How do you DJ at a festival? (3 Step Process)


There are so many festivals out there in todays world and with the world becoming smaller through globalisation, the market for festivals ever growing. So if you’re looking to DJ at the next Tomorrowland, Shambala, Wireless, Creamfields or the local festival down the road then you’re in the right place.

DJing at a festival requires three main action steps including 1. evidence you can actually DJ (promotional content, DJing video show reel etc), 2. research of the festivals that you want to DJ (create a list of festivals), and 3. land the gigs through application and networking (understand application process and apply).

Getting a DJ set at festivals is certainly a goal on any aspiring DJ’s checklist. In order to achieve getting DJ sets at festivals your skill level and experience DJing live needs to be of a high standard. Check out the below process and checklist to help you on your way to festival DJing stardom.

1. Evidence you can actually DJ

Set the scene.

A festival organiser and promoter is selling a product (a festival), which makes you as a DJ also a product.

In order to sell products there needs to be a want, need or another way of saying it ‘demand’ for a product. It’s simple business.

So, in order for you to get on the line up of a festival of any scale really is to build up you as a brand and a product. That’s where marketing, content and experience play synergistically together in achieving that.

I hope that this puts more perspective on why this section is so important.

REMEMBER! If you’ve not already, read the DJ Marketing Planner I’ve put together, it will massively help you out with step 1 in this article.

DJing Live Experience

DJing at festivals is not something that is easy to come by at first and it’s less likely that you’ll be able to get a DJ set off the back of zero live DJing experience. So I’ve put together some ideas to help inspire you to get some perspective on what sorts of areas of DJing you can build experience DJing.

  • DJing at local events
  • DJing in local bars / clubs
  • Local radio
  • Online radio
  • Podcast show
  • Charity event DJing
  • Corporate live events

It’s likely that DJing in different live environments other than a festival at the beginning is massively going to help you build up DJing on various types of DJ equipment. This is a great strength and ability that you can gain as a DJ through experience and time.

Different festivals that you might be pursuing full well will have differing DJ setups e.g. DVS available setup to plugin your own, CDJs plus mixer etc. This will certainly give you the confidence that you need when eventually turning up to a festival to DJ.

Extra benefit includes that you will gain experience of coming across technical issues and how to deal with them. This will be invaluable to helping you diagnose certain issues, if required, under pressure and in front of a live audience.

In summary, build up a list of experience and keep track of all the DJing experience that you have on a resume / CV.

Make sure you record your DJ mixes plus get some live video recordings of your shows too, you won’t regret it as this will prove to be invaluable for a promo show reel eventually.

Promotional Content

Promotional content is another aspect of recording, writing and showcasing your DJ professionalism to the world, all of which will be accessible to anyone. Here’s a quick snapshot of the areas that you can start by creating.

  • Website & DJ Bio
  • Professional photos
  • Promotional showreel videos
  • Email capture for regular newsletters

A website & DJ bio is like an online version of your business card and a solid area online for your followers and potential clients contact you.

A website should include:

  • your past and upcoming events
  • links to videos of your latest / past DJ gigs
  • professional imagery of you DJing live (people dancing preferably)
  • your DJ biography, a good couple of paragraphs about you as a DJ, your style and your progression experience as DJ to date
  • link to podcasts and radio shows that you’ve been on
  • share any music that you’ve produced as an artist
  • add links to your social media, for example YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud etc
  • add an email newsletter capture for updating your fans and followers about the events you’re DJing, plus any other relevant DJing news
  • create a showreel video of you DJing live across one or a few events showing that you can DJ and get the crowds dancing, you can use this in your promo pack too.

Video content

Your videos can easily be hosted on a YouTube channel dedicated to you as a DJ. Over time you can start building up your videos whether it be DJ mixes in your home studio, DJ mixes out live, showreels promoting you as a DJ, tutorials for other fellow and aspiring DJs.

It’s all content that will help build up a following too, which is even better for showcasing to festival managers that you have the clout and experience to be on the stage at their festival.

Social Media Following

In line with the video content shared above, building an online social media following does certainly help when influencing getting a DJ set at festivals. I’d say it’s a very similar reason and concept behind gaining DJ sets at local bars, clubs and venues, it’s about getting people through the door.

It’s leverage to a certain extent.

Having X amount of followers on a total of X platforms, means that if you promote a certain event via you social media and website then you can tell a festival promoter/manager that you can get at least a certain percentage of your followers through the door, which = ticket sales.

