Being a DJ is a lot of fun, and it’s always rewarding to share the music you love with a wider audience. But getting behind the mic can be nerve-wracking and not just for beginners. There’s a huge difference between being able to talk to someone who’s right in front of you and being able to talk to… well, no one, really, at least not anyone that you can see. Here are some tips to keep people listening.
Think. When you’re talking, really think about what you’re saying. This may seem obvious, but many DJs get nervous and just start spouting words to fill time. Speaking deliberately will help eliminate long pauses, um’s and ah’s, and other verbal tics that happen when we’re left with nothing to say. It will also slow down your speech, which has the tendency to speed up as you get nervous. When I started, I said “um” just about every other word, and often took long pauses to try to get my thoughts together. Listening back to those, it’s painful. I sound really disorganized, despite the fact that I (for the most part) knew what I was talking about. When I got on, though, all of it went out the window, and I was left fumbling for what to say.
Always back announce. With Shazaam and social networking, it may be easier to identify a song you’re hearing for the first time, but it’s even easier to just listen to the DJ tell you what it is. Most of the calls I get are from people asking what songs I just played or where they can find that album. Whenever you get on the mic make sure you let people know the songs they just heard. This also gives you a chance to comment on a song you especially like or an artist who’s coming to town, and helps the listener connect to you and the music.
Prepare beforehand. Look at all the music you’re playing, and try to pick out some songs to talk about on-air. New music, bands that are on tour, and any other musical news is great to talk about. Most calls I get that aren’t asking about the song I just played are about whether the band is on tour or still alive. Saying pertinent information like that keeps your listeners informed about the music you and they love. You don’t need to write out everything you’re going to say, but pulling up the band’s website or keeping the liner notes handy is always a good idea in case you want to reference them, and will also make sure you don’t forget anything you wanted to mention.
Don’t talk too much. In the end, your show is about the music, not you. When I started, I tried to talk about every song I played, which made for long breaks and short music blocks. Try to play at least 15 minutes of music in between talking breaks, and definitely do not talk after every or every other song. Make sure you’re speaking efficiently, and always mention what’s “coming up.” Personally, if a DJ is speaking for more than a minute and hasn’t mentioned anything about the next song they’re playing, I assume they’re going to commercial (which is almost always true), and switch to another station. Your listeners need a reason to stay on the channel, and if they think you’re just going to talk for a while, it’s very easy to hit “next.”
Relax. As mentioned before, nerves can cause your speech to speed up and your brain to fly out your ears. You’re on because you love music and you love sharing it, so you’ve definitely got a lot to talk about. Flubs and screw-ups will happen, but if anything they remind your listener that there’s a real, live person in the studio and not just a computer. Staying calm and having a sense of humor about any mishaps will go a long way towards endearing yourself to your audience. This took me a while, and I still get a bit nervous when I turn on the mic. But enough practice will build confidence and get you more relaxed, which makes everything sound better.
If you keep with it you can build a regular audience and become a part of your community’s music scene. There’s nothing more satisfying than sharing the things you love, and DJing is a perfect way to do just that. So get on the air, and keep sending out those good vibrations.
Source: Personal experience as a DJ at WRCT-FM Pittsburgh.