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December 22, 2017

How to be a talkback DJ with Dom Rinaldo

The world of commercial radio is sometimes full of floor tile commercials, but for Cruise 1323’s Dom Rinaldo it is also always full of a strong sense of community.

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  • Words: Kylie Maslen
  • Pictures: Kate Pardey

A lot has changed in radio since Dom Rinaldo first sat behind a desk spinning vinyl and smoking cigarettes.

When CityMag meets him at Cruise FM’s North Adelaide studio, he sits behind a bank of six monitors, a sound desk at his fingertips, and a digital screen replacing the familiar ‘on air’ neon we hoped to see.

“I want to be a friend to listeners, even though they don’t know me.”

But what has endured through changes in technology, corporate ownership, and station names is the importance of the community an announcer builds with their audience. For Dom, it’s all about a familiar voice, a regular time slot, a chance to connect.

“I want to be a friend to listeners, even though they don’t know me,” Dom says. “Then when they ring [the station], they think of me as a friend.”

Dom started out through a love of music, collecting records and making tapes for friends. Hanging out at his local record store, one day he asked the owner if he knew anyone who could help him get a spot as a club DJ. Through a mate of a mate, he got an opportunity.

“From there I bought my own equipment and worked 21sts and pubs, made some money and quit all my other jobs, and eventually I got to a point where I thought I could try radio,” he says.

Dom made audition tapes and sent them to stations throughout the country. He had never left Adelaide, still lived at home, but took a chance – and soon, his career on air began.

“I remember my first job in Alice Springs when I had to put the stylus on the record – I was shaking and I had to talk for the first time on radio. I’ll never forget that day. I was so scared,” he says.

Dom had the advantage of an apprenticeship of sorts in the country, “where you had the freedom to make a lot of mistakes and learn your craft away from the pressure of ratings”.

“I feel sorry for kids starting out [now] because I don’t know where they’re going to go. Even in the country areas there’s not as many jobs to go around and you have to do a lot of networking to get started. If I was starting out I probably wouldn’t have even gone into radio because there’s not many jobs around.”

Traveling around the country to follow work opportunities, particularly in regional areas, taught Dom how to make new friends and instill himself in local communities.

“I played soccer all my life, so what I did, wherever I went, I joined the local soccer club,” he says. “And that’s how you get to know people, and they get to know you, and from there it just grows and then they feel like you’re part of the community.”

Dom acknowledges that these days it’s hard to maintain a career in radio. He describes himself as a “jack of all trades, master of none”. While that has come out of necessity, it has also kept him in radio for long enough that his son’s friends in their twenties are now listening to Cruise, connecting with “the music they grew up hearing their parents listening to”.

Dom’s side jobs as an events MC, a soccer commentator, a radio producer and a music programmer all keep him connected to the community and to Adelaide, which in turn help keep him connected to his audience.

And it’s in this realm of connection that Dom sees the advantages of the rapid-fire changes that have taken place since he first entered the industry.

“If someone rings now I can speak to them properly because I’ve got about three songs in a row and I don’t have to touch anything,” he says.

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