Angie Greaves: Queen of Drivetime

Angie Greaves is a rare thing in radio – a solo female drive-time presenter.  Yet in the latest RAJARs, her show on Magic 105.4 has overtaken BBC Radio 1 and Radio 2 in listening figures, reach and market share for London. So how does she do it? We asked her to give us a few pointers.

Hi, Angie Greaves here.

You’ve obviously joined Sound Women because you are either passionate or interested in media – specifically radio. In my opinion, radio is the best media platform; instant whether speech or music, edgy, and the most engaging of media. So here are a few pointers that have kept me going since I entered radio and was bitten by the bug, and have also kept me fuelled up enough to land the position of London’s only solo female drive-time presenter.

Take your responsibilities seriously

That bug that I mentioned bit me at Capital Radio in the 80s when there were fewer commercial stations trying to grab their share of the audience. So anyone who was anyone walked through the doors of Capital, and my position was to ensure that their interviews were aired first, so we got the first bite of the cherry.

That responsibility alone gave me a “rush”, made me feel like I was walking a thin line which would break if I didn’t successfully complete my mission. Knowing that it was down to me to get artists in and on air before any other station gave me an edgy feeling of fear but also excitement. Naturally I didn’t want to mess up or have any negative comeback.

So I had to take my responsibility seriously. I would suggest you do the same in your current station. Yes, there will be days when you’re not feeling up to it, someone’s getting on your last nerve, but your job (whether large or small) is going to contribute to the final output on the station, and it’s been placed in your hands, so do it well. Negativity and fear aren’t an option.

Make time for networking and socialising

There’s no doubt that being in radio gives you the opportunity to attend some great social and prestigious events. A percentage of business decisions aren’t necessarily made over dinner, drinks and social events; BUT in many cases speaking to the right person socially can plant the seed that could get you that first meeting. You don’t have to go everywhere, but do network, and research Programme Controllers of stations that you want to work for.

You may have to be spontaneous too. I was freelancing on a station and needed a number for a colleague and the only person who I knew had that number was the then Programme Controller of Magic. When I called him his first words were “aren’t you on air?” Straight away I had to use my brain. If he was supposed to be monitoring Magic but chose to listen to me, it was for a reason. So I immediately took the opportunity to invite him to have lunch with me. Grab opportunities when they arise.

Love talking to your listener

This is a hard one because the vehicle of radio has changed. Most stations, especially commercial stations, sound quite similar in a musical capacity. Some may even say music radio has become repetitive. With Magic being a ‘More Music Less Talk’ station, I really have to monitor how much talking I do and ensure that it’s engaging and informative. I’m finding that Facebook and Twitter are great ways of continuing the conversation and connecting with listeners even more.

But when I’m on air, I think about what I used to do before I was on Drive. It was after-school Clubs with my daughters, a little bit of shopping, cooking in the kitchen. I think about listeners in those positions, and of course the listeners driving home from work after a hectic day. I’ve even joked that being on Drive I now know every junction on the M25 from J1B (Dartford) round to J30 (Tilbury/Lakeside), so it’s important to make the travel sound informative and not repetitive.

Be yourself

As a woman I feel I’m often able to empathise with listeners on a different level to men (and I’m NOT man bashing here). One of the loveliest compliments I ever had was a cab driver listening to Mellow Magic who said he couldn’t wait for midnight to listen to Mellow Magic Love Letters. He had no idea who I was (thank goodness) but said he would love to take Angie Greaves out for a drink with his wife and just chat.  Naturally I was quite chuffed and asked, “don’t you think your wife would mind” to which he replied, “not at all, my wife loves her as well”.

So it’s really important to just be yourself. For example, I never think twice about saying I burnt the dinner before leaving for work, because someone listening will have probably done the same in the midst of multi-tasking that week. So there’ll be a connection with that listener – not because we’re both bad cooks, but I’m being real and sharing a point of vulnerability just for that moment.

Make time for family time

My final tip is to ensure you have quality family time. You can have it all, but not 100% work life and 100% family life. So distribute your time as evenly as possible amongst work and family. If you find yourself spending a lot of time at the office/station, make a decision to give the family more time that weekend or the following week. And be mindful of the images you are sending your kids with your work pattern. That’s an important one.

