How many events have you done? Include everything from house parties and weddings to event stages and bars. Twenty? Fifty? Most people DJ as a hobby, which is cool. You get to have some sweet gear, curate the vibe and meet some good people. Which is what it’s all about. But others feel the need to get deeper into the professional DJ lifestyle. To perform events that they sometimes don’t necessarily want to. Let’s check out where the professional DJ journey will take you if you decide to go pro.
Get your hands dirty
As a professional DJ, you sometimes find that the work undermines your self-image as a cool person. You might find that the money is in some corny corners, and that nobody else seems to share your self-image as a collector of good music. This is also the stage at which most amateur DJs quit. Doubt comes with the territory. Even the world’s most celebrated actors and musicians have to do work that simply pays the bills. For the longest time, you can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. You have to earn your own audience. So how do you get out of the whirlpool of weddings and kids’ parties and begin getting offers that suit your style?
Make a playlist
Right now, playlisting is where it’s at. In the past 20 years, the most successful DJs have morphed from public performers to producers of their own work. And now, we’re finding that the DJs whose audiences are growing are right back in their element as curators of content not necessarily their own. The rise of playlisting and the importance given to curation seems to have overtaken the need to create more original music. Simply put, there seems to be enough music in the world to last us a while. Now we require human beings to organize it by taste. Thankfully, we still have enough taste left to leave one task un-automated by AI. So make a playlist today. Spotify is a good start, but there are loads of other platforms which treat their artists more ethically. (Hey, a lot of people are saying it).
Do the time
Outside of brain data uploads, there’s only one way you get good. Practice, repeat. This means more than beatmatching. It means packing and unpacking gear. It means knowing which cables to take and which ones are deadweight. It also means knowing the average time an Uber takes to get you to the part of town where you earn most of your money. So get good by making it easy. Give yourself time. Be in a state of constant improvement. It can sound super-lame, but get in the habit of labelling and rolling your cables properly. Honestly, these are the steps required to be pro. Remove all barriers to easiness and you’ll quickly learn what DJing is really about.
There are so many things amateur DJs don’t associate with professional work. Keep healthy? What kind of advice is that for a party lifestyle? It’s the good kind. You’ll be doing this 5 or 6 nights a week sometimes. If you’re in it for the long haul, you’ll need to act responsibly. The results are all on you, and so are the rewards. So keep learning (a DJ program is a useful start) and give your crowds a reason to have a good time.
John Bartmann is a music producer and DJ.