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Why Being A DJ Isn’t As Cool As You Think

Microphone & on air light

OK…let me get this out of the way. I do love my job as a radio broadcast personality. If I didn’t love what I do, I wouldn’t put up with some of the things I’m about to address. No job is perfect, but sometimes I feel like people look at what we do and think, man what I’d give to be on the radio! Like I said, it does have perks. But let me describe some things about the job you may not know.

The annual list of the ‘Worst Jobs in America’ is out and once again DJ made the list at number 6. That’s actually two spots better than last year! Why are DJ’s ranked? Well, the median income is only about $30,000 and job growth in our field is -11%. Yikes. At least my job in radio is ranked higher than pest control. What else stinks? How about the hours. Sure you hear us on the air from 5 am until 10 am each weekday. But those aren’t our ‘hours’. My alarm goes off at just after 3 am. I’m at work by 3:45 am. We show prep, write blogs, and do production right up to the start of the show. Then after we get off the air we do more production, have several meetings, tape videos, and discuss what we want to do for the next day. I’m usually out the door by 11:30 am unless I have listener lunch on Tuesdays or a remote later that morning or afternoon.

Yes, it is nice to have the afternoon free. It gives me time to go home and nap if I need to or to mow the lawn when the weather gets nice. But by 3 pm, it’s time to pick up the kids and start the afternoon routine. My bedtime is usually around 9 pm. Then it’s up at 3 am and another day in radio.

Let’s address the other elephant in the room. Salary. Do you want to know why so many people in radio want to work in large markets? Money. I’m not going to complain too loudly about the money I make here. I’ve been doing mornings on KHAK since 1999 so I have had a raise or two. But compared to what I could be making in a larger market? It’s significantly lower. But you have to measure your priorities. Do you want to move a lot? Do you have family here? Do you have kids that you’ll have to uproot from schools and friends? I’ve had chances to move on to larger markets. But my priorities lie here. My family is here.


Ryan Brainard
Ryan Brainard

Now don’t get me wrong. Radio has its perks. Concert tickets for one. Meeting many of our favorite country stars is another. No matter how many shows I’ve been to, and it’s been a lot, I never take that experience for granted. It really is one of the few perks we do get. Of course, we get the occasional endorsement deal to talk about food, or beds, or windows. Those things help add a few more dollars to the paycheck too.

I have to say that the atmosphere here at our cluster of stations is another thing that keeps us working hard. Our parent company has invested in infrastructure improvements. There is talk of upgrading the KHAK studio or moving us all together. Showing us that they care about our work environment is another way of keeping talented people in radio. So the next time you meet one of us radio DJ’s and think to yourself how great it must be to have our jobs, remember this. It’s still a job. I have a boss. I get yelled at too. We have boring meetings just like everyone else does. Sorry to pull back the curtain.

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