Getting started in hosting

One of the questions that keeps reccuring in my DMs on social media is; “how did you get into hosting”.

I don’t tend to reply to message requests from people I don’t know (I have email for that), so I wanted to try and give this topic a bit more space on the blog instead.

I’ve been hosting full-time since I left Twitch at the end of March, so I’m by no means the absolute authority on this – there are a variety of ways people have got into this sort of work, so I reckon the best thing is to explain my personal experience.

At university, I was desperate to work in radio, but ended up not being able to get work experience, so moved into online. However, in my third year a blog I had written about new music and BBC Introducing led me to be picked up to produce and present a show for Amazing Radio, a then-digital radio station. I moved to Newcastle before my official graduation and worked as a producer and presenter. I was let go nine months into the role very suddenly, and ended up heading to London to work at Channel 4 as an online producer. I podcasted and dabbled with YouTube and an interactive platform called Touchcast, but had no idea how to work as a presenter again.

Towards the end of my four years at the BBC, I started trying again. I enjoyed working as a producer on various different bits and pieces, but now I was tempted by presenting again. I’d worked on the BBC coverage of the 2015 League of Legends World Championships and realised how much I loved the idea of working in gaming. I started attempting to talk to my co-workers at BBC Three about the possibility of pitching something about esports, but there was no interest (or perhaps my hints were not strong enough). The BBC Academy were kind enough to take on my interactive video idea Strangecast (a behind-the-scenes interactive look at drama series Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell), and let me host a podcast, but I still didn’t have the experience outside of my own external projects (some of which you can see in an old showreel, embedded below).

I needed to leave; and so I did. Moving to Twitch as a producer was such a fantastic experience. I wasn’t thinking of hosting at this point, but more about how to immerse myself within the Twitch community. I started streaming and learning as much as I could about the eco-system of Twitch. I worked with a lot of Twitch Partners to bring them onto our stages, but often didn’t have the budget to hire enough to cover a typical 8-10 hours of hosted content, and so ocasionally I’d pop up onstage to help fill in. Bit by bit, the hosting bug came back. And yet – I loved my job; it paid well, I felt confident and my colleagues were fantastic. Why leave a safety net you enjoy falling into?

I decided to do bits and pieces in my spare time, asking agency Code Red to take me on as a client and writing to contacts to suggest they consider me for gigs. I cobbled together a showreel from my various Twitch stage cameos and waited. Nothing much came my way until I did an interview with GINX TV at gamescom about the Twitch Stage, joking about the pink stain on my bum from the cake I’d recently had to scrape off the stage, post Steve Aoki appearance. A few weeks later I was in their London studio being trialled for live weekly show The Bridge as a co-host; I got the role.

The Bridge gave me the experience (and examples of work) I needed to get my face out there. I’d already built up a network within the industry as a producer, but my work on the show now meant I had video evidence to show I could hold my own on live TV, interview and be part of a general esports conversation. I didn’t get to lead host until earlier this year, covering for usual anchor Frank, but again, that was a huge opportunity to prove my worth in the lead host’s seat. I also spoke to ESL UK about trying to host and they asked me to come and host the ESL UK Hearthstone Premiership Finals in January. It would later transpire that my stage hosting at this show would spotlight me for my co-host role at the PC Gaming Show at this year’s E3.

I’d just completed my most recent showreel when I found out my job post was to be closed at Twitch. After a bit of steady breathing and a quick chat with my Dad, I headed to a generic coffee shop chain to start emailing contacts to make it clear I was ready to work. Then I headed to GINX to co-host my final episode of The Bridge.

Since April, I’ve filmed in London, Bristol, Stockholm, Katowice, LA, Austin, Las Vegas, Berlin and Bath. I’ve covered titles such as NHL 18, CSGO, Overwatch, Fortnite, PUBG and a game where you get to play as a shark. Oh, and co-hosted with a duck. But if I hadn’t had to leave my day job, I might not have experienced any of it. I’d be happy, but quite possibly not as happy as I am now. There’s no safety net anymore – but maybe in the end it was less of a net, and more of a wall.

