Is it time for DJs to pay to play?

During the past few months plenty of digital stations have ceased broadcasting. The owners still have the energy and enthusiasm for radio; but some have seen much lower advertising support, and for others house-hold income has been reduced and so cuts to hobbies have been made.

So should broadcasters charge their DJs to feature on their station to cover costs and make running the station worthwhile?

Marcus runs a hobby station serving his community and was surprised at the hidden work involved in keeping his station on the air when he and two mates started it last year.

“I find that every show I am sent needs volume levelling or some level of post-processing, some shows are shorter than needed and have to be extended, others arrive over the 57 minute requirement and need to be trimmed down,” he says.

“Fact is, as a station owner there is a lot of donkey work in uploading content – shows, jingles and commercials – and managing the Auto DJ playout app to keep the station sounding brilliant. Then there is the ongoing marketing.

“We used to hold public events and attend local shows and fetes; but there’s been none of that this year. Those events were great for the station and our local presenters.”

Marcus says the hours spent fixing up the free shows he is sent is taking its toll.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he says. “I am grateful for the shows that are sent in – all the presenters are dedicated, brilliant and talented. But I am really hot on quality control – I don’t want listeners having to turn the volume up and down from one show to another, or when a commercial is played.”

Adding up the hours, together with lost income from advertisers, Marcus and his team are looking at charging DJs to broadcast their shows. And they know it will be a tough ask.

“We have to cover the very real monthly costs somehow,” he says. “Advertising revenue isn’t covering everything and the losses add up over the year.

“We also feel that by charging DJ a nominal fee to schedule their weekly shows then the less serious people won’t play ball, but the serious ones will appreciate the costs involved, and perhaps we have two scales of charging.”

Marcus and his team are considering two scales of billing. A modest $5 per show with the station being free to broadcast the show when they choose, and a higher fee if the DJ wants it broadcast on a particular day at a particular time – so long as it fits within the station’s schedule.

“The good thing we offer presenters is a decent sized audience, exposure, and we tell DJs how many people listen to their shows,” says Marcus. “We keep a close eye on this ourselves because we don’t wont to lose our audience.

“If a show doesn’t resonate then we move it around the schedule and sometimes have to drop them. It’s always a balancing act – but the listeners come first and we want the station to survive and keep serving the community.”