Well, it will shock you if you were expecting anything other than, “nothing much happened next”
8 years ago, I left a job as a solicitor with one of the biggest law firms in the country, McCann FitzGerald to go work full time as a radio presenter with one of the biggest radio stations in Dublin, Spin1038.
Most people thought I was mad.
2 years ago, I left a job as a radio presenter with one of the biggest radio stations in Dublin, Spin1038 to go work full time as a solicitor with a small law firm in Dunboyne, Rennick Solicitors
Most people thought I was mad.
How I got into radio 20 years ago is the subject of another post, which you can read here. The holy grail of radio is the coveted breakfast show on a radio station. It took me 12 years of hard work and sacrifice to get that show and 2 years ago today, on 29th May 2015, I packed it all in.
I was very fortunate to have lived my dream for so long, which makes it harder to explain why I left, but sure look it, I’ll give it a shot.
Why Was Radio My Dream Job?
What I love about radio is that you become part of people’s lives if you’re at it long enough, especially on a breakfast show. People are creatures of habit and routine in the morning, and they tend to do the same thing at the same time every weekday. People often set their watch by features on the radio, knowing that if they aren’t at “point x” in their journey by the time “feature y” comes on their radio show of choice, then they are running late. Nothing freaks a breakfast show audience out more than accidentally reading out the wrong time.
For me, Spin1038 was very much the right place at the right time. It was a brand new radio station, it was young it was cool, we drank a lot, we went out a lot, we socialised a lot, we scored each other (some of us more than others). It was new, it felt like we were doing something new, and cool, and awesome. And in a way we were. I’m glad I was there for so much of the Spin journey. I presented 3 of the 6 primetime shows on the weekday schedule. I wasn’t everbody’s cup of tea, and that’s fine. Lots of people thought I was rubbish, and that’s fine. For some reason, when I tell people about working in radio, everyone who didn’t listen seemed to feel the need to explain why they didn’t listen. There was really no need. If you didn’t like it, you didn’t listen. By analogy, I don’t like the sound of Ewan McGregor singing. This was clear to me when Moulan Rouge came out. He had that song ‘Come What May’ and a whole load of others, and I hated them. It just didn’t agreed with me. Radio is a lot like that, or perhaps like comedy. It’s inherently subjective
Although the JNLR figures never reached the levels I hoped they would, I feel like we retired as champions from our little breakfast show. I left while I still loved it, and before I was pushed or got bored of it…..or killed Tracy. I left laughing. From the time I started the show, I got engaged, got married, got a dog, bought a house and had a kid. In the time we were on air, some listeners went from their first day in secondary school to their last. That’s a lot of life we went through together with the Fully Charged Crew (Tracy, obviously, Producers Leah, Katie and Rachel, Rory with the Story, Soapy, Twit Twoo and a whole host of other worthy contributions, Georgie, Kim, and everyone else who ever dropped in or played a part, of which there were many, and particularly, our crazy loyal listeners.!!)
What It’s All About
I’ve always felt the magic of radio is the connection with the listener. One of the ideas behind a successful radio show is that you talk to your listeners, not at them. And it should feel to each listener as if you’re talking directly to them one to one.
It’s a somewhat ironic thing that you only get to know how much you were part of people’s lives when you leave. On our last day of Fully Charged 6 years ago, we got hundreds and hundreds of messages. It was genuinely humbling. I have them printed out, and in a drawer at home, and every so often I take them out, and have a look, and feel very grateful for it all. There is no question that whenever I leave any other job for the rest of my life, people will not care this much.
Self indulgent as it undoubtedly is, here’s just a couple of the ones that blew me away on 29th May 2015:
“Guys, I’m in tears here 🙁 You have been part of my morning for so many years through school, college and work. Best of luck, Niamh xxx”
“Devo you’re leaving, bawling in the car!!!! Jen in louth! Been on a few time, feel like I’m losing two friends!”
