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February 05, 2007


Steve PMX

I did an entire 2-hour show once that was completely dead air. Forgot to check the transmitter before starting - turns out the DJ before me had shut it off accidentally. wicked.


Oh, so it's not just me who has had these dreams.

I haven't had a regularly scheduled radio program since December of 2002 (on rfb in Vermont), and I still get those dreams once in awhile. And they vary, from "my show is about to start and all of my CD cases are empty," to "the song is over and all my other records are warped," to other panicky annoyances like that. Yeah, as I read all the descriptions of dj-panic dreams, the theme and content was all too familiar.

Funny thing is, in all 11+ years of being a cheesemonger, I've never had an anxiety dream about cheese.


The second station I ever worked at had what I considered a very clever emergency kit: there was a cart that was actually attached to the machine by a cord so it could never get misplaced, that had Roy Orbison's "You Got It" on it. (This song was only about a year old at the time.) This was right at the turn of the '90s, and the station still played about a 50/50 mix of vinyl and CDs, so there were problems with both. In particular, the CD players were awful, and perpetually malfunctioning. But whenever you realized dead air was imminent, you could always jam in the emergency "You Got It" cart, which would buy you three and a half minutes to fix the CD player or run to the record library.

The Contrarian

As a sometimes-overnight DJ at East Orange in the 1990s, the fellow whose show followed mine (I am drawing a blank on his name at the moment) used to put on Sun Ra's "Sunrise" when the clock struck six a.m. This gave him a generous 11:49 to search the library for songs to play.

Listener Therese

While I have had job stress dreams with every job I've ever had, they all occurred during moments of stress at that particular job. I haven't had a regular radio show since 1995, and I had a DJ nightmare just last week- In addition to blathering inanely for about half an hour to cover the fact that I had nothing cued up, and the song I finally got on the air being laden with expletives, I was doing the show on unfamiliar equipment. In the dark.


I've been hosting a show on Sydney radio for about a year now and I've never had any of the anxiety you guys describe. For me broadcasting is the most casual experience ever. Actually, I make a point of always leaving the studio doors open and never broadcasting in shoes.

dj earball

Oh, what a relief! Not the confirmation that I'll keep having these frightening nocturnal episodes, but that it's, well, normal. Often I find myself in the studio and the music sections have been completely re-arrranged, or moved down the hall. I can't find things. The clock ticks. I do the dance with dead air.

Curiously, I feel relatively stress free when actually doing my show in the waking world, even when I'm still previewing songs with 20 seconds to go in the previous song. I guess I just suppress all my dj angst then, only to have it emerge later.

Hang in there, all. At least it's "dead air" and not "dead host."


I regularly DJ'd college radio for 5 or 6 years, was very dedicated, worked on sets and themes (sometimes, anyway), but I don't know that I ever had those kinds of dreams. . . maybe once, but certainly not 'recurring' ones. I DID have a few memorable dreams involving other 'weirdness' in the station, weird pseudo-sexual surreal combinations of paranoia and long lost childhood friends appearing out of the woodwork. I DO remember co-hosting a show with a friend of mine one night, and daring him to let the air go dead. . . a form of DJ "chicken"-- he won: after God knows how long (probably only a minute, but seemingly 5 minutes or more) I ran in and cued up a record.


I did my last radio show in July of 1979 (WZBC in Boston) and it was the 90s before I stopped having that dream. Worse, a few years ago, it started coming back, but with a twist. The thing is, both ZBC and I were fairly mainstream in those days, and in this new version of the dream, I'm invited back as a guest alumnus and I'm dying to show everyone what decades of listening to FMU taught me about real free form radio. So inevitably, I've just started the show, the first track is about to run out, and all I can find anywhere in the studio are two or three useless schlock albums. The rest of the studio contents comprises nothing but non-audio junk like magazines. Makes me yearn for those nice calm dreams where I'm falling off a building . . .


i worked in lumber and woodwork for years and dreamt several times of flying/swimming [?] through woodgrain. i can only imagine what undertakers dream of.

Jack Tourette

A Florida college station I listened to in the early 1980s played 20-30 minutes of a skipping record when the DJ got locked out of the studio during a bathroom visit. Kind of a twist on the extended remix of Cage's 4:33.

John L

THANK YOU!! That is EXACTLY why I never became a DJ. Fear of what to play next.

And when I was working as a tape librarian I would often have dreams of being faced with shelves and shelves of tapes in an unlimited expanse up and down. Probably had some fear of heights in there too.

Am glad to know that many DJs face this fear. I know that these days I wouldn't have the imagination or interest/need to find something to play next, one after the other and avoid dead air, but back maybe from the early 70s until the late 90s I probably could have. These days, silence is just fine. ("The only music is time, the only dance is love" - Stanley Kunitz.)

I still wonder though, how do DJs remember on what album that song that is? Or what the name of that song is out of all the millions of things you hear and like. I hear some keep notebooks but then how do you find that song in pages of notes. Do you write down, "goes boom boom boom then bang" or "neat organ". How do you tell the difference between that song with the neat organ and all those other songs with the neat organ with only seconds before the next song must play?

