Is it your dream to become a club DJ? Well you’re in the right place. Coming from experience, some things are easier than others to approach, but with the right process and dedicated hard work these two things will put you in good stead.
Do you need help with knowing how to become a club DJ? Well here’s a solid process to follow and get you on the right track.
- Up your skill level
- Music collection
- Record Mixes
- Self promotion
- Networking & Getting Gigs
- Preparing for Gigs
- Playing Gigs
- Post Gig wrap up
Hopefully you can draw upon my experience and use this process and tips to get your careers going as a club DJ. Remember, it’s important to have a plan and to not give up. Having a plan to reach a specific goal to work towards will help keep you motivated.
1) Up Your Skill Level
DJ Equipment knowledge – Get your skill level and knowledge up to a high standard, do this by trying to play all on all sorts of DJ equipment, ranging from DJ controllers, CDJs e.g. Pioneer CDJs, and even vinyl turntables.
Equipment in most clubs is generally industry standard CDJs, mixer and turntables. My advice here is to focus on getting some decent practice in across multiple DJing gear formats. It will make you more adaptable and resilient to DJing at certain venues.
Knowing how to plugin your DVS setup and doing it pretty swiftly too is always a good thing ready to play you set after the next DJ.
DJ Skills – it’s key get your mixing and beat matching skills up to a very strong level. The more you practice the more second nature it will be to you and therefore show you off as a professional level DJ.
2) Curate A Great Library of Music
Your music collection is rather essential as a DJ, particularly due to three areas: 1) Target audience for the gig you’re playing, 2) genre(s) that you’re known for as a DJ, 3) having a good range e.g. old school, unknown releases etc.
Knowing when to play what at each gig is a skill in itself and is a major part of DJing that DJs can potentially get wrong at times.
If you’re playing an early warm up set it might be good to clarify with the club promoter if there’s any specific vibe that they’re looking for. In some cases this might not even be a thing, so you can play whatever you want which makes choosing your music a lot easier.
3) Record a Few Mixes to Share
If you’ve not recorded a mix before, check out my tips here on how to record a mix.
Create a few different mixes with different styles and different lengths in recording time. Usual mixes last about 1 hour, but if you’re trying to get a set that lasts more than an hour then consider recording a mix that’s 2 hours long. This will help showcase you have a high mixing skill level to last 2 hours at least.
4) Post mix on SoundCloud
Creating a SoundCloud profile will allow you to upload your mixes and give you the ability to share links to your mixes really easily via social media.
It gives you the opportunity to start building up a following and allow fellow SoundClouders to share a like your mixes too. With this in mind if a club promoter is checking out your SoundCloud they can review peoples reactions to your mixes and see how popular you are.
5) Go live on Facebook
Once a week DJ live on Facebook, try and build a following and share it. Try to communicate with people of interest that have liked your DJ set on Facebook, hopefully music industry related people, and see if they can help sort you out with a DJ set somewhere.
Self promotion is a massive thing and can really keep you in the forefront of listeners and even industry contacts minds.
Another point to finish on with self promotion is that when you promote yourself you’re helping to promote any club nights that are upcoming featuring you as a DJ. So promoting yourself in turn promotes the nights you’re playing at and then can contribute to longer term success for you as a DJ keeping you in business.
6) Create a Podcast
Creating a podcast can be a great way to record your mixes, showcase your personality and essentially be another format in which to promote yourself. Podcasts are great because it can help build up a following and show off your skills as a DJ.
I really love two DJs called The Nextmen, I used to listen to their podcast series everyday simply because I loved the format of their show. The show moved from different genre to genre throughout the format of each episode and their personalities are great too. Here is their podcast episodes here if you want to check their series out.
7) Create a Website
Depending on how much recorded mix material you have and the time available, creating a simple website can be a great promotional tool.
Having a website can be a great format to show off your DJ “brand” with a logo and eventually in the longer term highlight the events that you’re playing in the future. A website is also a great way to show club promoters that you’re a serious DJ with a future and will also allow you to interact with your fans.
Networking & Getting Gigs
8) Put a Mix on a CD or USB Pen
Go to clubs early and chat to the promoters and club managers/owners and introduce yourself. Give them your mix and kindly ask if it’s possible that you could open up or be one of the warm up DJs on one of the nights.
Having mixes recorded on CD or USB pen can be simple and effective ways to give key industry contacts and club promoters your mix.
