Disc Jockey

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A disc jockey, more commonly abbreviated “DJ”, is a person who plays existing recorded music for a live audience. Most common types of disc jokey include radio DJ; club DJ who performs at a nightclub or music festival.

DJ is used as an all-encompassing term to describe someone who mixes recorded music from any source, including cassettes, CDs or digital audio files on a CDJ or laptop. The title DJ is commonly used by DJs in front of their real names or stage names.

DJs use equipment that can play at least two sources of recorded music simultaneously and mix them together to create seamless transitions between recordings and develop unique mixes of songs. Often, this involves aligning the beats of the music sources so their rhythms do not clash when played together or to enable a smooth transition from one song to another.

DJs often use specialized DJ mixers, small audio mixers with cross-fader and cue functions to blend or transition from one song to another. Mixers are also used to pre-listen to sources of recorded music in headphones and adjust upcoming tracks to mix with currently playing music. DJ software can be used with a DJ controller device to mix audio files on a computer instead of a console mixer. DJs may also use a microphone to speak to the audience; effects units such as reverb to create sound effects and electronic musical instruments such as drum machines and synthesizers.

Work Environment

A DJ may work alone, or s/he may work closely with other broadcast or music professionals as well. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a DJ to work alongside another DJ, particularly in radio. A DJ might also work with a Master of Ceremonies or radio producers as well.

The job requirements of a DJ can vary, depending on what industry she or he operates in. However, nearly all DJs have a few common responsibilities. They are usually in charge of which music to play at a certain time. Although this may seem easy to some, it’s actually quite harder than it looks, especially when trying to please everyone in a large audience.

In order to chose the right type of music, a DJ must know his audience. Country music fans, for instance, will usually be quite unhappy if a DJ chooses to play hip hop music for four hours. A DJ should also keep abreast of the ever-changing music trends as well, but he should also have a fair knowledge of past music trends as well; at times, some DJ’s are called upon to play oldies in addition to popular trendy music. When playing music, most DJ will also take requests from their audience and introduce each song.

A broadcast, or radio, DJ, for instance, usually works in a calm, quiet environment, such as soundproof booth. These types of DJ will sometimes be called upon to perform additional duties, such as reading the news or weather reports on the air.

Working as a DJ in front of a live audience, however, is usually very different. These types of DJs should be very charismatic and willing to interact with the members of their audience. They also usually work in very loud and sometimes uncomfortable environments, such as nightclubs and private events. Most event DJs are also responsible for providing and transporting their own equipment and music selection as well.

DJs work at all times of the day and night. Some of the most popular times for radio DJs to work are during morning and afternoon commutes and late nights. Club DJs, on the other hand, typically work late nights, and event DJs work around other people’s schedules.

Education Requirements

A few successful DJs may have had no formal training, and formal training is not always required to pursue this profession. In some cases, for instance, a good speaking voice, great personality, and extensive knowledge of music are the only requirements for becoming a DJ.

However, proper schooling and training is usually recommended, but not required. In general, those interested in DJ careers should consider earning degrees in communications. Since DJs need to have pleasant voices and sometimes speak for long periods of time, voice lessons might also be helpful for anyone considering a DJ career as well.

  • Degree Level — Bachelor’s degree preferred; public address announcers typically on need a high school diploma.
  • Degree Field — Communications, broadcast journalism.
  • Experience — As a DJ will be valued over education, employers expect DJs to have experience using broadcast equipment before hire.

Step I: Complete an Undergraduate Program

Students who are interested in becoming a radio DJ can enroll in an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program in communications or broadcast journalism. Students will take courses in radio announcing, speech, news reporting, broadcast writing and media research.

Step II: Do an Internship

Universities may offer students an opportunity to participate in an internship with a radio station. While an internship may not offer students a chance to get on air, they’ll learn behind-the-scenes aspects of working at a radio station. This will also give them a chance to network and develop contacts in the industry.

Step III: Get on the Air

Students may be able to find opportunities to get on the air with their campus radio station. College radio stations typically provide a hands-on environment where students may gain real-world experience. These stations often broadcast 24 hours a day, so students can get experience engaging both daytime and nighttime listeners.

Success Tip: In order to obtain a job, prospective radio DJs need a reel. DJs should edit reels of their best work to send to prospective employers. No matter the experience or education, radio stations will need to hear how a radio DJ sounds on the air and how they communicate with an audience.

Step IV: Hone Your Skills at a Small-Market Station

Radio DJs should get comfortable with their on-air personalities and build their reputation in smaller markets before moving on to larger-market stations. This gives radio DJs the opportunity to tailor their announcing style to better engage and retain an audience. Professionals in this field often need to relocate to larger markets to advance their careers.

Job Outlook

A DJ can work in a few different settings, depending on their preferences.

Radio stations often hire DJs to make speech and play music on the air. Most inexperienced radio DJs will usually start their careers in entry level positions, and work their way up to more lucrative positions. Dance clubs and nightclubs also hire DJs on occasion. Some club DJs work as staff members, while others run their own DJ business. Besides working at clubs, self-employed DJs will also usually play music at private events as well, such as wedding reception and school dances.

Institutes Offering DJ Courses

For becoming a DJ, currently there are no colleges or universities that offer full-time courses with a defined syllabus or course curriculum in DJ training or development. However, there are many private institutes and training centers that have been set up by seasoned DJs to offer short duration courses in DJ development and other related skills such as:

  • Pro DJ
  • DJ Training and Development course
  • Digital Live DJ’ing course
  • Audio Engineering course
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