The Shortest History Of DJing Ever: Part 1

The Shortest History Of DJing Ever: Part 1

Dial back the clock. DJing isn’t anything new. From the invention of vinyl records to today, musicophiles have been selecting and building their names by playing back recorded music to wake up the room. Stick around, this isn’t a history class. You just might need to show a little interest in the artform at your next gig. So keep learning to DJ by checking out some of the key moments in the evolving lifespan of DJing.

1800s - 1950: Point Of Origin

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Ever think about why it’s called a track? Recorded sound was invented in 1857 with the phonoautograph, which may have looked like a cement mixer but made history by using a needle to leave grooves (‘tracks’) in sheets of paper. That’s right. The first records were paper sheets! Then came wax cylinders, acetate plates, then vinyl discs. The phrase ‘disc jockey’ only came about in the 1930s, but selectors were spinning records as early as 1909 when a 16-year-old guy called Ray Newby started broadcasting music he’d selected via radio while still in college. But it was probably still a little weird if you went out to a party in the 1940s and danced to a guy playing records instead of a band. But by the 1950s, dance parties and nightclubs playing recorded music were as normal as they are today.

1950 - 1970: Getting The Groove On

Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, gets some serious cred for its contribution to DJ culture. Groups of party promoters started calling themselves ‘DJs’, hijacking the term from radio presenters. They created brat packs of entrepreneurs called ‘sound systems’. Reggae, ska and dancehall fuelled the fire for the dancers at all-night street parties. Speakers were stacked one-storey high, and still are today!) Meanwhile, discotheques continue to pop up around Europe and the United States. Beatmatching also started in 1969, allowing the crowd to dance continually for the first time. Like learning to DJ today, skills and styles started to develop when it became clear that DJing wasn’t just something anyone could do without practice.

1970s: Hit The Streets

Hip hop and disco took off in the 1970s. DJ Kool Herc began throwing block parties in the Bronx of New York City, mixing two identical records to extend the ‘break’ of a song. This was where the technicality of DJing began to command respect from crowds. Turntablism started to be considered an art form, and DJs were elevated beyond mere selectors of popular music. A hip hop DJ called Grand Wizard began revving his audience with a new technique called scratching.  Sampling found its way into electronic music productions. With the blending of hip hop and electronic music, disco music started to take off. Check out a great piece on the history of hip hop DJing.

Coming up: the arrival of warehouse parties, day-glo nights and the digital music of tomorrow. Getting excited about the future yet? Sign up for an online DJ course to join the force of music curation as it evolves.

John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.

Why Pack A Microphone

Why Pack A Microphone

Most people think of a DJ as one of two things. Usually, you're either the guy/girl in the corner of a house party or a super famous Dutch national on a massive stage. Neither of these scenarios involve addressing the whole crowd. But if you’re still learning to DJ, you’re going to need to start taking a mic to your shows. A wireless mic if possible. Here are a few good reasons why.

‘I Lost My Keys’

DJs wear a bunch of hats. If you haven’t had to be a babysitter yet, that time will certainly come. Inevitably, someone who has been drinking will look to you as their saviour and ask if you can address the crowd to help him/her find their lost phone, keys or wallet. Of course, nobody’s going to blame you if you don’t have a microphone, but you’re a polite helpful person, right? And besides that, it’s a good opportunity to show how awesome you are by helping out the poor lost soul in front of everyone. Small things like that make an impression.

Speeches

Forget the impromptu crowd address. DJs are most often responsible for technical requirements, too. This is wearing the sound engineer hat. The wedding or birthday client has a schedule of events they’ve been planning since the early 1840s. The speeches follow the pre-drinks music. Make sure you deliver on the technical requirements and ride that gain knob throughout the speech. The crowd might struggle to hear a quiet speaker but when the loudmouth best man comes out guns blazing, you’ll want to be on hand to prevent mass hearing loss.

Teaming Up With An MC

Everyone and their left hand is a MC or rapper, innit? But some of them are actually good. Maybe you’ve heard a local artist’s stuff on Soundcloud, and now he’s at your party. Passing a mic over to him/her could be an absolute hit and quickly revive a dying party. But obviously don’t bend to pressure. It’s one of many possible mistakes. If some guy is really bugging you to rap, it’s probably not worth it. Rule of thumb? The DJ invites the MC on, not the other way around.

For DJs and (students of online DJ courses), having a mic on hand is a pretty good idea. It’s a show of professionalism and also puts you right where you want to be - in control of the room. Pretty much all mixers have an input for a mic (so bring an adapter if needed). And one more tip: don’t flash the mic around. Leave it in your bag if you don’t need it. The more people drink, the more they long to be a karaoke star. And whoever’s going through your system, make sure one hand is ready to cut the gain.

John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.

3 Tips On Using DJ Effects

3 Tips On Using DJ Effects

Using software effects while DJing is about more than just slapping a reverb or flanger on the mix at a random time. Like transitioning and EQing, effects should be practiced and used sparingly to create significant moments in your set. Check out a few tips for using effects effectively.

Saving your effects

Learning to DJ generally begins with beatmatching and transitioning. Effects usually come a bit later. So when you’re ready to start customizing your effects, here’s a tip. The more time you spend preparing your set, the less time you’ll spend mousing around while DJing live. The ideal set is one where you don’t touch the mouse even once. Effects can be saved. Traktor has a great way of preserving your effect craftwork. The ‘Save Snapshot’ feature will allow you to keep tweaking but return to your favorite effects groups whenever you want. Your library of saved effects shouldn’t contain anything that you don’t use pretty regularly. Otherwise you’ll spend time hunting for something on your drive when you could be checking out the crowd. Customize your library. More prep means more fun.

Effects by genre

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Marcro effects are a combination of two or more effects. In Ableton Live, they’re auto-mapped to the 8 knobs of your APC controller. In Traktor you can select from a list of awesome macro effects to bring fun and interesting combinations of space and modulation effects to your set. These effects are generally pretty whack and out the box, and the tendency is to overuse them. So, you’ll want to use them at appropriate times and for appropriate genres. Beat-masher and loop-slicer effects tend to work better in musical genres which have bigger gaps (silences) in the beat. Unlike deep house, which generally uses sustained harmonies, genres like rap and dubstep contain more aggressive rhythms and breaks. For these styles, it’s more appropriate to use beat chopping so that you can take advantage of the play between silence and sound. For smoother styles, reverb build-ups and space effects work better.

Resetting with effects

DJing dance music is about phrasing, which is being aware of where you are in the 8, 16 or 32-bar loop. Along with performance EQing, effects can help you sound great when you use them to demonstrate that your phrasing is on top form. Use effects during the last 2-4 bars of your phrase and cut them off for the start of the next phrase. This is called a ‘reset’ or a ‘palette cleanser’ moment. For example, use a filter sweep or a reverb tail at the end of the phrase and cut it off harshly in time for the drop. If it’s a well known track, using effects in this way informs and reminds your audience that you’re being active and gives them a sense of your musical identity.

At a glance, overusing effects is the hallmark of guys and girls who are learning to DJ and who want to be noticed and have fun more than they want to curate a background vibe. Whichever side you identify with more (and both are cool), use effects in your set appropriately and watch the crowd come alive.

John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.

Getting DJ Effects To Work

Getting DJ Effects To Work

It matters what order your effects are in. Going from a reverb into a flanger will sound pretty different to the other way around. Thankfully, you’re able to reorder effects to suit your needs. Let’s take a quick look at a few tips when learning to DJ with effects.