You could go one step further and even calculate the amount of sales that you estimate bringing to the festival. It costs a lot of money to setup and run a festival, so dangling money estimations in front of an organiser is more likely to turn attention to you. Rather than the hundreds of other DJs contacting them about getting a DJ set too.

Engage with your local following and fan base

When you’re attending local venues to DJ in, make sure you somehow engage with them.

Some DJs even get email addresses or involved in people’s Facebook pages / groups and the club’s Facebook page. This can be applied to any social media not just Facebook, you get what I mean.

Networking and being social with the people at each of your DJ gigs is going to be valuable to you in the long term. People will start to recognise you and become your acquaintance resulting in a bigger following and therefore more likely your local DJ gigs will be packed out.

The aim of this of course is to make sure the people you’ve engaged with and like you as a DJ then support you as a DJ later down the line when you’re DJing at festivals. Even building up a name as a DJ can have a dramatic knock on effect of even attending an event or festival.

PR through working with magazines & publications

Gaining interviews or some sort of write up with a well respected industry magazine would be a great shout and move. This might sound unrealistic to you right now but after some experience and building up of online DJing content then why not give it try by contacting these sorts of magazines.

The amount of exposure you can get via a magazine or DJ publication such as Mixmag or DJ Mag would pay dividends in the future for sure.

A lot of new and upcoming DJs seem to be popping up in their magazine releases, website or YouTube.

DJing live in their DJ HQ’s is usually something that you’ll see regularly on their YouTube channels, which is another accolade to support your efforts towards securing a festival DJ set. You’ll certainly gain some level of respect through DJing live on at a DJ magazine website / YouTube channel.

Music production (That one banger!)

Linked to your PR and fan base, being able to have a one hit or a few hits under your belt will certainly put you in good stead for showing that you’ve got something about you.

Again this is to do with your DJ brand and having recognition by a very sizeable chunk of people who like to party and attend festivals. A festival organiser is more likely to book you if you’ve got a one hit, potentially the organiser even knows you for that particular song you’ve created.

So if you have the patience and the passion, why not start producing music, it’s another aspect to your content, PR and marketing strategy to help you get towards DJing at festivals.

2. Researching Festivals for you as a DJ

As mentioned above, read the DJ Marketing Planner I’ve put together, it will massively help you with the goal and direction of your DJing, and help with this section too.

Your sound as a DJ

Before starting research for various festivals, make sure that you’re clear about the sound and style of music that you play.

I know it may sound a strange thing to say, but I think it’s important to make sure you’re on track to finding the right festivals for the genre of music that you play.

Create a list of festivals you want to DJ

Depending on where you live, the country and local area, you can start by searching close by and work your way out from there. That’s one school of thought.

The other idea is to check out online and search for “top festivals in London” which can be interchanged.

The other idea is to check out festivals of similar DJs or record labels that you follow close to the music scene that you’re in as a DJ.

Make sure you build up a list of these festivals, even if on a Google Sheet or Trello, take note of their preferred methods of contact if available, contact details and any other relevant details.

That’s all I’d advise at this point, just focus on building up contacts, or multiple contacts per festival that you’re short listing for.

3. Landing DJ Gigs

Networking and Schmoozing

A lot of people talk about networking and how important it its. Well it really is important.

The challenge that you have is that there are so few slots for DJs to play compared to the amount DJs that actually want to play at the festival in question.

You need to put yourself out there and make connections with certain people that will be the key to getting you DJ gigs at festivals.

Getting access to the areas backstage, where non-festival goers (customers) are, will allow you get in contact with all the industry people. This is where your golden opportunity sits and then you can networking like mad to build up some contacts to DJ this time round or at least in the future.

Find out what they might need from you to eventually DJ, to allow for a win win situation. How do they benefit and so do you.

This perspective of course is the perspective of a DJ that’s gaining experience still. Just wanted to be clear with you here, it’s likely that it will be harder for new DJs with not a lot of experience. Especially DJs that don’t have a team supporting them, e.g. manager, marketing, music production etc.

The DJs that are playing at the bigger festivals have achieved this by experience and success. By that I mean it was only going to happen sooner or later based on their progression and level in their careers.

Experience does provide a lot of leverage and especially if you have a team of music industry professionals working for you helps to gain contacts that would of taken you a long time otherwise.

Approach independent tents at festivals (sub-promoters)

So the way that you can change your perspective on things is to see a festival as a hierarchy.

