Radio is a powerful medium that is often overlooked. In 2010 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation sought to recognise the immeasurable impact of radio, celebrating how it can reach the most marginalised, remote places in the world, by naming the 13th February, World Radio day.
Today, after almost a year in lockdown, we can celebrate radio for all the same reasons. We consume radio a huge amount as its adaptability to platforms caters to every induvial. In your car, catching up on interviews on YouTube or streaming through your TV, radio, and radio DJ’s have been a game-changer in music past, present, and undoubtedly the future. We saw radio come back stronger than ever during the first lockdown last year with the most popular, NoSignal verses segment.
Someone who is all too familiar with the power of radio this past year, is The Beat London presenter and DJ, Rayanna Raye. Connecting over zoom, it was heart-warming to see the love and passion she has for the medium, something she began making her full-time career under a year ago. She is also one of the few, strictly R&B only DJs constantly pushing the genre forward explaining, “I’m really fortunate to be able to play R&B, especially as a DJ, that as a platform is amazing. I just love to talk and have a conversation, I love the energy of talking on-air, playing music, and the callers”
One of the widely popular uses of radio is the accessible ways you can showcase new, raw and underground talent, giving them a platform to prosper. Rayanna’s time on radio is doing just that, an R&B only weekly segment. In terms of exposure for the DJ, this is a route rarely taken in the UK, “I think I could’ve gone down any route that is trending like drill, but I don’t listen to it like that, and that’s one thing that I can say, I DJ R&B because I am so invested in the genre.” Some of her favourite right now include Tiana Major9, Kadeem Tyrell, and Summer Banton, but admits her playlist is always changing. There have to be individuals pushing any aspect of music for it to propel into mainstream recognition, 2021 is not requiring the ability to always being accessible says Rayanna. “The goal is not to be part of everything, when you stand for something you love it aligns with your values and means so much more in the long run.”
To ensure this, pushing artists, platforms, and DJ’s like Rayanna, all help the R&B scene advance in accredited recognition. Rayanna says, “there need to be more shows where they can showcase their work. Just to show people who they are and put their names out there. Spotify is really good for that but there need to be more platforms that are pushing for them.”
Like any industry, it does not come without hardships and obstacles to overcome, including inclusivity. While Rayanna admits she has been very lucky to be part of such a diverse station, she can acknowledge that there is a lot of work to do for the recognition of female DJs. This is something the music industry as a whole is yet to correct, in a 2020 study found that ‘women are still missing from the music industry’. With this in mind, it is so important to get behind female figures, “you have to prove yourself so much more being a woman. The first thing they ask you is how long you have been DJ’ing for. They wouldn’t scrutinise their male friends as much as they do women.”
Her journey towards radio was unlike others, it did not begin with a love story but instead the opposite, “when I was in uni I studied broadcast journalism, I hated radio I thought it was boring. I wanted to be on TV. That was four years ago, then I got into DJing and mixing mainly with R&B. I had a little goals list, finding my next best steps. I found one day that radio was that step.” With all good things, her interest and comfort came from regularly listening to the radio, finding her favourite station, presenters, and overall styles. Rayanna then created a promo, showcasing songs, her voice, and little segments as if it were her own show.
The recurring theme within her journey is, she has paved her path for opportunities to fit her aesthetic. From experience, trying to make it on the radio can often be disheartening, countless unpaid journeys to various stations often leave you deflated. Something that the young DJ can empathise with, understanding that it is not just radio. “Just know the right people to speak to and always make sure you’re nice and polite to everyone because someone is always watching you.” A key piece of advice that Rayanna gave was to be choosey with who you put yourself forward to. In an era of young entrepreneurs, we have become somewhat obsessed with working hard and trying to be and do everything at once. But she realises that sometimes there is value in finding the right fit for you and working hard towards that.
She explains that her list of dreams is long but knows she will reach those levels. “I want to work for Capital Xtra or anything national like that. I want to play a strictly R&B show. I’m tired of people bashing R&B but there’s so much I love playing, and so many different branches to it. I want to be speaking to guests more and just playing R&B forever.”
Her most surprising revelation was her biggest challenge starting up, accepting her voice. I think at one moment in our lives we have all hated the way we sound, but for radio presenters, it is something to get over fast. “When I first started my show, I felt like I didn’t know what to say, I was writing down stuff and had a bit of a script, but it felt so rehearsed and I hated it. Now, I have talking points before a show, but I don’t write down any scripts even with news stories. Don’t think because it’s on-air you have to put on a voice, it has to be you, your voice is you and radio puts your personality across.”
For artists, radio is the getaway to recognition, so you must be using these platforms and their employees the best you can. Understanding each role and what they do is vital, a good piece of advice Rayanna gave was to be creative when you reach out, without crossing the line.
The behind the scenes life of a creative is rarely displayed, but there is an enormous amount of admin and research that goes into each creative thought process. Radio is no stranger to this, DJ’s and other professions in the industry often spend hours going through emails ensuring they are finding the best new or unknown talents put there, but there are a few key steps to follow when submitting to someone like Rayanna.
It is important to note that she commenced explaining this with frustration, describing that artists often do not pay attention to the type of DJ she is, flooding her with genres that she is unable to play. “Everyone reads their DM’s and emails and I want to put smaller artists out there. But you have to look at the kind of music DJ’S play.” But, do use this to your advantage by emailing one radio DJ to pass on your work, “Even if you send me a nice email requesting that I send your work to some else I could do that, it’s all about approach.”
If you have been paying attention to Instagram, you would have noticed that the way we use it, or they want us to use it has changed. The most frustrating thing for platforms and DJ’S is being sent a link that does not work or cannot be converted over DM/ email. “Don’t send links on DM from YouTube and Soundcloud” says Rayanna, “because if I like it where I am going to get that track? Just dm to introduce yourself and then send it as an attachment.” Her final tip, “when you email, introduce yourself with a little bio, it helps me when I’m introducing the song live. Always send it in MP3! And it has to be clean, it is playing live, so these are just common sense. We do read everything, but it is just about your approach really.”