Career success is one way to measure DJing, but not the only way. Truth be told, there’s plenty hype around how to create a big name for yourself already. You have to choose your own level of involvement. So whether you’re only starting out learning to DJ or want to raise your profile to the next level, here’s a roadmap spanning the career of a successful DJ.
Leaving the house and performing out and about isn’t top priority for bedroom DJs. At this stage of a career in DJing, the priority is refining technical and track selection skills rather than sharing them with others. Bedroom DJs who want to progress their career should be live streaming and uploading their mixes to Mixcloud and sharing them for increased exposure. Joining forums is also a good idea to spread the word. Focus on positive feedback and ignore trolls. Having a DJ hobby is a great way to keep your creative spirit alive.
The early days of DJing involves getting to know people in the area. But you’re likely going to be playing Top 40 material and stuff with really broad appeal. This is because you have to earn a reputation in order to play exactly what you want to play. A good idea during this phase is to upgrade your equipment. If you’re planning on taking it further, you need to begin looking and sounding pro. That means having all the necessary accessories (adapters, cables, microphone) to be able to problem-solve on the fly. And stay humble. You’re basically there because as an alternative to the house music system. Mobile DJs are still closer to an accessory than a feature until they begin crafting their own sound.
Wedding DJs differ in one main respect: they’ve learned how to talk the crowd. Being able to hype up guests is the next skill in being a bookable asset. Rather than being in the background, the DJ booth serves as a focal point during the event. This is where you start getting hit by requests, so you’ll need to be prepared for that. Requests are generally pretty typical, so leave your rare Uzbek folk recordings out of the crate. The money is fairly good and the general expectation is that you’re kept fed and watered.
The most important thing when DJing at a bar is to have fun. This is not the type of gig where you’re head down in the laptop or decks. You need to connect with people and keep the music choice varied. You’ll definitely be a little more free with the song selection, and the whole evening doesn’t have to revolve around hits, although it will likely end that way. Depending on the length of the gig, you might have time to experiment a little bit early in the evening. Just keep the selection fairly simple. The crowd probably cares a lot less about your taste than their own.
Becoming a club DJ is the holy grail for most aspiring selectors. You have a trusted name and a loyal fanbase, and often have total freedom with song choice. The audience is there for the music and your role has shifted from behind-the-scenes to focal point. This coveted position is worth defending by continuing to refine your skills and taste. The more you play once-off gigs, the stronger your chance of being selected for a residency at some point. From there, it’s a matter of scaling up your appeal and supporting big DJs when they’re in your area. In other words, making it.
Getting on the radio is a massive shift for the breed of technical selectors known as DJs. It might mean a major timeslot shift, starting with the graveyard. But you get to select what you want to play, and the position comes with some serious respect. Once you’ve done your time in the trenches, it’s a good move to end up with a weekly show on daytime radio. You’ll be able to greatly influence people’s listening choices and will start to get loyal listeners. But if your mission is lights, crowds and nightlife, pick a different path. Keep your music passion alive by signing up for an online course.
John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