Should you specialize or be everything to everyone?

So you want to start a syndicated radio show, or approach your local station as the next big thing, and you know the top 40 inside out. Perfect!

Trouble is, everyone else worth their salt also knows the week’s best sellers, know what’s about to chart, and can recite who’s who and what’s where off the top of their head. What makes you so special?

And there you have it. Setting yourself apart from everyone else can be a game changer, and that comes down to your personality – your real personality that is – and the experiences you have had that makes you who you are.

While it’s fine to be a generalist, and a consummate broadcaster, you may need the edge of having specialized in some genre or another.

Years ago I was chatting to fellow broadcaster who worked for another station. He was older than me and I was a keen up-and-coming DJ. I asked him why he was playing crap on the radio.

“It’s what I’m told to play and I have to take a professional attitude on that.”

A professional attitude… Mmmm.

So he wasn’t exactly having a great time playing music he didn’t particularly like listening too. Still, he was on the radio, raising his profile, and earning cash.


Then take the story of broadcaster John Myres*, he played country music just to get a foot in the door of his local station even though he had no love for the genre. He even won a country music award for broadcasters that he didn’t collect – because it was laughable that someone who had no passion for country music should win an award for broadcasting the stuff.

As for me; I got my first break in the 80s by agreeing to host a show about Motown music. This meant playing Stevie Wonder, The Commodores, or something from the 60s! Still, I embraced the genre and made the show my own.

Becoming a specialist for a certain genre can get you in the door – even if you are a volunteer.

The great thing is that today there are more genres than ever before. There are more music charts than every before. Every genre has a chart.


So if you are looking for a way in, want to set yourself apart from everyone else, then consider digging deep and mastering one genre for your big step in to a radio station.

There are so many people playing the same stuff as everyone else that station owners and programmers should welcome someone pitching something fresh and specialist.

*Worth reading: Team, It’s Only Radio by John Myres (Morgan in the Morning).


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Steve Hart

Steve Hart

Steve Hart is a journalist and editor based in Melbourne.

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