What Makes a DJ Stand Out? Get Noticed!

Marshmello djing live
Photo by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

Getting noticed as a DJ can be a very hard thing to achieve especially when there’s so many DJs out there. The DJ scene that you’re in may change how you stand out as a DJ so that’s something to keep in mind when planning your “standing out as a DJ” strategy.

I’ve spent a lot of time pondering which methods work well for myself as a DJ and also analysed other DJs. It’s something that’s not come naturally to me as I just simply love to DJ and not worry about this area of becoming a full on DJ. I’ve pulled together a comprehensive list of ideas that you can use to stand out amongst other DJs.

Tune Selection

The tracks that DJs play in their sets needs to be impeccable and flow really well together. There cannot be any tracks that clash in terms of key or rhythm otherwise you’ll find that even if the quality of a mix or beat match for example simply does not work if the tracks clash.

FatBoy slim did an amazing Beach Boutique event on the beach in Brighton which we did mix tracks together but the majority of them were different tracks the he simply switched straight into because of tempo differences or faded one track in and another track out.

The crowd loved it still. The track selection was on point for the setting of the event. Funky, happy and soulful tracks for people to dance to in the sun. This simply shows it’s not all about the technical skills of mixing, you need to know your audience and pick the corrects tracks for them to enjoy.

Key aspects that set apart DJs from the rest when it comes to tune selection include:

  • Element of surprise – you can switch in a track without even mixing it and the crowd will still get going on the dance floor. Mixing tracks is important but getting the crowd dancing and making noise is the number one element next to mixing beats together.
  • Energy flow of the mix – ideally with all the mixes you put together the flow of the tracks does not tank or dip too much throughout the set. The aim for each mix should be to get the energy flow to be smooth and not so dramatic from one track to another that you keep the vibe and clear the dance floor. Pick tracks that aren’t so vastly different and find filler tracks to connect tracks together in your DJ sets.
  • Old and New tracks – mixing up the tracks throughout a DJ set can incorporate everyone’s tastes. Playing just new tracks all the time can sometimes slip in traction with the listener or people on the dance floor. If you are going to play a set full of new tracks why not add in a few classics in there to get the crowd moving on the dance floor.

Quality of Mixing

To compliment the first point above, tune selection, the quality of a DJs mixing is required to be top notch and high quality. DJs such as Andy C, in the Drum and Bass scene, simply mix so smoothly between tracks that some people say the whole set sounds like a continuous track.

My thoughts on this is due to epic track selection, as pointed out previously, but also the transitions between tracks on top of high quality beat matching.

Some other techniques that Andy C uses include double dropping tracks on the first beat of the chorus, teasing tracks in and out of the mix and also fast mixes between tracks. The result of this is that all tracks are seamlessly mixed together. That’s what sets him apart from a lot of other DJs in the scene.

Taking your listeners on a journey to the point of zoning out and fully immersed in the mix is that ultimate goal. If the audience is hearing clashing beat matching mixes with poor EQ transitions or the tracks are being played too fast then you will lose the connection with your audience.

Create or DJ Mashups, Remixes and Bootlegs

Introducing tracks that are your own creation can really set you apart from other DJs. Creating and playing mashups, remixes or bootlegs can add a flair of your own to the mix really putting your DJ brand stamp onto your DJ sets.

Creating your own mashups remixes etc is a journey on it’s own, although much easier than creating tracks from scratch.

As long as you can get hold of a decent Digital Audio Workstation, such as Ableton Live or Logic, you can start playing around with the instrumentals of a track that you like a blend an acapella of another track on top of it. Cut up the vocal sound to add some creativity. Why not add some FX to it too.

James Hype has said on his YouTube channel that he started making bootlegs of popular tracks that were newly released and added his own style to it. That really helped him become popular as a DJ and now he’s moved onto becoming a proper music producer. So who knows where making bootleg mashups will take you.

Even if you don’t create remixes or bootlegs, it’s still possible to get them online for example BeatPort. Another way you can do this is by making friends with DJs and producers to see if they are will to let you play any of their newly released bootlegs or remixes.

There are mailing lists that you can sign up to that are related to record label managers. If successful it’s possible to get hold of new releases that might be remixes to play ahead of other DJs in your music genre.

Beatport, DJcity (and other DJ record pools) and Loopmasters are a great place to start finding some vocals and other sounds. There are stems on Beatport that allow you to DJ with vocals here. Also Beatport have teamed up with Loopmasters too which allow you to create sounds super easy, check it out here.