Someday I'd love to see "How to be an FMU DJ". How you do it. Both the hard and fast rules and the suggestions, how people have done it. (Whatever happened to that book that someone was writing?)




Absolutely! I've been a DJ at various stations since 1990, and this is the only recurring dream I've ever had. In mine, I'm in the studio, and for whatever reason, when my song ends, I don't have anything else cued up and ready to go. Then I scramble, but the CD players won't work, or the song won't cue, or it's like moving through syrup to get to the CD library. And then I'll go on the air to try to say something while I'm attempting to remedy the situation, but I won't be able to think of anything to say. The details change slightly (the dream used to take place in a station where I thought at the time I really wanted to work, in what was supposed to be my first show there), but the basic idea is always the same: dead air and some sort of general incompetence!

Bruce the Moose

Back in the 80's I did a lot of programs. One night, another formerly regular dj was going to do a then rare apperance. He was there several hours ahead of time, carefully putting together his show. 5 minutes into his show, the transmitter went down. We couldn't get it restarted.

There was a major ice storm happening at the time, the antennae iced up and reflected the power back to the transmitter. Protection devices apparently failed and a fairly major ceramic capacitor in the final amplifier shattered (as we found out later).

The regular engineer was out of town, and the backup engineer (wisely) didn't want to get out on the roads. The regular engineer returned the next day, and (as I recall) spent several hours fixing the damage.

Anyhow, that night the dj spent several hours playing his planned show, only for himself.

Bruce the Moose
Duluth, Minnesota

Homer Fink

Funk -

My radio nightmare is that I'm working at a radio station on Long Island. On the ground floor of the building is a clinic that may or may not be performing a certain controversial "procedure". Everyday, religious "nuts" kneel and pray outside the building making it really uncomfortable showing up for work each morning.

In my dream, I'm on the air and the GM walks in and says, "You DJs have it easy, you only work 4 hours a day. Us sales guys have to work all day!" He leaves.

But then I realize it's not a dream. It really happend.

To be continued.


i would like to say that all radio is dead air compared to you folks. and maybe a cupla others. i hope most of your dreams at least are very nice. you all deserve em.


Similar to Stewarts "You Got It" cart, at WRCT in the 80's we had an endless loop cart of crickets I usually fell back on. Beats dead air, I guess.

Worst real-life nightmare on air: I was on during a bad thunderstorm, so bad you could probably hear the thunder rattle though the open mic. After a spot on mic, I opened the studio door to check out just how bad the storm was. I got my answer as about 3 inches of water poured right into the air studio. At first my DJ instincts kicked in. I pulled out the legal FCC sign-off cart, potted over there and stood in 3inches of water while I logged the transmitter levels and patiently waited for the sign-off to complete. It was a long one. Finally reality stuck. Why the hell am I screwing around with the studio electronics while STANDING IN THREE INCHES OF WATER? I finally shut down the studio.

Turns out the flood waters broke through a storm sewer and then broke through the wall in the library right in O and P in the rock section. If 'RCT still has it's vinyl, you can probably still see the big section of white generic LP jackets we replaced the wet and stinky originals.


Funny you mention WRCT Ray-C-Ray, I just started a show there and indeed, there are many white LP jackets because, as was probably true during your tenure, WRCT throws nothing away. Ever.
But as for DJ dreams, I only had one recurring one until I read this post. It was the standard "I have a responsibility on this day and it's that day and I'm late!" half-awake/half-asleep dream where you wake up in a sweaty panic only to realize it is in fact not that day. Then I read this post.
Just had a dream where I was at WRCT doing my show except I kept falling asleep or blacking out and couldn't remember what I was broadcasting. Friends and family were stepping in and doing the show, but they weren't supposed to or were doing it badly. Everything was dark and I kept thinking I had to fix things but then would just black out again.
Thank you WFMU. I never thought you'd poison my dreams. Kudos.

Doctor B.

I'm a DJ at WHRW in Binghamton, NY, the alma mater of DJ Spinna and some good folks at 'FMU. I've been on the air snce 1979. Even though I'm in the "pop" department, I spin anything which fits onto a turntable or into a CD player.

Early in my DJ career, I had a nightmare that I had to do a jazz show. I mean, a cold-sweat nightmare! Jazz was one of those kinds of music which I usually liked when I heard it, but knew almost nothing about. Two weeks later, guess what happened? The station had a 5-day jazz marathon. Guess whose air slot the marathon included? Rather than collapse into a pile of quivering protoplasm, I quietly sat down and thought of aome names I'd heard dropped in the past on WHRW. Let's see, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Chick Corea, Karel Velebny and SHQ and even a little mid-70's Frank Zappa...I diligently gathered a carefully-selected armload of jazz sides from our record library. All in all, my worst nightmare ended up being one of my better shows.

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