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Friday, November 23, 2012

What it means to be an RJ

(From The Commits Chronicle, No. 58; January 30, 2011)

For three years, Commits alumna ARATHI KRISHNAN (Class of 2007) was an RJ with Fever FM in Bangalore. She started with the brunch show in a Hindi and English format, moved to the evening prime time show, and, finally, she was doing the morning prime time show, which was completely in Kannada. She also worked with building creative properties for marketing campaigns and shows on the station.

Then Arathi took a break from radio and joined Educomp Solutions where she heads the instructional design team that builds educational products for the US market. But she couldn't bear to be away from radio for too long. For nine months now, she has been RJ-ing the "Total Request Live with Arathi" show on Radio Indigo (Sundays, 11 am to 3 pm). And she has been doing a great job.

Last week, in an email Q&A with me, Arathi shared some of her insights on a radio career. Radio aspirants will learn much from her candid comments:

  • What prompted you to go back to radio after taking a break from Fever?
English music is my forte and love as I was brought up on everything from Mozart to Michael Jackson. I play the piano and sing, too. Coupled with my penchant for listening to people expressing their thoughts, desires and outlook, it makes radio a healthy addiction. My passion for radio is not circumscribed by money and media ratings, which often dilute content to mere superficial banter. This is why I opted for a non-prime time Sunday show, where I could just concentrate on people and the music, and not on clients who advertise with us.
  • How do you manage the demands of your regular job with what you have to do on Indigo?
For one, I have no children at the moment to run after! Ha ha ha! But, on a serious note, it is hard. After a whole week's work managing an educational content development team, getting up early and conducting a four-hour show on a Sunday can be exhausting. Fortunately, I am thoroughly driven by any creative process and it is this inner drive that keeps me going. The sacrifices are many. But I consciously set goals to use all my skills to their fullest. If one can keep this constantly in mind, the rest falls in place. One has to be extremely diligent and good with time management and I have learned that from this demanding year of my life.

Arathi Krishnan strikes a pose at her RJ console at Radio Indigo.
  • You play requests on your show — are your listeners aware of the latest hits on the international front? Are they hep? Are they clued in?
It's surprising how quickly they catch up with the newest hits on the horizon. Yes, they are aware and will request the latest. Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Bruno Mars seem to be the icons of 2010-11. Since Indigo caters to a premium crowd, you get listeners from urbane Bangalore. A lot of school kids too tune in on Sundays while they are doing assignments or studying for an exam — which is something I never comprehend... they are always studying!
  • What do you love most about your job?
Well, I love that I can share my thoughts with people from all corners of Bangalore. I love that they have opinions and are ready to express them. I love that I can be a liaison between things I like: music and people.
  • How tough is it to be an RJ? What advice would you give your juniors if they showed an interest in joining radio — should they join the marketing or programming departments, or should they try out radio jockeying?
There are two ways to approach radio:
1. Sales and marketing
2. Programming.

The first needs no elaboration. And you do not need to necessarily have radio-relevant experience to get in. I have met station heads who were with telecommunication companies before they moved in to run a station. So, for those concerned with money, marketing, and numbers, sales and marketing is the way to go. Media sales is one way to get into radio sales.

If you love creativity and wake up hungry for it every day, programming is the way to go. Programming includes deciding what music the station will play (it's very interesting and based on research) in which case, you will be the "Music Manager" for a station. You could even be a sound engineer who produces all the ads and jingles on the station. You could be the producer of shows and write scripts for new programmes or segments on the jocks' shows. Or you could be an RJ who doubles up as any of those mentioned above.

Being an RJ is all about what your real personality is. An RJ must NEVER put on an accent, NEVER try to sound cool, NEVER be fake where delivery is concerned. If you must be fake, make it look like it's the real you and always remember to TALK to people, NOT to ANNOUNCE. If you are vivacious, gregarious, witty, natural, and a good conversationalist, you have the potential to be an RJ.
  • What is the hardest part of being an RJ?
1. Commitment: No holidays because "No RJ, no show." So you better be present or out you go!

2.  Content treatment and conversation: How would you engage listeners and speak to them making them comfortable while you simultaneously entertain and move someone who is listening?

3. Receiving feedback: You can never reach a state of perfection. You must always seek honest opinions of the things you do on your show and thank your stars if you have a boss who has the guts to be brutally honest with you and give you constructive feedback. If you reach a stage where you have a bloated head and where you're deaf to criticism, you may most probably be on your way down the RJ graph and be oblivious to it. With big stations, it's a ratings game and can be very stressful. You must have the mental strength to take sharp criticism and yet be undeterred.

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EXTERNAL READING: If you’ve ever dreamt about being a radio star, then why not make it happen? Learn how here: Start your own radio station.