Tips for breaking into on screen esports roles

  • Decide what you want to do; stage or desk host? cast or analyse? What’s your expertise? You could do a bit of each, but then how will you make people see you as the go-to for a particular role? I’ve mostly desk hosted in the past few months, with a bit of stage hosting on the side. Currently TOs (tournament organisers) are considering me where they think I’ll fit in based on my “brand” (see below).
  • Be vocal about who you are and what your “brand” is. Before breaking into gaming, I was asked this by someone during a BBC careers session, and I honestly didn’t know. Now, I think you get a good idea from my showreel – I marry energy and humour with knowledge, am able to control what’s happening during a broadcast (no matter what goes wrong), without it feeling dry, and I can “charm and disarm” my guests.
  • Build a showreel that showcases your values and your versatility. My showreel is due an update, I admit, but what it does do is distill what you can expect from me in less than three minutes – and the latter part is key. Keep your reel to less than three minutes. When I was a producer, I would make up my mind about hiring someone in less than 90 seconds. You don’t need to include all your work in there – feature the work that sums you up best, and shows you in the roles you want to be considered for in the future (ie. stage, desk, casting etc). As a host, I can work across multiple games on stage, and on the desk, and my reel shows that – although my next reel will feature more esports desk hosting, and less consumer roles, as that’s the route I’d like to go down in future.
  • No footage? Make your own work. Some events, such as the recent PGI 2018, will let you co-stream their feed so you can add your own commentary. You can also start a podcast, create and stream a chat show on Twitch, or make YouTube videos on your phone. This will be vital for developing your skills, too.
  • Get involved in the community you want to be part of. PUBG is one of my “first loves”, esports-wise. I’m regularly engaging with discussions on social media about the game, and I stream myself playing it with others, too. Maybe you could stream some scrims or charity events to get some valuable practice and showreel footage.
  • Approach grassroots events to gain experience. I’m not necessarily saying work for free, although money might not be amazing at first (which is another reason why I was lucky my previous job let me freelance on the side, taking annual leave to work). In the UK, epic.LAN and Insommnia are great events to try and approach.
  • Be professional and be nice! Whether working as a producer or presenter, I always try and give back the support I receive. Although esports is growing, the UK community is still small; you can get to know people quickly and make lasting connections. When I work with production teams I’ve worked with before, it’s like family. Always contribute to the team effort; rehearsals aren’t just about your performance, they are also for the benefit of everyone in production too. If you have feedback, think about whether it’s time urgent or would be of more value at the end of a broadcast day, or even the event itself. In terms of presenting yourself externally, I’m really lucky to have people approach me at events for photos and such – I always try and have a conversation, rather than just a seflie when I don’t have to rush off to film; someone has spared time to come and speak to me, so I like to try and find out a little bit about them, even if it’s as simple as “who is your favourite team?”.
  • Be good at what you do, but work towards being better. Now I’m full-time as a host, I’ll stream at home to get to know my audience, write posts like this, produce my podcast, and review footage from events to pick up on any weaknesses – I’ve been working to erase words like “basically”, for example. When I first started out I’d practically dance on the spot, or shift erratically in my chair. Even watching back PGI I can see a few phrases I repeated when reporting and interviewing and I know to be more concious of this – because I was in an unfamiliar role, my lack of experience showed through via habits I might not fall into on the desk, for example. If you’re worried about Twitch chat comments, just minimise chat, and focus fully on the VOD. Twitch chat are not the people that hire you – their support can mean a lot, but just because they think your hair is gross, doesn’t mean it actually is (ahem).

I hope this helps in some way – although my DMs are closed, you can leave a comment below, contact me on Twitter or via email if you have further questions. Good luck!

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Two and a half weeks

Any of you that follow my You Tube channel will be aware that I’ve made a video account of my time without employment.

I wanted to do this as a record for other people who, like me, have been made unexpectedly unemployed and have no idea how the system works. In some ways it was a difficult process and there were phone calls and meltdowns that I caught on camera but decided to keep out of the final edits. In the end the result was a simple vlog.

I probably come across and stubborn and ignorant in some videos, but I honestly did not know how the system worked for jobseekers. At the entrance to the job centre there’s a big banner that tells you that the idea of the place is to ‘find you the work you want’ but in actual fact they just want you in work. This is an understandable desire, but possibly one of the reasons people stick to signing on. If they are forced into a job that they don’t want and therefore have no time, help or resources to find their ideal vocation, they’re going to be even more adverse to steady employment.

