Radio producer Lucy McNamara on freelancing, podcasts and meeting your musical heroes

Lucy McNamara is a freelance producer, presenter and podcaster. Working currently as a news cover for Radcliffe and Maconie show primarily, on 6Music, McNamara is also working on a Live Investigates piece for 5Live on perinatal care.

A jack of many trades and a seeming master of all, List For Life caught up with Lucy to talk all things radio production, freelancing vs structured employment and the podcast renaissance.

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got to where you are now?

I started in broadcasting by training as a broadcast journalist and newsreader for a local radio station in Norfolk called KLFM. Once I had passed legal exams, I started to freelance all over the country as cover for other commercial radio stations news reading and reporting. My husband and I then decided to relocate to Manchester. I then got a longterm contract at BBC Radio Stoke where I became their breakfast newsreader. I asked to pursue my dream of presenting and they trained me and let me loose on the weekend breakfast programme with Stuart Ellis. During this time and up until I left to have my baby I was also freelancing at 6 Music in Salford after years of sending through free audio from gigs I’d been to. As a podcaster I got in touch with the editor of Northern Soul and suggested as a broadcast journalist I could add a different dimension to the website by producing audio interviews with musicians. The podcast idea grew from that and I’ve been producing and presenting the New Music Northern Soul podcast fro around 2 years.

2. Where did your passion for all things audio originate from?

I became interested in radio as I originally trained as an actress but loved writing. I racked my brains to think of a job where I could still use my voice training with my passion to write and thats how I came up with broadcast journalism as you are producing audio and speaking live often as well as writing your scripts. I have naturally moved into music as seeing live music is one of my greatest passions – ever since I saw Blur live at the UEA on my 14th birthday!

3. Would you agree that there’s something of a ‘podcast renaissance’ going on right now? If so, how do you think it’s changing the entertainment/information landscape?

I think podcasting is almost taking over from talk radio. Thanks to Serial, This American Life and Radiolab, podcasting is seen as an absolutely legitimate way of telling a story through audio. At the close of 2015 there were 300,000 podcasts existing in the world. Podcasting can literally be done by anyone and its so easy with smart phones and apps giving really good quality sound. If you don’t want to pay for professional editing software then some of the free software does the job depending on how professional you want the podcast to sound. So essentially it couldn’t be easier and its a great way of getting your voice and ideas heard. Being able to subscribe to podcasts on iTunes for free means that you can access podcasts at any time – anywhere so they can make the commute more bearable in many cases. In some ways its almost like self publishing. Because we’re moving towards a much more digital world – podcasting is getting bigger and bigger and for some companies is a powerful marketing tool. Penguin Books for example has Richard E Grant voicing their podcast and interviewing authors and they tell me it is doing extremely well.

4. How does your freelance work compare to having a fixed position somewhere?

I have freelanced for most of my career. It suits me because I feel in control of my work – I choose when I want to work and where I want to work. It doesn’t suit everyone though as there is no stability and unless you really keep your contacts up then work can dry up. There is also obviously no regular income so budgeting can be hard. I always try and ‘bank’ money in the good times so that I can fall back on it in the quiet times. There are pros and cons to both and it is tough to work freelance with a young baby as finding childcare is a real headache!

5. Throughout you career, what has been the most difficult situation you’ve been in and, inversely, what was been the most rewarding?

One of the most difficult positions I have been in is recently when I did a story on Postnatal Depression. I spent a lot of time speaking to women who had been through some awful times and were still quite vulnerable. I built relationships with them and trust. When the actual programme was broadcast the producer took the decision to leave out the story of one of the women at the last minute – because they were overrunning. The woman was extremely upset as she’d spent half an hour reliving the situation and she felt it was all for nothing. It was an awful situation which was taken out of my hands but the sense of responsibility I felt towards the woman was acute. sometimes journalism can be tough – especially if you’re not that tough! There have been many rewarding times during my career and it normally centres around my broadcast helping someone in some way or making someone laugh. Some of the best moments of my career have been working at music festivals and interviewing people like Nile Rodgers who is an absolute hero of mine. The other week I interviewed Tim Burgess from the Charlatans and Mat Osman from Suede both for 6 Music and they were really lovely guys and so interesting having seen the music industry change so much over their careers.

6. Where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years from now?

In 10 years I want to be running my own production company producing and presenting content for radio and podcasts. A dream is to also present a show on 6Music!

To learn more about Lucy or to get in contact, be sure to swing by her Twitter account.