Work in music television

The Old Grey Whistle Test

Last updated: 05 February 2009

Television can be the most difficult medium to work in, especially where music is concerned, writes Tim Clark.

Unlike radio or print journalism, the MTV generation expects a different form of entertainment and programs such as Later With Jools Holland or live festival coverage can engage audiences in live music in an extraordinary way. Gemma Curtis from The Pop Factory in Porth gives us an insight into the industry.

"I kind of fell into my job at The Pop Factory," she says. "After finishing my year as editor of Gair Rhydd, Cardiff University's student paper, I had a month off to recover and then did some freelance work. The Pop Factory were holding their annual music awards and needed an extra pair of hands.

"I was thrown in at the deep end but worked until the end of the project. Afterwards there were a few months working for other people, but I returned in March and have been up here since. I'm currently working on this year's awards, which is a pretty large project.

Having a background in journalism really helps, as does getting out and about, meeting people and building relationships. Making contacts is vital, and getting a good reputation can lead to other work.

Gemma Curtis

"My role here is more as a researcher, but in a small company you do a bit of everything. This ranges from doing the press and trying to get coverage of Pop Factory events and programmes, to dealing with TV pluggers, researching bands, to looking after them when they come to the studio."

Music television is about preparation and production much more than other forms of media, and it is arguably the most demanding form of journalism there is. Anyone starting out would need to know the basics along with a familiarity with other forms of media.

"In terms of my job, research and press, having a background in journalism really helps," Gemma says, "as does getting out and about, meeting people and building relationships.

"It's very funny how everyone knows everyone. In the last couple of weeks I've had a handful of people getting in-touch saying, oh, you know so and so, and the like. It's a small industry really! Making contacts is vital, and getting a good reputation can lead to other work."

"I don't think there are loads of opportunities to work in music television in Wales, as music shows are quite scarce. However, there are a few more specialist shows for Welsh language," says Gemma. "Let's hope the English side picks up too! Like any media job, TV is competitive and can be hard to get into. Also, because there are so many people willing to bust a gut to get a job, you're pretty easily replaceable."

It is vital to remember that TV holds the smallest share of places in music journalism. With this in mind, your big break in television doesn't always have to start in the music genre. Roger Hammett from BBC Recruitment gives a few tips that can point you in the right direction.

"Like any other area of broadcasting, there are many routes that people have taken to break into TV journalism," he says. "These days most people have undertaken an accredited course, followed sometimes by work experience at the BBC or in a news gathering area elsewhere, eg a local paper or a commercial radio station.

"The BBC alone currently has 26,000 staff and there are hundreds of job titles. The key is to start one's job search by focusing on the six main job families we have: journalism; programme making; specialist craft and design services; business support and management; technology; and interactive media. Too many people want a job with us but are insufficiently focused on the individual role most attractive and suitable for them."

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