Earlier this month I made the final of a competition held by Primula Cheese and Capital FM North East. The idea was to create a recipe for four on a budget using a variety of Primula cheese. I went for the simple, yummy bean enchiladas recipe I once made for my former Amazing Radio show. I knew I wouldn’t win the £1,000 prize but it was a fantastic day out that really made me feel ‘normal’ again. They even made a film of the event which is hilarious as I couldn’t stop laughing before they announced the winner. Priceless.

Ready Steady Squeeze Final from Adam Troup on Vimeo.

Another thing that kept me occupied over the last two weeks was the wonderful UMT: Play course, run by North East music agency Generator. I met two fantastic girls, Mary and Harriet, and together we formed ‘Mary Sends Out Warning’ and wrote three songs for a performance to friends and family in a mere four days. We also recorded our mini masterpieces and hopefully I’ll be able to share those with you soon!

Here are some pictures from the ‘Big Day’ as taken by the wonderful Jazzy Lemon (who I shall miss very much when I head South).

For listeners

As my Amazing Folk Roots show was due to be on Amazing Radio tonight, I thought I’d better write something to explain why it won’t be!

Yesterday my contract was terminated by The Amazing Media Group, so my show has been cancelled with immediate effect.

I have been told that there is no shame in redundancy, so I hope to find work in media again sometime soon. What is sad is that everything was so instant, so sudden, that I didn’t get to do a final show – my show for tonight has already been broadcast once, but they didn’t want to broadcast it again tonight. If there is no shame in redundancy, then why has work been so swift to erase me?

I am no longer Producer Frankie on Amazing Afternoons and Kyle will be carrying on solo, which will be fine (so afternoon listeners please don’t worry!) Amazing Radio is a fantastic idea. I’ve worked with hundreds of bands, lots of talented music writers and bloggers and met some fantastic people. The team I have worked with have been brilliant. They are young, fresh and talented – and held together by the equally brilliant Operations Manager Kevin, who truly is the heart of Amazing Towers.

However I feel now, I know that I should look back and be proud of my time with Amazing. I recorded my first show for the station when I was 20, making me the youngest presenter on national radio. I put together The Afternoon Show (as it was originally called) before I graduated from university, recruiting Kyle to present and developing features that came and went before settling on ideas that I was happy with, such as Matchmaker and the New Music Tour. The show itself was deemed strong enough to be live, but I became a victim of this success as I have constructed the show in such a way that it can survive without me, and I really hope it does. There were many things I did for the company and I’m not sure what will happen, but I hope it grows without more people needing to lose their jobs.

There have been many people who have helped and supported me in the past few years that I’ve not really stopped. Waking up this morning, therefore, was a very surreal feeling, and one I didn’t like very much!

Now I need something to do, and all ideas and offers are much appreciated!

Frankie’s fish pie

I was recently sent this fish pie recipe by one of the listeners of my Amazing Radio show.

I decided to have a go at the recipe, (which was rather adventurous for my usually fish-adverse culinary habits), but gave it a bit of a twist by exchanging and/or omitting a few of the ingredients.

Here’s what you’ll need:

500g white fish (I used pollock), 2 hardboiled eggs, couple handfuls of frozen peas (defrosted), sachet of cheese sauce (powder mix), couple cloves of garlic, couple of bay leaves, 300g milk (plus a dash more for mashing), 800g sweet potatoes, salt and pepper for seasoning.

Gently simmer chopped garlic, bay leaves, 300ml milk and the fish in a large pan for 15mins. Add a knob of butter if desired

Strain out the milk mixture and keep handy. Break fish into small pieces once cool enough to handle. Remove the bay leaves.

Mix the cheese sauce sachet with the milk mixture before adding in the fish, peas and chopped hardboiled eggs and pouring into a dish for baking. Season with salt and pepper

Peel, chop and boil sweet potatoes for 15 minutes before mashing with a dash of milk

Top the baking dish and mix with the sweet potato mash. Sprinkle on a little cheese if desired and season with salt and pepper

Bake in a preheated oven for 180 degrees for 40 minutes or until suitably golden

..And then Serve! (I’m rubbish at final serving pictures). I’d recommend serving with a side of steamed broccoli and spinach.

Thanks to Ade for the original recipe!


Frivolise me!

I began a game in the Amazing Radio office the other day called ‘Frivolise Me!’

This essentially involves deciding to embark on an activity and then making it decidedly more ‘frivolous’ – for example taking a taxi instead of a bus to town, or buying a fancier product than you usually would. It’s a rather materialistic, entirely unserious game, but one that’s worth a giggle. It was only when my colleague Stevie B replied to one of my tweets that I realised that I had been playing the game without realising!

