Getting your feet wet early is a good idea for all radio careers. Small radio stations are often willing to let young, inexperienced people work either behind-the-scenes or on-air. Getting a job or an internship at one of the small stations in your area may be as simple as asking for one.
Many high schools and universities have on-site radio stations where students can get hands-on experience at all different levels. As you explore the career further, you might want to interview a radio producer to make sure that the job requirements and description are still of interest to you.
Since most people don't start out as a producer, experience in any area of radio is helpful, so talk to local disc jockeys or program directors as well.
The identity and style of a radio program is a result of the collaborations of on-air and off-air professionals. Radio disc jockeys talk the talk during a broadcast, and producers walk the walk behind the scenes. But in many situations, particularly with smaller radio stations, the disc jockey and the show's producer are one in the same person.
Also, many show producers have disc jockey experience. This experience, combined with technical expertise, helps producers effectively plan their shows.
Radio producers rely on the public's very particular tastes—differences in taste allow for many different kinds of radio to exist, to serve many different segments of a community. In developing radio programs, producers take into consideration the marketplace—they listen to other area radio stations and determine what's needed and appreciated in the community, and what there may already be too much of. They conduct surveys and interviews to find out what the public wants to hear. They decide which age groups they want to pursue and develop a format based on what appeals to these listeners. These decisions result in a station's identity, which is very important. Listeners associate a station with the kind of music it plays, how much music it plays, the type of news and conversation presented, and the station's on-air personalities.
Based on this feedback, and on additional market research, radio disc jockeys/producers devise music playlists and music libraries. They each develop an individual on-air identity, or personality, and they invite guests who will interest their listeners. Keeping a show running on time is also the responsibility of a producer. This involves carefully weaving many different elements into a show, including music, news reports, traffic reports, and interviews. Radio producers may also be responsible for technical controls such as operating the sound volume levels, recording software, and the switchboard.
Radio producers write copy for and coordinate on-air commercials, which are usually recorded in advance. They also devise contests, from large public events to small, on-air trivia competitions.
Though a majority of radio stations have music formats, radio producers also work for 24-hour news stations, public broadcasting, and talk radio. Producing news programs and radio documentaries involves a great deal of research, booking guests, writing scripts, and interviewing.