When just about anyone can make a mixtape using DJ software, there’s never been a better time to make a mix show. As more people stream content, a mix show acts like a bridge between the classic DJ mixtape and the modern talk podcast, combining elements from both that create an engaging audio programme that is uniquely compelling and greater than the sum of its parts.
What’s the difference between a mixtape and a mix show?
A DJ mixtape usually consists of a continuous blend of music that showcases your mixing, beatmatching, and song selection skills.
A mix show, on the other hand, highlights your programming and personality. Here you’ve got to get on the microphone, and sometimes mixing two songs together isn’t a requirement. It’s about showcasing who you are as a presenter through the music you’ve picked out, how you’ve arranged it in your programme, and how you tie it all together.
In this article, we go through his tips on how to run a successful mix show podcast.
7 essentials for success
1. An honest passion for music
If you haven’t got this in the first place, don’t even bother making a show. It really won’t work out if your heart isn’t into it, and worst of all, people can hear this. There already are quite a number of mix show podcasts out there, so there’s absolutely no room for inauthenticity when it comes to making your own show.
A proper mix show podcast should be about demonstrating your love and passion for the music and sound that you’re pushing. Don’t be a “voice on a stick”, which is about as soulless as you can get – think of someone working a boring desk job he doesn’t like, but this time the “desk job” happens to be music. Yikes!
Top tip: Believe in the music that you’re putting into your show. There’s absolutely no way you can enjoy all the hours of putting together a mix show if you don’t feel strongly about the music that you’re playing.
2. Clear communication skills
Speaking comes naturally to some DJs, and that’s great. The rest of us have to put the work in, day in and day out to improve our mic skills. An essential part of making a mix show is being able to communicate with your listeners in a clear way, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t have the gift of gab – like so many things in life, this is a skill that can be learned through deliberate practice, and the more you do it the better you get.
Top tip: Speak slowly, clearly, and try to use as little slang as possible. Remember that podcasts draw a worldwide audience who may possibly not have your native language as their primary one. If you find yourself discouraged because you keep stuttering or you just realised that you sound as exciting as a brick wall, don’t be – you’ll probably be awful at the start, and know that most everyone starts out this way. Bear in mind that the first time is usually the worst, and you keep getting better the more you do it.
3. Basic audio editing knowledge
You need to have some digital audio workstation (DAW) skills under your belt, there’s just no way around it these days. Neither should there be any excuses – most of the industry pros use Ableton Live to put together their radio shows, editing / splicing / mixing them together in the DAW. This is a piece of software that can also run on the same computer you’re using to DJ, so you don’t need to spend a crazy amount of money to be able to do it – you just need to learn how to use it.
After that, they record voiceovers (“links” in radio speak), add in some DJ drops (“idents”), and do final processing before exporting it to a stereo file, all in a DAW environment as well.
Top tip: You don’t have to learn the ins and outs of a piece of software to know how to do simple mixing and editing. Ableton Live is a great place to start, and has the added bonus of being your main DAW if you decide to go the DJ/producer route. If you’re looking for something simpler, try Audacity or Reaper, or you can even try out mixtape specialty apps like Mixmeister.
4. Good selection and programming
Your music is the heart and soul of your mix show, but to make it stand out from the rest you also need to understand good programming. What makes a mix show different from a DJ mixtape is that you’re presenting music to your audience – that means you’ve got to sprinkle in some voiceovers talking about the songs you’ve lined up (add these in after every two songs, minimum).
It also means you don’t necessarily have to play a full song from start to finish or execute a highly skilled 90-second beatmix – a mix show isn’t about how well you can beatmatch, it’s about how you piece together an hour’s worth of tunes in a coherent way, even if it’s a grab bag of different styles. This lets you fit in more music than a normal DJ mixtape, and you really should. Again, basic DAW editing skills come in very handy here.
