3 Tips to prepare for your show - House Heads Radio

DJ tips for playing your set

Hosting your own radio show is great fun. It’s all yours, you play regularly to an audience and with a station like we have at HouseheadsRadio.com you get to entertain people all over the world.

The dynamics of preparing for a broadcast, however, are different to that of playing out. I’ve been DJing for nearly twenty five years and whilst I was obviously confident with mixing, I recognised when I signed up to do a show that the preparation would be different to playing out. I discovered though, that there was relatively little advice out there catering for this kind of show (though a fair amount for talk radio).

So, in the hope that I can rectify that if only a little, I’ve put together my top three tips based on what I’ve learned so far.

1. Have a structured playlist

Sounds obvious, but one major difference I found between playing out and doing my show is because a radio audience is likely multi-tasking and a whole variety of people dipping in and out, you can’t wholly rely on audience reaction to influence what you play. Some like to play completely off the cuff and that’s of course fine, but I’ve found it beneficial not only to have a stack of candidate tracks to dip into but also a list of tracks defined order based on a few factors:

What’s the journey I’m trying to take the audience on? Is it a warm-up show at the start of the day or early evening, or a prime-time slot where the main task is sustaining a peak for as long as possible?

What genres am I looking to play? How am I going to bridge between them? Does the flow from one to another support the journey I’m looking for?

When am I going to talk? I’ll touch on this more below, but if for no other reason than making sure you are interacting with the audience at the rate you’d like, knowing where you plan to talk is invaluable.

Is there a logical theme you can weave in as a feature? For example, a throwback section of classic tunes to sit amongst your new stuff.

Now, this isn’t to say you can’t change your mind, for example, if you’ve got an incoming special request, or rather like reading a dance floor you just know a particular track will go down well. I’m just saying that even a simple spreadsheet (I’m a Luddite I know, but means I can prepare anywhere) with the rows highlighted where you’re planning on talking I find helps a lot.

2. Say something if not interesting then useful

Entirely a personal taste thing and it depends on your style, but when I do say something, I find myself getting bored if all I’m doing is giving shouts out or simply saying “that was that, now it’s this”.

Whilst sometimes shouts are fine, when I’m planning out my playlist I try and find some additional information about at least one of the tracks I’m going to talk to just to add some colour and hopefully some interest. I also try and plan to talk over tracks that have some intrigue to them — an unexpected vocalist, sample or something of note. Of course, if there’s a new track out you’re excited about then you can make sure you say who it is so listeners can find it themselves.

I’ve found myself occasionally talking about things going on in my life such as if I’ve played out, or done something of musical note, or even just some self deprecating banter. Not to everyone’s taste or style, but hopefully, it provides a connection and an idea of me as a person.

And on the subject of talking...

3. Make sure you’ve got time

Ok, so you’ve worked out a banging playlist, you know how you’re getting from A to B with the show, you’ve even found some interesting trivia about that twenty year old Strictly import you’ve dug out. You’ve mixed it like Larry Levan on his best day and you’re ready to chat. Up goes the mic fader and…the vocals kick in.

More of an issue for those of us that play vocal tracks, but even if you’ve got an epic instrumental, as part of your playlist planning it’s worth checking out whether you’ve got much instrumental track to work with after you’re going to be out of your mix. I mean you can of course talk over a mix, just in my experience, it’s fewer things to worry about if you don’t have to. Similarly, you could talk over a vocal or the iconic breakdown of your tune but that’s a general no-no and will likely sound bad and annoy your listeners.

So, when you’re planning out your playlist, think about where you’re going to talk and if you think you’re going to struggle to get a word in either reshuffle the playlist so you’re talking over a track with more space, or worst case delay speaking. If you’re going to make a point about the track, remember also you can talk about the fact you just played it as well as that you’re just about to.

So there you have it. I hasten to add this is based on my preference and style, and different shows work different ways, and I feel I’m always learning and looking for tips of better ways of doing things. Let me know yours!

Listen to Martin on Mixcloud Twitter