Want to Know How to Become a Radio DJ?
You can learn how to become a radio DJ a number of different ways, but the surest path to a career as a disc jockey is to get the proper training and education. Having the natural voice talent and language skills to be an on-air personality helps, though becoming a DJ involves improving whatever natural talents you do have.
The earlier you start to consider a career as a disc jockey, the more qualifications you can have on your resume, when it comes time to start applying for jobs in the radio market. (Read about how to build a resume here.) Taking speech and drama courses in high school are good preparation to becoming a radio DJ, while getting a job as an unpaid intern at a local radio station is great job training for a teen interesting in career on live radio. (And if you take those courses, you’ll also know how to become an actor or actress–just in case the DJ thing doesn’t work out.)
Improve Your Speaking Voice
One key factor that most people learning how to become a radio DJ have in common is speaking talent. If you aren’t naturally a good or confident speaker, you can improve on this aspect of your life in several ways. Learning proper English and improving your vocal quality help.
Pay attention in English courses. Take a drama class and join the school plays, which teach you how to project your voice, while also getting you used to performing for an audience. One of the most important focuses is a speech course, where you can practice talking before crowds and working on your oratory skills.
Once you start to improve your vocal skills, make tapes of yourself speaking. Then ask your speech and drama instructors to critique your speaking voice, giving you pointers. It’s best if you lose your accent, which limits (but doesn’t destroy) your viability as an on-air radio personality. Learn to speak with the non-accented midwest accent, to give yourself the most options in radio.
Becoming a Radio DJ
Having a good speaking voice is only part of the picture. I mentioned earlier there are many methods, if you want to learn how to become a radio DJ, but the path below is the traditional way. Follow as many of the steps below as possible, to give yourself the best opportunity to becoming a radio disk jockey.
- Get Experience as a Mobile DJ
- Get Advice on College Radio Programs
- Acquire Radio Job Training and Formal Education
- Work on College Radio
- Build a Network of Radio Contacts
- Obtain an Internship
- Start in Small-Market Radio
- Master Many Radio Career Skills
Get Work as a DJ
Get used to working as a disc jockey by working at parties as a part-time DJ. When you are anywhere an experienced DJ is working, observe and note their work habits. Talk to them about their approach to the job, if they are approachable.
Work as a mobile disc jockey at informal functions at first, then if you get good feedback, start working formal events like weddings and wedding receptions. You’re going to need a good collection of CDs and some DJ equipment to start, but this job can pay for itself and become your high school money-maker, instead of working at the Pizza Hut.
Talk to School Counselor
Ask your school guidance counselor for a list of colleges and universities that have good radio training programs. There are university degree plans such as radio/tv/film degrees that gives one an education in preparation for careers as a radio dj, so this is the best path towards becoming a disk jockey. These programs not only give you formal training as a deejay, but the college is a good plan to meet people and network, as well as learn about important internships.
Disc Jockey Training and Education
Going to college to become a radio dj has many advantages. While you can get a job in radio with just about any degree, it’s best to know something of the business, before your first interview for a radio job. (Be sure to brush up on how to ace your next job interview first.) Going to a university with a radio program not only helps you meet others going into the same field – some of whom one day may be hiring you – but most colleges have a college radio station that gives you valuable experience.
Join the radio program at the local college and get a job as an on air voice talent sometime during the week. You’ll be able to improve your live talents as a disc jockey, while producing on air moments you can turn into a demo tape. Demo tapes are “best of” highlights that radio DJs send around to radio stations, hoping to get an interview. Learning how to build a good demo is one skill you’ll need to know, if you want to learn how to become a radio DJ.
Build a Radio DJ Network of Friends
Remember, when you’re studying how to become a radio DJ at the college level, make friends with the other people in the program. You might feel the urge to view this as a competition that’s already started, but it’s smart to make friends and begin to network inside the radio industry at the earliest possible time. Many of these people are going to wash out, but a few of them are going to advance in the radio industry, either as on air personalities or as program directors.
That means a few of these people are going to one day be deciding whether you get a job at a radio station. Becoming a radio DJ often means moving around the country from job to job, until you find one that works for you. Having old friends in high places is good job security, so start building a network of friends as soon as possible.
This applies to professors, instructors and career advisors at the college level, too. Talk to your college broadcasting advisor about opportunities, so he or she knows you want to get into the game. Be noticed and make friends.
Getting a Radio Internship
Talk to people in the business, and they’ll tell you that becoming a radio intern is an important step in your training to become a radio DJ. An intern is an unpaid radio station assistant, who pretty much sits at the lowest rung of the radio hierarchy. But an intern at a radio station is asked to perform a wide range of tasks for the on-air personalities, meaning you get invaluable on-the-job training you can never get in a controlled school environment.
Many with a career in radio talk about their time as an intern being the place where they really learned the business. One month as an intern probably teaches you as much about the disc jockey profession as two years in school, as important as schooling is. Also, you’ll learn whether you have what it takes to have a career in radio, and whether this is something you enjoy. Remember that these jobs are menial, but they often lead to paid jobs at the radio station.
Start as a Local Radio DJ
If you can’t immediately get a job as an intern or on air voice talent at a big radio station, take a job with the local radio station. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your career as a popular radio DJ is going to happen overnight. Many of the most famous radio talents in America worked in obscurity for years, before they were ever noticed or gained any real success.
Look at a low-level radio gig as a chance to be on the air, practice your radio voice talent skills and build your resume. No matter where you start in the radio broadcasting business, your doorway to fame is only one big break away. Continue to send in demo tapes and resumes to other radio stations, but work in the industry and don’t get frustrated.
Learn All the Radio Skills
Finally, whether you’re working as an intern, as a radio personality at a small local station, or working as a production or board op at big station, learn every skill you can learn. Don’t just focus on voice talent and on air skills. This might be galling, but it also gets your foot in the door. Below are a list of jobs in the radio industry.
- Vocal Talent
- Board Operation
- Sound Editing
- Production (Producer)
- News Reporter
- Traffic Reporter
The fact is, any of these could be your break into the business. You don’t have to become an expert at these, but learn enough about them that you have a wide variety of skills. In the era of Howard Stern and Don Imus, producers and technicians have become a big part of the on-air show, so you can get your foot in the door by becoming a sidekick, then move on to a leading position.
The more radio skills you have, the more opportunities you’ll have. Also, you’re less likely to get fired, if you’re one of those people who can multi-task. Even if your ambition is to become a radio DJ, being in the industry is closer to that dream than sacking groceries at Target. If you can’t be “The Guy” right off, be the “Go-To Guy”.
How to Become a Radio Disc Jockey
If you’ve read biographies of other radio disk jockeys, you know that there’s no one formula for how to become a radio DJ. But if you want to give yourself the best odds of breaking into the radio business and making a big splash as a radio DJ, follow the steps above and you’re going to be on a par or have an advantage of most other people looking for a job in the radio market today.
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