Updated January 24, 2018

4 Steps to More Purposeful DJing

Many people decide to become DJs because it gives them the opportunity to feel like a rockstar, if only for a moment. There’s a certain appeal that comes along with seeing thousands of people in a crowd, being rocked by someone mixing two songs together. We get a rush of adrenaline, seeing crowd cheer on a turntable master like Q-bert.

But that starry-eyed excitement only propels us so far. Most DJs will plateau and some point, both in regards to skill and to career advancement.

Even a lot of “bedroom-only” DJs can feel stagnant and empty, watching their turntables collect dust in the corner and wondering if they are simply over that phase in their life. It’s easy to become jaded.

What’s missing here is a desire to get serious about purpose.

1. Get Analytical

What is your why?

Take some time to think about what you actually want to get out of DJing. Do you love sharing new music with a receptive audience? Do you like rocking a party with everyone’s favorite hits? Is it your job? Do you enjoy putting on a performance?

All of these types of questions have implications in regards to how to pursue DJing. Gaining clarity on this early on will help you to proceed from a more informed perspective.

If you already have a pretty active DJing schedule, take some time to get focused and organized. Many DJs assume that they are only “on duty” when they are behind the decks, but some off-hours preparation and promotion can do wonders in regards to advancing (and building a following).

2. Set Goals

Perhaps a bit too obvious for this type of post, but goal-setting is crucial for anyone wanting to further develop a career, interest, or hobby. Unless you’re completely satisfied with where you are, if you’re not setting goals — real, measurable goals, you’re already doing it wrong.

This is important both on a large and a small scale. If you have only large, pie-in-the-sky goals (e.g. “I want to be a famous superstar DJ!)… you’ll never take the time to figure out how to get there.

In episode 16 of The Passionate DJ Podcast, Joe Pardo explains to us the difference in defining short-term and long-term goals. Your big goals are in a constant state of change… ever-evolving as you advance through life, whereas small goals are constantly added.

One more important point on this subject: it’s important to celebrate the completion of goals, big and small. Claim those small victories, and use them as motivation towards your bigger picture.

3. Do Work

Some people are great at the “setting goals” part, but not so much when it comes to follow-through.

Advancement requires effort. Actual, legitimate effort. Elbow-grease. The grind.

DJs often whine and complain about a lack of gigs, a lack of Facebook followers, or a lack of interest in their latest mix. Yet, if you ask what steps they are taking to fix it, they can’t give you a good answer.

It may be pretty easy to “become” a DJ, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to succeed as one.

Want to learn how to scratch? Tried it once or twice and found it too difficult? Then you’re right… but the problem isn’t the level of difficulty, it’s you.

There’s no substitute for learning a craft than to dedicate the time it deserves.

4. Engage

When you’re invested in building up your community, it tends to give you a sense of focus. If you know what “your community” is (for instance, a local hip-hop scene or couples preparing for marriage), do everything you can to be the best at serving them. Make yourself a resource to others who may be having struggles of their own.

The idea here is positive networking. This leads to good working relationships, and some of them will even lead to real friendships. And that sort of camaraderie can do wonders.

I’ve seen small dance-music communities rebuilt from the ground-up based on this sort of like-minded group effort (including those in my home town). And some of that effort has lead to more, better gigs for me. And my skills have come in handy for many local promoters and DJs in my area. I’ve seen first hand that, so long as you get the right heads together, this stuff works.

If you have fans, interact with them. Make them feel special, because they are.

Final Tips

Accept criticism, and move on. Drama is only a distraction. Be professional. Taking charge of your DJ career, and treating it like a business (or, a brand) gives you a huge leg-up.

Instead of emulating your heroes, ask yourself “What problem am I trying to solve?” or, alternatively, “What audience am I trying to serve?” Discover the value you offer as a DJ, and find the audience that needs it.

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