View Full Version : Looking for those who have worked in Radio

08-06-2008, 10:32 AM
I am writing a novel about a radio DJ. I didn't put in too many parts about her DJ life, and an agent I submitted to seems to want more of this. So I've got to start research and add some pretty realistic DJ scenes.

If anyone has some unusual/unique situations that I could build on that would be great. I also want someone whom I can question when I need clarification on how a radio station would handle this or that.

All ya gotta do is just lemme know who you are so if any questions arise I can consult you. Pretty low-maintenance. Please message me if you have any radio experience and are willing to help. :)

Tsu Dho Nimh
08-06-2008, 05:50 PM
Just watch the DVDs or reruns of WKRP ... every DJ I know claims he used to work there.

Appalachian Writer
08-06-2008, 06:23 PM
I was working at a small, classic rock station. They didn't call us Disc Jockeys. We were instructed to think of ourselves as "on-air personalities." Pretty goofy, huh? Then one night I was in the booth, typically the booth is a windowless room (at least to the outside world, where the "on-air" personalities are miked, their ears covered with headphones and where they punch the buttons). Anyway, we had a power failure, everything went dead. I was sitting there in the silence and in absolute, pitch black. Trapped. I couldn't move because if I did I might stumble in to a piece of equipment. The back-up generator failed and I sat there for like fifteen minutes before the lights came back on. Spooky! Then I had to go back on air, but as I did it, I had to re-set all the equipment. For example, if I hadn't I couldn't play just a single cut on a CD. Another issue: We were forbidden to play certain cuts because of content. One such victim of censorship was Jimmy Buffet, who had a song (cut 9 on one of his albums) titled "My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don't Love Jesus". We operated in the Bible Belt so we didn't need protestors picketing us because of content. One "on-air personality" felt he'd gotten the shaft from the station management. The last fifteen minutes of his last program was filled with cut 9 from the Buffet album, "Fat Bottomed Girls" and "Get the Funk Out." The station ran disclaimers for a week. I worked the "prime drive shift"--from 8 PM to 1 AM. That help?

08-06-2008, 09:11 PM
Just watch the DVDs or reruns of WKRP ... every DJ I know claims he used to work there.

I've never claimed to work there but when the show was in prime time, I worked in radio and our running joke around the station was that it was not a comedy but a true-to-life drama in those days before everything was "reality television" ;)

08-06-2008, 10:17 PM
Just watch the DVDs or reruns of WKRP ... every DJ I know claims he used to work there.

This would be true if the novel took place in late 1970s radio, but radio has changed dramatically since WKRP days. And I'm a huge fan.

Mirrorkiss, I'm a former radio engineer and have friends who still work in radio. I write articles for Radio Magazine, and while I didn't lead the DJ life, I worked around those who did for almost five years. I can answer almost any question you have.

In fact, I wanted to write a Q&A book about radio, kind of a trivia book for the average radio listener, but I couldn't interest any agents in the proposal.

Please check out this site: KRUD (http://www.krud.com) and read their stories and read the KRUD cartoons. You'll probably get all the stories you need right there.

Here are just a few things you should know that will directly affect your character's DJ life.

Almost all of the larger radio stations are owned by big corporations: Cumulus is oneof the biggest. There are virtually no "mom and pop" stations anymore, except those that broadcast 24 hour religious content lifted from EWTN radio.

Sales drive the station. If a format isn't getting bringing in enough sales revenue, the format will be changed to one that does.

All programming content is on computers. There are several large programs that stations use, ENCO being one of them. Your DJ will not be playing CDs, except as emergency backup in case ENCO goes down. Putting a song into the system is referred to as "rip it in" or "put it in ENCO."

Much radio programming is automated. Morning shows are live, except for syndicated shows like Bob and Tom. Many stations are music and promos only for parts of the day, with the announcers' voices pre-recorded and put into the playlist and played automatically by the computer.

All callers are prerecorded (again on computer; VOXPRO being one of the programs) and edited and played back.

Most, if not all stations are on a 7 second delay, some as long as a whole minute. Thank you Janet Jackson.

I could go on and on and on. Let me know if I can help.


08-06-2008, 10:28 PM
I guess who could help would depend on when your story is set, and the size of the market. Radio has changed drastically over the last 20 years. "Personality" radio came and went, and came back again to some degree. Local jocks gave way to syndicated shows. "Local, live" has been taken over by the "more cost effective" national satellite systems, like Westwood One. (http://www.westwoodone.com/)

And, here in the middle of America, we have all of that, plus the weekly shopping show and the prayers for America show.


Started out as a midnight DJ at a Top 40 station in Texas, right out of high school.
Spent some time at an AOR (album oriented rock) station in Wisconsin. (til the new owners came in and said, "Love the sound. Love the station. But we can do it cheaper. You're all fired.")
Ran a radio station for the Navy aboard a Destroyer (almost entirely tapes.)
Last gig was about 8 years ago as Program Director/air talent for a "rock you through the work day" station in Illinois. (8 hours live, the rest of it via satellite, plus local sports.)

ETA: oh yeah, and what Allen said. Although, here in small market land we do have a few shows with DJ's playing CD's. Just because the station doesn't have the computing power/storage space for all that music.

One of my favorite things was recording all of my INTROs/OUTROs (the voice stuff between songs and commercials) then scheduling it to play so that I could be on the radio talking about someone WHILE I was standing in front of them trying to sell them ads. Cheesy? Sure, but it works here in the Heartland.

08-07-2008, 01:45 AM
Radio has changed a lot since I was on the air in the Number 1 station in Houston, Texas, in the late 70's early 80's.

As others have stated, most of it is automated now, 'jock in the box' - sattelite feeds and pre-programmed cycles nowadays.

I can tell you some VERY amusing stories about live screw-ups and such, which might be relevant, but really it would help to know when your story takes place, and WHERE (what size market) in addition to what the format is - Country? Rock? Classical? All talk?

(And WHY are there so many of us former jocks on this board????)

08-07-2008, 04:55 AM
(And WHY are there so many of us former jocks on this board????)

because you all needed to go into another line of work, it sounds like! Very sad.

08-07-2008, 07:47 PM
WriteKnight - What station in Houston?

I was in San Angelo back then, at KGKL.

08-08-2008, 07:59 PM
I wanted to add a couple of things.

A radio DJ is is usually only referred to as a "DJ" by the public. At the station, staffers refer to the DJ as a "jock," also "on-air jock." Clients and sales staff call them "air talent." As Appalacian Writer said above, "air personality" is a common term, but in your story, it would be best to simply say "jock."

And a DJ's life is a busy one, because it has been said, "Radio is more than a job, it's a lifestyle." Outside of the air shift the jock is on numerous remotes throughout the week and on weekends. They get paid "talent fee" for those appearances, usually on average two to four hundred dollars.

Music for large market stations (and medium as well) is programmed by consultants who program numerous stations.