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What Does a Radio DJ Do?

Dan Cavallari
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A radio DJ is responsible for playing music on the radio and talking about various topics in between sets of songs. The format of a particular radio show is usually set by the DJ, and it can vary depending on the station, the time of day, and what type of radio the DJ is on. An A.M. radio DJ is likely to talk more than an F.M. radio DJ, and some new forms of radio will cater to more DJ talking than others. Sometimes a radio show has a particular theme as well, in which case the DJ will be responsible for facilitating conversations on that theme.

Some radio shows feature a call-in format, which means listeners can call into the radio show and speak directly with the radio DJ. This allows the topic at hand to be discussed with a wider array of people, and it can make the radio show more interesting and less predictable. Other radio show formats call for more than one DJ to discuss a topic or various topics throughout the course of the show. Such shows may or may not allow call-in guests. Such shows are usually done in the morning hours or late at night, though on A.M. radio stations, such shows may take place throughout the day.

It is not uncommon for a radio DJ to simply queue up music and play it at the appropriate time, talking only briefly during songs or sets of songs. This DJ may be limited to weather or news reports, contest announcements, and brief banter with call- in guests or in-studio guests. The radio DJ may also facilitate contests on air, giving out various awards to contestants on the air. Sometimes a radio DJ may do an in-person event, at which the DJ broadcasts the show from a location outside the studio.

A DJ will prepare for the show ahead of time, going so far in many cases as to figure out which songs will be played and when. Many radio stations have requirements for how many times a song is played throughout the day, so the DJ may be given a playlist he or she must adhere to. The songs the DJ plays will depend on the type of radio station, current hits, the type of radio show, and so on. In most cases, the DJ will also plan breaks in between songs and lay out which ads will be played during his or her shift.

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Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By anon311231 — On Dec 30, 2012

I would die before giving up my music! If I don't get the fame, well then I'll still mix for my own pleasure. Automated radio is the same as automated humans: no emotion, no evolution, no fun!

By parkthekarma — On Oct 23, 2011

@Veruca10 - You make a very good point. My favorite local DJs had a call-in type show that was doing really well in the ratings. They were here in our market for 10 years and had attracted a large audience after moving here from New Jersey.

When their contract came up for renewal, they decided to hold out against their employer and after a one-year no-compete clause was done, they started at another station. And were fired within a year. And didn't work after that for two years.

They have now returned to New Jersey, where they started. But for a long time, it looked like they weren't going to work again. And these were guys who already had a proven track record of making money for their company. Rough life.

By Veruca10 — On Oct 22, 2011

I used to want to be a DJ when I was a kid. Turns out I don't have a voice for radio. My voice is fairly deep in person, but when you hear it in a recording it sounds really odd, at least to me. Definitely not the kind of voice you hear on the radio.

I went to broadcasting school for a couple of semesters, but it became pretty evident that jobs that pay anything are very rare, and the competition is fierce. This is for a lot of reasons. So many stations are owned now by huge conglomerates, and a lot of the content they use is nationally syndicated, so they don't need local people.

Also, some music stations are automated now. The songs are digital and they are cued up by a program director. Even the commercials are automatic.

There are a handful of popular disk jockeys in many markets who make a living, but for everyone who has that job there are a a dozen trying to get it. I realized that while I wanted a job like that, I didn't want it badly enough to starve for the next 15 years, so I changed majors.

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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