Space effects

Space effects are reverbs and delays. They’re used for creating massive buildups. These are technically time-based effects, which repeat a part of a single signal at a later stage to create the illusion of an echo. Traktor has some awesome delay options, and with a little practice you’ll be able to use them to create really uplifting transitions. But remember to cut the lows when you’re really heavy on the reverb and delays. Low end reverb tends to sound really muddy and actually takes away from the cavernous sound you’re trying to create. Rather let the mids and highs do the work. Generally speaking, don’t throw a delay on a kick drum. It clutters up the mix.

Modulation effects

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Modulation effects make the sound move. Technically, modulation just means interacting one signal with another. The signal can even interact with itself. The flanger effect, for example, takes whatever is playing and shifts it slightly out of phase, allowing it to interact with itself and creating a wetter, more tonal version of itself. Flanger might be one of the most overused DJ effects, so pick your moments carefully and make them magic. But online DJ courses can only give you information. The proof is in the pudding, so keep practicing and watch the crowd.

Group effects

The whole idea is to create something usable. It’s actually pretty rare to crank up more than one effect to 100% at a time. Definitely don’t hammer out four effects on max! It might sound super weird and interesting, but the crowd usually isn’t there for creativity or spectacle. They’re there for a good night out with a solid, smooth selection of tracks. Practice restraint until you really know what you’re doing and can see the reaction in the crowd. Give your favorite artist a listen and hear how seldom they actually use the effects. Rule of thumb? Keep ‘em special by using them sparingly.

Effect tails

Creating a tail is a great way to transition. There are typically three control knobs: On/Off, Dry/Wet and a variable parameter which could be something like Decay/Length/Time/Rate. An effect tail allows an affected signal to decay or ‘ring out’ naturally, rather than being abruptly cut off. So, try it out. For this, you’ll need to make sure post fader level is enabled. Post fader ignores whether the volume fader is up or down. Now, during a transition, turn the reverb for Track A on and take the Dry/Wet up to 50%, Set the decay time to 10 seconds. Then then start mixing in Track B. When it’s time to cut Track A, stop playback (or let the track finish on its own) but allow the reverb to continue overlaying Track B until it decays on its own. You can do the same with delay. In combination with the tempo matching of the two tracks, the effect is a much smoother and almost mysterious sounding echoey transition.

Once you’ve got a solid tracklisting, there’s a whole world to embrace when using effects to augment your set. Rule of thumb? Modulation effects (flangers, phasers) first, space effects (reverb, delay) last in the chain. And, as always, keep an eye on the crowd.

John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.


 

The Performance Approach To EQing

The Performance Approach To EQing

Along with the volume faders, the equalization knobs on your mixer are among the most commonly used features. EQ allows you to surgically control the high, mid and low frequencies’ presence in the room. But it is also used creatively to build tension and release. Check out a few techniques to use your EQ pots creatively when learning to DJ.

Hard Swap

A hard swap can seriously stoke the crowd if it’s timed well. A hard swap is when you quickly trade the EQ range of one track for another one. For example, cutting the bass suddenly on Track A while dropping it on Track B. It’s not very common in EDM, deep house, progressive house and trance. Within these genres, it’s more common to do one of two things: either slowly crossfade the bass while running the intro of one track over the outro of another. Or to cut the bass of track A entirely and let the mids and highs run until dropping the bass of track B over them. So if you’re looking for a fun way to bring in a new track, minimize that time interval and see what your crowd thinks about it.

Bringing it back

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DJing typically follows quite a linear format. Track A becomes Track B becomes a new Track A. One underused technique is a throwback. A throwback is when you bring back the bassline or mids of an earlier track. It’s something that should find its way into everyone’s set at least once, especially if it’s a recently released track that’s not too familiar. Or one of your own! The effect is that the crowd tends to perk up because they’ve already been primed by hearing the track earlier. Don’t overdo it, and definitely don’t play back the entire song you’ve already played. It’s just a way to tickle the listening part of your crowd a bit while also showing off some of your technical chops. Pick a track with a distinctive, recognizable bassline that you played earlier. Cut the highs and let it run for 32 bars over your next track. Then plough on with the mix. It’s just a nice little easter egg for those who are paying attention.

Anticipation And Phrasing

Using the high-pass (aka low-cut) filter to cut the low end during a breakdown and create anticipation is one of the oldest and most reliable tricks in a DJ’s repertoire. When will the bass drop? This is the question that stokes a dance crowd. For a DJ, the answer is all about timing. Too soon, and you lose some suspense and hype. Too late, and people start wandering off the floor. There really is a precise, predictable time to drop the bass. It’s almost always going to be an increment of 8 bars from when you cut it. So, either 16 bars, 32 bars or even 48 bars for super drawn out suspense.

The important thing when doing this is the length of the phrase. If a melodic or harmonic passage lasts for 8 bars, it’s up to you how long you want to draw it out. But if it only starts to repeat after 16 bars, dropping the bass in the middle of the phrase might have the effect of losing your audience’s attention. The majority of your audience wants predictability, not creativity. Execute the most time-worn tricks until you’re in the position that you’re surrounded by a regular audience which is asking for something more personal.

For students of online DJ courses who are starting out with performance EQing, it’s better to practicing mixing if one of your two tracks is a glue track. Glue tracks generally don’t have a lot of harmonic content and therefore mix well with a broad range of other tracks. They’re mainly rhythmic, easy-going and allow you to focus on EQing the other track while they ‘hold the fort’ in the background. Get good at matching the sounds of two tracks. And every so often, throw an elbow. The audience is there to dance, but also to see what you’re up to. Give it to ‘em!

John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.

The Surgical Approach To EQ

The Surgical Approach To EQ

Every time you load a track, you’ll need to do level control to make sure you neither blow the room away nor lose the dancers. But levels aren’t all there is to matching the vibe of the previous track. You’ll want to spend a bit of time fine-tuning your EQ. There are tracks in everyone’s set that require serious work. Let’s check out a few techniques to adjust the lows, mids and highs of your set in a surgical way in order to tame problem songs and add consistency to your overall sound.

Know Your Songs

Equalization is a tool used primarily to clean the sound of a track. Many tracks now are self-produced and haven’t had the luxury of being tested out in professionally treated acoustic spaces. The result is that a track can sound good in the creator’s home studio and on Beatport. But when played through a high-end system or in a club environment, problems with EQ can cause ear fatigue. When you’re compiling your set, you should obviously be listening for songs you like, but also for any potential EQ issues. If it helps, make a note on your phone or in the software so you can anticipate problem tracks up ahead in your set. The art of EQing is preparation.

EQ Real Estate

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The frequency spectrum is often separated out into four bands: lows, low mids, high mids and highs. Often, the problem is in the high mids. There’s a harshness or crunchiness to this range. This may be because of poor production, but it’s also where all the melodic content (and most of the harmonic content) in a song lives. In the high mids, there are a lot of different frequencies competing for space. It’s a busy part of town! This makes a track which immediately begins with harmonic or melodic content pretty difficult to mix with one that’s ending. The high mids of one will clash with the high mids of the other.

One technique for addressing this harshness is to roll back the mids before you drop the next track. Dial the new track back to 9 o’clock (ie turn the knob so it faces to the left). Give it a listen through your cans, but if you’re unsure, also take a quick walk around the front of the desk to give it a listen through the front of house speakers. A large part of learning to DJ is track selection. The rest is making sure your mix sounds smooth on different systems.

