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How I Got Here: DJ and radio host Ebony Boadu on grasping every opportunity

IMAGE VIA @EBONYBOADU/INSTAGRAM

WORDS BY KATE STREADER

“Be prepared to lose sleep, work hard and not read the comment section.”

Have you ever stalked someone on LinkedIn and wondered how on earth they managed to land that wildly impressive job? While it might look like smooth sailing, there’s no doubt been a heck of a lot of hard work involved in getting there.

So what lessons have been learnt and what skills have proved invaluable in getting them from daydreaming about success to actually being at the top of their industry?


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Welcome to How I Got Here, where we talk to people who are killing it in their respective fields about how they landed their awe-inspiring jobs, exploring the peaks and pits, the failures and the wins, and most importantly the knowledge, advice and practical tips they’ve gleaned along the way.

This week we speak to DJ and host of Triple J’s Breakfast show, Ebony Boadu. Juggling late nights behind the decks at parties, clubs and festivals and early mornings in the Triple J studio, Ebony’s passion for making and sharing music has her constantly hustling.

After studying journalism, Ebony started volunteering at community radio stations and throwing her own parties to DJ at, creating her own opportunities, building up her skill set and making a name for herself in order to get the job she wanted. Here’s what she’s learnt along the way.

What do you do and what’s your official job title?

I host Triple J Breakfast and I’m also a DJ. During the week I’m on air from 6 to 9am – my day finishes up around 1pm after meetings, coming up with content, prepping for the next day/rest of the week as well as writing/recording any interviews. On the weekend I’m playing parties, clubs and festivals all over.

Take us back to when you were first starting out. Did you study to get into your chosen field, or did you start out with an internship/entry-level role and climb the ladder? Tell us the story. 

I studied journalism at UTS but found uni really uninteresting, so I taught myself to DJ with my best friend for fun in my spare time. We didn’t expect to get booked by anyone, so we started our own party in order to have somewhere to play and started booking other girls who were starting out as well.

Around the same time, I saw someone post about a mentorship program called FBi Radio Dance Class – it was run by my now really good friend and incredible DJ/label owner Andy Garvey. FBi is a community radio station based in Redfern and Dance Class was a weekly program where we were taught to DJ and given the opportunity to learn the basics of radio.

From there, I did a bunch of all-nighters at FBi, (12am to 3am or 3am to 6am). A lot of people get into radio by volunteering at community stations, it gives you the opportunity to learn how to use the panel and become confident and natural in front of a mic without pressure. After that, I was DJing heaps. I booked back-to-back sets all weekend and would nap in my car in between.

 

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I was also throwing parties, starting to get booked for big festivals and then was approached by Triple J to do a few mixes. Someone higher up heard my interview on air and asked me to do some demos – which basically means you come into the studio and record a pretend show so they can see how you sound. I think having my name all over the place meant I was front of mind when any opportunities did come up.

I then did a bunch of all-nighters at Triple J, some fill-in slots when other presenters were away and was eventually offered a slot on Triple J’s House Party. After that, it was a lot of the same, lots of fill-ins, lots of practice and eventually when Breakfast came up, I was offered that.

What challenges/hurdles have you faced getting to where you are now? Can you tell us about one in particular? 

 

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A lot of creative jobs require a lot of work without pay and crazy hours which, if you live outside of the city and have multiple jobs, can be really really hard. Both DJing and breakfast radio mean you’re always in a state of feeling semi-jetlagged and mentally exhausted. You’re either up all night or up incredibly early, which seeps into every other aspect of your life.

One of the biggest challenges has been and still is trying to create a balance of sleeping enough, getting enough exercise, seeing friends and family and not just living to constantly hustle.

What do you want people to know about your industry/your role?

As much as it’s an incredible job and a lot of fun it does really require you to have a thick skin. Whether you’re in a good mood or not, you have to get up every day and talk to people, often about your personal life or your opinion on things. Social media and the text line mean people can have access to you whenever they want and while it’s often a means of connection and really positive, you’re not always going to be liked by everyone or say things that everyone agrees with.

There are days when you feel like your job and being able to work with your closest friends is the best thing ever. But, of course, there are others where you feel like you’re being critiqued or unnecessarily hated on and if you haven’t had enough sleep or are just feeling a little down it can be really, really hard.

What’s the best part about your role?

The best part is when I find a song or an artist I really love and believe in and I can introduce other people to it/them. It’s a really beautiful feeling to be able to connect with people through music and I love being hit up by people who just wanna talk about a song or tell me about an album they think I’ll really love. I also get to work with some of my closest friends and make inside jokes with people around the country who I’d otherwise never come into contact with.

What would surprise people about your role?

 

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One of the most surprising things about both radio was DJing is how much work goes on behind the scenes. Whether it’s making sure you’re across new music, finding and downloading fun edits or organizing all your folders. Or, having to constantly think of things within your everyday life that are relatable to people all over the country to talk about, constantly having to turn things into content and working for a lot longer and harder than people realise.

What skills have served you well in your industry? 

Resilience is a biggggg thing. Radio in particular is such a competitive industry, there’s always someone who’s ready and waiting to replace you, there’s always things you could be doing better, there’s always someone on the internet dragging you and there’s always the chance you’re amazing at what you do but the show/timeslot you want is just taken.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be in a role like yours one day?

Networking is an enormous part of any creative industry but it’s so important to be kind and polite to everyone, not just people you think will benefit you because you never know where someone will end up – and also it’s just common courtesy. People can tell the difference between someone who’s genuine and someone who’s a social climber. Be prepared to lose sleep, work hard and not read the comment section.

What about a practical tip? 

If you want to get into radio, get used you hearing your own voice and don’t take constructive criticism personally – we have airchecks with our boss twice a week where we listen back to the show and pick out things we could improve on. If you’re not already, get involved with a local community station. Start recording demos and figuring out who you want to hear them.

If you want to learn to DJ, go on YouTube – you can very easily teach yourself. And download more music than you think you need. The best DJs aren’t always the most technically skilled, they’re the ones who know how to read a crowd, can be creative and show up prepared for anything.

Read the rest of the How I Got Here series here.

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