The Art of Managing Difficult DJs & On-Air Talent |

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The Art of Managing Difficult DJs & On-Air Talent

A helpful playbook of practical and useful tips on managing difficult DJs & troublesome on-air talent for your radio station.

Mike Cunsolo

by Mike Cunsolo in Tips

Last updated 04.08.2023

Managing Difficult Djs

It’s no secret that music is a highly ego-driven industry. Although most of the artists you’ll work with will be accommodating, decent humans, you are bound to have to deal with the occasional nightmare every so often in your career. In the world of radio, the many big personalities that make up the hosts, presenters, and DJs are bound to result in you having to mediate troublesome situations and ultimately managing difficult DJs.

As it’s such a common occurrence in the music world, we’ve compiled a helpful playbook with the goal of providing practical and useful tips and tricks to help you deal with troublesome on-air talent.

Managing Difficult DJs & On-Air Talent

1. Keep Your End Held Down

When dealing with difficult people in any situation, the essential first step is to reduce any potential disasters that could instigate a problem from them! In radio, that usually comes down to ensuring your equipment is fully up-and-running. Whether you’re working in a full studio or straight from your laptop, giving everything a once over before you on-air talent arrives is essential.

Ensure your microphones have been properly configured and set to the right volume to avoid distortion, and have a pair of headphones ready for everyone who’s going to be speaking in order to prevent feedback. Alongside this, using a foolproof system, such as, to broadcast and promote your show will help things to run smoothly.

It’s also wise to protect your computer and ensure it’s in tiptop shape. Contracting malware or falling victim to a hack could result in a mid-show cut off and some very unhappy performers. Be stringent about your use of anti-virus and firewall software, particularly if you’re broadcasting on shared networks, so you may want to look into a "Virtual Private Network" to protect your connection, but it isn't essential.

Now you’ve got your end of the bargain held down, all potential problems are out of your hands - This is where knowing how to successfully deal with troublesome people becomes your best friend.

2. Enthusiasm is Contagious

There are countless different ways that a problem person could present themselves; they could be hostile, neurotic, overly sensitive or just a massive egomaniac. It’s hard to recognise which type you’re dealing with until it’s potentially too late, but there’s one response that can work for them all.

Enthusiasm is contagious

By making sure you, and all of your team, are super enthusiastic about the show and, more importantly, the performer will immediately establish a positive environment that will be difficult for even the most negative personality to cut through. On arrival, make sure you let them know how excited you are to have them there and how lucky you feel that they’ve chosen to appear on your show.

By starting off on the right foot, you’ll increase chances that things will stay that way.

3. The Reasonable Confrontation

Unfortunately, no matter how prepared and poised you are to deal with troublesome talent, there’s still always a chance that a problem will arise. Usually these crises can be set off by the simplest statement or un-presuming aside that the difficult party takes it completely the wrong way. Other times it can be a simple contrast in personalities or lack of etiquette. No matter what occurs, if confrontation is necessary, don’t be afraid of it.


If you let the behaviour continue, then it will only escalate. However, confronting a difficult person does have the potential to make things worse, so you need to be tactical about your wording. Simply state what the problem is in a succinct and firm way and offer an alternative solution: “That’s not something that we talk about on air, we can discuss it in private afterwards instead.”.

Remember this is your show and you have the right to put your foot down!

4. Stay Professional

Particularly when dealing with manipulative people, it can get quite personal. Their passive-aggression and sarcasm is naturally quite hurtful, but is a well-rehearsed tool, employed in order to get what they want.

One of the most difficult, but successful, tactics for dealing with difficult radio guests is ensuring you keep personal emotions out of the equation. All that you need from this person is for them to complete the necessary tasks and then you don’t have to deal with them anymore.

Professional Suit

Staying calm and emotionally unattached highly reduces the risk of blowouts and on-air arguments.

5. Prepare for the Worst

At the end of the day, this is your show, and you shouldn’t have to sacrifice quality in order to pander to your difficult presenters.

Always prepare for the worst and have a contingency plan in place - This can be done by creating emergency playlists or pre-recorded shows that you can easily cut to in case the live broadcast falls apart.

Radio Station Playlist

If it’s essential to keep your guest on-air, try having a distraction at the ready. Maybe they’ve released a new album or song that you can talk about or there’s been a particularly poignant event recently. By having these back up plans, you can stay in charge and in control even if things get messy.

It’s unfortunate that talent doesn’t always parallel manners, but it’s something that all radio owners have to deal with. Don’t avoid using successful hosts and DJ’s just because they’re troublesome. Using these five simple steps, you should be able to handle any difficult personality and still create a successful show.

If you’ve found yourself in this situation and have any more tips, or would just like to share your experience, be sure to leave a comment below.

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