Getting Good

One of the first things you learn when bringing a new song in is to cut the lows. This is because low frequencies on two different tracks don’t play well together. There’s too much competition for the space, and bass frequencies are the bane of music producers the world over. So once you’ve mastered the art of taming the lows, the next place to focus your efforts is on the mids. Being a student of DJing requires patience and above all, good listening skills. If you aren’t already riding that mid pot every time you bring in a new track, you might be subtly scaring off people standing close to the speakers, right where you want them.

Getting good is about repeating your good habits and cutting your bad ones. The most common bad habit is laziness for the sake of looking cool. But your fans will outgrow this, and hopefully you will too. DJing is about curating a vibe for an audience, large or small. Use techniques like a surgical approach to EQ to treat your work as an artform instead of a medium for fame and popularity. You’re more likely to stand out of the crowd and wind up enjoying it.

John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.


 

4 Useful Tips For DJing

4 Useful Tips For DJing

Becoming a DJ is largely about common sense. Working smarter to achieve the same results by creating habits that remove the difficulty and effort involved in hosting or joining a party. So whether you’re just joining your first online DJ lesson or have been touring for years, check out some good advice that’s relevant to basically all DJs.

Gain staging

Audio engineers call it gain staging. It’s when your maximum signal peaks at a preset level below 0dB, leaving enough headroom for further compression and signal processing. But many DJs adopt the old adage of ‘if it ain’t redlining, it ain’t headlining’. Because let’s face it: loud is fun. But pros don’t all follow that way of thinking. In fact, keeping your maximum signal level out of the red will raise the chances of your signal sounding clear. Especially on less professional equipment, which lacks the capability to compensate for an over-compressed or distorting input signal. So first adjust the gain on your mixer to set the level so that even at full fader volume, you aren’t able to redline. Then adjust your volume faders. If it’s too quiet, turn up the front of house system, not your gain.

Facetime

Stay away from the mouse while DJing. It was boring to watch 10 years ago, and it’s even more boring to watch now. Aim to create a set that is interesting to watch. Not everyone’s there to watch you, of course. But some are interested in what you’re doing. Why? When you drop your crowd’s favorite tune, many of them will turn to notice you and what you’re doing. It’s brand-building time! A little tip of the cap, a nod, a fist-pump at this point goes a long way. So does having your eyes on the crowd and off your screen. A performance doesn’t have to be jumping on the tables or wearing a giant mouse head, but you should demonstrate some preparation for your image and presence. Keep them engaged!

Take the power back

Don’t do DJ sets on battery power. Besides the obvious risk that your machine might die, some software can act differently when it’s not connected to the power mainline. Audio glitches can happen when you plug in mid-set. Software popups relating to battery power can get in the way of your screen view at crucial times. And while we’re on the topic, use duct tape to make sure your cables are safely following an out-the-way snake to your feet. And if you have any weird or international plug adapters, tape them together too. Minimize the number of things that can go wrong when wobbled, bumped or unexpectedly yanked. Especially anything power-related. It’s extra work, yeah. So is being a pro, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by the people you’re aiming to reach. Learning how to DJ like a pro is about embracing common sense.

Keep 'em separated

Don’t mix the vocals of two different tracks at the same time. A mix is a conversation, and if two people are talking at once, it sounds bad. This is why the vocals in pop music generally only come in 15 seconds into the track. It allows the radio presenter to hit play, finish what they’re saying and introduce the song without any vocal clashing. There’s always room to get creative, so feel free to load up some hot cues, vocal one-shots or mangled vocal effects and stab at them to fill gaps in an underlying track. Or to prime the one you’ve cued up. But remember that to most people, two singers doing two different things at the same time sounds like a disaster, even if they’re in the same key.

John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.


 

Enhancing your DJ suite

Enhancing your DJ suite

Technical DJing is a sliding scale, ranging on the one hand from simple playback of songs to fully creative and spontaneous live interpretation of audio. Wherever you stand, there are ways to improve the complexity of your set by familiarizing yourself with the universal functions of most DJ controllers.

Learn your controller

Whatever program you use, there are tools out there to help your DJing be better. Software controllers are created by the most progressive developers in the game, and unless you’re on on the R&D team at Pioneer, you’re able to learn something new about your gear. If there’s a button or function that you’re not familiar with, don’t let it taunt you for years from the corner of your controller. Look it up and set a goal to use it at least once in your next set. Whip through the manual or spend a few minutes checking out one advanced tutorial video about how your piece of equipment works? Keep learning the art of DJing, improving your skills and making your vibe curation services indispensable.

Go live

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The gap between live instrumental performers and DJs is growing ever closer, even to the point that the term ‘DJ’ seems a little behind the times. More accurate terms might be ‘controllerist’ or ‘music software performance artist’. These terms dictate the obvious difference between play and playback. Equipment manufacturers have increasingly responded to the growth of controllerism with functions like the Traktor Kontrol S4’s Remix Decks. In a similar fashion to Ableton Live, the S4 allows playback of loops, oneshots and samples in a creative way, opening the door for finger-drumming and Push-style button soloing to bring a new level of creativity to your set.

Autoplay

In some circumstances, DJing is a performance. Anyone who’s done a few DJ sets will understand the ninja-like skills involved in reading a crowd while also keeping a low profile. There are times to be invisible. But there are times to fist-pump, make eye contact and play up to the crowd. In these circumstances, the oft-criticized autoplay might rush to the rescue and be your temporary best friend. If you’ve got the energy, you want to keep it. Whether you’re mashing up the track with a beat-repeat, going mad on your hot cues and loops or even playing an instrument over it, keep them interested. Don’t worry, nobody worth anything is going to walk up to you after the set and say ‘Great one, pity about that part where you had to use autoplay to get the crowd going.’ This is entertainment, and it’s all about getting the crowd going!

Demo content

Good news. You never have to start anything from scratch again. Ever. All of the templates for basically all types of software creativity have already been uploaded and shared. As we speak, hordes of creative people are competing to offer you the best they can do, at no cost. That means learning how to DJ or do anything involving software is as simple as obtaining the information from YouTube and downloading the pack to get hands-on. Instantly. Ban blank page syndrome from your life and get into the habit of downloading demo content and user-generated content to kickstart your learning curve. So, whatever equipment you’re rocking, head over their parent site and grab the demo packs. Starting with pre-generated content is a good way to test out if it’s for you.

John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.

Tips For Building Your Name As A DJ

Tips For Building Your Name As A DJ

Making a name for yourself as a DJ has less to do with the work you do than the type of person you are. Keeping your mind open to fortunate opportunities is right up there with making sure that the work you do and the relationships you hold with others are both steadily improving over time. Here are a few ways to change your thinking about what it means to be a really reliable DJ, and a great person to work with.

Be good, then be cool

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Artists are so much more interesting when they’re not exclusively focused on being cool. Of course you need some swagger. People are looking at you all the time! But the unstated assumption that you’re above others or won’t play certain types of gigs because you deserve better is probably holding you back. Most DJs are exactly where they’re supposed to be. It’s actually not that common that someone gets a very lucky break and shortcuts the system of working your way up. That means that the few DJs who do hold positions in the coolest, most enviable spots usually don’t get there and stay there on charm alone. Having a good ear and active listening are essential skills that must be learned. Having the discipline to actually look up your recent Shazams is a skill. Keep your ear to the ground. This is the reputation you’re trying to build. The charm and style should just be the icing on the cake. Be useful to your audience and clientele.

