Is a DJ a Good Career? [Advice for Aspiring DJs]

There’s never been a better time to start a career in the music industry as it’s easy to get started, and you have plenty of options. If you want to be a DJ, that can be a good career choice. However, more goes into a DJ career than mixing songs and making playlists.

Is DJ a good career? Thanks to the rise of the internet, being a DJ can be a great career choice for many people. An aspiring DJ can show off their skills on a YouTube channel or SoundCloud account. DJs play at venues such as night clubs, bars, and even weddings or other parties. A DJ can specialise in one area or branch out for more gigs.

If you want to embark on an exciting career in music but don’t like to sing or play an instrument, DJing might be perfect for you. You can listen to music so that you find songs that fit together, and you can work in a variety of venues. Whether you’ve DJed for years or are new to it, with perseverance and some skills, you can become a professional DJ.

How to Start

The hardest part of becoming and working as a DJ is getting started. When you’re new, people won’t know your style, so it can be hard to find work. That’s why it can be helpful to open yourself up to some free work to get exposure.

  • Aspiring DJs can use a computer to practice making and recording mixes. You can then upload those mixes to the internet.
  • The mixes you make for practice can help you learn and hone your craft.
  • If you have a mix that you’re proud of, you can include it in a promotional package.
  • Venues might be more willing to hire you if you have some work to show. Even if that work was just a mix you made for fun.
  • You should also go to shows to watch other DJs. While you can enjoy the music, you can also see how they move from song to song. 
  • During a break or at the end, you could also go up to the DJ and introduce yourself. Sometimes, networking with others can help get your career going.

While it can be hard to start your career as a DJ, it’s not impossible. As long as you have the desire to become a DJ and are willing to put in the work, you can be successful. Just don’t expect it to happen overnight.

Practice DJing

When you first start your DJing career, you won’t have much experience, but that’s not a bad thing. If you have the equipment, such as turntables, music, and a computer, you can practice DJing for yourself. The more you practice DJing, the easier it will be when you land a gig since you’ll know your way around your equipment.

You can also use your computer or an audio recorder to record your mixes. That way, you can listen back to hear what you did well and what you could improve. If you’re happy with a mix, you can post it on your website or on a streaming site like YouTube or SoundCloud.

When you can’t practice DJing, listen to mixes from other DJs. Try to hear what they do to transition from one song to another. Think about how you might do things differently, and then incorporate those thoughts into your work.

Promote Yourself

A huge part of getting started as a DJ involves landing that first gig, which can be hard when no one knows who you are. Once you have some work posted online, you can put that in a promotional package. For DJs, a promotional package is meant to help others decide if they like your style even if you’ve never DJed in public.

  • Your promotional package should include a demo track. Be sure to keep it short so that people will want to listen to it and not stop partway through.
  • Next, you should include your bio. If you don’t have DJing experience, include other relevant music or performance experience. You can edit it later as you get DJing gigs.
  • You can also put a recent photo of yourself in your promo package. That way, venues and booking managers can put a face to your name.
  • Your promo package should have a way for people to contact you in case they want to hire you.  Send them to your social media sites, like Twitter, Instagram, and even Facebook.  Phone numbers and e-mail are also good ideas. 
  • It can also help to include a personalized note with each package you send. That will show people you did the research to find out who books DJs.

Once you create your promotional package, look for places to send it. You can send them to bars, nightclubs, or party planners, so don’t just stick to one place. If you want to know more about creating a promotional package, click here.

Take Advantage of the Internet

As mentioned in the previous point, the internet can be a fantastic tool for up and coming DJs. You can use your computer to create and record songs, which you can then post online. Whenever you post a new mix, you can share it on your social media profiles.

Ask your friends and family to share your mixes to their profiles. On sites like Twitter, you can use relevant hashtags to get your posts to appear in relevant search results. The more you share your work, the bigger the fan base you can build.

You can also use your work as an excuse to connect with other DJs and bar owners online. That can help increase your presence, and you can use those online connections to help find work. If a bar owner seems interested in hiring you, send them a link to your website or YouTube channel where they can listen to recordings.

With the internet in the palm of your hand, there’s no reason not to use it to help grow your DJ career. Even if you get most of your work in person, a website or social media presence can help you expand your reach outside of your local city. That could help you land gigs elsewhere, which could further increase your opportunities.

Also, don’t forget to look into DJ boards, such as this one.

How Much DJs Make

Most DJs are self-employed, though you may be able to make connections and get repeat gigs at the same venues. Still, though, the amount of money you can make will vary significantly. At the start of your career, there’s no guarantee of making any money from DJing.

However, over time, you can gain experience that can then command a better rate for a gig. Of course, pay could still vary based on the venue, city, or type of gig you work. Your yearly income might also vary based on how many gigs you get.

On average, a DJ can expect to earn about €30,000 per year. Once you have some experience, you can expect to make about €150 to €1,000 per gig or perhaps more than that. However, don’t be surprised if you have to play some gigs for free when you’re new to DJing.

Early in your career, you might only get paid a little bit of money per gig. Some venues might only offer you free drinks in exchange for your work. While this isn’t a good long term method of payment, it can be an excellent way to get your foot in the door.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

As you start off working as a DJ, it can be tempting to focus on just your music. You may want to quit your job and pour all of your time and energy on your craft and networking with others. However, take it slow, especially when you’re new to working as a DJ.

  • Remember the section on how much DJs make? Unfortunately, it’s not a lot, either as a salary or per gig.
  • While €500 per gig might sound fantastic, consider how many gigs you can take on.
  • As a beginner, you won’t have much experience, so it can be harder to convince people to choose you as their DJ.
  • If you only land one €500 gig per month, that won’t be enough to pay for living expenses.
  • Instead, keep your day job and focus on DJing in your free time. 
  • As you gain more experience and start landing more frequent gigs, you can begin to cut back your hours at your job.
  • Once you have a regular stream of work and enough savings in the bank for dry spells, then you can leave your day job and pursue DJing full time.

