Fancy a career in radio and DJing? Here’s how I did it, by 1Xtra’s Jamz Supernova

Jamz Supernova is a DJ, broadcaster and tastemaker from south-east London who hosts show on BBC Radio 1Xtra and curates the Future Bounce club nights. Here, she tells NME #Lifehacks in partnership with University of Salford about her journey to becoming one of UK music’s most influential voices.

When did you realise you wanted to be a DJ? Were people – friends, family, school – encouraging when you told them?
“I knew I wanted to get into radio on my first day of college at The BRIT School and I saw the radio studio! The [club] DJing came a lot later when I was at community station Reprezent – I decided to learn how to DJ there. But my friends and family were all really supportive and encouraging! I don’t think they actually knew much about the industry or where to even start, but they were always great sounding boards. School was also very supportive – my radio teacher was really hands on, though he did try to deter me away from presenting as he thought I’d be better suited to production. But now we laugh about it and he has praised me for sticking to my guns.”

What was your first break in the industry?
“I don’t think I had a particular big break. I had lots of small moments across the build-up to my career, but a moment that made things seem more achievable was when I was 19 and took part in a presenting competition run by Nokia. As part of their final six, I got to travel to places like LA, Austria, Cannes and Barcelona making content. I was the youngest on the trip and it was so eye-opening and it just made me think, ‘OK, this could be an actual thing if I carry on!’ I didn’t win the competition, which was heartbreaking, but that still taught me about resilience and rejection.”

You DJ on 1Xtra now, but did you do less glamorous jobs before you got to this level?
“Man, I have worked so many different jobs since the age of 13: paper girl, theatre usher, after-school club play worker, teaching assistant. I was a teaching assistant right up until I started getting shifts in production at BBC 1Xtra. What was great about it was the holidays; I’d use the school breaks to do work experience.”

What’s the hardest part of your industry that people might not realise?
“You always have to be ready to go, even if things aren’t going too well personally! For example you might have had a bad day, got your heart broken or whatever. But you still have to do your radio show, open the mic and sound happy!”

What advice would you give to a young person who wants to do what you do, but doesn’t know where to start?
“OK, from a radio perspective… Firstly listen to radio, all different types of shows! You’d be surprised the amount of people who want to be on radio but don’t listen to it! Secondly, try to get a show on a community station. There are loads more stations than there used to be, so do your research, find out which station you would suit and work out what you can bring that they don’t already have. From there, really invest time into your show, crafting and tweaking. Listening back and critically evaluating yourself is important.

“As a DJ…. Practise, practise and practise! There are loads of cool spots where you can pay to rehearse if you can’t afford decks. Also, listen to other DJs’ mixes, or better still go and rave watching how they do their sets. Make regular mixes and drop them on your socials. And don’t be afraid to ask promoters to play their nights for free to begin with!”

Follow Jamz Supernova on Twitter @jamzsupernova