11 Things That Surprised Me About Life As A Commercial Radio DJ

Posted on August 11, 2011


1 Getting to do my show from New York City was a VERY nice surprise!

2 The vast majority of mainstream music programmes have no producer – just a presenter – and it’s up to him or her to do EVERYTHING. Producers are generally found only on breakfast shows and phone in programmes.

3 Presenters don’t choose the music and often have no say in it at all. Most of the time the Programme Director doesn’t have much say either, it’s all set up centrally at Group Level by more senior management.

4 Listeners will never hear your entire show. They’ve got their own busy lives (especially during day-time) and catch snippets and chunks while they’re doing other stuff. The show is there in the background.

5 Being funny rarely works, unless you have a particular gift for it.

6 Being real is good, but can carry serious consequences. Do the staff at your local hairdressing salon who tune in every day really want to hear a 5 minute rant over lunchtime about the cost of parking in the city centre? Or how your new car makes a strange noise? Be careful about being real. I got a roasting once for putting a caller on air who felt the station was playing “Sex On Fire” by Kings of Leon too often.

7 Being relevant is best. Understand your audience, how they use your show and give them what they want. That could be as simple as telling them tickets for Noel Gallagher’s gig in Glasgow go on sale this Friday. Or that an unsafe building in town means a road is closed and there’s a traffic jam. Or it could be putting a call on air where a listener explains why they’re taking part in a 10K run at the weekend.

8 An enormous amount of air-time is taken up with commercials, sponsorship and other stuff you “have to do”. 16 minutes of ads each hour in one job I had, and on top of that there’s news, sport, travel, promos and sponsored competitions and giveaways. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for fun.

9 Listeners will tolerate all of the above and get involved every day and remind you why you love this job. They’ll text and phone and take part in everything you ask them to do. They’ll share what’s going on in their lives, pass on useful information and treat you like a friend.

10 Some of your biggest fans will NEVER get in touch. They’ll listen every day but never text or phone or follow you on Twitter. They’re normal, hard working people and they’ve chosen your show to brighten their day a little. One day you won’t be there and they’ll wonder why and then get to know whoever’s replaced you.

11 For the majority of full time, commercial radio DJs the money is good, but not great. You can make it great if you’re able to get involved in appearances and promotions at evenings and weekends. Most “full time” presenters will be on air 4 hours a day, 6 days a week and be expected to spend a considerable amount of time preparing their programmes.