Social Media

Networking with people, sharing your mixes and getting people to know you better are some of the key areas of social media, especially for DJs. However there are some things that DJs in the social media space can do to stand out more than other DJs online.

Pick your social media platforms

Firstly you will need to pick you social media platforms that you want to share your story and DJ related content. Aligning the correct audience that you want to target with your social media platform does play a part into the success of your content. By this I mean followers, engagement and likes.

The big three social media platforms are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Facebook and Twitter are still good to use but Instagram has seen a lot more traction for DJs in past few years.

Snapchat, TikTok, IGTV are other social media platforms that you can share your DJ related content (images & video) too, however all have varying target audiences.

Snapchat has a young audience so it really depends on the type of music that you DJ and whether that aligns together. TikTok is potentially quite similar to Snapchat in terms of audience too.

I’m a massive fan of Instagram so I’m going to focus on some tips on how to use Instagram to your advantage for helping you stand out as a DJ online.

Tactics and Tips for Instagram social media

Create Instagram stories

Instagram stories are a great way to share content that only last 24 hours, anytime after 24 hours they disappear. So it’s a great way to share organic content. You do have the option to create Ad stories too, See here for more information.

However you might want to consider experimenting with a limited budget to begin with to see what traction you get. It’s worth considering hiring a marketing manager to deal with paid advertising when you starting building up a name for yourself.

Create Instagram photos

Creating high quality and captivating images consistently throughout the year will help stand out from other DJs that aren’t doing this on Instagram and other platforms too.

You can get some great engagement with photos simply because the quality is high and in some cases better quality than video.

Social media content that stands out

Create a content strategy! There are themes of content that you should ideally stick to so that you’ve got consistency of content and your followers know the kind of content to expect from you.

Examples of content ideas you can learn and draw upon include:

  • Comedy – Making people smile is a great way to gain followers
  • Inspiration – Video of gigs recently played
  • Content of you producing music in the studio
  • Content of you DJing live in your studio
  • Day to Day – Journeys that you’ve been on to play gigs
  • Lifestyle – Cool things that you’ve done and experienced
  • Festival moments
  • Collaborations with other DJs & producers
  • Share user generated content

Build branding & styling for consistency on Instagram

This is important because if you have consistent use of colours, fonts, styling of images, image filters and hashtags it’s likely people will become familiar with you DJ brand.

Having your DJ brand styling and tone flow throughout your instragram feed will stand out by looking a lot more professional than other DJs starting out.

You can of course use the same branding and styling across your other social media platforms as well as your website.

Consistency, quantity and timing of social posts is key

According to studies about how to post on Instagram, the advice is to post at least once or twice per day. Anymore than this does not necessarily get your anymore traction. So this research shows that consistency on daily basis is very important to keep traction with your audience.

Further studies show the timing and days of the week when posting is very important too. The goals of getting social posting on Instagram is to get the most engagement and views. The study shows that posting on a Friday on the week is best for engagement. Also around 9:00am, 12:00 and 15:00 are best times during the day too.

B2B DJing with other DJs

B2B stands for Back-to-Back DJing with another DJ when mixing music on the decks in front of a live audience or in a studio recording a DJ mix.

This is a great idea and option to explore especially if you’re starting out and need to get more experience DJing too. DJing with other DJs B2B can be great for leveraging new skills but more importantly great to get exposure by sharing social media content via their social media.

Other DJs may be more well known than yourself and so the benefit sits with tapping into their audience. Which in turn potentially shows off your DJ brand and skills to a bigger audience than what you already have.

The result of this is potentially standing out more than others that don’t DJ B2B with other DJs. Also your following could increase too allowing to stand out more in the longer term.

Wear clothing that stands out and is rememberable

Certain DJs that have been DJing professionally for years such as FatBoy Slim or DJ EZ are noticeable for the clothing that they wear.

FatBoy Slim always wears a funky colourful shirt, almost Hawaiian-esk style. Almost instantly you’d recognise him if he wasn’t facing in your direction because that’s his style. Also his haircut is another consistent feature of him too.

DJ EZ has consistently worn a black baseball cap and likes to wear Nike clothing too. This is something that I’ve noticed him do as a DJ for many years and it’s certainly what makes him stand out too.

Skrillex certainly stands out from the rest with a very unique hair style being long and shaved on one side. That could be your thing too, if you’re not balding of course.