Play weddings (sigh)

Terrible advice, right? Who wants to jukebox yesterday’s pop hits for ungrateful drunks? Here’s the thing, though: it’s usually top dollar. And having a career in DJing normally means losing money in interesting ways and making it back in less exciting ways. There’s way too much advertising out there that aims to convince us to zoom in on yacht-owning superstar DJ folklore, and it’s simply too uncommon to be taken seriously. The overwhelming majority of professional creatives are not earning their living doing exactly what they want to do. A bad wedding gig is still better than a good day in the office. Focus not only on what you need to do to pay the bills, but what you’re going to do with your time off. Your time off is your chance to steer things in a better direction, away from rent-paying gigs and towards your own successful party. It’s your life, so pick a lifestyle and roll with it.

Have your own goals

We want it now. We all want success now. But it’s not all we we want. We want it to last. And sometimes we have to pick between the two. So maybe you want to be playing fewer weddings and more cool parties in 6 months. Maybe you want to own all your own gear and a van or a branded stage for more control over your image. Or be able to afford six months off between jobs so you can write and market some new material, or finally have the time to dig in to an online DJ course and raise yourself up. Your own time is an investment. These things will never just appear on their own. You have to will them into existence. Or better, you have to work them into existence. So, be as creative about your future as your are with your mixes and productions. Take risks with your time and effort. But keep things moving in the right direction. Are your productions and mixes getting traction? Are you taking the time to follow a couple of tutorials to educate yourself? Slowly over time, add new knowledge and techniques to your bag of tricks.

Explore more

It’s not enough to stick a kick drum on a tempo-synced patch, copy the chart leader’s artwork and then go out and start dropping your ‘new stuff’. That’s the behavior of a DJ who still wants to be emulating other artists in 20 years. Responding passively, rather than creating actively. Fitting in rather than sticking out. This is the era of weirdness, for lack of a better word. The only way to build a reputation is to do something unique, because everything has apparently been done to death. So explore. Experiment. Go crazy. Your aim is not just popularity, style and a creative entrepreneurial livelihood. It’s innovation, technique and artistry. All the best artists have been through this trial by fire, some of them emerging to become renowned sources for imitation when their work is finally recognized as something special. Music is pushed forward by the sacrifices made when people just like you decide to risk their time exploring the potential of crazy ideas. Why else would the leading DJ equipment manufacturer call themselves Pioneer?

Making it in a very crowded business means having some serious discipline. Don’t be fooled by the commercials! The barrier to entry is very low, and it’s tough getting your name out there, but the results can be overwhelmingly gratifying. Most importantly, have faith in your own abilities, and don’t second-guess the quality of your music.

John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.

Keeping The Music Going With Software Tweaks

Keeping The Music Going With Software Tweaks

Whether you’re a pocket USB guy, laptop-hauler or into mobile, your set stands a better chance of getting the room going if you’re prepared to work fully with all the strengths of software, while also avoiding its downfalls. Here are a few of the most basic tips for a smooth and well-prepared DJ set using Traktor, Serato, Ableton or any of the increasingly popular mobile apps available.

Make sure you’re on the latest version

Or, at least, the latest version that your device supports. For the program manufacturers, it’s not all just about turning a profit by rolling out updates. The forward sprint of technology means that there is simply a limit to how much support can be provided for older versions of the program. This means that from the moment you unbox, the reliability of the software starts to dive over time. This is true for all software on all operating systems. Upgrades are priced to be affordable for professional DJs, and always related to market value. Sacrifice one of your paychecks to stay up to date and minimize the risk of the dreaded 5-minute-to-calltime bug or crash.

Contribute value to the community

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Send crash reports. Log your bugs. Take some time to hit the product manufacturer’s forums and offer constructive advice based on your experience. Help solve the problems of less experienced DJs and those not very familiar with software (or English!). Be helpful. And hey, while you do, try to and avoid the sense of self-entitlement that often comes along with a glamorous job in the entertainment industry. Get to know other people, wherever they are. Sign up for an online DJing course and meet your classmates. Sure, people are attracted to your music. But they’re way more attracted to your attitude. The people that get value from what you contribute are the same people that like and follow your music online. True.

Plug and play vs customization

Let’s face it: the audio world is Mac-centric. At least, it has been up until now. Mobile apps for Android are rapidly changing the game, but for now, most DJs are still hauling laptops and controllers (or crates!) Owning a Macbook or an iPad makes music software products generally more accessible, reliable and easy to use. Windows has the benefit of a greater support network and gives your computer far more utility as an all-round tool. But it does require some tinkering in order to run programs as effectively as Apple machines can do out-the-box. That’s all. Just a few performance tweaks and it’s pretty much an even playing field. On the production side, more free software and VSTs are compatible with Windows than mac. Pick a solution that best suits both where you stand on the producer-DJ spectrum and what you’re trying to achieve.

Pair smart

It’s pretty useful knowing a few different controllers, programs and plugins. Some of the most original music has been made using really leftfield programs and hardware, which tend to avoid the standard go-to sounds and really stick out of the crowd. But when you find a combination of hardware and software that you’re happy with, quit flitting around and commit to it. Whatever combination of hardware and software you choose, do your homework and pick something resilient enough to sustain operating system updates, poor tech support efforts. Every minute you spend looking up TSI files is a minute you could have been mixing. Paired with any of the NI controllers, Traktor works pretty seamlessly. Pioneer is pretty much leading the industry in terms of hardware-software combination, but again, mobile apps are constantly nipping at the heels of their WeDJ android app. Vestax went bust in 2014, so steer clear of their stuff. Know your way around a few programs, yes. But remember that to a client, being flexible isn’t as important as being reliable.

The most underrated piece of advice in music is this: close your eyes. Whether you’re producing or DJing, remember how visual it is and spend more time listening. You’re generally the only one who can see the screen, which means you’re having a richer experience interacting with this amazing technology than someone who can’t. So close your eyes more. Or better yet, let the software do the work while you watch the crowd.

John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ. 

DJ Beatmatching By Ear - Part 2

DJ Beatmatching By Ear - Part 2

In the era of auto-sync, just how important is it to learn how to beatmatch? Well, that depends on whether you see your career in DJing as one of those ‘quick shortcuts to massive international fame’ or a labour of love, for which your primary aim is to actually be good. Beatmatching is an essential skill to learn in order to stand out from the crowd of amateurs on your way to being a solid, tried-and-trusted DJ. Here are a few reasons why. 

Doing Your Own Thing

From the 1980s to today, DJing has possibly been the most rapidly evolving musical art form. We’ve seen the evolution of chart-topping DJs paralleled by the evolution of technology itself, and the results leave very little room for innovation, particularly in the live arena. Vinyl DJs are far less common than they used to be, for obvious reasons. The barrier to entry for software DJing has hit the floor and it has become far easier to obtain music than ever before. But if you’re serious about a learning how to DJ, you need to be quite clear in communicating what makes you different to all of the first-timers. Spinning a vinyl-only set is one way to reclaim some street cred, demonstrate an appreciation for the history of the art form, position yourself above the amateurs and generally own your own show. 

Thinking Ahead

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DJing on mobile devices is way less common than on laptops. Not only are mobile DJ apps pretty new and growing in popularity, but there’s always a market for stage gimmicks (giant mouse head, anyone?). We’ve all heard stories of the guy who saved the night by whipping out the music collection on his phone when one of the decks failed. It’s pretty realistic to assume that at least some cases of DJing in the future would involve two wirelessly linked mobile devices with sound outputs instead of bulky CDJs. But learning to DJ will teach you one thing: technology has a way of looping around and digging up the past as a source for its trends. You can only rely on software to make a name for yourself for so long before it becomes really easy, and you’re lost in the crowd. You’ll want to be first in line when beatmatching is back in, not trailing along being forced to learn from scratch as the next generation of DJs gets up and running. Besides that, your average club booker will have a dim view of MIDI controller auto-pilots should you need to get manual and aren’t able to. Think ahead and get good early.

