How to Become a Professional DJ
Stepping out - Taking dreams to reality. Study this thorough article on one DJ's idea of how to succeed in the industry of professional mixing. Only on InternetDJ.
on Fri Jul 12, 2002
There is no straight forward path to becoming a success in the world of dance music, if you are a DJ, producer or both it seems very difficult to go from bedroom oblivion to superclub stardom. A few users on InternetDJ.com have asked me for advice in the past few weeks about getting gigs and getting noticed so I have decided to put my own little guide together. Many of you may have your own ideas and methods for getting into the limelight, these are my own, they may not be ideal for everyone but they should help some to move forward. Below is a guide for DJ's I will follow it up with a guide for producers, enjoy.
Every party goer who has graced the floor of a club has at one stage looked up at the DJ box and dreamed of what it must be like to be the focal point of peoples nights, to be the one who decides what they will be dancing to and what they will be spending their money on in the record shop the following day. A lot of people have stopped dreaming and are now going for it, but how do you start.
Before you can do anything you will need money - plenty of it, do some overtime, get a part time job, and cancel your holiday plans in Ibiza because becoming a DJ isn't free. Money buys you equipment to get going, what do you need? Starting off you need 2 turntables a mixer and if your pocket is deep enough I would recommend a pair of CD-Decks. CD-Decks are widely used in commercial clubs so it is a good idea to be experienced with them. Buying the best and most expensive gear is not always a smart move, I believe it is better to learn on the more affordable packages as long as they are reliable; there are some good affordable packages in the internetdj shop. If you can master inferior equipment then you will find using the top of the range club gear a breeze! Look for advice before you buy, search for the equipment you fancy on the web and read any reviews you find, also ask advice from the workers in your equipment store but be wary they may be chasing that commission or trying to offload those dusty overpriced decks in the basement, however many of them are good for a second opinion. Vinyl will be the biggest drain on your finances; initially you will need to build up a collection of classic records as well as getting hot new tracks as they come out. Look in the classifieds and see if any retiring DJ's are selling off their collections, average DJ's are quitting all the time because of work, family or loss of interest. Many of they have nice little catalogues of tunes that can save you a lot of time digging through bins in stores looking for that elusive original mix of Cream.
So you have your gear and a few records to spin, what next? Learning can be a very stressful experience; it takes a long time to pull it together and requires plenty of patience. My recommendation is to get a teacher to show you the ropes. This can be someone offering their knowledge for a fee or a friend willing to do it for nothing, it is imperative that you get another person to show you, they will teach you tips and techniques that all the reading in the world can't convey. Keep an open mind when learning every DJ has a range of different techniques, don't stick with one that feels uncomfortable even if you are thought it, find one that suits you and create your own style. The internet is a fantastic source of information, look through every guide you can find and learn from them, there are a few on internetdj that are well worth checking out. Watch a professional, go to bars and clubs and hang around the DJ box. Monitor every step, every movement they make and most of all listen. Make sure you keep a watchful eye on the crowd and their reaction to the music, this will all be constructive.
Practice makes perfect, this is a cliché that should become your bible. Spinning and mixing should become your number one focus in life. Give up whatever other hobbies you have and dump your girlfriend/boyfriend because if you want to be good then you just don't have time for them. Spend every free moment you have behind your decks. If you want to make an impact then you have a lot of catching up to do because a lot of people have been doing this for years before you came along. Try not to lose hope, it does take a lot of effort and commitment but if you really want it then nothing can stop you. My main tip when it comes to practicing is to record yourself at every opportunity, get a minidisk recorder and listen to your mixes on the bus or in the car, analyse every beatmatch, every scratch, if something doesn't sound quite right then go home and do it again and again until you have it.
So you reckon you can be one of the big boys now, do you? After what seems like an eternity, you have finally perfected your mixing skills and now you want to show them off to the world. This is how you can go about getting your first gig.
To play live takes balls and confidence; it is very difficult to go straight from the bedroom to the main room without any live experience. Play to the people, ask friends to let you DJ at their parties and learn what it is like to perform in front of a crowd. Done that? Now do this: Getting a gig/residency is all about who you know, if you have contacts that can help you then you are one of the lucky ones, for the rest of you this is how you go about getting work. You need plenty of experience to get a good spot in the club and this means starting at the bottom of the ladder, check out late night bars that usually have DJ's playing this will be your playground. Ask the management if you can play there, tell them that you are just looking to practice and improve your skills, DO NOT LOOK FOR MONEY, say you will spin in the late afternoon when the bar is quiet and that you promise not to get in anyone’s way. They should in most cases be more than happy to let you move in.
So you have a place to spin, it may not pay anything and there's no buzzing crowd to control but it is a foot in the door. Now you need too impress, spin tracks that suit the atmosphere of the bar, if the barstaff start to boogie then you know you're doing well. Become friendly with everyone especially the regular DJ's that take to the decks after you finish. If all goes to plan you will be asked to fill in when one of them leaves or goes on holidays, pay cheque! Try to play the game in as many bars as you can at once, this will involve giving up most of your week but you knew there would be sacrifices, eventually you will become resident in a few of these bars but you won't be staying for long because you are aiming for the big time.
THE BIG TIME
Getting a residency should be like applying for any other job, you will need references, a résumé and examples of your work. By now you should be able to get some good references off the bar's you've been working, your résumé should be geared towards your spinning ability and as for work examples, well, it's time to mix some CD's. You will need 2 CD's to show your mixing skills, one should be a warm-up set and the other should be a main set, make sure the mixing on both is perfect and as for track selection keep it original but not too obscure, people are happy to pump away to anything as long as there are floor fillers in between that they know and love to dance to. Presentation is very important, make sure everything you submit looks professional but don't go over the top. Now you have your killer package, it's time to distribute it. Look for people that you know from your bars with contacts and get them to hand it over, you should be targeting, the club managers, booking agents and most importantly the promoters. With a bit of luck someone will give you a trial, which, if you are good enough will turn into a residency. From here anything is possible but remember it takes a lot of work to get here but I'm sure it will be worth it. Good Luck.
TEN TIPS FOR SUCCESS:
1. Be friendly with everyone you meet, they may have contacts.
2. Stay fresh, keep up to date with industry trends.
3. Be patient, it comes in time.
4. Stash away the cash, you'll need every penny.
5. Dress well, bar/club owners don't want to see smelly bums working for them.
6. Get some help, get a manager they come in quite useful and it looks good.
7. Prepare to travel, this job requires it.
8. Be interesting, bring something new to the stage that people will notice and remember.
9. Use your friends, they can fill that empty floor quite quickly.
10. Play to the girls, The only way to fill a dance floor is to get the girls up first, no matter what the music, if the girls are dancing then the boys will follow.
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