Freelance radio is an accessible way to get into broadcasting, especially in cities or towns with community radio stations. It doesn’t take much to make radio, but the right tools are still essential. The initial investment can pay off in freelance fees.
Making Your Own Freelance Radio
Every radio producer needs to have – or be able to borrow – a few basic items:
- Recording device
- Microphones / cables
- Computer editing software
- FTP client
Of course, having a pen and a notebook on hand is also a good idea, just in case. Let’s take a closer look at the basic radio tools.
Radio Recording Devices
Professional-quality recording devices include the Sony Mini-Disc recorder, the Marantz, and the Zoom H4N. These devices record in wave or MP3 format. Public radio corporations like the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and National Public Radio prefer items in these formats. The Marantz is the standard recording device of the CBC. Prices vary, and some used equipment is also available online.
Microphones and Cables
Recorders are no good without microphones, and the quality of microphone will assist in capturing the sound you want. Certain microphones are better at handling sounds in specific situations. A high-quality microphone is worth the investment. XLR cables to connect the microphone to the Marantz or the H4N are also necessary. Choose different lengths to have maximum flexibility in a variety of situations.
Computer Editing Software
There are several good audio editing programs available, at a range of prices. From Audacity, Mac-based free software, to Adobe Audition for the PC set, cutting and mixing audio is a breeze. Depending on the amount of freelance radio production the reporter anticipates, an expensive program may be worth the money. However, very adequate results can be had using GarageBand or other basic software.
FTP stands for file transfer protocol – a way to send files from place to place. Independent radio producers need a way to send their finished audio products to the media outlet. Unless the radio station that has purchased the piece is nearby, sending the files is a crucial tool for freelancing for radio. As with editing software, there are plenty of options at different price points. Also, some larger public broadcasters have their own FTP sites which freelancers can use to upload their pieces.
Radio Tool Kit
For radio producers just learning the craft, experimentation is important. Practice mixing sounds and cutting pieces before the first assignment is due. Ask friends and other producers which recorders and audio editing software they prefer, and get a tutorial on how it all works. Don’t be afraid to ask at stores or community radio stations, either. Then assemble the kit, and get busy making radio.
Buying a Radio
Purchasing a radio instead of creating one yourself offers benefits, including saving time and ensuring you have a reliable device. Not everyone has the time to assemble their own radio, which may take long hours or even days, if you include buying materials and learning how to do the assembly yourself.
Buying a radio doesn’t have to be pricey as well, if budget’s a major concern. There are available models that are affordable, but function greatly too. For ham radios, there are a lot of cheap options from different brands. You can choose from Yaesu FT-60R (a portable ham radio), Uniden BCD536HP, Kenwood TM-281A, and other transceivers that only cost a few hundred bucks.
But if you’re serious in your radio hobby and have the budget for it, you might as well get the latest ones from well-known brands in the radio industry. From Yaesu, for example, Ft 991a compared to the ic-7300 of ICOM includes easy connect and sync with a computer, plus a flashy full color display. The ic-7300 on the other hand, boasts of noise reduction, built-in cooling fan, and a compact size.
Deciding whether to buy a radio or setup your own, DIY-style, all boils down to preference and limitations. You can always work around the budget, but not the lack of time or the capacity to make a radio yourself. No matter what you choose though, you’ll find that research is crucial before getting your radio—this way, you get to learn more about your radio hobby and get ideas on how to maximize your radio device.