9) Business Cards
Create a simple business card with all your key details on. This is a great format to compliment the USB pen or CD with your mix on. Add your key contact details, phone number, email, social media, SoundCloud and even website if you have one. Having a business card will certainly help towards creating a professional image of yourself.
10) Make Friends with Local DJs
Make acquaintance and friends with local DJs, help them out. Even if it’s simply helping setup the equipment or cover for a set that they can’t make.
When I was DJing in Melbourne Australia, I didn’t know anyone so I made it my mission to seek out the local DJ community for Drum & Bass. I eventually found a local DJ forum online and a few conversations later I found myself meeting a few local DJs at a Drum & Bass and Dubstep night.
I got to know the guys really well and lead to some good friends and also got me a few DJ sets on KISS FM.
Networking can really help get you going as a DJ. In some cases you might not get paid at the beginning but the value is in practicing your DJing skills in a bar or club environment and live in front of a crowd.
For more Networking Tips for DJs click here.
Preparing for Gigs
11) Agree How You’re Going to Get Paid
Get in writing somehow e.g. letter or email, or at least a gentleman’s agreement that you get paid. It’s sometimes the case that you might not get paid for your work.
In the early days at least you might need to DJ for free to get a few gigs under your belt. My opinion on this is that you get some experience and potentially new contacts to get you DJing in the same or another venue in the future.
12) Check All Your Equipment Works & Is Reliable
There’s nothing worse than a laptop quitting on you, especially if you DJing with a DVS setup. I know for a fact that DJ Marky (the almighty Brazilian Drum & Bass legend) has commented a long time ago that he was playing a gig and his laptop stopped working. Now he’s moved from a windows laptop to an Apple Macbook Pro, way more reliable in my opinion.
Play at Gigs
13) Turn Up Early to Gigs
There’s no benefits to turning up 5 minutes early to your DJ set. Be 30 minutes or even 1 or 2 hours early, this gives you enough time to get chatting to the club owners or promoters and network some more. Get to know some of the other DJs in the clubs, this can also help you network too.
You never know where your new contacts will help you down the line.
Being early also helps you to scout out the equipment to see what’s going on with it, any new quirks that you’re not used to or if there are any technical faults that you can help out with.
Lastly, if you are early and you find that you’ve forgot something really important e.g. your music on USB pen for example (I’ve seen a professional DJ do this before) it can potentially give you enough time to rectify the situation.
14) Be Professional
If you’re coming across unprofessional then it may damage your image from the club promoters perspective. The negative impact of this is that it may stop you from getting more gigs.
Being approachable, friendly, respectful and helpful are all positive traits of someone that will more than likely make acquaintances and even long term friends. Being professional is a simple approach and can certainly compliment your networking skills.
15) Dress Well & Stylish
Dressing well helps build up a certain image about you as a DJ. There’s two main points to consider here and they are:
- Professionalism – looking scruffy doesn’t make you look good or someone that’s going to be a great DJ in the eyes of promoters or club goers. Dressing well can also help you feel great too, especially when you need to be performing in front of a live audience, that can be daunting at first.
- Signature – Look at Fatboy Slim, he always wears a funky Hawaiian looking shirt. It’s his signature! You know it’s him even from a photo from behind the DJ booth.
Post Gig Wrap Up
16) Share & Post your Live Set Recordings
If you’ve got organised before playing an event, then getting the correct recording equipment to record each of your live DJ sets can really pay dividends. It’s a great way to share your DJing abilities through YouTube, SoundCloud, your website and even as part of your demo material. This is another great way to help promote yourself as a DJ and is great evidence to club promoters that you can really DJ well and get the crowd going.
You can also use it as a platform to analyse your own DJ sets and learn from them. A learning attitude is always a great way to getting better and can lead to more gigs in the longer term.
Check with your club promoters to see if they’ve recorded the event with video and audio. You can also use this to share on your social media and YouTube to promote yourself and the club nights that you play.
17) Work Hard & Action
All in all, it comes down to hard work and really focus on taking action. When you take action in the correct direction you will more than likely start edging your way to your goal of becoming a club DJ. Constant small efforts towards your goals are better than trying really hard in big chunks of effort.
An always on daily approach can put you in good stead. My family motto has always been “Never, never, never give up!”. If you want it that badly you will succeed.