You’re probably not located in one of the most happening spots in the world, are you? You might be used to feeling that there’s no real dance music scene where you are, and that DJs only ever get hired for weddings and kids parties. So where’s the action? If you’re hungry to up your game and become more of a professional small-town DJ, here’s what you need to do.
Find the others
It’s no use trying to change the behavior of the local couch potatoes. People who aren’t into nightlife simply won’t be persuaded to start clubbing. So when it comes to finding the crowd, avoid trying to get your lazy and boring friends to come along. Look elsewhere. Go to the evening events that are happening, even if they’re not dance-related. Invite those people to your event. There are party people in every town. Maybe they’re bored sitting around the same bar. Find out what they want.
Pay your dues
Yep, you’ll probably do the first few events for free. Until you’re capable of drawing the 50-100 people you need as leverage for the local venue, you’ll need to take the hit on money and outside help. Nobody ever wants to hear that, because we’re all led to expect quick career success. But you know those DJs who have their own following? They paid their dues. The long game involves finding people who are into you and your style, not just whatever is in vogue at the time.
Lone rangers don’t get very far in the career-building game. You need to cooperate with others and have a business approach towards your dealings with venues and other DJs. Convince your friends that there are party people in town. Avoid the talkers and run with those who actually deliver what they say they will. You’ll never be short of people who want to hang out and just be cool without offering anything in return. A small, committed group of reliable hard workers is better than a whole bunch of free-riders.
Small towns have one advantage over cities: people are more hungry for entertainment because it’s more scarce. Find out what’s working in your nearest big city and adapt it to a smaller (and probably less pretentious) audience. Career DJing gets better and easier with time. It does get easier as you learn how things work. Go for it!
John Bartmann is a music producer and DJ