5 Lessons I Learned as a DJ

In what now feels like another life I used to “spin” rock and roll records on an album rock station WDHA in Northern NJ on the weekends in the 80s. I did have this day time job at BBDO, which I was doing OK at, so  I didn’t need “extra income”. In fact, I made $5/hour (and then got a raise to $6) as a DJ. Paid for gas since I lived 50 miles from the station in Dover, NJ. For a year I did overnights on Friday night (actually Saturday morning) from1 to 6am. Ugh. And when that became too much to physically handle anymore, I worked fill-in on weekends mostly every week. And I worked every Christmas Day for time and a half! Oooh. Jewish DJs are very popular on Christmas Day.

To be honest I wasn’t all that good. But I knew my limitations and kept the patter to a minimum, cued up the records well (yes it was still mostly vinyl with some incursion of CDs), followed the format and importantly played all the ads. Hey, I was an ad guy so I respected that advertising “paid my salary” (hah).

But I learned some things too that I think made me a more effective business leader. Here they are:

1.Turn off your microphone when you have nothing to say

2.Speak slowly and clearly (BTW, Good phone skills when leaving a phone message are to speak the phone number slowly and clearly and repeat it—just like ads)

3.Pause. Catch your breath and continue. A well-placed pause is effective in impact

4.Place emphasis on words that make your point

5.Stay “within yourself”—for me that means don’t talk to much (see #1)

In business I have used these skills well during my career. #1 is really important. Many people talk too damn much and as a result unsell their ideas. Short, crisp and succinct thoughts win the race every time.

Diction is also very important. S-p-e-a-k  s-l-o-w-l-y—that’s right, slow yourself down as if you were talking to someone who had only the most basic understanding of English. The net effect is that your thoughts will have more impact. And importantly, lose the “ums”, “likes” and “ahs”. These are filler expressions that demean the speaker.

And when in doubt see #1. Turn off the mike.

I miss playing rock and roll records and being paid to do so. Moreover, I miss what radio was in the 80s and the role it played in everyone’s lives. Radio was my first media love, and I am pained by its demise. I know people in the industry want to argue otherwise, but they know it’s true. Nothing stays the same in life.

But the lessons I learned as a DJ have lasting power.

More Strumings

Leave a Reply