As part of Exposure’s I’m Inspired project, music fan Richardo met Josh Farmer, Assistant Studio Manager at NTS Radio, which broadcasts live from London, Manchester and Los Angeles.
Richardo Amado (RA): What’s your job title and what does that mean?
Josh Farmer (JF): I’m an assistant studio manager — that means I assist with the day-to-day running of the studio. We’ve got two studios at NTS where we do live radio for about 10+ hours a day. So I assist our other two studio managers in making sure everything’s running on time, making sure they’ve got everything they need.
RA: What’s a normal working day like?
JF: It’s kind of flexible. If there’s loads of shows late, then maybe you’ll come in later, around 12, but then you’re maybe staying till midnight.
We often have busy days, with lots of international guests to set up in our live studio. This is on top of all our regular show hosts & DJs, as well as everyone pre-recording & practicing in our second studio. There’s a big mix of people passing through the station every day. I can’t really think of times when I’ve been bored — more stressed!
RA: What kind of people do you work with?
JF: We work with a huge range of people… I’m in charge of managing all our producers. We’ve got a team of about 20 producers who come in and produce their shows for one or two hours — and they’re from all different backgrounds. Some are students, some of them work, some are musicians, some are just in London for a couple of months and want to get some radio experience, some might do radio as their main job.
And then we’ve got all our full-time staff at NTS as well — people who do video, design, social media… and then loads who just do radio and sound.
RA: Who or what inspired you to start working in this industry?
JF: I guess it was listening to a lot of old radio sets, NTS sets as well — and then doing radio at university. So, kind of a mixture of going to see sick DJs in London and thinking, “I want to do that”, and at the same time doing student radio and seeing that I can hang out with other people who want to do the same thing. That kind of inspired me.
RA: How did you get into this job?
JF: I worked part-time at NTS for about a year and a half, just helping out in the studio once a week, helping out at events here and there, that sort of thing. Then NTS did its fifth birthday [in 2016] where they did five events in five days. They’d never done anything on that scale before, so they needed loads of extra people. So I helped out, and kept helping out from there.
RA: What qualifications or training do you need in your job?
JF: At NTS we’re quite unique, we don’t require qualifications or a background in a specific area to work here. Our staff are from loads of different backgrounds — some people worked at Urban Outfitters, some studied radio at university, some never studied radio at all.
I did a degree in English at Goldsmiths University, and don’t really use those specific skills here. But being at Goldsmiths and working on student radio, helping to run the station in my spare time — that basically gave me the practical skills I needed. But we don’t require anyone to have studied radio or to have done a sound engineering course here, because we teach everyone how our setup runs. We actually find it makes for better radio if people come from all sorts of backgrounds… it might take them a couple of weeks to get good at producing, but it’s worth it in the long run. This way, everyone brings different ideas.
RA: What would your advice be to young people wanting to build up experience?
JF: Surround yourself with people who have similar ideas and want to work hard at doing things you want to do as well. It can be quite scary to do it by yourself — if you collaborate with other people it’s just so much more fun and you can learn a lot more from it. So whether that’s a student radio station, or a music tech department at college, or just recording a podcast yourself or with your mates— just recording music and then talking and experimenting.
Then it’s just putting loads of time into it, trying to make it structured. So once you’ve done a podcast, saying, “I’m going to try to do it every two weeks or every month”, and then from there you get better at it. Before you know it, other people take notice and ask if you want to do it on other platforms. Even if you’re not with a big station or an organisation at the start, people will always recognise if you’ve put in the effort to create stuff yourself.
There’s loads of small radio stations in London like NTS that are always looking for people to help out. All it took was for me to send a couple of emails and I was surprised by how many people got back to me, saying, “Do you want to hang out in the studio for a day”, or “Do you want to send us a mix you’ve done”. From there you’ve got a way in. Even if you’ve hung out in the studio for an hour a week, you’re getting to talk to the people who are doing what you want to do. That’s a really good way to get involved, doing the work yourself but also reaching out to other people interested in the things that you’re into.
RA: What’s your favourite artist and what type of music do you listen to?
JF: Ah… tough question! Everyone here listens to crazy amounts of music – ask anyone here and they’ll give you five or six answers of what they’ve been listening to this week. But probably at the moment, I’m mostly into jungle and 90s hardcore, so maybe someone like Dillinja… just makes those crazy distorted breakbeats.
RA: Thank you for letting me do this!
Some of Josh’s answers have been edited for clarity and length. The interview was recorded by Ursula Mutingwa on sound and Bradley Neville on camera.
This article was produced with support from the Young Barnet Foundation.