When I first started out as a DJ I was—good or bad—willing to listen to any and every person dispensing advice. Unfortunately after about 18 months as a DJ I learned that none of that so-called advice was actually helpful.
Sure it’s great advice to “never give up” and “stand out” but none of that really helps you when doors are getting slammed in your face and you’re getting passed over for gig after gig. I made a ton of mistakes along the way and a few missteps that actually lead to success for which I am eternally grateful. But those pat answers that other DJs, producers and promoters doled out when I sought advice was, to put it mildly, pure crap.
So today I’d like to give you some advice that I think will actually help you make better choices as you try to forge your own path as a professional DJ.
Try A Scene
So many DJs refuse to or are afraid to try something new because they don’t want to fail at it. I get it; I really, really do. However, being afraid has never in the history of the world gotten anyone, anywhere. Ever. So if you want to switch from the outrageously popular EDM and go to hip hop or dubstep…so what? Just because it isn’t what’s making the kiddies squeal with glee today doesn’t mean that won’t be the case tomorrow. Furthermore choosing your scene based on what’s popular rather than what you’re passionate about makes about as much sense as carting around a hundred pounds of vinyl records from gig to gig when there are these neat little contraptions known as USBs.
Success comes in all shapes, forms and scenes; as long as you stand out in your scene does the rest of it really matter? Try one type of music and if it doesn’t work…move to something else.
Continuing Music Education
Just because you’re gigging 4 to 5 times a week is no reason to sit back and think you’ve learned everything you will ever need to know about DJing. You won’t. Continuing your music education isn’t one of those DJ tips about organizing or growing your library, although that is important. This is about learning everything about the music.
Part of your DJ education will require you to hit up clubs even when you’re not playing, go to conferences to learn about the newest equipment, watch tutorials online to learn new tricks and of course check out the latest trends in music. Whether its phone apps to keep your fans in the loop, social media trends, new music sites and the latest festival in a new town…you need to know this information to be the best DJ you can be.
Plus you never know who you’ll meet when you get there!
Listen To Your Mum
I know that your mom probably knows less than nothing about DJing, but she does know manners. Everything she has ever told you—say please and thank you and remember names and even always look a person in the eye—are all good advice for DJs. Being nice to people and remembering those you’ve met will help you forge connections with those in your field. People will like you, which means they might think of you when they need a DJ.
Be Your Own (Fill in the blank)
Back in the early days of my career it never occurred to me that DJs lived like rock stars so I had no illusions about who would book my gigs, get me to those gigs, set up my gear, sell my merchandise and make sure I got paid. It was all me. Unfortunately it took me some time, more than I care to admit, to get good at wearing all of these hats at the same time.
If you really want to make a life and career in the world of music you will need to learn how to do more than DJ. Look at the big name DJs, one of the things they all have in common is that they do more than simply DJ. If you’re an awesome designer, reach out and create websites, flyers and other art for your fellow DJs. Promote, produce, market, network or teach, better yet, do it all. It will help you stay in control of your career and allow you to stay relevant as a DJ.
DJing Is A Job
I will never get the first time I was late to a gig. I was running late from the moment I woke up and on my way to the gig there was traffic, on the 45 minute drive to the club. I was freaking out, but not as much as I should have because it’s a club, the owner’ll be cool…right? WRONG! He was seriously pissed off and he had every right to be.
DJing, no matter how creative or laid back the atmosphere, is a paying job and you should treat it as such. Give yourself time to get to the gig, set up and test your gear with plenty of time to spare. If you disrespect the owner and promoter by showing up late, don’t expect to play that venue again.
Every little bit helps, so if you have impeccable manners you’re ahead of half of your competitors.
I hope I helped you use these DJ tips to avoid serious mistakes in your DJ career.