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How To Become A Radio Personality

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Radio is theater of the mind and air personalities (announcer, jock, DJ or disc jockey) are its actors. To become successful it requires passion, practice, a willingness to learn, ability to read, ego, ability to write, patience, desire, and sacrifice. The institution of radio has a responsibility to entertain and inform. Air personalities anchor the broadcast industry. A microphone is power. Becoming an air personality can lead to a career in or out of radio.

The announcer alumni list includes David Letterman of Late Nite; Allaccess.com President/Publisher, Joel Denver; Comedian, George Carlin; CBS Radio President, Dan Mason; Radio One President, Barry Mayo; Carson Daly of Last Call; Allaccess.com Urban Editor, Jerry Boulding; television icon Dick Clark; actor Donald Sutherland; Quincy McCoy, the Vice President of Radio for MTVN Digital Music; Service Broadcasting C.O.O Ken Dowe; Willard Scott of the Today Show; Sly Stone, the former lead singer of Sly and the Family Stone; and Bob Pittman, a principal in the Pilot Group, a private investment firm specializing in new media and Internet companies.

As a broadcast talent coach with a career spanning more than 30 years, I would offer the following for those interested in becoming a radio personality.

1. Anyone who can read and write has the capabilities of becoming a radio personality. It is important to vocalize written copy aloud. The sound of someone's voice has little to do with being a jock. Communicating succinctly in a warm and friendly manner is the ultimate goal.

In the beginning, one of the best ways to practice is to read front-page paragraph blurbs from the USA Today or The Wall Street Journal. Buy an inexpensive tape recorder and carry it around. These recorders have built-in microphones.

Another possibility is to download an audio software program and purchase a microphone. One of the better programs is Audacity. The software is free and used by many in the radio industry. It would be best to use the tape recorder and advance to audio software at a later date.

2. Choose five blurbs to record. Hit the record button, read a sentence, stop the recorder, rewind, and listen. This is how recording levels are checked. Depending on the loudness, either increase or decrease the volume. Make the necessary adjustments, sit up straight, and begin reading.

When finished, rewind again and listen. People breathe when they talk. There should be natural pauses, however, it’s common for beginners to attempt to say too much without breathing and become short of breath. For an undetermined length of time, there is a “brain to mouth disconnect” as newbies become accustomed to hearing their voice recorded.

3. After an objective self-evaluation, it will become evident that professional help is needed. A mentor/coach can provide assistance in talent development. There are several ways to find help. Sign up for college radio classes, enroll in broadcast school, or call a local air personality for advice. Another option is to call the program director of any station and ask for guidance. Whomever the contact, information will be provided and a mentoring relationship might develop.

4. There are many routes to becoming an air personality. A mentor/coach could be beneficial when seeking an internship or community volunteer work. Currently, most internships are tied to college courses and do not begin until the junior or senior year. Inquire about volunteering and avoid the problem. This could be done as a high schooler or as a college or non-college student. At the college level, unless the plan is to teach broadcasting, select it as minor and major in another field.

5. Becoming an air personality takes practice and experience. Many college and community radio stations have non-paid positions available. Numerous high schools now have closed circuit broadcast facilities. In any of these situations, interns and volunteers can gain access to the necessary practice tools of a broadcast studio and a microphone. The same skills required for traditional radio announcers can also be applied to the new forms of vocal media such as satellite radio, Internet streaming, HD radio, You Tube, podcasting, and Internet radio.

Consider the financial aspect before entering a career in radio. Few make millions, many make a great living, and most earn just enough to pay the bills. It is a tough business to break into, but remember, it only takes one person to say “Yes.”

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About Radio Coach Sam Weaver

  • http://www.etherapistsonline.com/etherapists/mitchell.htm Juliann Mitchell, PhD

    I have loved the radio and listening to music since I was a child. When I lived in Pittsburgh every night for years I would listen to WAMO and thought the nighttime jock, Ron Chavis was the best I’d ever heard. He had a voice made of silk. But I am wondering if the average everyday person really can have a career in radio? In your article you mentioned that the voice wasn’t that important but how can that be true?

