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Wednesday 22 December 2010

Celebrity DJs.

This morning i read that Planet Rock, a UK Classic Rock radio station, were changing their breakfast show DJ.
Now, for anyone who knows anything about radio and i would hardly call myself an expert by the way, the breakfast show slot is always seen as, probably, the most important in that stations schedule.

So, a change of breakfast show DJ is pretty big news. Especially as the DJ being replaced is none other than Alice Cooper. Yes, that Alice Cooper.

I have no idea as to why Alice Cooper is being replaced, if indeed he is. It is quite possible that he's just decided that his time as a breakfast DJ is done. But, i don't believe that, as his show is syndicated and is almost certainly not "live" anyway. Alice's show is being moved to an evening slot by the way.

All this leads me to wonder whether this is, maybe, the start of the end of the celebrity DJ?
Once again, i somehow doubt it, but i personally hope that it at least signals a change in the attitude of radio stations towards DJs.

Over the past few years it seems to have become increasingly fashionable for a radio station to have at least one "celebrity" DJ and often far more than that.
By this i mean a person who has been employed as a DJ because they have become famous elsewhere first. Many UK radio stations now have DJs who are first and foremost, actors, tv personalities etc etc.
Being a DJ is not their job, rather a, quite probably, lucrative sideline.

Quite possibly some of these celebrities have had some experience as a DJ in their past. But, my problem with this is that they have been employed as a DJ because of their celebrity status and not because of their skills as a DJ. They have been given their high profile radio show because of their celebrity, in the hope that their name will bring in extra listeners and to help sell some extra advertising.

Yes, i know that DJs often become celebrities in their own right, especially in this day and age. But, they became a celebrity for being a DJ and not the other way around.

So, does this actually matter?
Personally, i think it does. Although i suspect i may be in a minority on this one.

How many of these celebrity DJs actually work the controls themselves?
How many have any real knowledge of the music and the artists that they are playing?
How many have a real passion for the music that they are playing, or for radio generally?

To me, that is what a DJ should bring to a radio station. A passion for the music, the medium and the ability to present the show themselves.

When we think of all of our own personal favourite radio DJs from the past, that is exactly what you got. People like John Peel epitomised that and, thankfully, people like Bob Harris still do.
Maybe, these people aren't, or weren't the best DJs in the world, but they always command your respect, precisely because they know what they are talking about.

Maybe, i'm a little old fashioned in that i listen to the radio to hear music? Because of that, i want to listen to a presenter who knows what they are talking about.
I fully realise that a DJ such as Alice Cooper and others, certainly know their music, but i still don't tend to like them as DJs. I would much rather have a passionate and knowledgeable total unknown DJ, than one who is there because of their name and celebrity status.

How many potentially great radio presenters are being sidelined and kept out of work because of this current attitude towards DJs?

And just think, if this attitude had been prevalent, back in the 1960s and 1970s, would we ever have had such inspirational DJs as John Peel, Bob Harris and even Tony Blackburn?
Somehow, i doubt it.

So, i wish the new Planet Rock breakfast show DJ, Lucio Buffone, well and who knows, i might even start listening to the show now.


  1. I just have to laugh and say that my experiences have been a little different. First of all, I would consider the phrase "knowledgeable DJ" to be an oxymoron. More often than not, I find them not knowing half as much as they think they do, and saying the most ridiculous (and un-true) things.

    Locally, our "celebrity DJ" is actually more of a former celeb. Greg Kihn ("Jeopardy", "The Breakup Song (They Don't Write 'em Like That Anymore)", etc.) is the morning drive DJ on one of our classic rock stations. He knows his music, he actually is live, in the control room, every early morning. He's a real DJ, who just happens to have had a few top 10 hits a decade or three ago.

    I also love listening to Bob Dylan's "Themetime Radio Hour" on the Sirius satellite radio. I doubt Bob's touching any dials, but you hear some great music that he's obviously selected himself, and learn quite a bit from the show.

    But then, I can't think of any actors or other celebrity non-musicians who are DJing around here, so I guess it's a different story than what you're talking about. If they don't have a passion for music, what are they doing calling themselves a DJ?

  2. Well, I think you touch on a few things. Moving Alice's show to the evening may make it better. Since he's based out of Phoenix (or at least was), his show should be more live (due to the time difference - his morning would be your evening). Most morning DJs don't work the controls. They sit behind the mics and let the sound guy work it. At least that's been my experience. But you're right, very few these days have intimate knowledge of what they're presenting.

  3. Ken: Maybe the situation is a little different over here?
    I've heard you talk of Greg Kihn before & i remember "Jeopardy". It sounds like he's ok. Funnily enough, after writing this blog, i read an article that mentioned that Dylan show. I did listen to one show myself & didn't really enjoy it. personal taste i guess?
    Be thankful that you don't have any of those real 'celebrity" DJs, well not yet anyway.

  4. Steve: I did read somewhere about Alice's show being done from Phoenix.
    I know what you mean about morning DJs. The breakfast show, at least in the UK, is usually quite different to any other show during the day. I'll be honest & say that i tend not to like breakfast shows, for that very reason. I guess it's just me? :)