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DJs, VJs & Radio Hosts


Disc jockeys (DJs) or radio hosts introduce music on the radio or at events, such as weddings, school dances and conventions. Today, the job extends to DJs who spin records in clubs, raves and underground and alternative music scenes or festivals. There are two types of DJs: those who work for radio stations, called broadcast DJs and those who work at functions and clubs, called mobile DJs.

Radio DJs host a radio show, which is usually in a shifted time slot, such as the morning or drive home. They entertain listeners, introduce music for on-air play and at some stations get to select what will be heard. Some announce news, sports, traffic and weather information, while others interview guests.

In most radio stations, computer software programs are used to schedule the music for each radio program or may play listener requests. When DJs are "off air," they might record commercials for later broadcast, preview new music and prepare material for later shows. They also host local station and charity events, and participate in station promotions.

Mobile DJs play music and spin records at special events such as wedding receptions, graduations, summer camps, bar mitzvahs and nightclubs. Most of these DJs work on a contract basis, although some working in clubs or bars might play a regular show at a club. Those who work the wedding circuit may join up with caterers and wedding planners and offer their services as a package deal. Also, they will usually meet with the bride and groom before the wedding to go over music selections, announcing of names and other special requests. They may also work as a master of ceremonies for big functions. Some work for entertainment companies that come in troupes with dancers and other crowd rousers.

DJs who work the club scene also travel with their own equipment -- mixers, lights, turntables, earphones, records, software and hardware. They are usually defined by the type of music that they play, from house and techno to acid jazz to trance.

As the television medium merged with music, it brought a new type of product to our ears. With the explosion of MTV and MuchMusic in the 1980s and 1990s, music videos became a new art form, a new way for an artist or group to express their songs visually. These networks hired a group of hip, musically inclined video jockeys, commonly dubbed VJs, to play the same role as radio DJs, but on camera this time around.

VJs are television personalities who chat with the public and conduct celebrity interviews. VJs are witty, charismatic, funny, and can talk about politics, religion, sports and adolescence in the same breath. Some VJs even write their own material.

VJs act as intermediary figures between the audience and the musicians or music videos. The VJs job is certainly very glamorous and centred in the limelight. Therefore, if you seek the attention of the camera and the public, and wish to be recognized on the streets as a television personality, then this may be the career choice for you.

It is their personal charisma that sometimes pulls in viewers and fans. The songs have to be peppered with perky conversation, jokes and celebrity appearances among other things, to sustain viewer interest. Many VJs specialize in a particular genre of music and with experience become associated as a public icon with rap, Top 40 tunes or classical rock and roll, for example.

VJs must constantly keep up-to-date on the latest trends in music, all the latest videos and information about music stars and other celebrities. For instance, if someone has a baby or a big break-up occurs, VJs have to be on top of the entertainment and music game. Also, they should have a well-rounded knowledge of all types of music, not just one genre. They must be ready to answer any question about music and must fulfil their roles as experts.
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  Interests and Skills  
Disc jockeys must have pleasant or interesting sounding voices. They usually exude confidence, have the ability to ad lib and provide interesting small talk. They should be enthusiastic, and have the ability to relate to an audience. In fact, an essential talent for all DJs is their ability to communicate with the audience. A knack for sounding casual and comfortable on air or with a microphone is important.

DJs should enjoy working with music and other entertainment materials for broadcasting, entertaining others and compiling information. They should have a natural curiosity about the world, current events and be a bit aggressive. The industry is cutthroat, therefore DJs must have clear set goals and go for them.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Disc Jockeys who work in radio broadcasting:
  • Select and introduce music and other entertainment material for broadcast
  • Act as host or master of ceremonies, introduce and interview guests and conduct proceedings of shows or programs
  • May read news, sports and weather
  • Comment on the music and local events and interest stories
  • Use humor and small talk to fill the space
  • Offer give-aways and prizes to listeners
  • Follow a predetermined schedule for airing commercials
  • Answer calls from listeners
  • Read commercials and public service messages
  • Announce time and station breaks
  • Report on weather conditions using information provided by weather forecasting services
  • Report on traffic conditions by maintaining contact with external sources of information or by observing traffic from air or land vehicle
  • May research and write their own material
  • Disc Jockeys who work as mobile DJs:
  • Act as the master of ceremonies for weddings and other special functions
  • Select and play music either on CDs or by spinning records
  • Develop a rapport with the audience
  • Give away prizes or make important announcements
  • Set up equipment and lighting
  • Mix sounds and songs, scratch records and create new and innovative music
  • Disc Jockeys in radio stations generally work five to seven hour shifts, which may include evenings, weekends and holidays. Since many radio stations are on the air for 24 hours, they can expect to work the graveyard shift when breaking into the career. Radio DJs may work in comfortable, although sometimes crowded, studios or in soundproof broadcast booths at various non-studio locations. They do not spend all of their working time on air and do hours of preparation work, attend staff meetings and other community events. Mobile DJs work during a function or at a club, which is usually at night or on weekends. Those who work in after-hours clubs will sometimes begin working in the middle of the night. They usually travel around to clubs, conference centers, reception halls and anywhere a party or function is being held. DJing can be stressful because live broadcasting allows little room for error.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Disc jockeys in broadcasting work for radio stations and other radio broadcasting forms, such as Internet stations. Those who are mobile work at weddings, parties, bar mitzvahs, corporate functions, graduations and high school dances. DJs who are interested in the club scene will possibly get a weekly gig at one venue or tour around nationally or internationally to play in shows and festivals.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What is the long term potential for disc jockeys? DJs with experience can become famous celebrities, at least at the local or club level. They usually find work by marketing themselves through audition tapes, personal interviews and live shows. In broadcasting, other areas that radio hosts can move into are specialities such as music, weather, sports or interviewing. Various announcers move between stations and develop significant followings. As a mobile DJ, they could become recording artists or any other related position.

DJs may also become programming directors, station managers, actors, news directors, musicians, agents or executives with broadcasting companies. Some do freelance work as masters of ceremonies or disc jockeys for special functions, or record commercials on a contract basis.

  Educational Paths  
Most disc jockeys have a university degree in broadcast journalism or a technical college degree in radio broadcasting. These days, aspiring radio hosts must volunteer at high school and college radio stations or local community stations. In this industry, everyone must start at the bottom and work their way up the announcing ladder. That means entry-level positions will either be at small rural stations or on the graveyard shift. Lastly, talent and ability, as demonstrated during an audition, are important hiring criteria. DJs breaking into the club scene, should immerse themselves in the scene, learn as much as they can from professionals and make some serious connections with established DJs and club owners.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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