Top tip: Don’t make your mix show a continuous build up (as is the case with mixtapes, sometimes). With a mix show, it’s better to have peaks and troughs in your music programming, so spice it up to keep your listeners’ ears piqued.
For your first song, make it something that grabs the attention of your listeners and sums up your whole show too. You may also just want to talk towards the end of the first song as it moves on to the next – let your first track do the introductory “hi-hellos”!
5. Setting aside time for preparation and production quality control
The 6 Ps are important here: Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. You don’t need to quit your day job, drop out of school, or miss junior’s first football game, but you do need to set aside time to prepare in order for this to happen – it takes a full day’s work to put together a mix show from start to finish, and you need to make an effort to execute as best as you can because this is what makes mix shows stand out.
That also means getting your voiceovers / links recorded and produced properly, and ensuring they add value to the show (eg details about an artist, upcoming events on a worldwide level, concise insights on trends, etc), and not taking away from it (eg talking about what you had for breakfast while the song’s huge drop is about to go down).
Top tip: Listen to how your favourite mix shows and podcasts do their links and idents, and also listen to some of the biggest mix shows in the world (eg Global Dance Session, Carl Cox Global etc) even if it’s not your style to get an idea of how the big boys do it, then pick up the ones you like and fuse it into your own style.
Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time – you’ll get better at it as each episode comes. Oh, and stop using your laptop’s tinny built-in mic and get a decent one! The clearer and crisper your links are, the more it can cut through the music mix when your voice comes on
6. Unwavering dedication (without promise of big fees)
There’s absolutely no money or royalties coming out of a mix show. I’ve got a radio show syndicated to 55 stations, and there’s just no cash in it. It’s entirely a labour of love, and one that won’t pay back in hard currency any time soon. You can find a way to monetise later on through sponsorships and placements, but these are rare as it is, and getting rarer still as more podcasts launch.
Top tip: If you’re thinking of making a mix show to make money, there are more lucrative ways to do that (gigging is one). Think of your mix show as a way to reach a potential global audience who may not otherwise be able to catch you at your next club gig because you live half-way around the world.
Frame it as a personal way to add value to your fans and would-be listeners; this is why it’s so important to make it as good as you possibly can – who knows, maybe you’ll score some club shows or residencies because of it.
7. Dogged persistence to build a following
There are more mix shows now than ever before, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to join in – just don’t expect to make a huge impact when you’re starting out, and don’t expect to reach millions after a year of doing it (or ever). As is the case with social media efforts, the key to success here is consistency, patience, and persistence, and you should be gunning for the quality of your audience over quantity.
You’ve got to stick to a strict posting schedule that your listeners can hold you to, whether it’s an audience of one or 1000. In fact, you don’t even need an audience of thousands to make a lasting impression – you can start out with just 10 people who are engaged with your mix show (ie they listen to it, share it with their friends, post comments etc), and that’s already a great number to start with.
Top tip: It’s not the number of plays or listeners you have, it’s the quality of the audience doing the listening. What you’re looking for is that handful of people who start off being interested in your mix show, who then become your rabid fans and followers because of the quality of mix show content that you’re putting out there. That’s worth a whole lot more than 1000s of plays from uninterested one-time listeners and third-world click farms. Listen to these “charter” members of your following as they will be your evangelists that can help you gain a larger audience much later on.
I want to urge everyone to just “go out and do it”. You can spend days, weeks, months even just preparing, thinking, and planning it out, but if you don’t ship anything, you’ve ultimately done nothing of value.
If you’ve been putting off because you’re afraid, now’s the best time to get started on it. This type of work is time-consuming upfront, but it’ll pay dividends down the road in the form of an audience that genuinely listens to and cares about the music that you curate and present to them.
• David Dunne is a UK DJ/producer who has toured the world DJing for Ministry of Sound / Hed Kandi, and whose Triple Dee mix show is syndicated to radio stations worldwide.
Do you have any other tips for starting your own mix show? Have you had any experience making one, and if so how’d that go? Let us know in the comments.