Words: Caroline Simionescu-Marin
With nearly 20 years in the industry radio expert, Stuart Grant (Stu) takes us through his journey from local DJ to Managing Editor of one of the UK’s most well renowned commercial radio stations. He gives critical advice to aspiring artists and DJ’s, an exclusive insight into the music industry today and discusses artists’ social responsibility in the 21st century.
IMC: What is your job role and what does it entail?
SG: I am the Managing Editor of Choice FM, which is owned by Global Radio. I am responsible for everything our listeners hear through their speakers. From the music we play, the presenters, the content, even down to the adverts and competitions.
IMC: Where did you start and how did you get to this position?
SG: I started in radio when I was about 19 at university. I then got an apprenticeship at a local station where I was trained up as a presenter and managed to get a show there. Next I went on to a station called Vibe FM. Vibe was bought by Kiss and so I moved on to their breakfast show in the East of England for 9 years. Finally I left and came to Choice!
IMC: Who inspired you to get into radio?
SG: In all honestly I don’t think I had ever thought about getting into radio when I was young. I walked past the radio station at uni and thought ‘that looks fun’. I remember vividly listening to Simon Mayo and Chris Evans on Radio 1, they were very much part of my life and inspired me to further myself into actually presenting radio shows.
IMC: Which do you prefer, being a DJ or working on the business side?
SG: I needed the knowledge I gained from being a DJ to enable me to manage a station behind the scenes. I have experience in being a jock myself which allows me to help the DJ’s improve. But there are good sides to both – being a presenter you do fewer hours which is always appealing!
IMC: Favourite part of what you do now?
SG: Definitely coaching the DJ’s. I love showing them how to improve and grow, to make their shows better. Also being a part of the team that is responsible for the music is amazing; essentially we play an important part within the industry of helping to decide which songs become hits. Obviously with such a task comes great responsibility! We must take into account the bigger picture of the audience and how the music we play represents what we as a radio station are about.
IMC: You have obviously seen a lot of artist’s use radio as a powerful connecting tool – what advice would you give to artists aspiring to enter the industry?
SG: Organically grow your fan base as much as you can, do as many gigs as possible, get the social media up and running. Put yourself on YouTube and let people discover you! My biggest advice would be network, network, network. Make connections with as many people as you can.
IMC: How important would you say artists relationships with the radio stations are?
SG: Radio is definitely an extremely important medium for artists. Saying this, commercial radio has traditionally been a place for the records of signed and established artists. The great thing about Choice in comparison to a lot of other commercial stations is we have opportunities for unknown artists to get some airplay through our specialist weekend shows, for example Ras Kwame or Max. Radio is obviously a good route – but initially for upcoming artists, there is most probably a lot of groundwork to be done before even considering radio airplay.
IMC: Given your personal background what advice would you give to DJ’s aspiring to enter the radio industry?
SG: Without a doubt, you need to be truly talented, dedicated, persistent and passionate. It is so competitive within the commercial radio market so you have to be the best to get on air. I think a lot of people have broken dreams because it is what they want to do and it seems like it just won’t happen for them. Having said that there are obviously opportunities in the industry, if you are absolutely determined the best thing to do is bug the hell out of people like me! Emails, call, demos, turn up…ask any successful radio DJ how they made it and they will tell you this was what they did. You MUST be persistent, determined and keep going! Eventually someone will crack and you may get a chance.
Without a doubt, you need to be truly talented, dedicated, persistent and passionate. It is so competitive within the commercial radio market so you have to be the best to get on air.
IMC: Onto music at the moment, who should we be looking out for in 2013?
SG: Miguel definitely, he is very talented and it is good to see him breaking through over here. Also I really hope Tanya Lacey gets a shot. We have been supporting her for ages and it would be nice to have some female talent coming through from the UK as it can tend to be very male dominated. Similarly US star Jhene Aiko is definitely one to watch.
IMC: 2013 is the year for comebacks. We have seen this with the reformation of So Solid Crew, Destiny’s Child and also Justin Timberlake. Who would be your pick to make a comeback this year?
SG: [Long pause…laughs] 5 star.
IMC: It seems common practise for certain artists to be seen glamorising drugs and inappropriate imagery on social media like Twitter and Instagram. What do you think of artists social responsibilities generally and with regards to these sites?
SG: I think as an artist it is important to be aware of setting a good example for your fans. It would be nice for those who have the power to set a tone in culture to set a good one. To some extent there is a danger of artists becoming more of a news story, and that’s not what it should be about. They should be thought of as the fantastic musicians they are. It should be all about the music.
I think as an artist it is important to be aware of setting a good example for your fans. It would be nice for those who have the power to set a tone in culture to set a good one.
IMC: Similarly it appears swearing and use of blasphemy on tracks is becoming a norm, desensitising bad vocabulary to those who follow the rap, urban and R’n’B genre. What do you think about it?
SG: From a professional perspective, it can be a pain because we have to edit it out of songs before we can air them. I also think it can be completely unnecessary and glamorising swear words for no reason. Perhaps I’m a bit old fashioned… There are some great songs out there that don’t need swearing to emphasise a point.
IMC: Given your experience and position in the radio industry what is your biggest secret to success?
SG: My greatest advice to any artist or aspiring DJ is to gain experience on a local level with a local station. Be it hospital, community, whatever! And just knock on doors; this sort of job will never knock on yours. Call, email, be proactive…get yourself under peoples noses. My motto is “GO. DO.” Because if you don’t, it won’t come to you.