Radio Jock Vs Club Jock

Where do I begin? It’s a question I now ask myself on a daily basis as I plan my three- hour radio show. Bizarrely it’s not one I ever had to ask myself during my 11 years as a mobile and club DJ. I would arrive at the venue, set up my equipment, open my CD boxes and begin. Yes, I had the first dance planned but after that I would read the crowd and play tracks I thought would fill the dance floor.

Strange then that the music now takes a back seat. My focus has switched to what comes out of my mouth! Having no direct contact with an audience means that I don’t have to deal with people telling me that a track is “crap”, or asking the tedious question, “have you got any good music mate?”

Whereas at a function or in a club, the music is your connection to the audience, in radio you have to grab the listener and keep him or her with your personality, your voice, and your creativity: the music merely compliments your show. Knowing your music is great, but music knowledge alone does not engage your listeners. For example, the majority of breakfast show listeners want to know how their day may pan out; they want to know the latest news; what the weather will be doing; where and if they will get held up on the roads – and it’s the way you tell ‘em.

All this never crossed my mind as a mobile DJ. On the radio, each listener likes to feel that you and your station is broadcasting purely for them. When in a radio studio, you’re not addressing a crowd of 20,000 people – you’re talking to one listener. And you know precisely who that listener is – how they live; what they think and

what they need from you. However people listen to your show, each has a one-to-one relationship with you. I confess it’s hard to learn the radio way – but it’s fascinating and it’s worth it. Get this part right and you’re half way there!

Adapting my presentation style to radio has been a challenge. Working in nightclubs did strange things to my voice. I used to shout. And hearing people like Tony Blackburn with his classic DJ voice led me to believe that was how I had to sound. Wrong! The club DJ voice wouldn’t last a week of 3-hour shows before it packed up, perhaps damaging a voice permanently. What’s worse, listeners can’t and won’t deal with a noise that’s both loud and not very natural.

Working with a vocal coach here at the National Broadcasting School, I now ‘talk’ when I perform. It sounds strange, doesn’t it? But I sound better and more relaxed. My voice is much easier on listeners’ ears. And relaxing my style has enabled me to focus on what listeners want to hear and what I need to say.

I now realize that a club DJ should be prepared to learn a completely different style in order to make it in the radio industry. I now realize that had I continued working as a mobile and club DJ and been offered a radio show, I would have flopped. Keeping people happy on a dance floor is totally different from being with them for a large part of their day, in their homes, their cars, and even their beds – a privilege not many people get.