The voice painted world of a Radio Jockey

Radio Jockeys or RJs have gone from being just another programme announcer to becoming the voice of a radio channel. They create the pull and the binding factor for the FM station, building relationships with the listeners in the process. e4m speaks with some of India’s leading RJs to find out how this profession has evolved and what goes behind a great programme...

e4m by Shubhangi Mehta
Updated: Jul 5, 2011 10:50 AM
The voice painted world of a Radio Jockey

Radio is a medium where the level of personal connect that a show establishes is phenomenal. It is instant and live when compared to any other medium. Radio has become akin to a friend that one can confide in and one who is just there at any given time.

And giving voice and a personality to a radio station are the Radio Jockeys or RJs, who’s quintessential presence creates a pull for the radio station. It goes without saying that the success of a radio station depends a lot on its RJs – Red FM is known by the voices of RJ Mantra and RJ Malishka; similarly, Salil and Archana are the pull factors for Radio City, while RJ Neha and RJ Sangeeta of ‘Dheemi Local’ remind one of Radio Mirchi.

Level of creativity and knowledge
A high degree of creativity and spontaneity is required for successful RJing as well as the ability to link pieces of information that are of utmost importance. While television has visuals to spruce up a show, on radio it’s just the voice. An RJ paints listeners’ imagination with his/her voice – the emotions conveyed, the tone. And it goes without saying that RJs also need to have a fair degree of knowledge on local and global topics and how it might impact the listener tuning in.

A vivid imagination helps an RJ create a different world on the airwaves. Just as a painter pours his creativity onto a blank canvas and creates art out of nothing, an RJ has to put a face to his voice in the minds of the listeners.

As RJ Archana of Radio City 91.1 FM, explained, “We have to present a show every morning, and one’s perspective and creative presentation has to be varying and high. Just like a mother has to find innovative ways of keeping her kids busy and engaged, similarly it is important for an RJ to be innovative and creative in offering unique connect and constantly being entertaining.”

Role of an RJ
While more than a few people feel that all an RJ does is sit in front of a mike and blabber non-stop, it is far from reality. With changing tastes of listeners, an RJ has today evolved from the earlier ‘radio announcer’, wherein the presenter of a music show would read out a long list of names who had requested for a particular song. Today, a good RJ spends several hours research and preparing for his/her show. It is very important for them to keep their ears glued to “water cooler conversations”, what the ‘aam aadmi’ is thinking and talking about. Which are the issues that bother them, which movies have they watched – basically everything that they need to know.

As most RJs would tell that today, being an RJ is a 24x7 job. With increasing competition, one constantly needs to up one’s creativity quotient. After all, grabbing and then holding on to listeners’ fickle attention spans is no easy task.

As RJ Maliska of Red FM said, “Music on modern day FM stations is primarily Bollywood and current hits. As such, what differentiates a station from the next is its attitude and the Radio Jockey is a huge transmitter of the vibe and personality of the station. So, yes, content and its presentation are very important. Listeners, I believe, will give every radio person a chance as long as he/she connects with them. So coming back to it, once a jock loves his /her job and hits the right note with his target audience, it’s an addictive bond as long as you stay relevant.”

Approach towards the listener
Different time slots in a day cater to different audiences. And depending on the time slot and the target audience, the advertisers choose what works best for them. Programmes that are humorous, relieve stress, feature contests and talent based are the ones that engage more listeners.

According to RJ Mantra of Red FM, “Apart from the drive time shows, it is the whole personality of a radio station that attracts the advertisers and the listeners. If you can give the advertiser his monies worth, it does not matter if it is through ads, RJ mentions or sponsorships.”

RJ Neha of Radio Mirchi added here, “There is so much variety that radio offers today. Take Radio Mirchi, for example, you’ve got the morning and evening shows playing the latest, hottest music. The afternoons take you down memory lane, with chilled out relaxed music from the 90’s. Nights have a combination of classic retro and Indipop. And every show comes with a jock that suits the mood. With so much to choose from, I’d say to each his own.”

It’s all in the Script
When it comes to the scripting of a radio programme, generally the producer designs the show, but it is the RJ who executes it. Scripts help an RJ deliver his thoughts. However, lack of spontaneity might make it sound as if one is reading out from a script, thus it is up to the RJ how to present the show.

Radio City’s RJ Salil noted, “It is important to have a structure in place more than a script. Archana and I host the ‘Breakfast Show’ on Radio City –‘ Kasa Kai Mumbai’ – and we have the advantage of having two heads and two voices so we divide the bits of info that we want to talk about. We like spontaneity and on-the-spot humour and hence, we ride on that.”

On the other hand, RJ Sangeeta of Radio Mirchi said, “For me, there is no ‘scripting’ per se. Yes, I think it is very important to know ‘what’ you are going to say, how well you ‘know’ your material and ‘your take’ on that subject. I prefer to write bullet points for my links as reference and take the rest on air. Sometimes the most impromptu link turns out to be the best link. However, always be prepared.”

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