Opinion: How to avoid sending the wrong radio demo

A few tips on how to send the best radio demo to a programmer looking to fill a vacancy, written for RadioToday by Chris Birks from Hi FM Oman.

“It concerns me how many presenters get their demo so wrong. That was the first tweet in an eight-post thread I ended up writing on Twitter, which at the time of writing this opinion piece, has been shared and seen by around thirty thousand people. It was retweeted by the likes of David Lloyd, Matt Deegan, Jon Holmes and other influential names in the UK industry before being picked up by US and Canadian radio accounts. However, none of what I wrote was ground-breaking or game-changing.

I’m the Deputy Content Director to Robin Banks at Hi FM in Oman and we’re looking for a new presenter. The standard of demos ranges from creatively crafted and authentic ‘best bits’ to badly recorded vox pops featuring members of the public but not the actual person applying for the gig. It feels like the art of crafting an ear-catching and impactful presenter demo is being lost and unless you’re involved with the SRA or enrolled on a hands-on radio course, nobody is going to tell you what to put in a demo and how long it should be.

From early on in my career I was told to always keep my demo up to date just in case the PC wanted to make a change at my expense, or if a job came up at another station and I wanted to apply for it.

That meant constantly editing my demo to replace existing audio with better or more topical audio. Even now, I make a new demo every month to keep my audio fresh and to hopefully show consistent improvement of my craft.

Hopefully, by following these pointers you’ll be well on your way to creating a demo that will help you stand out:

Just like you should be doing on your show, your demo should make an impact immediately. Grab my attention and make it fast. I don't want to hear thirty seconds of production just because it has your name in it and if your demo starts with you reading out a 5-day weather forecast over a bed that is too loud, I don’t hold out much hope for the following three or four minutes.

Let me hear you bring a story to life with production or a caller, delivering that pretty dull S&P read differently and make me either laugh, think or cry. You are capable of doing all of the above.

Find mates in radio who you can bounce ideas off and get advice on the structure and content of your demo. We all have mentors and trusted industry people we go to for advice, no matter how long we’ve been doing it.

Your email is just as important as your demo. Personally, I like to see what you’ve done, what your achievements are and where you’ve worked. Remember: DO NOT LIE. I will probably know someone at a station you’ve mentioned and call them to check.

You know when you’ve spent two hours making seven different versions of your demo? Don’t then label it: demo 2019 v7 with caller out; and send it me as a WAV. Label it with your name and number. Don’t let the person hiring forget you. Also, make sure that you’ve got some more audio ready to send back if I request some more from you.

Basically, make sure your demo is only your best bits and get to it quick. Ditch the name IDs, cut the twenty song fade in before your link and be authentic – don’t be someone else. Your email should be brief, friendly and give me a quick insight to what you’ve done and where.

Finally, get people to listen to your audio and respond to their feedback and advice. Need someone to help you? Go to my website – chrisbirks.co.uk, drop me a message and I’ll be more than happy to listen to your amazing audio. Good luck!

Chris is a Radio Programmer, Presenter, Coach, Voiceover and Event Host and currently works at Hi FM Oman as Deputy Content Director. Follow him on Twitter via @ChrisBirks