Most DJs wouldn’t consider themselves students. Maybe it’s because people always treat DJs as really cool people. DJs generally appear to be people in touch with the party scene who have interesting friends and stories from backstage. So many DJs ride the wave of popularity for doing something that’s in vogue with the a minimum amount of effort. But they’re not the names that you remember five years from now. Here’s how to stay in the DJing game long after the others have given up.
The big picture
How do you financially succeed as an artist in the 21st century? First, you make sure that what you’re offering is required by the community you aim to serve. Whether it’s local weddings in your city, club nights all over your country (or even the world), do what people want. Not only what you want. Also make sure you’re steadily building up a body of work around what you do. You need to be releasing mixes regularly, yes. But also capturing cool video from your events and editing it in a unique style that says something about what you do.
Don’t act cool. Be cool.
Talk to people at your events. You might not like to consider yourself staff, but if you’re being paid to do any job in entertainment, the host of the event will always prioritize his or her guests over you. Here’s the truth: you’re there to serve an audience, not to gain new fans. Spin the right numbers and express your own personal taste. But you’ll need to put the needs of the audience first if you’d like to continue working with that booking agent.
Say please and thank you
The band leader for Beyonce isn’t a DJ. But she’s at the top of the game. Her advice is to be humble and have a good attitude when dealing with event promoters and industry people. She reminds us that being really talented is only one facet of an entertainer’s appeal. Many very talented artists have lost out on work to less talented people who are more of a pleasure to work with. Keep in mind that having a huge following makes you a hot item, but also that word gets around.
Getting good takes time. ‘Fake it till you make it’ is a useful way of bluffing your way into higher profile gigs. You are almost expected to promise the clients the most banging party every before you’re totally confident that you can deliver it. Thas bidness! But lucky breaks aside, it’s the experience that high-profile clients are after. The knowledge of how to handle difficult guests, tech trouble and other unexpected meltdowns. See your career as a DJ as just that - a career. A direction. Make sure you’re slowly improving over time.
Finally, remember that learning to DJ requires staying on top of trends and being realistic about what the industry demands of you. Don’t try too hard. Just take your time. There will always be people around you who appear to be doing less work and receiving more rewards for it. They are the ones that are not always around five years from now. Stay humble and keep working to improve your art. Sooner or later, it becomes evident where the good stuff is.
John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.