Happy broadcasting


Connect with Angie Greaves

You can keep up with Angie at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and at SoundCloud.

Find out more about her Drivetime show on the Magic 105.4FM website.

A Blog By’s James Cridland

At the end of last year’s Radio Festival, I put together a small blog post about the amount of women at the Festival: attendees (23%), speakers (18%), and the wider industry (46% to 17%, depending on the level) – and noted a twitter conversation at the Festival bemoaning the low amount of female speakers.

As someone who’s organised a fair degree of conferences, I’m used to feedback about “not enough women speakers”. I pointed out that the Festival actually achieved the industry board-level split (17% female), and asked what actually is “enough”? In the comments to that blog, Lisa Kerr responded with a challenge: to “aim for 50% and see how far that gets us”.

So, when Matt Deegan and I sat down to plan this year’s conference, we decided to aim for 50% female speakers; and during the conference, Maria Williams asked us for a blog post to see how we’d found it.

So, these are the things we’ve learnt:

It’s really hard to know who to ask.
The way conferences normally work is that we look for excellent speakers at other conferences and ask them whether they’d mind speaking at ours. This, of course, is a chicken and egg situation – we see few women speakers (I didn’t see a single one in a recent conference in Paris, for example) and therefore it’s much harder to find a good speaker for our conference.

Sometimes it’s quite hard to ask.
I found it quite hard to try and get some organisations to field women. For some, I mentioned our target of 50%, and asked for a woman speaker if at all possible. Some did supply female speakers – others politely listened to our request, ignored it, and gave us a bloke (who, given we were asking for peoples’ time for free, we gratefully accepted). This might say more about me than the people I was asking – or it might not – but I found this process rather awkward.

Sound Women could help more.
Well, this might be awkward too. But when a conference organiser recognises a problem and asks for help in their diversity of speakers, it greatly helps if help is forthcoming. It’s difficult when a request for help repeatedly gets as far as “yeah, I’ll get back to you next week” and no further; when a list of suggested speakers includes people who’d never speak in public even if their life was in danger; and when pleas for “more females to hit a 50% notional target” helpfully gets us a suggestion of a session comprising of a woman and two men. (It was a very good session. Thank you for the suggestion. But…) It wasn’t all bad – and Sound Women were especially good at promoting the conference and pushing its membership to suggest other speakers. That really helped.

It changes how you promote a conference
In promoting a conference, we naturally want to promote people who are recognised as great speakers or senior people. However, as discussed earlier, people who are known as great speakers are more likely to be male; and the Skillset research shows that the same is true of senior people. It came as a surprising realisation that we’d need to change the way we released our speaker lineup, so in the end, our speaker announcements were carefully orchestrated to be 50/50 female/male.

The audience doesn’t always follow
In spite of the differences in promotion, and the kind help that SoundWomen gave in promoting the conference, our audience – sold out weeks before the conference – comprised 19% women, 81% men. This is an increase from the year before; but perhaps we were hoping for a more balanced audience.

We want different microphones
Here’s an amazing discovery: we want different microphones, it turns out. Those little lapel mics – which I’ve been specifying for the conferences I run, because it keeps hands free to hold notes or to gesture – work fine with shirts and jackets, but less fine with dresses. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. (One experienced speaker said that she wore a jacket specifically for the mic.)

There’s more to diversity than female/male
Our speakers were overwhelmingly white. Totally middle-class, too. Perhaps by focusing so strongly on the female/male split meant that we missed other, just as relevant, targets.

So, how did we do?
We had nine women speakers out of a total speaker tally of 23. So, we achieved a final mix of 39% women, 61% men. We failed in our target to hit 50% – but I think achieved a lot in terms of learning and understanding how to make a conference programme cover more than just the usual suspects. I can’t decide whether the lack of anyone “noticing” was a good thing or not!

If you weren’t there, you missed a great day – lots of excellent speakers, passionate about radio and sharing a ton of new ideas. As a special treat for reading this far, I’m pleased to be able to give you a free pass to the entire day – and 2011’s conference too – because we’ve shared videos of almost every presentation online. Visit and watch them all at your leisure.