“Ah Ryan and Tracy, you are tow absolute legends. You have kept myseld and ma in great mood every time we turn ye on ya have had me in floods of tears all morning, gonna miss ye like mad, feel like we are nearly your best friends we have listened to you that long”
“Ah lads, I’ve listened to you every morning since I started secondary school and I just finished this year. This is too many endings, I’m going to miss yiz”
“Hi Ryan and Tracy. Just to let you know that you have reduced a 30(ish) year old man to tears at his desk. Strange to say, but kind feels like you were with me as I entered the real adult world of bills and problems. Thanks for getting me through it. It’s like my best friends are leaving my job today 🙁 Best of luck for the future #NeverForget.
“Tracy and Ryan. Listening from the start, from single to married! I spoke to ye 6 years ago for the get out of bed request, Ye played all the single ladies for me! Will Miss you, Liz from Templeogue”
“Hey guys, just want to say thank you for being a huge part of my daily commute every day for the last 6 and a half years. I have listened since day one, and like all the other listeners who are texting in, I have gotten so many laughs and tears and shared in so many of your WTF moments. It really did feel like I was sharing my journey with two friends. So THANK YOU so much for bringing some light hearted fun moments to my mornings. You have no idea how much it was appreciated on some days, and how much it helped me through certain times. I wish you both all the best for the future xxx”
“Will miss you guys. Back in September 2009, I won €1,000 on your show. Was delighted with myself, and was heading on my first holiday with my then boyfriend. We were only going out a few months at that time. We had a great time spending that money. We are now married with two little boys. It’s all down to that holiday. Best of lucj in whatever u go to next”
“Myself and my team at work have booked a meeting room until 9.45am to make sure we don’t miss a secsond. This day is TOO emotional…..I can’t handle it. DON’T LEAVE!!!!!!”
“Ryan and Tracy, I’ve never text a radio show before, but I really feel like I had to let you guys know how much you mean to me. I went through a really horrible time two years ago where getting up seemed to be the hardest thing in the world to do, but you pair made it so much easier to face the day. I feel like we’re really friends even though we’ve never actually met. Anyway, just wanted to say that I’m going to miss you and my morning’s aren’t going to be the same”
Why Did I Leave?
It seems that most of the inspirational quotes I see on LinkedIn are variations on the theme “Find something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” or words or sentiment to that effect.
The bit I feel that is sometimes left out of that expression is “because you’ll either be doing the thing you love, or you’ll be unemployed. Oh, and the thing you love might not pay very well, or offer any job security, so you might struggle to get a mortgage, or raise your family with the kind of life and lifestyle you always dreamed of.”
The answer to why I gave up radio is actually quite boring. It felt like the right thing to do. I’ve always been a big fan of ‘go with your gut’ about decisions, and while I will always try and look at things logically and work out the permutations and combinations in so far as it’s possible, I think your gut rarely lets you down.
The position I was this:
I left my job as a lawyer with a 3 year plan. It was a simple one. Go kick ass at breakfast in Dublin, become number 1 and retire as champion. Job done, itch scratched, mission accomplished.
Except after three years, the job wasn’t done, and we weren’t number one.
After six years, the job still wasn’t done, but it was clear that it was never going to be.
We had been 6 years doing the breakfast show on Spin1038. That’s a long time in radio-land. It became clear to me that within the Communicorp group, there were no further opportunities on-air in terms of career progression and development. Effectively Fully Charged was the end of my on-air journey really whether I wanted it to be or not. I think if we hadn’t left, we probably would have had another 2 years in us, maybe even 3. I was headed for management, and that was the career path I was on. Off air, behind the scenes, pulling the strings.
One of the things people don’t really realise that if you want a job on radio in Dublin, the options are very limited. Communicorp owns/owned Spin1038, 98FM, Newstalk, Today FM and TXFM/Phantom (RIP). If the group programme director didn’t think you were worthy of a step up, you were pretty much goosed for all of them. ITV owns FM104 and Q102, so if Dave Kelly doesn’t like you you’re pretty much done there, and then there’s 4fm and Radio Nova, and depending on your age, demographic and profile you might not be much of a match for those. Depending on a couple of factors, you could be anywhere between 2 to 4 people’s opinion of you from being unemployable in Dublin. Not exactly secure (sorry to any current presenters reading this, look at Barry Dunne, maybe lick him and see if any of his superpowers are transferable)
I never wanted to be a journeyman DJ taking any gig I could get as long as it meant I was on the radio. I also didn’t want to be a music presenter, I wanted my soapbox, I wanted to share my ‘great’ thoughts with the world. I’ve always said life’s too short to spend your time doing something you don’t enjoy.