Mixing It Up

Believe it or not, there was a time before house, techno and electronic music. Some of the most established names in music curation today are responsible for digging out old classics and reviving interest in them. Reissuing remastered vintage vinyl cuts is also a rising trend, and it’s been common for about a decade to deliver mashups of older music. The older a record is, the more damaged and warped it becomes. This can affect the stability of the tempo from start to finish, assuming that the musicians on the record played to a click track at all! And if there’s one thing anyone who takes DJ lessons online should know, it’s that computers don’t think very well for themselves. Inputting bad data can really screw up your timing, and software has a tendency to over- or under-compensate for unexpectedness. In brief, learning how to beatmatch is a good backup for when your sync software fails for any reason and you’re forced to switch over to manual. If you’re really good, they won’t even notice that something’s wrong. Not all heroes wear capes. 

John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.
 

DJ Beatmatching By Ear - Part 1

DJ Beatmatching By Ear - Part 1

Even though we now have total command of the sync button, manual beatmatching is still a pretty important part of being a DJ. If you wanted to get serious about photography, you might start with an iPhone app, but pretty soon you’d have to study the principles of lighting, composition and editing before you could expect anyone to hire you. Same goes for a career in DJing, and beatmatching is one way to show your client that you’ve learned a skill worth paying for. Even if you don’t have a vinyl setup, learning to understand the mechanics is a progressive decision that all in-demand DJs make at some point.

The Skill 

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Beatmatching is being able to bring in a track at the same tempo as the one that’s playing without relying on the software to sync it up for you. And while you can’t compare it to playing an instrument, beatmatching is as much of a skill that requires practice, ear training and familiarity with non-graphical DJ equipment like turntables. Sure, hitting the sync button and letting the software do the work for you is an easy way go about DJing. But the world really does not need any more amateur DJs who might be able to operate cool equipment but fail to grasp the underlying principles. You wouldn’t want to be in a plane with a pilot who never studied aviation, would you? Learn how to DJ properly and think about your audience.

The Results

When you learn how to beatmatch, a few things happen to your mixes. Your transitions are longer because a person will always require more time to calculate the crossfade than a computer. Software can recognize and lock the tempos far quicker than a human ear, but that doesn’t mean that faster is better. Dancers don’t always want only 4 bars or 10 seconds notice before the next track drops. Longer transitions generally work better than shorter ones. You’re able to prime your audience with the next track and avoid abrupt mixes that your audience didn’t see coming. Don’t be afraid to take your time! Drop the next track in a good 2 or even 3 minutes before you start your mix and experiment with the overlap. You can always retrigger it from the start or a cue point if there’s too much happening. However long your current mix length, double it and see what happens. 

Playing Live

As a result, it’s becoming more feasible and common for career DJs to enter into collaborations with instrumentalists. Playing with instrumentalists has some complexity. A single saxophone player, for example, might easily be able to play along at the tempo of the track. But DJs who enter existing band situations as the electronic rhythm section are sometimes forced to have to drop in to an existing tempo instead of controlling it. There’s no ready software for a syncing with bunch of actual musicians! The controller needs to be able to adjust their timing to the musical rhythm, and then keep listening to alter it if the music gets faster or slower. Fusing electronic with live music may be one of the more in-demand forms of electronic music in the future, and having the chops to make micro-adjustments to your groove on the fly isn’t just musically more pleasing, it opens doors to performing in groups. 

John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.

Tips for DJing Vinyl

Tips for DJing Vinyl

DJing vinyl is an artform that has, over time, been relegated to the realm of film photography and classic cars. But besides the obvious difference in analogue and digital sound, what other changes should the contemporary vinyl DJ be prepared for before entering the world of screenless mood curation? Here are three quick tips if you’re considering a course in DJing on vinyl. 

How Much Are You Packing?

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The core difference between a vinyl DJ, CD DJ and USB DJ is the volume of music that they’re able to transport. Ten vinyl 33RPM records weigh about 22 lbs (or 1 kilogram), so once you start carrying around more than 150 records, honestly, your back might start to hurt. Digital is clearly little more forgiving, with thousands of tracks now fitting in your pocket. Another major difference is the contents of the record, disc or folder. That giant folder book of CDs you’ve seen on older DJ setups are often compilations burned at home, with various artists hand-picked and grouped together around a theme, like ‘tropical house’. By contrast, vinyl is seldom manufactured by the DJ and typically only contains a few tracks by a single artist. While vinyl compilations aren’t rare, they’re really limited to the heyday of vinyl music publishing by artists back in the 1950s and 60s. The ‘Biggest Christmas Hits’ album from 1964 probably doesn’t contain anything you’re going to want to play out other than as a palette cleanser or some kind of experimental mashup. Which is all fine, so long as you’re not forced to fly your collection of B-sides along with you every time.

The Pitch Fader 

The mechanics of vinyl DJing changed pretty radically when CD and later digital playback took over. Some features were adapted, others abandoned. The pitch fader is one example of a feature that is now far more powerful. Vinyl turntable pitch faders are pretty limited, offering only an average of 8% increase and decrease on the audio. By contrast, CDJs and DJ software offer a much greater range, often assignable and offering a ranging up to 600%. While this extreme is practically useless for DJing tracks (unless you enjoy sounding like either a chipmunk or a demonic curse), it does allow for more creative expression. Early hip hop DJs found new expression by switching the playback speed from 33RPM to 45 RPM to influence musical styles such as jungle, drum and bass and dancehall. Experiment with fast and slow speed in your mixes. You’ll be surprised when you discover that the awkward compatibility you encounter can work and make your sound seriously original. DJ lessons will enable you to familiarize yourself with the different mechanics of different controllers.

Set Your Boundaries

Learning to DJ online empowers you with theory, but sooner or later you’ll have to actually start attending some parties. When DJing vinyl in a club or at a party, don’t allow people near the table or into the booth. Not just to avoid distraction while you’re beat-matching by ear, but for another simple reason: any floor shake means your needle is going to bounce. Letting friends, fans and others into the booth who aren’t aware of this means you’re one excited stamp of the foot or pat on the back away from your needle flying out of the groove and possibly causing a riot. Same goes for letting them slam drinks down on your table. Find some sort of physical buffering if you can; a stage, recess in the room or obstacle to the table are good ideas. While inconvenient, having to be meticulous only adds to the finesse and allure of vinyl DJing. Vinyl DJing is a sought-after profession for a reason. The vinyl DJ must, by necessity, be an extremely focused caretaker for an event to run smoothly. Without being rude, remind drunk fans that you’re working and if needs be, get an enforcer from the venue to keep an eye on the booth entrance while you play. 

John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.

Raising Your DJ-Producer Profile

Raising Your DJ-Producer Profile

It’s the question on everyone’s lips: how do I raise my profile and get people to notice and like what I’m doing? Competition for the title of professional DJ-producer is fiercer than ever, and technology is constantly making it easier for newer producers to do more with less. So how do you form a reputation for pure quality in a noisier and noisier world? 

Remix and collaborate

Collaborating with different people raises your profile. The power behind remixes is introducing work to an entirely new audience. If you’re a tech-house DJ, export the key stems of one of your tracks and offer them to a trap producer. Contact bands and offer them remixes. If you know a sax player or percussionist who might be open to performing, reach out and offer them a spot at your next gig. Find a female singer and a recording space and see what happens. If you DJ, produce and play an instrument or sing yourself, you’re a triple-threat. Keep your live set vibrant and interesting by offering something that the other DJs aren’t doing. Work with others to make yourself indispensable.