I headed into Newcastle city centre after work fully intending to try and find this pair of ‘rusty’ paperbag waist shorts from Miss Selfridge ready for Spring, or at least a similar pair for a cheaper price. I decided to try Primark to see if they stocked such a style.

Bag from charity shop

It turns out that they didn’t… but they did have a pair of leather look shorts that I noticed on my way out of the store! Naturally I grabbed a pair in my size, rushed to the changing rooms and had a go with them! Probably not an item on many fashionable Spring ‘must-have’ lists, but an item I gladly bought in place of the ‘safer’ Miss Selfridge option.

Shorts £10 by Primark, pussybow blouse (vintage) from Oxfam, heels by H&M

I do already have some leather look brown shorts from Zara, and fake leather skinny trousers from Topshop, but I couldn’t resist adding these to my growing collection. There’s something I can’t resist about this fabric. It’s less obvious than denim – especially when worn during the day – and  can be dressed up as in the photo above or dressed down as in the photo below.

Headband by Topshop, tee £9.99 by Zara, bag £10 from Tyneside metro market

(As you can probably see for yourselves, I’m sticking my tummy out in this photo, delightful eh!?)

I blogged about this Zara tee in my last post. It’s oversized and rather short which means I’ll probably wear a vest top underneath it if I take this outfit further than my bedroom. The headband is a couple of years old. I got in from Topshop in a bid to disguise my unruly hair as a ‘deliberate statement’. It wasn’t deliberate in this photo either, but I have been experiencing a minor revolt from my barnet today! The bag was a wonderful vintage find from Tyneside’s Saturday metro market last Saturday. You can’t tell from this photo but it’s a gorgeous, inky hue with an almost marbled effect. I’m attempting to work more ‘ladylike’ pieces into my wardrobe, and have bought a couple of waist-focused black pieces in the past couple of weeks; a shift dress from Topshop’s sale and a black, elasticated waist dress from Zara that I’m planning to debut at a Little Comets gig this weekend.

So what have you ‘frivolised’ recently? And which do you prefer, denim or leather?

Must-hear viewing

“Must-hear you say? But these are videos I see below…”

Yes that is indeed correct, but they’re music videos so I hope you watch them to hear them… if that makes sense? Basically they’re videos that if you haven’t seen, you should, and if you have I heartily salute you with my well-bitten fingernails.

Firstly I present to you the wonderful Leeds-based solo artist James Owen Fender. I truly love this artist: Awesome voice, sensational tunes. Also check out his video for former single The Cloud.

Next, here’s lovely songwriter Martin Longstaff, performing live for Amazing Radio as The Lake Poets. This was recorded exclusively for the station at Newcastle’s Blank Studios. I wrote an article recently predicting big things for The Lake Poets in 2011, and Martin will be a guest on my Amazing Folk Roots Show this Sunday from 7pm.

Now I’ve been meaning to post this next video for far too long. It’s Newcastle four piece Grandfather Birds recording in The Amazing Sessions for Amazing Radio. This video was created by the lovely Paul Alton, who often attends local gigs armed with a video camera. (The song’s pretty sensational too).

I wasn’t too big a fan of previous effort Ungrateful, but I have a huge soft spot for this number, Hunger, by Wichita label act Frankie & the Heartstrings. It’s a fantastic video starring Robert Popper of BBC comedy Look Around You and features a particularly fine performance from keyboardist/guitarist/all-round-legend Mick Ross.

Finally I’m not sure if this is an official video. but we’re loving Kyla La Grange at Amazing Towers right now. Her voice might be too sugary for some, but this song, Walk Through Walls, is epic.

So what do you think? Any new acts I should check out?

Amazing Movie Making

I’ve been attempting to create some video content for Amazing Radio‘s You Tube channel recently.

We’ve recently become You Tube partners which I’m really excited about (my old channel isn’t, but it was always an aim). I announced upon my arrival at Amazing Towers in June that You Tube partnership was always a plan and in the end they approached us, which was nice!

Now we just need to start getting content, and finding an audience for it! I’ve started by making a simply Q & A video with Kyle Wilkinson, who I produce every week day on The Afternoon Show.