  • http://www.megacosmic.com J Kanizzle

    I appreciate what you have to say. But must retort if you don’t mind….As a top ten market on air personality and imaging director as well as founder of Satellite Radio, I don’t think everything here is true. There are certain personalities who are made for it, and some people just won’t be able to make the grade. I agree the voice is not always an issue, but the ability to have confidence in how you speak is. And some just can’t be taught that…

    Also, I wouldn’t suggest anyone to get into radio at this point. I’m in it because it’s all I know how to do and I’m this far into it that I can’t pull back. I am one of the ‘many who make a great living’ but will never get wealthy off of it…but the fact of the matter is the reason I make a great living is because I do what it took three or maybe four people to do just 10 years ago. The corporate ownership and downsizing HAS made it very hard to break into as well as left no training ground for newbies in the game.

    Anyways…just thoughts.

  • http://www.radiocoach.biz Sam weaver

    Juliann, let me clarify. There was a time in radio when it was about being male and having a booming voice. This has not been the case in years. It is all about projecting a personality that listeners will like. I have known air personalities that were not vocally gifted, but their persona leaped through the speakers. If the average person can get the training, has the patience, and a few breaks, anything is possible. There are many jocks on the radio and associated media that were once average people.

  • http://www.luvdoctr.com Alex Rich

    I’ve always believed there was hope for the common person to achieve in radio-land. This post makes it clear that with focus and some simple preparation once can succeed…even if the path is long and winding.

    Now if we could just get a common person’s relationship guru like the one Dolly Parton played on the big screen:)

  • http://www.radiocoach.biz Sam weaver

    Alex, it can be done. I have mentored and are currently coaching some that are trying to advance themselves in traditional radio and others in the new vocal media of podcasting. I am one of those common sense guru’s for radio broadcast talent.

  • kay jay

    I am one of those people who have always been told that i have a voice and personality for radio, recently i’ve tried avenues to make myself available for the market but have had no success what so ever. i’ve entertained the idea of A.B.S. and C.B.S.(broadcasting schools) but they seem as if they’re scams. i would really like to make an impact in radio but i need that one person to take me by the hand and show me the most effective avenue to take. Please Help !!!

  • http://www.radiocoach.biz Sam weaver

    Kay Jay, Contact me and let’s see how I can assist you in your efforts for radio. 1 888 680 RADIO.

  • Harley

    Just to let people know, it takes a certain type of person to do radio. Everyone CAN do it, logistically, but not everyone has what it takes. Rejection isn’t the worst part of applying for a job in radio. I’ve been in the industry for years, I’m a good talent with above average delivery and material, exceptional production skills, and drive that is unmatched. I quit my last job as a morning show host because I had to move, and since then have only been able to get a job as a part time board op. The station I work for wants to hire me full time, but joys of a corporate owned gig, the owner said the bottom line didn’t justify hiring a new DJ. I have applied at over a hundred stations since my last job and have recieved only a small percentage of call backs, and those have led nowhere(Even when I was told my air check was the best that they had heard). I’m not saying don’t go in to radio, I’m just saying, it’s tougher than you can even imagine. I only stay with it because I can’t work a regular job, my attitude and personality would get me fired from a grocery store, but they might get me a few extra points in the arbitron ratings on air.

  • kaygey

    Do you like it sibo?

  • sibo

    this is amazing, this is what l want to do and am going to get all the help l can, though l do read how tough it can be, since am determined and have the love and the dream of becoming a broadcaster l refuse to let anything bring me down, for l have the love for it. A m going to seek the help and the introduction to broadcasting. Thanks babe.

  • jaybay

    Hello, I want to become a radio personality/host, i got a great deep radio voice and know i can entertain people over the airwaves.. I’ve studied howard and rush, at 19 im gonna go to a community college and take broadcasting classes and hopefully earn a job at the school’s radio station.. is this a good start?

  • bongekile

    wow this is amazing just wonder who though of such thin a radio am so pationate of becoming one of the top radio personality in the world ,my wish is to change the way african youth threat the world make them realise how important it is to be born .how wonderful would it be to leavev such a huge legacy when you gone,i believe that i can change the world with in a minute ,the only thing i nmeeds is financial assistance or burseri even a learnership would okey just hala at me [Personal contact info deleted] a will be waiting

  • http://www.radiocoach.biz/main.html Radio Talent Coach Sam Weaver

    Thank you for your comments, I am always open to helping those interested in traditional radio, Internet radio, or podcasting.

