What is a DJ, really? We all know that the term ‘disc jockey’ is about 50 years too old. And that the superstar solo DJ image needs a radical update if the goal is any kind of craftsmanship in our music. Too many blog posts are about how to get your work onto Spotify playlists and get paid and very few about how to create resonant work. But beyond all these surface-level inquiries are a few deeper questions relating to the artform. Including one of the biggest of all: where are you going as a DJ? Let’s ask ourselves a few deep questions about a life behind the decks.
Do I have to act a certain way?
We’re all forced to play the game, regardless of the game. Being a person who belongs in a society means cooperation, conversation and dealing with others. Others who have their own interests and expectations. So how should a DJ behave when confronted with these expectations? The fact is that a paying crowd wants some type of performance from their DJ, be it a fist-pumping festival atmosphere or a subtle, behind-the-scenes cool and confidence. As a DJ, it’s pretty important to recognize these expectations and to decide how much you’re willing to give the audience or clientele. There’s no right answer. You’ll certainly get more jobs by conforming to stereotypes in an age where media (rather than our own personality and integrity) defines who we are. It’s the short game. The long game is teaching others your own unique personality and style by being closer to the ‘real’ you both on and off stage. The choice is yours!
Am I a tech person or a performer?
DJs are different to other types of performers. There is a far lower ceiling for theatrics. It’s actually pretty rare that a DJ intentionally draws attention to themselves through their behavior. It’s more common that gearheads make their way over to the desk to check out the equipment. Or guests come over to make requests. Nobody wants the DJ to be hogging the mic all night. They’re there for the music and the dance floor. So getting to grips with your role as a DJ means choosing where you want to position yourself. The answer is somewhere between an electrical technician, live performer and occasional MC. Are you okay with mediating between the best man and bridezilla? Are you a little scrappy with knowledge of signal flow? Knowing your own DJing strengths and weaknesses allow you a clearer picture of the path you’re really on.
How do I really succeed?
The reason there never seems to be a clear answer to this question is because those who hear the simple truth often don’t believe their ears! There’s no magic to success. There’s no secret recipe to creating a mix that tops charts, stops conversations mid-sentence or causes people to tingle with anticipation. What we can deduce is that it’s not a quick rise. The vast majority of DJs and producers you’ve heard of have released hundreds of tracks or mixes, played hundreds of shows, connected with thousands of industry people. Think about those figures for a minute. Have you reached a point where you can say you’ve done a hundred of anything? It’s not difficult to do. It just means doing it every day, indefinitely. In the absence of more obvious ways to succeed, doing a ton of work seems to be the most common. Every second you spend looking for shortcuts is a second you’ve wasted on looking for something that isn’t there.
Pretty deep, right? Whether you’re hoping for success as a DJ, producer, live performer or something else, the hope is that this advice will enable you to take off the blinkers and get busy doing what you love. This is truly a golden age for creatives. Monetization, self-publishing and artists rights are all on the increase. No more excuses! Check out a selection of DJ courses today and get on the path you came here to walk.