Making a radio demo - eight simple steps

How do you get yourself noticed (in all the right ways) in a three minute demo? Head of Presentation at Absolute Radio Paul Sylvester gives his advice on sound, stationality and those all-important emails.

Making a radio demo can be a daunting prospect. How you put yourself across in that crucial three minutes has the potential to both open and close doors.  We headed down to a masterclass co-hosted by One Golden Square, home of Absolute Radio, and Sound Women to find out how to crack it.

Head of presentation Paul Sylvester, journalist Miranda Sawyer and presenter Sarah Champion shared their advice and experience.

1. Focus. Work out what type of presenter/producer you want to be - always tailor your demo accordingly. Take inspiration from your heroes, but don't imitate. Remember you can always have more than one demo, like a tailored CV.

2. Always keep a record or your shows.  Your demo is a three-four minute collection of your best bits. It’s your only chance to make an impression, so be harsh with yourself.

3. Don't start the demo with the opening menu of a show and finish with goodbye. Don't welcome the audience to the show – you’re joining them. There’s no need for more than three-four seconds of music when introing and outroing tracks.

4. If you're in a partnership, make sure you stand out. You’re only promoting yourself, so make sure you're the dominant voice.  A great way to make sure of this is to start the links and get the punch line.

If you're a producer then you can still make a demo. Focus on the sound quality and the content - the more effort and production the better. Good quality audio and good editing goes without saying, but we’re saying it!

5. Ask yourself have I shown: music passion; stationality (say the station's name - you need to prove you can move yourself around this furniture); commercial awareness (selling competitions and sponsorship in your own style); cross promotion; interactivity and interviews (no need for famous voices, it’s more about technique). Do you have a variety of textures in there?

Think about making a demo in the style of the station you want to work for. It demonstrates passion, effort and that you understand what the programmer is doing. Plus nicking jingles is impressive. However, be realistic about your entry – for a big station it will be for overnight or weekend slots, so don't mock up a station demo for breakfast.

Journalists should start with a big bulletin. Then include a variety of stories and bulletins, reporting and interviews.

6. Don't send CDs or mp3s. Those days are gone - create a SoundCloud/Mixcloud/Audioboo link and email it. The key is to make it easy to listen to. Keep the email short - include station flattery, a short bit of experience, but no CVs for presenters. If you don't get a reply leave it three weeks - follow it up, checking they got the email, not if they listened.

7. Never make the demo and send it on the same day. Live with it and send it out to a few people for feedback to see that it makes sense.

8. Become a star before you get on air. Make sure you have a social media profile and that you're interested and interesting.


No brand slamming – you never know when it might come back at you.

No one ‘tunes in’ anymore - people listen.

Put the listeners first - there should be four 'yous' before an 'I' in a link.

Contact programmers in September and tell them you're free for Christmas

Never say no. Unsocial hours are part of making it.