If you’ve decided to become a DJ, odds are you’re probably pretty passionate about it. While passion can take you far, it’s not enough to make a living from the get-go. Don’t be afraid to work a part-time job while you build your reputation so that you still have money coming in to pay your bills.

Do You Need a Degree?

More and more fields require some form of higher education these days. However, DJing is one of those fields where a college or university degree isn’t necessary. As a performer, your ability to land work will depend on your skills as a DJ, not on a piece of paper you have or don’t have.

However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need any training or education whatsoever. If you’ve never DJed for fun, you will have to learn the ropes. You’ll need to acquire DJ equipment and to learn how to use it.

Unless you took music lessons as a kid, you should consider taking some lessons on music theory. You don’t have to play an instrument, but you do have to understand how music works. Knowing this can help you choose songs that work together in terms of tempo and rhythm.

You can find many books and courses that cover the basics of music theory. Of course, you don’t need a music degree, but knowing the basics will help you create mixes that will wow the crowd.

DJ Training

While you don’t need a music degree to become a DJ, you should have an understanding of the equipment. You should also know some music theory so that you can transition effortlessly between songs.

  • There are tons of tutorials online where you can learn how to mix music and transition between songs.
  • Some of these tutorials are aimed at beginners, so you can learn how to DJ from home.
  • Individual tutorials teach you how to use specific DJing equipment, while others teach you about transition techniques.
  • If you haven’t taken any music theory courses, consider doing so. Music theory can come in handy as a DJ even though you don’t play an instrument
  • By learning music theory, you will learn about rhythm and tempo, which can help you move between songs. Going from a fast song to a super slow one might be a good effect, but it’s not always easy or the best choice.

Some DJs go through a conservatory and get degrees in classical music, while others are entirely self-taught.  Learn however you learn best, and you can be successful either way.

Not What You Know, Who You Know

It can’t be stressed enough how important networking is, especially as an aspiring DJ. When you’re new to the industry, you won’t know many people. However, you can meet a ton of people, and the bigger your network, the easier it can be to find work.

  • If you know bar owners or booking managers, they might call you up when they need a DJ. Knowing more owners and managers will increase your chances of finding a gig.
  • By networking with other DJs, you can figure out which venues or managers are good to work with and which to avoid. That can save you some headaches as a new DJ.
  • Similarly, if you know other DJs and are trusted by them, they might send gigs to you. Sometimes, a popular DJ might have too many gigs, so they could recommend you for gigs that they can’t do.
  • As you network with others, make sure you’re pleasant, reliable, and easy to work with. DJs and managers talk, so you don’t want to be labeled the diva of the local DJ scene.

Of course, you should aim to learn as much as you can about DJing. However, keep in mind that if you don’t know the right people, it won’t matter how good you are. Combine your skills with your network to increase your chances of finding regular work.

Focus on the Music

While some famous DJs can make millions each year, that’s not the case for most people. Since you may not even make enough to live when you start, you can’t rely on just the money. Especially as a beginner, you have to rely on your love of music.

Sometimes, you may go weeks or months without many gigs. That can be disheartening for a lot of people, and it can be difficult if DJing is your primary source of income. However, you will have an easier time getting through those dry spells if your heart is in the music.

Diversify Your Skills

If you want to make a good living and have a successful career as a DJ, you have to be open to different things. Of course, the dream for many DJs is getting to play sold-out shows at bars and nightclubs. However, that’s not the only way to work as a DJ.

  • Consider working events like weddings or other parties. While you might need to work with a different type of music, it can be a great way to build your skills.
  • You could also look into DJing certain business events. Of course, not all businesses want the volume of a club, but they still might want a DJ who can transition from song to song.
  • Working other types of events and venues can be a great way to get experience without having to compete for the coveted nightlife gigs.
  • You should also learn how to use different types of DJing equipment. While turntables and vinyl are still a great option, some DJs have started incorporating more digital tracks.
  • Listen to as much music as you can and to as many DJs as you can. That way, you can get a feel for different genres and styles, and you can find inspiration for your mixes. 

The more skills you have, the more gigs you could land. As you start to gain experience, you could then focus on a specific type of gig or genre of music. However, don’t underestimate the power of your DJing skills.

Up All Night

Night owls can have a hard time working in regular jobs during the day. However, most DJing gigs happen late at night, which can be perfect if you hate getting up early. While some gigs, like weddings or parties, may end around midnight, some gigs go much later.

Depending on your city and the venue, a gig may last until as late as 2 AM or 3 AM. Not to mention that you’ll still have to stay at the venue to pack up long past the end of the show. Then, you’ll still have to get home, and then you can go to sleep.

If you’re someone who hates staying up late, you can still become a DJ. You’ll either have to adjust to a nighttime work schedule, or you can search for daytime or early evening gigs. That could mean focusing on weddings or corporate events.

You could also focus more on recording your mixes and selling those to venues or clients to play later. If you have some DJing experience, you could also become a coach for other new DJs, or you could work as a manager for DJs in your area.

Still, the majority of work as a DJ will occur late at night. If you’re not already a night owl, you’ll have to decide if it’s worth staying up late to pursue this career. The schedule alone can be tough for a lot of people, and that’s perfectly okay.

Final Thoughts

DJing can be a great career path for many people, though it’s not for everyone. If you have a passion for music and performing and don’t mind staying up late, give it a shot. With the right skills and some luck, you could have a thriving music career.

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