Q: I am writing to you in hopes that you can give me some suggestions concerning a career in broadcasting. I am 28 years old (perhaps too old to get into the business), and have always wanted to express my wit, charm and talent on radio. I have been told time after time that I should get into radio but I never pursued the challenge. I am often asked to MC dances and other functions, and on occasion I have accepted the offers. I hear from people all the time, "You're wasting a good talent." Anyway, I'm not giving up, even if I have to get a job as a janitor, and work my way through a station. I am obsessed with wanting to become a DJ. Maybe you can suggest a few pointers. Sincerely, Mike.
A: Sure, Mike! First point: you don't want to become a DJ because everybody says you'd be good at it or that you're a "natural" -- you only do it because that's what you think would make you happy. You wish to express your "wit, charm and talent on radio"?
Fair enough. But beware -- working a daily shift on the air hasn't much in common with emceeing dances and hosting parties. There, you're the center of attention. On the radio, you are rarely more than a buzz in the background.
Wit and charm? Sure... In small doses, often few and far between.
Here's another point to consider: when people tell you they think you should be on the radio, what they usually mean is that you have "a great speaking voice." You *sound* like their mental image of a radio announcer.
Let me tell you -- your speaking voice is the least important tool you have in becoming a successful radio personality. The airwaves are full of people with average voices who are successful, not because they soothe mass audiences with their dulcet tones, but because they reach lonely listeners -- *one at a time* -- with their sincerity and warmth. (The converse is also true: the smallest markets are sprinkled with jocks who have great voices but who've never learned to use theirs to contact other humans, One to One.)
So, how *do* you "break into radio?" By breaking into radio! By not taking "no" for an answer.
By, as you say, taking a job as a janitor, if need be, until you can work your way up. But there's one thing most of us have to do, that may not have occurred to you, despite the research you've done: you'll probably have to move away from home for your first job. Radio jobs don't happen when and where you want them.
So, hire or borrow a studio, put together the best audition you can, have a resume made professionally, read the trades and send out your demos wherever there's an opening that looks like they might accept beginners. Eventually, if you have any talent and a lot of persistence, you'll score. Be prepared to move, to work odd shifts, and to put up with only being allowed to show a minimum of your talent -- because that's standard for beginners.
Be very sure of your wishes, because it takes years of putting up with lots of BS at low wages, before most of us earn any sort of a living in radio. Be damn sure you're doing it because *you* want to, not because of what other people say. The used car lots and insurance sales offices are littered with former disc jockeys who went into this business for the wrong reasons -- among which is, "Everybody says I ought to be in radio!" The only *right* reason is, "*I need* to do this."
Break a leg, Mike!
-- by Jay Trachman (another of my trove of "Trachman treasures," saved over the years because he was so right on, week after week)
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