East Coast FM’s Drivetime presenter Ryan O’ Neill takes the RadioToday Q&A hotseat and shares his advice for entering the industry and tells us his favourite part of the job.
How would you describe your first radio gig?
My very first radio gig was with pirate station DLR 106FM in a garden shed in Cabinteely, Co. Dublin. I had been pestering the station manager John Daly for a show, I made out that I had lots of experience and that he needed me on the station, in reality I had never been behind a mic and had no experience. My first show was a Monday afternoon from 12-4pm and I remember borrowing all my friends CDs and playing them all on air. All my friends in School thought I was cool because I used to be able to play their requests on air!
What led you to a career in radio?
For as long as I can remember I wanted to work in radio. When I was young, I used to ring up the local radio stations and request songs, then I used to record them onto tape and pretend to be the DJ! I got a microphone for my 7th birthday and then I was able to really pretend I was a radio DJ.
How would you describe the radio landscape in your area?
The radio market in Wicklow is very tough, we are in a pretty unique situation where so many radio stations can be picked up in the area we broadcast to. In areas like Bray and Greystones, you can pick up all the Dublin stations. These areas are almost like Dublin suburbs as the Dart and Dublin Bus are also here. It makes our job much more difficult, there is so much choice for the listener.
Are you wearing more “hats” than you have in the past?
I think the days of just being employed as a DJ are in the past, when radio stations are recruiting for talent, they are looking for much more than how you link between the songs. Presenters need to do something different to keep listeners tuned in. Most presenters will generally do something else as well as being a radio presenter, some will work in the programming or production departments while others play in pubs or clubs at the weekend. I have tried to do a bit of everything, the more you can do, the more employable you are.
What are you doing social media-wise?
Social media has really exploded in the past year or two. Radio and social media now go hand in hand and it’s no coincidence that the stations that do great numbers in the JNLR also have huge numbers on Facebook and Twitter, it’s a great way to communicate with listeners but it’s also great for reaching potential listeners with promotions and competitions. I think this will only increase in the coming years.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I love getting into the studio and putting on the headphones. I love music so I’m happy to be in the studio listening to the songs that I play. I think I am very lucky to be in the job that I love, I genuinely enjoy coming to work.
What artist would we be surprised to find on your iPod?
Garth Brooks? I’m a big fan. It’s ok though because he has become cool again! I love cheesy 80s & 90s stuff too.
What’s one thing that would surprise many people to learn about you?
I’m just completed a documentary for RTÉ about unique family situation. It follows me over a nine month period and I go through a process of genetic testing. My Dad died from a rare genetic form of Alzheimer’s when he was 48 which means I have a 50/50 chance of developing the disease. The genetic test will tell me if I inherited the gene or not. I agreed to make the documentary to try and bring understanding and awareness about Alzheimer’s, people don’t talk about it even though it affects almost 50,000 in this country, I have never really talked about it before so I would imagine a lot of people will be surprised when they see the documentary.
Who is your favorite radio personality not on your staff and why do you like them?
I love listening to Talk Radio, I am a fan of George Hook and The Off The Ball guys keep me entertained on the drive home in the evening.
What was your favorite station to listen to when you were a kid?
When I was growing up I listened to alot of the pirate stations, DLR and Pulse 103 were my favourites. I also listened to East Coast quite a lot, they had a show called “East Coast Energy” and I was a big fan.
What advice you would give people new to the business?
Keep trying! The one thing I learnt very quickly in the radio business, you will have a lot of knock backs and rejections and it might have nothing to do with your ability to do the job. Get experience in as many areas of the industry as possible, even if you have to do it unpaid for a while, get a great CV and knock on as many doors as possible.
What is the current state of the radio ‘talent pool’?
I honestly think there is a lack of new talent in this country, this probably has a lot to do with the fact that the pirate training ground isn’t there anymore. Back in the 90s and 00s, it wasn’t unusual for radio presenters to go straight from a pirate gig to a commercial station. The opportunity to train on pirate stations isn’t there anymore so the number of talented jocks have decreased.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to work on the radio. I started my first pirate show when I was 13 and from that day I never wanted to work in any other industry.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @radioryanoneill