Find your style by wearing certain clothing and even style your hair, make sure you do it consistently. You will eventually stand out from the crowd, especially if people can’t remember your DJ name, they will sure be able to recognise you from appearance which helps your following in the long run.

Create signature head wear like DeadMau5

Probably one of the most easiest DJs to recognise is DeadMau5 for wearing his mouse headwear. DeadMau5 has pioneered this approach to become famous by wearing the headwear as a DJ for many years now. It’s a great way to stand out from the crowd and be recognised, especially on social media too.

There are other DJs that have adopted a similar approach such as Marshmello and Daft Punk. You instantly recognise them as DJs again after seeing them for the first time.

Be creative and come up with some ideas for some headwear, of course you’ll have to make it easy enough to see through to DJ.

Also here’s a great article by VICE which covers this topic too.

Don’t be average – Be professional & the best in your scene

Sounds obvious but it’s true. Being an average DJ by my definition is that you can mix but might have some beat clashes now and again, plus a few song selection choices might of not been that great.

Making sure that you are on top of your game by delivering tight beat matching mixes with creativity and great song selection will set you apart from other DJs.

Be creative with your mixes

Adding FX, looping and sampling to your mixes can really help add some flair to your DJ mixes. Not a lot of DJs do this in their DJ sets so can certainly grab the attention of your listeners and help with identifying you as a DJ.

This is definitely a worthy area of generating word of mouth and people identifying you on event line ups and social media.

The most recent and notable DJ to use looping and FX to their advantage has definitely been James Hype in my opinion. Much promoted on social media and YouTube too for showing off his DJing skills.

Other DJs I’ve seen live such as DJ Marky have turned the turntable on its side while scratching a DVS record vinyl. DJ EZ likes to cut in and out tracks he’s mixing in, this is a style that he’s adopted for a long time and synonymous of his DJ sets.

Find your special and unique FX etc that you like to add into your mixes, make sure you practice them and feature them in your mixes consistently.

Create a theme of mixes you put together

There are DJs that post mixes on Mixcloud, Soundcloud etc that create unique styles or themes to their DJ sets.

By styles and themes I mean grouping tracks by era e.g. 80s, style of music e.g. old school classic Hip Hop, and also record label only mixes (you can find a lot of these types of mixes on YouTube such as Hospital Records or Anjunadeep.

You can explore doing this as part of your content strategy and releasing a certain theme of mix every quarter of the year or even monthly if you’ve got the time and creativity.

Add unique music & sample introductions to your mixes

Another way to be creative is to create your own unique sound or track that stands out for you as ‘intro’ in your DJ sets.

I know I’ve mentioned DJ EZ a lot in this article but back in the day when he was releasing all his Garage albums on CD he always opened with a unique Garage track with sample saying “DJ E-Z”. Using this technique certainly stands out.

Other ideas you can draw upon is by simply having a few samples that you’ve edited to be unique to you as DJ. Movie samples could be a great way to make unique intro edit in Ableton for example. Check out some movie samples on Loopmasters to give you some inspiration.

Record your DJ sets in unique locations

One of my favourite DJ sets recorded in the most amazing landscape is by Einmusik b2b Jonas Saalbach DJing live in Norway. Check it out here. Spot the DJs on the epic mountain rock cliff edge below.

Einmusik b2b Jonas Saalbach DJing live in Norway

Another cool and swanky looking DJ set live is Don Diablo DJing live on an amazing private Yacht in Ibiza, in the middle of the sea near the amazing Ibiza coastline. Check out the DJ set here.

don diablo djing in Ibiza on a boat in the sea

Get hold a decent drone to record you DJ sets in a fantastic location. Make sure you’re not near any airports is my best advice when you record your DJ sets with a drone 😆

Check out some great drones to get you started here.

Give back to society – DJ event to raise money

An idea that I had for helping you stand out as a DJ is raising money for charity. You could easily setup a small DJ event, working with a local charity or a charity that’s close to your heart.

The cross promotion could be a great way on social media to gain traction for yourself and also the charity involved too. I know in the past I’ve seen DJs playing music at local marathons and fun run events.

This could be a good way to get your DJ equipment set up, record your DJ set at the event and share on social media.

Set a Guinness World Record

Another angle that you could consider is setting a new Guinness World Record. Here me out on this one, because it could be for great content on your website and social media to build up awareness of your DJing brand name.

