Today we take a quick stroll over to a quaint little town called…Beirut! Yes, Dan Harper is head of production for Radio One in Beirut, Lebanon. Dan has been all over the world and obviously gets bored easily because he keeps his work coming in from all directions and nations. Voiceover, production, announcing and perhaps facilitating world peace are all on his daily agenda. Read on in our 9 1/2 questions chat and see what its like on the other side of the world. (Unless you live in Lebanon) First you will hear Imaging featuring Jeff Berlin and Ann Dewig and then some with Dan and (a little K3) – Audio first, then interview, then some pics!
FYI – Dan’s site is www.danharper.co.uk but he tells me he has a new site and a new company coming soon…
You have an interesting story! BUT what stood out to me is that you went from London to Beirut ten or so years ago. How did that come about?
Well I got a job as PD at Dubai’s first commercial station in 1997 and met a few Lebanese people and became good friends with them. After moving back to the UK in 1998, I started to miss the Middle East and decided to take what I thought was a risk and have a vacation in Beirut. Like everyone, I had the idea that Lebanon was a place of civil war and kidnappings, but it’s changed dramatically reclaiming a lot of its past beauty and zest for life. So I decided to move to Lebanon and took a job doing drive-time and Imaging for a CHR station in Beirut.
So your Background starts in the Lake District in Northern England. Bullet-point the big career steps for you.
The Bay – Newsreader (my first gig) then Drivetime
Atlantic 252 – Production and Mid-mornings (under the name ‘Nice Guy Eddie’)
Hallam FM/ Metro FM/ TFM – Various shows
Channel 4 FM Dubai – PD
Talk Radio UK – Head of Creative
Play 99.6 Jordan – PD
Radio One Lebanon – Head of Production
What would you say you specialize in? Production? Presenting? Voiceover? All equally?
I suppose I’m a presenter at heart, because that’s where it all began really. But I’m much more creative in Production. The Voice Over part is just a technique that I picked up and fits in nicely. I think if you asked me ‘which one of those jobs would I prefer doing if I could do only one?’, then I would answer Production.
You work on an English language station in Lebanon. But you speak/produce in other languages? Are they mostly for the same company (Radio One)? Tell me about that work dynamic and how your time is divided up at Radio One by format? By Nation? By Language?
I would consider Radio One as my main client and I do most of my work for them from my own studio. I service a number of radio stations in the region. Some of them ask me to produce in Arabic and French which can be a little tricky, but just to make sure the audio sounds OK I ask my wife to have a good listen. I think clients pick me because they want the Western style of production so they can stand out from the traditional Arabic radio style which does sound very dated.
OK…you still maintain some gigs outside Radio One including Town and Country in the UK. Tell us how your life is divided up in general. You dont need to give specifics on Income but what % is spent on which gigs? Voiceover? Production? Your “Day Job” vs Your own company?
The VO work probably makes up 60 percent of my income and 40 percent for the production work as a rough guess.
Would you recommend others leaving their home nation for a gig? What were the advantages?
You have to really want to discover and blend in with new environments. You need to be ready to give up some of the luxuries or comforts you have in your country and be open minded about the way people act and work in other countries. The advantages are numerous. You get to discover new places, meet new people who are interested in knowing you, you get to learn new cultures and increase your knowledge and awareness. I personally found a home for myself in Lebanon and enjoy the lifestyle, friends and climate.
Now tell me some of the negatives of moving abroad?
Personally, I miss my family a great deal. There is also the expensive flights every time I want go anywhere in Europe. Those are the main things, the rest I can live with!
Its really cool to “Say” you picked up a station in Qatar (for example) but doing independent gigs internationally can have some pitfalls. Like not ever actually getting paid and having no real recourse to collect. Do you have advice on this type of work? What should one look out for?
With new clients, I always ask to be paid up front. I think that’s the norm now, certainly for the Middle East. Like a lot of producers and VOs, I have had some really bad experiences in the past with not getting paid so I decided to forget about them and adopt a new ‘pay first’ approach which is far less stressful!
9 1/2: I checked out your page on the Radio One site…
…I noticed “…and enjoys going out in Beirut…” I have to say I wouldn’t think “going out in Beirut” would be a good thing (from stories I used to see on the news) Tell me why I am wrong or why Beirut is actually a cool place? Where is THE place to go on a Friday night?
I have just finished a VO session with the Netherlands on Source Connect and the first question they asked was “You’re in Beirut? Is that Safe?”
Although underlying political tensions still exist, it’s a safe country in terms of very little crime with most people living a family orientated life. Sadly, the international media hasn’t done much to show the world how Lebanon has changed.
Friday night for me could be in one of the amazing restaurants, or just having dinner at home overlooking the city with my lovely wife.
The nightlife is very active and even on weeknights, the pubs and clubs are packed.