Radio hosts and DJs entertain listeners with music and conversation.
Back in the day, DJs were the heroes of the airwaves, picking out the hottest tunes and broadcasting shows that showcased their big personalities. Today, radio is a little bit different, but it's still a key part of many listener's lives. People all over turn the radio on to hear music, keep track of current events, or stave off isolation with constant chatter from a human voice. Most stations have a theme of some kind, like news, sports, new pop music, or classic country. They tend to have a rotating cast of DJs and radio hosts who appear at regular times during the day or week and are tasked with representing that station's brand. Some radio personalities become familiar to listeners who tune into their station on a regular basis, and they may interact with their audience through call-in games, contests, or song requests.
Radio shows can consist of anything: curated selections of obscure music, scripted audio dramas, live baseball commentary, weather warnings, nonstop classic rock, interviews with well-known authors, cooking shows, smooth jazz, political talk shows, advice channels, techno music, local events...the list is never ending. The beauty of radio is that if you keep scanning, something you like is bound to be on. Radio is a free, public, analog, and easily accessible form of media, which makes it appealing to a wide array of people.
Work as a radio host or DJ may include...
- Hosting guests on original talk segments
- Pitching or developing content ideas
- Lining up and timing songs
- Interacting with listeners who call in
- Recording promotions and filler content
Finding work in radio depends on where you look. The most important thing is experience, personality, and an understanding of the steps that go into making a show. Many colleges and universities have their own radio stations where students can host their own shows and play music of their choice. Independent stations also exist, both digitally and through more traditional means. Working for a well-known commercial radio station comes with a lot of perks, but often at the price of creative freedom; if you're intent on choosing every song that plays, it might be best to try a smaller station until your career takes off. Podcasts are the new talk radio; many broadcast conversationalists, storytellers, comedians, and independent journalists have started their own shows, which are easy to share on social media and often have a strong listener base.
The best way to become a radio DJ is to host a show of your own. One way to do this is by requesting airtime from college radio or local community broadcast stations; this can be a great way to learn the technology and rhythm of radio. Satellite radio, internet stations, It's also possible to start a show independently, on an online platform built for self-broadcasting; this requires that you have some sort of setup for recording yourself or cuing music. Students who are serious about getting on the air may pursue studies in broadcast journalism or communications at the Bachelor's or Associate's degree level, which can be a great stepping stone to a career and provide plenty of opportunities to develop experience and personal style.
If you've got a great sense of timing and want to be heard, a career as a radio host or DJ might be what you're looking for.
The National Association of Broadcasters is a trade association that serves as the voice for the nation's radio and television broadcasters.
Association of Independents in Radio is a growing network of audio industry professionals integral to public broadcasting, journalism, podcasting, and narrative storytelling.