I had had a very successful 2 years hosting the Zoo Crew, a very successful year hosting the night time show The Lock-in and six frankly less successful years hosting Fully Charged with Ryan and Tracy. I say less successful, because the JNLR figures the radio industry lives by never achieved the levels we hoped they would, and we believed it should.
That, of itself is a valuable lesson, however. If you love radio (as I did) then the number of people you have listening wont matter to you. And it shouldn’t. If you think you’ll do a better show if you have more listeners, or you’ll enjoy it more if you have more listeners, then you are in for a shock. 100, 1,000, 10,000, or 100,000 your show should be identical and identically good. If not, what are you doing it for?
Did I stop loving radio. No, definitely not. But I wanted to get out while I did still love it, and not grow to see it as a job and resent it. There was also lots of things about the evolution of radio I wasn’t mad about, the commitments outside of your on air gig, the extra focus on online material and extras that weren’t really what I loved doing.
Did I achieve everything I want to achieve in radio? No, I never did a show on a national radio station and reached as wide an audience as I would have liked. There’s three stations I would love to have worked for (1) Atlantic 252 (2) Pulse 103.2 (3) 2FM in the early 90s – None of them exist any more. So close enough.
What Happened Next?
I went back to law. I’m a solicitor, I have a ‘real job’. But I have a different outlook on life and on work and on the balance between the two. I’m just as happy now as I was when I was a radio presenter. I love the challenge of law, and the way it’s going. I love that I can take a lot the skills I learned from my years in radio and apply them to law, and hopefully change things up a bit. I love the fact that in my first year back as a solicitor, I got more press and publicity than in six years as a radio presenter.
I love the fact that law is changing, and that people are starting to come around to the idea that a solicitor doesn’t have to be a boring old man in a suit. I’m trying to explain to people that solicitors/lawyers are (or should be) in my view creative problem solvers.
I’m more comfortable with myself and my own skin and skillset because of my career ‘diversion’ and I’m a better lawyer (I think) for it. Much like as a radio presenter, I won’t be the lawyer for everyone, and that’s fine.
When I was trying to get back into law, a few recruitment consultants suggested I play down my experience in Spin/Radio, and I refused to do so. I am who I am, and I’m absolutely delighted I left law to go spend 6 years interview stars, laughing and having the craic. I don’t know why anybody would take that off their CV. If anything, you should be more wary of hiring the person that would turn such an opportunity down then take it, in my view.
Any Other Business??
In order of priority/frequency here’s the questions I was most asked about my radio ‘career’
What does Tracy look like, is she hot?
What time do you have to get up at?
5am. Every morning, for six years.
It must be great to be finished at 10am every morning.
Nope nope nope. We didn’t finish at 10am.
Who is the most famous person you’ve ever interviewed?
I would say jointly Mr T (the real one, from the A-Team!), Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, The Stig and Tom Cruise and Calvin Harris (when he was a lanky beanpole of a man that nobody cared about). Honurable mentions for Network Noel, Bosco, Timmy Mallet and Pat Cash from Funhouse.
Who is the worst person we’ve ever interviewed.
- Estelle – She didn’t want to talk to us, was bored off her face and didn’t like we didn’t know she had written the rap for American Boy that Kanye West Sings
- The Lead Singer from Two Door Cinema Club – I don’t even know his name, nor do I care. Rude, ignorant and a complete c**k every time we met him
- Jessie J – Complained about our line of questioning (about crisps) with her management. Also her “positivity” meant she couldn’t or wouldnt say anything interesting about anything.
- Alexandra Burke – She was just SO grateful for everything and everyone.
- Sister Bliss from Faithless – Did NOT find it funny when I asked did she not every just want to tell your man Maxi Jazz to relax the cacks and not be so serious in his lyrics
*it’s ok, she knows that the answer I always give