We’re living through a golden age for radio, at least according to this recent article published by Thump. But you don’t have to slog your way through the thinkpieces dedicated to charting the new wave of online independents – look at your bookmarks. NTS, Berlin Community Radio, Radar Radio, chances are you ‘tune’ (we need new idioms) into any number of online radio channels or regular shows to get your new music fix. Last month, we charted our favourite stations we have on lock, but the list keeps growing as more and more join the data stream.
A relatively new addition to the landscape is the London-based S I S T E R, a monthly show hosted on Mixcloud and Soundcloud that’s the brainchild of Shan McGinley, Chris Bailey and ex-Rinse FM DJ Carly Wilford. Fittingly, S I S T E R is keeping it in the Point Blank family: Chris is a former PB tutor of Radio and Shan is a former student (we’ve documented his success before), but that’s not the only reason we’re listening closely. From the first show, which premiered late last year, S I S T E R’s high production values and broad but clear remit – a dedication to international underground bass music borne out with sets by Benga, Chris Lorenzo right through to New Jersey’s UNIIQU3 – quickly earnt the transmission a loyal following. We caught up with Shan and Chris, who we are 100% claiming as PB’s own, to find out more.
Tell us about the origins of S I S T E R. How did you get it off the ground?
Shan: S I S T E R actually started out from a very hungover cup of coffee in Amsterdam at ADE last year. We had a meeting just before our now producer Chris flew back to London. Carly and I have worked together for a few years through IAmMusic and Rinse FM. We’d also been doing some stuff with Skrillex and the OWSLA crew in the summertime, which massively geared us both towards taking our radio careers onto a global scale.
We sat down with Chris and at the time we hadn’t even thought about collaborating until he said “Why don’t you guys just do a radio show together?” Instantly, we knew that we could create something amazing if we linked up, due to our similar taste in electronic music. Also, we’re literally the only people we know who can match each others insane ambitions and hustle. We left the meeting with Chris stating, “Regardless of what happens, we’re 100% piloting a radio show together in the next two weeks” and from that moment, S I S T E R was born!
What skills did you learn at PB that have stood you in good stead, particularly with regards to S I S T E R?
Shan: I picked up loads of skills and advice from my Point Blank tutors at the time, Chris and Bruno, that I still use today with S I S T E R and even other platforms. They taught us a great deal about the art of networking in radio and how to get yourself into the right position to further your career, which is something I’ve never stopped doing from day one. Both the guys always reiterated that you’ve got to clock up the live on-air miles to really make it as a radio presenter and mould yourself into the talent you want to become. This is something that has always stuck with me throughout working at stations like Roundhouse Radio.
At Point Blank you get an opportunity to learn how to properly edit and produce your own radio show. It’s a skill that’s worked wonders for me over the years because after my live shows I could edit out any live blunders where a track fires out of time or whatever before uploading online for my mates to check out.
Chris, has the rise of internet radio and the new wave of independent stations made it easier for people starting out?
Chris: Yes and no. Yes because we could launch a radio station sat on this sofa. We could brand it and start playing tunes and broadcast to the internet in ten minutes, which is brilliant because in the past you had to fight or do a million things for free to get anywhere near a studio. The challenge is… you’ve got so, so many radio stations set up by two people sat on a sofa! I’m all for that, it’s amazing, you want to listen to 1930s Bulgarian ballet music, you will probably find a radio station that does that, and they are thoroughly passionate and they will have their thoroughly passionate listeners. But it does mean that there’s only a certain amount of people listening. And the internet noise at the moment is beyond gigantic. If you listen to what’s in your Facebook feed, just what came in over an hour, you couldn’t listen to that in a day. That is obviously a bit of an obstacle, a bit of a challenge.
How do you stand out? How do you cut through the content nausea?
Chris: You just have to come up with something different. And also, I think, there’s a subtlety in quality that I very much push, of trying to make it sound as incredible as possible as it is very easy to put together a show. It’s the same as when Point Blank students here are looking at mastering and mixing courses, you can get four loops in Logic and make a tune, but it’s nowhere near what you get taught on a mixing course. I think the key to making it stand out firstly – and importantly – is the content. Secondly, getting the quality threshold as high as possible. And then you need to bundle into the internet noise.
Did you have a vision of how you wanted S I S T E R to be from the beginning?
Shan: Totally, we all had an extremely clear vision of how we wanted S I S T E R to sound. It’s our aim to help sonically merge the most groundbreaking underground sounds on every episode and gauge the reaction from ravers around the world, giving listeners an insight into everything from UK Grime to LA’s trap scene.
I think a lot of industry folk get caught up in this naff term ‘USP’ and some artists and DJs go off in search of creating something unique about what they’re doing. If that’s the path you take, it simply won’t be genuine. There’s load of unique things about S I S T E R including the fact that it’s a guy and girl presenting a specialist electronic radio show with a global vision but that’s all happened completely organically and none of it’s been forced. My advice would be to just follow your gut and the let public decide what they feel is unique about what you do!
Do you have any advice for people starting out, who are perhaps thinking of putting together their own radio show?
Shan: Starting out in radio, the best advice is to hit the ground running. Knock on some doors and try drum up as much experience as you possibly can. A great deal of this will be unpaid but if you’re properly serious about it and you want to excel than that’s something you’ve just got to juggle, I mean, I worked in a fish restaurant to get money for travel for ages, ha!
If you’re putting together your own show, try to be as critical as possible with your own presenting/producing and listen back to every show so you can pick out the points where you can improve and progress especially as a radio presenter.
The one thing that people will respect in radio and music is somebody who works their balls off. I also reckon that’s one of the best way you can stand out too. The more energy you put into your dream, the more prepared you’ll be for your shot!
If you want to be part of the radio renaissance, make like Shan and come and study with us. Our Radio Broadcasting Diploma has given rise to hundreds of radio professionals, including Gemma Cairney (Radio One, Channel 4), Monki (Rinse FM, Radio One, 1Xtra), Josh Dowler (Radio One), Madam X (1Xtra), Mistajam (Radio One) and many more. As well as the foundational skills required for a career in radio, students will explore future trends and developments within the industry, placing them at the cutting edge.
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