Publish often

DJing is a very competitive field, but one thing that all the top names have in common is the sheer volume of work they’ve published. Remember, it’s quite normal for a producer to publish work under different names, so chances are that the ones who inspire you are actually doing a lot of other stuff you might not have ever heard. So start getting as much of your stuff out there as possible. Don’t hang on to tracks for too long. Publish continuously, and learn how to finish work without letting perceived imperfections get in the way of release. At least one new track a month keeps you current and creates the impression that you’re not past your sell-by date. Be prolific. Social media marketing has a huge part to play in your success. 

Find your people 

Growing an audience while attending an online DJ school and living the rest of your life can be a time-consuming experience. You might only have another ten or twenty email subscribers after a year. The fewer people you’re being followed by, the more personal you have to be with them. Without turning into a stalker, start to recognize the difference between casual fans, superfans and potential influencers. Get to know as many of them personally as you can. Maybe they’re more into streaming music from home than heading out to parties. Send them tracks. Maybe they’re just into getting wild at events, but not as interested in the releases themselves. Send them comps to your shows and your friends’ shows. Unsubscribing is a simple click away, so make sure that every fan sees you and your work as a source of joy and fun. 

It’s not about you

It’s tempting to fall into the trap of thinking that the self-promotional work you do is only about raising your own profile as an artist. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? You are as valuable as the number of people who are having a good time. The art of DJing has suffered some terrible injustices at the hands of major promotion. Like the badly-behaved rock star stereotype, the image of the solo DJ has often been tarnished by the perception of amateurism brought on by technology’s lower and lower barrier to entry. Prove your real worth by listening to your audience. DJs and producers who have found their niche have done so by blending their own aims with that of the available community of fun-lovers. One last time: DJing is not about the guy or girl in the booth, it’s about the appropriateness of the atmosphere that they create based on the demands of that place and time. Be humble. 

Keep your eyes open

All producers benefit from following existing trends. Keep your eyes on the charts. Get to know where your search for new music takes you, and what it teaches you about yourself. But don’t expect to gain much lasting popularity by being a complete copycat. Part of your long-term goal should be finding your voice (which is really creating your voice). The end result should be something that people can’t find anywhere else. Being risky in your production by deviating from trends can have bigger payoffs. Some of the greatest remixes surpass their originals in popularity because of the direction the remixer took. If you’re able to remain inspired by keeping your productions, song choices and mixes originals while also keeping your eyes on what the audience wants, you’ll raise your profile as a worthwhile asset to your environment. 

Conclusion

Raising your profile as a DJ really comes down to educating yourself about the needs of your society. If being professional is truly what you want, keep focusing on the beautiful energy of the music itself, and keep sharing it with the people who enjoy it as much as you. This is the secret sauce of a career in creating good vibes: keep smiling. The results could just be a job in which your work doesn’t feel much like work. You know it’s what you want to do. Now find out how to do it with the learning offers from DJ Courses Online
 


John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.
 

Throwing Your Own Party

Throwing Your Own Party

Running your own event is a good idea for upcoming DJs to establish themselves in a scene. Identifying and overcoming the challenges and risks of creating a weekly or monthly night with any staying power solidifies your reputation as a key player and creates incoming demand for your service as a vibe curator. In this post, we take a look at some of the ways you’re able to go about throwing a good party.

Find your partners

The tastemakers are the guys or girls in your scene who are pretty influential, usually quite vocal on social media and generally quite frequent in releasing or unearthing new tracks. Forming a mutually beneficial relationship with these people takes time. If they’re producing their own tracks, start by including them in your sets. Follow, subscribe, like, share and retweet whatever they’re up to. They’ll start to notice who you are. Sign up for DJ lessons online to link with like-minded people. Also link with the fellow DJs who are keen to play and (more importantly) help promote the event. It’s easy to find someone with a new set. When deciding which other DJs to approach about playing, look for the ones who can offer you skills like poster design, video editing and press contacts. Rather look for the hard-working types than people who are just going to sit back and let you shoulder all the risk. 

Be personal

Keep things narrow and as personal as possible. Sure, tag a few tastemakers in your music releases so they’re aware of who is putting stuff out there. But take the time to think it through. You ought to be sparing, exclusive and (above all) relevant when you’re reaching out. Too many upcoming DJs consider social media a free service to spray their own irrelevant self-promo all over town. Nobody likes being mass tagged with stuff that has nothing to do with them, so put some thought into what you’re doing. Remember, the goal of effective social media is real-world, personal relationships. Reply to all constructive messages. Aim for personal. 

Hit the town

Assist tastemakers and promoters by attending their events. Going to parties is hands-down the best way to throw your hat in the ring and break into a scene. If a promoter remembers seeing you on a quiet night at their party, they’re probably going to be more open to talking and hearing what you’re up to. The key here is regularity. A scene is just a collection of people who keep going to the same events. Getting to know them by face and then by name is the best way to immerse yourself in the group. When you’re ready to throw your own event, you’ll have a list of people to get in touch with who already know who you are and interested in what you do. 

Keep it light at night

When you meet a tastemaker or promoter out at night, it’s a good idea to keep the conversation away from events and work. Business talk is more effective in the day. And besides, it might be the guy’s night off! He doesn’t want to have to talk to an upcoming DJ about their event. Connecting with promoters without asking when they’ll book you is a good move. Strike up a conversation about the music or TV shows he or she likes. You can always connect with them in the week and give them a heads-up on your agenda, but don’t spoil their night by talking about yourself and your aims. Oh, and definitely don’t get too trashed if you’re out to meet promoters.

Promote your party

Promote your party heavily. Posters, flyers, social media and email are the standard ways to go, but you’re free to get creative. Email is apparently still the most precious and private of all forms of communication, and people take their inboxes way more seriously than their social media platforms. It’s also the most effective. Be aware of this when creating your following. You might get likes and follows, but your real goal of online communication is still to build a trusted email list. Be active on social and remind people that you have a mailing list. Sending an email reminder about your Facebook event is a one-two punch. Always assure people that you’re not out to spam them, but just thought they might enjoy the vibe you’re working hard to create. Make sure you’re avoiding the most common promotion mistakes

Conclusion

It does take tenacity to launch a successful event that lasts for more than a few weeks. The key is to create a secure party concept with a good reputation that attracts the names people want to see. The alternative is to aim for an event series that comes and goes quickly. But after enough time in the business, you’ll likely find that promoters, venues and DJs are all seeking trusted, long-term relationships with good people. These relationships take time, so bear in mind where you’re putting your energy and make sure the overall direction worth your while. Learn more about professional DJing with DJ Courses Online
 


John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.
 

Practical DJ Tips for Performing Out

Practical DJ Tips for Performing Out

You’ve got a new set together. You’ve organized a slot at a local party and are ready to hit it.  Great! But there are always ways to be slicker, more professional and smarter when building on your reputation as a club or event DJ. Let’s break from the online DJ lessons for a minute and check out some practical tips on how to keep playing the long game.

Protect your gear

Still carrying your laptop bare naked in a backpack? Get customized and padded protective bags for your gear. Still tying cables in knots or untangling them from a snarling mess before shows? Get velcro strips and start coiling them properly every time you use them. These are the basics of handling technical equipment. Yes, it’s more time-consuming to properly pack and unpack things, so you should start factoring it into your setup and takedown time. Think about the upgrade and resell value, and don’t glamorize the idea of battle-scarred gear. You want a mixer with channels that work and CDJs or controllers without faulty buttons, pads, sliders and connections. The basics. Learning these valuable DJ lessons will save you money later. Oh, and don’t leave your stuff in the booth if you want to stick around and party or arrive early. If there’s a locked office, ask about storing your gear in there beforehand.

