Scratching a living as a club or radio DJ

DJs play music for audiences at live venues, or entertain audiences on the radio.

They can use various formats including vinyl, CD or digital MP3, and a range of equipment such as computers, turntables, mixers, microphones and amplifiers.

As a club DJ you might:

l play and mix records in clubs or bars, to create atmosphere or keep people dancing

l choose music to suit your audience’s taste and the venue’s music policy

l operate lighting and visual effects in time to the beat

l create your own sounds by manipulating beats, using samples, adding extra music and sound effects

l work with an MC who raps or sings over the music.

As a radio DJ or presenter, you would present a radio programme in your own style.

You could choose the music to be played, keep up an entertaining and natural flow of chat, interact with the audience through phone-ins, emails and texts, keep to a very tight timing schedule, interview studio guests, operate studio equipment to play music, pre-record news, jingles and advertisements (known as ‘driving the desk’) and discuss ideas with the producer, write scripts and prepare playlists for future shows.

Many music radio DJs also perform live as club DJs.

As a mobile DJ you would provide music and atmosphere at social events such as weddings and parties. You would take your own equipment and music to each venue .

You would often work varied or unsocial hours.

As a mobile or club DJ you would work mainly in the evenings and at weekends, often until the early hours of the morning.

In radio, hours depend on your programme’s time slot, whether it is live or pre-recorded, and the amount of off-air preparation you do.

As a mobile DJ you would mainly work in pubs, hotels and halls, and as a club DJ you would work in bars and nightclubs which can be hot and noisy. Radio work is mainly in small air-conditioned studios.

Average earnings are between £50 and £300 a session.

Very experienced club and radio DJs may earn £1,000 or more a session. Top club DJs can earn over £100,000 a year.

Most DJs are freelance, so annual income varies depending on reputation and experience.

You will need a love of music, an engaging personality and skills in using DJ equipment.

To get club DJ work, you will need practical experience of using decks, mixers and sampling equipment.

You may find it useful to take short courses in DJ skills (which may be available at local colleges and community recording projects), or full- or part-time courses in sound and music technology.

To find a job in radio, you will need some practical experience and a lot of enthusiasm and commitment. You can build experience through:

You could volunteer for community, hospital or student radio or TV – see the Community Media Association website for a list of local stations, and the Hospital Broadcasting Association site for a list of hospital stations.

To find work experience placements try the BBC Work Experience Scheme, the RadioCentre (for commercial radio), or by contacting broadcasters ‘cold’ to ask for opportunities

Or you could try in-store radio – some large retail chains have their own radio stations.