We might do more videos like this so if you have any questions for me (as the presenter of Amazing Folk Roots), for Kyle or for any of our presenters then feel free to ask away!

The Velvet Choir

Next Friday (10th December) I’m playing a festive gig with The Union Choir at Newcastle’s Cluny.

It’s for NARC magazine‘s annual ‘Stars in their Eyes Xmas Party‘ event where a selection of North East acts perform three cover versions of songs by a band of their choice.

Anticipation for the event is high, with acoustic folkers Rainfalldown performing (sadly June Carter-less) as Johnny Cash (and band), post punk revivalists Cult Image as The Ramones, Holy Mammoth as Blink 182 and us, The Union Choir, as The Velvet Underground and Nico. Amazing Radio‘s Tom Cotton will also be DJ-ing… as himself.

Velvet dress by George @ Asda, £14

[Post bath I decided not to leave the house hence the absence of makeup/decent hair. I did try to make myself ‘decent’ by removing the red eye in this photo, but it’s left me looking even odder!]

With every gig comes the occasionally frantic question of what to wear. I’ve decided to take our incarnation as The Velvet Underground (and yes, technically I’m ‘Nico’) quite literally by wearing this velvet number by George @ Asda. I found it online and headed into the Heaton Asda Living store on a whim after snow rendered me unable to travel to Birmingham. I’d decided to get some bubble bath and have a sulky soak as i’d taken the day off work for my journey to the midlands, but then this dress was too tempting to resist trying… It was reduced from £24 to £14 and is a beautiful shape, texture and colour. It’s not too risque lengthwise (but has a slit at the front so could be if I’m not careful!) You can find it online here.

I haven’t accessorised fully in the photo but I’m wearing pearly mary jane style shoes (with a ribbon tie) and a charm bracelet pendant necklace that my dad got me as a graduation present. I’m also wearing a fake pearl headband by Accessorize but I think I’ll ‘toughen things up’ with my leather jacket, smokey eyes and loose hair for the gig itself.

Hope you can make it down!

An Amazing article!

An exciting thing happened this morning!

The Guardian wrote about Amazing Radio!

Getting to know the boys from emerging act Mike Fantastic

Getting to know the boys from emerging act Mike Fantastic

It’s quite a big thing for us as we’re rather ‘underground’ in our music policy (and also because we don’t advertise.) We’re a commercial station that doesn’t play ads (save for the Christmas DAB trails) and we only play new and emerging artists (who have popped their stuff over at amazingtunes.com.)

I’ve written about my job in many a post on this blog, but if you’d like to go straight to the source you can check out our website, follow us on Twitter or even join our Facebook Group and join the ‘New Music Revolution.

The perfect LBLD?

I’ve always dreamed of finding that ‘perfect Little Black Dress’

I thought I found it for a mere £9.99 in H&M today but when I got to the dressing room it just didn’t fit right.

I had places to be so had to leave the strapless, shiny black pleated bargain behind with the shop assistants. Feeling down I moved to leave the shop but stopped in my tracks near the exit… By Jupiter! I had found it!

It was wrinkly, not in my size and made of fake leather! I had to buy a size up but it means it will be perfect for casual winter layering (for the Amazing Radio office) whilst not being a too tight and ‘fetish’ looking. Once off the hanger and on my body the wrinkles disappeared and gave an almost smooth look.

Faux leather dress, £14.99, white shirt both by H&M

Faux leather dress, £14.99, white shirt both by H&M

It’s the perfect day-to-night dress too. Here I toughen it up a little with my Peacocks grey hiking boots.

Boots £20 by Peacocks

I quite like it with my red heels too; there’s plenty a pair of shoes that would work with this dress which is why I adore it so.

I have a gig with The Union Choir in support of The Winter Hill Transmission’s single launch next Friday (19th November) and I’m not sure if I should wear this or the Primark dress below…

Dress £15, by Primark

The flash of my camera has made the underskirt of this dress look a lot shinier than it actually is. It reminds me of a Peacocks dress I saw in a magazine (but it’s a lot nicer in the lace detailing department and £8 cheaper.) I have to wear it with a belt because the empire line design into the full skirt is so unflattering I was tempted to take it back. The swift addition of the belt made me have a sudden change of heart.

I think that the leather look dress might be better for The Union Choir gig, and the crochet dress for my first Get Frank gig on the 25th November – but again, I’m not sure.

Help me out? Which one for which occasion?!