Have a checklist

If you’ve already got a flight case with everything waiting to go, first prize. If you’re still unpacking and wiring separate items of gear before a gig and find your RCA adapters dwindling in number, get a quick little checklist on your phone to make sure you’re leaving with everything that you came with. Less important accessories might slip your mind, so unless you have a great memory, make a note of easily forgettable stuff when packing up, such as phone charger cables, headphone adapters, iPad casings, microphone cradles and power adapters. It’s another thing to do, but it sure beats having to replace working cables that you have unintentionally donated to the underground.

Get to know the crew

Introducing yourself to security, bar staff and management on the way in is a great idea. In any nightclub, these guys generally have to deal with the nasty side of humanity more often than most, so create the impression that you’re on their side, part of the team and cooperative. Club managers would way rather work with someone positive and helpful than an arrogant or self-important figure whose demands outweigh their suggestions. Even if people aren’t being as friendly as you are, leave a lasting impression by doing on a personal level what you’re there to on a public level: create a good vibe.

When all else fails…

If technical problems can happen, they’ll happen at events. Technical failure is a disappointing reality in the trade, especially when playing on gear that belongs to the venue. Always keep a playlist or mix on your phone as a backup. Keep it plugged in and ready to play. Or if you’re bringing your own gear, have an entirely separate laptop ready. You can also bring a clone of your hard drive. Mixers can fail too, so have the necessary adapters to be able to plug directly into the front of house system. Whatever it takes, have a backup and be prepared for that moment that the sound goes down and everyone looks at you, the DJ. Be a hero, pull a solution out of the bag and get that music going again, whatever it takes!

Conclusion

Not only does all this advice make sense, it also makes you look good. Being able to smoothly handle unforeseen actualities is the difference between an amateur and a pro. Sure, it means more prep time, spare cables and overall work. But if you’re seriously considering upping your game, you’ll make a habit of factoring this extra time and energy into your offering and have a good time knowing that you’ve got another smooth event in the bag. Check out the learning offers from DJ Courses Online and get your pro game in the bag.


John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.
 

Getting More DJ Bookings More Often

Getting More DJ Bookings More Often

As fun as it is collecting music and playing it out live, most of us who enter into online DJ schools are out to make a career of it at some level. It’s liberating to have found a niche that is supported by the entertainment demands of your society. But how do you get there? Quick answer: by acting as professional as possible, leveraging your good reputation and increasing the number of booking inquiries. Here’s how.

What is a booking contract?

A booking contract specifies the terms agreed upon by the DJ and the event promoter, club booker or agent. A standard booking contract includes the logistical details of expectations, start and end times, venue location and fee. But it also includes legally binding terms that protect both the promoter and the DJ, and aims to avoid disputes after any unexpected incidents. There are booking contract templates online that you can edit to suit the details of your event. 

Why do I need a booking contract?

Most booking contracts aim to protect you in the cases of non-payment and gear damage. It’s not feasible to complete a booking contract for every event you play. Rocking up at a house party asking the host to sign a piece of paper is a good way to appear lame. Nobody will point fingers at you if the power fails at your cousin’s sister-in-law’s birthday party. But in purely commercial situations such as public events, you stand to lose if your gear is damaged in any way. And here’s the thing: the event promoter or venue will seldom be the one to initiate this conversation, because they’re the ones most liable to pay up if something goes wrong. Every DJ worth their salt has learned this lesson in the past. Make sure a culpability clause is in the contract, and make sure a payment schedule is set. 

Payment schedule

A payment schedule is included in the contract or invoice and states when your fee is due in part or full. It’s normal to claim 50% of the total fee as a non-refundable deposit before the event date, with the remainder due on or before the day. Make sure you send an invoice to the client along with your contract, even if you use a placeholder company name. Branding these invoices and contracts is a good idea. These small preparations are what make an impression and set you apart from the type of cash-and-a-handshake deals you could end up playing forever. There are free accounting software solutions such as Wave that allow you to create invoices and reports easily. 

Non-payment 

It’s sometimes the case that a promoter fails to pay the promised amount in full or on time. This can be the case if they booked you for a party, promising a flat fee, and then failed to bring in the ticket sales they were hoping for. As a professional, non-payment can seriously disrupt your cash flow, create troubles with your landlord and maybe even get the Yakuza on your back! Make sure there’s a clause stipulating when the fee is due. If you’re at the end of your rope and starting to feel like you’re begging for something that belongs to you, a lawyer’s letter might speed things up. But always keep your tone cordial and make sure to personally and delicately warn the promoter first. 

Insurance

Insurance for your equipment is a good idea, particularly if you’re at a level where you’re being flown around to do gigs. Research insurance solutions especially for musicians, as they’ll have more in-depth cover and provide better service than general mobile household insurance options. Insurance is one of those things that you might think is totally unnecessary, but at a certain level it starts to make more and more sense to dedicate a part of your earnings to protection against theft, power surges and liquid spills. In your negotiations, ask the venues if they have an insurance policy, and if your gear would be covered under it. Another pro-sounding question for the client.

What is a tech rider?

A tech rider is a document that stipulates what gear you use and the requirements for your performance. A good tech rider includes a description of your performance, your gear list and your contact details. A tech rider also includes all and any unusual elements of a standard DJ act. Don’t automatically assume there’s space in the booth for additional live musicians or enough surface area for all your controller devices. Or any large mousehead stage props. Find out as much info beforehand as possible. It’s also a good idea to avoid using your own equipment as much as possible, to keep it from getting battered by time on the road and to make your life a little simpler and easier. 

Why do I need a tech rider?

Getting your client to agree on the tech rider beforehand helps to avoid panic situations before events. DJing is pretty technical, with an amazing array of accessories at your disposal. Just one missing cable could put a halt to the whole show, and an offhand bar owner might be quick to assume it was your responsibility to bring it. So during your negotiations, get detailed. Provide a checklist for the venue to fill out and state what’s available. Do they provide CDJs, turntables, connector cables, a mixer and all of the items required to take the signal from your flash drive to the front of house speakers? Make sure you know if you’re able to play on the gear. Is it compatible with your USB flash drives? How many channels are on the mixer? Are they all working? Make a list of all the problems you’ve ever had with gear in the past, and include it in your inquiry. Make sure you’re aware of what’s waiting for you on the other side of town, down to the cable types. 

Conclusion

Being very specific with your client has the effect of demonstrating that you’re experienced and professional. A club booker or agent should worry if they approach a DJ who agrees to perform before entering into a conversation. Don’t get hung up on waiting for emails. A phone call is still the best way to show you’re serious and get the info you require quickly. Most often, you’ll probably feel like you’re going way overboard with the invoices, tech riders, contracts and phone calls. But always remember to play for the gig you want, not just the gig you have. Find out more about how to enter the world of professional DJing with online DJ lessons from DJ Courses Online.


John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.
 

DJing Music That’s New To You

DJing Music That’s New To You


The more established you are as a DJ, the more inquiries you’ll receive. These can range from one-line Facebook messages like ‘what do you charge?’ to full proposals with a budget and logistics already outlined. Oftentimes, the sender will have no idea what your preference or personal taste is, and might assume you operate a simple music playback service or PA speaker hire business. So what do you do when you get a booking request for a type of music or event that you’ve never done before? 