  • Walter Jones A.K.A Jones Capone

    This article is full of good advise. But also dont forget, while your working on your skills try to meet a personality or two trade names phone numbers. If you looking to get in right in your market they wont be hard to track down. I worked for an ABC radio affiliate here as well as regent communication station now im on an internet radio station my resumwe isnt extensive my voice is far from the best but confidence is my key and it righs thru every air check i do. You can get into the business, like any other its not what you know but who you know try it out.

  • mandla ncumeza

    my name is mandla ncumeza from fish hoek cape town,i’ve wishing all these year to be aradio personality since irealised my dream,ilising from all the different radio stations in south Africa and iget impress when i’m listing to those different kinds of voices on the air,radio is a one those most carrees in my life and iwish to spend my whole life on it,its live in my veins of my blood and ihave a pasion for it,ireaqly love radio.

  • SC

    Some interesting things here I agree that radio is theater of the mind but there is so much more to it than just that.

  • Montanna

    Sam.. how do you help exactly?

  • http://radiocoach.biz/main.html Radio Talent Coach Sam Weaver

    I work with Traditional radio jocks and Internet radio talents and owners. My help depends on the needs of the client. [Personal contact info deleted]

  • Franzian

    Hi all, I am possible up-coming radio personality talent. Good voice, able to read off the front of papers excitingly like it says above to where it sounds interesting. But my question is, HOW can I get started, or where should I get started?

  • http://twitter.com/MakemSayWyane Wyane

    I have been in love with music and the radio since before i can remember. Im going to school majoring in communications. & I am making a commitment to myself to one day be that guy everyone’s listening to every morning on the radio. Look out for Wyane your upcoming radio host !

    Let’em say! we’re on the air with wyane!
    andddddd Goodmorning!

  • http://radiocoach.biz/main.html Radio Talent Coach Sam Weaver

    I like your passion and wish you luck. Give me a call if you want to discuss your potential future in radio.
    [Personal contact info deleted]

  • Jacquiline Mamela

    Im realy happy about how you advice about being a radio personality thank you so much it means lot to me because it has been my dream since I was young & it still my biggest dream ever

  • tshehlo

    i olso want to be aradio presenter but i dont know wer to start or should study

  • http://www.radiocoach.biz/main.html Radio Talent Coach Sam Weaver

    Jacquiline and Tshehlo, I would love to assist you in your journey for a career in radio. [Personal contact info deleted]

  • michael

    radio is’nt complete witout mic.am mike,i love d media,xpecialy radio.hav a diploma in mass comm,hav a cool voice & a huge sense of humour,inteligent,matured & focused.i wana do radio

  • http://tmackorg.com/ Tommy Mack

    The Beatles ruled the chart in 1964, when I started my communications career as a teenage disc-jockey at WPLA Radio, Plant City, FL. I had braces on my teeth and my mother drove me to work at the station I had been hanging around for months, every weekend after I turned 14 and got my FCC 3rd Class Radio Telephone Operators License with Broadcast Endorsement.

    I worked in television as a newscaster, voice over talent and weatherman. I became an award winning broadcast journalist and taught writing for mass media at the University of South Florida. But being on-the-air was my first true love from the time I was a boy.

    As broadcaster let me emphasize the point that it takes practice and determination, being at the right place at the right time and persistence to become an on-air personality. Talent helps but it is practice and determination get you the work. Ask Rush Limbaugh.

    Tommy

  • Glenn Contrarian

    My brother started his radio career back in 1966…and except for perhaps a total of four years in an assortment of other jobs, that’s where he’s been ever since. Right now he’s DJ’ing at five(!) radio stations, thanks to technology.

    But I think that one of the big things he’s learned along the way is that radio rarely has retirement or medical benefits.

  • http://www.radiocoach.biz/main.html Radio Talent Coach Sam Weaver

    Tommy thanks for your comment and I appreciate hearing from a broadcast veteran who truly understands and has a love for this business.

  • http://www.radiocoach.biz/main.html Radio Talent Coach Sam Weaver

    Glenn, it is true retirement and medical benefits are a bit askew in radio broadcasting, however I assure you there are numerous exceptions; especially for those fortunate enough to be members of the A.F.T.R.A union or be involved in company stock programs. I always advise those beginning a career in broadcasting to always treat the business as short term and use it as a vehicle to simultaneously create other streams of income to prepare for the future.

