The 5 Types Of Radio Station (And How To DJ At All Of Them)

Phil Morse | Read time: 3 mins
broadcasting podcasting Pro radio djing
Last updated 27 March, 2018

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On air
Want to play your music to the masses all week long? Adding a radio show to your DJing itinerary can help you to pull away from the competition.

DJing on radio is a great way to get your name out there, and can develop into a career in itself. Many a club DJ has “gone to seed” on the radio, and conversely many radio DJs end up having successful club careers.

More than that, a radio show is a great way to practise both programming, music discovery, and holding a regular audience – all things that can directly improve your real-life DJing.

So we thought we’d round up the five main types of station, with strategies for getting your foot in the door at all of them. Roughly in order of how easy they are to get a DJ set on, here they are:

  1. Internet radio / podcasts – Some stations broadcast 24/7, others are accessible more like podcasts (via iTunes etc). Getting sets on such stations or even shows is reasonably easy by comparison to some of the other formats: Just listen in, spot a gap, and ask. It is perfectly possible to set up your own station or podcast too, and indeed this is how many people get started in broadcasting nowadays
  2. College/non-profit radio – Generally these are independent small concerns, where the DJs pick their own playlists entirely – great if you fancy yourself as a tastemaker DJ and want somewhere to flex your musical muscles. Reliability is key here – prove you’ll turn up for your show regularly and get things done without a fuss and you’ll win friends. Make sure to develop personal relationships with the other DJs and the owners before asking
  3. Community radio – Related to the above, community stations tend to be intensely local in flavour, and have a wide mix of programming apart from just music. Again, having a name for yourself in your community helps (a club night locally is ideal) and living in the vicinity obviously qualifies you more than an out-of-towner when you’re pitching for a show
  4. Satellite radio – Multiplexes like Sirius and XM in the States work similarly to cable TV, in that there are many different stations with their own unique programming. The chances of bagging a show on one of these specialist channels is low unless you’ve got a track record (typically from 1 to 3 above) to wave in front of their noses, and even then is going to take persistence. But if there’s a specialist show you like, you could try and befriend the presenter and land a “guest mix” to get your foot in the door
  5. Commercial/national radio – The big stations on your radio dial and increasingly on digital multiplexes. Apart for the unique BBC in the UK, these are owned by media conglomerates and subject to imposed playlist restrictions and other commercial-focuses directives. A show on one of these is a career, not a whim, and takes years of work to attain. However, the night/weekend programming can be specialist, in which case the rules from 4 above may just get you a mix – if you’re very, very lucky

Have a plan…

The key with radio is persistence and having a game plan, and increasingly, taking the DIY approach to hone your skills first. As part of your strategy for success in DJing, landing something regular on the radio can be a godsend, but you need to know why you’re putting the effort in and have the staying power to see it through.

Get it right, though, and it can be a great way to stand apart from other DJs.

Do you run a podcast or have a show, guest mix or other slot on a terrestrial or broadcast station? Can you add any advice to help readers to do the same thing? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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