Why You’re Not Getting Any Radio Station DJ Work/Jobs and How to Change That

By Gavin
Peterson
You have
no personality (either this or you’re still using the equipment in the above picture)
That’s
what the stations you’ve applied to might be thinking if you’ve tried and
failed before to get that first job. It’s all about YOU selling yourself and THEM
(the station). Let’s go from the beginning….
Radio
personalities for the most part, chit chat in between songs and provide various
infotainment. Some radio DJs have built a reputation on their personalities. It
therefore pays to know think what you’re all about and then find the right
outlet who’s culture is aligned/similar to your personality type and values.
Ambition and flexibility

In order
to become a radio DJ, you must be flexible; your willingness to
work unusual hours during the day, for average (or less) pay. A new radio DJ is sometimes/often assigned to overnight or weekend shifts at first. While this may seem like a career setback, demonstrating a willingness to take on less popular assignments can help you secure better shifts in the future.
Some radio jobs
only pay a minimum wage for part time work. That’s because of the supply demand
factor: there are more people who would work just for free (if only for the
experience) than there are positions available. Community radio stations in particular are the most likely to hire you as an unpaid intern. You have to decide whether it’s about the money or getting your foot in the door and the experience. You’re unlikely to have both.

If you’re lucky enough to get
hired by a radio station, expect to spend lots of your time in the studio, not
only being on the air, but cutting commercials and broadcasting live from
events. Almost all time slots are 5-6 hours in length, although specialty shows
can only be 2 or 3 hours. Outside of the radio station personalities are often
asked to dedicate a few hours of volunteer service to the station every month.
The average weekly time on the job for a radio personality ranges from 40 to 50 hours.

Finding Your First Radio Job

Finding
work as a radio DJ in a “big” radio market can be hit-or-miss. Most
radio dj’s start out in smaller cities to get their “big break,” into
this lucrative business. If you live in a town/small city it is possible there
are community stations that may broadcast in your local area. Look for these
as initially they are ideally the people you want to start with. Go to
their website and look for any jobs section and even if there isn’t, take their
contact details down. If you have no radio experience look to get into the
business via another skill area other than DJ-ing, e.g. if you’re technologically-minded,
are great writer and can work under minimal supervision. 
If you’re
at high school/college/University, build up your experience by
applying/offering to work on their radio station. A number of colleges and universities offer broadcasting as a major, so if you’re not yet in college/uni, consider enrolling in a suitable program with a radio broadcasting component.  Below are the common skills and requirements for students wishing to work in radio:
Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor’s degree is typically preferred
Degree Name Communications, broadcast journalism
Experience Experience as a DJ will be valued over education
Key Skills Good communication and interpersonal skills as well as exceptional articulation and pronunciation
Computer Skills Must be proficient with computers, broadcast-related equipment and editing equipment
Technical Skills Prospective DJs must be able to operate a sound board that will feature advertisements, sound effects and music

Among the list of desirable skills in the table above is communication. This should be pretty obvious but many who’ve asked me how to get a job as a radio DJ couldn’y form a coherent sentence. If you think this area needs work, get to it straight away. A good start is to hear yourself speak. This encourages objectivity. Get any recording device (on your mobile, microphone etc), speak into that, talking on a particular subject for at least a minute and record. Play back and make notes on your voice tone, volume, speed and clarity of word pronounciation. Also, get honest feedback from others. Additionally, you can take improv and speech classes (though these can be pricey so choose carefully)

Who do I
contact?

Once you’ve decided which stations to target, you need a point of contact. That
person is the ‘program director/head of programming’. In smaller operations, this might be the station’s general manager or owner.
He/she will determine what programmes will be where, who will be playing in
those programmes and when they will be playing – in short, the playlist. So if you’re looking to play only
your favourite music that’s probably not going to happen. Most radio DJs nowadays do
not pick the music to play on radio stations.
Research and preparation

If trying
to meet the program director/head of programming, make a point of being presentable and be ready with a CV and CD reel (more on this later). Do your research on the station and think of the typical songs that station plays and then create a reel showing you speaking in between songs (whether it’s introducing a song or wrapping up the last one). Use a 7-inch single, start and let it play for 15 seconds and talk in between.

Listen to the station and make notes about the DJs at the station you are applying to and incorporate that into your CV e.g. “I like X because he/she is …”

Your CV
You must
make your CV/Résumé to-the-point with relevant (radio and music-oriented) sections in bullet-point format e.g. :
Profile
“My name
is,  …I “
Experience
“I have X
years experience as a DJ…I have achieved”
Interests
“My
influences and interest are…”
CD/Reel

Earlier I mentioned being creative and putting together a reel of you speaking in between songs your target station typically plays. You need
to put together a CD/reel. In order to get a job, this is a must. Edit some of your best work into a reel and send it out to radio stations. No matter what experience or education you have, stations will need to hear what you sound like on the air and how you communicate with an audience. How you carry this off tells them whether they want you representing
them. Specifically they will be interested
in:
  • how you sound on a
    microphone
  • how bubbly you are
  • how you talk between
    playings

The last point above on talking between songs is worth elaborating on. At many radio stations (the commercial ones at least), what commonly happens is as soon as the vocals of a song finish, the DJ starts talking, then the intro of the next song comes along. As soon as that intro finishes and the vocals comes in, the DJ stops takling. Radio stations like this because it represents continuity. Get this skill honed and you will be viewed more favourably.

Ultimately, only a
very small percentage of nationally recognised radio talents make serious money The positions that usually pay the most are morning show hosts and
program directors. Morning is peak listening so DJs in this slot get the top pay.
The usual qualities of being persistent and creative in your search for work applies here. The work is out
there, you just have to be determinded to know, and/or meet the right person to give you that big break.

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