Turning it down

You might still feel like a student of DJing, but it’s your responsibility to educate the client about what you do and don’t do. It’s also worth having a response prepared for inquiries that don’t suit your taste. If you aim to turn it down because you can’t realistically see yourself playing a toddler birthday in a clown suit, it’s always a good idea to have someone else to whom you can refer the client. That way, they remember you as being helpful rather than a dead end, and are more likely to get in touch with more suitable events in the future. 

Charge realistically

So let’s assume that you’re able to accommodate the client, even though you might not have actually played mariachi music at a themed taco night in the past. Your first question should be: is the fee substantially higher than your normal event fee? If you aren’t very familiar or don’t like playing the type of music you’re asked for, you should be charging more. As you might know, a truckload of preparation, research and track acquisition goes into an entirely new set. Don’t be afraid to aim high if the target is really niche. You might be down in a list of others who have already turned it down because it’s too much work for the payoff. Learning to DJ professionally means being realistic with your time estimates and charging accordingly.

Know what you’re doing

So, you’ve decided to go ahead with it and the client is happy with the rate. Now it’s up to you to make sure you have the gems in the required genre. In every style, there’s a Top 20 or Top 100 that are guaranteed crowd-pleasers. Find out what they are and get a hold of them. Listen to every track at least once before the time. Definitely practice mixing them beforehand. Hip hop is harder to beat-match than house because there are fewer beats per minute and therefore fewer chances to match up the snare and kicks. Along with online DJ lessons, beat-matching and practicing transitions in new genres is a great way to grow as a DJ. 

Hit the scene

If you have time, go to an event featuring the type of music you’re booked to play. This is a quick way to see what effect certain tracks have on the people and the floor. Install Shazam (if you haven’t already!) and use it to discover selections that might not have made the list. And don’t let yourself be fooled by lists or charts online. The best way to find out what’s banging is to go out yourself. Talk to people about the music. It’s one of the ultimate conversation topics, and you can learn a lot in a few minutes. You never know, you might find a new love for it!

Refusing for good reason

Refusing to play because you’re unprepared might be a good move. If the idea of playing the gig makes you feel a bit queasy, rather turn it down than agree and make a poor job of it. The client will generally respect honesty and consider you again for more suitable events in the future. The long game as a music businessperson all relies heavily on your reputation as a negotiator. If clients can trust that you can deliver on what you promise and your rates are reasonable, you’ll find yourself in ever-higher circles.  

Conclusion

There isn’t a successful DJ on the planet that has not played an event outside of their comfort zone at some point. Putting together mixes and DJing house parties is a cool hobby, but if you’re serious about performing professionally, you’ll need to play more events which require new and unfamiliar material. Don’t roll your eyes next time someone offers you a spot at a bluegrass event. Get researching and find out what works. The best marketing is performing at an event in front of a crowd of happy people. Do what it takes to make it happen. Learn more on how to go pro with the courses DJ Courses Online has to offer.


John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.
 

New Course Added: Music Production Level 1

New Course Added: Music Production Level 1

Let’s Get Familiar with Ableton Live.

Have you ever wondered what software tools do electronic music producers like Skrillex, Kaskade, or Diplo use to create those signature sounds and melodies? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s Ableton Live! We just added a new Ableton Live course to get you creating your own masterpieces, mashups, and remixes.

Unique Software

In this course, you'll learn about the capabilities of Ableton Live music production and live performance software from Ableton Live certified instructor, Thavius Beck. Ableton Live is a very unique software application that has steadily risen in popularity amongst producers, DJs, electronic musicians, and instrumentalists alike, thanks to its unique approach to music recording.

In Ableton Live, you can record using the standard DAW (digital audio workstation) approach of recording tracks into an arrangement window and mix using faders, but with the built-in Session view, the possibilities become endless. Session view allows you to view your music as "clips", which are audio/MIDI recordings (small or large) that you can stack together in various ways and combinations to unlock your creative potential and find sounds and musical phrases.

 

Meet the Instructor

We couldn't think of anyone better than Thavius Beck to take you through the software, guiding you through all of the key features and preferences so that you start making music like you've never made before.

Learn a New Skill

The skills you'll learn from this Ableton Live master will enable you to reach deep into the application and produce music like a professional. There's a reason why Daft Punk, Deadmau5, Skrillex, Kaskade, Armin Van Buuren, Diplo, Hot Chip, M83, and countless others have been producing with Ableton and Thavius will show you why!

Get in Touch

Discover the latest music-making methods and techniques at DJ Courses Online.

 

Why is My DJ Software Constantly Updating?

Why is My DJ Software Constantly Updating?

DJ tools and programs are constantly evolving. Ever since DJing first began, people have been expanding their own techniques and learning new ways to create sounds and mix tracks. However, some advancements are on a much larger scale than others. One of the biggest advances in music has been the creation of software programs solely focused on helping DJs create new music. These programs are able to give DJs insight into musical rhythms and help produce new sounds that were not possible with traditional turntable setups.

Keeping up with the latest DJ software updates can mean staying ahead of competitors.

However, there is a setback to this game-changing technology that DJs around the world must constantly struggle with. DJ software is constantly updating, changing the programs that musicians rely on daily. This sometimes causes issues when the changes make the program require more know-how from the user.

Sure, these changes can be minor tweaks in display, but they can also involve a complete overhaul of how the software works. In either case, DJs can be hard-pressed to keep up with these changes in the midst of their busy schedules.

At DJ Courses Online, we understand that software updates present constant challenges. That’s why we work to provide the most contemporary DJ online courses, with information on the latest updates reflected in our videos and our blogs. We also know that understanding the causes and effects of software updates can help DJs better prepare themselves for software changes, so we cater to the whole package.

What Causes DJ Software Updates?

No software is perfect, and many become familiar with the quirks and challenges of each program just by constant use. Some may even use these complications to their advantage by creating new sounds. However, updates may change the way a program functions, and not every DJ out there can just stick to their guns and get the hang of it. Knowing what may be causing the updates to your DJ software is the best way to stay prepared and roll with the punches.

  • Major Bugs: Good software companies will work to address the bugs affecting their programs. If you notice serious issues with your software and the company itself is known to be reliable, you can be sure to expect updates. The fix may be a small tweak or a major overhaul; you’ll just have to wait and see.
  • Continued Customer Complaints: Companies will also work to address complaints from customers, which can result in changes to the software. Whether it’s an issue with the layout or the functions of various tools, major complaints are usually answered eventually. Check message boards concerning your software to see if there are any trends in complaints. This will give you an idea of what to expect.
  • Changes in Company Management: The management of a software company has a large say in the functions of their programs. If there has been a turnover in management, the software may soon reflect the ideas and preferences of those newly in charge. Stay aware of how your favorite software company is being managed so that you can feel comfortable about the future.
  • New Software Trends: No company wants to be left behind when it comes to trends that are currently dominating the marketplace. If you notice that longstanding software, or new programs, are changing their appearances or functions to suit current trends, be prepared for updates. It’s vital for a company to keep up to date with the mainstream. While sometimes changes can feel fast and loose, others are gradual and well-expected if you know what to look for.

Whatever programs you are using, the easiest way to stay current is through the help of reliable DJ online courses, such as those that we provide here at DJ Courses Online. We work hard to do all of the digging for you and make sure to cover the whole board

Staying in the Know with DJ Online Courses

At DJ Courses Online, not only do we have informative blogs, but we are committed to providing every DJ with vital online video courses that reflect the latest changes to software. If you have experienced an update that changes your program’s function, expect our DJ online courses to have the easy-to-understand explanation that you need to get going again. Sign up today or contact us online to find out more about our courses.

Expert online DJ courses can be the key to learning what the newest software updates mean for you.