A radio jockey, besides being in tune with the latest trends and genres of music, has to have a clear voice and keep audiences engaged.

Tuning into your favourite radio station and plugging in your earphones — the first thing that hits you is the good music and the chirpy voice of the radio jockey. But if you had a chance to be on the other side, why not take it? Radio jockeying is one of the most hip and happening career options for today’s youngsters. So, put on your microphones and know how you can ‘stay tuned’.

RJ Jane of Chennai Live 104.8FM says that as a radio jockey, one is expected to talk about a lot of things, from movies, books, food to love, relationships and sex. To be acquainted with the latest in music is second nature to RJs. While they stay away from religious and political matters, RJs need to hold the listeners’ attention with engaging topics.

“You need to keep the listeners engaged. The youth is so much more knowledgeable and confident than before. In order to ensure that I click with them, I talk about things that are currently trending and I make sure to give my opinion on it.” Jane feels that the scene has drastically changed from what it was a decade ago. Youngsters have access to a lot of information via the internet and mobile technology. They are ‘connected’ all the time.

Radio used to be the single most powerful medium people depended on. Even now, radio holds its forte and it is primarily because of the content and how the RJ presents it that keeps it fresh. It is interactive and easily approachable, which is what makes it strike a chord with the masses. RJs have at their disposal, their voice and have to put in double the effort to make sure they don’t lose their audience.

“When I started out as an RJ, I was discovering the outreach when radio was rediscovering itself,” says RJ Teena of Club FM 94.3, Thiruvananthapuram. She joined the station after responding to their advertisement for RJs. “The idea is to give the listeners regular updates in a capsule form with a dash of fun, satire and music”.

Voice power

More than the voice, Jane stresses that “it’s how it’s done”. A person with a great voice can’t sell it if he or she doesn’t bring in the needed energy to keep listeners from falling asleep.

“Radio is entertainment without the visual medium. You can’t sell creativity without understanding or feeling it,” says Jane, who joined the station as a guest coordinator and programmer. Being an ardent bibliophile helped her get her own show later on.

Teena also feels that it doesn’t matter if you had just woken up from bed as long as you sound fun, lively and confident. She strongly objects to people who brush off RJs as being mindless chatterboxes. “Your voice is carrying a three-hour show. That speaks a lot about you, your creativity and talent. We are very well aware about what goes on around. We deliver to the public what they want without sounding boring and going over the top.”

There is a lot of creative freedom in this profession and little room for restrictions. Being a radio jockey is fun. It’s also hard work. Unlike other media, in radio, you’re not kept on a tight leash. You can take a completely random topic and run with it. You are consistently experimenting and coming up with formats and ideas to interact with your audience.

If you’re looking to be an RJ, you needn’t stalk radio jockeys or even set up camp at the station. All you have to do is walk right up, enquire about job openings and apply. You would be chosen based on how well your audition goes. A lot of radio stations are cropping up across the country and it only means that the opportunities are seemingly endless.

Hands-on training

One would also have to undergo a lot of on-the-job training —technical and otherwise —from voice modulation, voice culture, learning how to operate the console to ensuring you keep time, don’t go off-topic and keep your content fresh. There is no standard process to learn these things. Experience is the best teacher. You are constantly learning and you need to give it your best shot to go a long way.

And if you’re a person who can’t take criticism well and learn from the feedback you receive, then this line of work may not be apt for you. RJs agree that criticism is always good since it helps them improve or look back at their presentation and make positive changes.

Now let’s talk money. When it comes to creativity, you can’t really put a price tag on it. For some of the better-known RJs in the country, the profession is lucrative. Depending on how good an entertainer you are or how much in demand you are with the public, sponsors put their money on you.

“Money is a quantitative aspect. More than the pay, you need to focus on what you want to do and how you go about doing it.” Jane says that an RJ is never confined to being just an RJ. Before being an RJ, she used to be part of the production team. Teena also anchors regional shows on television. But if money is your main objective, then this is not the career for you. Passion is the word. Pursue it.