Radio DJ

    If you are wondering how to become a radio DJ, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of the media industry, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    DJs play recorded music for audiences on the radio or at live venues. They play music on vinyl, CDs or digital MP3s, and use a range of equipment including turntables, mixers, microphones, amplifiers and headphones. This page will concentrate on radio DJs.

    Typical responsibilities:

    present a programme in your own style
    choose some of the music to be played
    keep up an entertaining and natural flow of chat
    interact with the audience through phone-ins and receiving emails and texts
    keep to a very tight timing schedule
    interview studio guests
    operate studio equipment to play music and pre-recorded news, jingles and advertisements (known as ‘driving the desk’)
    plan future shows by discussing ideas with the producer, writing scripts and preparing playlists.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good DJs include:

    keen interest in and enthusiasm for music
    a confident and outgoing personality
    a clear speaking voice
    a good sense of timing and co-ordination
    some understanding of technical equipment
    the ability to ad-lib and think on your feet
    calmness under pressure and the ability to work to strict deadlines
    ‘multi-tasking’ ability, for operating equipment.

    How to become a radio DJ
    You do not need formal qualifications to become a DJ, as your personality, skills and enthusiasm are more important.

    To find a job in radio, you will need some practical experience and a lot of enthusiasm and commitment. You can build radio experience through:

    community, hospital or student radio – see the Community Media Association website for a list of local stations, and the Hospital Broadcasting Association for a list of hospital stations
    work experience placements – contact BBC Recruitment, or the RadioCentre (for commercial radio)
    in-store radio – some large retail chains have their own radio stations that you could apply to.
    You may find it helpful to take a course in radio or media production, as the most useful courses help you to develop practical skills and may include work placements. Relevant courses include:

    ABC Level 3 Awards in Talk Radio Broadcast Skills and Radio Production Skills
    City & Guilds (7501) Diploma in Media Techniques
    BTEC National Certificate/Diploma in Media Production (Radio).
    Courses are available full- and part-time at some local colleges and universities, and community radio stations may also offer training and qualifications. Check with course providers for entry requirements.

    For club DJ work, you will need practical experience of using decks, mixers and sampling equipment. You may find it useful to take short courses in DJ skills (which may be available at local colleges and community recording projects), or full- or part-time courses in sound and music technology.

    To help you find work, you should ideally make a ‘demo’ CD that shows your DJ-ing style. You can then use this to approach radio stations or clubs and bars for work. If you try this, you should make sure that your demo fits in with the station’s output or the venue’s music policy.

    Training and Development
    You would mainly learn and build your skills on the job.

    In radio, you may receive some in-house training in technical areas like ‘driving the desks’ or using particular recording equipment when you start your job.

    You may also find it useful to take part in the networking opportunities and events organised by the Radio Academy and the RadioCentre.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Average earnings are between £50 and £300 a session.
    Very experienced club and radio DJs may earn £1,000 or more a session.
    Top club DJs can earn over £100,000 a year.

    Job Prospects
    As a club or mobile DJ you are most likely to be self-employed. You would often work on a part-time or casual basis, although top DJs may work several sessions at different venues in one night or weekend. In radio, you would normally be employed on fixed-term contracts.

    Some radio jobs are advertised in local and national newspapers and radio industry websites, but many jobs are filled through word of mouth or by agents. You would usually find club DJ work by approaching bars and clubs directly, and through contacts. Competition for DJ work is strong and success depends on your reputation and your ability to network.

    As an established radio DJ you could branch out into other types of media work, such as TV presenting or freelance journalism. As a successful club DJ, you could move into music producing and recording, club promoting or starting or working for a record label.

    Useful media industry resources:
    Radio Academy
    5 Market Place
    W1W 8AE
    Tel: 020 7927 9920

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