A Day In the Life of On Air Talent

A Day In the Life of On Air Talent

by | Mar 20, 2019


When discussing radio, one of the most popular and well known positions is the DJ or on-air talent. We all know those famous national DJ’s from Casey Kasem (yes, I grew up in the ’80s) to Ryan Seacrest. But do you know what on-air talent has to do each day to make sure you get the latest news, weather, and yes gossip of the day?

I had the pleasure to chat with KC radio legends Dick Wilson, Katey McGuckin-Woolam as well as Bob Stei of WCHR-FM. When talking to each of them one thing came across, they loved what they did each day but it’s not all fun and games.

Since radio is 24 hours, there are so many different times your day could start.  If you are a morning show person, then hello darkness on the way in. Mid-day talent, hello sack lunch (or hopefully the sales staff had lunch sent in).  Afternoon drive talent, hello darkness on the drive home. But no matter when you hit the air, the prep process usually remains the same or should be at least.  

An hour before airtime you should be on the scene brushing up on the latest online news, scanning the internet for interesting stories to cover, plus all the local sports scores. This, of course, is being done while waiting for someone to make fresh coffee. The morning research is icing on the cake added to the information you gleaned the night before. What are people talking about today that they were not talking about yesterday? If it’s the same topic, what’s developed as a new twist… which is why it’s keep to keep engaged with your audience through social media. Twitter seems to be extra helpful but what about that news prep service the boss popped for? It’s best to run through that before hitting the air so you can plan out your clocks throughout the show. If you do that while on the air, you may miss the opportunity to add an additional take on the comedy bit or news item.

During your show, you may need to run your own console so you will need to know how to monitor your systems and see if songs need to be added or deleted to make sure you run on time. It’s your job to ensure those commercials (which are essential to radio) get aired on time during your shift. On occasion, you may need to take calls from remote DJ’s during your broadcast. These will need to be quickly recorded and edited to ensure quality. You must also be able to receive phone calls and promptly edit them before sharing over the airwaves. Thinking quick on your feet is absolutely vital in this position.

University student mixing audio in a studio of a radio

If you are lucky you will get to do special events and broadcast at remote locations for your clients. When doing remotes, you need to make sure you are in contact with the studio producer back at the main studio which runs your console. They will let you know how much time you have to go live and will give you information on what you need to do to stay on time with your program… all while keeping your live audience members engaged with friendly handshakes, handing out free promotional materials and satisfying the client.

Fast forward through the rest of your shift and it’s time to head home, right? Not so fast. Assuming you’re not that longtime morning show host who’s out the door three minutes after their shift ends, you probably have a production shift to manage — stacks of copy to read or dubs to enter into the computer system. Some people have the mandatory air check meeting with the PD a few times each week. This gives the program director the opportunity to work with you to make the show better (and satisfy the consultants demand for air check meetings). If they want this meeting every day, then you’re probably best finding a place to hide before or after your air shift (so cozy up!).

But at the end of the day, these folks keep coming back each day. There’s that good feeling in your gut when you’ve done a show you’re proud of that day. There is nothing like listening back to your air check, critiquing yourself and enjoy hearing it the way your audience does. Even with the long days (or nights) this is a great career path and if you’re lucky enough to be on-air, we hope you get to experience it for many years.

If you want to learn more about what it takes to be on-air, watch our course called Live!! (Radio). Log into your account today or register for a free demo to get started.



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