Your Questions: “I’m Having Major Issues Playing On The Radio… Help!”

Steve Canueto
Read time: 3 mins
Last updated 24 March, 2018

Digital DJ Tips Platinum Facebook Group member Karlton asks: “I’m having a major issue with playing on the radio. I smash it in the clubs (not to blow my own horn but I have over the past year or so) and I played my first festival last weekend. I had a great set, enjoyed myself and got some awesome feedback. However, with the internet radio show I don’t get any feedback, and it is distressing me. I feel like I am bombing every time I play!

“I’m dying inside due to this and can’t figure out why I have a mental block when it comes to playing on the radio. Do you guys have any insights? Am I reading too much into this? Has anyone ever gone through this before? Please help…”

Digital DJ Tips says…

Who says you’re “bombing”? And why? I ask this because I suspect this may be your own opinion and not that of any other individual or based in the reality of DJing on the radio which is that the audience is (almost) totally unresponsive compared to playing live. I would say that you’re definitely reading too much into things. This is not something worthy of getting stressed over!

If you reframe your expectations, you’ll be able to get over this. The guys who run the radio station I play on keep a close eye on listeners and will gently let DJs know if they’re getting too heavy / dark / fast – basically if they’re doing anything to lose listeners. So for me, as long I’m hearing nothing from the bosses, then I know all is well. But I had to become OK with not getting any feedback from either them or the audience. After a show, I would be thinking “no one has said ‘great show’ so was it bad?” Again, it was all in my own mind and based on my own expectations.

Radio is a very different animal to playing a club or festival and you may decide that radio just isn’t for you if you don’t get that human feedback that you get such a buzz from playing live. Here are some pointers and the things that I do to determine whether my shows are good or not:

1. If the station is a club music station – play like you’re playing at a club. Use FX, use loops, perform, have fun, use three decks – whatever it is that you do, don’t try to smooth it out too much because you’re on the radio. You need to respect the station’s guidelines on this of course but don’t lose track of what it is that you do.

2. I make sure I’m playing new music as much as possible. When I’m playing new tunes, I’m excited and more into it than when I’m playing stuff I’ve heard loads of times, and that energy comes across.

3. Even if there’s just one single person, on Facebook or texting you or on Twitter or whatever, that you know is listening and digging it, play for that person (and namecheck them if you can). If someone has taken the time to reach out because they’re enjoying it and communicate with you – then there are at least 100 others who feel the same but would never bother to get in contact. People are just like that.

4. Don’t worry about making errors in mixing – even if someone writes in and says “you messed that mix up” – at least you know there are people listening and paying attention right?

5. Record your sessions (including and jingles and voiceovers) and listen back to them. Ask yourself: “Did you enjoy the show as a listener?” If the answer is “yes”, the chances are that so did everyone else.

6. If you’re still uncertain as to how well you’re doing, ask! Set up a meeting or a chat with the manager and ask for information on listener numbers, their general feedback, if they like the vibe and so on. Show willingness to be open to hearing what they think, good or bad, and at least then you know for sure and are not trying to guess as to whether you’re doing a good job.

Just relax and enjoy it more. After a few weeks or months come back and assess whether you’re still OK with not getting any feedback. If you’re not enjoying it or looking forward to it – don’t do it. Don’t get too hung up on holding onto the show as a promotional tool either…It’s a nice thing to say “I’ve got a radio show” – but it’s not going to prevent you from progressing as a DJ if you don’t have one, so if you need to move on, be brave and let it go.

Personally, I go through waves of loving it and hating it, but whenever I’m playing new tunes and I’m putting my all into “rocking the set” in the same way I would at a club, I love it again. So for me, I would have to consistently not enjoy myself for four to six consecutive weeks before I would throw in the towel. The longest has been three weeks so far!

Do you have any experience DJing on the radio? How do you find it compared to playing live gigs? Let us know in the comments below…

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