Our guide on how to be a DJ, covering everything from starting out to getting a DJ booking agent.
Electronic music is more popular and varied than ever before, so there has never been a better time to jump behind the decks and start a career as a DJ. Becoming a DJ involves far less expensive private tuition than, say, aspiring to play in an orchestra; the genre was pioneered by inventive musicians, often from disadvantaged backgrounds. But as with all creative pursuits, becoming a DJ takes practice, time, luck and a lot of skill. To help you out, here is our step by step guide to making it big in the world of House.
1. Focus on the music
There will be ups and downs in your journey to DJ stardom. To keep you going through it all, you have to have faith in one thing — the music. As with anything, doing it for the fame or money will not be enough to keep you going. You have to believe in the music you are playing, curating and creating. Clubbers can tell if a DJ is phoning it in. DJs with passion will stand out.
2. Follow your muse
Don’t be afraid to pursue the music you gravitate towards, even if it’s not popular at the time. Following your muse will help you find your own sound and style. Dance music may well be the most eclectic genre on planet, so there’s plenty of room for your unique sound.
3. Get some gear
No matter how hard you try, it will be hard to up your mixing skills without access to some decks. You may know someone whose gear you can use to practice on, but for the most part it is best to start to build a rig of your own. Basic gear every starter DJ will need includes – turntables, a mixer, and an RCA Cable.
There is no need to worry about buying the most expensive gear when you are starting out as a DJ. No amount of expensive or flashy equipment will be a substitute for poor DJing, so the most important thing is to get practising. DJ Jazzy Jeff himself praises low cost, entry-level equipment, saying in a Facebook post, ‘If there is a 10 year old kid out there who has a interest in DJing and Scratching do you think there parents have $2000.00 to invest in 2 turntables and a mixer to see if they like it??’ No matter what your age, it’s best to start with cheaper equipment before you dive into the high end gear.
4. Practice, practice, practice
‘Practice makes perfect’ became a cliche for a reason. Putting in the hard work is the only way to raise the level of your DJ skills. Before you take your new equipment rig to the clubs, you need to try it out in your bedroom. Or living room or kitchen or bathroom or garage.
Mixing is a fine art. Matching rhythms, setting loops, shuffling beats, lining tracks up at the same speed, and even flourishes like scratching all take time to get right. You may have to spend a whole practice session getting one track change right, but it will be worth it. Digital DJ Tips have more on how to get the most from practice sessions if you think you need more help.
5. Get your first gigs
Once you are comfortable with your level of skill, you have to take your mixes to the booths. Practice in your room all you like, but nothing can replace the live experience. Good DJing is about connecting with a crowd. You can’t learn that without playing for crowds.
If your eye on any club nights you think you could play – one that takes chances on a lot of up and comers, for example – then go to that night as much as you can. Bring friends, schmooze, introduce yourself to the promoters – but don’t waste their time. Make sure you post mixes online, on a platform like Soundcloud or Mixcloud, so you can send them to promoters or venue staff who are considering booking you. Spin Academy has more on targeting specific club nights for gigs.
6. Be positive and professional
For many DJs, the secret to success is not talent or a knack for popular trends. Instead, its professionalism. Being decent to everyone you work with, remaining approachable, and sending out positive vibes will get you far in the music business.
7. Make the right connections
As is the case in many industries, it’s not just what you know, it’s who you know. Networking and making industry connections is essential to enduring success. Once you start getting regular gigs, it may be time to get yourself a booking agent, like the lovely people here at MN2S DJ agency, for example.
From here, you can get more gigs, make more noise, put out your own productions, start your own label, and clear out space on your mantelpiece for your shiny music industry awards.
If you think you need a booking agent, get in touch today.