From a degree in management studies and a love of hip-hop to waking up a nation of young urban music fans - we find out how producer Dari Samuels has forged a career at BBC Radio 1Xtra.
Briefly - what is your job and what are your key responsibilities?
I produce the 1Xtra Breakfast show for BBC Radio 1Xtra – a national station dedicated to hip hop and r&b music. My main responsibility is to lead a small team of production staff and presenters that creates a radio show, plus supporting multimedia content, for young fans of urban music.
What was your first job in your area and how did you get it?
My first paid job in radio was an entry-level position, a broadcast assistant at 1Xtra. I got the job by applying for one of the positions advertised in a national newspaper. There was an application form and two interviews I had to get through. I hadn’t previously worked in a professional radio environment, but I did have experience of doing student radio, DJing, being a freelance music journalist, and helping a friend set up their own small independent record label.
How long did it take you from there to where you are now?
I’ve been working at 1Xtra for 12 years, five of them as a producer.
Did you do any formal training?
I’ve got a BSc in Management Studies from Royal Holloway, University of London. In terms of media training, I’ve done that on the job, through BBC-run courses and by learning from experience.
Was there a formative person or programme which made you want to work in your area?
Nelson George is an American culture critic who was one of the first mainstream journalists to write about the hip hop music scene in the 1980s. He’s gone on to write books and make films about various aspects of African American culture. After reading a couple of his books and seeing him appear in documentaries, I could see how it was possible to build a respected career out of showcasing, celebrating and critiquing urban music.
What is your favourite TV/radio programme or online offering at the moment?
I used to play a lot of sports when I was young, so I’m a fan of the My Sporting Life radio show on talkSPORT where I get to hear some of my childhood sporting heroes talk about their eventful careers.
Has there been a moment where you’ve thought, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this!”?
Not really - although my job gives me the opportunity to meet some famous people and experience some exciting things, I’m always aware that I’ve got a job to do. Yes, it was great to be able to fly to Nuremberg and watch an England World Cup football match live in the stadium; but along with the enjoyment came the pressure of having to deliver quality content about one of the world’s biggest sporting events.
What’s been the proudest or most memorable moment of your career so far?
An early highlight was getting the chance to interview some of my favourite music producers and DJs for a radio documentary I was making about the history of remixing. An even bigger boost came later on, when I was contacted by an editor at the BBC World Service who had enjoyed listening to the documentary on the radio and wanted to broadcast it on his own station.
What things do you always have with you – physical objects and personal skills?
My mp3 player - so I can check out the new music that my audience is listening to, as well as the tunes I enjoy listening to.
Most useful skill you’ve developed?
Adaptability - I continually have to adapt to changes in audience tastes, work practices, industry trends and available technology in order to remain effective in my job.
Hardest lesson learnt?
If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.
Which tools do you use to keep up to date on the industry?
I use Twitter to keep up to date with the views of influential industry figures, and I use YouTube and listen-on-demand web sites to check out what the competition is doing.
Anything you know now that you wished you knew then?
You don’t have to be the boss to be a leader in the workplace.
Who has taught/inspired you the most?
The audience ultimately decides if the content I produce is a success or a failure. So, they are the ones who teach and inspire me the most. I spend a lot of time looking through the comments that they make via social media; plus, when I’m on public transport, I eavesdrop on conversations other people have to find out the things that my potential audience are talking about, and the issues that are most important to them.
What three tips would you give someone wanting to do your job?
1) Get relevant experience.
Bosses tend to prefer hiring people with experience rather than novices with enthusiasm. So, relevant experience is invaluable, even if it’s only through work experience or a hobby.
2) Build a reputation.
In order to progress, you have to maintain a professional attitude and work hard to build yourself a reputation for delivering results.
3) Stay connected to the real world.
It’s easy to lose yourself in the hype, spin and gossip that fills the media world. So, it’s important to have friends outside the industry who can provide you with priceless reality-checks.
What are you up to next?
Making sure my alarm clock is set - when you produce a breakfast show, you’ve got to be out of bed very early!