  • At the top level of the hierarchy you have the festival owners/managers/organisers etc. The people with the power.
  • The second level down there are sometimes tents run by record labels, radio stations, brands and nightclub events, AKA sub-promoters. The people with the influence.
  • Then there’s DJs that are looking to get DJ gigs, some of which have a following online etc so have some influence, some not so much. The people with the passion and desire.

This is a great opportunity for you as instantly you’ve got another angle to start working from. There may be less people and more chance when speaking to the individual tents/areas at the festival that are run independently as sub-promoters. It’s another “in” to be taken advantage of.

Making music for a record label or at least having a hit music track can transform your career when looking to DJ at festivals. Maybe you work for a radio station and are really well known as a DJ. This can be a really great influence into getting a festival gig too.

So maybe you long term goal is to networking with the record labels, radio stations etc that run their own tents at festivals and eventually get signed with their label or at least work for the radio station. Long term strategic thinking and networking will pay off here.

Press kit

Having a go to tool kit in the form of a press kit is always handy. You might not need to use it all of the time, but having one available to provide and hand over to the right contact can really help you out.

A press kit consists of (but is not limited to):

  • Small leaflet/poster showcasing a bio of you, your current accolades e.g. play on a radio show, residency at a club night etc, plus add links to your social media and DJ mixes.
  • Your logo will obvious be on all of the materials too.
  • Add in a USB stick with your DJ mixes and music on if you feel that would benefit too.

For you promo DJ sets that your pushing, make sure you create amazing DJ song selections to really impress the promoters you are networking with. DJing is not all the creativeness of your mixing, using all the effects under the sun, it’s about the story, the journey and the sound that fits with the vibe of the festival / event.

Working with designers on Fiverr or similar will enable you to design and then eventually print your marketing materials for the press kit. You’ll be able to get all the logo design etc on Fiverr too, which can also translate onto your social media, YouTube, Soundcloud accounts too.

There are other companies out there other than Fiverr such as 99designs, you just need to find designers that will be within you budget but also have experience in the designs that you’re after.

Extra Advice & Information

Now for some quick snapshot advice for you aspiring festival DJs out there.

Research the application process & apply

Make sure you find out the best way to apply for getting DJ gigs at festivals. This could be very simply and be finding the best form of contacting the promoters e.g. email, phone, LinkedIn etc.

Not all promoters will have a formal “application” process, but it’s always best to iron out this small detail to help you maximise your opportunities.

Potentially work with a booking agent

It might be worth approaching booking agents to understand if they have any influence or industry contacts within the world of music festivals. Just be aware that they may take a substantial cut of your earnings. Or they may not even give you the time of day due to lack of experience.

It’s worth exploring this option to see if it can be your initial way into DJing at music festivals.

Earning Potential

Articles online have been known to state that some festival DJs earn around $100k, which does not surprise me. I wouldn’t be surprised if this number was higher based on the headliners playing.

Less experienced DJs (trying to gain experience more like) are likely to earn a lot less, but I guess it depends on who you’re working with, and whether it’s the main promoter or sub-promoter.

Standing Out at a Festival

This massively comes down to your branding and the image that you want to give off. Physical and musical aspects can help you stand out.

Beginning of your DJ set you could have an amazing unique introductions with voice overs and DJ drops maybe. Or mix in a couple of completely random music tracks over your normal DJ set, get the crowd thinking “what the …. ” but in a good way, obviously!

Festival Preparation Tips

Be prepared for mud, sweat, alcohol, wind, rain, basically all the elements and more. Prepare to protect your DJ equipment and yourself. Take ear plugs to help protect your hearing too. Here’s a great article if you want more DJ preparation tips: https://djtechtools.com/2014/07/25/how-to-prepare-for-your-first-festival-set/

Start Small & Build Up Experience

Begin with compromising, going in with expectations of becoming the main stage DJ is somewhat unrealistic if you’ve only been DJing in local clubs for about 6 months.

Personality

Be nice! Be a person that everyone would regard having the traits of their friend. Have fun, smile and laugh. People want to hang around with fun and positive people, especially DJs. This will certainly help you in your networking and contact building abilities.

Related Questions

How do DJs get booked?

Steps to start getting booked a DJ include building up a “DJ Brand”, publicity, awareness and an online following, this allows you to approach club managers with leverage to get a booking more easily. Simply asking for a booking is required and then agree a price.

How do you stand out at a music festival?

Standing out at a music festival, particularly as a DJ, is to think creatively from a marketing and performance point of view. Marketing could be to have sort of head gear in line with you brand or even item of clothing. Performance wise you can have an elaborate intro to your DJ set or give off so much energy and smiles that people can’t refuse to dance.

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