meet people and get feedback in a non-judgmental environment! Email Andrea Rangecroft if you want to be part of their newsletter.
Yorkshire Sound Women Network – they host various events in Yorkshire for women and people of minority genders. In the past they have had events on music technology, field recording, sound engineering and sound art, to name a few. They have local chapters in Yorkshire and affiliate groups beyond – you can even start your own if there aren’t any near you.
If you can’t find any events near you, post on UKAN asking whether anyone would be interested in a meetup in your nearest city/town. At the very least, you might find one other audio person near you who’s also looking to meet other creators!
Step 5 – reach out (to people)
A good way to build connections is to reach out to people whose work you like and ask for advice. You may think that they’re very famous and won’t have time for you, but the audio industry is relatively small, and generally you’ll find people are kind and generous and sympathetic to early career difficulties.
Their email might be online, or if they have a website, you can often contact them through there. Or check their Twitter, they might have an option to DM. Also – as much as I hate to say it – it does help to be active on Twitter. It’s a great way to discover new work, promote yourself, meet other creators, and interact with producers whose work you admire.
Step 6 – reach out (to companies)
If you’re looking for work, reach out to production companies or newsrooms that work with audio in-house. Ask if they have any researcher/assistant producer roles available (or broadcast assistant if they’re a radio station). Or even offer to just do administrative work to get your foot in the door.
Examples of newsrooms in the UK that work with audio: The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times, Tortoise, The Economist, The Financial Times, Times Radio and Bloomberg Radio.
Examples of production companies in the UK that work with audio: Broccoli, Novel, Unedited, Something Else, Message Heard, Pixiu, Chalk and Blade, Lower Street, Fresh Air, Whistledown, Listen, Falling Tree, Mags Creative, We Are Grape, Rethink Audio, Spirit Studios, Loftus Media, Storyglass, Tempo & Talker, Hat Trick Productions, Vespucci Group, Blanchard House. Outside of London there’s Folded Wing (Essex), Audio Always (Manchester), Overcoat Media (Wales), Bespoken Media (Scotland).
I would really recommend listening to some of their work and mentioning some of the programmes you genuinely enjoy. Also, feel free to mention areas you would do differently – as long as you do it in a conscientious and not overly critical way, it will make you stand out and prove you have an ear for good audio.
Step 7 – freelance
Finding freelance work can be really difficult at the start of your career. You can make it easier for yourself by: joining listservs in your region and looking at job posts; tweeting that you’re looking for jobs; emailing production companies; going to audio events and meeting people; checking “audio producer”, “radio producer” and “podcast producer” on LinkedIn. If you’re able, make a piece that you’re proud of and send it round to people.
If you’re unsure of how much to charge — or whether you’re being ripped off — El McDowall, Lily Ames and Heidi Pett made this survey in 2018 showing average day rate for UK audio producers (just be wary, inflation means these should be higher now):
There is also this survey, led by Thomas Curry and Sandra Jean Pierre. The second page of the spreadsheet shows freelance rates. It’s helpful to see what other people at your level of experience are charging. You can fill out the form yourself here.
This piece was originally published in The Fix and is re-published with permission.