Ever wondered how the songs you hear on UCB Radio get to air? Steve Best is UCB’s Music Coordinator, as well as presenter and producer of the Breakfast Show on UCB 1. We asked Steve to tell us more about himself, his job, and how everyone has the opportunity to have their music played on air.
What does your job involve?
For the Breakfast Show, most of the preparation happens on the same day because we try to keep up to date with what’s going on. I get in at about 4:30am, which gives me just over an hour to get ready, and them I’m live on air at 6am. The Breakfast Show finishes at 9am, and then I’m into music mode. My music job is Music Coordinator, which involves finding, filtering and auditioning new music, and maintenance of the music libraries for UCB 1 and UCB 2.
I present the Saturday Show live from 10am ‘til 2pm on Saturday. It’s very different from the Breakfast Show, but it gives me chance to do something different and have a bit of fun. I also present the Music News programme on Wednesdays at 10pm on UCB 1. That, as it suggests, is looking at new albums, new releases, and playing songs that haven’t yet been heard on UCB 1 or UCB 2. It also includes a feature called ‘The Story Behind the Song’, where artists tell us why they wrote a song or how it came about.
How do you select the music for each station?
UCB 2 is the go-to station for praise and worship. Everything new, when it comes to worship, goes on UCB 2. There are also some older songs played on there. People often ask why we don’t have worship on UCB 1; it’s because UCB 2 is the station for that. UCB 1 is more contemporary sounding. The songs aren’t necessarily praise and worship songs, but there’s going to be a grey area. Reckless Love by Corey Asbury is on UCB 1, and yet it’s sung in churches a lot, so there is a crossover sometimes, but you’ll only find each song on one station.
When it comes to picking the songs, we’re looking for something that we would call radio-friendly. With a praise and worship song, we’re looking for something that’s going to be easy to understand. If it’s lyrically too deep, then people aren’t going to want to listen to it. We’re looking for a song that’s going to make an impact quickly – it’s got to grab you in the first 30 seconds, or else you’re going to switch off. With songs for UCB 1, we look at the lyrics very carefully. If you can’t really get a strong message out of a song, we would tend to avoid it.
I’m also the first filter for all the music that comes in. We get a lot sent to us by individuals who’ve made a single, artists from around the world send us music as well, we get Undiscovered through the website – that all comes to me. I listen to them and any that are badly sung, badly played or badly produced are filtered out, because every song that we play on the radio has to sound as good as the one before and after it. I think it’s important to say that everything that we receive is acknowledged. However, we don’t get into individual conversations about why we’ve not picked a song.
Can you tell us a bit more about Undiscovered?
The idea behind Undiscovered is to give independent artists, who don’t have record label support, an opportunity to be heard on the radio. The idea is to give anyone who’s listening an opportunity to have their song auditioned and possibly played on the radio. April Shipton is a good example of someone who’s been through that process as a listener to UCB, and now has her songs played. The truth of it is that anyone whose material is good enough – if it’s well produced, well played, well sung – can get on the radio, and so Undiscovered is a great way of people getting their music into UCB. Everything that’s submitted via the Undiscovered webpage or emailed to us is listened to. We’re playing a large percentage of songs from Undiscovered artists, which is something we’re very proud of, because we’re giving anyone with a gift the opportunity to be played on radio.
As someone who’s going through that filtering process, what advice would you give to a person who’s looking to get into the music industry, and who may be thinking of sending their music to Undiscovered?
Don’t send too much in. Choose your best two or three songs, and don’t send them in unless you’re really confident that they’re good songs. The other reason I say don’t send too much in is because I think you should never cut corners on your budget when it comes to the recording. A cheap recording won’t make it on the radio. If someone sends a recording of themselves playing an acoustic guitar that they’ve recorded on a mobile phone, it won’t be good enough. It’s not going to make it on the radio. My advice is spend a decent amount of money on what you’re going to send in; if that means it’s just one song, then that’s great, because it’s got more chance. If you send an entire album of badly recorded songs, none of them are going to make it. I understand that people have low budgets, so use your budget carefully, and put as many resources as possible into what you’re going to send in.
My other advice is to get as many people as possible to listen to it before sending it in, because sometimes people are well-meaning but wrong about whether someone has a gift. The other thing I’d say is be prepared to take the knockbacks. If something doesn’t make it, don’t be discouraged – try again.
Where did your passion for music come from?
I’m from a very musical family; my dad was a church organist and a timpani player in the local orchestra, and my mum’s a singer, so there was no chance I could escape it really! They were into classical music so I started listening to that, and then at school I discovered other types of music. I’m a bass player as well. I’ve been in bands and play at church, so it’s part of my life that you can’t avoid. It might be a slight exaggeration to say it’s everything to me, but it is my life. I have a definite passion for it.
Do you have a favourite Bible verse or chapter?
My favourite section is in Daniel 3 where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are being thrown into a furnace. The reason I like that passage is because they say to the king: ‘We know that God can save us, but even if He doesn’t, we won’t stop worshipping Him.’ I think that’s something that resonates with a lot of us. We know that God is capable of getting us out of a situation, but He sometimes chooses not to, and it’s good to remind ourselves that even if God chooses not to get us out of the situation we’re facing, He still can, and He doesn’t love us any less because of that.
Tune in to the Breakfast Show with Steve every weekday morning on UCB 1 from 6am. You can also catch him on the Saturday Show from 10am every Saturday morning on UCB 1, and Wednesday nights on UCB 1 from 10pm for Music News. Head over to ucb.co.uk/undiscovered to find out more about UCB Undiscovered.