Where does the time go?
Three years ago today on 29 May, 2015 I did my last radio show, took a week-long holiday, and came back as a solicitor.
It’s been a quirk of my life and my career to date that:(1) I quit being a solicitor to go be a radio presenter; and (2) I quit being a radio presenter to go be a solicitor.
The question I’m asked most about my time in radio these days is “Do you miss it?”. The answer is yes and no. I was a radio presenter for 18 years. I miss being on the radio. I miss having the craic with Tracy and Rachael (my partners in crime on Fully Charged) and all the people who came through Fully Charged Towards (Rory, Georgie, Kim, Leah, Richie Spini, and Katie to name a few). I miss uncontrollable laughter. There is nothing quite like the fit of giggles you get when something goes either very wrong or very right on air, and you are so wrapped up on the moment that the laughter is uncontrollable. Like hearing about Georgie’s mum killing her Goldfish, or Richie’s long list of dead cats (dead animals, hilarious, am I right!?). Almost all the stories were ‘you had to be there’ moments, but, fortunately for me, I was.
I miss the people. You have to have a touch of the crazies to get into radio in the first place. Put a big group of crazies together and there’s an energy and buzz to the place that is unlike anything I’ve experienced anywhere else. That’s probably one of the things I miss the most, ‘the buzz’, but to be honest, that had faded (for me) already, mostly through age and my early onset ‘grumpy old man’ syndrome. My wish for anybody out there would be that at least once they get to work somewhere that was like Spin was when I first started there. It is, I imagine, what it’s like to work in a really cool start-up company. Everyone on the same page, everyone itching to disrupt the market, and being loud and brash and fully of energy as they did it. I wrote the below email (see bottom of post) to everyone in Spin after I left. It kind of sums up how I felt about the place. There was a siege mentality, it was us against them, and we knew what side we were on (the side of AWESOME!).
I miss the listeners. There were hardcore loyal listeners that listened every day, and text regularly. I’m friends with some of them now on facebook/twitter. Like Sonya in Blackrock, who always used to put her age in her texts….then as the years went by, stopped putting it in. She got engaged last year. I took a screenshot and sent it to Tracy and Rachel. We were delighted for her. Really, it felt like these people were part of our gang, or maybe we were part of theirs, I can’t quite figure out which. The day of our last show we got hundreds of text messages. I’ve shared some of them before. I still have them all, and every year on the anniversary of the last show, I flick through them to remember all the good stuff. In the spirit of the post, here’s three legally relevant texts we got on 29 May 2015, which I spotted flicking through them this morning:
“I cannot believe Ryan is giving up Fully Charged to to back to being a solicitor. I’ve been a legal exec for 13 years now and its sucked the jaysus life out of me. So it’s safe to say the big question could never be are Ryan and Tracey sound ever again, cost working law makes you lose your soundness. Don’t say I didn’t warn you”
“Ryan and Tracy (& Rachel and Team). What a mammoth 6.5 years. II started listening when I was 18, just started college, hating it so switching. I’m 25 today and just qualifying as a barrister. When I had to get up at 6.30 to get the train I used to wish you started 15 minutes earlier. So many sneaky sniggers on the bus & in the library. You’ve been such a part of my morning for so many years. Very best of luck in whatever you’re doing next, Claire”
“Ah lads, Please don’t go! You’ve gotten me through FE1s, qualifying as a solicitor, break ups, make ups, you’ve always been there. Wishing you both the very best in your next steps. Don’t be a stranger, Noelle”
I miss being the guy on the radio. It’s egotistical, I know that, but I loved being that guy who had the cool job, and did something really different. But my ego is clearly quite fragile, because when I was on the radio, I was eager for people to know I was also a solicitor (not just a radio presenter, thank you very much) and now that I’m a solicitor again, I’m equally eager for people to know I used to be a radio presenter (not just a solicitor, thank you very much).
I miss that hint of celebrity about the whole thing, the backstage access at festivals, the meeting with the stars. I miss (ego again, happy to admit it) casually telling people about that time I interviewed Lady GaGa or Katy Perry, or Ed Sheeran, or Kanye West. I miss that kind of jealousy you see from people, when they wish they had your job, or got to do the things you do. It might have just been me, but my sense is that knowing that other people want to do your job, or think what you do is really cool makes it that bit more enjoyable for you.
- Do I miss being Music Director or Assistant Programme Director? Absolutely not.
- Do I miss the meetings? Christ no.
- Do I miss the internal politics and wrangling of being part of the Communicorp Group? Nope nope nope.
- Do I miss the pressure to come up with the next big viral thing? Nope.
- Do I miss the JNLRs? Nope, though I never believed them whether they were good or bad.
The next most common question is “Why did you leave?” – That is a slightly more complicated question to answer. I had always planned to go back to law. When I first left my job as a solicitor, I planned to do Fully Charged for three years and then go back. But after 3 years, I wasn’t ready to go back. After nearly 7, I was spending more time doing things I didn’t like doing (see list above) then the one thing I did like doing, being on the radio. Also, I was starting a family (Josh was 8 month old when I did my last show) and I was looking for stability. Radio can be a very fickle business. In management, because of the group ownership of stations, the higher up you go, the smaller and smaller a pool of potential jobs there is for you. Your career is also very susceptible to the whims of a very small group of people. Fall out with one person, or not particularly impress them, and that can sink your options across a whole range of stations. So many factors go into having a successful radio show that are outside your control. Being good and working hard doesn’t mean things will necessarily work out for you. I never like that feeling of things being out of my control. In almost all other jobs, being good at your job and working hard is basically all you need to do. In radio, not so much. That was partly the reason for my decision. It became clear that Fully Charged was as far as I was going on-air while the current management structure was in place. There wasn’t going to be a call-up to Today FM, or even to 98fm (less listeners, but more money, hence the attraction). I had, effectively, reached the end of the road as a radio presenter in the Communicorp Group. Of course, that management structure has now all changed, so who knows what might have happened. But therein lies the rub!
