10 Bona Fide Steps To Become a DJ
Table of Contents
The work of a DJ is dynamic and creative; he (or she) moves his audience and guides them towards a certain feeling with his music. However, like many creative jobs, there’s no particular path that you can take to get it, so today we’ll be supporting all those who dream of being disc jockeys, by informing you on how you can streamline the process of becoming a DJ:
Decide The Type of DJ You Want To Be
There are quite a few different types of DJs, but knowing which one you want to be is crucial in understanding the later steps in this list. So know that not all DJs jet-set around the world. Some make a living as mobile DJs, booking birthday parties, weddings, and other events. Included in their service is traveling to the venue, setting up their gear, playing music, and finally dismantling their gear at the end.
While others, like a club DJ, can actually jet-set across the globe and also play at various nightspots in their area. These DJs usually have it a bit easier when it comes to lugging around gear since they don’t need to carry more than a USB containing their music, some headphones, and maybe a laptop.
And of course, we cannot forget the creme de la creme: the music makers who travel to places near and far, playing at the biggest festivals and getting paid a pretty penny for it too.
Figure out if you actually like it and if you have the chops to make it.
DJing as a hobby is far different than DJing for a living. Doing it as a living involves more vulnerability since you have to continuously prove your worth and constantly be on your A-game, so for now, DJ as a side hustle to help you get a feel for what it’s really like to rely on it for money, but without the worry of later realizing your sole source of income isn’t right for you.
And before you commit to DJing as a career, you need to know if you can make it out there. DJing is an art, so having talent for this craft is one thing, but knowing if you can put in the labor to refine your skillset can prove your worth as a DJ.
Determine Your Goals
Do you dream of wealth and recognition? Is it the title, itself, that’s alluring? Wanna just do it for fun?
People have all different types of reasons for why they want to be DJs, but the most important thing is pinning down why this is the job for you. Be clear and honest with yourself, but also recognize that as you get more involved in the world of DJing your motives for doing this craft may change or evolve, so just accept the change as it comes and grow with it.
Keep your equipment simple… but also know your worth.
DJing looked a whole lot different in the early 2000s — with turntables, a mixer, and of course, the holy grail, which was a pair of Technics 1210s — than what it consists of today where you can get away with the aforementioned set-up of a laptop, portable drive, and a good pair of headphones.
If you’re just dipping your toes in the water, sticking with this simple set-up is best, but if you’ve been in the game a bit longer and want to take it to the next level, invest in reputable software, turntables, mixers, and controllers. Remember you have to spend money to make money.
Understand The Basics
DJing involves more than just turning tables; you need to understand the unique jargon (e.g. beat matching, phrasing, and EQing), the principles, and more. Understanding the basics, themselves, can be a bit overwhelming, so here are a few tips: get a good grasp on the terms involved in playing a set prior to DJing, so your first time playing isn’t as daunting and surround yourself with other musicians during this time, so you can build a community of artists that you can seek out for answers to your questions and that you can rely on for a sense of camaraderie and shared experience.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of the jargon and feel more confident with your craft, record a mix and examine it. Use your newly acquired knowledge to see what you sound like (tip: know that you won’t be sounding like Flying Lotus or Grandmaster Flash during your first set, but at least you’ll be sounding like you).
If you’re DJing with a laptop and DJ controller, recording will be a breeze. Most DJ software can record your set with the simple click of a button.
And use this time to really think about the story you want to tell your audience; what will be the beginning, middle, and end of it?
Create an Online Presence
It’s time to show your art to the world, so with anything you want to promote, building an online presence is critical to success. And being consistently present on huge social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, and also large music platforms like Spotify and Bandcamp will also be critical in making it as a DJ.
However, it’s also necessary to take breaks from social media to avoid overwhelming yourself and to not distract you from the actual DJing. Pick one or two main social networks to focus on at first, make sure to link your mixes, and present your brand and values clearly.
Your First Gig
Now the real fun begins, and it’s time to put yourself in front of a crowd. Showing your value to your scene is probably the most, if not the most, important step in this process.
However, before you can start moving the crowd with your mixes, you have to determine the venue that’s for you. So for this step, you have to go back to the beginning (but only for a second!). Choosing your venue involves knowing the type of DJ you want to be. For instance, if you’re trying to become a mobile DJ, try to book a few weddings, birthday parties, or grand openings.
And once you’ve connected with your crowd, don’t stop. Shake hands with the higher-ups and hand out business cards to friends, other DJs, and promoters.
Know that being a DJ is a lifestyle in of itself since you never know if the person you’re dating has a cousin that’s in need of a DJ or if the next mix you post on your timeline will catch the eye of a nightclub manager interested in hiring new musicians. Keep hustling!
Refine Your Skills & Add to Your Arsenal
So you’ve done everything up until this point: you’ve learned the basics, built yourself a community to rely on for support, and you’ve played a few gigs, so congratulations, you can officially call yourself a DJ!
But with any line of work, you can always improve and better yourself. One of the ways you can do this is by learning to read the crowd, which allows you to predict your audiences’ reactions, so you have a better understanding of the type of music you should play.
Another way is by recognizing that context is key when it comes to DJing. One song at one venue may have a positive effect on that particular crowd, but the same song played at another venue may have the crowd feeling bored or disinterested. Time, scene, and crowd size is crucial in determining how you play for differing crowds.
Remember Why You’re Doing It
After you’ve completed everything on this list, you’ll be more than aware of the energy, time, and tears that go into being a DJ. However, despite the toll that this position may take on your mind and body, reminding yourself why you became a DJ–whether it was for the fame and recognition or whether it was for the pure euphoria that you get from creating music or for whatever other reason, just remind yourself and remember that idea that felt so true that it led you to be who you are today, and you’ll be just fine.
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