Believe it or not, DJing is about music. Not just music, but also not just fancy equipment, crowds of adoring fans or having dope headwear. It’s about getting a room of people going with music that speaks to them. If you’re learning to DJ, that’s all you really need to know and everything will follow on from it. Here are a few ways to get the room going without the budget for flash.

Promotional downloads

So it turns out that the value of music being sold online is often pretty arbitrary. Labels look at what other labels are charging. Then they look at the follower numbers of their big acts, do a bit of math and make up a number. The point is that no market has never had a monopoly on the price of music. Plenty of good music exists which doesn’t have that dollar value attached to it. This comes mostly in the form of independent producers looking for a toehold in a saturated industry. Find the DJs promoting their freebies and listen critically, regardless of the lack of a price tag. You’ll find some gold. You’ll also make some friends. A direct message on Soundcloud is the best free option (and it’s how I got this track signed).

Free downloads

Sites like Noisetrade thrive on the exchange of music between independent artists and their listeners. Artists happily part with their work in exchange for email addresses and tips. The logic is that rather someone heard it than no-one. These platforms generally don’t host a top-tier catalog. It’s more raw, independent and therefore hit-and-miss. Sifting through your starred albums to find the good work can be a challenge, but along the way you’ll also find out a lot about your own taste. Which is really what it’s all about.

Keep it aural

Live events have a tendency to be very, very visual occasions. Nobody buys concert tickets without the promise of motion lighting, giant LCD screens and artists you actually want to look at. Throw in projector mapping, drones, and other event lighting draw cards and suddenly the music seems to be part of a much bigger, more ocular picture. But some artists in Manchester are putting the focus back on the audio experience by deliberately removing swish lighting elements. Make it known to your friends and fans that the spectacle isn’t really the reason you’re into DJing. It’s about the music. Make it known that your taste is classier than the rest. And go the extra mile to let your setlist reflect your musical discernment.  

Get off the Traktor

Allow this message to be broadcast from the mountains: there are alternatives to Traktor! Traktor is certainly one of the most popular platforms. It’s easy to use, ubiquitous and has a healthy support forum. Why make things difficult? For starters, it’s pretty expensive. And even if you did crack it, there’s more to DJing than song playback. DJing is a type of vibe curation. The software isn’t everything. There are free alternatives. And learning more than one program will give you the broad overview required to make it in the game.

Don’t let your financial circumstances stand in the way of your passion. We live in a time when powerful options are available to independent creators. Be motivated and inspired and start collecting the music that gives you goosebumps. Chances are it will do the same to your audience. Get cracking on your professional skills by signing up for a DJ course today.

John Bartmann is a music producer and DJ.