In Episode 111, we review 13 key points that we feel are good things for new DJs to know. While there are certainly more than 13 things that every DJ should know, these were key points we felt were especially important for newcomers to the art and craft.
We broke these points down in to 3 categories: Technical, Social, and Philosophical…because believe it, or not, there's a lot more to DJing than your technical skill!
- The Fundamentals Are Worth It
- Today's hardware and software take care of a lot of the fundamental skill out of the hands of the modern DJ. But, technology can, and inevitably will, fail. How you respond is entirely dependent upon your skill and confidence in the fundamentals.
- Experience Leads to Confidence
- While it's easy for most DJs to get used to their equipment, you may not always be able to play on your desired rig. Some gigs require you to use gear you've never seen before. Getting yourself exposed early on to different gear will make you even more versatile, as a DJ, thus increasing your confidence and flexibility to take more gigs.
- Pro Gear Isn’t Necessary
- Just because we have well known “industry standards” and most of our favorite headlining acts appear playing on NXS2, TOUR1, and PRIME setups, doesn't mean you have to have that to be a successful and skilled DJ. There are many DJs out there who have vastly different riders and many are playing on very different setups. Just because you spend the money on a pro-level setup doesn't mean you become a pro-level DJ. Get what you will use, and can afford, and master it! That's what pros do!
- Protect Yourself: Always Use a Contract!
- This is especially true for our friends in the mobile/wedding/corporate event circuits. This is often the only protection you have against a client who refuses to pay. For performance/club DJs, however, using a contract from day one might not be necessary. However, as your popularity (and your booking fee) increases, it will become more and more important, so do not skip looking in to putting this together sooner, rather than later, after you've already been burned!
- Be Versatile, but Focused
- It's ok to love multiple genres, but many genres have their own scenes, and each of them are filled with dedicated fans that can sniff out a laissez faire newcomer. If you spend all of your time spread too thin between multiple genres and scenes, you may find it hard to succeed or advance in any of them. And, it can be very confusing for people who see you playing techno at one show, then hip hop at another. Take the time to become proficient in a scene and develop real fans before dipping your toes in to the next one, because the fans, the music, and the scenes deserve it, and you owe it to yourself to really develop your music library, skills, and network properly.
- Nurture Your Network
- This is probably one of the most important, behind technical skill. Without the proper networking skills, you'll never leave your bedroom. You have to not only impress people as a DJ, but you have to get their attention as a person. How you establish and work within those relationships will ultimately determine what opportunities are made available to you.
- We’re Not JustDJs, Anymore
- We have to wear many hats, these days. While most of the headliners have multi-person teams of tour managers, audio engineers, booking agents, graphic designers, and marketing specialists, most of us are working on a much tighter budgets. That means we need to be able to do all of those things, or be able to network with others who can do those things for us while we barter something else, in return.
- You Catch More Flies with Honey than Vinegar
- To be blunt: Don't be a dick. There's stories upon stories of people who act unprofessionally, at best, and petulant or violent, at worst. And it's not just a few bad headliners who “made it”, this is a very common attitude within local scenes, as well. Ultimately, the best thing to always do, is take the high road. Don't let people take advantage of you, but handle conflict in a much more productive manner. And, especially when things go well, make sure to be gracious, thank the promoters and anyone who helped you throughout the night, and be the type of person people want to keep working with.
- Know Your “Why”
- No one can tell you that your reason for wanting to be a DJ is the wrong reason. But, be honest with yourself and know what that reason is. This will allow you to take the steps necessary toward your goals, and will help you align with others that have the same philosophy and goals.
- Not Every Gig is a Good Gig
- Early on, it's easy to take any gig just so you can take a gig. This is not always best, though, as it often leads to many problems, such as getting stuck with never-ending free gigs, run ins with more inexperienced or nefarious promoters, and poorly organized gigs. As you gain more experience, most DJs start seeing the value in being more selective in when and who they play for.
- Learn From Your “Elders”
- Older DJs have been around a while. They've seen things, heard things, learned things. You can learn from their experience. Sure, you may have to endure a little “Back in my day…” conversations riddled with criticisms of all of today's new gear, software, and youth's mentality. And, maybe on some level they have a point. But, don't let that stop you from learning something from these veterans. Many would LOVE an opportunity to teach someone the things they know. And, you're not beholden to do things their way. It's ok to learn from them, and make it your own. Who knows, maybe you can teach THEM a thing, or two.
- Keep It Real
- It's good to have a dream, and having stars in your eyes is a primary driver, for some. But, always keep in mind that the percentage of DJs who aspire to be at the Tiesto, Deadmau5, or Skrillex levels, and actually MAKE IT to that level are extremely low. The music business is a ruthless one, and for every star it makes, thousands of other dreams are crushed, day in, and day out. Even if you do “make it”, it can take YEARS to do so. But, that shouldn't stop anyone. You can be successful, as a DJ, in your own right. You can still enjoy it, play for people, be very talented, and even get paid to do this. Have dreams, aim for the sky, but keep a realistic expectation and try to curb disappointment from not attaining superstardom by being thankful for the successes you do achieve.
- Never Stop Learning
- Never relent on improving your game. Learning new things is what keeps you relevant. Whether it's new technology, new techniques, new genres, or new gear…there's always SOMETHING you can learn to make yourself a little better. The day you become complacent with the way things are, is the day you start becoming irrelevant…so push yourself!