I’m very fortunate that once I’ve made a decision, I rarely second-guess it. I felt it was the right time to leave, and I have not once regretted my decision either to leave law, or to go back. I thought I would miss the element of creativity that was central to my role, how to fill three hours a day five days a week and keep it feeling fresh and interesting. But I’ve found an outlet for that creativity in the two jobs I’ve been lucky enough to have since I came back to law. The motto of my current employers, Leman Solicitors is ‘Expect Something Different’. I got my job without ever sending in a CV, using this video.
I am expected to come up with ideas that are outside the box, that’s part of the reason I was hired. I’m also a better lawyer now than when I was younger. I have more life experience, I have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and how to deal with difficult people and difficult situations. I’m better able to cope with what could be seen as very stressful situations. I’m enjoying the challenge of being what I call a ‘creative problem solver’ which is how I see my role now.
That all being said, I want to get back on the radio, as a hobby and to get back to doing something I love. I’m talking to one or two people, and hopefully a weekend show isn’t too far away. I thought this was worth of a gig on 2FM, after Tracy got her show…
I had some talks with them, but nothing came of it…shame. If you’re a Programme Director on the lookout for a weekend presenter, in the words of Jay Z, “Holla at yo Boi”.
Email to Spin Staff, 31 May 2015:
Anybody who has ever received an email from me before will know that they are rarely short. This one isn’t either.
It’s time for a change friends, and while none of us really like change, it’s important and almost always drives us forward. When I started in Spin, Jamie was a Spini, Chris Doyle was still straight and the talk show used to review Dildos on a Friday (true story). Since we started Fully Charged the only 2 shows that remained unchanged are Spin Hits with Steve K and The Irish Alternative with Eva Staic. And Eva has had like 3 kids in that time. The point is we didn’t get to number 1 by standing still, we changed, we evolved, we improved. And it’s time to do it again.
There’s a new Breakfast show, a new Zoo Crew and soon(ish) a new assistant programme director. The elder statesmen and women of Spin almost certainly won’t like any of you….at the start. I’ve seen enough new people start to know how it goes. New people arrived, they are young, loud and annoying, and think they know everything. The old staff think “I was never like that” (you were) and things were a lot better in your day (they were, but more on that below). Rory Nugent said to me years after he started “You didn’t like me when I started, did you?”. I lied and said I did. I didn’t. He was young and new and loud and annoying. Dara Quilty started in Spin more confidant that anyone I have ever met and pretty much everyone thought he was the cockiest little shit they had ever come across. Chris Doyle asked me to have a quiet word with him to try and subtly get him to stop annoying people and rubbing them up the wrong way. I did, I don’t think he even noticed that’s what the conversation was. Gas. Now we all love Dara, and so the cosmic ballet continues.
The young loud annoying people will get old and stop being AS annoying. Young new people, do us all a favour and try and get there quicker. Old grumpy people, give the newbies a break, be patient and try and help rather than hinder. We were those soldiers. Hard to believe now (I Hope) but I was fired as cover jock in the first year of spin because of my attitude.
My fondest memories of Spin are of times when we worked so incredibly well as a team. Epic nights out, trips to festivals like oxegen. We lived in each other’s pockets and knew everything about each other’s lives! If I had one bit of advice (that none of you have asked for but you are getting it anyway) it would be to treat radio as a sport and Spin as your team. It makes the station better, but more importantly, it makes it more fun. The craic we have had on Spin nights out were some of the best nights out I’ve ever had. So I would encourage you not to just rock up, do your show and go. I would ask you to make the effort and go to nights out, organise your own, and be inclusive. People might not want to come to your party, but they may still want to be invited. Don’t become cliquey (I had to google how to spell that), don’t become like some other stations where the staff barely speak to each other. Does Cormac have a girlfriend, and if so, what’s her name? If you don’t know the answer, why not?
I’ve had the pleasure of working under programme directors Liam Thompson, Chris Doyle, Andy Ashton, Michael Brett and Shona Ryan. The wealth and breath of knowledge and experience at your disposal is second go none. Use it. Shona has been here through it all, she has worked for FM104, she has been on air, she has been APD, she is the Programme Director in charge when we got number 1. Listen and learn.
Finally, for the newbies particularly, don’t focus too much on the JNLR. Steve K doesn’t try any harder or isn’t any better because he has 90,000 listeners. He has been this good since he started, it just took Dublin a while to realise. If you measure your own personal success only be reference to the results, I think you are potentially missing a trick and focussing on the wrong thing. Do the best show you can every time you are on air, simple as that. Would you do your show better tomorrow if you had an extra 50,000 listeners?! If so, do what you would do today. Stop waiting for the figures to do your best work.
I have jumped out of planes, trekked around the dessert in Jordan, met some of the biggest global celebrities in the world and done some things I never would have dreamed possible. I will look back on spin as one of the happiest and most amazing experiences of my life.
Thanks to everyone who played a part, old or new.
I will never forget the fact that I NEVER won employee of the year at the Christmas party. It was, and remains, an outrage.
Fully Charged crew, I will forever be incredibly proud of what we achieved. I actually didn’t really realise what we HAD achieved until last week when I saw how much we had genuinely been part of, impacted on, and in so many cases improved (in our own small way) our listeners days, and, in some extreme cases, lives and relationships. The texts and tweets we got last week blew my mind.
Don’t for one second think I won’t be back doing cover work and God knows what else. Bonass, do not turn off my fob!!
Thanks for everything