Check out this article by Mixmag, there are some amazing world records set by DJs which are absolutely amazing and top class ideas. My favourites include:

  • Highest altitude DJ set on land
  • Largest B2B DJ relay
  • Worlds smallest nightclub

My idea for a Guinness world record could be to DJ on 4 decks for 24 hours, maybe? Apparently DJ Obi set a world record for DJing 240 hours in Sao Cafe in Lagos back in 2016.

Come up with some world records and see if they’ve been done already, it could be a great opportunity to drum up some awareness for you as a DJ.

Get published in DJ magazines

This maybe hard to do when you are starting out as a DJ but is certainly an angle that you could take when you’re becoming better known as a DJ.

Getting published in Mixmag in a feature article could really get you some decent exposure, especially if you’re adopting one of the techniques that I’ve mentioned previously in this article above, for example setting a world record, raising money for charity and becoming known for a certain style of mixing.

Build a team around you – PR, manager, social media, audio and video production

To back up the previous point, it’s really important to get a team around you to hep with the PR, social media and video production for all the content that you’re putting out there.

Of course this would be more of a “must have” when you’re becoming a popular DJ, maybe even a producer too.

Martin Garrix has a great team to support him in all aspects of his DJing and music related activities, such as DJ bookings, video, music creation and social media.

Create your unique sound – DJ live instead of just DJing tracks

Ableton is a great software to cut existing tracks a loop them so that you can activate different sounds like a musician, almost.

A Techno DJ called “Surgeon” has adopted this way of DJing “Live” and has performed a lot at his nightclub residency in Birmingham, also on Boiler Room. Check out this interview article here where Surgeon goes into detail about him DJing using Ableton to perform his DJ sets.

Surgeon Djing with Ableton Live

To play live you can use Ableton to activate certain sounds from tracks that you’ve prepared. By tracks I mean individual sounds like drums, melodies and vocals etc.

All different sounds are activated in Ableton via a controller or beat pad of some sort. It’s actually an amazing thing to see being done live. Watch the Boiler Room set he put together here.

Crowd Interaction & Enjoy yourself – Scene depending

Interacting with the crowd is really important. Some DJs simply stare at the mixer throughout the whole of their DJ set, I’ve seen it multiple times in the past. It just amazes me why DJs do that, they aren’t even reading the crowds reaction to then play tracks that get them dancing.

A Drum and Bass DJ who goes by the name of TC is pretty good at interacting with the crowd. I’ve seen him perform live and hypes everyone up on the microphone during his DJ sets. This is a great way to stand out as not all DJs do this.

Also some EDM DJs like Martin Garrix have been known to stand on the DJ booth mixing desk table and wave at the crowd. This is another technique to get the crowd hyped up. Steve Aoki is another DJ that is known to interact with the crowd by smashing cakes into people’s faces, crack on if that’s what you’re into 😂

Create a Vlog

People will get to know you on a more intimate level and build a sense of who you are and relate to you in some way. This is one of many bits of advice that Gary V, a social media marketing guru gives on his YouTube channel.

Fans and followers don’t always get to see a glimpse of what a day in a life of a DJ is like. So if you record your every day life e.g. travelling to DJ sets, interacting with fans and industry people, even other artists, this is a great way for people to understand you as a person.

People like to feel like they know you as a person and are more likely to remember you as a DJ.

Be friendly

Don’t be egotistical about the way you act in front of fans, promoters, journalists and other music industry based people.

Be friendly and smile! When I say this, I mean be friendly to everyone. This is a simple thing to do but it can go a long way in such an ego based scene.

People will likely remember you for your kind ways, complements that you give and even helping people out will mean a lot to certain contacts in your network too.

Being un-friendly is only going to slow down your ability to stand out as a DJ, get noticed and get more DJ sets.

Related Questions

What are qualities of a good DJ?

To be a good DJ the qualities needed include technical abilities and knowledge to use DJ equipment such as mixing and EQing between two tracks. DJs require strong personality skills too such as confidence, good under pressure, approachable, friendly, resilient and good at networking.

How do DJs get their gigs?

DJs are required to network with influential people that work for record labels, clubs, bars and promotion teams. Networking leads to playing gigs which might be for free initially and then paid. It’s possible to play gigs for free or setup your own DJ nights.

How to make DJ music?

DJ music is created using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) e.g. Ableton Live. A DAW allows DJ producers to layer various individual audio tracks and sounds, such as Drums, Piano, Vocals or Strings, to create a final song.

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