  • http://www.radiocoach.biz/main.html Radio Talent Coach Sam Weaver

    Although I appreciate your enthusiasm, this is not the forum to find employment. However, your ingenuity is somewhat ingenious, you never know who will be reading the comment sections in the Blogosphere.

  • Diggity

    I’ve been producing and co-hosting a sports podcast for about a year. We’re hoping to take the next step to boost our downloads. We’ve made some good contacts to help us achieve that goal and have interviewed some high profile (locally at least) players but its not enough. What are some specific services you offer and what are your rates?

  • Amina

    Well,im 15 and it’s that time of the year where we have to pick our subjets for grade10 and have no clue what subjects to take for becoming a radio broadcoaster..As any another industry, ii know it’s hard to break through but I really do have a passion for radio. Have a bubbly voice and read well. All I know that you need a bachelor’s degree in either communications or journalism…
    Would really really like anyone’s opinion :)

  • Bryson Jumbe

    I’ve got a Diploma in Business Management,but I want to become a radio presenter. With your help,I will make it.

  • Travis

    First off I have to say I’m impressed that you’re still replying to this forum, secondly thanks for helping me make a decision I’ve been on the fence about for a while now. I’m in the army as an air traffic controller, have been talking to pilots over the radio for six years, but I’ve wanted to be one of those radio personalities since I was a kid and I have been tossing around the idea of reclassing (getting a new military job) as a broadcast journalist.

  • MaNGCOBO

    I realy am loving this career as for I’m going to be the upcoming best kind respectful beautiful diva on the mike to entertain and give it all my best I realy realy REALY LOVE ALL the Yfm djays With lots of love mcwa

  • Bernadette

    I only have two years left then I’n finished with school! :) My dream is to become a radio personality but I don’t know where to start…I really want to do this! I said to myself that I’m gonna organize everything next year…Who should I talk to first? Please help :)

  • http://radiocoach.biz/main.html Radio Talent CoachSam Weaver

    Mangcobo, I hope what I wrote is useful and I would love to talk to you about your future.

    Radio Talent Coach Sam Weaver
    [Personal contact info deleted]

  • http://radiocoach.biz/main.html Radio Talent CoachSam Weaver

    Bernadette,I am glad you like what I wrote, if you need assistance, just give me a call or e-mail.

    Radio Talent Coach Sam Weaver
    [Personal contact info deleted]

  • Lisa

    I am currently starting an AM radio show – main topic Astrology – It’s my first show – small town station – should I have a “radio name” rather than my own and – any pointers for someone with little experience! Thanks…

  • Radio Talent Coach Sam Weaver

    Let’s have a conversation concerning your question.
    [personal contact info deleted by comments editor]

  • noel

    I sleep nd wake with the thought of talking over the mic, picking those calls, reading those messages nd giving all those advice. but there is no platform for me to start, please i need help/coaching [Personal contact info deleted]

  • Raymond

    Hi im Raymond and my dream is to be a radio host.And im the one who can present like the late Joe Mabotja who was hosting are tumiseng Morena on Thobela fm.And he encoureged to preach at schools and some of the teachers ask me that why dont i go on radio because your voice is lovely, and i tell them im busy doing it. please help!!!

  • tsolo gaonyadiwe

    hi my name is gaonyadiwe tsolo and my dream is to becom an readio presenter,so i want to khow how could i do to reach my career

  • Raymond Selowa

    Hi all, im Raymond Selowa my aim is to be a radio host and i’ve lovely voice. I want to be a match caster and i’m talented in that my role model is Simon Ramafalo who is professional match caster on Thobela fm.help plz!!!

  • Dakota B

    This was an amazing and encouraging post. Wish me luck! Thank you!

  • John Lake

    I remember the early days of talk radio, before the “conservatives” took over. Now its a lot of anti-American propaganda. I spoke to Rush many times, before he jumped on the corporate bandwagon.

    I was also a big fan of the top 40 (before your time) In Chicago, at WJJD, WLS, WCFL. Wolfman Jack got all the raves, but Dick Biondi in Chicago was a trend setter.