Case study

KISS FM DJ — Sam Darlaston

After graduating from the University of Bedfordshire, Sam entered a competition to present on KISS Radio and hasn't looked back. Find out how his role has developed in the first four years, and his top tips for getting into broadcasting

How did you get your job?

I applied on a whim for a nationwide presenter competition called KISS Chosen One back in 2015. I submitted an online video entry and got a call a week later saying I had made it into the top 20, and was invited to the KISS Studios to complete interview workshops, a piece to camera and some radio links. The top five candidates then made a video and were instructed to obtain as much online support from it as we could.

After winning the competition I was awarded a three month contract, and four years later I'm still here.

What's a typical day like?

My days typically include meetings about future projects, sometimes auditions, and planning my radio shows, before presenting KISS FRESH at 7pm and then KISS at 11pm. To plan my shows I usually source content online, looking at social media to see what's new in the music world, and building my shows around what I find.

What are the best things about your job?

The best thing about my job is the freedom, and the adrenaline of presenting. I love that I can give my opinion and have the autonomy to plan my own shows. It's easy to forget that you're broadcasting to millions of people weekly, so I like to think about this before I do a radio link because it gives me that rush of nervous energy.

The opportunities I've had since joining KISS have been insane - think red carpets, premieres, The Brits and Hollywood.

What are the challenges?

The challenges change with time. At first it was nerves - I used to overthink and over-plan everything, but I've developed more of a rhythm and confidence over time.

Another challenge is looking after yourself and making sure you don't burn out. In the past, I've been too self-critical, comparing myself to others - mainly by looking at social media. This has definitely impacted negatively on my mental health, and I've since learned to appreciate how far I've come and my own happiness and successes.

In fact, I launched a podcast called Anti Social, Social Media, about the negative impact of social media on mental health, which went to #28 on the UK iTunes podcast chart.

Is your degree relevant? If so, how?

Oh 100%, my degree is relevant. Not even just my degree, but the whole university experience. I left home at 18 and took the risk to move to a new town and meet new people. This really built my character and helped me grow in confidence. I was very shy before university, and had no real idea what I wanted to do.

I studied Media Performance at the University of Bedfordshire, which is basically acting and presenting for TV and film. The course was very enjoyable, and the university had a radio station called Radio LAB which I hosted a show on for a month.

How has your role developed so far?

My role on the station has developed greatly over the years. From 2015 to 2017, I was hosting my evening show on Kiss Fresh, and then in 2018 I was offered The Late Show on KISS four nights a week from 11pm, alongside my evening shows on KISS Fresh.

I'm currently on nine shows across the network, and I've recently been given the chance to hone my live DJ skills performing at a host of different venues, malls and festivals with the brand.

Where do you see yourself in five years' time?

I've always wanted to do more TV presenting, but alongside radio, which is definitely part of me now and something I never want to give up. I'd love to get back into acting too, so who knows!

Do you have any words of advice for anyone aspiring to work in radio?

  • It's simple - be proactive. Send that email, connect with that person you admire on social media, introduce yourself at an event - if you don't ask, you don't get.
  • Put together a sound reel on Soundcloud and a show reel for TV work. These only need to be two or three minutes long.
  • Finally, don't get disheartened if you fail at the first attempt, because you'll meet people along the way who will become important in your progression.

Oh, and always be kind!

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