You probably saw all those huge events where the DJ is the centre of attention, plays the best music and everyone has a good time. If you have a passion for music and a lot of will and dedication, you can become one of those DJs too. It can be a long journey, or if you’re in luck and do the right moves, you will get there rather quickly.
That’s why I will give you some amazing tips on how to become a DJ, a successful one at least, how to start DJing and how to keep that amazing career going in a good direction.
I will explain how to get gigs, how to get paid, how to keep your music up to date and more. Read on to learn some awesome tips from a DJ that has been doing it successfully for 13 years internationally.
Anyone can be a DJ today, but being a successful one is a completely different story.
Today you can become a DJ simply by going to a local music store and picking up a DJ controller that you can hook up to your laptop and go play.
Some of you will practice at home, some will be lucky enough to get gigs immediately.
This can vary from DJ controllers, CDJs and a Mixer and Turntables. Be sure to get good DJ headphones, you can’t DJ without headphones!
In the end, it will be your choice which hardware you want to use, as you are the one that will be carrying it to your gigs or even just practising on it.
It’s good to get DJ gear that most of the club’s use, so whenever you get to a club that already has DJ gear, you will feel right at home since you already are familiar with all the functions.
Most clubs use Pioneer DJ equipment, when I started I opted out for Pioneer CDJs as everyone was using it – This turned out to be the best choice possible as later I basically didn’t need to own any DJ equipment anymore due to every club having a Pioneer DJ setup.
For more about some of the best DJ gear out there, check out our other articles where I explain more about the selection process.
Once you have your DJ gear sorted, you will need to get some great tracks. This is where the fun begins.
Decide what your music style will be, it’s not an easy choice as a lot of clubs play open format music which means anything that’s on the radio plus some house music, and some clubs play electronic music only.
Now, here’s the issue, if you decide to go with open format you might get gigs a bit easier but you will perfect yourself in that genre that it might be difficult to progress to larger events where they only play electronic music.
Open format music is a decent start, just to get you in the door and get some gigs under your belt, to see how it is to play in front of a massive group of people and just to get some money.
Every city has more bars, clubs, lounge bars with this style of music than with electronic music. Why? Simply because it caters to more people and bar owners only think about the money.
Electronic venues are fairly rare, if you decide to work only with electronic music you will need to get out there, meet people, make connections with the DJs, have an awesome Demo and then get a gig.
Honestly, I prefer being a House music DJ, the events I play at are much better and have more energy than the open format ones. To each their own, but you will need to make a choice sooner, rather than later just to help you start, don’t worry – you can always change your genre later once you know how to DJ well.
The best places to get music or to discover new music would be either iTunes, Beatport or Traxsource, have a look, you might find your new genre that no other Djs in your area are playing – this will make your style unique.
This is a tricky one, best way to get gigs is to go out, meet people in the industry and slowly make your way through. Help out clubs by handing out flyers, sharing their stuff on social media, make friends with the DJs and managers and before you know it, you’ll be the one DJing.
I got my first gig the same way, I introduced myself to the resident DJ of a club I wanted to DJ at, started hanging out, came to his events, gave out a few flyers here and there, told him I really want to DJ as it’s my dream, and before you know it – hey, here’s 2 gigs for this weekend as he needed to get out of town for a different gig. Lucky me!
From that night, I got noticed by a competing club that gave me a DJ residency the same week and that’s where my journey started. Clearly, I didn’t practice at home, for me it was just enough to observe what the other DJ was doing and trying to figure out also what songs he was playing. I became a copycat until I developed my own style, it took me 9 months of constant practice to learn how to beatmatch songs without the BPM counter.
I did not have any practice at home, I learned that the best way is to practice in front of a live audience at a club.
But enough about me, let me make it clear – It’s easy to get gigs, have confidence, introduce yourself to people and get it sorted. It’s all about confidence. When you land that first gig, only one rule applies - Be there at least 30-45 mins before your set and look tidy. Leave a good impression.
Today you can easily learn how to DJ, just look at all the DJ tutorials on Youtube. That’s the freeway at least, maybe ask your DJ friend to show you the basics, or simply spend some money and enroll to a DJ school. Whichever choice you make, it will be a good one. If you really don’t have any options, just wing it and figure it out yourself, same as I did.
The best way to learn is to use your gear as much as possible, figure out what every button does, get familiar with it and with some time you will be doing it with your eyes closed. Be sure to learn how to beatmatch properly please, without the sync button (you will thank me for that later)
Here's some inspiration:
After you’ve had some local gigs, instinctively you will want bigger things – how do you do that?
That’s where the journey begins – you must create a recognisable brand, which means your own unique logo, social media presence, Professional Press Kit, Website, Promo videos and promo mixes. I would recommend doing this from the start of your career.
To speed up your DJ career and get yourself to the next level, be sure to start making your own music – Remixes, Bootlegs, Originals, anything just to make you stand out and show you have your own music.
I wish someone told me this 13 years ago, I'd probably be a millionaire by now.
Keep everything up to date, once you have everything sorted and looking professional, start collecting emails from all the clubs you like. Create a good-looking email and start sending.
You will be surprised how many gigs you can get. Some will say no or will never reply, but don’t let this put you down, there’s plenty of time. All you have to do is be confident and believe in yourself.
Even just having your website and good mixes will be enough, when you meet a manager or other DJ, be like – check my website, subconsciously this already puts you higher than the other DJs as trust me when I say – they do not have any social media or a website.
It’s all about presence and confidence in the end, not the cocky confidence, be humble and very polite. Be sure to follow trending music and add your own twist to it just to make it a bit more unique.
Here’s a tip for you – be very professional, I know you all think DJs must drink or do drugs (this is a major prejudice) – Be sober during your sets, it will make you focus more on your set and the manager will be impressed that you’re one of the rare ones that doesn’t drink or do drugs.
Trust me, I am always sobered during my sets and everyone is super impressed how I can say no to alcohol, it makes you look professional plus your set sounds much better as you know what you’re doing.
With time and dedication, you will achieve greatness, just be patient and believe in yourself.
Good luck with your DJ career, you can do it!