I used to work at a radio station, not on the air, but as a producer for sporting events such as high school football, Red Sox, Sea Dogs, and NASCAR. Despite all the time I spent in radio studios, I can’t answer this simple question: Why do DJs talk over the introductions and endings of songs?

The final part of a song, by the way, the place where the singing stops but the music continues, either fading out or coming to a musical conclusion, is referred to as the outro.

Sometimes – heck, many times – the intros and outros of songs are as important as the lyrics themselves, but DJs talk over them anyway. In the biz, this is referred to as stepping on a song. And stepping on an intro right up to the moment a vocal starts is called hitting the post.

DJs pride themselves on hitting the post with exactness.

“Next up we have Hotel California, the title track from the Eagles’ album of the same name. It won a Grammy for record of the year in 1978.” Blah, blah, blah.

Just exactly enough blah, blah, blah to bring us to the moment when Don Henley starts to sing, “On a dark, desert highway . . .”


There are theories as to why DJs step on beginnings and endings, but no solid answers. Before sharing a few of the theories, let me tell how a DJ knows the length of a song’s intro and outro.

In the days when stations played actual records on a turntable, DJs knew how many seconds to yack because each song’s intro and outro were timed by the station manager, who wrote them on the record label.

Today, songs are played electronically via computer, and the title of each one has the intro and outro times in the header. A DJ, either working live on the air or recording a show for later, knows how many seconds to step on the intro and how many to step on the outro.

Because stations tend to play the same songs over and over and over, DJs quickly learn when to start and stop talking without having to consult the header info.

But why do DJs step on songs?

One theory has to do with silence, which in the radio biz is called dead air. No radio station wants even one second of dead air.


But this doesn’t explain stepping on intros and outros. Neither of them is silent.

Another theory stems from the days of records and cassette recorders. Record companies didn’t want listeners to be able to record a complete song off the air; they wanted them to buy the records. So companies encouraged stations to talk over the intros and outros, preventing listeners from getting a complete recording.

This sounds plausible, but doesn’t explain the continued practice today.

There are other theories that I don’t have space to go into here. Whatever the reason is, though, I hate, hate, hate it when DJs step on any part of a song.

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