I spent a year interning at various radio stations in michigan and learned a lot about the radio business. After the experience, I still love radio but no longer listen to it. I usually use TV or various podcasts like youtube or sound cloud to seek out up-and-coming artists. I am a big fan of music and the PR angle so I spent most of my time obtaining information for the DJs to talk about on air or giving them info on an artist if they were unfamiliar with the catalog. It was funny because I would butt head with my bosses over my push for them to have social media accounts (at the time only myspace and zanga was interesting, facebook was still exclusive to colleges) and the rise of production artists.
I interned at a citadel (now culumus) radio station that housed 4 channels – a top 40, a country, an adult contemporary & rock station. Every station had a ‘corner’ for the DJs to record their shows in then a bunch of smaller booths for the advertisers and off air recordings. I also interned at a NPR station which was awesome because I got to write news briefs and actually use the equipment to record, edit and mix tracks. It was amazing and one of the happiest (although poorest financially) time of my life.
If the station is themed – 70s/80s format, soft rock or jazz – then the station has more control over the programming and allow the listeners an opportunity to request selections. But Top 40 stations have set playlists that they need to repeat an average of every 90 minutes. If there is high demand for a certain song and its a bigger market/specific demographic, then they can fix the arrangement, but most of the time the songs are the same nation wide.
The most important thing in radio is sales. The sales were incorporated into everything – the names of segments, prizes and sponsorships. The DJs are rotated around frequently but if they are able to maintain a positive relationship with a sponsor that ensures their staying power. Promotions are always a requirement of the job if you want to be an on-air personality. Many of the DJs themselves aren’t even into broadcasting – they are communications, marketing or business majors. Because of the constant merges, a lot of the people in radio have multiple hats on/behind the scenes. It is great when a radio personality becomes mainstream because its a long hard road to get there.